-- The Baltimore Ravens have been pointing toward this week -- their bye week -- as a time of transition. By the time the players return to practice Sunday, the team will have moved into a new training facility and some key injured players should be ready to play.
The Ravens are 3-2 after their 17-10 victory over the Washington Redskins on Sunday night, one game behind Pittsburgh in the AFC North. They've been without three starters on offense for much of the season, and the expected return date for those players -- center Mike Flynn (collarbone), tight end Todd Heap (ankle) and wide receiver Travis Taylor (groin) -- has always been the Buffalo game Oct. 24, the first one after the bye.
Pro Bowl linebacker Peter Boulware (knee) and backup quarterback Anthony Wright (shoulder), who are on the physically unable to perform list, should begin practicing in the next few weeks. Wright has already resumed throwing full-speed, and Boulware is running.
"It's hard, because the team that we put together and went into the season with, we still haven't played that game, we still haven't seen that team," Coach Brian Billick said during his weekly news conference. What has been seen "is a team that plays great defense, and has the potential of playing dominating defense, a great coverage team and, yes, now we seem to have a presence in the return game, which is big, particularly in the equation we're working with. We're a team that's running the ball well, that still has to find a level of productivity -- and hopefully, we can find that level of productivity -- in the passing game, with improvement and getting some of these people back healthy."
The Ravens' offense will certainly look a little different after the bye, with the return of Heap, who led Baltimore in catches the last two seasons, and Taylor, and with the absence of running back Jamal Lewis, who last week pleaded guilty to using a cell phone to conduct a drug transaction in violation of federal law. The NFL has suspended Lewis for the next two games -- against Buffalo and Philadelphia (Oct. 31).
Lewis had a strong performance in his final game, rushing for 116 yards -- including 97 in the second half -- Sunday. Billick named Lewis the offensive captain for the game, and the two embraced afterward.
"It's a very emotional time, and it's appreciation for a player that really laid it out on the line and kind of dominated that second half," Billick said.
The Ravens knew they most likely would be without Lewis at some point and have been preparing since minicamps. Backups Chester Taylor and Musa Smith took more repetitions in camp, and they carried much of the rushing load in preseason.
Taylor is averaging 5.9 yards per carry (more than a yard better than Lewis's average of 4.7 yards per carry), and his best performance came against Pittsburgh when he finished with 76 yards on nine carries. Lewis didn't give Taylor any parting words of advice, other than "make sure when [Lewis] comes back we'll be 5-2," Taylor said.
Without Lewis, the Ravens will need more production from quarterback Kyle Boller, who had one of the worst games of his 14-game career Sunday, passing for 81 yards with three interceptions, and a 22.9 passer rating.
"Kyle needed to play better," Billick said. "Kyle will play better. Kyle is our starting quarterback."