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Next up for Saints' Bushrod: Suggs

Left tackle Jermon Bushrod – a four-year starter at Towson University – gets a personal homecoming Sunday when the New Orleans Saints play the Ravens in M&T Bank Stadium. His assignment for much of the game: blocking Terrell Suggs.

The 6-foot-5, 315-pound Bushrod made 14 regular-season starts for the Saints last year and started all three playoff games, including the Super Bowl. This season he has started all 13 games.

"His progression has been fast," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "Last year at training camp, Jammal Brown was injured, and [Bushrod] was put in the starting lineup. Each week, you saw growth spurts … He's a player that has become more and more comfortable and is still very young at the position. But he has been very consistent and that's a good characteristic to have as an offensive lineman.

"He sees some of the better pass rushers every week, and he'll see one, certainly this week with Suggs. … In the Super bowl, it was [Dwight] Freeney. That position draws some of the best players on the field, and we try to help him at times … yet a large majority of the game he is going to be one-on-one battling that player. I think he's handled it well, especially as young as he is at the profession."

Said quarterback Drew Brees: "He's really done a good job and just continues to get a little bit better each week."

More Baltimore ties

Bushrod won't be the only Towson University alum coming with the Saints Sunday. Joe Vitt, a four-year linebacker who is in the Tigers' Hall of Fame, is the Saints' assistant head coach and linebackers coach. Vitt started in the NFL with the Baltimore Colts in 1979 through 1981.

And still one more member of the Saints has ties to Baltimore. That's Jeff Jacobs, the Saints' video coordinator who served in the same capacity with the Baltimore Stallions' CFL team in 1994-95. Jacobs is in his 11th season with the Saints.

Heap, Zbikowski out

Neither tight end Todd Heap (hamstring) nor safety Tom Zbikowski (back) will be active for Sunday's game. Zbikowski's injury left some uncertainty whether he would stay on the active roster.

"He's got an MRI coming back on that," coach John Harbaugh said. "We'll just have to see. There's not much season left, either, so if it's a couple-, three-week thing, we'll just put him [on injured reserve]. If he can get back next week or the week after, obviously then you bring him back. I would say it's up in the air right now."

Running back Le'Ron McClain missed practice for the second straight day with illness, and he was joined by running back Willis McGahee, also with illness. They're both listed as questionable.

Wide receiver Derrick Mason (ankle), who missed Wednesday and Thursday practices, worked Friday and is probable. Also probable are linebacker Tavares Gooden (calf) and cornerback Fabian Washington (hamstring).

For the Saints, wide receiver Courtney Roby (head) and tight end David Thomas (knee) are out, and defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove (knee) and running back Chris Ivory (hamstring) are questionable.

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