Live from Westminster: Gaither misses practice as first fight breaks out

July 31, 2010 | Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. — The Ravens were back on the practice field Saturday morning, but two key starters were absent.

After being carted off the field with back cramps Friday afternoon, Jared Gaither was absent from both sessions on Saturday. We didn’t hear from John Harbaugh after practice, so we’ll assume it’s a precautionary measure at this point. However, given the Ravens’ propensity for hiding the severity of injuries, it’s certainly worth monitoring in the coming days.

Cornerback Fabian Washington did not practice after returning to the field wearing a red non-contact jersey on Friday afternoon. He did, however, return to the field in the afternoon wearing the same non-contact top. With the fragile state of the defensive backfield after the loss of Domonique Foxworth for the season, there’s no reason for the Ravens to rush Washington’s return to the field with three weeks remaining in training camp.

We also witnessed our first fight of the summer as rookie defensive tackle Art Jones mixed it up with offensive lineman Bryan Mattison after a play during passing drills. A dogpile quickly followed but order was restored and the two shook hands after the scrum.

You can hear more from Jones about the morning rumble as well as special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg and backup quarterback Marc Bulger in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault.

Check back right here for updates (time-stamped below) throughout the day.

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5:15 p.m. — The afternoon session has wrapped up with Fabian Washington returning to the practice field sporting the red non-contact jersey.

Jared Gaither was absent from practice again, though he walked out for the latter portion of the workout in a t-shirt and shorts. I’m beginning to wonder if the back cramps for which he was carted off on Friday afternoon are actually spasms.

Offensive tackle Tony Moll sat out in the afternoon after lining up with the first-team offense at right tackle (with Gaither’s absence). Rookie Ramon Harewood received the reps on the right side with the first team.

Cornerback Walt Harris did not practice but was out on the field with his teammates.

As for the practice itself, coach John Harbaugh was very angry with the team’s tempo during the 11-on-11 portion, verbally chastising his players and making them run off the field. The Ravens coach voiced his displeasure with some words unsuitable for this blog, but it was clear he wanted to send a message.

Workouts will resume on Sunday morning at 8:45 a.m. and an afternoon session at 2:45 p.m.

2:10 p.m. — While several of his teammates were outspoken after Marc Bulger signed a one-year, $3.8 million contract to back up starter Joe Flacco, the veteran was complimentary of his teammates’ help in learning the Baltimore offense, a system similar to what he had in St. Louis.

What remains to be learned is the different terminology and verbiage that comes with a new team.

“Troy [Smith] and [Flacco] and John [Beck] have been great to me, making some cheat sheets,” Bulger said. “I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m getting there.”

Bulger had opportunities to play elsewhere with a better opportunity to start, but his last few seasons with the Rams made him desperate to play for a winning organization. St. Louis went a combined 6-42 over the last three seasons.

“I love the [Rams] organization, but we just hadn’t been winning,” Bulger said. “It takes a lot of the fun out of it, and I wanted to win somewhere. Not that I couldn’t win other places, but I think that this team, after talking with [John Harbaugh] and his philosophy really intrigued me. … I see why they’re so proud about the organization.”

Bulger was also asked about the man who replaced him in St. Louis—rookie Sam Bradford—and the guaranteed $50 million he’ll receive from the Rams before ever taking a snap in the NFL. He didn’t have any advice for the former Oklahoma quarterback.

“No suggestions, just congratulations,” the former Rams quarterback said while laughing, “and his agents did a heck of a job. I’ve got the same ones.”

I’d say.

1:45 p.m. — With the hectic nature surrounding the Domonique Foxworth injury on Friday, I failed to provide an update on the kicking competition between Shayne Graham and Billy Cundiff.

During the morning session on Saturday, Graham connected from 30, 39, 44, and 51 yards but missed from 50 yards away. Cundiff made field goals from 30, 39, 44, 51, and 46 yards.

Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg talked about the competition between Graham and Cundiff and how different it is than the one between Steve Hauschka and Graham Gano in training camp a season ago.

“The way it’s different is we have two experienced, veteran NFL kickers in here doing that competition,” Rosburg said. “It’s going to be day to day, kick to kick, and then preseason games obviously. It’s important—as we all know—that you’re able to go kick in game environments.”

While we’ll continue to track each kicker’s daily performance in Westminster, the real key to the competition will be the four preseason games.Though Cundiff has an edge having been on the team last season, most insides believe Graham will ultimately prevail and be the team’s kicker by Week 1.

“My thinking on that is—it’s much like quarterbacks—practice is really good and it’s valuable and you learn a lot by watching guys play in practice,” Rosburg said. “For kickers, game environments are really valuable, too. That is part of the whole formula.”

12:50 p.m. — Highlights from the morning included a gorgeous pass from Joe Flacco to Derrick Mason for a long, 40-plus yard touchdown. Mason looks very sharp as he begins his 14th season in the league.

Donte’ Stallworth continues to impress in the early stages of training camp. He’s shown impressive speed with a quick burst. It’s clear he’s taking this opportunity very seriously as he tries to put the events of the last two years behind him and get his career back on track. If he can remain healthy—not a given when you look at his NFL career—he could really develop into the deep threat the Ravens have sorely lacked in their passing game for years.

The team scrimmaged live for the first time on Saturday morning with the defense doing an admirable job against the first-team offense. Ray Rice broke a Prescott Burgess tackle and gained eight yards on one play but found little running room overall in the live session.

During skeleton passing drills, Marc Bulger found a wide-open Dennis Pitta over the middle for a huge gain.

The secondary also missed an interception opportunity as Burgess and new safety Ken Hamlin battled for the ball. Neither came up with it as the football dropped harmlessly to the turf.

Despite the secondary currently being in disarray, injuries have created an opportunity for Travis Fisher, who looked more comfortable on Saturday morning after some shaky early sessions. The 30-year-old Fisher brings eight years of experience in the NFL and can really impress with Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb continuing to work their way back from knee injuries.

12:40 p.m. — After receiving the question from Nick below, I wanted to pass along a couple of number changes. Ed Dickson is now wearing No. 83, trading with Davon Drew who will now sport No. 80.

Dickson wore the number in college and will compensate his teammate an undisclosed amount, according to Drew.

Hope I cleared up some confusion if you were out in Westminster the last two days.

12:25 p.m. — With Jared Gaither sidelined this morning, reserve Tony Moll worked out at right tackle with the starting offense as Michael Oher worked exclusively on the left side.

With Fabian Washington sidelined again, the starting corners were Chris Carr and Travis Fisher. Tom Zbikowski received most reps as the starting free safety with Ed Reed continuing to rehab from offseason hip surgery.

It was a worrisome sight seeing Washington, Reed, and Lardarius Webb—three of the four projected starters in the secondary—standing on the sidelines together and not wearing the pads. Thankfully, it’s only July 31 and not Sept. 13.

In other injury news, tight end Davon Drew did not practice this morning. He said after practice on Friday he was suffering from a slight hamstring strain but didn’t seem concerned about missing a significant amount of time.

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