-- Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis took a deep breath as he prepared to answer yet another question about Terrell Owens, the wide receiver who spurned an offseason trade to the Ravens in favor of joining the Philadelphia Eagles. Lewis had had enough.
"Let me stop this right quick," Lewis said. "If we're going to talk about football and playing against the Eagles [on Sunday], let's talk about that. I will not answer another question about Terrell Owens. Please."
No such luck. Owens was the main topic of conversation Wednesday, both for what he can do on the field (596 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in six games) and for what he says off the field. Talk of Owens even overshadowed the news that the Ravens could be without Pro Bowl left tackle Jonathan Ogden for three to four weeks because of a hamstring injury.
This has become something of a pattern for Owens, the popular yet polarizing wide receiver. Last week, as the Eagles prepared to play Cleveland, Owens was hounded with questions about his relationship with Browns quarterback Jeff Garcia.
When the Ravens and Eagles met during the preseason (a 26-17 Philadelphia win), the talk leading up to the game centered on a possible feud between Owens and Lewis. This week, the focus has shifted to Owens's reasons for refusing to play for Baltimore after the Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers agreed to a trade.
In his recently released autobiography, "Catch This! Going Deep with the NFL's Sharpest Weapon," Owens wrote that Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome told his agent that "he was a black man from Alabama just like T.O.," and "that sometimes a black man's gotta be slapped."
"Initially I was kind of stunned by it and my agent was kind of reluctant to tell me about it at the time," Owens said during his weekly news conference in Philadelphia. "What a lot of people don't know and I guess I'll let it out now, that was pretty much one of the main reasons why I didn't want to go there after learning that he said that . . .
"Anybody that's smart enough to read the comment, you said it yourself, it's offensive. So you can probably ask him what he meant by it. It's not for me to explain, he's the one that said it. I didn't say it."
Newsome declined to discuss the allegations made by Owens, saying through a team spokesman, "Please, why should I even respond to that?"
A reporter asked Baltimore Coach Brian Billick if he had any response to Owens's "ridiculous" comments, and Billick replied: "You summed it up pretty good. You know T.O. and you know Ozzie. I don't think you have to say any more than that."
Lewis seemed to grow frustrated with the constant questions about Owens.
"That man can say anything he wants to say about me, if he feels he wants to speak that way about me," Lewis said. "My way into heaven does not go through Terrell Owens. I wish we'd stop bringing him up to make me speak about him. . . . The thing we always get away from with all these opinions is, remember, a fool can have an opinion. Only a wise man knows how to keep his tongue."
The game itself will feature one of the league's best offenses (Philadelphia) and one of the best defenses (Baltimore). This is the Ravens' first chance to measure themselves against one of the NFL's elite teams, though they could face the undefeated Eagles without three of their most important offensive players.
The Ravens (4-2) will not have running back Jamal Lewis, who will be serving the second half of a two-game suspension. Ogden and tight end Todd Heap (ankle) are listed as questionable, though Ogden said that he will not be able to play.
"You're always a little disappointed that you don't have all your weapons available to you, and you're disappointed for the individuals involved," Billick said. "But everybody's got injuries. We'll show up with the guys we have."
Ogden was injured in the fourth quarter of Baltimore's 20-6 victory over Buffalo last Sunday, and an MRI exam revealed a severe pull. He said that doctors told him he could need three to four weeks to recover, but that he was unsure of what to expect because he has never had a hamstring injury before.
"My goal is to get back as quick as possible," said Ogden, who limped around the Ravens' training complex. "Never having done this before, I don't know what the timetable is. I get treatment three to four times a day, and I'll continue to just try to do everything I can to get back as fast as humanly possible."
Heap practiced for the first time since injuring his ankle against Pittsburgh on Sept. 19, and was greeted with a cheer of "Heeeeeeeap!" when he joined his teammates for stretching. Heap's ankle was taped, and he said afterward that he didn't feel any residual effects from practice.
"It definitely felt like my first practice back," Heap said. "There could be a chance [to play on Sunday], we'll have to see as the week goes on, how it feels. That was the point of today."
Ravens Notes: Quarterback Anthony Wright, who had offseason shoulder surgery, practiced for the first time. He is still on the physically unable to perform list. . . . Jamal Lewis stopped by the locker room after practice. Players who are serving NFL suspensions generally are not permitted to have any contact with their team, but the Ravens were informed by the league and the union that Lewis was allowed to return, according to a Ravens official.
Lewis is not allowed to practice or attend meetings, but he can use the weight room. He spent the first week of his suspension away from the team. . . . Deion Sanders was named the AFC defensive player of the week following his two-interception performance against the Buffalo Bills. Sanders, 37, returned one of the interceptions 48 yards for a touchdown, which extends his NFL record for career touchdown returns to 19.
"That's quite an honor," Sanders said. "I didn't know they gave it to [anyone] 35 and over."