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Tight end Heap also receiver of praise


After reviewing Todd Heap's first game as the Ravens' No. 1 tight end, coach Brian Billick compared his importance to the team to that of running back Jamal Lewis.

"[Heap] is a guy that we have to stay involved in the offense, as does Jamal," Billick said. "Jamal has to have more than 19 carries, and Todd needs to have at minimum five catches a game."

Heap hit his minimum in Sunday's 10-7 loss to the Carolina Panthers, but he netted just 20 yards.

Despite the low yardage total, Billick raved about Heap's performance.

"Across the board, I don't know that Todd had any negatives," Billick said. "Pass protection, run blocking, catching the ball. Todd is clearly capable of a 70-, 80-catch year."

Heap did not shy away from the five-catch mandate, but added: "Hopefully for more than 20 yards, though. I ran a lot of short routes and got a lot of short, check-down-type passes. Hopefully we'll be able to get down the field a little more and be able to ... get more yards after the catch."

Chances are, the Ravens will send Heap downfield more on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Carolina largely played the Ravens' receivers one-on-one, which left a more favorable matchup outside. Heap, though, was the one whom quarterback Chris Redman turned to when under pressure.

"When he's flushed out and he needs to make a key play in the game, then I need to be the one, we all need to step up in those situations," Heap said.

Rookie's priority

For a change, being a rookie will benefit Ron Johnson.

The Ravens receiver caught his first career touchdown pass in the back of the end zone Sunday, an 8-yard strike from Redman in the first quarter.

It also was Redman's first career touchdown pass, but Johnson will keep the ball because rookies have seniority over veterans in such cases, the logic being that veterans already have had time to accomplish their firsts.

Brandon Stokley retrieved the ball while Johnson was on the sideline, hoping the touchdown would not be overturned on replay. The Panthers challenged whether Johnson had both feet inbounds.

"I was sitting on the sideline when they threw the [challenge] flag," Johnson said. "I had never dealt with anything like that before. Everybody was telling me there is a chance they could overturn it. I'm like, 'Don't do this to me now.' But after the replay, it showed I got both feet in, so they gave it to me."

Win would've been better

Stokley had the best statistical day of his professional career Sunday, but the loss put a damper on his effort.

"It was nice to have a game like that, to catch some balls and make some plays," said Stokley, who had a career-high six catches for 83 yards. "But that's a team that we needed to beat, and we didn't do it. So that's not good enough for me."

End zone

The Ravens likely will have cornerback James Trapp (torn pectoral muscle) back for Sunday's game. ... Fullback Sam Gash was re-signed yesterday. The Ravens released Gash on Friday so they would not have to guarantee his salary for the season. "I had a weekend liberty," Gash said. "I know it's the business part of the game." ... The Ravens plan to increase cornerback Gary Baxter's load from 18 plays to close to 60 on Sunday. ... The Ravens expect receivers Travis Taylor (shoulder) and Johnson (hip) to practice this week. Both were hurt during Sunday's game but continued to play.

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