Live from Owings Mills: Ravens boost running back depth with “proven playmaker” in Ricky Williams

August 08, 2011 | Luke Jones

(Updated: 8:55 p.m.)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Returning to the practice field with their first preseason game only three days away, the Ravens received a rare piece of good news in free agency after coming to an agreement with veteran running back Ricky Williams shortly before Monday afternoon’s practice.

The two-year deal is pending a physical, so the Ravens are cautiously awaiting the results after veteran center Casey Rabach failed his last week to void a two-year contract. However, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is excited with the experience and production Williams can bring in support of starter Ray Rice.

“I think he’ll be a great addition, a guy who will be a great complement to Ray Rice and the other guys in our backfield,” said Cameron, who coached Williams in 2007 with the Miami Dolphins. “Outstanding player and an outstanding person. I’m really excited.”

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With the release of Willis McGahee and fullback Le’Ron McClain signing a one-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs last week, the Ravens were previously counting on fourth-year back Jalen Parmele and seventh-round rookie Anthony Allen to back up Rice.

Cameron maintained that Rice would be a major contributor in short-yardage and goal-line packages — a role previously held by McGahee — despite Williams’ build appearing to be suited for those roles. Williams has rushed for 9,565 yards and 64 touchdowns in his career, including 673 yards and two touchdowns with Miami in 2010.

“You look around the league, and you can’t have too many good backs,” Cameron said. “There were some teams last year that basically ran out of running backs. He gives us depth, first and foremost, but he gives us a proven playmaker, outstanding runner, outstanding receiver, and an outstanding pass protector, so we’ll be able to give Ray and the rest of the guys in the backfield a blow.”

After Saturday’s news that veteran Derrick Mason had signed a one-year contract to play with the New York Jets, quarterback Joe Flacco was pleased to see an experienced addition to the offensive backfield. With the Ravens’ intent to return to the power running game, Williams will ease the pressure on Rice and provides another option for catching passes out of the backfield.

“He’s going to be a great addition to this offense,” Flacco said. “He’ll take some of the load off of [Rice] and make him last longer out there. Ricky’s had a great career, and he’s a big, physical back that we’re going to like around here.”

J. Smith improving, Kindle set for Thursday

First-round pick Jimmy Smith participated for the second straight practice on Monday after missing four days of practice with a groin injury.

The cornerback participated in individual drills and did some reps in 11-on-11 team drills, working as the left cornerback in the nickel package with Lardarius Webb sliding inside. The Ravens will continue to use precaution with their rookie cornerback, making his status in doubt for Thursday’s preseason opener against Philadelphia.

“We’re being pretty cautious with him still,” said defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, who would not rule Smith out for Thursday night. “We’re making sure we don’t push him too hard and have another setback.”

Linebacker Sergio Kindle has practiced without limitations throughout the first week and a half of camp, working extensively on special teams and with the second-team defense. Pagano expects Kindle to see plenty of action, especially in pass-rush situations.

“We want to get him out there, put him on the edge, and let him go,” Pagano said.

Infirmary report

Tight end Ed Dickson missed his third straight practice and is dealing with a hamstring injury. This came on the heels of his best practice of training camp on Thursday, according to Cameron.

Dickson did some light running on the side field during practice Monday, and the injury is not considered to be serious.

Cornerbacks Chris Carr and Domonique Foxworth were also non-participants on Monday, as Webb and Cary Williams worked out as the cornerbacks with the starting defense. Defensive end Cory Redding also sat out on Monday, giving way to second-year defensive lineman Arthur Jones on the starting line.

Offensively, receiver James Hardy (hamstring) failed to practice again and continues to miss his opportunity to gain ground in an experience-light receiver group.

Long snapper Morgan Cox (knee) was activated from the physically-unable-to-perform list and saw his first action of training camp on Monday. There were no other changes to the PUP list as receiver David Reed (wrist), offensive tackle Ramon Harewood (knees), and defensive tackle Brandon McKinney (knee) did not practice.

Odds & ends

The Ravens released rookie safeties Eugene Clifford and Michael Ricks and signed tight ends Jonathan Stupar and Kris Wilson. Stupar will wear No. 86, becoming the first player not named Todd Heap to wear the number since veteran receiver Billy Davis in 2000 — the year before Heap was drafted. … Rookie Jah Reid and fourth-year lineman Oniel Cousins continued to share reps at right tackle with the starting offense, with Reid taking reps early in practice and Cousins handling them in the latter portion. … Tom Zbikowski was the starting strong safety opposite Ed Reed in 11-on-11 team drills. … Receiver Anquan Boldin made an impressive leaping catch in the end zone toward the end of practice. The veteran wideout celebrated by punting the ball high in the air as Michael Oher tried to make a fair catch. The left tackle was unsuccessful. … The Ravens will return to the practice field at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, their last full practice before Thursday’s preseason contest against the Eagles. The team will have a walk-through that is closed to the media on Wednesday.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from Joe Flacco, Cam Cameron, Chuck Pagano, and Jerry Rosburg following Monday’s practice.

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