CINCINNATI -- B.J. Sams insists that the hesitation will be on the field, not in his head.
Returning for the first time in 10 months to the city where he broke his right ankle, the Ravens return specialist said he planned to change direction, juke and spin with little regard to the injury that prematurely ended his season.
"Not really, because I just think it was kind of a freak accident," Sams said when asked if he still thinks about the rainy night that contributed to the injury. "It was just something that could happen in the game of football."
Sams, however, left last night's regular-season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals in the second half with a sprained knee. The extent of the injury was uncertain.
He did not appear to have lost a step in the first half, averaging 27.5 yards on four kickoff returns, including a 47-yarder that helped lead to Matt Stover's 36-yard field near the end of the first half. Sams also averaged 8.0 yards on two punt returns.
When Sams fractured his ankle in the second quarter Nov. 30, he ranked fifth in the NFL in kickoff return average and seventh in punt return average. Sams' season averages of 25.7 yards on kickoffs and 10.6 yards on punts far outweighed the combined averages of replacements Cory Ross and Corey Ivy (20.8 and 2.9).
Yet, team officials were worried enough about Sams' injury and a second driving under the influence charge in a 14-month period that the organization drafted wide receiver-return specialist Yamon Figurs in the third round in April.
Sams also took back just 11 kickoff and punt returns compared to Figurs' 14 in both categories during the preseason.
Although Sams is still the incumbent in both return areas, he acknowledged feeling a need to redeem himself.
"Every time I step on the field, it's like I have something to prove," he said. "I have to show them something, that I still have the ability to take it to the house."
Special teams coach Frank Gansz Jr. said Sams' limited participation during the preseason was designed by the team to preserve his ankle and test Figurs' transition to the NFL. That's why Gansz had no concerns about Sams' ability heading into last night's game.
"He looks great to me," Gansz said. "I think he's had a great camp. His numbers aren't there, but he hasn't had that many opportunities. He's only had one return each game. To put in baseball terms, he hasn't gotten the pitches yet, but they'll come."
Ten-time Pro Bowl selection Jonathan Ogden's first appearance as the starting left tackle in eight months was brief.
Ogden, who had been sidelined the entire offseason and preseason by a hyperextended toe on his left foot, limped off the field in the second quarter and did not return. Right tackle Adam Terry moved over to the left side and rookie Marshal Yanda filled in at right tackle.
Yanda and fellow rookie right guard Ben Grubbs were in the game when running back Musa Smith scored on a 6-yard run in the second quarter. The touchdown was Smith's first since 2003.
Linebacker Ray Lewis is playing with a heavily wrapped right biceps, and quarterback Steve McNair had his groin taped.
The team deactivated rookie linebackers Antwan Barnes, Prescott Burgess and Edgar Jones. Kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd, running back Mike Anderson, cornerback Ronnie Prude and Figurs were inactive. Rookie Troy Smith was designated the third (emergency) quarterback.
For the Bengals, linebacker Lemar Marshall, who was waived by the Washington Redskins last month, started in place of Rashad Jeanty (shin). Cincinnati started Andrew Whitworth over Levi Jones (knee) at left tackle and rookie cornerback Leon Hall over Johnathan Joseph (foot).
Fumbles and penalties continue to haunt the Ravens. After losing just nine fumbles last season, the offense coughed up the football three times, including twice by McNair.
The Bengals turned those three fumbles into nine points.
The Ravens have also been flagged six times for 65 yards. Meanwhile, the Bengals have committed just three penalties for 25 yards.
Rookie Le'Ron McClain, not Justin Green, earned the start at fullback and fumbled after catching a 3-yard pass in the first quarter. Green had started at fullback in the team's four preseason games. ... Stover, McNair, Lewis and linebacker Gary Stills were the Ravens captains for the coin toss. Lewis called heads, and the Ravens won the toss, electing to receive.