Injuries along both lines leave big question marks; Siragusa, Webster, Ogden and Swayne nurse injuries


The defensive tackles practiced, the offensive tackles sat out, and the Ravens' walking wounded drew one day closer to Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans, with the team unsure of the status of either line.

Defensive tackle Tony Siragusa practiced for the first time in nearly two weeks, and fellow tackle Larry Webster practiced after leaving Sunday's game in Atlanta with a turf toe injury. But caution was the course for offensive tackles Jonathan Ogden (neck) and Harry Swayne (leg), who could practice today after sitting out yesterday's workout.

Each of them has been listed as questionable for the Titans game. So has Peter Boulware, who practiced yesterday despite some knee soreness.

Siragusa had arthroscopic knee surgery 12 days ago, and coach Brian Billick said Siragusa's conditioning was an issue yesterday more than the soreness in his knee. Webster went through nearly the entire practice and reported good progress.

Before the workout, Siragusa said he had a 60-40 chance of playing in Tennessee.

"I've had progress the whole time [since surgery], but I haven't run or done anything on [the knee] for 11 days," Siragusa said. "Right now, I don't know [if he'll play]."

When asked if he is likely to wait until the Oct. 21 game against the Kansas City Chiefs to return, Siragusa said, "Losing going into the bye week is a lot worse. You know [Tennessee] wants to establish the run and attack our inside. They're going to give [running back] Eddie George the ball as much as possible."

Backup tackles Lional Dalton, Fernando Smith and Martin Chase will get extra practice repetitions to prepare for the possible absence of Siragusa and/or Webster.

"Tony felt pretty good out there [in practice]. He pulled up a little bit, not because of the knee, but because he got tired," Billick said. "I think Larry's toe is going to be OK. But we'll see what we can get out of them [today]."

The same applies to Ogden and Swayne. Swayne has a lower leg bruise that could limit his ability to push off. Ogden suffered a cervical strain injury that knocked him out of the Atlanta game, and his neck is still sore.

"I'll practice when I can move my neck without pain," Ogden said. "I can move it from side to side now, but I still can't put my head all the way back [without pain]."

With Ogden and Swayne ailing yesterday, the Ravens worked Everett Lindsay at left tackle and Spencer Folau on the right side. James Atkins took Lindsay's normal repetitions at left guard, with rookie Edwin Mulitalo working behind him. Billick said he expects to activate eight linemen this week. The Ravens have nine on their 53-man roster.

Nedney kicks in

The Ravens' unusual kicking arrangement began to take shape yesterday, when Joe Nedney arrived for his first day of practice to keep Matt Stover company.

Nedney, who was claimed off waivers from the Arizona Cardinals on Tuesday, was brought in to assume kickoff duties. Stover, who has failed to impress Billick sufficiently in that area, will concentrate on field goals and extra points.

Stover broke a string of 19 consecutive field goals made between 30 and 39 yards in Atlanta on Sunday, when he missed a 38-yarder. He also sent a kickoff out of bounds, resulting in a penalty that gave the Falcons the ball at their own 40. For the season, Ravens opponents have started their average drive at their own 29.

Billick said the need for more effective kickoffs led him to create an unusual roster spot opening. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars and Philadelphia Eagles had carried two kickers on their rosters.

"When you make a roster spot available for a guy to do this, you're asking a lot of the team, because we could be short in some other areas potentially," Billick said. "But you're talking about a guy [Nedney] who should impact the game, hopefully five, six or seven times."

"As a player, you let this make you better. I know my role. I understand where [Billick] is coming from," Stover said. "He's trying to improve this team as much as he can. You can't ever hold that against a head coach."

Nedney, 6 feet 4, 215 pounds, left a similar situation behind in Arizona, where the Cardinals began the season by carrying Nedney and fellow kicker Chris Jacke.

"You'd like to be kicking off and kicking field goals. On the other hand, I could be sitting home on the couch watching TV," said Nedney, whose contract runs through 2000. "One of the greatest things about this league is you can wipe the slate clean and start out in a new environment."

Nedney, who kicked for the Miami Dolphins in 1996 before moving on to the Cardinals, has 49 career touchbacks on kickoffs. He also made an impressive comeback from left knee surgery after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in Week 12 last season. Nedney, who is left-footed, said he was kicking within four months of his surgery and was fully rehabilitated after six months.

"I have a really great immune system and I worked really hard," he said. "I didn't want that injury to hinder me and my pursuit of a long career."

Et cetera

Wide receivers Justin Armour and Jermaine Lewis each have eight receptions, although Armour has been far more productive with his limited touches. He is averaging 23.6 yards a catch, Lewis 9.6. The Ravens are allowing only 3.2 yards per rush. With a team-leading 56 tackles, middle linebacker Ray Lewis is on a pace to shatter the mark he made in his best season. In 1997, Lewis made his first Pro Bowl by recording 210 tackles. The Ravens have intercepted three passes and have had seven picked off. Running back Errict Rhett is the AFC's leading rusher with 350 yards on 71 carries and leads the NFL with three 100-yard games.

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