The Ravens, currently third in a three-team race for the AFC's two first-round byes, might be forced to play against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday without one of the game's best offensive tackles.
Left tackle Jonathan Ogden, who earned his 10th Pro Bowl invitation Tuesday, has been hobbled by a painfully sore big toe on his left foot, and coach Brian Billick said the anchor of the offensive line is in danger of missing a game for the first time this season.
"He's questionable, but [with] that toe, we're going to have to see how it progresses during the week," Billick said after practice yesterday. "It doesn't look good right now."
There seems to be some confusion over the exact nature of the injury. Although team officials labeled the injury as a hyperextended toe after Sunday's 27-17 win against the Cleveland Browns, Ogden called it "turf toe," which is defined as a sprain of the metatarsophalangeal joint of the big toe.
Ogden sounded confident that he could recover enough to play against the Steelers.
"Of course, I think I'm going to be able to try to play," he said. "What am I, questionable? It's 50-50. It's progressed well so far. So I'm very hopeful, but you never know with turf toe."
Still, Billick's comment seemed to confirm reports out of Pittsburgh that had ruled Ogden out of Sunday's rematch with the Steelers.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which asserted that second-year lineman Adam Terry will make his first NFL start in Ogden's place, quoted Billick during Wednesday's conference call with the media in Pittsburgh as saying, "I imagine their guys are going to be a little energized by that as well."
While disputing that Ogden has already been declared out, Billick acknowledged that the prospect of Ogden playing against the Steelers did not appear promising.
"That's not definitive, but he's very questionable," Billick said. "He's working through the week."
If Ogden can't play, Terry, the team's second-round pick in last year's draft, would get the start. Terry replaced Ogden in the Ravens' 28-6 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sept. 17 after Ogden hyperextended his right knee in the third quarter.
"I've been doing the same thing all year," Terry said. "If he goes down [for] Pittsburgh, it's no different than when he went down [against] Oakland. I just step in and play."
The toe appeared to prevent Ogden from practicing much yesterday, as he was absent during the portion of practice open to the media and was seen walking off the practice field after practice in a sweat shirt and sweat pants.
Ogden said the toe is too painful to push off of, much less practice on.
"It's very important," he said. "It loads a lot of weight, especially my outside left toe. You don't know how much you use it until it's hurting. That's about the only way to describe it. You can't do a whole lot with a toe that's not 100 percent -- or at least 90 percent."
Losing the services of Ogden -- even for one game -- could be critical. The 6-foot-9, 345-pound tackle was named to his 10th consecutive Pro Bowl on Tuesday and is widely regarded as one of the best offensive tackles to play the position.
The Ravens could use a healthy Ogden to help lead the offensive charge against a Steelers team that is ranked fifth in the NFL against the run and ninth overall in total defense.
At stake is a possible first-round bye. If the Ravens lose Sunday and the San Diego Chargers (playing at Seattle) and Indianapolis Colts (at Houston) win, the Ravens would be shut out of the top two seeds and one of the coveted first-round byes.
That is more than enough motivation to play, Ogden said.
"I would love to try to help us," he said. "I know we don't have anything yet, but I know a loss definitely makes it almost impossible for us to get a first-round bye. So I definitely want to get out there because I would really like to have a bye. Really like to have a bye."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun