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Baltimore Sun

Harbaugh defends Ngata's presence on offense

Haloti Ngata sounded hopeful that his fledgling career on offense would not end after he nearly injured his knee during a goal-line situation in the first quarter of the Ravens' 31-17 victory over the Denver Broncos Sunday.

He may have a backer in coach John Harbaugh.

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On fourth down-and-goal from the Broncos' 1-yard line, the defensive tackle was one of a few options for quarterback Joe Flacco on a play-action call. But Flacco was sacked and Ngata hurt his knee while getting tangled with Denver safety Darcel McBath.

In his weekly session with the media Monday, Harbaugh was asked about the thought process that goes into permitting starters to play on the opposite side of the ball or on special teams.

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"The bottom line is, you're trying to win every play," he said. "Whatever gives you the best chance to win every play – and you balance that against the risk of injury and what he means to the other side of the ball – you want to try and do that."

Harbaugh was then asked whether he had any second thoughts after watching Ngata lay on the turf for about a minute before he walked off under his own power.

"It makes you hold your breath for a second, but I don't think it really changes the way you think because you already knew there was a risk there," Harbaugh said. "It just kind of draws everybody's attention to it. As a coach, you can't get scared away by public perception. I'm not going to get intimidated by the fact that the fans are going to say, 'Lardarius Webb got hurt on special teams. He should never play special teams.' Well, you can think that, but we've got to put 11 good players out there on every single play in order to win that play because that play might be the play that makes a difference in the game, and that's just the way football is."

A little later, Harbaugh said he green-lighted the decision for the offense to go for the touchdown on fourth-and-goal rather than take a field goal.

"That was my decision to go for it on fourth down," he said. "So I blew that one as far as not getting the three."

Other notes:

*The Ravens gained 233 yards on the ground and 182 yards through the air, marking the first time this season that they finished with more rushing yards than passing yards. But whether that suggested that the offense had adopted a run-first identity, Harbaugh wasn't going to delve into that matter. "I'll keep saying it: we do have an identity," he said. "We're rough, we're tough, we're disciplined, we're smart, we play hard, I think we're good decision-makers. That's what we're building towards. Run or pass, who cares? I think the idea is to be able to do whatever you need to do from one week to the next, and I'm not sure why everybody wants to say, 'Hey, your identity is a running team.' OK, well, that means you're one-dimensional. That's the next thing somebody's going to say. We don't want to be one-dimensional. We want to have guys we can hand it to, and we want to have guys you can throw it to."

*Josh Wilson averaged 20 yards on three kickoff returns Sunday, which is slightly less than the 23-yard average Jalen Parmele had compiled on 12 returns in the first four games of the season. Harbaugh said replacing Parmele with Wilson on kickoffs was designed to kick-start the return game. "It was just kind of an idea to get a spark and try something," Harbaugh said. "Josh has looked good in practice. He's getting a feel for the schemes. I think a lot of times, it's less about the returner on the kickoff return than it is about the blocking because you've got to create some space and get a guy going. … I think both of those guys have done a good job, and we're just looking for a big play."

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*Speaking of Wilson, the cornerback suffered a slight hamstring pull, but Harbaugh said he didn't think it was serious. "I hope it's a short-term injury," he said. "It's not a major hamstring pull or anything like that. So we'll just have to see how it goes this week."

*The Philadelphia Eagles released outside linebacker Antwan Barnes Saturday, but Harbaugh said there were no discussions about bringing in the Ravens' fourth-round pick from the 2007 draft. "I haven't had a conversation with him," Harbaugh said. "We don't really have a roster opportunity right now for that. We wouldn't be opposed to it. Antwan's a good person, a good player, and obviously, he's done some good things here. But right now, there's no way roster-wise we could pull that off."

*Next Sunday's contest against the New England Patriots is a rematch of last year's AFC Wildcard round in which the Ravens came away with a 33-14 victory. Harbaugh dismissed the notion of Sunday's game shaping up as a revenge match. "We're playing them in New England. This is Week 6. It's a very important game. Whatever motivates them is of no concern to us."

*Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has been sacked just five times thus far, which is tied with the Ravens' Joe Flacco, the Indianapolis Colts' Peyton Manning and the New York Jets' Mark Sanchez for the second fewest in the NFL. (Only the Kansas City Chiefs' Matt Cassel, who has been sacked three times, has fewer.) In the playoff game, the Ravens got to Brady three times, and applying pressure will be crucial again. "It's tough to get to him, but that's something that's going to be important," Harbaugh agreed.

*Under coach Bill Belichick, New England is 8-2 after the bye week. It's a daunting record that Harbaugh is well aware of. "They have a a track record after the bye," he said. "So that's something we'll be bucking up against. We'll be looking forward to it."


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