Speaking to the media Wednesday for the first time in several weeks, safety Ed Reed disputed media reports related to his injured groin and hip, and when he would return to action for the Ravens. Reed has missed the past three games.
Reed denied a Baltimore Sun report this week that he wanted to play against the Steelers on Sunday but coach John Harbaugh nixed that plan.
"Me and Coach didn't have any [disagreement] at all," Reed said. "Honestly, he asked me what I think, I told him I could probably give him about 15 plays. That's not my type of play. We made a decision that I would not play because we need the roster spot to give somebody a break on special teams. I was never in the game at all."
Reed also dismissed a report on ESPN that he'll play this week against the Oakland Raiders. The NFL Network had a similar report Tuesday.
"I was laying in the bed last night and saw ESPN reported that I was possibly playing," Reed said. "I mean, I was possibly playing the last couple weeks. There is no change. I'm not up right now, so I don't know where they're getting their information from, but it's wrong. [Reporters] seem to know the decision before I even make it. It's funny, but none of it is right. I don't really pay no mind to it."
So will Reed play this week?
"Honestly, it will be a game-time decision," Reed said. "It's a really hard decision when you don't practice. ... It's way tougher [with a groin injury]. It was a little tear, and not knowing without practice what you're going to get, it's really hard making that decision come game day."
Reed said he wouldn't have a problem playing in a limited role if he could contribute somehow.
"I'll be like a sixth man off the bench," Reed said. "Going into the playoffs, not knowing if I'm going to play this week and not knowing if I'm going to play next week, it's hard. But if I can be that sixth man off the bench, I'll be that."
Reed said being on the sideline has been eye-opening in some respects.
"It gives me a different perspective," Reed said. "Coaching is something I want to do. Not being out there affects you because you're not able to communicate the things yelling from the sideline. Guys don't like that. You just take it in stride."
Laughing it off
When wide receiver Derrick Mason dropped a certain touchdown pass against the Steelers on Sunday, TV cameras showed him laughing. That image had the Ravens fans growling. On Wednesday, Mason answered his critics - in a way.
"That [stuff]'s over with," he said. "I don't care about a drop, man. Move on. That's the game of football. I'm going to laugh, I'm going to laugh and I'm going to laugh. If I drop one or I drop two, I'm going to laugh. I've done it for 13 years. So I don't give a hell about whatever people say. That's basically where it is. I've had my share of drops, but I've also had my share of big catches. I smile on the big catches. I smile on the drops. That's the way it is - it's not going to change."
Mason wasn't the only one caught by the cameras smiling after a botched play. Linebacker Terrell Suggs was laughing after he muffed an interception at the goal line that would have been an easy touchdown. And defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was seen smiling after he drew a 15-yard penalty for drilling two Steelers after the whistle on a punt return.
Ngata said his smile was more out of guilt and anger.
"I was thinking that it was a stupid penalty, and I was just basically laughing at myself that I could do something that dumb," Ngata said. "That's pretty much why I was laughing, because that was the only thing I could do. If I tried to stay with that play and get upset about it and not move on from it, then it would've just bugged me throughout the whole game."
Back on track
Todd Heap wasn't one of the five Ravens named to the Pro Bowl, but it's clear he's having his best season in years, and his health is playing a significant part in that. Through 15 games, Heap has 51 catches for 553 yards (his highest totals since 2006) and six touchdowns (including four in the past two games). Last season, because he was battling numerous injuries and because the Ravens put an emphasis on protecting then-rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, Heap was used primarily as a blocker.
"You're not going to hear me complain about catching touchdowns," Heap said. "Obviously last week's touchdowns were more exciting than this past week because we won the game. That's always the most important thing. You want to score touchdowns that help the team win. It's always exciting to score, but you want to make sure you get more points than the other team. Not being able to do that against Pittsburgh was frustrating."
Heap said this is as healthy as he has felt in a long time.
"Obviously last year I had something I was battling through," Heap said. "But this season I feel great, especially for it being toward the end of the year. I feel even better now than I did a couple weeks ago."
Jarret Johnson ranks third on the team in tackles (67) and second in sacks (six). His sack and interception (two) totals are career highs, but the outside linebacker was absent from the Pro Bowl announcements - even as an alternate.
Johnson, however, refused to acknowledge that he was snubbed.
"I don't think so," he said. "There are a lot of guys who could say that. There's [Steelers linebacker] LaMarr Woodley and some other guys who didn't make it. I'm not real worried about it."
Offensive tackle Jared Gaither had a full practice and appears set to return to the starting lineup for Sunday's regular-season finale at Oakland. Gaither has missed the past three games with foot and back injuries. Gaither is expected to take back his job at left tackle, and Michael Oher would return to the right side, where he has started 10 games this season. ... Four Ravens didn't practice Wednesday: Mason (knee), defensive end Trevor Pryce (illness), Reed (groin) and Suggs (thigh). Mason hasn't missed a game since 2002. Offensive tackle Oniel Cousins (knee), who started the past three games at right tackle, was limited in practice Wednesday along with linebacker Tavares Gooden (groin). Linebacker Johnson (back and knee) and cornerback Cary Williams (thigh) had full practices. ... For the Oakland Raiders, three starters (quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, left guard Langston Walker and defensive end Greg Ellis) didn't practice. Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (foot), the former Maryland and McDonogh star, was limited in practice.
Baltimore Sun reporters Ken Murray, Edward Lee and Jamison Hensley contributed to this story.