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Jimmy Smith still sidelined after suffering bruised lungs against Cowboys

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Jimmy Smith still sidelined after suffering bruised lungs against Cowboys

Posted on 18 August 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens returned to the practice field on Monday without top cornerback Jimmy Smith, but the prognosis appears encouraging after he suffered a scary chest injury in Saturday’s preseason win over the Dallas Cowboys.

Head coach John Harbaugh said a magnetic resonance imaging exam revealed the 2011 first-round pick suffered bruising and bleeding from the lungs when he slammed his back on the turf while defending a sideline pass intended for Pro Bowl wide receiver Dez Bryant early in the first quarter. Smith was coughing up blood even after the game and was initially diagnosed with a chest contusion, according to the Ravens.

“They said it’s not a serious thing and just needs a couple days to heal up,” Harbaugh said. “We do anticipate him to play against the Redskins unless something changes that I’m not aware of.”

Running back Ray Rice practiced on Monday after leaving Saturday’s game with a shoulder injury. X-rays were negative for Rice after he was limited to just 21 yards on two carries. With Rice facing a two-game suspension to begin the regular season, Harbaugh had planned to focus on getting work for primary backup Bernard Pierce as well as veteran Justin Forsett and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro, but he may elect to give Rice a few more reps since he saw little action against the Cowboys.

Harbaugh elected to award Saturday’s start to Pierce to give him an extra opportunity to begin a game with the starting offense before he begins the season as the starter in Week 1.

“It could impact us [to] maybe get Ray a few more reps going forward,” said Harbaugh about Saturday’s distribution of playing time. “But the main focus is going to be Bernard, Justin, and Lorenzo and getting those guys ready. You know Ray’s had a good camp.”

Veteran tight end Owen Daniels was absent from the field during the portion of practice open for media viewing and hasn’t been on the field since last Monday. The Ravens have insisted Daniels is being rested and is not dealing with an injury concern, but the 31-year-old has now missed three straight practices and did not play in Saturday’s game.

The former Texan was limited to just five games due to a broken leg last season.

“There’s no pull, there’s no strain of any kind,” Harbaugh said. “[His legs are] a little fatigued. You get a little swelling in there. You’ve got to take some time to get the legs back, and we really felt like he needed to get his legs back, especially as an older guy. We wanted to give him this time to do that. I’m counting on him being there this week. That’s what I’ve been told is there’s no kind of injury in there. It’s just a fatigue factor, and he needs time.”

Others missing from Monday’s practice included cornerbacks Lardarius Webb (back) and Asa Jackson (ankle), offensive linemen Will Rackley (head) and Brett Van Sloten (knee), and defensive tackle Terrence Cody (physically unable to perform list – hip).

Harbaugh said that Webb would not play in the preseason after initially hoping the starting cornerback would be able to play in the third game of the summer. The sixth-year cornerback has been sidelined with a back injury since July 25.

Nursing an ankle injury since Aug. 10, Jackson has a chance to return to action this week, according to Harbaugh.

“Asa’s got a chance,” Harbaugh said. “‘Touch and go’ is probably a good way to say it, but I’ve been told he has a chance to get back for this game. It’d be great if he could.”

The Ravens were practicing in helmets, shells, and shorts after receiving Sunday off.

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Ravens’ cornerback situation can’t be overlooked in win over Cowboys

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Ravens’ cornerback situation can’t be overlooked in win over Cowboys

Posted on 16 August 2014 by Luke Jones

A 37-30 win for the Ravens over the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday night doesn’t reflect what was the most concerning image from the opening minutes of the second preseason game of the summer.

Already without starter Lardarius Webb and No. 3 corner contender Asa Jackson due to injuries, the Ravens lost their most important piece of the secondary — and likely their entire defense — as Jimmy Smith landed hard on his back defending a sideline pass intended for Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant. The good news is that X-rays were negative on his chest and the fourth-year watched the remainder of the game from the sideline despite spitting up blood on the sideline as he was helped off the field.

A bruised chest isn’t necessarily cause for panic — The Sun reported Smith was still coughing up blood following the game — but watching Chykie Brown and Dominique Franks handle the cornerback spots with the starting defense conjured memories of David Pittman and Willie Gaston manning the Baltimore secondary in the disastrous 2007 season. And it was another reminder of just how thin the Ravens’ cornerback depth is considering Brown has been picked on for much of the summer and Franks had been relegated to third-string duties until the last week.

Franks was beaten on a jump ball to Bryant for a 31-yard touchdown — a matchup that was simply unfair — while Brown was later burned by Cowboys wideout Terrance Williams on a deep route that was badly underthrown. To Brown’s credit, he did recover to break up the pass, but the play was more about a poor throw from Cowboys backup Brandon Weeden than an impressive play by the fourth-year cornerback.

It didn’t help that Dean Pees’ defense struggled to stop the run and generated little pressure in the pocket in the first half, but general manager Ozzie Newsome and the front office must address what is obvious with the start of the season only three weeks away. The Ravens need to add an established cornerback to their secondary in order to not be exposed by potent passing games in the throw-happy NFL.

All you need to know about the confidence level in the current batch of cornerbacks is the Ravens’ experimentation with using three safeties in the nickel defense with rookie Terrence Brooks lining up at the slot corner position. Jackson was emerging as a promising option for the No. 3 job, but he remains too much of an unknown and was spotted in a walking boot Saturday after injuring his ankle a week ago. John Harbaugh said it was a “minor” ankle sprain at the time, but the head coach is often ambiguous and vague when discussing injuries, making you wonder when Jackson will even make it back to the practice field.

Even if Smith and Webb are healthy for the start of the season — the latter has been sidelined with a back injury since July 25 — no one on the current roster instills enough confidence in being able to handle the No. 3 cornerback spot. That reality has made the free-agent departure of Corey Graham to Buffalo in the offseason that much more glaring as the Ravens didn’t draft a cornerback or sign a veteran at the position until the middle of June.

The problem will be addressing the problem at this stage as quality cornerbacks aren’t exactly waiting in abundance. A free-agent veteran such as Asante Samuel is always a possibility, but that won’t necessarily solve the problem as the Ravens already signed veterans Aaron Ross — who tore his Achilles tendon at the start of training camp — and Franks at the end of mandatory minicamp and have seen disappointing results. The Ravens’ best bet — or only hope — might be to dangle a future draft pick in hopes of acquiring another team’s second or third cornerback.

The nickel defense has become too much of a staple in today’s NFL to continue to expect an in-house candidate to handle the job. That concern will become a major problem if any of the Ravens’ current injuries linger into the start of the season with Cincinnati and Pittsburgh first up on the schedule.

The clock is ticking and the concern only grew as Smith landed hard on the turf at AT&T Stadium and needed to be helped off the field.

The Ravens need help in the secondary.

But it’s going to be difficult to find it.

 

 

 

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Live From Owings Mills: CB Jackson remains out of practice Wednesday

Posted on 13 August 2014 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS — The Baltimore Ravens returned to the practice fields at their 1 Winning Drive facility Wednesday, the penultimate open session of their 2014 Training Camp.

Two injured Ravens returned to the practice field following Tuesday’s day off. OL Ryan Jensen (leg) and S Brynden Trawick (back) were both back on the practice field-both had been out since Saturday. Additionally, TE Dennis Pitta (ankle) was on the practice field again after missing Sunday’s session and being limited in Monday’s activities.

CB Asa Jackson missed a third straight day of practice Wednesday dealing with an ankle injury, continuing to deplete a unit that is already missing Lardarius Webb (back). Webb is not expected to return until at least the end of the preseason. OL Will Rackley was not participating in Wednesday’s practice-he continues to work his way back from a concussion suffered at the start of Training Camp. DL Terrence Cody remains on the active Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list as he recovers from offseason hip surgery.

TE Owen Daniels was not present for the session Wednesday either, offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak confirmed after the session there was no injury issue-the veteran had just received a day off.

Defensive Linemen Kapron Lewis-Moore (Achilles) and Brent Urban (knee) remain on the roster but are both expected to miss the entire 2014 season.

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Webb injury makes cornerback no secondary concern for Ravens

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Webb injury makes cornerback no secondary concern for Ravens

Posted on 02 August 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens entered training camp with cornerback depth high on the list of concerns following the free-agent departure of Corey Graham and the lack of a significant offseason addition through free agency or the draft.

The anxiety has only grown with a lingering back injury for starter Lardarius Webb that is likely to keep him sidelined for most of the preseason, according to head coach John Harbaugh. Webb “probably” won’t play in the first two preseason games and could even miss the all-important third game of the summer despite tests revealing no structural damage to the sixth-year defensive back.

“He has some things going on in there that aren’t long-term things,” Harbaugh said. “I’m not going to get into it and give you the exact diagnosis of it. It’s probably as much me as anything. This early part of camp –- I just don’t want to put him through this on his back. He’s had sports hernia surgery [earlier in the offseason], also. There’s still some scar tissue in there. I just would rather keep him out of this first part of training camp, and we’ll just see how it feels more toward the end of camp.”

As anyone could tell you, back injuries are tricky, and there’s no guarantee that Webb will be in the clear even when he returns to action. The Ravens are taking the prudent approach considering the regular-season opener against Cincinnati is still more than a month away, but that will only quell concerns so much in a day and age when the NFL is all about defending the passing game.

Entering the summer, the competition was already wide open for the No. 3 cornerback spot with young defensive backs Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson expected to be pushed by veterans Aaron Ross and Dominique Franks, who were both signed following June’s mandatory minicamp. Instead, Ross tore his Achilles tendon taking the conditioning test at the start of camp and Franks took several days to pass the test to even get on the field. The former Atlanta Falcons cornerback has done very little to distinguish himself while working with the second- and third-string defenses in practice.

Rookie free agents Tramain Jacobs, Deji Olatoye, and Sammy Seamster have all flashed ability and are intriguing candidates to potentially make the 53-man roster, but none can reasonably be counted on to handle a significant defensive role in Week 1.

The only certainty right now is 2011 first-round pick Jimmy Smith handling one of the starting spots.

“Somebody has to rise to the top,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “The cream has to come to the top and somebody has to take the job, and I don’t know right now who that is. I feel pretty good about Jimmy Smith on the one side, and then there’s a lot of competition over on the other side. Right now, I couldn’t tell you who that is. Those guys just have to keep competing.”

Through the early stages of camp, Jackson has played better than Brown, but neither has shown enough consistency to feel comfortable about penciling one into the nickel defense. When it comes to experience, Brown has the edge as he’s filled in as an outside corner in the nickel due to injuries while Jackson has yet to play a defensive snap as he enters his third season.

Pees and secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo prefer to slide Webb inside in the nickel package where his ability to play the run and blitz can be better utilized, and Brown is better suited to play outside, but the 2011 fifth-round pick consistently struggles to find the football in coverage. Meanwhile, Jackson is more of an inside corner with a height listed at 5-foot-10.

“That’s something that I went into this latest break trying to really work on and really working on my technique on the outside,” Jackson told AM 1570 WNST.net last week. “Being a smaller guy, it gets a little hairy out there sometimes, but I’ve put in a lot of good work this offseason. I’m excited to keep trying to improve and play on the outside.”

The Ravens have experimented with a variety of different looks including moving strong safety Matt Elam to the nickel spot, but it’s fair to wonder whether the defense’s No. 3 cornerback isn’t currently on the roster. General manager Ozzie Newsome has found contributors who have become available at the end of the preseason in the past, but there’s no guarantee a quality cornerback will shake free with the pass-happy nature of the league and the premium placed on coverage.

Newsome spoke highly of Brown and Jackson throughout the offseason, but the inability to add an impact cornerback this offseason is even more concerning with the absence of Webb.

“We may do some things that I may not normally do in a game just to put those guys out there and see what they can do,” Pees said. “This is the time to experiment and see if they can do it — not when the season starts.”

Of course, the Ravens are expressing confidence that Webb will be ready to go by the end of the summer, but they’ll need to find a comfort level with their No. 3 cornerback before they can even begin thinking about how to align the defense should Webb’s absence linger into the regular season.

It’s not a comfortable place to be with a group of unproven and unheralded cornerbacks competing for what has essentially become a starting position in the NFL. And that discomfort becomes a nightmare if the Ravens aren’t being completely transparent about Webb’s injured back.

For now, Harbaugh and his coaching staff can only hope one of the young cornerbacks answers the bell while Newsome keeps his eyes peeled for what might become available through trade or free agency.

“There is a lot of competition out here for that third spot,” Jackson said. “I think we’re all kind of raising each other’s level of play. Hopefully, we can keep doing that and then once the games get here, it’ll sort out how it will.”

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Early observations from 2014 Ravens training camp

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Early observations from 2014 Ravens training camp

Posted on 27 July 2014 by Luke Jones

With 2014 training camp officially underway and the Ravens attempting to bounce back from their first non-playoff season of the John Harbaugh era, there are a number of early (too early?) takeaways from the practice field in Owings Mills.

1. Steve Smith has looked like an elite player.

It’s fair to express doubts over a 35-year-old wide receiver whose yards per catch average has dropped in three consecutive years, but Smith has been as good as advertised going back to organized team activities in the spring, catching everything in sight and regularly beating cornerbacks during practices. On Saturday, he made an excellent catch on a deep ball defended by Chykie Brown and later made an impressive adjustment on a pass thrown behind him on a slant pattern. Of course, it’s important not to get carried away with how anyone performs in July, but if Smith can be that reliable target to help move the chains and provide a safety net for quarterback Joe Flacco, the investment in the 14th-year receiver will be well worth it.

2. The No. 3 cornerback for the 2014 Ravens may not yet be on the roster.

The organization spent plenty of time this offseason talking up the potential of Brown and Asa Jackson, but it’s difficult to find anyone on the field in which defensive coordinator Dean Pees would have confidence using in the nickel package along with Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb. Brown has bit on play-action fakes and has struggled to find the ball when he is in position while Jackson — who is an inside defender in the nickel package — has also been beaten deep on a couple occasions. To make matters worse, Dominique Franks still hasn’t passed his conditioning test after fellow veteran newcomer Aaron Ross tore his Achilles tendon taking the same test. The Ravens would prefer to use Webb inside in the nickel, but there have been no signs of anyone currently on the roster being capable of handling duties as the third cornerback.

3. Left guard Kelechi Osemele is moving well and is the biggest key for the offensive line.

The third-year lineman has moved well early in camp and will be the key in determining how effective the interior offensive line can be in 2014 after it was undersized and ineffective last season. It’s still too early to gauge whether his surgically-repaired back will be in issue, but Osemele delivered an impressive block 10 yards downfield that sent safety Darian Stewart to the ground on Saturday afternoon, a telling example of the improved mobility he simply didn’t have early last year. If the Ravens can be strong inside with Osemele and Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda flanking new center Jeremy Zuttah, it will alleviate much of the pressure on Rick Wagner or whoever mans the right tackle position.

4. Veteran newcomer Darian Stewart has impressed and is the early favorite to start at free safety.

His unfortunate encounter with Osemele aside, Stewart has displayed good athleticism at the safety position and looks to be the favorite to line up next to Matt Elam in the starting defense. The former St. Louis Rams safety is versatile with the ability to line up closer to the line of scrimmage or to play the more traditional free position, and Pees has said on a number of occasions that he’s looking to mirror his safeties more than just having a traditional strong and free one. Rookie Terrence Brooks will need to make significant strides between now and the start of the season as he appears to be thinking too much when lined up on the field and has worked primarily with the third-string defense to this early point. Secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo is familiar with Stewart going back to their days in St. Louis, so the Ravens hope they’ve found another value signing like they did with Corey Graham a couple years ago.

5. New offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak loves to move his skill players around in formations.

The Ravens are sure to experience growing pains implementing their new offensive system, but Kubiak has experimented plenty with his skill players to find strengths and weakness as well as potentially exploit vulnerabilities in a defense in a given matchup. His creative use of tight ends is a well-documented characteristic of his West Coast system, but it will be fun to watch how he uses fullback Kyle Juszczyk and big wide receiver Marlon Brown in addition to Dennis Pitta and Owen Daniels this season. Ultimately, offensive success in the NFL comes down to winning 1-on-1 matchups no matter how clever your schemes might be, but pre-snap movement has been a regular feature of what we’ve seen so far in Owings Mills.

6. Linebacker Courtney Upshaw looks too heavy for the third straight preseason.

Coach John Harbaugh was more complimentary of Upshaw’s conditioning in the spring, but the third-year linebacker looks bigger at the start of training camp than he did during OTAs, continuing a theme of the 2012 second-round pick not taking the best care of his body. In fairness to Upshaw, he hasn’t noticeably labored during his first few practices, but temperatures have also been favorable thus far. He has been solid in his first couple seasons and has flashed potential to be better than that, but it’s just difficult to project a player to improve when he spends too much time playing catchup with his weight every summer. The early expectation is that Upshaw will once again split time with Elvis Dumervil at the strongside outside linebacker position.

7. Rookie defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan has a rare combination of strength and quickness that’s fun to watch.

More attention has been paid to first-round linebacker C.J. Mosley, but Jernigan is becoming an early favorite of Pees as he’s been very active and has shown plenty of power in the trenches early in camp. Brandon Williams is the favorite to line up as the starting nose tackle, but there’s no reason Jernigan won’t be a regular member in the rotation, and his play could be a deciding factor in how the Ravens handle the final year of Haloti Ngata’s contract after the season. Pees quipped on Saturday that Jernigan doesn’t always follow his assignment, but he’ll make a big play anyway, which is pretty high praise for a rookie defensive lineman just a few days into his first training camp.

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Ravens CB Jackson confident after team did not address position this off season

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Ravens CB Jackson confident after team did not address position this off season

Posted on 07 June 2014 by WNST Audio

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Cornerback Graham signs four-year contract with Buffalo

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Cornerback Graham signs four-year contract with Buffalo

Posted on 12 March 2014 by Luke Jones

While the Ravens were able to re-sign wide receiver Jacoby Jones earlier in the day, cornerback Corey Graham agreed to a four-year contract with the Buffalo Bills on Wednesday.

According to CBS Sports, the deal is worth $16 million and could rise to $19 million with playing-time incentives as Graham was looking for more money and playing time than the Ravens would provide. A Buffalo, N.Y. native, Graham came to Baltimore known primarily as a special-teams player and emerged as a starting cornerback for the Super Bowl XLVII championship team after injuries forced him into a significant role.

The 28-year-old grabbed six interceptions and made 134 tackles in 32 regular-season games for the Ravens after signing a two-year, $3.95 million contract in 2012. His biggest claim to fame came in the 2012 divisional round when he twice picked off Denver quarterback Peyton Manning, returning one for a touchdown and securing a second to set up the Ravens on a short field in overtime that eventually led to the game-winning field goal.

After struggling in the season-opening loss to the Broncos last season, Graham was replaced by Jimmy Smith as a starter and served as the No. 3 corner for the remainder of the year. His departure leaves Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson in a competition for the third spot in the nickel package, but the Ravens are likely to add another cornerback via free agency or the draft to bolster their depth.

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Arthur Jones still absent from practice field for Ravens

Posted on 26 December 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Returning to the practice field after a day off to celebrate Christmas, the Ravens were once again without one of their key defensive linemen as Arthur Jones was absent during Thursday’s workout.

The defensive tackle sustained a concussion in the fourth quarter of last Sunday’s 41-7 loss to New England. It’s worth noting that Jones missed two games in the 2011 season because of a concussion as he goes through the league’s mandated protocol this week.

Jones has arguably been Baltimore’s best defensive lineman this year as he’s collected four sacks and 52 tackles in 14 games. He would likely be replaced by second-year lineman DeAngelo Tyson in the starting lineup should he not be cleared in time for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Cornerback Asa Jackson (hamstring) was the only other player absent during the portion of practice open to media on Thursday.

Despite being listed as a non-participant on Wednesday’s estimated injury report, center Gino Gradkowski (knee) was present and working on a limited basis a day later. Running back Ray Rice (thigh), wide receiver Torrey Smith (hamstring), and linebackers Elvis Dumervil (ankle) and Albert McClellan (neck) were all practicing after being listed as limited on Wednesday’s estimated report.

Rice confirmed on Thursday that his quadriceps issue is not related to the early-season hip injury that’s plagued him for most of the season. He was not on the field Tuesday when the Ravens practiced prior to being off for the holiday.

“Tuesday was a great rest day [for] recovery,” Rice said. “Coach [John Harbaugh] is doing his best to try to take care of us. For me, having a long year, I needed the rest. It definitely felt good getting back out there today with the guys and getting up to speed. I didn’t miss much in terms of being in meetings and everything, but it’s nothing like getting a live rep out there.”

McClellan was upgraded to full participation after missing last Sunday’s game due to a neck injury.

Quarterback Joe Flacco (left knee) was present and working after not being included on the injury report. However, he will once again wear a knee brace.

For the Bengals, four starters were missing from Thursday’s practice as tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert, linebacker Vontaze Burfict, and cornerback Terence Newman were all sidelined.

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Asa Jackson (thigh), DT Arthur Jones (concussion)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB Elvis Dumervil (ankle), C Gino Gradkowski (knee), RB Ray Rice (thigh), WR Torrey Smith (thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Albert McClellan (neck),

CINCINNATI
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Vontaze Burfict (concussion), TE Tyler Eifert (neck), TE Jermaine Gresham (hamstring), CB Terence Newman (knee), DT Devon Still (back)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Dre Kirkpatrick (ankle), LB Vincent Rey (ankle), TE Alex Smith (concussion), OT Andre Smith (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB James Harrison (concussion)

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Dumervil on mend as Ravens set sights toward Detroit

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Dumervil on mend as Ravens set sights toward Detroit

Posted on 09 December 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILL, Md. — The Ravens escaped their win over the Minnesota Vikings without an extensive injury list, but veteran wide receiver Brandon Stokley joins linebacker Elvis Dumervil as question marks for next Monday’s game in Detroit.

Stokley left the game with a concussion in a fourth quarter that featured an astonishing 42 points scored between the two teams. It is believed that he was injured catching a 2-yard pass on third down that set the Ravens up for the fourth-and-1 play in which fullback Vonta Leach was stuffed for no gain at the Minnesota 21 with 10:36 remaining.

The 37-year-old wideout missed seven games earlier this season while nursing a groin injury but returned to play in the last three games, catching four passes for 36 yards. Stokley has dealt with at least 14 concussions in his football career dating back to his high school days, which could complicate how quickly he’s able to return to the field.

“He’ll go through the concussion protocol,” coach John Harbaugh said during his Monday press conference. “We’ll have to see how that shakes out. Unfortunately, he’s had a number of those in his career, so that could be problematic for us. We’ll have to see in the next 24 hours or so.”

Dumervil missed his first game of the season against Minnesota after he was unable to recover from a left ankle sprain suffered against Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving night. The pass-rush specialist returned to play in that key AFC North game, leaving the Ravens optimistic that he’d be able to play against the Vikings.

However, his progress was slower than expected last week and the snowy conditions at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday likely made the Ravens’ decision to deactivate him even easier. The Baltimore defense has failed to collect a sack in each of the last two games, which is a disturbing trend with meetings against Detroit’s Matthew Stafford and New England’s Tom Brady coming up in the next two weeks.

“I think Elvis has a chance for next week,” Harbaugh said. “He looks pretty good [Monday]. It’s kind of a bruise in his ankle, so we’ll just have to see where he’s at. I was hopeful for him this week, so I’ll be more hopeful for him next week.”

By all accounts, tight end Dennis Pitta made it through Sunday’s game feeling no ill effects after returning to action for the first time since dislocating and fracturing his hip on July 27. Pitta finished with six catches for 48 yards and reined in a 1-yard touchdown pass with 2:05 remaining in the game.

The Ravens were so confident in Pitta’s ability to play extensively against Minnesota that they listed veteran Dallas Clark as inactive, but Harbaugh said the 34-year-old still fits into the team’s plans moving forward. Clark’s limited ability as a blocker and his lack of a special-teams role make him a difficult player to include among the 46 active players on game days, especially if the Ravens plan to emphasize the running game in a given matchup.

“Dallas is going to be a big part of what we’re doing going forward,” Harbaugh said. “It just depends on the game plan and how the offensive coaches decide to put that together.”

Pass rush MIA

Masked in the euphoria of Sunday’s miraculous 29-26 win over Minnesota was the fourth-quarter struggles of the defense and its inability to collect a sack for a second straight week after 19 straight contests with at least two.

Harbaugh expressed concern over his defense’s inability to finish games strongly, but he didn’t seem as concerned with the pass rush, citing the ability of Minneseota quarterback Matt Cassel and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger a week earlier to get the ball out quickly. Of course, the snowy conditions Sunday left a few inches of snow on the field, which also impacted the rush in a way similar to the sloppy conditions in Chicago last month.

“I don’t think it’s a product of what people are doing differently. They’re getting the ball out pretty quick,” Harbaugh said. “There haven’t been a lot of downfield-route-type things. We had some maximum protection yesterday, two backs, and those kinds of things where they try to throw it down the field. They were mostly throwing fades or they threw seams over the middle. Those balls come out pretty quick. Field conditions were a factor … more than anything else.”

The absence of Dumveril left more pass-rushing situations for second-year linebacker Courtney Upshaw on Sunday and fellow outside linebacker Terrell Suggs extended his streak of games without a sack to five. Suggs earned at least one sack in seven of the first eight games of the 2013 season but hasn’t collected one since.

Flacco gets taste of own medicine

CONTINUE ON NEXT PAGE >>>>>

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Dumervil doubtful to play against Vikings on Sunday

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Dumervil doubtful to play against Vikings on Sunday

Posted on 06 December 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The status of outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil and tight end Dennis Pitta will remain a mystery into the weekend as the Ravens make final preparations for Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Dumervil’s status appears bleaker, however, after he was listed as doubtful on the final injury report of the week and missed his third straight day of practice on Friday. The rush specialist was deemed a game-time decision by coach John Harbaugh, who added that the veteran linebacker missing an entire week of practice wouldn’t prevent him from playing if he improved over the weekend.

Dumervil injured his left ankle late in the first half of the Thanksgiving win over the Pittsburgh Steelers but returned early in the third quarter to finish the game. Harbaugh said Monday that the Ravens would likely have to “nurse some things” when asked about Dumervil, but he also added that he expected all players banged up in the Pittsburgh game to be able to play Sunday against Minnesota.

“Earlier in the week, we felt like he was going to make it,” Harbaugh said after Friday’s practice. “He’s not a guy who has to practice to play. If he goes out there and feels like he can go, he will. If he doesn’t, he won’t.”

Dumervil leads the Ravens with 9 1/2 sacks and hasn’t missed a game since sitting out two with the Denver Broncos during the 2011 season.

Harbaugh would not disclose Friday whether Pitta would be making his 2013 season debut against the Vikings, but all signs point to that being the case after Pitta took part in full practices this week. The Ravens have brought him along slowly and have resisted the urge to push Pitta too fast as he works his way back from a serious hip injury suffered in late July.

“It felt good all week,” said Pitta, who added that the decision to play is ultimately up to him and how he feels. “It’s nice to get back in and go through full practices and stuff. We’ll see.”

With a wintry mix in the forecast for Sunday’s game against the Vikings, Harbaugh acknowledged the weather could be a factor in determining whether Pitta plays if the footing on the M&T Bank Stadium turf would be treacherous due to snow or sleet.

The Ravens will have until 4 p.m. on Saturday to move Pitta to the 53-man roster for him to be eligible to play against the Vikings. The expectation is that Pitta would play a limited number of snaps in his return to game action, but he was not listed on the final injury report since he was not on the 53-man roster as of Friday afternoon.

“It’s going to be how he gets through the week, how the doctors still have to look at it and make sure he’s going to be sound,” Harbaugh said.  “If they feel good about it, then he should be OK. He’s got a reasonable chance. We just have to see.”

The Ravens listed defensive end Chris Canty, cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Asa Jackson, and wide receiver Brandon Stokley as questionable after each player worked on a limited basis in practices this week. Canty and Webb are expected to take their normal places in the starting defense.

Rookie safety Brynden Trawick remains sidelined with an ankle injury and was officially ruled out. Trawick figures to be a likely candidate to be placed on injured reserve to clear a roster spot for Pitta.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith is probable after he completed the concussion protocol and was cleared earlier in the week.

Meanwhile, the Vikings ruled out quarterback Christian Ponder, tight end Kyle Rudolph, and cornerback Josh Robinson. Ponder hasn’t been cleared from the concussion he suffered against Chicago last Sunday, meaning backup Matt Cassel will start against the Ravens.

All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson is questionable with a groin injury, but he practiced on a limited basis Friday and is fully expected to play.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Pete Morelli.

Sunday’s forecast calls for temperatures to be in the low 30s with an 80 percent chance of snow.

Here is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: S Brynden Trawick (ankle)
DOUBTFUL: LB Elvis Dumervil (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: DE Chris Canty (shoulder), CB Asa Jackson (thigh), WR Brandon Stokley (knee), CB Lardarius Webb (abs)
PROBABLE: CB Jimmy Smith (concussion)

MINNESOTA
OUT: QB Christian Ponder (concussion), CB Josh Robinson (chest), TE Kyle Rudolph (foot)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Larry Dean (knee), RB Adrian Peterson (groin), S Jamarca Sanford (ankle)
PROBABLE: DE Jared Allen (finger), RB Matt Asiata (shoulder), DT Fred Evans (knee), DT Sharif Floyd (illness), LB Chad Greenway (wrist), DE Everson Griffen (toe), S Andrew Sendejo (toe)

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