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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Wednesday’s trip to the White House brought two key Ravens players back to the practice field as defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and fullback Vonta Leach were present and working during Thursday’s organized team activity in Owings Mills.
Neither player had been present during the first two weeks of voluntary workouts, but Leach confirmed via his official Twitter account that he had participated in workouts all week as the Ravens concluded their final OTA sessions. Ngata wasn’t in his best physical shape and was a very limited participant but appeared lighter than he did at this point last year when he was criticized for weighing dramatically more than he did during the 2011 season.
Ngata told the team’s official site that he only recently began running again after rehabbing the sprained MCL suffered during the Super Bowl. That’s impacted his conditioning, but the seventh-year defensive tackle expressed confidence that he’ll be ready to go by the start of training camp.
Many have speculated that Leach’s absence during the first two weeks of OTAs was a protest over the Ravens drafting rookie fullback Kyle Juszczyk in the fourth round of April’s draft.
“It’s good to have as many guys here as we can possibly have here every single day,” said Harbaugh when asked specifically about Leach’s return. “The more guys we have here, the better we are going to be. We aren’t going to be better if guys aren’t here.
A few significant players remained absent from the field during Thursday’s workout, including linebacker Terrell Suggs, guard Marshal Yanda and defensive ends Chris Canty and Marcus Spears. The latter two were both away due to “personal family issues,” according to coach John Harbaugh.
Suggs and Yanda both attended the White House ceremony on Wednesday but weren’t present on the field for any of the Ravens’ OTA sessions open to media.
Others missing from the practice field included linebackers Jameel McClain and Albert McClellan, and center Antoine McClain. A report from The Sun revealed McClellan underwent shoulder surgery earlier this offseason, which explains his limited participation during workouts for which he’s been present.
Rookie linebacker Arthur Brown returned to the practice field on a limited basis despite all signs previously pointing to him being sidelined for the remainder of the spring after undergoing sports hernia surgery. The second-round pick said he’s still on the same four-to-six week recovery track but was pleased to be able to do individual drills as well as a limited amount of team work.
Defensive tackle Terrence Cody (hip surgery), rookie defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore (ACL surgery), and rookie wide receiver Marlon Brown were all present for practice but did not participate.
The Ravens will hold their mandatory three-day minicamp next week, which means we should get our first look at players such as Suggs, Yanda, and Canty. However, Harbaugh said there won’t be any heightened sense of urgency for the mandatory workouts.
“We have a sense of urgency every single day,” Harbaugh said. “That’s our mindset here. Our guys have a 100-percent, full-throttle sense of urgency every day. You need to.”
The Ravens coach didn’t mince any words when asked to share his thoughts regarding recent comments made by second-year outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw about being overweight.
The 2012 second-round pick cited “personal reasons” that have hindered his ability to condition the way he’d like this offseason, but Harbaugh offered a different explanation for why the Alabama product’s weight has ballooned from 271 pounds last year to 285 in Upshaw’s estimation last weekend.
“Courtney’s weight issue — which he does need to lose some pounds — is that he doesn’t eat right,” Harbaugh said. “Courtney eats too much and he doesn’t eat all the right foods. He knows that and that’s something he’s going to have to get a handle on or he’s not going to be the best he can be. He’s aware of it. Everybody in the building is involved with it. He’ll be in fighting shape, I promise you that. ”
With Suggs and newcomer Elvis Dumervil expected to start at the outside linebacker positions, Upshaw finds himself already in a difficult position and doesn’t want to make his way into Harbaugh’s doghouse as others can attest. However, Harbaugh did go out of his way to praise the 23-year-old for his efforts during OTA sessions.
Upshaw collected five tackles and forced a fumble in the Super Bowl while playing 42 of the Ravens’ 62 defensive snaps to conclude a respectable rookie year in which he collected 60 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks, and a forced fumble during the regular season.
“He’s playing very well. That’s the first thing,” Harbaugh said. “He understands the defense exceptionally well, and he’s working very hard.”
Daryl Smith not on field yet
Veteran linebacker Daryl Smith wasn’t on the field less than 24 hours after signing a one-year deal, but Harbaugh acknowledged the Ravens have had their eye on the former Jacksonville linebacker for quite a while.
With Jameel McClain still not cleared from a spinal cord contusion despite the Ravens’ optimism, Smith could find a very real opportunity to earn a starting position in the Baltimore defense.
“He’s always been a superb player,” Harbaugh said. “He’s probably a little bit under the radar as far as the national media goes. He’s just been a tremendous player. Everyone in football knows who he is. I think he’s a great fit for our team for who we are, what we are all about. He’s going to do well for us.”
After wearing No. 52 in Jacksonville — which will clearly be off limits in Baltimore — Smith will wear No. 51, the jersey number formerly worn by Brendon Ayanbadejo and issued to Rolando McClain before the troubled linebacker retired from the NFL last month.
Ring ceremony Friday night
The organization has expressed plenty of excitement over the unveiling of the Super Bowl XLVII championship rings on Friday, but wide receiver Torrey Smith offered the quote of the day explaining how he might react upon seeing the extravagant piece of jewelry.
“When it comes to meeting the President and actually seeing the rings, for somebody like me who’s never won a thing, I might act like a woman when she sees her engagement ring. I can’t wait. I can’t wait.”