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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Already reeling from the season-ending injury to starting tight end Dennis Pitta less than two weeks ago, the Ravens received additional concerning news at the position on Monday.
After leaving Sunday’s practice with a hamstring strain in Annapolis on Sunday, tight end Ed Dickson underwent an MRI and will be sidelined for at least Thursday’s preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and potentially longer. However, coach John Harbaugh expressed confidence that Dickson will be ready to return to the practice field well before the regular-season opener against the Denver Broncos on Sept. 5.
“There’s a little tear in there, so we’re going to hold him back for a week or so and we’ll see where we’re at,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to try to get him healthy. It’s going to be a matter of time, but it’s not going to be a long time.”
Dickson was sidelined for most of last year’s preseason after suffering a shoulder injury in the first preseason game. That slow start was followed by a disappointing season in which Dickson made only 21 catches for 225 yards and no touchdowns in the regular season. Since Pitta is expected to be sidelined for the entire year with a dislocated and fractured hip that required surgery, the Ravens are expected to feature Dickson prominently in their passing offense.
The fourth-year tight end had turned in a tremendous training camp, showing consistent hands and sometimes lining up in the slot before injuring the hamstring at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium during the first open practice of the summer. As much as the Ravens would like to have him available, they will surely exercise caution to prevent a potential setback for the 2010 third-round pick.
Dickson’s absence has led to newly-signed veteran Visanthe Shiancoe to take most of the reps with the first-team offense with veteran Billy Bajema, rookie Matt Furstenburg, and 2012 practice-squad member Alex Silvestro working behind him. Rookie fullback Kyle Juszczyk is also being considered for more action at the tight end position.
The Ravens do not plan to make any additions at the tight end spot in the immediate future, but that could change depending how the current healthy tight ends on the preseason roster perform on Thursday. The 33-year-old Shiancoe is expected to start, but the veteran is just now getting up to speed with offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell’s system.
“We have enough tight ends for Thursday for sure,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll be fine. We [might] have to address it there, depending on how we get out of that game.”
Linebacker Daryl Smith, defensive tackle Terrence Cody, and cornerback Chris Johnson joined Dickson as new absentees from practice, but they were just receiving a day off from practice, according to Harbaugh. Both Smith and Cody were available for post-practice interviews on Sunday and weren’t dealing with any apparent injuries.
Safety James Ihedigbo returned to the practice field after coach John Harbaugh gave the veteran a day off to rest a neck issue he’s dealt with during training camp. His absence was considered precautionary as he continues to battle rookie Matt Elam for the starting strong safety job.
Others not participating on Monday included guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder), wide receiver David Reed (groin), linebacker Jameel McClain (neck), offensive lineman Ryan Jensen (foot), defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore (knee), and tight end Dennis Pitta (hip).
Running back Ray Rice left practice roughly 20 minutes early after turning his ankle, but the injury isn’t considered a concern, according to Harbaugh. The sixth-year back appeared to be receiving a light day in terms of reps throughout the course of the workout.
Offensive lineman Ramon Harewood was practicing for the second straight day after missing a week due to swelling in his knee that required an injection.
Camp highlights from Monday
The Ravens appeared out of sync early during the afternoon practice, committing several penalties and even having issues with some players lining up incorrectly.
At one point with the second-team defense on the field, defensive coordinator Dean Pees expressed his frustration by shouting, “We aren’t going to be out there Thursday to line you up!”
Wide receivers Deonte Thompson and Aaron Mellette are beginning to look more comfortable over the last few days of practice. Thompson is receiving extensive reps with the first-team offense in both the three-wide set and some two-wide formations. Meanwhile, the seventh-round rookie Mellette is working more and more with the second-team offense after beginning camp at the bottom of the depth chart and working with the third unit.
Gino Gradkowski and A.Q. Shipley continue to split playing time at the center position with the starting offense, but Shipley provided one of the highlight blocks of the day in stopping blitzing inside lineback Josh Bynes in his tracks during an 11-on-11 team drill. Bynes went to the ground and appeared to temporarily be stunned until he went back to the defensive huddle and continued practicing.
Cornerback Corey Graham had a highlight interception return off a pass that bounced off the hands of wide receiver Tandon Doss, who was trying to rein in an errant pass from quarterback Joe Flacco.
Harbaugh on the late Art Donovan
Less than 24 hours after the death of Baltimore Colts legend Art Donovan, Harbaugh shared a story of the first time his father was able to meet the Hall of Fame defensive tackle four years ago and expressed his sadness of the loss of a civic legend.
Senior vice president of public and community relations Kevin Byrne took Jack Harbaugh to an alumni dinner to meet Donovan, who was drinking his customary favorite beverage at the event.
“He had a bucket of Schlitz on ice there,” Harbaugh said. “My dad knows Schlitz real well from his days in Crestline, Ohio. He’s familiar with Schlitz. My grandpa drinks Stroh’s, so that’s a good combination -– Schlitz and Stroh’s –- especially if you want a headache in the morning. They drank Schlitz [beers] all night. Art was telling stories and my dad probably told a few stories, too. He can tell a story, too. And they really hit it off real well.
“[Donovan was a] great man, great Baltimore tradition, and he’ll live on in our hearts forever.”
The Ravens flew the flags at their Owings Mills practice facility at half-mast on Monday.