WESTMINSTER, Md. — With the preseason opener just three days away, the Ravens were back on the practice field Monday with an eye toward Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers. Players practiced in shells and shorts for a lighter workout in preparation for the first game of the preseason.
Though the first preseason game will not include extensive playing time for the starters, coach John Harbaugh is anxious to get his first look at the roster in a live game situation.
“I think execution is the main thing,” said Harbaugh, who explained starters will play no longer than a quarter with some players playing even less. “We like our guys to be sharp, be on target, whether it’s blocking people, throwing the ball, on target with our pressures, on target on defense with our assignments. That’s probably the number one thing. We’d like to see our guys play hard, like to see them be physical. We want to play the [style] we want to play and start to establish that right off the bat if we can.”
Cornerback Chris Carr and offensive tackle Jared Gaither were again held out of practice, making it more likely they will not play on Thursday. Carr’s left thigh was wrapped as he watched practice on the field, though he indicated after practice the hamstring is improving.
Gaither continues to be “in limbo” with back spasms, according to Harbaugh. The team does not believe it to be serious, but the medical staff will perform another test to confirm the severity of the injury. Gaither has not participated fully in workouts since last Wednesday.
“We’ve just got to work through the spasms and get him out here, so we can practice,” Harbaugh said.
Perhaps an even bigger scare occurred during the morning session when defensive tackle Haloti Ngata took a helmet to the back and left the field. He suffered from some spasms as a result, but it is not considered to be a serious injury, according to Harbaugh.
“He should be fine.”
Cary Williams also left the field with an apparent injury, adding a new name to a laundry list of banged-up players in the secondary. He joins Carr, Marcus Paschal, K.J. Gerard, Lardarius Webb (PUP list – knee), and Ed Reed (PUP list – hip) as defensive backs dealing with injuries. Fabian Washington has practiced the last two days after sitting out Saturday’s practice on the new turf at M&T Bank Stadium.
With so many injuries already affecting the team’s depth at offensive tackle and cornerback, a major goal of the first preseason game simply will be remaining healthy.
“If something happens to a guy, he’s going to come out,” said Harbaugh, who plans to hold out several players already dealing with injuries. “Then, you basically hold your breath and you pray as far as the big injury, because there’s nothing you can do about that. Hopefully we can get through it. After the game, if we can say we got through it injury-free, that’s really a victory also.”
Check back right here for updates throughout the day (time-stamped below) and head to the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from John Harbaugh, Joe Flacco, and Anquan Boldin as well as Dawan Landry’s post-practice conversation with Thyrl Nelson.
5:00 p.m. — The afternoon session wrapped up in just under an hour with the team practicing in shells and shorts.
Players not practicing included Haloti Ngata (back), Jared Gaither (back), Chris Carr (hamstring), Fabian Washington (knee), K.J. Gerard (hamstring), Demetrius Williams (undisclosed), Daniel Sanders (undisclosed), Stefan Rodgers (ankle), and Tony Moll (concussion).
Cornerback Cary Williams returned to practice despite leaving the field halfway through the morning session.
The highlight of the afternoon was a dropped interception by linebacker Jameel McClain, who proceeded to drop and do 10 push-ups as punishment. Despite the snafu, McClain is one of the biggest surprises of camp, as he continues to work next to Ray Lewis at inside linebacker with the starting defense.
The Ravens will be back on the field Tuesday for their last two-practice session prior to Thursday night’s preseason opener. Practices at 8:45 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. (special teams only) are open to the public.
2:20 p.m. — The voting remains open on the question of whether the Ravens will keep their current fight song or adopt an updated version of the Baltimore Colts fight song, but it’s pretty apparent that Baltimore has made its choice.
As of 2:15 on Monday afternoon, 78 percent of voters had chosen the Colts tune as the new fight song.
Senior vice president of public and community relations Kevin Byrne says the organization is still deciding how to introduce the new (or old) fight song to the M&T Bank Stadium crowd on Thursday night. The gameday programs have already gone to print and will not include anything about the change in fight songs, according to Byrne.
2:10 p.m. — Thursday will provide the first legitimate test for Billy Cundiff and Shayne Graham in a kicking competition that has been very even to this point. Unofficially, Cundiff was 7-for-7, which included kicks of 45, 50, and 51 yards. Graham was slightly worse, going 7-for-8 with a miss from 51 yards and a successful try from 45 yards.
John Harbaugh said each kicker will play a half, and the rotation will alternate for the remainder of the preseason schedule. It has not been determined who will kick in the first half. The four exhibition contests will carry the most weight in determining who will be the placekicker against the New York Jets on Sept. 13.
“I don’t think it’ll be everything, but we see them kick them in games, and that’s an environment, obviously, that matters,” Harbaugh said. “So, it probably has a little more weight.”
1:55 p.m. — Fabian Washington practiced for the second straight day after sitting out Saturday’s workout as a precautionary measure on the new turf at M&T Bank Stadium. Though he came off the Physically Unable to Perform list, the team continues to monitor his surgically-repaired knee and has given regular time off to the starting cornerback.
Monday morning’s workout looked to be a conscious effort to test Washington as he was thrown at repeatedly with mixed results.
Washington was flagged for pass interference while trying to cover receiver Mark Clayton early in an 11-on-11 drill and gave up a leaping touchdown to Marcus Smith in the corner of the end zone later in the drill. Later in practice, Washington deflected a ball right into the hands of Donte’ Stallworth for a long touchdown.
Despite the rough morning, Washington rebounded to break up a deep ball from Marc Bulger to Stallworth before the morning practice ended.
With Washington still sitting out some workouts and refraining from working out on the new surface at the stadium, it’s unknown whether he’ll play in Thursday’s preseason opener.
“We’ll have a few guys that we’ll hold out, just as a precautionary measure that we just don’t want to push through the game,” Harbaugh said about his plans for Thursday. “Guys that will normally play in the regular season will not play in this game, I’m sure.”
Washington would figure to be a strong candidate to fit into that category.
1:00 p.m. — Though Jared Gaither (back) and Chris Carr (hamstring) remain out with injuries, several Ravens returned to the practice field Monday morning including receiver Derrick Mason (knee), Tavares Gooden (undisclosed), K.J. Gerard (hamstring), David Hale (back), and Stefan Rodgers (ankle). The latter three appeared limited in the shells-and-shorts practice, but Mason and Gooden participated fully in the workout.
In addition to Gaither, the offensive line was without Ramon Harewood (both knees) and Tony Moll (concussion) at the tackle position.
Others missing from practice included defensive backs Marcus Paschal (leg) and Prince Miller (away for the birth of his child).