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Live from Westminster: Ravens limping through final days of camp

Posted on 18 August 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. — With injuries continuing to hinder the training camp roster, John Harbaugh and the Ravens are probably thinking they cannot get away from McDaniel College fast enough and back to the cozy confines of 1 Winning Drive as the injury list continues to grow daily, particularly on the offensive line.

Right tackle Oniel Cousins was carted off the field after suffering from a headache on Wednesday morning. Cousins, already filling in for the injured Jared Gaither (back tear), appeared to be laboring earlier in practice and stood on the sidelines for a considerable time before leaving the field. The training staff will test Cousins for a possible concussion.

Tony Moll filled in on the right side in Cousins’ absence while Chris Chester continues to handle the center position in place of Matt Birk (neck). Other linemen missing practice included Stefan Rodgers (arm) and Daniel Sanders (arm).

It was an “over-30 club” day in Westminster, meaning the likes of Ray Lewis and Derrick Mason were given the day off. With veterans receiving a respite and so many others not practicing, fans could be forgiven if they didn’t recognize all players running with the starting units at times.

New absences from practice included fullback Le’Ron McClain (back/thigh) and linebackers Tavares Gooden (neck) and Prescott Burgess (undisclosed). McClain appeared to be dealing with an upper thigh issue over the last few days, even having the hip and thigh region wrapped during Saturday afternoon’s practice. The starting fullback was in street clothes, walking with a limp during the morning session, but the injury is not believed to be serious.

Gooden continues to deal with neck spasms after sustaining an awkward hit to the neck in the preseason opener. Despite practicing the last two days, the team will use caution the rest of the week in hopes that Gooden will be able to play against the Redskins on Saturday.

“[The neck] just keeps tightening back up on him,” Harbaugh said. “We need to just sit him down and settle him down.”

Gooden’s health clouds what has been an intriguing competition at inside linebacker after Jameel McClain lost his stronghold at the position with a poor performance in the preseason opener. McClain has received more work at the “Sam” outside linebacker with the second unit this week. Harbaugh hopes to get extended looks at all three with the starting defense over the final three preseason games.

“We’ll kind of move those guys around the next two weeks, and we’ll know where we’re at.”

In addition to the “over-30” club—which includes Lewis, Mason, Birk, Todd Heap, Travis Fisher, Trevor Pryce, and Kelly Gregg (Ed Reed and Brendon Ayanbadejo are still on the PUP list)—defensive tackle Brandon McKinney (knee), tight end Davon Drew (hamstring), and defensive back Marcus Paschal (leg) joined the aforementioned players as non-participants in the morning practice.

Stay right here for updates (time-stamped below) and visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear Harbaugh, rookie receiver David Reed, and safety Tom Zbikowski’s conversation with Thyrl Nelson following practice.

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1:40 p.m. — Both Billy Cundiff and Shayne Graham missed from 45 yards on Wednesday morning. Cundiff pulled his attempt wide left while Graham was wide right on his try.

Each kicker connected from 19, 40, and 51 yards as both continue to produce similar results day in and day out in Westminster.

12:45 p.m. — With Thursday being the last two-a-day of the summer, coaches and players are laboring through the final workouts in Westminster and toward the remainder of the preseason schedule. John Harbaugh has been pleased with the team’s work during camp, evidenced by his cancellation of three practices (one on Saturday and two on Sunday) over the last week.

“You get to this point and it’s time to [go],” Harbaugh said. “You’re looking into the next phase of camp. Going into this practice [on Tuesday morning], we wanted to make sure that we have five good practices before we leave here, to make the most of it, and we did a good job today.”

The Ravens will conduct a walk-through on Friday before breaking camp and continuing their preseason preparation at their practice complex in Owings Mills.

12:35 p.m. — As mentioned yesterday, rookie David Reed has struggled to catch the ball consistently after a strong beginning in Westminster. Reed, a fifth-round pick in April, was expected to battle for the fifth receiver job but has fallen out of contention with Demetrius Williams having such a strong—and injury-free—training camp.

With three preseason games remaining, Reed will need a strong showing at receiver and on special teams to avoid being cut or stashed away on the practice squad—or Injured Reserve with a mysterious injury.

“You want consistency,” Harbaugh said about the young receivers following Tuesday’s practice. “For whatever reason, we dropped a lot of balls out here today. I thought the quarterbacks were just a little more in rhythm with their throws [and] a little quicker versus the pressure, which is what we want, and maybe it caught the receivers a little bit off guard.”

Hale acknowledges he has struggled to catch the football in camp, something he has not experienced previously in his career.

“I don’t drop too many passes [typically],” Reed said. “That’s one thing I carry myself [with], I don’t drop passes. I’m getting it back.”

12:20 p.m. — Cornerback Chris Carr and receiver Mark Clayton suited up to practice but were limited participants throughout the morning session. Carr has taken part in individual drills the last two days but continues to sit out team portions of practice as he continues to recover from a left hamstring injury sustained on Aug. 7.

With Carr sitting out 11-on-11 drills and the 30-year-old Travis Fisher not practicing, Fabian Washington and Cary Williams were the cornerbacks with the first defense.

Clayton had his right ankle taped before walking out to practice, but the receiver stood on the sideline without a helmet and gloves for much of practice. Demetrius Williams and Donte’ Stallworth split reps at receiver opposite of Anquan Boldin with Clayton out and Mason receiving the day off.

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Live from Westminster: Ravens honor military at McDaniel

Posted on 17 August 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. — With hundreds of military personnel on hand, the Ravens were back on the practice field Tuesday afternoon in preparation for the second preseason game against the Washington Redskins.

Players such as defensive tackle Kelly Gregg (below) signed autographs for uniformed military and their families for nearly an hour following a practice that lasted over two hours in the sweltering heat.

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“It’s just a real special day,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We’re real proud of what all the personnel in the military all across the country and overseas has done for us. We just can’t thank them enough for their service, for the sacrifices the families make.”

Offensive lineman David Hale was absent from practice with a “bruised” tailbone sustained after defensive tackle Haloti Ngata landed on top of him in a pass-rushing drill during Monday’s morning practice. The key reserve lineman has not yet undergone an MRI or CAT scan to determine whether the tailbone is fractured, according to Harbaugh.

Concerns exist that it might be a long-term injury, a potential damaging blow given Hale’s versatility for an offensive line already dealing with the absence of Jared Gaither for the remainder of the preseason.

“I really don’t know,” said Harbaugh when asked if Hale’s injury might be season-ending. “We haven’t gotten an MRI yet, so I wouldn’t be writing that yet.”

Center Matt Birk missed his third straight practice with tightness in his neck. The 13-year veteran has not practiced since the preseason opener last Thursday. Birk started training camp on the physically unable to perform list after undergoing an elbow procedure in the offseason.

“[Birk’s] going to be a guy we’re going to be very judicious with throughout training camp and even throughout the season,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t think a lot of practice is what he needs. He’s up there [in years]. When you play on the offensive line that many years, you want to be smart with those guys and how many contact reps they take.”

Ngata returned to practice after sitting out the latter portion of Monday’s practice following the collision with Hale. The Pro Bowl tackle appeared to be favoring his left wrist but showed no signs of injury on Tuesday.

Also back at practice was offensive tackle Oniel Cousins, who walked off the field with a member of the staff toward the end of practice after a skirmish with linebacker Jameel McClain earlier in the Monday morning workout. Cousins managed to get into another scuffle Tuesday, this time with linebacker Edgar Jones despite it being a lighter shells-and-shorts workout. The third-year tackle, who continues to fill in for Gaither at right tackle, has earned a reputation for mixing it up with teammates in his brief career.

“I don’t know, they might be coming after me,” said Cousins, drawing laughter from media members. “For some reason, everybody’s always trying to fight with me, I don’t know why. We’re just out there having fun. I don’t know, it’s just a practice. It’s hot and everybody’s out there getting after it.”

Cornerback Chris Carr was a limited participant during Tuesday’s practice, doing individual work but sitting out full-team drills. In addition to Hale and Birk, tight end Davon Drew (hamstring), defensive back Marcus Paschal (leg), defensive tackle Brandon McKinney (knee), offensive linemen Daniel Sanders (arm) and Stefan Rodgers (arm), and offensive tackle Jared Gaither (back) did not practice.

Stay right here for more (time-stamped below) and visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear more from Harbaugh, Cousins, quarterback coach Jim Zorn, and tight end Todd Heap’s conversation from the field with Rex Snider.

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8:45 p.m. — The daily installment of the kicking competition brought similar results to what we’ve seen throughout the summer.

Billy Cundiff and Shayne Graham were each perfect on five attempts, with both men connecting from 48 and 51 yards. The Ravens will likely alternate kicks between the two as they did in the preseason opener against Carolina.

8:35 p.m — The star of Tuesday’s practice—on and off the field—was veteran tight end Todd Heap, who made three spectacular catches while looking like the tight end who made consecutive Pro Bowls in 2002 and 2003.

Heap made a leaping, one-handed catch over the middle early in practice and beat cornerback Travis Fisher on a sideline route for a long gain. The 10-year veteran finished off his finest practice of the summer with a catch in the back of the end zone over cornerback Brad Jones.

Following practice, Heap signed autographs for military personnel for nearly 45 minutes before joining Rex Snider on AM 1570 WNST. You can hear the conversation in its entirety in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault.

While Heap shined on Tuesday, rookie David Reed’s struggles continued as the receiver dropped two passes, one of them leading to a Cary Williams’ interception on a pass thrown by Troy Smith.

After an impressive start in Westminster, Reed has struggled to catch the ball consistently, leaving his status in doubt with Demetrius Williams performing well in his efforts to grab the fifth receiver spot on the roster. Expected to be a contender to return kicks, Reed has not received many opportunities during special teams practices.

8:15 p.m. — Tuesday’s practice provided more confirmation for a possible shift in the team’s depth chart at inside linebacker.

Tavares Gooden—practicing without the red non-contact jersey—lined up next to Ray Lewis in the starting defense, another indication that Jameel McClain has lost the stronghold he enjoyed through the first three weeks of training camp. Dannell Ellerbe took reps with the starting defense on Monday as McClain worked at outside linebacker with the second unit.

Much of the defensive work, however, came in nickel and dime packages, and Gooden is considered the strongest of the three in pass coverage.

Needless to say, it will be interesting seeing who lines up with the starting unit in the team’s second preseason game against the Redskins on Saturday night.

8:05 p.m. — John Harbaugh responded to cornerback Lardarius Webb’s comments from Monday that expressed he did not want to play in the preseason and wants to be cautious in returning from an ACL injury sustained late last season. Webb’s rehab is ahead of schedule and could be activated from the PUP list in the near future.

“I think we are going to be cautious with [Webb],” Harbaugh said. “If he can play in the preseason and we feel very comfortable there’s not going to be a setback, we’ll do it. If we think there’s any possibility of a setback—reasonable possibility—we’ll probably just save him [for the regular season].”

Webb has worked out regularly on the side field during training camp, working on conditioning and agility to strengthen his surgically-repaired right knee.

Running back Matt Lawrence (knee) and linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (quadriceps) remain on the PUP list but were running on the side during Tuesday’s practice. Neither player has been very active during practices in Westminster, and Ayanbadejo was just recently cleared to begin running full-speed.

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Live from Westminster: Injuries mount on offensive line

Posted on 16 August 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. – After receiving some well-deserved time off since the preseason opener last week, the Ravens were back on the practice field Monday morning but saw several players go down with injuries.

Offensive lineman David Hale was carted off the field with an apparent chest/rib injury after a collision with defensive tackle Haloti Ngata during linemen drills in the latter portion of practice. Ngata sat out the remainder of practice with a left arm issue, but the injury did not appear to be serious.

Oniel Cousins also walked off the field gingerly with a member of the training staff and did not return. Earlier in pratice, he had a scuffle with linebacker Jameel McClain, but there was no word whether the injury was a result of the fight.

With Jared Gaither out another two to three weeks with a small tear in his back, Cousins is the “logical choice” to take his place at right tackle, according to offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. With Cousins leaving the field, his replacement was Tony Moll, who only returned to practice on Saturday after a concussion sidelined him for two weeks.

“I don’t think you’re ever comfortable [with your offensive line],” Camerson said about the uncertainty with the first unit. “You really aren’t, because you know you’re one or two [lost] players away from really having to rebuild something.”

Others not practicing included offensive linemen Matt Birk (elbow) and Daniel Sanders (arm), defensive tackle Brandon McKinney (knee), tight end Davon Drew (hamstring), and defensive backs Marcus Paschal (leg) and Chris Carr (hamstring). Carr has not practiced since making a surprise appearance against the Panthers on Thursday night.

Linebacker Tavares Gooden was limited for the second straight practice as he deals with back soreness after taking an awkward hit from the side in the first preseason game. The third-year backer sported a red mesh top over his jersey and did not partake in any live contact in the morning session.

Check back right here (time-stamped below) for updates throughout the day and visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from Cam Cameron, Greg Mattison, Jerry Rosburg, Dawan Landry, Lardarius Webb, and Cary Williams as well as Thyrl Nelson’s conversation with Mark Clayton immediately following the morning practice. As always, remember to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the latest updates straight from the field in Westminster!

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1:45 p.m. — Monday was another big day for the kickers as Shayne Graham and Billy Cundiff were perfect on all attempts.

Cundiff connected for a long 58-yard field goal but also hit from 20, 38, 46, and 52 yards. Graham was 4-for-4 and made kicks from 20, 38, 46, and 52 yards. Cundiff is currently kicking with the first field goal unit, but it appears both kickers are strongly in contention for the job after only one preseason game.

The inside linebacker competition has heated up after a disappointing showing by Jameel McClain against Carolina. Dannell Ellerbe appears to have closed the gap as he, McClain, and a limited Tavares Gooden (see above) took reps next to Ray Lewis and the starting defense.

1:35 p.m. — Cornerback Lardarius Webb continues to rehab his surgically-repair ACL after suffering the injury late last season. The second-year play has been doing agility and conditioning work for most of training camp but still doesn’t have a timetable for his return to the practice field.

“No time limit,” he said. “We’re coming. We don’t want everybody to know [when] I am coming back.”

When pressed whether he would return to action before the preseason ended, Webb indicated he preferred taking extra time to insure the knee is ready for games that actually matter.

“I’m hoping it’s not [returning in the preseason],” Webb said. “For what? I’m still like seven months [removed from the injury]. We still have a lot of work to do. We have to make sure it’s right before I come back on.”

Webb remains on the active physically unable to perform list along with safety Ed Reed (hip), linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (quadriceps), and running back Matt Lawrence (knee). If Webb starts the season on the reserve PUP list, he would miss the first six weeks of the regular season.

When he returns to action, Webb is expected to contend for a starting spot at cornerback, a position at which the Ravens are extremely thin after the loss of Domonique Foxworth at the start of training camp.

“I think with an ACL, every time you work [the knee], afterwords, you might have a little soreness, but it’s always going to be soreness,” Webb said. “It’s not the knee; it’s just soreness from work. But no, it feels great.”

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GAMEDAY: Five compelling Ravens to watch tonight

Posted on 12 August 2010 by Luke Jones

With the pregame buzz of a nationally-televised game inevitably wearing off shortly after the actual game begins (the first preseason game always provides that letdown, doesn’t it?), fans must channel their focus on individual standouts among many with no chance of making the 53-man roster in early September.

Stars such as Ray Lewis, Joe Flacco, and Ray Rice will only be making cameo appearances, but the stakes are much higher for lesser-known players yet to make their name popular in the Charm City. A few are battling for starting positions while others are simply contending for a spot on the 53-man roster, with the Ravens or one of the other 31 teams in the National Football League.

Below is a list of five players to watch in tonight’s game against the Carolina Panthers. A couple of familiar names are trying to enhance their stature while the others have stood out in training camp and can improve their position for making the squad—in Baltimore or elsewhere—with strong performances in the preseason.

1. LB Jameel McClain

We all expected a battle between Tavares Gooden and Dannell Ellerbe for the inside linebacker spot next to Lewis, but McClain has emerged as the biggest surprise of training camp. The third-year linebacker was a special teams standout in his first two seasons with the Ravens, but he’s taken an overwhelming majority of the reps with the starting defense while Gooden and Ellerbe have worked with the second team.

McClain is beginning to draw comparisons to former Ravens linebacker Bart Scott in that both went undrafted, played multiple positions in college, and earned their money via special teams in the infancy of their respective careers. McClain can play all four linebacker positions in the Ravens’ 3-4 scheme, but he credits being able to focus on the inside spot as a major factor for his new-found status as a defensive starter.

Of course, being a starter in training camp doesn’t mean he’ll start in September, but it’s apparent how far McClain has progressed from the summer of 2008 when he was a nondescript linebacker-defensive end trying to make the team. His steady play in all aspects of the game makes him a valuable asset to the defense.

“That’s what [McClain] is, he’s consistent,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s physical between the tackles. He’s solid in pass coverage.”

2. OT Oniel Cousins

The 2008 third-round draft choice has drawn the ire of many in his brief opportunities to play in his first two seasons, but this is a critical preseason—and season—for Cousins. With Jared Gaither’s status up in the air, physically and contractually, tonight will be a valuable first step for Cousins to alleviate concerns at the right tackle position and convince the coaching staff he can eventually be an NFL starter.

Cousins began training camp on the non-football illness list after having a procedure to remove a cyst in his throat earlier in the summer, but one wouldn’t know he only returned to the practice field a week ago by the way he’s played.

“I think what [Cousins] has done has been pretty amazing,” Harbaugh said. “He’s just made up so much ground in the last week that he’s practiced. He looks good, so he should play quite a bit [on Thursday].”

With Gaither still sidelined with back spasms and other tackles (Tony Moll, Ramon Harewood, and Stefan Rodgers) banged up, Cousins will receive extensive playing time against the Panthers.

3. CB Prince Miller

At 5-foot-8, the diminutive cornerback has listened to doubters throughout his football career. It didn’t stop Miller from making 31 career starts at Georgia and matching up against the best receivers the highly-competitive SEC had to offer.

Miller has struggled in camp against taller receivers such as Anquan Boldin and Demetrius Williams, but shows good athleticism and an impressive skill-set in special teams, a critical factor for any player on the roster bubble.

The rookie was away from camp for two days to witness the birth of his first child but has played the nickel and dime positions with the first-team defense, largely because of the team’s health issues in the secondary.

With Chris Carr likely out and Fabian Washington a game-time decision, Miller will likely man the nickel with the starting defense in the first quarter and play extensively when the starters are removed.

“We gave him a couple days off [to be in Georgia for his child’s birth], and he did have fresh legs [Tuesday],” Harbaugh said. “I think it helped him. He kind of had the little bounce in his step, but he’ll play a lot on Thursday night along with those other young guys.”

4. LB Albert McClellan

The Ravens scouting department manages to find an impressive “hybrid” on the rookie free agent list seemingly every year, and McClellan fits that description this summer. The defensive end-linebacker has performed admirably in Westminster, even picking off Troy Smith and returning it for a touchdown in a red zone drill.

It’s no secret McClellan faces an uphill battle to make the team with such a deep linebacker unit already in place, but the same was said about McClain in 2008 before the Syracuse rookie won a roster spot with big performances in the preseason.

McClellan was a three-time captain at Marshall and accumulated 19.5 sacks in his collegiate career as a defensive end, earning second team All-Conference USA honors as a senior and first-team honors as a junior. Even if he doesn’t make the 53-man roster, McClellan figures to have a good chance to catch on elsewhere or make the developmental squad.

5. DT Lamar Divens

With the Ravens drafting defensive linemen Terrence Cody and Arthur Jones in April, the 343-pound Divens has become a forgotten man in a very deep group of defensive linemen. Durability is an issue with the third-year tackle, finishing the season on Injured Reserve in 2008 (shoulder) and spending the entire 2009 campaign on IR (shoulder).

Divens has impressed during training camp, constantly getting to the offensive backfield while playing on the second and third defensive units. With so many defensive tackles on the roster, he is a long-shot to stick with the Ravens, but a strong preseason improves his chances to catch on elsewhere.

He will receive extensive playing time in the second half.

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The Real Key to the Ravens Success

Posted on 11 August 2010 by bigbrad

There has been a lot of talk about what the Ravens have done in the offseason, as well as key personnel returning from injuries. The Ravens offense has been seriously upgraded due to the acquisition of wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Donte’ Stallworth as well as the drafting of tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson. Many people, including myself, are interested to see how Lardarius Webb and Fabian Washington will progress with their knee injuries. These have been the hot topics leading up to the first preseason game of the season tomorrow night against the Carolina Panthers. Personally, I feel that there is a more important set of players who will dictate the Ravens success this season. That group of players is the Ravens offensive line.

 

Michael Oher. Ben Grubbs. Matt Birk. Marshal Yanda. Jared Gaither. These five guys are the most important pieces of this Ravens team. Throw in a few key back-ups in Oniel Cousins and Chris Chester, and you have a group of the most important guys on this Ravens roster.

 

When the likes of Mike Flynn, Jason Brown, Adam Terry, Edwin Mulitalo, and Jonathon Ogden departed a few season ago, I got nervous. Ravens fans got nervous. Baltimore was losing a core of guys who helped keep Kyle Boller alive. I remember hearing a lot of negative press about how the Ravens would be able to replace Pro Bowlers and Hall of Famers. But once again, Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens front office came through again.

 

Last season, Joe Flacco was sacked 36 times. That’s just over two sacks a game on our beloved quarterback. This was about average in the NFL last year. The team who got sacked the least was the Colts with 13 sacks, followed by the Titans, Patriots and Saints. There is an easy explanation for why the Titans sack total was so low, and that is because they ran the ball more than anyone else, which was a good idea since it got the ball in Chris Johnson’s hands. But look at the other three teams on this list. Now think of their quarterbacks. There is a reason that Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady are considered the best quarterbacks in the NFL. And their offensive lines are keeping them for being hit.

 

Not to mention, the Colts and the Saints played one another in the Super Bowl. What I am trying to say is that if the Ravens can cut down on sacks on Joe Flacco, then they have a better chance of going further. I’ll say it right here. If the Ravens offensive line gives up less than 20 sacks this year, then the Ravens will make it to the Super Bowl. If Flacco is only sacked once a game, then there is an extremely good chance that he will be healthier, which he had a problem with at the end of last season. And if he is healthy, then our passing offense will be remarkable, which will consequently open up the running game as well.

 

I hope to see a lot of the Ravens offense selected to the Pro Bowl this year. Just be sure to watch the offensive line to gauge this year’s Ravens success.

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Live from Westminster: Mason injures ankle, doesn’t appear serious

Posted on 03 August 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. — The Ravens received another injury scare as veteran receiver Derrick Mason was helped off the field with a sprained right ankle in the morning practice. The injury occurred on a hit from strong safety Dawan Landry.

“It just looks like a sprained ankle right now,” said Harbaugh, who had not received a report from the training staff at the conclusion of practice. “At this stage there’s no timetable [for a return] as of yet.”

The injury is not believed to be serious, as Mason was seen walking with a slight limp through the team hotel. The ankle was taped, but there was no splint or walking boot.

There were no other new injuries to report from the Tuesday morning session, but cornerback Chris Carr remains out with a sore back.

Check back right here for other injury updates and news from the morning session (time-stamped below) and head to the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from John Harbaugh, Jared Gaither, Terrell Suggs, and Haloti Ngata. Fabian Washington also checked in from the practice field with Thyrl Nelson!

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3:23 p.m. — K.J. Gerard is again absent from the afternoon session as he’s battling a hamstring issue. Offensive tackle Ramon Harewood is also missing from practice with what’s believed to be a knee issue. He missed a large portion of the OTA schedule with tissue damage in the right knee and has worn a sleeve on his right leg during training camp.

Fabian Washington is also sitting out the afternoon session. He participated fully this morning, so it could just be a scheduled afternoon off.

1:45 p.m. — The Ravens will hold another full-team practice this afternoon at 2:45 p.m. Glenn Clark will be on the scene as I continue my doubleheader of coverage this evening from Oriole Park at Camden Yards for Buck Showalter’s managerial debut.

Tune to AM 1570 WNST or online at WNST.net for hourly updates on the :30’s throughout the day.

1:35 p.m. — The first half of practice was uneventful as the players predominantly participated in positional drills.

Jared Gaither lined up primarily at left tackle with the starting offense as Michael Oher played the right side. The two switched it up toward the end of the morning practice, but I would expect plenty of this throughout training camp.

The fourth-year tackle from Maryland looks noticeably thinner as he’s lost approximately 25 pounds in the offseason, his current weight at 311 pounds. John Harbaugh acknowledged the team wants Gaither to gain some weight but will not specify an exact number.

“I thought he’d come in a little heavier than he did, but I also know we’ve got time to get him right where he needs to be. I think it’s got to be a collaboration with all of us—coaches, trainers, weight staff, and [Gaither]—and get him where he needs to be to start the season.”

We also saw a minor scrum during 11-on-11 drills as offensive tackle Joe Reitz mixed it up with defensive end Paul Kruger, but order was quickly restored.

Highlights of 11-on-11 red zone drills included a touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to a wide-open Derrick Mason before the receiver left with a sprained ankle.

With Chris Carr out of practice, Travis Fisher lined up as a first-team corner opposite Fabian Washington with the starting defense.

In the brief live period, Ray Rice snapped off a 13-yard touchdown against the starting defense in what of the highlights of the morning.

1:20 p.m. — Cornerbacks Chris Carr (back) and K.J. Gerard (unknown) were again absent from practice this morning. Gerard missed Monday afternoon’s special teams practice as well.

The team remains thin on the offensive line as Tony Moll (undisclosed), Matt Birk (elbow – PUP list), and Oniel Cousins (throat – non-football illness list) all missed practice.

Others not practicing included running back Matt Lawrence (knee – PUP list), tight end Davon Drew (hamstring), safety Ed Reed (hip – PUP list), cornerback Lardarius Webb (knee – PUP list), and linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (quad – PUP list).

Newly-acquired cornerback Doug Dutch practiced on Tuesday morning. He previously spent time on the Redskins’ practice squad and was obtained in the trade for quarterback John Beck.

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Live from Westminster: Gaither’s health remains mystery, will have tests done Monday

Posted on 01 August 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. — Despite assurances that Jared Gaither was merely suffering from back cramps after being carted off the field Friday afternoon, the offensive tackle was again absent on Sunday morning as his immediate status remains unknown.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh added no clarity to the situation but disclosed Gaither will have blood work done and the medical staff will run the tackle through a series of tests on Monday.

“I’d like to be able to tell you what it is,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t know.”

Gaither arrived training camp weighing 311 pounds, more than 20 pounds lighter than the weight at which he played last season. This was not the wishes of the coaching staff and Gaither’s rationale for dropping so much weight is a mystery to Harbaugh.

“[Gaither] made a decision [to drop weight],” the Ravens coach said after Sunday morning’s practice. “He’s working out on his own. It’s not like he was around. He made the decision to go lighter. He can explain to you why.”

You can hear more from Harbaugh in addition to Derrick Mason, Donte’ Stalloworth, and Todd Heap in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault right now!

Check back right here for updates (time-stamped below) throughout the afternoon.

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10:25 p.m. — I’m a little late with this one, but the Ravens have inked offensive tackle Devin Tyler to a contract after placing cornerback Domonique Foxworth on Injured Reserve. Tyler is from Forestville, Md. and attended Temple. He’s 6-foot-7 and 305 pounds.

With tackles Jared Gaither (back), Oniel Cousins (throat), Stefan Rodgers (calf/ankle), and Tony Moll (undisclosed) all not practicing, Tyler is needed to have another camp body at the position.

Tyler, along with two others, tried out for the team following the Sunday morning practice.

2:05 p.m. — It’s no secret the Ravens are on the prowl for cornerback help and have spoken to a few cornerbacks in recent days. Names linked to the Ravens include Fred Smoot and even former Browns corner Anthony Henry.

As I reported on Friday, the Ravens have had discussions with Frank Walker, who spent the last two seasons in Baltimore. Though Walker struggled at times and was often chastised by fans and media alike, he has the advantage of being very familiar with the Ravens’ system. John Harbaugh confirmed after Sunday morning’s practice that Walker has had conversations with other teams as well.

“Sure, [Walker] would have a shot,” Harbaugh said. “You know, [he] knows our scheme, he’s got some options, teams he’s talking to right now, but he’s one guy of a lot of guys we’re looking at.”

In an interview I conducted with Walker a couple weeks ago on AM 1570 WNST.net (you can find it in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault), he reemphasized his love for the organization and how he’d love to come back to play with the Ravens.

1:40 p.m. — Donte’ Stallworth continues to impress in the early days of camp and figures to be the No. 3 receiver if he can stay healthy and fight off former starter Mark Clayton.

Expectations are obviously high for the passing offense, but Stallworth is no stranger to playing with prolific offenses. He was a member of the record-breaking offense of the 2007 New England Patriots that included Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and Jabar Gaffney at wide receiver.

While Stallworth isn’t ready to proclaim the Baltimore receivers a more impressive unit than those Patriots, he sees vast potential in what the Ravens can accomplish in the passing game this season.

“This offense is capable of that game kind of season [that the 2007 Patriots had],” said Stallworth when asked about the potential of this receiving corps. “We have a lot of new guys here that are working together and we’re just trying to build on each other and work together and try to put together that same kind of situation.”

1:30 p.m. — With your always exciting kicking update for the day, Billy Cundiff connected from 32, 41, and 55 yards. He missed wide right from 45 yards.

I knew you were waiting on the edge of your seat for that one.

Jameel McClain continues to receive the large majority of reps at inside linebacker next to Ray Lewis with Tavares Gooden and Dannell Ellerbe in the mix as well. We all assumed the latter two would be the ones battling for the spot next to No. 52, but McClain continues to go about his business and worked extremely hard in the offseason, according to his coaches.

1:25 p.m. — Expectations are soaring for the Baltimore offense after the acquisitions of Anquan Boldin and Donte’ Stallworth, and Sunday morning’s workout was a perfect example why.

Joe Flacco threaded the needle repeatedly, torching defensive backs even when they blanketed receivers. During a red zone session, Flacco connected with Todd Heap and Dennis Pitta for touchdowns and threw a beautiful over-the-shoulder ball to fullback Le’Ron McClain, who was covered perfectly on the play.

Of course, Flacco’s performance on August 1 means nothing in the grand scheme of things, but for one morning only, he looked like the elite quarterback many hope—or expect—him to become in 2010.

12:40 p.m. — My apologies for the lack of updates so far. Members of the media just attended the NFL Rules session with officials at training camp this weekend. I’ll write about the rules changes in the near future and how it might impact the NFL in 2010.

Tight end Todd Heap returned to practice after passing his conditioning test and being removed from the non-football illness list this morning. He was suffering from swollen tonsils, a condition he described as “knocking him out.”

In addition to Gaither missing practice, cornerback Fabian Washington sat out the morning workout as he continues to work his way back into training camp mode. Offensive tackle Tony Moll and veteran cornerback Walt Harris were also sidelined.

With Gaither and Moll out, Joe Reitz took the first-team reps at right tackle, but the Ravens have signed offensive lineman Daniel Sanders to add another body to a banged-up unit. The team also worked out a few offensive linemen after the morning workout on Sunday.

As for the players currently on the PUP list, there were no changes Sunday morning.

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Clarifying the Physically Unable to Perform List

Posted on 27 July 2010 by Luke Jones

With so much discussion over the PUP (physically unable to perform) list over the last couple weeks regarding Ed Reed and today’s announcement that 10 players—including second-round pick Terrence Cody—have been placed on PUP, it’s easy to get confused with the meaning of the designatioin.

In Reed’s case, the discussion in recent weeks is in regards to the reserve PUP list, which states:

This list designates players with serious injuries that will keep them from being able to start a season on the 53-man roster but may be able to return to the roster during the regular season. The players must be placed on this roster at or before the league-wide 65-man summer roster cutdown to be eligible for this designation, and they must stay on this list for at least the first six weeks of the regular season. After this time, teams have three weeks to evaluate such players, after which each such player must be placed on the 53-man roster, injured reserve, or waivers.

This morning’s designation (Reed, Cody, Fabian Washington, Lardarius Webb, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Oniel Cousins, Walt Harris, Matt Lawrence, Prince Miller, and Rodelin Anthony) was for the active PUP list, which is the first step taken to place a player on the aforementioned reserve list. It states:

Once they are designated as physically unable to perform, they are prohibited from practicing with the team. They can, however, rehabilitate individually and participate in team meetings. If a player begins training camp on the PUP list, they can be moved to the active roster at any time, even after one practice. A player is not allowed to be placed on the PUP list if they start training camp on the active roster.

The active PUP list still counts against the 80-man training camp roster, so there is no added roster flexibility but players are allowed to come off the list at any time. However, if Reed or any of the other nine players participates in a practice and would suffer a new injury or re-injure a preexisting condition, they would no longer be eligible for the PUP list in either capacity.

To put it simply, the active PUP is the necessary procedure for potentially placing any player on the reserve PUP in which he’d miss the start of the regular season. With most players, this doesn’t happen and they’re able to return to the practice field at some point during training camp.

For some perspective, the players who started on the active PUP list at the start of training camp last season were Willis McGahee, Lamar Divens, Davon Drew, Yamon Figurs, Ben Grubbs, Adam Terry, Jason Phillips, Samari Rolle, Lou Saucedo, Marshal Yanda, Kelley Washington, and Joe Reitz.

McGahee, Grubbs, Yanda, and Washington all went on to make key contributions for the 2009 Ravens.

While it certainly won’t make anyone happy seeing these 10 names on the list, it’s not always the major concern some perceive it to be.

Unless you’re talking about an All-Pro safety.

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Mount Cody passes Wed. AM conditioning test, back on field in Westminster

Posted on 27 July 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. —  The Ravens have wrapped up their first day of workouts of the summer with rookies, quarterbacks, and selected veterans participating in helmets and shells without contact in the morning and afternoon sessions.

The biggest news of the morning was the first revelation of who would be placed on the active PUP (physically unable to perform) list to start training camp. These players include rookie defensive tackle Terrence Cody and cornerback Walt Harris, who did not pass their respective conditioning tests.

Others believed to be on the list are safety Ed Reed (hip), cornerbacks Fabian Washington (knee) and Lardarius Webb (knee), linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (leg), offensive tackle Oniel Cousins (throat), running back Matt Lawrence (knee), cornerback Prince Miller, and receiver Rodelin Anthony.

It is still undetermined whether Jared Gaither (foot) will be played on PUP, as he was not present for Tuesday morning’s session despite John Harbaugh saying he expected him to be there Monday afternoon.

Unlike the reserve PUP list that keeps a player sidelined for the first six weeks of the regular season, players may come off the active PUP list at any point during training camp. However, once they’re removed, they are no longer eligible to return to the PUP list.

Players on the active PUP list still count toward the 80-man training camp roster.

Check back here for more updates (time-stamped below) throughout the rest of the day.

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6:00 p.m. — The afternoon session was very uneventful with the team running through many of the same individual drills we saw in the morning in addition to some special team alignments lead by special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg.

There was no change in status among the 10 players placed on the active PUP list this morning, but Terrence Cody did do some agility work and running at the conclusion of the afternoon session.

It clearly wasn’t a good day for the rookie defensive tackle as defensive line coach even playfully—but truthfully—labeled him as “persona non grata.”

Ouch.

The big piece of news from the afternoon session was the appearance of safety Ed Reed, who did some stretching and agility work with trainer Bill Tessendorf. Reed, placed on the active PUP list this morning, isn’t expected back at practice anytime soon, but it was good seeing No. 20 doing some work on the field as he continues to recover from offseason hip surgery.

The Ravens will reconvene Wednesday morning at 8:45 a.m. for another day of lighter work by the quarterbacks, rookies, and select veterans.

2:23 p.m. — With the controversy created in Dallas over rookie Dez Bryant’s refusal to carry veteran Roy Williams’ shoulder pads, the Baltimore media asked Flacco which rookie he had chosen to carry his pads for the start of camp.

Of course, the humble—and at times, sarcastic—quarterback declined to have any kind of special attention and insists he’s perfectly capable of carrying his own equipment off the field.

“I don’t want to have some guy carry my pads in,” Flacco said. “Shoot, I feel bad when I’m over signing [autographs] and I’ve got to take this stuff off because the equipment guys come up and take it in for me. … I’ll never do that just because that’s not the way I am.”

1:50 p.m. — After several of his new teammates made comments in support of Troy Smith as the backup quarterback in recent weeks, Marc Bulger had his first opportunity to get out on the field with his quarterback counterparts this morning.

Despite voicing reservations over general manager Ozzie Newsome changing the complexion of the quarterback depth behind him a week ago, Flacco offered an optimistic outlook for Bulger’s ability to pick up Cameron’s offensive system in a timely manner.

“[Bulger’s] been in a similar offense, so it’s just like the little things, the different little words that we have for certain things,” Flacco said. “He’s run the same plays just like everybody pretty much has.”

Harbaugh praised Bulger’s interaction with the other quarterbacks to this point.

“He looked good to me,” the head coach said. “I think he did a nice job in the meetings last night in terms of communicating with our guys, and [Flacco] took him through our offense a little bit. … I think he’s in a learning mode right now.”

1:30 p.m. — The afternoon practice will take place at 3:30 p.m., and we can expect the same type of OTA pace with rookies still getting acclimated to their first training camp.

Of course, Harbaugh said the real test will be Friday when the players put the pads on and hit for the first time this summer.

“Usually, at every level—junior high, high school, college—the first day the pads come on, all knowledge of football leaves their head,” the head coach said. “They forget where they’re supposed to line up. They forget what the play is because the pads are on. You kind of get through that on Friday, and hopefully Saturday that calms down a bit.”

And what should come as no surprise, given Harbaugh’s special teams background as a coach under Andy Reid in Philadelphia, the rookies must understand the importance of special teams in order to make a very crowded, competitive 53-man roster.

“We made a point to draft guys that understand that,” he said. “There won’t be a rookie that makes this team unless he can contribute on special teams, so those guys all know that.”

Any rookie not taking Harbaugh’s words seriously should only look to defensive end Paul Kruger, the team’s second-round pick in 2009, who spent nearly the entire first half of his rookie season on the inactive list a year ago because of his inability to contribute on special teams.

12:45 p.m. — Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron also spoke at the podium following the morning practice.

He expressed optimism for the potential of his offense this season, given the acquisitions of Anquan Boldin and Donte’ Stallworth. Cameron is confident they will pick up the offense quickly after playing in the same system in other places.

“A lot of these plays, we call them the same, they’ve been calling them the same at other places,” he said. “Those guys will come in and haven’t missed a beat. Really, the creativity, that’s kind of the easy part. Execution and getting everybody on the same page [is] what training camp’s about.”

When asked whether the playbook would be tweaked to accommodate his new weapons in the passing game, Cameron explain he’s always tweaking the offense but doesn’t expect to make any drastic changes—not that he’d admit it to the media anyway.

“Execution is where we’re going to get better,” Cameron said. “We’re going to get better at executing in the base offense, continue to run the football, and just execute better. And then, we’ll kind of let the plays evolve from there.”

12:20 p.m. — Head to the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from John Harbaugh, Cam Cameron, and Joe Flacco after the morning practice. You can also check out rookie receiver David Reed’s conversation with Thyrl Nelson right after the morning practice concluded!

11:55 a.m. — John Harbaugh spoke with the media following practice, describing the morning practice as a way to initiate the rookies and allow veterans coming off injury to work their way back slowly.

The head coach commented on players who failed the conditioning test, including Terrence Cody and newly-signed veteran cornerback Walt Harris.

“Part of our process is everybody’s got to pass a conditioning test to be sure that they’re ready to compete,” Harbaugh said. “It’s going to be hot out here. Our practices are fast.”

Harbaugh did not express too much shock in learning Cody had not passed the conditioning test, citing how others have failed the conditioning test in the past.

“I’m not surprised. It’s always every year certain guys struggle with that. Guys learn that there’s a certain level of expectation in terms of conditioning that goes with being an NFL team—especially with this team.”

The head coach also talked about his heightened expectations for the offense, citing a need to improve in the red zone. Harbaugh pointed to the continued improvement of Joe Flacco as the key for the offense moving to the next level.

“He’s really getting to that point where the whole offense becomes his offense,” he said, “so he can do more things, he can run more things, make more adjustments at the line of scrimmage, execute under fire a little bit when he’s got to play fast. I think one thing that’s really important is we’ve made a big emphasis on the red zone.”

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Live from Westminster: The swan song from McDaniel College

Posted on 22 August 2009 by Luke Jones

4:05 p.m. – I chatted with Frank Walker as he walked off the field, and he was definitely glad to be breaking camp, though he emphasized it was a great experience in Westminster.

Even though the players were eager to leave summer camp behind, they continued to sign autographs for the fans out here in Westminster this afternoon.  You can tell these guys genuinely enjoy interacting with the fans.  The organization does things the right way, and it’s why the Ravens are king in this town.

4:00 p.m. – The special teams practice has concluded, as has the Ravens’ 2009 training camp here in Westminster.  The team will hold a walk-through tomorrow morning (closed to the media and public) before breaking camp.

The hour-long afternoon practice was uneventful, but tackle Oniel Cousins did not practice with the other young offensive linemen.  There was no word on any injury, but I did overhear offensive line coach John Matsko asking Cousins if he’d be able to play Monday as they were leaving the field toward the end of practice.

Cousins is the team’s top reserve tackle, so this will definitely be a situation to monitor leading up to Monday night’s game with the Jets.  The Ravens are thin at the position with veteran tackle Adam Terry already on injured reserve.

1:33 p.m. – I’m getting ready to head out to the field for the last public workout of the summer.  If the hotel lobby is any indication, I may be the only member of the local media out there this afternoon.

The ESPN Monday Night Football crew is here, as they prepare to broadcast Monday night’s game.  I saw Ron Jaworski and Jon Gruden chatting with Harbaugh and Joe Flacco during lunch.

12:03 p.m. – As previously mentioned below, Suggs and Clayton were again absent from practice.

Harbaugh once again described Suggs’ Achilles strain as a “nagging injury” but admitted he thought the star linebacker would have returned by this point.  Suggs has been riding the exercise bike to maintain his conditioning.

Suggs injured the heel on Aug. 2 and has missed the last 20 days of training camp.

Clayton was working out after practice, catching passes from quarterback John Beck.  He appears to be making progress, but it’s doubtful we’ll see the receiver before the last preseason game, if not the regular season opener.

12:00 p.m. – When asked how long the first team would play against the Jets on Monday night, Harbaugh suggested we’ll see the starting units into the second quarter if not the entire half.  It will all depend on the number of plays they receive in the first quarter or so.

Of course, Harbaugh did say the amount of time will vary from player to player, so one would think veterans like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed will not play as long as younger starters such as Tavares Gooden or Michael Oher.

11:56 a.m. – The last Ravens practice open to the public and media will take place at 2:00 p.m. this afternoon.  It will only be a special teams practice, so many of the big names will not be present.

The team will hold a walk-through tomorrow (closed to the media and general public) before breaking camp and returning to the Owings Mills facility.  It’s obvious to see how eager the players are to break camp and get back to their normal lives and routines without the two-a-days in the August heat.

11:47 a.m. – I spoke to Kevin Byrne after practice, and while there is no official number yet, the Ravens expect to set a new record for a camp that did not include a scrimmage.  The overall record of 111,492 fans was set in 2001—the year following the Super Bowl XXXV victory.

If you ever wondered how the team comes up with those training camp attendance figures, no, it’s not the job of a new intern or long snapper Matt Katula, as it was suggested by one reporter.

The team uses the number of parked cars and multiplies it by 3 to get their estimated figures.

11:42 a.m. – Derrick Mason was once again wearing No. 85 in practice.  There was no word on whether the NFL has squashed his plan to honor the late Steve McNair by wearing No. 9 during practices.

11:37 a.m. – Harbaugh speculated with reporters about having the longest camp in the NFL.  When Philadelphia was mentioned as having a longer camp, the Ravens head coach jokingly suggested they’ll try to have the longest one next year.

He was pleased with the work his players have completed this summer and described the defense’s transition from Ryan to Mattison as “seamless.”

11:27 a.m. – Willis McGahee is expecting the second preseason game to be more intense than usual when considering who will be coaching on the other sideline.

With Rex Ryan returning to Baltimore as the head coach of the New York Jets, McGahee expects both sides to really go after each other compared to what you would normally see in the preseason.

When asked about his former teammate Bart Scott and his propensity for trash talk, McGahee playfully replied, “Bart’s going to be Bart.”

Monday night clearly won’t resemble a postseason game, but it’s definitely  more compelling than what you’ll typically find during an August football game.  As Glenn Clark has said all week, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Ryan mix in more blitzing than normal in a preseason game.

11:22 a.m. – When asked about the differences between Rex Ryan and new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, Pryce noted that Mattison gives the defense more time to meet with positional coaches.  The defensive schemes are very similar with just a few minor tweaks.

The veteran defensive lineman also noted that both men clearly have a passion for football, but everyone’s personality is different.

11:18 a.m. – Pryce spoke to reporters after practice and said this is the deepest defensive line on which he has ever played, an impressive statement considering Pryce played on two Super Bowl-winning defenses in Denver.

He emphasized how big the return of Dwan Edwards to the rotation will be for the defense.  Edwards missed the entire 2008 season with a back injury.

11:16 a.m. – The defensive play of the morning came from cornerback Domonique Foxworth when he picked off a Cleo Lemon pass.

The former Terp has had a very solid training camp and looks very comfortable playing in the Ravens defense.

11:13 a.m. – Rookie Eron Riley had the catch of the morning, grabbing a jump ball in a crowd on a pass thrown by John Beck.

The former Duke receiver has good size at 6-3 but hasn’t really done enough to warrant serious consideration for a roster spot.

11:08 a.m. – It will be interesting to see where Jayson Foster fits into the plans on Monday night.  Though mostly working with the second offense, he continues to receive a few reps with the first unit.

His shining play of the morning was a 33-yard touchdown reception from Troy Smith.

While he still may be on the outside looking in when the team trims the roster to 53, Foster is certainly one of the biggest surprises of training camp, even earning comparisons to Wes Welker from offensive coordinator Cam Cameron earlier this week.

11:04 a.m. – The Ravens worked on fake field goals at the beginning of practice before focusing on various third-down packages on defense.

The scout team offense showed a few Wildcat looks to the defense, but they were not very impressive.  Cedric Peerman will never be confused with Ronnie Brown as he threw a wounded duck that was easily picked off by Ed Reed (sporting the red jersey today).

On the next play, Yamon Figurs tried to take the shotgun snap but fumbled.  Needless to say, it was a comedy of errors from the Wildcat scout team.

11:02 a.m. – Terrell Suggs (Achilles heel), Mark Clayton (hamstring), and Dannell Ellerbe (knee) did not practice today, and Trevor Pryce did not participate in any team drills.

Pryce spoke to the media after practice and basically equated it to a morning off with no significant injury.

10:58 a.m. – The Ravens held their last full-squad workout this morning, a brief hour and a half practice in shorts and shells.

John Harbaugh eliminated the individual portions of practice, leaving only the team drills to execute.  The team practiced on the lower field due to the torrential rains that swept through the area last night, leaving the upper grass fields very slick.

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