Ravens' tight ends banged-up

OWINGS MILLS -- Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap limped off the field Sunday against the Detroit Lions after cornerback Philip Buchanon landed awkwardly on his right foot. After a quick exam from the trainers following the 31-yard reception in the third quarter of the Ravens' 48-3 victory at M&T Bank Stadium, they retaped Heap's ankle and he went back into the game in the fourth quarter.

"I kind of jammed it a little bit and fell on it wrong," Heap said. "I got back in there and it was fine."

It was a major relief for the Ravens considering the lack of depth at the position with backup tight end L.J. Smith still battling a sprained ankle that has kept him out for two consecutive games.

Behind Heap and Smith, the Ravens have converted outside linebacker Edgar Jones and offensive guard Chris Chester who doubles as an occasional blocking fullback.

If Heap and Smith were sidelined against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, it would severely limit the amount of pass patterns that offensive coordinator Cam Cameron would use involving tight ends.

"It's a concern because it will take you out of certain personnel packages, but we can put receivers on the field and we can put linemen on the field," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.

"We're going to have 11 guys out there no matter what. Our offensive coaches are very creative.

"They've figured out some oddball packages, and maybe that gives your opponent more to plan for than the standard formations and groupings that you get."

Jones caught his second career pass against the Lions, an eight-yard reception.

At roughly 300 pounds, Chester is strictly a blocking presence at this point after being moved to the offensive line at Oklahoma following catching 11 touchdowns as a high school senior tight end in Tustin, Calif.

"Well, obviously those guys, their strength, especially in Chris' case, he's going to be blocking," Harbaugh said. "I don't know how many times we're going to be sending him down on seam routes. Edgar has done a nice job. He caught a pass. So, we'll just see how that goes.

Despite rib, leg and back injuries this season, Heap has yet to miss a start.

Smith has been inactive for four games this season due to injuries and has caught just two passes for 31 yards since signing a one-year, $1.5 million contract during the offseason.

Smith is confident that the ankle is coming around enough to where he'll be able to play against the Bears.

"It's getting better," Smith said. "I just rolled it pretty bad and it's taking a while to heal. I should be out there against Chicago. I've been working hard trying to get back on the field."

NOTES: The Ravens tried out two free agent wide receivers Tuesday: Maurice Price (Charleston Southern) and Jason Chery (Louisiana-Lafayette). Neither players was signed, but it's a possible indicator that wide receiver Mark Clayton (knee, hamstring) could be out or limited this week. … Middle linebacker Ray Lewis, free safety Ed Reed and fullback Le'Ron McClain are atop the fan balloting for the AFC Pro Bowl squad. Lewis has garnered 308,999 votes with Reed receiving 298,069 and McClain getting 160,915. The fan voting counts for one-third of the voting with the coaches and the players' votes deciding the other two-thirds. The Pro Bowl voting will be announced on Dec. 29. … The Ravens were only flagged for five penalties against the Lions after committing a season-high dozen against the Green Bay Packers the previous week. The Ravens have been penalized for an NFL-high 12 pass interference penalties this season and have had to make adjustments to officials' emphasis on calling that infraction. "Over the years that hand-jostling has always been a part of playing the position back there," Harbaugh said. "It was acceptable to knock hands back and forth. Now, it's not okay for [defensive backs] to do it, so they've got to find a way to stay off the receivers. The receivers are still going to knock their hands down, but that's the way it's being called this year, and they're going to have to adjust. Maybe the other part of that is they've been able to adapt over the years to get to this point. So, you have to adapt. What happened to the dinosaurs? They died, right? So, they'll have to find a way to do that." … During his weekly radio program, Harbaugh indicated that the team would like to possibly re-sign recently-released fullback Charles Ali or another lead blocker to work in tandem with McClain.


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