Late For Work 12/25: Sunday’s Kickoff Returner a Mystery

Plus a look inside Michael Oher’s pad, Ravens-Steelers picks and Ray Rice targeted.

Posted by Sarah Ellison on Friday, December 25th, 2009 at 9:09 am | Categories: Late For Work, Sarah Ellison

Sunday’s Kickoff Returner a Mystery

In yesterday’s weekly press conference with Ravens coordinators, Special Teams Coordinator and Assistant Head Coach Jerry Rosburg was vague when exploring who will make up for the loss of rookie Lardarius Webb in the return game.

“One of the things that we’ve talked about all year is we have a number of guys that we think can be returners,” Rosburg said. “When these things happen, that turns into an advantage because these guys have been practicing all year long. And when we get to the game on Sunday, we’ll have a guy out there catching the ball in each phase. Chris [Carr] is in that mix, and we have other guys in that mix as well.”

Up to this point in the season, the only player, other than Webb, that has been called upon to return kicks is Carr. He has 13 kickoff returns for 315 yards, averaging 24.2 yards per return.

Carr has already been shouldering the punt return duties and will have increased reps on defense as he was named the starting cornerback for this Sunday’s contest versus the Steelers. Fatigue is something to consider, not only for Carr, but for all returner candidates.

“What you try to do is balance all the players,” Rosburg said. “You try to balance the starters’ reps in various phases, you try to get your guys that aren’t starters but that are playing a lot in sub-defenses perhaps or third-down packages for the offense, and you try to balance their reps, too. If there are guys not playing in any of that, then they need to do everything, and that’s really the case. We’ve got some guys that are playing a lot on offense and a lot on defense, and we’ll scale back a little bit of what their special-teams role is. That’s going to be no different this week, and it’s really been the same all year long.”

Over the past two seasons, players who have returned kicks and punts are safety Ed Reed, running back Ray Rice, wide receiver Mark Clayton and safety Tom Zbikowski.

Inside Michael Oher’s Bachelor Pad

On Tuesday, ABC will run a special edition of “20/20″ called “The Blind Side: The True Story Behind the Movie.”

As part of the interview, Ravens rookie tackle Michael Oher opened up his home to ABC’s Deborah Roberts and gave a tour of his bachelor pad. Check out the sneak peak.

The program will also explore how Oher was able to rise above his unstable home life from the North Memphis projects.

“I don’t think Michael Oher is given enough credit for his role in his story,” WBAL-TV’s Gerry Sandusky said via ABC News. “Sure, the Tuohys [Oher's adoptive parents] are a remarkable family and all the different people who came in to help pull this kid from the impossible to the unbelievable.  But you could take a hundred different people and give them all the same resources, and they wouldn’t make it. The ‘X’ factor here is Michael Oher.”

Oher is also the ‘X’ factor on the field this Sunday. With tackle Jared Gaither’s status in question, the rookie may line up on the left side and matchup against the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year in Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison.

Ravens-Steelers Unpredictable

Experts can agree that the Sunday’s battle between the AFC North rivals will be tight, but who will come out victorious is a matter of debate. Most local media believe the Steelers will get revenge on the Ravens with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returning after missing the first contest of the season. The national media seems to be split.

The Baltimore Sun: five of six pick the Steelers
WJZ’s Mark Viviano: Steelers, 38-31
ESPN: five of seven pick the Steelers
Yahoo! Sports: two of three pick the Ravens
Sporting News: four of six pick the Ravens
USA Today: four of eight pick the Ravens
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King: Steelers, 17-16

Ray Rice Most Targeted RB

Ray Rice is the NFL’s most targeted running back through the air, according to ESPN’s James Walker.

In addition to leading the Ravens with 1,128 rushing yards, Rice also is quarterback Joe Flacco’s favorite mark with a team-high 73 receptions on 90 targets. The Cardinals’ Tim Hightower (74 targets), Rams’ Steven Jackson (71), Jaguars’ Maurice Jones-Drew (65) and Colts’ Joseph Addai (63) round out the top five on the most targeted running backs list.

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