Sanders, Knight expected to return

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Help is on the way.

The Ravens should get receiver Frank Sanders (dislocated toes) and cornerback Tom Knight (hamstring) back from injury this week. Both could play in Sunday's home opener against the Cleveland Browns, adding depth to two of the thinnest positions on the team.

Neither played in Sunday's 34-15 season-opening loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Sanders has been out since dislocating two toes on his right foot in the first preseason game. He returned to practice last week, but remained doubtful on the injury report. Travis Taylor, Marcus Robinson and Ron Johnson were the only receivers against the Steelers, and each recorded a catch.

"He was moving pretty good the latter part of the week," Ravens coach Brian Billick said of Sanders. "Again, I'll have to defer to Wednesday and Thursday before we can say for sure."

Knight hurt his hamstring during training camp, but he also practiced last week. Knight was the Ravens' nickel (fifth defensive) back and likely will return to that position when he is healthy.

Alvin Porter would have replaced Knight, but he missed the game with a strained groin. Return man Lamont Brightful, who had never played defense in a game, was the nickel back in the second half against Pittsburgh.

Said Knight: "Mentally, I'm worn out. Physically, I'm ready."

The Ravens also received encouraging news on cornerback Corey Fuller, who strained his left quadriceps late in the second quarter and did not return.

Fuller walked without much of a limp in the locker room yesterday and was optimistic about his chances of playing against his former team. Fuller played the previous four seasons for the Browns.

"It's sore, but knowing me, I only missed four games in my career due to injury," Fuller said. "If I can go, I can go."

There were no other serious injuries reported from the Steelers game.

Change of strategy

The Ravens say it was not so much a mismanagement of the clock that cost the team points at the end of the first half against Pittsburgh as it was a change in direction.

Billick implied he was content to run out the clock and go into halftime down 13-0 when his team got the ball with 2:50 left in the second quarter.

The Ravens started at their 15-yard line, converted a third-and-10 play on an 11-yard run by Jamal Lewis, then decided to go for it.

"You have to set priorities," Billick said. "And that priority was, as conservative as it sounds, let's not give the ball back to them. I didn't want to have to punt, give them another big play and let them get into position to kick a field goal and now make it 16-0."

After the first down, rookie quarterback Kyle Boller ran for 4 yards, then completed four straight passes to get the Ravens to Pittsburgh's 36-yard line with six seconds left. Rather than try a field goal, the Ravens took one more shot, and Boller's pass sailed out of bounds as time ran out.

Salave'a is re-signed

The Ravens re-signed defensive tackle Joe Salave'a yesterday and released third-year guard Jason Thomas.

Thomas played on special teams in Sunday's game and had been used sparingly on offense the past two years.

Salave'a, one of the final cuts 10 days ago, should help improve a defensive line that had trouble generating consistent pressure on Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox.

Billick: What head games?

Billick scoffed at the idea that the Steelers' players, especially receivers Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress, got into the heads of the Ravens.

Both teams were hit with 15-yard unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties, with Chris McAlister and Burress the recipients.

"You don't want to play their game," Billick said. "I don't know if that happened [Sunday]. There were some instances on both sides that cost both teams, not dramatically and less so than [in previous meetings]. They won the game, but I don't think they won for that reason."

End zone

Ravens right tackle Orlando Brown played nearly 50 snaps, about 30 more than starter Ethan Brooks. ... Sunday's 9-6 loss to the Indianapolis Colts was the Browns' 20th game in the past 34 to be decided in the last minute. Both games against the Ravens last year were decided in the final minute.

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