McNair tests right hand, is hopeful for Sunday

Ravens quarterback Steve McNair expressed optimism that his throwing hand will have healed enough to enable him to play Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

McNair, who injured his right hand on the team's second series in Sunday's 27-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns, threw, caught and took snaps with the football during practice yesterday.


"It's OK. It's getting better," said McNair, who was not listed on the injury report. "Still sore. I came out to throw today, and I did pretty good. Just going to see how the week goes and going to see if I can get some more soreness out of it before Sunday."

McNair, who has started every game this season, injured the hand when Browns linebacker Andra Davis accidentally stepped on it after McNair was knocked to the ground. He was kept on the sideline by coach Brian Billick because taking snaps aggravated a fresh cut on the hand.


McNair wore a bandage around the hand yesterday, and Billick said the offense featured more shotgun snaps to avoid exacerbating the injury.

"It's not like it's painful," Billick said. "But the less pounding he takes, the better."

In other injury news, six starters - left offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden (hyperextended toe), tight end Todd Heap (thigh), cornerback Samari Rolle (stinger), center Mike Flynn (thigh), wide receiver Derrick Mason (thigh) and tight end Daniel Wilcox (knee/back) - were listed as questionable.

Safety Gerome Sapp, who missed Sunday's game with a thigh injury, is also questionable. Only Heap was absent during the portion of practice open to the media.

For the Steelers, right offensive tackle Max Starks (knee) is out, and starting safeties Troy Polamalu (knee) and Ryan Clark (groin) are questionable and doubtful, respectively.

Another starter, center Jeff Hartings (knee), is listed as probable.

Receiver Bannister added

The Ravens placed linebacker Dan Cody on injured reserve Tuesday, paving the way for the team to sign 6-foot-5, 207-pound wide receiver Alex Bannister to the 53-man roster.


Cody, who partially tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee against Pittsburgh on Nov. 26, said surgery would not be required and that he is approaching the midpoint of an eight-week rehabilitation process.

Bannister, a sixth-year veteran who was cut by the Chicago Bears in August after suffering a pulled groin during training camp, went to the Pro Bowl in 2003 as a special teams player when he played for the Seattle Seahawks.

"I appreciate the Ravens' organization for giving me the opportunity to play again," said Bannister, adding that there are no plans for him to return kicks or punts. "I think the time off made me even hungrier."

The team also signed to the practice squad linebacker Bobby Iwuchukwu, a rookie out of Purdue who was waived by both the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers.

Playoff formula

According to the NFL, the Ravens would be mathematically eliminated from gaining a first-round bye Sunday if they lose at Pittsburgh and the San Diego Chargers and Indianapolis Colts both win.


The Chargers are at Seattle, and the Colts are at Houston.

"I think these two weeks will be the most important of the season," Ravens defensive end Trevor Pryce said, "because you want to go into the playoffs feeling confident, you want to go into the playoffs on a high note, and we still have something to play for."