Wake-up call: Sanders would draw start

October, 28, 2011
Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:

If Hines Ward is sidelined with an ankle injury, his replacement might surprise you. "If he can't go, I am the starter," wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders told The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Sanders, who scored a crucial touchdown last Sunday, would get the nod over Antonio Brown, the second-leading receiver on the Steelers.

Ward missed his second consecutive practice Thursday, but Sanders isn't counting on making his second career start. "As of right now," Sanders said, "we're going with [Ward]."

Hensley's slant: Most would've assumed Brown would get the start because he almost has two times as many catches (25) than Sanders (13). Brown is second-most targeted receiver, just three behind Mike Wallace. But Sanders is considered a better run blocker and a more polished route runner, which presumably helped him take Ward's spot over Brown.
  • BENGALS: Marvin Lewis said his remarks were taken "out of context" in a Yahoo! Sports article in which the head coach was quoted as saying Carson Palmer quit on the Bengals sometime last season. Saying he was asked how the team moved beyond losing Palmer, Lewis said his answer was that a few players informed him that Palmer wasn't fully committed to the team at times last season. “The question was not put to me regarding Carson,” Lewis told The Cincinnati Enquirer's Paul Daugherty. “At some point in [players’] minds, Carson quit from them. Maybe quit isn't the right word. Maybe divorced from them." Hensley's slant: Obviously when a player sits out instead of reporting to a team, there are going to be some bitter feelings even when the issue is resolved. If Palmer did quit on the team, it didn't show up late in the season. In his final three games, he threw five touchdowns and two interceptions. Palmer passed for 305 yards against the Ravens in the season finale.
  • BROWNS: There should be less concern over the direction of the offense after the Browns rushed 45 times for 141 yards last Sunday, according to The Chronicle-Telegram. This is a big turnaround from the past five games, when Cleveland threw 217 times and ran the ball 122 times. Asked for his ideal run-pass ratio, coach Pat Shurmur said, “What it takes to win. You’d like to be able to stay run-pass as long as you can score points and then get to a point at the end of the third quarter and in the fourth where you can run it more because you’re ahead. I don’t know what that number is. Whatever it is, it is.” Hensley's slant: The Browns' patience with the run was commendable against a solid Seahawks run defense. Their commitment to the ground game will be really tested Sunday, when they play at San Francisco. The 49ers haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 28 games, the longest current streak in the NFL.
  • RAVENS: Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed was a surprise no-show at Thursday's practice, according to the Baltimore Sun. He wasn't on the injury report Wednesday, but he did suffer a stinger in Monday night's 12-7 loss at Jacksonville. Hensley's slant: More than likely, this is a precautionary move. Reed has been given days off because he's been playing with a nerve impingement in his neck the past few seasons. Even if Reed is sidelined, the Ravens could get by with Bernard Pollard and Tom Zbikowski, who has returned after missing time with a concussion, at safety against a struggling Kevin Kolb.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter



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