Live from Owings Mills: Ravens top pick Jimmy Smith practices for first time

July 29, 2011 | Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Upon finishing his first practice after signing a four-year contract Friday morning, first-round cornerback Jimmy Smith was asked how his first NFL workout went.

“It was hot,” the 27th overall pick said after a steamy three-hour practice. “It’s really hot.”

At least, Smith is honest.

Seeing comparisons between the defenses the Ravens run and the defensive playbook he had at Colorado, Smith feel pretty comfortable despite having only completed his first practice as a professional. Smith ran with the second defense — as Domonique Foxworth and Lardarius Webb took first-team reps — but moved to cornerback in the starting defense’s nickel package, with Webb sliding to the inside.

“I think he’s got a ways to go in a lot of ways, but we have a lot of work in front of us over camp,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Obviously, he’s got all the tools. He’s got a really good attitude. He’s a hard worker. I think he’s got to learn how to be a pro, and I’m very certain he can do that.”

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At 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, many have seen similarities between Smith and a young Chris McAlister due to the former’s physical style of play. Never shying away from using his physicality with receivers in college, Smith may give the Ravens their best bump-and-run option since the viable McAlister was locking down one side of the field.

“I hear a lot of comparisons,” Smith said. “I mean I really haven’t seen his game or how he [played], but I definitely hear a lot of comparisons. I also hear a lot of things that I don’t want to fall into of what he did.”

With the Ravens already having lost Josh Wilson to the Washington Redskins and Chris Carr’s potential return still in question, Smith is currently battling Lardarius Webb for a spot on the starting defense. Will Smith be prepared to start Week 1 against the Steelers?

“I absolutely think so,” he said. “It’s definitely going to take some work. I’ve got a lot of work to do, but I definitely think I can be a starter.”

Yanda speaks about his big payday

After reaching an agreement on a new five-year, $32 million contract to remain with the Ravens, how did offensive lineman Marshal Yanda celebrate?

By packing up a U-Haul and driving his family 15 hours from his home state of Iowa back to Baltimore. He was just happy to be going back to work and the place he’s called home since being drafted by the Ravens in the third round of the 2007 draft.

“I wanted to stay here all along, and we got to do that,” Yanda said. “I’m really excited to do some good things this season. We have a lot of unfinished business that we’ve built the last three years. I’m excited to be a part of that. Keep working hard, get out there, and getting sweating like everybody else and go to work.”

In order to create room for Yanda, general manager Ozzie Newsome made the difficult decision to cut four key veterans to clear $18.6 million in salary cap room. The fifth-year player realized how much of a commitment the organization made to keep him in Baltimore.

“It felt good to be wanted and to know that hard work paid off,” said Yanda, who expressed hope that he plays his entire career in Baltimore. “You put in four years and you just tried to do the right thing and be the best as you can and work hard and good things happen to good people. I’m fortunate to be here, and I’m happy.”

Yanda is slated to move back to his natural right guard position depending on the development of this year’s third-round pick Jah Reid at right tackle and what the Ravens might do in free agency. He prefers playing inside at guard — citing how most tackles are taller than his 6-foot-3 frame — but is willing to change back to tackle if needed, like he did last season when the Ravens lost Jared Gaither for the season.

Whatever position he winds up playing in 2011, the Ravens will not have to worry about one part of the right side of the line. Yanda’s toughness is become well-known around the league and was one of the reasons why so many teams expressed interest in the 26-year-old prior to the Ravens signing him to a long-term contract.

“I take pride in practice,” said Yanda, who Harbaugh labeled a “tone-setter” for the football team. “I never missed a day of practice last year. If a bone’s not sticking out, I’m playing just because that’s the way I am. I’m always out there practicing, always setting that example, too. It’s tough; it’s hard work out there. That’s the way it’s got to be.”

Roll call

Linebacker Terrell Suggs was absent from practice again on Friday after being placed on the non-football injury list. However, he passed his physical and took his conditioning test, leaving the door open for an imminent return to the practice field.

“I’m pretty sure he’s going to be out [on Saturday] practicing, but we’ll see,” Harbaugh said. “One thing we’re not going to do is push it, certainly not in this stage of camp. Knowing Terrell, he’ll probably push it, and he’ll want to be out here practicing.”

There were no changes to the active physically unable to perform list as guard Ben Grubbs, receiver David Reed, defensive tackle Brandon McKinney, and offensive tackle Ramon Harewood all missed practice again on Friday.

The Ravens were also short on the offensive line with the aforementioned injuries and the absence of offensive tackle Oniel Cousins due to rules stating restricted free agents cannot practice until Aug. 4. Tim Barnes and Brady Bond lined up as the starting guards, Reid lined up at right tackle opposite Michael Oher, and veteran Matt Birk was, of course, the center.

Defensively, the Ravens continue to go with the safety tandem of Mana Silva and Nate Williams while Tom Zbikowski and Harukia Nakamura must wait until Aug. 4 to practice.

All-Pro safety Ed Reed has not reported to camp as he takes care of a personal matter, but is expected to report on Saturday. However, Harbaugh said Reed’s return on Saturday is not 100 percent. As has become an annual storyline, Reed’s degree of participating during training camp will be interesting to monitor with the chronic nerve impingement in his neck and hip surgery last season.

(Update: 1:30 a.m.) According to NFL.com, the Ravens have released defensive tackle Lamar Divens and running back Curtis Steele. Divens played five games over the last three seasons in Baltimore while Steele spent last season on the practice squad.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault right here to hear from John Harbaugh, Jimmy Smith, Marshal Yanda, Haloti Ngata, and Sergio Kindle following Friday’s practice in Owings Mills.

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