For at least the first half last night, the Baltimore Ravens were almost perfect in their final preseason tuneup against the Buffalo Bills at Memorial Stadium.
But the "almost" was a giant scare -- 6 feet 9 and 325 pounds, to be exact. That occurred when lineman Jonathan Ogden limped off the field with 11:07 remaining in the second quarter.
"I was blocking, and someone fell on my ankle," Ogden said. "I don't know if it was one of my guys or one of the Bills."
Suddenly, there seemed to be more people milling around Ogden on the Ravens' bench than players on the field.
Team trainers quickly administered aid to Ogden's left ankle. Even head coach Ted Marchibroda found time to commiserate with his "franchise" tackle.
"Sure I was concerned," Marchibroda said later. "He's our man. It would be real tough playing without him."
There was a collective sigh of relief when Ogden soon regained a vertical stance and began jogging gingerly in place. But he would not return to the game, exiting with two minutes remaining in the half. He watched the second half in street clothes.
A team spokesman said Ogden had suffered only a minor sprain and would be ready for next Sunday's season opener against Jacksonville.
"I could have gone back out there in the second half, but that wasn't in the plan from the start," Ogden said. "But you can be sure I'm not missing the opener with a slight sprain."
Still, last night's game was to have been a major challenge for Ogden, going against perennial Pro Bowl defensive end Bruce Smith for the first time.
Returning to his more familiar position of tackle this season after playing guard as a rookie, the former UCLA All-American was hardly intimidated by Smith.
Ogden kept Smith, second in the NFL in career sacks, from pressuring quarterback Vinny Testaverde while the Ravens put together a sustained 80-yard scoring march in the first quarter.
"I know he's a good player, but I wasn't going to change my game for him," Ogden said. "I didn't do anything different to block him. Smith didn't say anything to me, but he looked kind of upset a couple times."
Moving back to tackle was an easy adjustment for the Washington native who prepped at St. Alban's School.
"Basically, I'm just doing more pass blocking against the outside rushers," he said. "I guess tackle is the glamour position in the offensive line, if there is one."
Someone asked if Ogden, as the leader in the Ravens' youth movement, was feeling added pressure to help turn the team around.
"We're all trying to perform like seasoned veterans," he said. "We really have no choice. We do, or we're going to lose a lot of games.
"But I think you saw what this team can do in the first half when we had the first unit playing together. We scored easily, and shut them down on defense. We just have to keep that team on the field as long as possible."