Though the Ravens managed to survive the preseason without a catastrophic injury to potentially derail their regular season, the health of receiver Lee Evans and veteran center Matt Birk has been closely monitored as they prepare to kick off the season on Sunday.
The Ravens received good news on their respective statuses on Monday as both took part in practice and hope to play against Pittsburgh.
Evans tested his injured left ankle in practice for the first time since playing in the third preseason game against Washington on Aug. 25. He wore a walking boot on his foot and sat out practice on Aug. 27 and had not been present at the open portion of practices since that point.
The Ravens had held Evans out of practices as a precautionary measure, but the 30-year-old receiver had progressed well and was eager to return to the practice field to get ready for Pittsburgh. Evans had 128 receiving yards during the preseason, including a touchdown catch against Washington.
“Any rest you can get during the season is welcomed, so it feels good,” Evans said. “Like I said, it was good to rest for a little bit, but it’s good to be back out there now.”
The Ravens will look to spread out the Steelers to copy the strategy of the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl, but Evans must figure heavily into the plan in order to be successful.
Center Matt Birk also practiced on Monday after being absent from the field during the open portion of Friday’s practice. After undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in early August, the 35-year-old missed the entire preseason.
Though the Ravens are playing it by ear to see how the veteran’s knee responds in practice — the signing of five-time Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode certainly provides insurance — Birk hopes to play against Pittsburgh.
“I hope to [start],” he said. “I’ll just do everything I can to get ready. If I can, I can. If I can’t, I can’t.”
Getting back on the field on Sunday is one thing, but how effective Birk can be against imposing Pittsburgh nose tackle Casey Hampton remains to be seen.
Gurode practices for first time
Signed to a one-year contract on Sunday to boost depth on the interior line — or eventually start over Birk? — Gurode saw his first practice time on Monday.
However, the former Pro Bowl center left practice a few minutes early in order to catch a flight home to gather the rest of his belongings for his new place in Baltimore. The Ravens are off on Tuesday, making Gurode’s travel schedule a little more manageable.
“It’ll be our job to get him up to speed as quick as we can,” said Harbaugh, who wouldn’t define whether the Ravens view Gurode as the eventual starter or Birk’s backup. “He’s obviously a very good player, and he helps us.”
The former Cowboys center, named to the Pro Bowl the last five seasons, will wear No. 65 for the Ravens and will need to quickly assimilate offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s system with Birk’s status remaining uneasy at best to begin the season.
McAdoo’s stay on roster only temporary
Perhaps the most shocking decision of Saturday’s cutdown day was rookie defensive end Michael McAdoo making the 53-man roster after going unselected in the supplemental draft and being signed late in the preseason.
Considered a long-term project, the Ravens used the unfortunate one-game suspension of David Reed to sneak McAdoo on the roster, avoiding the possibility of another team snatching him up through waivers. Coach John Harbaugh informed reporters Monday that McAdoo would only be on the 53-man roster for Week 1, and the Ravens intend to stash him away on the practice squad after the Pittsburgh game when Reed returns.
“It’s just a move for the future of the team,” Harbaugh said. “It’s the way Ozzie [Newsome] structured the agreement with the agent. So, he’s here for a week, and we’ll go from there. He’s a practice squad guy in our minds.”
The plan sounds great in theory, but the Ravens must pass the former North Carolina product — ineligible as a junior last season — through waivers before they can place him on the practice squad next week.