Of the three Arizona Cardinals who will return to M&T Bank Stadium Sunday, none is more familiar or more beloved than tight end Todd Heap.
Heap, who will be joined by two more former Ravens in running back Chester Taylor and punter Dave Zastudil, was released in the offseason, but not before ranking second in franchise history in career receptions (467), career receiving yards (5,492) and career touchdowns (41).
So far, Heap, the Ravens’ first-round pick in 2001, has had a quiet start with 13 catches for 150 yards and zero touchdowns, and he has missed the last two games because of a strained hamstring.
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is one Arizona player who would love to see Heap return for this contest against his former employer.
“It’s been a real tough adjustment not having him out there,” Fitzgerald said during a conference call with Baltimore media Wednesday. “He has such a good feel for the game and understanding of route-running and just being a safety blanket for the quarterback on easy catches and hops and size adjustments. So it’s been tough not having him out there. But – you guys can already guess – he’s been busting his hump to try and get back to this game. This is an important game for him to get back to Baltimore – where he spent his first 10 years – and come back and play well.”
Heap was limited in practice Wednesday, and Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt was noncommittal about whether Heap would be available Sunday.
“I don’t know,” Whisenhunt said. “He’s got to see. He’s real close, but we have to make sure as this week progresses, he can handle it – opening up and blocking and those things that we’re going to ask him to do. We’ve got to make sure his hamstring is in a position where he can do that.”
If Heap does play, he will likely be greeted warmly by former teammates and fans, who will likely break out the “HEEEEAAAAP!” calls. But that doesn’t mean that Ravens players will take it easy on Heap.
“I mean, it’s the same thing: the love is always going to be there off the field,” inside linebacker Ray Lewis said. “Of course, once you put on a different colored jersey, here we go again. If the ball comes his way and it just happens I’m there, I might tap him on his shoulder a little bit.”