-- It's not always easy being a wide receiver for the Baltimore Ravens. Kevin Johnson, who came to Baltimore via a draft-day trade with Jacksonville, averaged 4.2 catches per game in his career with Cleveland and Jacksonville. With the Ravens, he's lucky if he gets four passes thrown his way in a game. That requires a different approach.
"I think we have a unique-type situation where it's not a wide-open offense. It's more being where you're supposed to be, being accountable, taking advantage of every opportunity," said Johnson, who averaged 66 catches per season during his first five years in the league. So far, he has 14 catches for 153 yards this season. "Whenever you're called upon, you have to come through because [opportunities are] few and far between. When they do come, they're very important."
The Ravens (5-3) have played nearly the entire season without their go-to receiver, Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap, and they aren't sure when they'll get him back. Heap, who led the Ravens in catches in 2002 (68) and 2003 (57), won't play Sunday against the New York Jets (6-2), marking the seventh game he has missed since spraining his ankle Sept. 19 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Baltimore officials initially said Heap would be sidelined for two to four weeks, but Coach Brian Billick amended that Thursday, saying that the recovery time for Heap's kind of ankle injury is 50 to 70 days, based on a study done by Ravens trainer Bill Tessendorf. Heap reached the 53-day mark Thursday.
"Until he gets back it's always a concern" that he could miss the rest of the season, Billick said. "Based on everything we've done -- multiple specialists, multiple imaging -- we're on a course that should bring him back to us."
No one player has emerged as quarterback Kyle Boller's go-to guy in Heap's absence, though Travis Taylor has come closest since returning from a groin injury that sidelined him for four games. Taylor is second on the team with 16 catches for 195 yards; 13 catches have come in the past two games.
Baltimore's wide receivers have combined for 59 catches, 720 yards and two touchdowns. Third-year veteran Randy Hymes, who missed all of last season with a torn ligament in his knee, leads the Ravens in catches with 18, and has 235 yards and two touchdowns. Clarence Moore, a rookie who was considered to be something of a long shot to make the final 53-man roster out of training camp, leads the receivers with an average of 14.7 yards per catch.
"None of them is having the kind of numbers that they would like individually, but collectively, I think they've done a good job," Billick said. "The more we throw the ball, the more they're going to have the opportunity to impact the game."
The Ravens rank last in the NFL with 123.8 passing yards per game. Only Atlanta (181) and Pittsburgh (190) have attempted fewer passes than the Ravens (196).
Moore, a sixth-round draft pick out of Division I-AA Northern Arizona, has been one of the biggest surprises on the team, and he has made some important plays in the last two games. Two weeks ago against Philadelphia, Moore pulled in a 52-yard pass that helped set up the Ravens' only touchdown in the 15-10 loss. When he returned to the locker room after the game, he had 15 congratulatory messages waiting for him on his cell phone.
At 6 foot 6, 211 pounds, Moore towers over the rest of the receivers, and says that strangers often ask him if he's a basketball player. Boller is learning to take advantage of Moore's size; Boller essentially threw up a jump ball to Moore on a key two-point conversion in the fourth quarter of the Ravens' 27-13 victory Sunday over Cleveland. Moore easily out-leapt the smaller defensive back and came down with the conversion.
"My main goal was to learn the offense," Moore said. "I knew that from then on, there was only going to be improvement. Because from then on, it's only skills that you're working on; you're not thinking so much. I've gotten myself to the point now where I'm comfortable, I'm not the whole rookie in the NFL any more. I feel comfortable out there."
Ravens Notes: Left tackle Jonathan Ogden (hamstring) and cornerback Deion Sanders (foot) did not practice Thursday and are listed as questionable for Sunday. . . . Baltimore's Nov. 28 game at New England has been moved to a 4:15 p.m. start to accommodate CBS television. . . . The Ravens are auctioning off the black jerseys they wore against the Cleveland Browns. Proceeds will benefit the Ravens' All-Community Team foundation. Details are available at www.baltimoreravens.com.