Line not afraid to take its shots

The Baltimore Sun

Standing squarely under the microscope, the Ravens' offensive line isn't shying away from the heat.

Concerns about the unit's effectiveness in protecting quarterback Steve McNair and creating holes for running backs Jamal Lewis, Mike Anderson and Musa Smith have been cropping up on preseason previews and message boards with just days left before the regular-season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

But either those anxieties haven't reached the members of the offensive line, or the players just don't care.

"It doesn't matter," center Mike Flynn said of the scrutiny. "You'll have the microscope at one time or another. We've had it in a good light, and we've had it in a bad light. It's not a big deal. We'll go out and play. We're focused this week on playing in Tampa."

Much has been made about the right side of the line, and critics have pointed to the appearance of right guard Keydrick Vincent and right tackle Tony Pashos in two extra series in last Thursday's preseason finale against the Washington Redskins as the seeds for their doubts.

But Vincent and Pashos said they didn't mind the extra work, and left guard Edwin Mulitalo defended his line mates.

"I know that Jonathan Ogden is the only one who's gone to the Pro Bowl nine times. So maybe one person is better than the rest, and I have no problem saying that," Mulitalo said. "It's not our job to drive the train or toot the horn. But when that ball is snapped, we're going."

The strength of the offensive line will be tested by a Buccaneers defense that has averaged 42 sacks since 1997 and has been ranked in the top nine in yardage over the same span.

"We've got to play well every week and block the guy that we have," offensive line coach Chris Foerster said. "We've got a task every week, and each week brings on its own challenge. So we're going to do the best job we can."

Listed as questionable

Along with Lewis (hip flexor) being listed as questionable for Sunday's game, wide receiver Derrick Mason (knee), cornerback Chris McAlister (thigh), defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin (thigh) and running back P.J. Daniels (thigh) are listed as questionable.

Tampa Bay's biggest worry is rookie right guard Davin Joseph. The 23rd overall pick in last April's draft injured his knee during practice yesterday and is listed as questionable.

Middle linebacker Shelton Quarles (groin) and left guard Dan Buenning (ankle) are also questionable.

Super memory

Several Ravens are looking forward to returning to the site of their Super Bowl victory, and the visit to Tampa will be something of a homecoming for cornerback Corey Ivy.

Ivy was primarily a special teams player for the Buccaneers during 2002 when the team collected its first Super Bowl title. Ivy played two more seasons with the Buccaneers before signing with the Ravens as a free agent last March.

"I won a Super Bowl with Tampa, so what fonder memory could you have?" Ivy said. "But it's not the Super Bowl. It isn't the only game of the season. But it's the next game. I take each individual game as the same and hopefully, we can go out there and put on a good performance."

Et cetera

No player missed yesterday's practice. ... Coach Brian Billick declined to be baited into expounding on the team's 11-game losing streak on the road. "The answer will probably be the same," he said. "I don't have much of an answer [for] you until we win on the road."

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