BEREA – Cleveland center Alex Mack and Baltimore defensive tackle Haloti Ngata will slug it out again Sunday in the trenches.
On Wednesday and Thursday, they traded compliments.
“He’s a great center, real physical and real smart,” Ngata said Wednesday on a conference call with Cleveland-area media. “Me personally, I think he’s the best center in our division.”
That’s a significant statement considering Pittsburgh’s Maurkice Pouncey has been an All-Pro in his first two seasons.
“It’s good praise coming from a good player like himself,” Mack said Thursday.
Does he agree with Ngata?
“It sounds like a trick question,” Mack said. “I definitely feel confident in my ability. I think I’m a really good center, I think I’ve done well.”
Mack hasn’t missed a snap in his four seasons and went to the Pro Bowl in 2010.
“This is our fourth year together,” left tackle Joe Thomas said. “I think he’s fantastic. I think he’s a great player, and he’s definitely underrated.”
Mack helps call the pass protections, and coach Pat Shurmur said he plays an even larger role with a rookie quarterback in Brandon Weeden. Shurmur’s looking forward to the matchup in the middle with Ngata.
“He’s probably one of the best defensive tackles in the league for sure,” he said. “They’ve gone against each other quite a few times and I know we’ve got a lot of respect for their players. It will be a good battle for sure.”
Ngata didn’t practice Thursday with a shoulder injury after being limited Wednesday. The Ravens must officially list his status for the game this afternoon.
Shurmur made sure the media saw fullback/tight end Alex Smith take an inside handoff during practice Thursday. Shurmur was loudly criticized last year for handing the ball to Smith in a short-yardage situation. Smith, who was filling in for injured fullback Owen Marecic for a snap, had never taken a handoff before and fumbled.
The likelihood that Smith will get a second carry went up last week when he replaced Marecic as the starting fullback, switching from his eight-year role as a tight end. He’s ready to take the ball if called upon.
“That’s why I’m hoping that as long as I continue to do well my role will get bigger and bigger and that’ll be an option also,” Smith said.
Receiver Mohamed Massaquoi was a full participant in practice for the second straight day after missing five games with a hamstring injury.
“He looked good,” Shurmur said of Wednesday’s practice. “He did a good job.”
Massaquoi got off to a strong start with eight catches for 131 yards in the first two games, then was hurt in Week 3. Rookie Josh Gordon replaced him in the starting lineup, and it’s uncertain what role Massaquoi will assume. The coaches will have to choose among Massaquoi and rookies Travis Benjamin and Josh Cooper as to which receiver is inactive Sunday.
“I did think that Mo got off to a good start this season and then, of course, the injury set him back,” Shurmur said. “It’s a good thing if you’ve got to make guys inactive or have healthy scratches, so we’ll decide here as we go.”
** Defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (calf), defensive end Brian Sanford (knee) and cornerback Dimitri Patterson (ankle) didn’t practice and aren’t expected to play.
Rookie running back Trent Richardson received a rousing ovation at the Cavaliers’ opener Tuesday. He also sat with owner Dan Gilbert for part of the game.
“They put Brandon (Weeden) on camera first and I was like, ‘Oh, man, this man is going to outshine me and it’s going to be funny because they’re going to look at me and they won’t know who I am,’” Richardson said. “But they put the camera on me and everybody was clapping and stuff like that. I was just really surprised because I’m a fan at the same time when I’m out there, so I was clapping myself and trying to get the crowd more pumped.”
After the Ravens’ 23-16 win in Week 4, Browns safety Ray Ventrone and cornerback Dimitri Patterson accused the Baltimore offense of dirty play without getting into specifics.
“I have no idea what they’re talking about,” Ravens tackle Michael Oher told the Baltimore Sun this week. “I think we’re just playing football. I think our offensive line, we’re focusing more on finishing plays.”
Fullback Vonta Leach said he didn’t see anything illegal on the game film.
“Everybody makes their own emphasis and their own decisions on what they think is dirty and what they think is not dirty,” he said. “I didn’t see anything. I know what’s a dirty play and the kind of stuff they’re talking about, but I didn’t see anything when I watched the film.”
Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron held his weekly news conference and touched on a number of subjects.
** Safety T.J. Ward being a sure tackler despite playing with a cast on his broken thumb.
“He’s so aggressive. He’s so tough and he’s a willing tackler,” Jauron said. “He gets to the ball carrier. He has been good at getting the ball carrier on the ground. But it was very painful.”
** Usama Young replacing Eric Hagg at free safety in Week 3.
“Usama’s always been a very physical player. I think that was part of it,” Jauron said. “We needed to make a switch to give him a chance, to get him back out there, to get him a starting chance and see if he could take and hold that job.”
** Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
“He does a nice job of adjusting and using plays over until you make an adjustment to it,” Jauron said.
The NFL trade deadline passed at 4 p.m. and the Browns didn’t make a move.
** Offensive coordinator Brad Childress was asked about receiver/kick returner Joshua Cribbs publicly lobbying for a larger role on offense.
“Privately, too, by the way,” Childress said. “All in all, he’s a team guy. We try to keep him involved with a play here and a play there and personnel with his name on it.”
** The Baldwin Wallace football team is using the Browns’ indoor practice facility because of a flooding problem at the school.
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