-- Wide receiver Patrick Johnson was smiling when he walked into the Baltimore Ravens' locker room after practice on Monday afternoon. Johnson, a seven-year veteran who was signed earlier in the day, was happy to be back with the team that drafted him in the second round in 1998. He even exchanged handshakes with several reporters whom he remembered from his first stay in Baltimore.
The Ravens were happy to welcome Johnson, whose speed could give a boost to a passing game that has lacked a deep threat.
"It's good to have Patrick back. He gives us that deep threat that, in conjunction with our running game, hopefully we can stretch the defenses a little bit," Coach Brian Billick said during his weekly news conference. "Patrick has that great speed, and [defenses] have to consider it."
The Ravens (3-2) reconvened Sunday, following their bye week, at their new $31 million, 200,000-square-foot training facility. They will face Buffalo (1-4) this week with an offense that will have different weapons than it did in its most recent win, 17-10 against Washington on Oct. 10.
Running back Jamal Lewis, Baltimore's leading rusher, is suspended for the next two games, as punishment for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. Chester Taylor, who has performed well as Lewis's backup but has never had more than 10 carries in a game, and Musa Smith, who has yet to carry the ball this season, will fill in for Lewis, who is not allowed to practice or be with the team during the suspension. (Because Lewis does not count as part of the 53-man roster during his suspension, the Ravens did not have to waive a player in order to sign Johnson.)
"Jamal is such a bruising physical back, so it will likely take the combination" of Taylor and Smith, Billick said. "Again, our profile will not change. Our wins will all look the same. We play solid defense, pin them down deep on special teams and make some plays on the special team return game, and we just wear them down in the third and fourth quarters. I would like to think that we will still have a 35- to 40-carry game; that is a winning profile for us."
Wide receiver Travis Taylor practiced with the first-string offense for the second straight day and appears ready to play. Taylor, the Ravens' second-leading receiver in 2003 with 39 catches for 632 yards, has missed the last four games because of a groin injury.
But Baltimore likely will have to wait at least another week for Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap. The Ravens will have a better idea of Heap's progress Wednesday, but Billick said that he is not as optimistic about Heap's return as he is about Taylor's. Heap, who injured his ankle Sept. 19 against Pittsburgh, started running last week and worked out separately on Sunday and Monday.
"I can't say exactly how it's going to heal," Heap said. "It's getting better, it's been getting better every day, so I'm just trying to focus on doing everything possible to get out there and play. The toughest thing [to do right now] is probably breaking down and cutting. Straight-line runs have been getting better every day."
Center Mike Flynn, who has yet to play since he broke his collarbone during training camp, has been practicing, but Billick said he doubted Flynn would be cleared to play this week. Flynn was to have an X-ray Monday to see how the bone has healed, but Billick doesn't expect him back until the Philadelphia game Oct. 31.
Johnson, who has averaged 15.3 yards per catch in his career, hopes to be ready against Buffalo, though Billick said that they will have to see how the week progresses. Johnson, who spent last year with the Redskins (15 catches for 170 yards), signed with the Cincinnati Bengals in the offseason, but broke his hand in a preseason game. His contract was terminated (injury settlement) in early September and he has fully recovered from surgery on his hand.
Johnson, 28, said he isn't the same player who caught 58 passes for 898 yards and seven touchdowns during his first four years with the Ravens (1998 to 2001).
"I've learned how to be a possession receiver," said Johnson, an all-American sprinter at the University of Oregon who once finished ahead of Carl Lewis in a sprint. "Coming from Jacksonville, being in [Steve] Spurrier's offense [with the Redskins], you learn how to be more of a wide receiver instead of being just a pure deep threat. I've become a better wide receiver all around."