Notebook: Gaither set for Sunday

OWINGS MILLS – The Baltimore Ravens are fully anticipating that offensive tackle Jared Gaither will return Sunday against the Oakland Raiders after missing the past three games with a foot injury and lower back problems. Gaither practiced again Friday and is listed as probable on the official injury report.

Gaither's mobility improved all week as he lined up at his left tackle spot. If he's starting, rookie Michael Oher would go back to his right tackle position and Oniel Cousins would head to the bench after starting the past two games.

"Jared, he had a chance last week," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "It was close. He hadn't practiced, but this week he has practiced and he looked good."

Meanwhile, free safety Ed Reed has been telling teammates that he expects to play on a limited basis Sunday after characterizing himself as a game-time decision Wednesday during interviews.

Reed has a slightly torn groin and has missed the past four games. He's listed as questionable, but is expected to attempt to play 12 to 15 snaps if his body cooperates during warmups.

"They both got better as the week went on, both got stronger as the week went on," Harbaugh said when asked about Reed and Gaither's progress.

"There are no guarantees, but they both have a chance."

The Ravens also listed the following players as questionable: wide receiver Derrick Mason (knee), linebackers Terrell Suggs (thigh) and Tavares Gooden (groin), cornerback Cary Williams (hamstring) and Cousins (left knee).

Mason is expected to play as well as Suggs and Cousins.

"You know I'm going to be out there on Sunday," Suggs said. "Everybody is hurting this time of year."

"It feels better," Cousins said. "It's a sprained knee."

Gooden remains a question mark with Dannell Ellerbe expected to start his third game in a row.

"He's getting better every day," Harbaugh said of Gooden. "He's further off than the other two guys, but we'll find out Sunday really."

Besides Gaither, linebacker Jarret Johnson (back, knee) and defensive end Trevor Pryce are probable. HIGH STAKES: If the Ravens lose, they're definitely out of the running for a playoff berth. An 8-8 finish won't allow them to make the playoffs under the NFL tiebreaker formulas.

PLAYOFF PREPARATIONS: Earlier this week, Harbaugh said that the Ravens' staff had already begun preparing scouting reports and game plans for potential playoff games against the Cincinnati Bengals and the New England Patriots.

Defeating the Raiders on Sunday in Oakland would possibly set up a short week of practice heading into a potential Saturday night playoff game against the Patriots.

Even if that winds up being the case, Harbaugh indicated that the Ravens wouldn't practice Monday.

"We might come back on Tuesday," he said. "We'd have to do that if we had the early game. I would think the league will try to do the best it can to not bring us back from the West Coast and make us play Saturday. That doesn't mean much until after this game Sunday that we play."

The Ravens would like to enjoy the luxury of resting starters in the second half if the game against the Raiders is well in hand.

"I hope we have that situation," Harbaugh said. "I'd say it would be similar to what we've done in other games that you've already seen. We're going out there to win the game.

"I don't anticipate that being the case [a blowout]. If it is the case, then you always try to make wise decisions for whatever the situation might be."

TRADE REQUEST ADDRESSED: Backup quarterback Troy Smith addressed his agent, Ralph Cindrich, going public via his Twitter account about issuing a trade request to general manager Ozzie Newsome earlier this week.

"What Ralph tweeted is what Ralph tweeted," Smith said. "I ain't got no control over that. My focus is on Oakland and getting ready to go to the playoffs and beating Oakland and trying to go to the Super Bowl."

Smith reiterated that he wants to be a starter, not a perennial backup to starter Joe Flacco. "No doubt, that's exactly what I want," he said. "At the same time, your learning process as a quarterback, I've had a good opportunity to learn with Joe. My time will come."

Of course, the timing of Smith's request didn't sit well with fans or the organization. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron declined to discuss the situation.

"Now is probably not the time to discuss that," he said. "Some time down the road we can talk about that."

QUICK HITS: The Raiders ruled out starting quarterback Bruce Gradkowski (knee sprains). Running back Justin Fargas (knee) and offensive tackle Langston Walker (ankle) are doubtful. … Safety Tyvon Branch (hip), defensive end Greg Ellis (knee), wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (foot) and cornerback Chris Johnson (hamstring) are questionable. Defensive tackle Gerard Warren (shoulder) is probable. … The Ravens had light practices this week. "It's a little bit of a different tempo sometimes," Harbaugh said. "Later in the season we try to do everything we can because we're beat up and banged up. Guys have really worked throughout the course of a long season, so we want to go in there as strong as we can on Sunday, and you've got to give htem some recovery opportunity." … The Ravens have shifted practice squad offensive guard Bryan Mattison, the son of defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, back to defensive end. … Cameron compared Raiders Pro Bowl cornerback Nmandi Asomugha to Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson and former NFL cornerback Deion Sanders. "Very similar," he said. "Right now, he's the guy that people are throwing away from the most."

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