Notebook: Smiles and penalties

OWINGS MILLS -- When veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason allowed the football to clang off his facemask during the Baltimore Ravens' 23-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, his immediate reaction was to smile and laugh about the miscue. And Mason's actions angered a large portion of the Ravens' fan base.

After the game, Mason was extremely downcast about the squandered opportunity.

By Wednesday, though, Mason was in no mood to hear about the public response to his mistake.

"I don't care, I really don't care," Mason said in an angry tone. "That [crap] is over with, man. That [crap] is over with. I don't care about a drop, man. Move on, that's the game of football. I'm gonna laugh and I'm gonna laugh and I'm gonna laugh.

"If I drop one, if I drop two, I'm gonna laugh. I've done it for 13 years, so I don't give a hell about what other people say. I've had my share of drops, but I've also had my share of big catches. I smile on the big catches, I smile on the drops. I'm not going to change."

Mason leads the Ravens with 1,005 receiving yards on 72 catches.

Meanwhile, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was also captured by the cameras with a big smile following a personal foul for plowing over two Steelers after the whistle had blown on a punt return.

And outside linebacker Terrell Suggs laughed after he dropped a potential interception near the Steelers' goal line.

Ngata chalked up his smile to feeling bad and angry about the breakdown.

"I was thinking that it was a stupid penalty," Ngata said. "I was just basically laughing at myself that I could do something that dumb. I could have just let up. You've just got to work your technique, keep your mind clear and move on."

SNUBBED?: Despite dealing with injuries, outside linebacker Jarret Johnson has had a nice season.

He has recorded 67 tackles, six sacks and two interceptions, but didn't make the Pro Bowl as a reserve or an alternate.

"I had a good season, but I didn't have that type of season," Johnson said. "The guys that are in there are really good players. I kind of leveled off at the end of the year."

HONORED: Ravens offensive guard Ben Grubbs was named as a first alternate on the AFC Pro Bowl squad, and he has ambitions on being a first-ballot selection in the future.

"I'm happy," he said. "It's an honor to be chosen, that somebody thinks enough of me to put me on the ballot.

"This is only a start for me. Hopefully, I can continue to do well on and off the field. My ultimate goal is to be a starter. Right now, I'm just focused on the playoffs and winning games."

INJURY UPDATE: Offensive tackle Jared Gaither is expected to return to start Sunday against the Oakland Raiders after missing the previous three games with foot, toe and lower back problems.

Gaither participated fully in practice Wednesday, lining up at left tackle with rookie Michael Oher moving back to the right side.

Free safety Ed Reed (groin), outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (thigh), defensive end Trevor Pryce (illness) and Mason (knee) didn't practice.

The Ravens didn't have their helmets or pads on for what appeared to be an extremely light workout.

Offensive tackle Oniel Cousins (knee) was limited as well as linebacker Tavares Gooden (groin). Johnson (knee, back) and cornerback Cary Williams (thigh) participated fully.

Meanwhile, quarterback Bruce Gradkowski (knee sprains), offensive tackle Langston Walker (ankle), defensive end Greg Ellis (knee) and running back Justin Fargas (knee) didn't practice for the Raiders.

Former University of Maryland wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (foot) was limited as well as cornerback Chris Johnson (knee).

Defensive tackle Gerard Warren (shoulder) participated fully.

QUICK HITS: Safety Tom Zbikowski, who has started the past four games and intercepted two passes in place of Reed, was gratified to be named a Pro Bowl alternate on special teams. He ranks third on the team with 25 special-teams tackles behind Prescott Burgess and Jameel McClain with 32 apiece. "It's big-time," Zbikowski said. "It's nice. I'm more concerned about winning, but when you get those individual things it's fun to talk about with family and friends." … Zbikowski has grown out a fairly long beard as a tribute to the playoff beards that hockey players sport. "My favorite sport is hockey," he said. "I've got to keep the streak going." … Since being drafted in the first round by Oakland, Heyward-Bey has had a rough season. He has missed the past four games due to his injury, and he has caught just nine passes for 124 yards and one touchdown. "I don't know much about him, I've met him a few times and he seems like a good dude," said cornerback Domonique Foxworth, a fellow former Terrapin. "His numbers don't look all that great, but he can still fly. If he's out there, I'm going to respect his speed for sure." During a conference call with Baltimore reporters, Raiders coach Tom Cable indicated that Heyward-Bey was unlikely to play Sunday. "I thought he started out a little shaky, but really started to come on there and then got hurt."


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