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Reed holding together battered, youthful Ravens secondary

Posted on 14 October 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens entered the 2011 season with greater depth at cornerback than at any point in recent memory.

Then, they began dropping like flies.

Jimmy Smith and Chris Carr went down in the regular-season opener, neither one of them currently healthy a month later. Domonique Foxworth was placed on injured reserve after his surgically-repaired knee would not cooperate in getting the former starter back on the field.

As a result, Cary Williams and Lardarius Webb — and the four career starts between them entering 2011 — have held down the starting cornerback positions through the quarter pole of the season. And, surprisingly, the Ravens are tied for eighth in pass defense.

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Much credit goes to an improved Baltimore pass rush and a more aggressive approach from new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, but the Ravens can also be thankful for their future Hall of Fame safety and the leadership he’s provided in an otherwise youthful secondary.

A chronic nerve impingement in his neck and shoulder and a hip injury have severely hampered Ed Reed over the last three seasons, but the All-Pro playmaker appears healthier this season after participating in most training camp practices — Reed missed all of training camp and the first six games recovering from hip surgery last season on the physically unable to perform list — and playing a more physical style of football through the season’s first four games.

“Ed’s been really healthy,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He looks great physically. You look at him, he really is in great shape. He’s bulked up a little bit from previous years.”

Reed’s safety blitz on the Ravens’ first defensive play against the Jets two weeks ago led to a sack, fumble, and Jameel McClain’s recovery for a touchdown. It set the tone for 60 minutes of defensive dominance in which Baltimore battered New York quarterback Mark Sanchez and forced four turnovers, leading to a franchise-record three defensive touchdowns in the 34-17 win.

Even without their first-round pick in Smith and Carr’s versatility, the Ravens have received solid play from Williams and Webb, who have benefited from the tutelage of Reed and his 10 years of NFL experience in which he’s made seven Pro Bowls, been named to seven All-Pro teams, and was deemed the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2004.

It’s the kind of résumé that makes it impossible not to listen intently when Reed speaks.

“When he sees something [with the opposing offense], you know because he’s made plays like that before,” Williams said. “With his wisdom, it’s much easier for us to get out there and just make plays and fly around.”

With inexperienced cornerbacks already adjusting to a new defensive coordinator, Reed’s knowledge is invaluable, both during practice and in the heat of battle on Sundays.

“He holds us together back there,” Harbaugh said. “We had a play out here [Friday] where we were in a certain coverage and we had young corners out there with him, and they didn’t really know where to go. Ed changed everything in a split second and made everything work. That’s what a guy like that can do for you.”

For a player like Williams, a seventh-round pick of the Tennessee Titans in 2008 out of Washburn University, the opportunity to work with Reed has enabled him to transition from a fringe member of the 53-man roster to a starter on the league’s third-ranked defense.

“He’s been through everything,” Williams said. “He’s seen a lot of formations. His leadership, just from being a playmaker. He teaches you how to be a pro, both on and off the field. He’s a great leader. He doesn’t get in trouble off the field, and it’s somebody that you want to follow. And, the way he uses his tone, he’s easy to talk to.”

With Reed now 33 years old and approaching the end of his playing days — due to health concerns instead of his overall play — his yearning for a championship is more desperate than ever, knowing this season could be his best last chance to finally lift the Vince Lombardi trophy before calling it a career.

His 17 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, and two interceptions, however, don’t reflect someone so close to retirement.

Reed’s presence has been the glue of a depleted secondary and a major factor why the Ravens have 14 takeaways, second in the AFC.

“It’s just a credit to our guys –- everybody being professional,” Reed said. “The offseason was such a short offseason and buying into what we’re doing around here as an organization. So, that helps, when you’ve got professionals working hard and making plays.”

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Live from Owings Mills: Grubbs, Evans sidelined again after one-day return to practice

Posted on 13 October 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — If Wednesday’s injury report was an encouraging shot in the arm as the banged-up Ravens officially turned their sights toward the Houston Texans, Thursday might feel like a swift kick to the gut.

After returning to practice on a limited basis a day earlier, wide receiver Lee Evans (ankle) and left guard Ben Grubbs (toe) were not practicing during the portion of practice open to the media on Thursday, point the needle in the wrong direction in terms of their status for Sunday. Grubbs was on the field without a helmet as he watched his fellow offensive linemen participate in positional drills while Evans was not present during the first 30 minutes of practice.

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Safety Tom Zbikowski (concussion) was also missing during the open portion of the workout after practicing on a limited basis on Wednesday. The fourth-year safety had not been cleared of contact as of Wednesday and experienced concussion-related symptoms during the bye week.

Evans, Grubbs, and Zbikowski joined cornerbacks Chris Carr (hamstring) and Jimmy Smith (ankle) as the five players not participating during the open portion of Wednesday’s workout. For the second straight day, Smith was on the field in street clothes, but the rookie was only walking.

Running back Anthony Allen (thigh), linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring), safety Haruki Nakamura (knee), and return specialist David Reed were all present and working during the open portion of practice after being listed as limited participants on Wednesday’s injury report.

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Live from Owings Mills: Six injured Ravens return to practice

Posted on 12 October 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After John Harbaugh’s Monday press conference cast doubt on the status of the eight injured Ravens players entering the bye week, Wednesday afternoon’s practice might lift spirits as six of the wounded returned to the practice field.

The most notable returns were wide receiver Lee Evans (ankle) and left guard Ben Grubbs (toe), but the two offensive starters were joined by safeties Tom Zbikowski (concussion) and Haruki Nakamura (knee), return specialist David Reed (shoulder), and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring) as participants during the portion of practice open to the media.

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Cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (ankle) and Chris Carr (hamstring) were not practicing during the open portion. However, Smith was dressed in street clothes and only walking across the width of the side field. It wasn’t a level of activity indicative of a player close to returning to the field.

Carr was not present and indicated in the locker room that he would only return to the field at 100 percent after experiencing a setback on the Thursday leading up to the Jets game.

Evans and Grubbs had reportedly practiced on Monday — a workout closed to the media — and were dressed in full gear for Wednesday’s workout. Grubbs has not played in a game since the season-opening win over Pittsburgh while Evans hasn’t practice or played since the Week 2 loss in Tennessee.

Zbikowski has yet to be cleared for contact after sustaining a concussion in the Week 4 win over the Jets, but the safety was dressed to practice and working out individually on the sideline. Nakamura took part in kickoff and punt team drills during the special teams portion of practice, a strong indication that the Ravens hope he’s able to return to the field against the Houston Texans.

Ellerbe, a strong special teams player, was not participating in any special teams drills and was working on his own despite being dressed to practice.

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Injured players continue to heal with Ravens’ bye week history

Posted on 10 October 2011 by Luke Jones

With eight players shelved with injuries as the Ravens entered their Week 5 bye, the early-season respite was viewed as the perfect elixir to build upon a 3-1 start and an early lead in the AFC North.

However, after coach John Harbaugh expressed optimism last week that the Ravens would have their full regiment of players available against the Houston Texans on Sunday, the early post-bye prognosis had mixed results following Monday’s practice. The week’s first official injury report will not be released until Wednesday afternoon, but the biggest headline was the revelation that rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith would likely miss his fourth straight game while recovering from a high ankle sprain.

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The status of others, including starting left guard Ben Grubbs (toe) and starting wide receiver Lee Evans (ankle), remains in question. Grubbs and Evans reportedly practiced on Monday, but both players must wait to see how their bodies respond after long layoffs. Grubbs practiced on a limited basis on the Thursday prior to the Jets game in his only work since the Ravens’ season-opening win over Pittsburgh. Evans has not practiced or played since the Week 2 loss to the Titans.

“I haven’t really gotten anything definitive,” said Harbaugh in assessing the overall health picture. “And, as a coach, you hope for something on Monday that would be somewhat definitive, and there’s nothing there. So, we’re in a wait-and-see mode. Probably won’t give away much anyway as the week goes on, but as of right now, I don’t know who’s going to be back. A couple of guys practiced, a couple of guys didn’t. We’ll just have to see where we’re at.”

The Ravens also hope to see the returns of cornerback Chris Carr (hamstring), safety Haruki Nakamura (knee), linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring), return specialist David Reed (shoulder), and safety Tom Zbikowski (concussion). Nakamura and Reed did some work during Monday’s practice, but Zbikowski’s status remains a concern after sustaining a concussion in the 34-17 victory over the New York Jets on Oct. 2.

“I would like to be able to have an answer [on Zbikowski] for you, not that I would necessarily tell you, but with concussions, I have no idea,” Harbaugh said. “Until the doctor says he is cleared, you just go, ‘OK, see you when you are cleared.’ He has not been cleared yet.”

It’s unknown whether Carr or Ellerbe practiced on Monday, as neither were available for comment following practice.

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Live from Owings Mills: Grubbs absent on Friday, putting status against Jets in doubt

Posted on 30 September 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The optimism stirred by Ben Grubbs’ return to the Ravens’ practice field on Thursday appears to have dissipated a day later as the left guard was absent from the portion of practice open to the media.

After practicing on a limited basis, Grubbs was not on the field with the rest of the offensive line as veteran Andre Gurode once again assumed his duties at left guard. Grubbs has not played since the Ravens’ Week 1 win over Pittsburgh on Sept. 11 as he recovers from a right toe injury.

Wide receiver Lee Evans (ankle), linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring), return specialist David Reed (shoulder), cornerback Jimmy Smith (ankle), and safety Haruki Nakamura (knee) were not seen during the portion of practice open to media.

It’s appearing more unlikely that the Ravens will have Grubbs and Evans available against the New York Jets on Sunday night, once again pushing Gurode and rookie Torrey Smith into starting roles.

Referee Mike Carey and his officiating crew will call Sunday night’s game being televised on NBC. Carey served as the referee in the Ravens’ infamous 21-penalty fiasco against the Detroit Lions in 2005, a game in which linebacker Terrell Suggs was ejected for showing “malice in his heart” toward the referee in what exchange.

The Ravens also had special visitors to Friday’s practice as UFC fighters Urijah Faber and Danny Castillo attended the workout. Light heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones will be attending Sunday’s game. Jones is the younger brother of defensive tackle Arthur Jones.

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Live from Owings Mills: Grubbs returns to practice for first time since Steelers game

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Live from Owings Mills: Grubbs returns to practice for first time since Steelers game

Posted on 29 September 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Despite revealing he’s only begun jogging over the last couple days, left guard Ben Grubbs returned to the practice field on Thursday for the first time since the Ravens’ 35-7 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the season opener on Sept. 11.

Grubbs missed the last two games with a right toe injury but was doing individual work and firing out of his three-point stance with the rest of the starting offensive line during the portion of practice open to the media. The fifth-year veteran said earlier in the day he would be a game-time decision and is still experiencing discomfort in the toe.

Center Matt Birk (knee) and defensive end Cory Redding also returned to practice after not participating on Wednesday. Both players were on the injury report last week before playing against the St. Louis Rams in Week 3.

Five players were not working for the second straight day during the open portion of practice on Thursday, including wide receiver Lee Evans (ankle), linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring), return specialist David Reed (shoulder), safety Haruki Nakamura (knee), and cornerback Jimmy Smith (ankle).

Smith’s left foot is finally out of the walking boot he’s worn since sustaining a high ankle sprain while covering a kickoff early in the first quarter against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11. The rookie says the ankle is “getting better” and is beginning to do some light jogging. Smith also revealed it’s the first real injury he’s suffered playing sports in his life. He hopes to return after the bye in the game against the Houston Texans on Oct. 16, but it’s unclear whether the first-round pick will be ready to play by then.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from Matt Birk, Chris Carr, Billy Cundiff, Jarret Johnson, Chuck Pagano, Cam Cameron, and Jerry Rosburg right here.

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Evans, Grubbs, six other Ravens on Wednesday's injury report

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Evans, Grubbs, six other Ravens on Wednesday’s injury report

Posted on 28 September 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After deciding to place cornerback Domonique Foxworth on injured reserve earlier in the day, the Ravens saw eight more players missing from Wednesday’s practice as they begin preparations for the New York Jets on Sunday night.

Wide receiver Lee Evans and left guard Ben Grubbs headline the list after both missed Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Rams. Evans continues to rest the sore left ankle that’s given him problems since the aftermath of the third preseason game against Washington in August. He told reporters he will likely be a game-time decision, but also admitted the coaching staff will make the decision whether he plays.

“We’re just trying to do what’s best all the way around,” Evans said. “So, we’ll have to see. Right now, it does feel better having a little rest on it, so it’s progress.”

Grubbs appears to be unlikely to play and would miss his third straight game with an injured right toe. The swelling has decreased, but the fifth-year lineman has barely begun jogging and still feels pain in the toe.

With the Ravens having their bye in Week 5, could they elect to be more conservative than usual with Grubbs and Evans, potentially earning two extra weeks of recovery time?

“It’s probably a factor,” coach John Harbaugh said. “If you feel like you can’t be 100 percent in this game and if you have another answer in there, that’s a consideration. It will just depend, as the week goes on, again, how close they are to being 100 percent. But, I think the extra week of rest after this week is a factor.”

Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe also missed practice and is considered day-to-day through the week and could be a game-time decision. He left Sunday’s game against St. Louis with a hamstring injury and did not return.

Center Matt Birk and defensive end Cory Redding appeared to be receiving a day off with both players dealing with nagging injuries. Neither player practiced last Wednesday in preparation for the Rams.

Safety Haruki Nakamura joins cornerback Jimmy Smith and wide receiver David Reed as players who will not play on Sunday night. Nakamura has a partially torn PCL, but the safety expressed hope on Wednesday that he’ll return immediately after the bye week when the Ravens host the Houston Texans on Oct. 16.

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE – G Ben Grubbs (toe), WR Lee Evans (ankle), DE Cory Redding (toe), C Matt Birk (knee), LB Dannell Ellerbe (thigh), S Haruki Nakamura (knee), WR David Reed, CB Jimmy Smith (ankle)
LIMITED – NONE

NEW YORK
OUT – WR Logan Payne (wrist)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE – CB Antonio Cromartie (ribs), C Nick Mangold (ankle)
LIMITED – LB David Harris (toe), DL Muhammad Wilkerson (shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPANT – DL Mike DeVito (shoulder), WR Santonio Holmes (shoulder)

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Ravens safety Nakamura to miss “month or so” with PCL injury

Posted on 26 September 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Nearly everything went right for the Baltimore Ravens in their 37-7 demolition of the St. Louis Rams on Sunday except for another blow to an already-depleted secondary.

Backup safety Haruki Nakamura injured the PCL in his right knee during the first quarter of action in St. Louis and did not return. Results of an MRI were not available when head coach John Harbaugh addressed the media on Monday afternoon, but the team is optimistic about the versatile defensive back’s prognosis.

“It looks promising in terms of him being able to come back [in] maybe a month or so,” Harbaugh said.

The Ravens will discuss the possibility of adding another safety, but Harbaugh mentioned the versatility of cornerback Chris Carr as well as starting corner Lardarius Webb, who are both capable of playing safety. Nakamura has been an invaluable member of the secondary with Carr, Jimmy Smith, and Domonique Foxworth battling injuries at the start of the season. The fourth-year safety has played as the nickel on a number of occasions when a fifth defensive back comes on the field in passing situations.

Harbaugh was unsure of the status of Foxworth and wide receiver Lee Evans for this week’s game against the Jets. Foxworth was inactive despite practicing all week as he continues to work his knee back to full health while Evans was ruled out for Sunday’s game with a lingering ankle injury.

“We’ll just have to see how it goes this week and see where they’re at,” Harbaugh said. “[We’ll] probably watch and see if they can practice or not. If they go out and practice, how does it respond the next day? We’ll just have to see.”

Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe left Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury and is considered day to day, and the team will see how he fares this week before making a decision on his status for the Jets.

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Cameron, Pagano mum on Ravens’ key position battles

Posted on 22 August 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the Ravens’ ever-important third preseason game coming up on Thursday, a number of key position battles still appear wide open, accompanied with varying degrees of concern as the regular season inches closer.

No competition has garnered more attention during camp than the right tackle position with rookie Jah Reid clearly gaining the early advantage over fourth-year lineman Oniel Cousins before the Ravens shifted the latter to guard last week. Though Reid held up well against Kansas City on Friday night, the Ravens signed veteran tackle Mark LeVoir on Saturday to give the 6-foot-7 rookie some competition and to boost depth on the offensive line.

Surprisingly, LeVoir took most of the reps with the first team on Monday while Reid worked with the second offense. LeVoir made two starts in 2008 and played in 32 games in his three seasons with the New England Patriots.

Whether LeVoir supplants Reid as the leader for the starting position or Reid uses the veteran’s arrival as extra motivation, right tackle will undoubtedly remain an area of concern regardless of who’s lining up against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11.

“I don’t know if it’s narrowed down to any point,” offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. “We’re still evaluating everybody. This is a big game. Ultimately, we’ll go with our best five. We’ll see how that factors in. I wouldn’t say it’s this guy or that guy at this point. We all know Marshal’s played out there. We all know there’s other possibilities. What I will say though is I like what I see.”

On the defensive side of the ball, far healthier competition exists at multiple positions as opposed to the slim-pickings feel of the right tackle position.

Cornerback might be the most interesting battle of all with as many as five players fitting into the starting discussion. Many would have guessed rookie Jimmy Smith would be in the competition after a decorated career at Colorado made him the 27th overall pick, but the emergence of third-year cornerback Cary Williams has surprised even his biggest supporters.

With Domonique Foxworth still working his surgically-repaired knee back to full strength and Chris Carr hampered by a hamstring injury, Williams started against the Chiefs and responded with three pass breakups but did surrender a 4-yard touchdown catch to Terrance Copper right before halftime.

“We’ve got great competition going on,” defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. “We feel like they’re all doing what they’re supposed to do. We got guys in position to make some plays out there. We’ve got some guys making some, we’ve got some guys not finishing some plays — they’re right there.”

Smith drew the task of matching up against Pro Bowl receiver Dwayne Bowe and struggled to find the football despite respectable coverage in most cases. Interestingly enough, Foxworth took Smith’s spot with the first defense over the last two practices while the rookie worked primarily with the second team. The 6-foot-1 Williams remained with the first defense.

Is it a wake-up call for Smith or simply an opportunity to work Foxworth back into the starting lineup?

“Jimmy was in great position early in that ballgame,” Pagano said. “It was good for him to get some live action like that. The speed of the game is one thing that a guy like that comes from college and he’s not used to that and all of a sudden the ball’s on him, where they wouldn’t even dare throw it in college. That’s good to see.”

Regardless of who ends up lining up against Hines Ward and Mike Wallace at M&T Bank Stadium in a few weeks, the Ravens may have their deepest group of corners in quite some time with Smith, Foxworth, Williams, Carr, and Lardarius Webb all seeing time with the first team during training camp.

“The great thing is we have five guys that we trust, and there’s some other young guys that are doing a great job,” Pagano said. “[I] feel good about it.”

The annual competition at the inside linebacker spot next to Ray Lewis has provided little clarity as Jameel McClain and Dannell Ellerbe continue to battle for the starting job. McClain holds the edge in experience after starting 15 games last season, but Ellerbe’s immense potential leaves the Ravens encouraged, if not frustrated.

Ellerbe’s work ethic and maturity have come into question at different points during his brief two-year career despite having the edge in overall talent compared to McClain and Tavares Gooden in years past. However, Pagano sees maturity in the former Georgia linebacker, who started in place of Lewis on Friday as the veteran was excused from the team to deal with a serious family illness. Ellerbe responded with three tackles and a combined sack with Webb.

“Him and [McClain] are both starters in my mind, and they’re pushing each other,” Pagano said. “Whoever ends up starting opposite of Ray is going to do a great job. Dannell has — like a lot of the other young guys like Paul and some of these guys — really matured. You can see him just starting to shine [in] his confidence. He’s big, he’s physical, he’s fast, he can run, he can cover, he can do a lot of things. I feel really good about him.”

And perhaps the safest competition is taking place at the strong safety position with Bernard Pollard, Tom Zbikowski, and Haruki Nakamura all viable candidates. Zbikowski held the early lead during camp, but the addition of the hard-hitting Pollard has opened things up, with most thinking the former Houston Texan has the upper hand.

For now, Pagano is simply observing like the rest of us, wondering how the starting lineup will evolve in less than three weeks. One thing is certain: he likes what he sees on all accounts.

“It’s all going to shake itself out.”

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Live from Owings Mills: Heap a game-time decision as Ravens eye playoff spot

Posted on 24 December 2010 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. –With a festive mood surrounding the training complex at 1 Winning Drive, the Ravens were making final preparations for Sunday’s showdown in Cleveland.

Despite the Pittsburgh Steelers maintaining control of the AFC North with a convincing victory over Carolina Thursday, the Ravens will clinch their third straight playoff berth with a victory over the 5-9 Browns, losers of four of their last six.

Tight end Todd Heap practiced for the third straight day, an indication that the veteran will have a realistic chance to play Sunday after missing the last two games with a hamstring injury. He was seen running pass patterns during the portion of practice open to the media on Friday and is listed as questionable on the team’s official injury report.

“I think he’s done really well. He just told me he felt very good [after Friday’s practice],” coach John Harbaugh said. “I think we’ll wait until game time, just to see for sure and see how it feels up there with the weather and everything and make a decision right before the game.”

The Ravens have been cautious with their starting tight end, given his history of hamstring issues during his 10-year career. Heap has taken reps throughout the week, but described the recovery as having “ups and downs.”

“I’m feeling better,” Heap said. “I’d say it’s a day-to-day thing. It’s a long process. We’ll take it up to game day, and we’ll see how it feels.”

Brendon Ayanbadejo (knee) and Haruki Nakamura (illness) returned to the practice field after missing Thursday’s workout. However, David Reed (concussion) and Tom Zbikowski (back) were absent for the third straight day and have been ruled out for Sunday’s game. Joining them as non-participants in Friday’s practice were cornerback Chris Carr (illness) and defensive end Cory Redding (elbow). Carr is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game while Redding is probable.

Reed has not cleared the battery of concussion tests that would allow him to return to the field, according to Harbaugh.

Zbikowski is suffering from a bulging disc in his back and was treated with cortisone earlier in the week. The team remains optimistic that he could return this season since he is not experiencing any pain or numbness radiating in his legs, according to the Ravens coach.

Derrick Mason (ankle) was a full participant after being listed as limited on Thursday.

Reed’s absence leaves a hole in the kick return game after the rookie had finally stabilized the spot after poor production earlier in the season. Jalen Parmele would be the likely candidate to replace Reed, as he did last week against the New Orleans Saints, but Lardarius Webb has also returned kicks in practice this week and shined in the role last season.

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Festivus becoming an annual occurrence

Despite the Festivus holiday technically falling on Thursday (the contrived holiday made famous by Seinfeld), Baltimore has long used the term for a Ravens playoff appearance. A win on Saturday would mark the third straight year the Ravens have qualified for the postseason, something that’s never happened in the 15-year history of the franchise.

Younger players like Joe Flacco and Ray Rice might view the postseason as a birthright, but veterans know a playoff spot should never be taken for granted.

“Playoffs, no matter how long you play, anything can happen,” said nose tackle Kelly Gregg, an 11-year veteran who’s experienced the highs and lows in Baltimore over the last decade. “A lot of these young guys think it can happen every year, but it doesn’t go like that. You better take the opportunity now.”

Of course, a division title — and a first-round bye — would further sweeten the pot, but the Ravens must win their final two games and hope the Browns can upset the Steelers in Cleveland next Sunday.

“We’re still alive in the AFC North, and that’s the way we have to play it,” Gregg said. “Until they say we can’t win, we just have to keep chugging along and get in the playoffs [with a win on Sunday].”

Peeking at Pittsburgh

Harbaugh was asked if he watched the Steelers’ Thursday night game against the Panthers, and his thoughts were likely shared by the many Ravens fans who watched Pittsburgh’s 27-3 blowout victory.

“I watched a little bit of it, then I checked in on the score, and then I lost interest,” said Harbaugh, drawing laughs from the media gathered in Owings Mills. “Hey, that was good for them. They got it done, and congratulations to them. We just move forward, now it’s our turn. We have to step up.”

Jersey swap

The main purpose of the portion of practice open to the media is typically to get an early read on who’s participating before the official injury report is released in the afternoon.

So the appearance of a player wearing a Zbikowski jersey created a brief stir among the few media members present for Friday’s practice, especially considering talk that the reserve safety might be done for the season. However, a closer look showed it was not the Notre Dame product after all.

A number of players had swapped jerseys in what has become a fun tradition for the team, but a sometimes frustrating one for the media. Among those who had swapped numbers included Haloti Ngata and Dawan Landry, Ray Lewis and Jarret Johnson, and, of course, Terrell Suggs sporting Sam Koch’s No. 4 jersey.

Injury report

RAVENS: OUT – S Tom Zbikowski (back), WR David Reed (head) QUESTIONABLE – TE Todd Heap (leg), CB Chris Carr (illness) PROBABLE – LB Brendon Ayanbadejo (knee), C Matt Birk (knee), WR Derrick Mason (ankle), OL Tony Moll (illness), S Haruki Nakamura (illness), LB Jason Phillips (illness), DE Cory Redding (elbow), WR Marcus Smith (shoulder)

BROWNS: DOUBTFUL – TE Robert Royal (shoulder) QUESTIONABLE – LB Eric Alexander (shoulder), DL Kenyon Coleman (knee), DL Shaun Rogers (ankle/hip) PROBABLE – LB Marcus Bernard (shoulder), DB Sheldon Brown (shoulder), WR Josh Cribbs (foot), RB Peyton Hillis (knee), QB Colt McCoy (illness), WR Chansi Stuckey (thigh), OL John St. Clair (ankle), OL Floyd Womack (knee)

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