Efforts finally earn a Monday without practice

The tradition is called Victory Monday and it's celebrated routinely around the NFL. But until yesterday, the Ravens hadn't experienced it this season.

Moments after the Ravens dumped the Cleveland Browns with a furious fourth-quarter comeback Sunday, coach John Harbaugh told players they'd get their first Monday off of the season.


They erupted with a roar that could be heard from outside the walls, and then, from across the locker room, one voice called out, "Coach, are you feeling OK?"

Harbaugh's work ethic suggested the Ravens would proceed through the week as they have done all season, with just today off. But in a concession to losing their Week 10 bye to Hurricane Ike, the first-year head coach granted them a well-deserved reprieve.


Harbaugh made the decision to give the players Monday off before the game but didn't let them know until afterward.

"Oh, definitely we earned it," defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said after the game. "We expected to practice on Mondays throughout the whole year. That's kind of the way John Harbaugh coaches, the way he likes [us] to stay focused."

The Ravens lost their regularly scheduled bye week in the aftermath of the hurricane that ravaged the Texas gulf in early September. After practicing all week, they learned the day before their game with the Houston Texans that it would be postponed until this Sunday.

It amounted to a normal work week - without a game. At the time, Ravens special teams player Brendon Ayanbadejo described it as "the worst bye week in bye week history."

Now Harbaugh is trying to soften the blow by cutting back on practice to freshen up his players. He plans to reduce the time spent on the field tomorrow and Thursday, and slow down some of the drills.

"Other than that, it'll probably be this much less physical," he said, holding his left hand at shoulder level, "and this much more mental" - holding his right hand head high.

Cornerback Frank Walker, a six-year veteran, said this was the latest in a season he'd ever had to wait for Victory Monday.

"But it makes you appreciate it more," he said.


Hopeful on McAlister

Harbaugh declared Chris McAlister (knee) out of Sunday's game but said the team still hoped the injured cornerback could play again this season. Harbaugh said McAlister rehabilitated his knee through the weekend and is scheduled for consultation with a third doctor this week to gather more information.

Meanwhile, the coach said he expects cornerback Samari Rolle to play against the Texans after missing six games with a neck injury.

"We should be stronger than we were last week," Harbaugh said. "Rolle will be back, barring something we don't know about at this point."

Little 'Suggs Package'

A week after the Ravens' two-quarterback offense was all the rage, the Ravens used it just twice in Cleveland (with Joe Flacco split out and Troy Smith at quarterback) for a net of 2 yards on two running plays in the first quarter.


The Ravens showed the formation in the second quarter, too, but had to take a timeout and then Smith came off the field. Smith replaced Flacco at quarterback for one other play in the first quarter, handing off to Le'Ron McClain, who lost 1 yard.

The Ravens had difficulty getting some plays off when they lined up in unusual formations, either the two-quarterback or the unbalanced-line look.

"There are times we don't have it quite the way we want it, don't have the personnel right, don't have the play right, the 15-second clock is off and we have a tough time getting the play in," Harbaugh said. "These kind of issues come up and we've just got to call a timeout to make sure we execute the play."

End zone

Matt Stover needs to kick five straight extra points to set the NFL's all-time record for consecutive point after touchdowns made. Stover has hit 367 in a row, four shy of the mark held by Jason Elam and Jeff Wilkins. ... Safety Ed Reed, who has had a nerve problem in his neck and shoulder all season, asked three times to return a punt Sunday and finally did in the fourth quarter. One play after his 8-yard return, Ray Rice went 60 yards to set up a go-ahead field goal. ... Offensive tackle Adam Terry played on the right and left sides in an unbalanced-line look and is expected to play more in Houston. ... Tight end Todd Heap was flagged for two false starts and had no catches. But Harbaugh praised Heap's blocking in the game.