BEREA – Antwan Peek`s first season in Cleveland has been marred by ankle and knee injuries, but he refuses to stay off the field.
The veteran linebacker is one of 33 players who have appeared in every Browns game, a streak that he vows will continue Sunday when Cleveland visits Baltimore.
“I`ll be out there, don`t worry about that,“ Peek said Thursday, pointing to his wrapped right knee. “The game I was worried about missing was last week in Pittsburgh because of how it felt. But no matter how bad you`re hurt, if you`re not gonna play in a game for first place, then you shouldn`t be playing at all.“
Though Peek`s playing time and practice repetitions have been limited by leg injuries, his production has not. He is second in quarterback pressures (7), second in sacks (21/2) and tied for third in pass breakups (5).
Yet, the Cincinnati native wishes he was doing more to help the team. After spending his first four NFL seasons with the moribund Houston Texans, Peek is loving life on the North Coast.
“The people are starting to believe in us, which makes it easier to play hard and to play through pain,“ he said. “In Houston when you lose, the fans don`t show up the next week. I`m loving this year because of the support we`re getting from everybody.“
As for his health, Peek says his sprained ankle is fully recovered, but his knee won`t begin to feel better until he can take several weeks off. Since he doesn`t plan on doing that until 2008, the next seven weeks figure to be quite uncomfortable.
“It`s very frustrating because I have a lot of expectations for myself, and (my knee) is going to be like this the rest of the year,“ Peek said. “I`ll keep getting treatment every day and hope for the best. I know I`m healthy enough to help the team. It`s my goal to keep it that way.“
Browns linebackers Willie McGinest (hamstring), D`Qwell Jackson (ankle) and Peek (knee) participated in practice on a limited basis, as did cornerback Leigh Bodden (back) and defensive end Shaun Smith (knee). Guard Eric Steinbach (back) is no longer listed as being hurt.
*Ravens cornerback Samari Rolle (illness), wide receiver Demetrius Williams (ankle) and quarterback Steve McNair (shoulder) are out. Tight end Todd Heap (thigh), safety Gerome Sapp (thigh) and tight end Daniel Wilcox (foot) have not taken the practice field this week, while cornerback Chris McAlister (knee) and safety Ed Reed (back) remain part-time participants.
The Browns (5-4) have not lost back-to-back games this season, but must beat the Ravens (4-5) in order to avoid that fate.
According to coach Romeo Crennel, the reason for Cleveland`s resilience is simple.
“It`s just trying to correct things that we screw up, correct things that cause you to lose, and not do them the next week,“ he said. “You try to play them one at a time, and that`s what we`ve done.“
The Browns have not completed a season without consecutive losses since 1994, when they finished 11-5 and claimed the AFC`s top wildcard playoff spot.
Joshua Cribbs leads the NFL with 1,230 kickoff return yards, putting him on pace for 2,187.
The league`s all-time record is 2,186 by Arizona`s MarTay Jenkins in 2000, while second place is held by Michael Lewis of New Orleans with 1,807 five years ago.
“With the blocking we have, I`m sure they`ll allow me to surpass that by a lot,“ Cribbs said of Jenkins` mark.
Cribbs is also well on his way to shattering Jim Brown`s team record for all-purpose yards.
The Hall of Famer gained 2,131 yards in 1963, while Cribbs currently has 1,408.
Crennel said he has not received word from the NFL office about a series of questionable calls Sunday in the 31-28 loss at Pittsburgh. The team inquired about several apparent holds by the Steelers, along with the flag against Darnell Dinkins that wiped out a big gain by Cribbs on a punt return.
“Basically, that communication is for instructional purposes,“ he said. “But I don`t coach guys to do things that are against the rules.“
As for the Dinkins holding call, Crennel said he has reviewed the game films and “thought it was a clean play.“
Baltimore`s Kyle Boller is one of the more lightly regarded quarterbacks in the AFC, but he did come off the bench to beat the Browns last December.
“I haven`t looked at the numbers, but Boller plays well against everybody when I see him play,“ cornerback Leigh Bodden said. “He likes to throw the deep ball a little more than McNair, so we`ll have to be ready for it.“
Crennel also expressed concern over Boller`s mobility. “We need to stop the run, so the play-action passes he likes are not as effective,“ he said.
The Browns may have lost at Heinz Field, but they were a big winner in the local television ratings.
The game was the highest rated program in Greater Cleveland last week, drawing a season-high 34.1 rating and a 58 share, according to the NFL and Nielsen Media Research. The latter number means 58 percent of all homes watching TV at the time were tuned into the contest.
The Browns` previous high-water mark came Sept. 9, when their home defeat against Pittsburgh drew a 31.5 / 55.
Ian Eagle and Solomon Wilcots will call the Cleveland/Baltimore game on CBS (Channel 19), which will be shown in most of Ohio, Maryland, Virginia and Delaware, as well as upstate New York.
*Â The Browns are 5-1 when they score 25 or more points in a game this year.
*Â Ravens standout Willis McGahee has rushed for 100 yards in both of his career games against the Browns.
*Cleveland has only swept the annual home-and-home series with Baltimore once.
Contact Brian Dulik at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.