Rookie running back Bernard Pierce practiced on a limited basis Saturday, which was a welcome sight after he was sidelined for the better part of two weeks with a hamstring injury.
Harbaugh did not sound concerned regarding the possiblity that Pierce has fallen too far behind, which probably isn’t a ringing endorsement for second-year back Anthony Allen, who had a poor night in Atlanta. Allen dropped a pass that would have gone for a first down and whiffed on a block that led to a quarterback sack.
A third-round pick in April’s draft, Pierce will need to prove he’s put in the mental preparation while he’s been on the mend physically.
“It’s not that he’s behind or anything like that,” Harbaugh said. “He’s just going to have to do well with the reps and opportunities that he gets, and that will be his body of work. What happens is without getting that experience — those opportunities to make those mistakes — he’s going to have to learn from other people’s mistakes and we’ll see how well he did that in the next couple weeks.”
Assuming he gets healthy, Pierce would still figure to have the inside track as the backup running back to Ray Rice while Allen could be an option in short-yardage situations. However, both backs are looking over their shoulder at rookie free agent Bobby Rainey, who had 64 yards from scrimmage on 15 touches against the Falcons and caught a short pass from Curtis Painter that he took to the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown.
With wide receiver Torrey Smith sitting out Saturday’s practice from the mild ankle sprain he suffered in Thursday’s game in Atlanta, LaQuan Williams moved up the depth chart to work in the three-wide set in the starting offense.
Williams is regarded as the leader for the No. 4 receiver job with the edge over fellow second-year wideout Tandon Doss and rookies Deonte Thompson and Tommy Streeter. However, Williams dropped a Joe Flacco pass on a slant pattern and could not control what would have been an acrobatic sideline catch before his feet went out of bounds.
Doss continues to deal with a hamstring injury and was absent from practice after returning to the field earlier this week.
After missing three of the team’s last four practices, inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe brought his physical presence back to the Baltimore nickel defense as he gave a huge pop to rookie running back Bobby Rainey. The Ravens were running “thud” contact in which you don’t bring the ball carrier to the ground, but the fourth-year linebacker delivered the hit before keeping the diminutive back upright.
The collision prompted several defensive players to scream and then exclaim, “Ell’s back!”
Veteran kicker Billy Cundiff did not attempt any field goals on Saturday while rookie Justin Tucker had another impressive day, unofficially going 13-for-13 on field goal attempts. His longest successful tries were a pair of field goals from 50 yards away.
One of the highlight plays of the day was a Jacoby Jones catch over Lardarius Webb on a fade route down the sideline. Jones was filled in as the No. 2 receiver with Smith resting his ankle on Saturday.
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