No Bye? Not A Problem

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The Ravens were supposed to have their bye this week, but when Hurricane Ike blew through Houston nearly two months ago, the NFL had different plans.

Now in the midst of a 5-3 campaign with key players banged-up on both sides of the football, that break could not have come at a better time.

However, head coach John Harbaugh isn't worried about missing the regularly-scheduled bye.

First of all, he knows there's nothing to be done about it now. And second, Harbaugh already had a plan in place.

Decided even before the Ravens defeated the Cleveland Browns last weekend with a come-from-behind 37-27 win, Harbaugh was going to give the team a "victory Monday" regardless of the outcome.

In addition, the coach will lighten both Wednesday's and Thursday's practices to hopefully heal some bodies before Baltimore travels to Reliant Stadium to take on the Texans.

"We're going to condense our practice a little bit, go from 11:00 until about 1:30 instead of having the lunch break in there," Harbaugh said. "We'll slow down the tempo of some of the drills.

"Other than that, it'll probably be this much less physical, this much more mental, and we'll try to even advance ourselves as far as improving ourselves from this week to last week."

The Ravens will improve slightly on the injury report, as running back Willis McGahee is expected to be near 100 percent in Houston after working through an ankle injury that limited him in recent practices. He is also battling knee and rib injuries.

In light of his battered status, McGahee suited up against the Browns to be an "emergency backup" for rookie Ray Rice and fullback Le'Ron McClain.

"I think the fact that he didn't play in this game really helped him for next week," Harbaugh said. "He should be full-go for next week."

Judging by the duo's combined 188 yards and one touchdown on 35 attempts, McGahee wasn't implicitly needed, but the Pro Bowler's presence will certainly be welcomed Sunday.

Still, the decision to start the experienced McGahee or the explosive Rice, who totaled 154 yards Sunday, could last up until kickoff.

"I don't know if we know going into the game," stated Harbaugh. "We'll find out who is going to play more based on how we match up against this football team. Certainly, Ray has expanded himself with the things he can do and the confidence he builds in the coaching staff."

The Ravens are confident with all three runners.

"The more good players we have, the better off we're going to be," Harbaugh continued. "We want to develop all the players on our roster and give them a chance to be as good as they can be and find as many good players as we can wherever we can get them."

Defensively, the Ravens are anticipating the return of cornerback Samari Rolle, who has missed the last six games with a neck injury that required surgery.

There was some optimism that Rolle could play at Cleveland Browns Stadium, but those chances moved to doubtful as Week 9 progressed.

Rolle had noted that he wants to test the injury against contact before seeing live action.

"The neck is sound," Harbaugh said. "He's got 100 percent of his strength back. He's going to be in a little bit of a collar. I think when he gets that first shot, he's going to be re-assured that he's going to be fine. But until you get that first shot, you're not re-assured."

Rolle's first-team partner, cornerback Chris McAlister, will not be ready to play. Harbaugh ruled McAlister out for this weekend, as the 10-year veteran seeks another opinion on his injured knee. McAlister was inactive against the Browns.

"Hopefully, we'll know something more by the end of the week definitive," explained Harbaugh. "We thought we might [know] at the end of last week, but we really don't know yet. So we're hoping to get him back and he's trying to get back.

Whoever is on the field, though, Harbaugh is happy with where his team is in his inaugural year as a head coach. But that delight is not about the Ravens' record – even if 5-3 is better than many analysts predicted before the season began.

Harbaugh is talking about the way the locker room has come together in the face of adversity, most recently in a thrilling 14-point comeback against the Browns.

"All you need to do is put your hard hat on, put your blue shirt on with your name on it right there, and go to work," the coach said of his players. "That's what football's all about. If your guys do that, and if they take more care for taking care of one another than worrying about who gets credit or any of that other stuff, you've got a chance to be pretty good.

"Our guys have done a good job of that."

If the Ravens carry that week-to-week mentality through the rest of the season, a stolen bye may not make any difference in what they are trying to accomplish as a team.

"What have we done?" he asked. "We're 5-3. That means we're going to be at least, what? Do the math, 5-11. We're not going to be any worse than that, and that's all we've guaranteed ourselves right now."

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