Bye week critical for Ogden's year

The Ravens have begun to work on a contingency plan if 10-time Pro Bowl selection Jonathan Ogden cannot play again this season.

Paired with linebacker Ray Lewis, Ogden has been one of the cornerstones of the franchise since it moved to Baltimore for the 1996 season, but the coaching staff has started making preparations to finish the season without the left offensive tackle.

The key, according to coach Brian Billick, will be whether the sprained left foot and hyperextended left big toe that have forced Ogden to miss the past five games will have healed when the Ravens return from their Week 8 bye and begin planning for the Nov. 5 game against the AFC North-leading Pittsburgh Steelers.

"You've asked me many times, am I worried about this being it for J.O. in terms of him not coming back this season." Billick said yesterday during his weekly media briefing. "And I, watching him work, keep holding off that idea that it looks like he might be ready to go. But if not by then, then yeah, it's a very legitimate question."

Ogden, who rested during the offseason and much of the preseason so that the toe would heal, sprained the foot in the Sept. 10 season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Wednesday, Ogden seemed frustrated by the pace of the healing process.

"It just gets better, but it gets better so slowly, and it's nothing that I can put a finger on right now," he said before Sunday's win against the St. Louis Rams. "If I don't go this week, it would make sense to wait after the bye. But no matter what, I'm going to try to be back after the bye. I've got to do something."

With the Ravens starting an offensive line composed of three rookies and with injuries sapping depth at tight end and linebacker, deciding whether to put Ogden on injured reserve, which would end his season, is a looming priority.

"Because at some point, if it's not [healed], then we have to consider holding a roster spot," Billick said. "But the way he moves around, I'm fairly optimistic. But he's the only one that can really answer it, and he's working very hard."

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