The prospect of facing Cedric Benson and the Cincinnati Bengals without defensive tackle Haloti Ngata isn't exactly an ideal scenario for the Ravens considering the way Benson pushed Baltimore's defense around the last time the teams met, but it could happen this Sunday.
Ngata, who sprained his ankle against the Denver Broncos, didn't practice Wednesday, and his status for the Ravens' game against Cincinnati seems likely to remain uncertain for the rest of this week, especially considering how guarded the team is about injuries. X-rays on Ngata's ankle showed the injury was only a sprain, not a break.
"I'm anticipating Haloti is getting ready to play against the Bengals," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "It's a sprained ankle. We're hopeful that he'll be there, and there is a good chance he will. If not, someone else will play."
Ngata wasn't in the locker room during the designated time for media availability, but he was on the field in sweats during the brief window of practice open to reporters.
"He's here this morning, and he was here all day yesterday, working hard and being attentive in the meetings," defensive line coach Clarence Brooks said. "So we're progressing well."
If Ngata doesn't play, or can only go for a limited number of snaps, the burden of filling his large shoes will shift to Justin Bannan, who is coming off one of his best games in a Ravens uniform. He finished with five solo tackles, tying a career high.
"I'm just going to do what I do," Bannan said. "I don't know much about Haloti's status, to be honest. Whether I have an increased role or not, it's not going to make any difference. It's not the first time I've played a lot, so I'll just come out and do what I do."
Bannan, an eight-year veteran from Colorado who signed with the Ravens three seasons ago as a free agent, hasn't made quite the impact this season some thought he could make after showing flashes of strong play last year. But, in his eyes, it has been partly a product of limited opportunities.
"We have a lot of defensive linemen this year, so it's tough to get the time on the field that I had last year," Bannan said. "I think that's the only difference as far as everything has gone. Other than that, I feel great out there, and I'm playing like I always do."
Lewis sees the future
Ray Lewis said he had a feeling that Lardarius Webb was going to do something magical on the kickoff to open the second half against the Broncos, so he sought out the rookie defensive back and let him know he was about to score.
We all recall what happened next: Webb caught the ball at the 5, and after a few nice blocks, dashed 95 yards for a game-changing touchdown.
When Harbaugh heard the story, he wondered whether Lewis had any other visions to share with the coaching staff.
"That could be a big advantage for us," Harbaugh joked with reporters on Wednesday. "Ray is just a visionary leader."
Lewis laughed off suggestions that he could regularly predict the way plays would unfold, but he did say he had had similar experiences over the years.
"I think it happens a lot with my teammates," Lewis said. "That's why you see I always go jump on them in such a crazy way, just like [Dannell] Ellerbe when he made the play on the screen. Different plays, you see so many things on film, and you can try to go affect it yourself, or you can just line somebody else up to go do it on a couple of those plays."
It's probably fair to call it a mix of intuition and film study. Ed Reed said Lewis has told him plenty of times how things would unfold and then seen it happen exactly that way.
"He actually told me about a play Sunday," Reed said. " 'Just look out for this.' And they ran the play exactly how he said it."
The $25,000 fine that the NFL docked from Lewis' paycheck for his helmet-to-helmet collision with Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco on Oct. 11 won't deter the Ravens linebacker from patrolling the middle of the field.
"The game is always going to play out," Lewis said. "That's what I do, just like what he does is catch the ball. I roam the middle of the field. My job is to be coming in there and delivering whatever blow there is. I don't think [anything] will change. He understands if he comes in there, what's going to go down."
Asked whether the hit left an image with opponents who entertained visions of going over the middle, Lewis joked: "Yeah - the image it left on my doggone checkbook. I'm not running by Chad [any] more."
Extra motivation for Mason
Derrick Mason hasn't forgotten what it felt like to not catch a single pass against the Bengals the last two times the teams met. The Bengals double-covered him occasionally and took away all his favorite routes. If it happens again, Mason vows it won't be for lack of effort on his part.
"Cincinnati did a good job, a very good job, the first game of totally taking me out of the game," Mason said. "In the back of my mind, I just need to go into this game and work a little bit harder, and find a way. If they choose to do that again, [I have to] find a way to get open. If not, then other people will be open."
Mason actually seemed somewhat insulted by the fact that Denver tried to cover him with just one defender, especially on the play on which he caught a 20-yard touchdown.
"You can't cover me single coverage," Mason said. "You can't. It hasn't been done in 13 years, and it won't be done."
Suggs: Bengals did us favor
No Raven was especially happy about losing, 17-14, to the AFC North rival Cincinnati on Oct. 11. But looking back, defensive end-outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said the loss might have actually helped the Ravens.
"I think they probably did us a favor," he said. "They humbled us a little bit. We came off a disappointing loss [against the New England Patriots], and we thought we were going to bounce right back, and I think we kind of took the game for granted. But no, we don't feel like we owe them. We just know that this is a division game. This is a very important game for all parties involved. We'd better play some good football or else [Cincinnati quarterback] Carson [Palmer] is going to have one of those types of days."
Reed said he had zero interest in reading the Twitter updates of Ochocinco. "Next question," Reed said. "I don't care for his tweets." ... Reed had a brace on his right hand in the locker room Wednesday but still practiced and was catching punts in special teams drills.
Baltimore Sun reporter Edward Lee contributed to this article.