- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 21, 2004

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap will miss two to four weeks with a sprained right ankle, the latest in a series of injuries that have forced coach Brian Billick to dig deep in his depth chart to fill out the starting lineup.

Heap, a two-time Pro Bowl player, led the Ravens in receptions in each of the past two seasons and has a team-high 12 catches this year. The injury occurred late in the second quarter of the Ravens’ 30-13 victory Sunday over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“It’s huge,” Billick said yesterday. “He’s your No.1 target, your No.1 receiver.”

Terry Jones and Dan Wilcox will fill in at tight end Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

“You just deal with it,” said Heap, who hasn’t missed a game since his rookie season in 2001. “You have to make sure the other guys know what’s going on and make sure they can step up.”

The Ravens are already short of pass-catchers because of injuries to wide receiver Travis Taylor (groin) and Devard Darling (thigh). Nose tackle Kelly Gregg (knee) and offensive linemen Ethan Brooks (knee) and Mike Flynn (shoulder) also will be sidelined Sunday.

“You have to look at the talent you have, what they do best and how best to utilize them,” Billick said. “The coaches will be up late tonight and tomorrow night making sure that we’re matching up what the game plan looks like compared to the people we have available to us.”

Defensive back Deion Sanders is nursing a strained hamstring but hopes to play in the AFC North showdown against Cincinnati.

“I’m feeling good. Look at me,” Sanders said, shuffling his feet as he walked out of the locker room without a noticeable limp.

Heap was blocking downfield on a run by Chester Taylor when his right ankle was rolled over by Pittsburgh linebacker James Farrior. Heap then stumbled back to the line of scrimmage and lined up for another play.

Quarterback Kyle Boller motioned that was going to spike the ball and did so as Steelers linebacker Joey Porter shoved Heap backward. Unable to lift himself from the turf, Heap was helped off the field and did not return.

Porter contended he pushed Heap because the tight end could have been faking an injury, but Billick and the Ravens weren’t buying it.

“Pro players tend to be professional, and there is a code of ethics among one another that you conduct yourself a certain way,” Billick said. “To be quite honest, I don’t think what he did was illegal. But the league needs to look at that.”

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