Ravens not underestimating Panthers' starter Brian St. Pierre

A familiar face at quarterback will greet the Ravens when they take on the Carolina Panthers Sunday.

Brian St. Pierre, who spent the 2005 season with the Ravens, will make his first career start. Panthers coach John Fox chose St. Pierre, 30, over rookie Tony Pike Thursday, according to media outlets that cover the team.

St. Pierre fills in for rookie Jimmy Clausen, who suffered a concussion in the team's 31-16 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this past Sunday. Clausen replaced Matt Moore, who will miss the rest of the season after tearing the labrum in his throwing shoulder.

"He's accurate, competitive," Ravens nose tackle Kelly Gregg recalled of St. Pierre. "He's a good player. He was with Pittsburgh a little bit, and they produce some good quarterbacks. He's tough and competitive. He'll have it down. He'll be ready to play."

St. Pierre, who was the third quarterback in the Ravens' final four games of 2005, was also the third quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals when they advanced to the 2008 Super Bowl. He has thrown just five passes in eight NFL seasons, but Gregg said that inexperience shouldn't be held against him.

"He's guy who's been around," Gregg said. "He was in Arizona and he was around [coach and former Steelers offensive coordinator Ken] Whisenhunt a lot. So he's going to be ready to play, and he's going to be anxious to play."

St. Pierre takes over an offense that ranks last in the league in both yards and points per game. But Ravens cornerback Josh Wilson said the focus is centered solely on the quarterback.

"A lot of times, it's about how they've got a great receiving crew over there," Wilson said. "They've got [ Steve] Smith, of course, who can hurt you in every way. And they've got some young guys who are coming along and making big plays. If you just look at how they run their routes, how they do their thing and how they want to beat you, and that's it. The quarterback, all he has to do is get the ball there. They're the ones that get open."

St. Pierre's promotion is somewhat surprising because he was signed to Carolina's practice squad last week and was activated to the 53-man roster Tuesday,

But Ravens defensive end Cory Redding said the insertion of St. Pierre instead of Pike won't alter the defense's game plan.

"It doesn't make any difference to us," Redding said. "If it's a rookie or a veteran, it doesn't matter. Guys go out there to compete with pride, and he's going to go out there and do what's best for his team to try and win."

Yanda expected to start Sunday

Right tackle Marshal Yanda was excused from Thursday's practice because his wife Shannon is due to have their first child.

Yanda is expected to start against the Panthers. "We expect him [in Carolina]," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said.

In other injury news, cornerback Fabian Washington (illness) was downgraded to no participation Thursday after being limited Wednesday. Free safety Tom Zbikowski, who has missed the last three contests due to a bruised right heel, sat out his second consecutive practice.

Tight end Todd Heap (chest) was limited for the second straight day, while linebacker Tavares Gooden (head) was upgraded from limited to full participation.

Defense stingy after turnovers

For all of the consternation surrounding the recent performance of the defense, the unit has yet to surrender a touchdown off a turnover.

In fact, the Ravens have allowed just six field goals off 13 turnovers.

"Sudden change is huge," coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday. "It's an emphasis. It should be. It speaks to the fact that we have a good defense, first of all. Our guys don't cave in — ever. We make mistakes. We don't play things right all the time. We can be a lot better at a lot of things, but that's a reflection of the heart and character of our guys and their mental toughness."

Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said he hopes the trend continues.

"I really hope we don't get sixed-up this week," Suggs said. "Football is the ultimate team sport. Sometimes you have to give your offense some help and bail them out if they have a mistake. But if you clearly saw in the Buffalo game, sometimes your offense has got to bail your defense out."

Flacco growing as a leader

After seeing wide receiver Anquan Boldin yell at teammates on the sideline in the third quarter of last week's 26-21 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, a reporter asked Cameron if he's OK with someone other than a quarterback take charge.

"Leadership is leadership. And Joe [Flacco] does it in his own way, too," Cameron replied. "We're going to watch that evolve and grow. Just like any human being would grow into a leadership role. Just watch. He's going to continue to grow."

Cameron added, "That's what veteran players do. The Todd Heaps, the Derrick Masons, the T.J. Houshmandzadehs, the Anquan Boldins, the Matt Birks. We've got a lot of veteran leaders. This is a collective group of men looking to achieve a common goal. If you're feeling it, let it come out. There's no pecking order on leadership on our offense."

D. Reed cemented as kick returner

Affirming what Ravens fans had seen over the last two games, special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg announced Thursday that rookie David Reed will return kicks Sunday.

"I think David Reed has grown every week we've put him back there," Rosburg said of Reed, who is averaging 21.6 yards on five returns thus far. "You see things in the return that you like to see. I like his spirit. He practices hard. He's an exciting guy. The guys like blocking for him. We're going to give him another shot this week."

As for punt returns, Rosburg declined to name one from a pool of candidates that includes Lardarius Webb, Chris Carr or Donte' Stallworth.

"We'll find out Sunday," Rosburg said.

End zone

Three Panthers starters in Clausen, running back Jonathan Stewart (concussion) and left guard Travelle Wharton (toe) did not practice for the second consecutive day, and a fourth in defensive end Charles Johnson (hip) was downgraded from limited to no participation. Starting middle linebacker Jon Beason (knee) practiced on a limited basis after missing Wednesday's session, and starting outside linebacker Nic Harris (knee) was limited for the second straight day. … After sitting out the first seven games of the season to allow a broken bone in his left foot to heal, Stallworth said his speed has returned, as evidenced by a pair of end-around runs that compiled a combined 34 yards against Atlanta. … Harbaugh had some fun Wednesday at Hunter Cantwell's expense, saying that the practice-squad quarterback who had previously played for the Carolina Panthers had forgotten much of what he had learned there. For his part, Cantwell said he didn't have much to add to what the coaches had already mapped out. "Nothing is hidden in this league," he said. "Talking to Harbaugh and Cameron, even before I had said anything, they had pretty much everything on paper everything that I would tell them. That's a testament to them and how well they prepare and how they get this team prepared. I wanted to do my part to help, but everything I had to say, the coaches already had it down."

Baltimore Sun reporters Ken Murray and Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.