BEREA – The Browns, already thin on the defensive line, suffered a blow when Shaun Smith hurt his knee during practice Thursday.
Smith didn`t practice Friday and was listed as questionable for the game Sunday in Baltimore. If he can`t play, that would leave the Browns with five eligible linemen, including end Orpheus Roye (battling a sore knee) and nose tackle Louis Leonard (never played in an NFL game).
Smith, who signed as a restricted free agent in the offseason, has been starting at end and getting a few snaps at nose tackle. He had five tackles, a sack and a forced fumble Sunday vs. Pittsburgh.
“He got his knee rolled up on,” coach Romeo Crennel said. “It`s sore. There`s no operation needed. He`s day to day. If he can play Sunday, he`ll play Sunday.”
Roye, 34, has seen limited playing time since missing the first Baltimore game Sept. 30. He`s come off the bench the last four games and has totaled four tackles. He will likely get the start at left end if Smith can`t go, but his balky knee would require starting nose tackle Ethan Kelley to spell him.
“I just want to help out where I can,” said Kelley, who had a career-high six tackles vs. Pittsburgh and has taken over at nose tackle with veteran Ted Washington on injured reserve.
With Kelley sharing time at end and Smith unavailable, Leonard would back up Kelley at nose tackle. The rookie from Fresno State was claimed off waivers Oct. 8 from the Rams.
“I know the system now. If (Smith`s) not ready, I`ll be ready to step up,” Leonard said.
Smith was inserted into the starting lineup for Roye four weeks ago, and Kelley joined him and right end Robaire Smith three weeks ago.
“They are more active and they are productive making plays,” Crennel said.
“I`m just taking advantage of opportunities I`m getting right now,” Shaun Smith said Thursday before practice. “If Ethan secures the guard and center, it`s easier for me to make a play. It works hand in hand.”
The injury situation is better at linebacker. D`Qwell Jackson (ankle) was limited in practice and is questionable, and Willie McGinest (hamstring) and Antwan Peek (knee) practiced and are probable.
Cornerback Leigh Bodden (back) practiced and is probable. Fullback Lawrence Vickers (tooth) didn`t practice but is probable.
For the Ravens, safety Gerome Sapp (thigh) and tight end Daniel Wilcox (foot) were declared out for the game. Starting tight end Todd Heap (thigh) and starting cornerback Chris McAlister (knee) are questionable and didn`t practice.
TROY READY IF NEEDED
With Baltimore`s Steve McNair sidelined for at least a couple of weeks, rookie Troy Smith becomes the No. 2 quarterback behind Kyle Boller. Smith, the former Ohio State star and Heisman Trophy winner, hasn`t taken a snap this year.
“I`m going to have to be there every play, practicing and playing as if I`m in the game,” Smith told Baltimore reporters. “I have to get ready to play some football.
“It`s definitely an eye-opening situation. When they call my number, I`ll be ready.”
Smith, a fifth-round pick, was raised in Cleveland. Ravens coach Brian Billick said he is better prepared now for the backup role than he was when McNair was injured earlier in the season.
“I don`t know if he fully appreciated what that meant to him and what his focus needed to be and what his routine needed to be like,” Billick said. “But having been through that and having this opportunity, I think he`s much more focused.”
Ravens linebacker Bart Scott likes Smith`s attitude.
“Troy Smith is a very mature guy,” he said. “He walks around with his chest out and his head up. He demands respect and he gets it. He`s wise beyond his years as well.”
TALKING ABOUT WILLIS
Willis McGahee replaced Jamal Lewis as Baltimore`s running back this year and is sixth in the league with 749 yards.
“He has speed, power and vision,” Robaire Smith said. “He has the quickness to burst up through that hole and the power to run people over.”
Shaun Smith played against Lewis and McGahee during his time in Cincinnati and was asked who`s tougher to defend.
“You have to worry about Jamal more than you have to worry about Willis,” he said. “I`m not just saying that from Jamal being my teammate. It`s just the type of back Jamal is and the type of back Willis is.”
Lewis is 23rd with 515 yards.
Crennel is 2-for-21 in replay challenges. Former coach Butch Davis was 13-for-29, which ranked among the best in the league.
* Washington was back in the locker room after being placed on IR on Oct. 31 with a knee injury. He was horsing around with Kelley while Kelley was conducting an interview.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7135 or email@example.com.