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Starks plans to be at home on the road


Ravens cornerback Duane Starks practiced yesterday and pronounced himself good to go for Sunday night's nationally televised game against the Miami Dolphins.

As if there was any doubt in his mind to start with.

"I think it would be pretty hard to keep me out of this one," he said.

That's because this is a homecoming for Starks, who was a highly rated option quarterback at Miami Beach High School and a two-year starter in the secondary at the University of Miami.

He has already purchased tickets for some 25 family members and friends, and expects a Starks contingent of around 100 people at Pro Player Stadium.

"I've got so much going on in Miami, so many family members, so much history down in Miami," Starks said.

"It won't affect my playing at all, other than having higher expectations because I know what I can do. I think it will feel so good inside just to be playing at home again."

It also should be a salve for his battered psyche after being victimized by Jacksonville wide receiver Jimmy Smith in Sunday's 39-36 win over the Jaguars. Starks strained his left hamstring late in the game, and has been listed as questionable.

"He felt significantly better," trainer Bill Tessendorf said of Starks yesterday.

Homecoming, part II

Sunday's game will be a reunion of a different sort for linebacker O.J. Brigance, who made 82 special teams tackles during four years with the Dolphins before signing this season with the Ravens.

"It's going to be exciting for me because I played with those guys," Brigance said. "Many of us came in together. It'll be a challenge."

When Dave Wannstedt replaced Jimmy Johnson as coach, the Dolphins told Brigance they would not re-sign him. But that won't be a motivating point on Sunday.

"It won't because God's hand was in it," said Brigance, who also played two years with Baltimore's CFL team in 1994-95. "I'm happy for the years I had that opportunity to play under Coach Johnson. That door is closed. This door opened."

Old loyalties

Ravens coach Brian Billick, who spent seven years as an assistant coach with the Minnesota Vikings, called his old boss, Dennis Green, this week to get information on the Dolphins. Minnesota beat Miami, 13-7, in Week 2.

"There was nothing casual about it," Billick said of the conversation. "I called Dennis and asked what'd they do, what'd they think they could've done. That's the way this business works.

"Sometimes guys offer things up, sometimes not. I don't know how much value it really is, but you try to get all the information you can."

Injury update

The Ravens are expected to downgrade wide receiver Qadry Ismail (sprained knee ligament) from questionable to doubtful today, Tessendorf said, after he missed yesterday's practice.

Also listed as questionable is rookie tight end John Jones, who suffered the same injury as Ismail - sprained medial collateral ligament - during Wednesday's practice. Jones also sprained his left ankle when another player fell on the back of his leg. Jones missed yesterday's workout as well.

Meanwhile, defensive tackle Tony Siragusa is listed as probable with an irritation of the knee. Tessendorf said Siragusa likely will be taken off the injury report today.

End zone

Dolphins defensive tackle Daryl Gardener (back) and cornerback Ray Hill (ankle) are both out for Sunday, and wide-out Tony Martin (foot) is doubtful. ... Miami has won 11 consecutive home games in September. The Dolphins' previous September home loss came seven years ago against the New York Jets. ... Of the past seven AFC Central teams that started 3-0, only the 1993 Cleveland Browns failed to convert that start into a playoff berth. ... Ravens quarterback Tony Banks has more career touchdown passes than games played for the first time since his rookie season. After last Sunday's five-TD binge, he has thrown 59 touchdowns in 58 games.

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