WESTMINSTER, Md. — As the Ravens complete their last two-a-day before Thursday’s preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers, it was apparent the intensity level picked up even with a shells and shorts workout with no contact.
Ray Lewis and the starting defense jawed with offensive players during 11-on-11 drills as both sides prepare to face a different opponent across the line of scrimmage on Thursday night.
John Harbaugh shed some light on who we won’t see in the first preseason game, and there were no real surprises in what he said. Offensive tackle Jared Gaither missed his fifth straight day of practice as he continues to suffer from back spasms between his shoulder blades. With Gaither making the transition to the right side, there is much concern over the amount of time he’s missed during training camp.
“I don’t think he’ll be able to play because he hasn’t practiced enough,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t know if the injury is going to hold him out, but it’d be hard for him to play with the little bit of practice he’s had.”
Cornerback Chris Carr missed his third straight day of practice after limping off the field with a left hamstring injury at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The starting corner is improving, but the Ravens are likely to hold him out of the preseason opener, leaving Travis Fisher likely to start at cornerback.
“Carr could play, it’s a matter of whether we decide to put him out there or not,” Harbaugh said.
Fabian Washington continues to increase his workload in practice, but his status will be a game-time decision on Thursday. Coming back from an ACL injury last season, Washington sat out practice on the new surface at M&T Bank Stadium as a precautionary measure. Considering the fragile state of the defensive backfield, one would think the Ravens play it safe with Washington, too.
“He’s ready to go, it’s just a matter of whether we want him to go,” Harbaugh said. “I think we’ll take him out there in pregame and see how much work we get done, and we’ll just decide. But we’re not going to push it, I can tell you that.”
A new question mark was created Tuesday morning when left guard Ben Grubbs walked off the field with an injury. While the injury was not specified, Harbaugh described it as “not major” but was unsure whether Grubbs would play against Carolina.
Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata returned to practice after being stricken with back spasms Monday. He expects to play in the preseason opener. Others returning to practice included offensive linemen Ramon Harewood and Stefan Rodgers and wide receiver Demetrius Williams. Cornerback Prince Miller was also back on the field after two days away to witness the birth of his daughter.
In addition to Carr and Gaither, defensive back Marcus Paschall and offensive linemen Tony Moll and Dan Sanders were also missing from the morning session on Tuesday. The four players remaining on the PUP list are running back Matt Lawrence, safety Ed Reed, cornerback Lardarius Webb, and linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo.
Stay right here throughout the day for updates (time-stamped below) and follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the quickest updates right from the field. Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from John Harbaugh, Tom Zbikowski, and Jameel McClain as well as Thyrl Nelson’s chat with Chris Chester immediately following morning practice!
1:25 p.m. — A couple highlight plays from the morning session included Donte’ Stallworth’s long touchdown catch from Marc Bulger, beating cornerback Cary Williams on the play. Stallworth has received more work with the second offense the last two days, but continues to be very impressive during training camp.
Receiver Justin Harper also caught two long touchdowns during passing drills, but we’ve seen that countless times over the last two summers in Westminster.
Early in the 11-on-11 session this morning, the Ravens worked on some trick plays including a reverse to Anquan Boldin, making it highly unlikely we ever actually see it in the regular season. If Cam Cameron does have some trick plays up his sleeve, we’re certainly not going to see them in a public forum at McDaniel College.
The special teams practice this afternoon gets underway at 2:00. Wednesday’s walk-through is closed to both the public and media.
12:45 p.m. — Linebacker Bart Scott might be a distant memory in Baltimore, but it appears the Ravens may have found a similar personality—at least off the field—at the inside linebacker position next to Ray Lewis. Jameel McClain has been the biggest surprise of training camp after leapfrogging Tavares Gooden and Dannell Ellerbe for the starting inside linebacker job, albeit in early August.
McClain, a third-year former rookie free agent from Syracuse, spoke at the podium following practice and showed off a keen sense of humor to the Baltimore media. Formerly a special teams standout and occasional pass-rush specialist, the young linebacker is eager to showcase his skills in the starting defense.
“I knew I belonged [in football] the day I came out of my mother’s womb,” McClain said. “I was born to play this game. I’m born to go out there and hit somebody and play with a high intensity and a lot of rah-rah. It’s not like I came here wide-eyed like, ‘Man, I don’t deserve this.’ I understand that you have to work for everything in life. I’m my biggest critic and my biggest fan, so it’s for me to put in the work all the time.”
He credits a productive offseason with his strength and speed coaches as the best explanation for his heightened stature with the defense. McClain is also focusing exclusively at inside linebacker as opposed to several different positions in his first two seasons in Baltimore
“Just getting the opportunity to go out there and now knowing the defense and getting the chance to settle in and more so focusing on one or two positions has been able to slim down my load a little bit,” McClain said.
You can check out McClain’s entire interview at the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault.
12:28 p.m. — Billy Cundiff won Tuesday’s battle against Shayne Graham in the kicking competition. Graham noticeably struggled, unofficially going 1-for-4 and missing from 35, 52, and 57 yards. His wide-left miss from 35 even drew the heckling of his teammates as one defensive player said, “Shayne, that was disgusting!”
Cundiff was 5-for-6 unofficially with successful tries from 46, 47, and 52 yards to his credit.
The two will alternate kicks for the preseason opener despite John Harbaugh initially saying on Monday they would each take a half against the Panthers.
“That’s what [special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg] wants to do,” said Harbaugh, who did not know which kicker would go first. “He feels like it will keep both of those guys in the game for the whole game and give them a fair amount of reps, so we’re looking forward to that.”