Injured Ravens WR Evans hopes to return Sunday

Lee Evans can’t say for sure whether he will be back on the

field Sunday when the Baltimore Ravens face the Cincinnati Bengals

in a showdown for a piece of first place in the AFC North.

The speedy wide receiver does know this much: He’s sick of

watching games from the sideline.

Obtained in a preseason trade with the Buffalo Bills, Evans was

supposed to give the Ravens the deep threat they’ve been lacking

for years. The eight-year pro played in the first two games but has

missed the last seven with a left ankle injury.

”It hasn’t been an easy process,” Evans said. ”I’ve just

tried to stay with it, stay consistent and do everything I can to

get back on the field. It’s something that you can’t rush. You just

kind of have to let it heal. I’m just learning a little patience

here, more than I have.”

The 30-year-old has only two catches for 45 yards, both in a

loss to Tennessee in Week 2. Evans says he’s ”optimistic” about

returning Sunday, but he and coach John Harbaugh acknowledged his

status will likely be a game-time decision.

”That’s to be determined,” Harbaugh said. ”We’re always

hopeful, but we’ll have to see.”

Evans spent seven seasons with the Bills before coming to

Baltimore in August for a fourth-round pick in 2012. Although his

receptions per season have dropped every year since he had 63 in

2008 – a trend that will continue in 2011 – Evans has 379 catches

for 5,979 yards and 43 touchdowns since Buffalo made him a

first-round pick out of Wisconsin.

He was expected to be a tempting target for Ravens quarterback

Joe Flacco. Instead, Evans has been forced to watch the offense

operate without him.

”It has been tough,” he said. ”You go through different

things during a season and a career, and this was just another

obstacle to handle. Hopefully we’re on the tail end of it and we

can put it behind us.”

Fortunately for the Ravens, rookie Torrey Smith has stepped in

and provided speed on the outside. In assessing Smith’s talent,

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis might as well have been talking about

Evans.

”Very fast. Great vertical speed, and he’ll catch the ball over

the top,” Lewis said.

When Evans returns, Baltimore hopes to make it difficult for the

opposing free safety to pick one or the other to cover deep. With

Evans, Smith, Anquan Boldin and tight end Ed Dickson running

patterns, plus Ray Rice out of the backfield, Flacco will have

plenty of options.

”We have a number of different receivers who can do things,”

Evans said. ”It’s a matter of getting guys in position to make

plays.”

Evans says he can cut and run without difficulty, and dismissed

the notion he will be rusty upon his return.

”I don’t think catching the ball will be re-inventing the wheel

for me,” he said. ”It’s just a matter of making plays when I get

a chance.”

That time can’t come soon enough. He almost got his chance last

Sunday against Seattle, but instead was given another week to

heal.

”Last week was real positive,” he said. ”Hopefully we can

build off that this week and get over the hump.”