McNair will get another week off, Boller to start in Buffalo

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Steve McNair was tired of trying to play in pain. Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick ran out of patience waiting for the quarterback to heal.

So the two agreed: McNair sits out two straight games, then steps back into the starter's role upon his return.

Kyle Boller will start at quarterback for a second straight week on Sunday in Buffalo, Baltimore's final game before a much-needed bye. McNair could play if needed, but the Ravens would prefer he rest his lingering groin injury and sore back.

The objective is to get McNair three straight weeks off before the Ravens resume play on Nov. 5 in Pittsburgh.

We're confident that he will be fully healthy for Pittsburgh, and there's no circumstance I can think of that would not have him as our starter," Billick said Monday.

After keeping McNair on the sideline during Sunday's 22-3 win over St. Louis, Billick promptly announced that Boller would start against Buffalo, too. His reasoning was that no one would have believed he was still taking a wait-and-see approach to monitor McNair's health.

"I could have tried to play that game; you all wouldn't have bought it and I don't know if would have tricked Buffalo," Billick said. "We kind of went past that by starting Kyle last week, and it was pretty evident we were going to do the same thing this week."

McNair is known for his ability -- and willingness -- to play hurt. He's been playing through the groin injury since the first game of the season. But he realized that his ailments weren't getting any better, and was sick of playing at far less than 100 percent.

That's when Billick broached the idea of a three-week break. The discussion eventually involved general manager Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens coaching staff and even McNair's wife. Everyone agreed that the best solution was to give the quarterback some time to heal.

"The idea of getting a chance to be healthy as we approach midseason is intriguing to him because he's been battling through it," Billick said. "He recognized the value in doing this, and so very much signed off on it."

If McNair played against the Rams, he might not have lasted until halftime. Operating behind an offensive line with three rookie starters, Boller was sacked twice and took a hard hit on his knee that nearly forced him out of the game in the second quarter.

"I was staying in," Boller said. "I was going to be in there. It was nothing that I couldn't continue to play."

The Ravens have been forced to cope with all sorts of injuries this season, but a win over the Bills enable them to reach the bye week with a 5-2 record. Then, after a two-week hiatus, they should be healthy for a pivotal six-week stretch that begins with three straight division games and ends with San Diego, Indianapolis and New England.

Baltimore hopes to have center Mike Flynn (knee) back this week. Tackle Jonathan Ogden (toe), defensive end Trevor Bryce (broken wrist) and tight end Todd Heap (hamstring) might be held out of the Buffalo game so they'll be ready for Pittsburgh.

"Jonathan, we'll have to wait and see. If he's not ready by Pittsburgh, I don't know that he will be," Billick said. Ogden has not played since the season opener, and although Billick remains optimistic that the 10-time Pro Bowler will return, there is no guarantee.

"Trevor, it's real simple. The pins come out this week and he'll have two weeks to get it in shape, get used to it," Billick said. "If we can be prudent with Todd this week, I'm very confident he'll be as healthy as he can be going into Pittsburgh."

Billick dearly wants to be 5-2 at the break, but won't risk the rest of the season to win one game.

"With the bye coming up, there is a potential to get an athlete fairly healthy that has to be factored in," he said. "So there are hard choices that way. ... We need the bye desperately, physically and emotionally, to rest."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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