Torn muscle shelves Mulitalo for the season

Left guard Edwin Mulitalo, who ranks second among the Ravens' current offensive linemen in career starts, will miss the rest of the season with a torn right triceps muscle.

Coach Brian Billick confirmed Mulitalo's injury yesterday and said that second-year lineman Jason Brown would start at guard in the team's first prime-time game of the season against the Denver Broncos on Monday night.


"We hate to lose Edwin as a team and hate that Edwin has to go through that now," Billick said, noting Mulitalo's commitment to conditioning this past offseason. "Edwin deserved better given what he has been through.

"We feel fortunate to have Jason Brown ... because we really believe he's ready to go. Hopefully, at year's end, if we're successful, we will look back and say, 'Yeah, it was having a Jason Brown ready to go and ... step in for an Edwin Mulitalo [that] turned out to be a strength for this team.'"


Mulitalo, whose 102 career starts is second only to left tackle Jonathan Ogden's 156, has spent his entire eight-year career with the Ravens. Coupled with Ogden and center Mike Flynn, the trio has formed the cornerstone of an offensive line that in 2003 helped Jamal Lewis rush for 2,066 yards.

Flynn took the loss of Mulitalo hard.

"It stinks because I look forward to playing with that guy every week," Flynn said after the Ravens' 16-13 win over the San Diego Chargers Sunday. "I'm sure other guys will come in and step in and do a good job, but it's frustrating. I know that with us being 4-0, the last thing that guy wants to do is get hurt and not be here. He deserves to be here because he worked his butt off in the offseason."

Mulitalo's replacement is familiar with Denver. Brown, who made his starting debut last season against the Broncos, will make his second career start in Denver.

Brown, the organization's fourth-round pick in last year's draft, played in Mulitalo's place in the fourth quarter Sunday and said he hoped to be able to fill Mulitalo's shoes.

"I feel very prepared," said the 6-foot-3, 320-pound Brown, who worked out in the team's training facility on a day when the players were given the option of staying home. "I've only played one full game in this league. I'm yet to be proven. ... Yet, I've gone through a lot of preparation. It's going to be a test, and I've prepared for it."

Fumble protest defended

Billick said he had no qualms about risking the team's final timeout of the second half when he decided to challenge the officials' ruling that tight end Daniel Wilcox had fumbled at San Diego's 1-yard line in the third quarter.


Wilcox, who had taken a shovel pass from quarterback Steve McNair, was stripped by linebacker Stephen Cooper, and the Chargers recovered.

"It didn't look like he had full possession of the ball. And given where we were [on the field] and where we were in the game, however close it was was worth a challenge," said Billick, whose challenge was denied. "If it had come back in our favor, then that would have been a huge play."

Short yardage

Despite a 4-0 start, Billick acknowledged some concern that the offense has not been able to convert a third-and-one opportunity late in the game in consecutive weeks.

On both occasions, Lewis was stopped short of the first down, and the Ravens were forced to punt.

"We've got to get better," he said. "To get into a third-and-one twice now, you can't leave those on the table."


Et cetera

Billick defended McNair's first interception on Sunday, chalking up cornerback Quentin Jammer's pickoff deep in San Diego territory as a miscommunication between McNair and wide receiver Derrick Mason. "It was a misread," Billick said. "It was a you-zigged-and-I-thought-you-were-going- to-zag deal. You hope to minimize those." ... Billick smiled when reminded of punter Sam Koch's tackle of Eric Parker that kept the Chargers return specialist on the turf for several minutes after a 31-yard return. "He's corn-fed and Nebraskan-bred," Billick said. "He's not going to shy back from this. It was great to see."