OWINGS MILLS, Md. — In his first full practice since injuring his left knee last November, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw a dart down the seam to Dennis Pitta for a big completion during an 11-on-11 drill.
The play conjured memories of their many connections during the run to Super Bowl XLVII and was the highlight of Thursday’s no-contact session. Less than eight months removed from surgery to repair the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee, Flacco also reminded us of his big-league arm by hurling a 50-plus-yard strike to hit rookie Chris Moore in stride during individual drills.
Flacco, 31, did show some rust as he was picked off by Sheldon Price and nearly threw another interception to Shareece Wright, but the number of errant throws was no greater than you’d typically see in the first practice of the summer.
Regardless of how he might have practiced, the mere sight of the franchise quarterback healthy and back on the field was more than enough for the Ravens on the first day of training camp.
“It felt really good to be out there,” said Flacco, who wore a red non-contact jersey and a black brace on his left knee. “I wasn’t as efficient as I’d like to be, but I felt comfortable. I just need to throw it a little better and complete some more passes.”
Flacco moved well in the pocket and did not appear to be limited in his practice reps, only abstaining from a drill in which the other quarterbacks practiced falling on fumbles.
With other key players such as wide receivers Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman and linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil beginning the summer on the physically unable to perform list, questions will remain about the Ravens’ play-making ability at key positions, but the healthy return of Flacco alone is enough to provide hope that 2016 will bring better fortune than last year.
“He looked good. He seemed confident and wasn’t back there hobbling around or stumbling or footwork was off,” said safety Eric Weddle, who was excited to be able to practice against Flacco after playing against him several times with San Diego over the years. “You couldn’t tell he just had surgery in the offseason. It’s definitely a positive sign.
“He’s got the ‘it’ factor, and it brings everyone else’s level up.”
Nine players absent on first day
Running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot) was added to the active physically unable to perform list, joining wide receivers Steve Smith (Achilles tendon) and Breshad Perriman (left knee), linebackers Terrell Suggs (Achilles tendon) and Elvis Dumervil (foot), and running back Trent Richardson (knee). Those six players may begin practicing at any point, but the Ravens are proceeding cautiously with the aforementioned veterans coming back from injury.
Cornerback Jerraud Powers and wide receiver Dobson Collins joined receiver Mike Wallace on the non-football injury list as the three had yet to pass the conditioning test. Harbaugh wouldn’t comment when asked whether Wallace was any closer to passing the test after failing on Wednesday.
“It doesn’t matter,” Harbaugh said. “You pass it or you don’t. You make it or you don’t.”
Dixon injures knee
After finishing the 2015 season with 20 players on injured reserve, the Ravens couldn’t escape an injury in their first practice of the summer as rookie running back Kenneth Dixon suffered a knee injury diagnosed as a Grade 1 MCL sprain.
The fourth-round pick is considered day-to-day and left Baltimore with just three healthy running backs at the end of Thursday’s session: Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, and Terrance West.
“He’s going to be OK. He’s got just a little slight thing with the knee,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He should be fine. Maybe tomorrow, we’ll see.”