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Reed returns to practice while Ngata, Yanda still sidelined

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Reed returns to practice while Ngata, Yanda still sidelined

Posted on 08 November 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens saw one Pro Bowl player return to practice Thursday but are still missing four other starters as they move closer to Sunday’s meeting with the Oakland Raiders in Baltimore.

Free safety Ed Reed was a limited participant a day after sitting out Wednesday in what was regarded as a day off as the safety nurses shoulder and knee injuries. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, defensive end Pernell McPhee, and guards Bobbie Williams and Marshal Yanda sat out practice for the second straight day as questions regarding their availability against the Raiders now grows.

You have to begin wondering whether the Ravens are considering resting Ngata against the pass-happy Raiders with the thought of having the All-Pro defensive tackle in a better state of health when Baltimore travels to Heinz Field to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers next week. The three-time Pro Bowl selection has been hampered by knee and shoulder injuries and struggled to make any significant impact in the Week 9 win in Cleveland.

Williams said Thursday he expected to play against the Raiders but also acknowledged they are taking it “day by day” with his injured left ankle, which now gives him a pair of bad ankles after the right one was operated on late last season as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals.

Yanda is dealing with minor knee and ankle injuries, but it’s difficult envisioning him missing Sunday’s game if he’s able to return to the practice field on Friday. McPhee has remained noncommittal about his status for Week 10 after missing this past Sunday’s game in Cleveland.

Oakland was without running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson for the second straight day as both continue to recover from high ankle sprains. It’s appearing more likely that Taiwan Jones will start at running back on Sunday.

Raiders defensive tackle Richard Seymour also missed his second straight day of practice with knee and hamstring injuries.

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DE Pernell McPhee (thigh), DT Haloti Ngata (shoulder), G Bobbie Williams (ankle), G Marshal Yanda (ankle/knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: S Ed Reed (shoulder/knee), LB Josh Bynes (thigh), WR Jacoby Jones (toe), T Michael Oher (ankle), WR David Reed (knee), CB Jimmy Smith (abs)
FULL PARTICIPATION: S Sean Considine (chest), LS Morgan Cox (shoulder), LB Dannell Ellerbe (finger), DT Ma’ake Kemoeatu (knee), S Bernard Pollard (chest), LB Terrell Suggs (ankle)

OAKLAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB Mike Goodson (ankle), RB Darren McFaddden (ankle), DT Richard Seymour (knee/hamstring), CB Shawntae Spencer (foot)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: T Khalif Barnes (groin), TE Brandon Myers (shoulder), K Sebastian Janikowski (left groin), S Matt Giordano (hamstring)
FULL PARTICIPATION: T Willie Smith (knee), FB Marcel Reece (hamstring), LB Miles Burris (elbow), LB Keenan Clayton (shoulder), DT Desmond Bryant (cardiac), DE Matt Shaughnessy (shoulder), DE David Tollefson (shoulder), CB Coye Francies (thumb), S Mike Mitchell (finger), TE Richard Gordon (hamstring)

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Five Ravens starters sit out Wednesday’s practice

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Five Ravens starters sit out Wednesday’s practice

Posted on 07 November 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Hitting the practice field for the first time in preparation for Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders, the Ravens were without three Pro Bowl players and two other starters.

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, safety Ed Reed, defensive end Pernell McPhee, right guard Marshal Yanda, and left guard Bobbie Williams were absent from Wednesday’s practice.

Ngata continues to deal with shoulder and knee injuries that have limited his playing time, and the three-time Pro Bowl selection failed to register a tackle in the 25-15 win over the Cleveland Browns. The seven-year veteran played at less than 100 percent after McPhee had already been ruled out in Week 9 with knee and thigh injuries, further weakening the defensive line.

Yanda and Williams both suffered injuries in Sunday’s win, but MRI results were favorable for each player. The Ravens’ Pro Bowl right guard is expected to play on Sunday, but Williams’ status will be trickier to gauge considering he’s already dealt with soreness and swelling in a surgically-repaired right ankle.

Wednesday was likely a day off for Reed, who is dealing with a torn labrum in his shoulder and a sore knee.

Meanwhile, the Raiders were without running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson as both are considered question marks for Sunday’s game. Oakland head coach Dennis Allen remained mum on their status in a conference call with the Baltimore media.

Veteran defensive tackle Richard Seymour was also a non-participant for Oakland on Wednesday.

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DE Pernell McPhee (thigh), DT Haloti Ngata (shoulder), S Ed Reed (shoulder/knee), G Bobbie Williams (ankle), G Marshal Yanda (ankle/knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB Josh Bynes (thigh), WR Jacoby Jones (toe), T Michael Oher (ankle), WR David Reed (knee)
CB Jimmy Smith (abs)
FULL PARTICIPATION: S Sean Considine (chest), LS Morgan Cox (shoulder), LB Dannell Ellerbe (finger), DT Ma’ake Kemoeatu (knee), S Bernard Pollard (chest), LB Terrell Suggs (ankle)

OAKLAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB Mike Goodson (ankle), RB Darren McFaddden (ankle), DT Richard Seymour (knee/hamstring), CB Shawntae Spencer (foot)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: T Khalif Barnes (groin), TE Brandon Myers (shoulder), K Sebastian Janikowski (left groin), S Matt Giordano (hamstring)
FULL PARTICIPATION: T Willie Smith (knee), FB Marcel Reece (hamstring), LB Miles Burris (elbow), LB Keenan Clayton (shoulder), DT Desmond Bryant (cardiac), DE Matt Shaughnessy (shoulder), DE David Tollefson (shoulder), CB Coye Francies (thumb), S Mike Mitchell (finger)

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McPhee ruled out, Ngata questionable for Sunday’s game against Browns

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McPhee ruled out, Ngata questionable for Sunday’s game against Browns

Posted on 02 November 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After missing practice all week recovering from lingering thigh and knee injuries, Ravens defensive end Pernell McPhee has been ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns.

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was listed as questionable on the final injury report of the week after missing practices on Thursday and Friday with shoulder and knee injuries. However, the Pro Bowl defensive lineman is expected to play against Cleveland.

Assuming a starting role after the free-agent departure of veteran Cory Redding in March, McPhee has struggled through the first seven games of the season, collecting only 16 tackles and 1/2 sack. The second-year defensive end underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in the spring and has been hampered with soreness throughout the season.

Third-year defensive end Arthur Jones is expected to start in McPhee’s place on Sunday.

“I’m just trying to get my knee back right,” McPhee said earlier Friday. “I’m pretty banged-up, nicks and bruises.”

McPhee admitted earlier in the week that he’s lacked the same explosiveness that allowed him to accumulate six sacks during part-time duties as a rookie last season. He was limited to just 16 snaps in the Ravens’ 43-13 loss to Houston two weeks ago.

The Ravens hope the extended rest that came with the bye week will allow McPhee to heal and become a bigger factor for a defensive line that’s been dominated at the line of scrimmage for much of the season.

“He has a very high standard for himself,” coach John Harbaugh said. “It means a lot to him, so when he says that, he means it. He’s been battling with a lot of nagging injuries that he’s working through right now. He didn’t practice this week, as you know. He’s working on that stuff.”

Ngata took part in Wednesday’s practice on a limited basis before sitting out the remainder of the week. He played in Week 7 against Houston on a limited basis, taking only 48 of the team’s 80 defensive snaps.

The All-Pro defensive tackle suffered a sprained MCL in the Ravens’ win over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 6. Harbaugh didn’t offer much when asked about Ngata’s progress on Friday.

“We’ll see. He’s working on it,” Harbaugh said.

Wide receiver LaQuan Williams was added to the final injury report after presumably having an ankle issue creep up during Friday’s practice. He was listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.

Wide receiver Jacoby Jones (foot) and cornerback Jimmy Smith (abs) were both designated as probable to play after being limited in practices all week.

Meanwhile, the Browns have ruled out defensive back Dimitri Patterson and defensive lineman Brian Sanford for Sunday’s game. Standout inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson was listed as questionable after being limited in practice all week.

Cleveland also announced that defensive tackle Phil Taylor has been activated from the physically unable to perform list. He is expected to play against the Ravens.

BALTIMORE
OUT: DE Pernell McPhee (thigh)
QUESTIONABLE: DT Haloti Ngata (shoulder), WR LaQuan Williams (ankle)
PROBABLE: WR Jacoby Jones (foot), CB Jimmy Smith (abs), CB Chykie Brown (ankle), TE Ed Dickson (hand), WR Tandon Doss (illness), LB Dannell Ellerbe (hand), S James Ihedigbo (hand), DT Ma’ake Kemoeatu (knee), T Bryant McKinnie (thigh), T Michael Oher (ankle), T Kelechi Osemele (ankle), S Bernard Pollard (chest), S Ed Reed (shoulder/chest), LB Terrell Suggs (ankle), DT DeAngelo Tyson (foot), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)

CLEVELAND
OUT: DB Dimitri Patterson (ankle), DL Brian Sanford (knee)
DOUBTFUL: DL Ahtyba Rubin (calf)
QUESTIONABLE: LB D’Qwell Jackson (foot/toe), WR Josh Cooper (thigh)
PROBABLE: DL John Hughes (arm), DB Ray Ventrone (hand/calf), DB T.J. Ward (hand/shoulder), DB Tashaun Gipson (knee), LB James-Michael Johnson (knee/groin), OL Shawn Lauvao (groin), WR Mohamed Massaquoi (hamstring), RB Chris Ogbonnaya (chest/ribs), DL Frostee Rucker (shoulder/toe), OL Jarrod Shaw (illness), QB Brandon Weeden (groin/thigh), LS Christian Yount (shoulder), DB Johnson Bademosi (hip), DL Juqua Parker, RB Trent Richardson (chest/rib)

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Ngata absent from Thursday’s practice

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Ngata absent from Thursday’s practice

Posted on 01 November 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A day after participating on a limited basis, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was absent from Thursday’s workout as the Ravens continued preparations for Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns.

Ngata is dealing with a shoulder injury and continues to work his way back to 100 percent from a sprained MCL suffered in a Week 6 win over the Dallas Cowboys.

Defensive end Pernell McPhee was absent from practice for the second straight day as the Ravens have listed him as having a thigh injury. The second-year defensive lineman has dealt with a sore right knee stemming from the arthroscopic surgery he underwent in the spring.

Tight end Ed Dickson was added to the injury report as a full participant as coach John Harbaugh listed a total of 16 players on Thursday’s report.

The Browns listed 19 players on their injury report as defensive lineman Juqua Parker was a limited participant on Thursday.

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DT Haloti Ngata (shoulder), DE Pernell McPhee (thigh)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Jacoby Jones (foot), CB Jimmy Smith (abs)
FULL PARTICIPATION: TE Ed Dickson (hand), CB Chykie Brown (ankle), LB Dannell Ellerbe (hand), S James Ihedigbo (hand), DT Ma’ake Kemoeatu (knee), T Bryant McKinnie (thigh), T Michael Oher (ankle), T Kelechi Osemele (ankle), S Bernard Pollard (chest), S Ed Reed (shoulder/chest), LB Terrell Suggs (ankle), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)

CLEVELAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DB Dimitri Pattterson (ankle), DL Ahtyba Rubin (calf), DL Brian Sanford (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB D’Qwell Jackson (foot/toe), RB Trent Richardson (chest/rib), DB Ray Ventrone (hand/calf), DB T.J. Ward (hand/shoulder), DL Juqua Parker
FULL PARTICIPATION: DL John Hughes (arm), DB Johnson Bademosi (hip), DB Tashaun Gipson (knee), LB James-Michael Johnson (knee/groin), OL Shawn Lauvao (groin), WR Mohamed Massaquoi (hamstring), RB Chris Ogbonnaya (chest/ribs), DL Frostee Rucker (shoulder/toe), OL Jarrod Shaw (illness), QB Brandon Weeden (groin/thigh), LS Christian Yount (shoulder)

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Ravens list 15 players on injury report in aftermath of $20K fine

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Ravens list 15 players on injury report in aftermath of $20K fine

Posted on 31 October 2012 by Luke Jones

John Harbaugh vowed the Ravens would adjust to the NFL’s demands following a $20,000 fine levied against the organization for failing to list safety Ed Reed on the injury report two weeks ago.

The Ravens head coach did exactly that on Wednesday, listing a total of 15 players on the first injury report of the week as the team continued preparations for Sunday’s trip to Cleveland to take on the Browns.

“There is not going to be anybody that is not going to be on there,” Harbaugh said in a Monday conference call. “It’s pretty hard for us to determine who a significant player is and who is not. I don’t know how to do that. That’s one of the ways they write it in [the rules]. They say a significant player [dealing with an injury] who has not missed any time should be on there. In my mind, all 53 are significant.”

Defensive end Pernell McPhee was the only player absent from Wednesday’s workout as he sat out with a thigh injury. The second-year defensive lineman has also dealt with a sore right knee that stems from the arthroscopic surgery he underwent in the spring. McPhee acknowledged prior to practice that his injuries are hampering his explosiveness at the line of scrimmage.

His decreased workload was evident in the Week 7 loss to Houston in which McPhee took part in only 20 percent of the total defensive snaps. He had taken roughly 70 percent of the defensive snaps in the first six weeks of the season and has collected only 16 tackles and 1/2 sack after registering six sacks in a part-time role as a rookie last season.

“I’m just out there trying to come off the ball,” McPhee said. “I’m just trying to fit in the defense. I’m a soldier and there’s an army here and I feel like we need every shoulder we have. As long as I can walk and move, I’m going to go out there and play.”

Wide receiver Jacoby Jones, cornerback Jimmy Smith, and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata were designated as limited participants. However, Ngata is no longer listed as having a knee injury, an indication that the sprained MCL suffered against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 6 is feeling much better.

An additional 11 players were listed as full participants, including Reed being included with shoulder and chest injuries.

Right tackle Kelechi Osemele practiced fully after suffering a sprained ankle in the 43-13 loss to Houston but declared himself close to 100 percent prior to working on Wednesday.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs was also listed as a full participant and Harbaugh expects the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year to handle a full workload against the Browns if all goes as planned during practices this week.

Meanwhile, Browns coach Pat Shurmur listed 18 players on Wednesday’s injury report, though 10 were designated as full participants.

Cleveland is also expected to activate defensive tackle Phil Taylor from the physically unable to perform list in time to play on Sunday. Taylor tore a pectoral muscle while lifting weights in May and returned to the practice field last week.

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DE Pernell McPhee (thigh)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Jacoby Jones (foot), DT Haloti Ngata (shoulder), CB Jimmy Smith (abs)
FULL PARTICIPATION: CB Chykie Brown (ankle), LB Dannell Ellerbe (hand), S James Ihedigbo (hand), DT Ma’ake Kemoeatu (knee), T Bryant McKinnie (thigh), T Michael Oher (ankle), T Kelechi Osemele (ankle), S Bernard Pollard (chest), S Ed Reed (shoulder/chest), LB Terrell Suggs (ankle), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)

CLEVELAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DB Dimitri Pattterson (ankle), DL Ahtyba Rubin (calf)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: DL John Hughes (arm), LB D’Qwell Jackson (foot/toe), RB Trent Richardson (chest/rib), DB Ray Ventrone (hand/calf), DB T.J. Ward (hand/shoulder), DL Brian Sanford (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: DB Johnson Bademosi (hip), DB Tashaun Gipson (knee), LB James-Michael Johnson (knee/groin), OL Shawn Lauvao (groin), WR Mohamed Massaquoi (hamstring), RB Chris Ogbonnaya (chest/ribs), DL Frostee Rucker (shoulder/toe), OL Jarrod Shaw (illness), QB Brandon Weeden (groin/thigh), LS Christian Yount (shoulder)

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Trying to fix Ravens defense starts up front

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Trying to fix Ravens defense starts up front

Posted on 24 October 2012 by Luke Jones

The problems exist all over the field for a Ravens defense stewing during its bye week.

Ranked 26th in total yards allowed and tied for 17th in points surrendered, the Ravens no longer face questions of whether they can regain their long-enjoyed status as one of the elite defenses in the NFL. Truthfully, just improving enough to be a middle-of-the-pack unit would be a welcome change after allowing more than 180 rushing yards in each of the last three games and surrendering 43 points in Sunday’s loss to the Texans, the most allowed by the Ravens since 2007.

Frustrated fans are calling for wholesale changes, seeking new signings, trades, or even a new defensive coordinator. The Ravens aren’t pulling the plug on Dean Pees, who has had to adapt to significant personnel losses in his first year in the position, and the likelihood of bringing in any new players to make a significant impact is remote at this point in the season.

To improve upon a defense on pace to be one of the worst seen in Baltimore since the franchise’s inception in 1996, Ravens coaches and players alike will need to look from within for the answers.

“Personnel-wise, there’s not a whole lot you can do, really,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I like our players. Our players are most definitely good enough to get the job done, and we’ll just continue to improve there. Does that mean young guys? We’re going to keep developing the young guys, and as those guys emerge, sure, they are going to get an opportunity.”

The blame for the struggles belongs to everyone invested, but the root of the Ravens’ biggest problems — the poor run defense and inability to sustain a consistent pass rush — starts up front where the Baltimore defense has been thoroughly controlled at the line of scrimmage. And that’s where Harbaugh’s suggestion of relying on young players grows more unsettling.

Aside from All-Pro defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who is now struggling with nagging knee and shoulder injuries, the Ravens haven’t seen any of their other defensive linemen emerge to fill the void left behind by veterans who’ve departed in recent years. Terrence Cody, Pernell McPhee, and Arthur Jones have made little impact after being entrusted to assume bigger roles this season. Paul Kruger and Courtney Upshaw weren’t able to consistently get after the quarterback in the absence of five-time Pro Bowl pass-rusher Terrell Suggs. And a returning Ma’ake Kemoeatu has faded after a strong preseason to supplant Cody as the starting nose tackle.

Those shortcomings have led to the Baltimore defensive line being dominated at the line of scrimmage, failing to maintain gap control and allowing offensive linemen to get to the second level to block linebackers. The front four hasn’t made life difficult for opposing quarterbacks, who have then been able to pick on struggling cornerbacks.

The linebackers and secondary haven’t played well either, but their best chance for improvement starts with the defensive line, whose play impacts every level of the defense.

“[It's] a work in progress. We’re not where we’ve been in the past, obviously,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve been a dominant run front. We’ve been able to play the run with seven in the box and pretty much dominate the run. We’re not there right now. So, that’s what we’ve got to work towards.”

Figuring out how to fix it is the biggest problem as Pees has already employed a rotation of defensive linemen, with none making a consistent impact other than a healthy Ngata.

Cody has regressed so significantly since a strong start last season that he’d taken only roughly 30 percent of the team’s defensive snaps this season prior to Sunday when Kemoeatu was inactive due to a knee injury. The 2010 second-round pick has made only 12 tackles after collecting 34 in 2011 and doesn’t command the double teams you’d like to see to free up inside linebackers to make plays. Neither he nor Kemoeatu have handled the nose tackle position with any level of consistent effectiveness.

The combination of McPhee and Jones hasn’t made anyone forget about veteran defensive end Cory Redding, who left in free agency in the offseason. Emerging as the steal of the 2011 draft for the Ravens with six sacks during his rookie season, McPhee added weight to become a three-down defensive end and has dealt with the effects of arthroscopic knee surgery in the spring. Lacking the explosiveness he displayed as a rookie, he has only 16 tackles and 1/2 sack and saw his playing time drastically reduced on Sunday, taking part in only 20 percent of the defensive snaps after playing in roughly 70 percent of the defensive plays through the first six weeks of the season.

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Healthier Ravens make final preparations for New England

Posted on 21 September 2012 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 3:15 p.m.)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens conducted their final full practice of the week in preparation for their Sunday night showdown with the New England Patriots and appeared to be working with their full 53-man squad.

Though they performed their traditional “jersey swap” for Friday’s practice, all players listed on Thursday’s injury report were present and working, including offensive lineman Jah Reid (calf).

Safety Bernard Pollard (chest), cornerback Lardarius Webb (knee), linebacker Jameel McClain (knee), and defensive end Pernell McPhee (knee) were all practicing during the portion of practice open to the media. All four defensive starters were listed as limited participants for Thursday’s practice after sitting out Wednesday.

Listed as full participants on Thursday, linebacker Paul Kruger (back) and left tackle Michael Oher (ankle) were both working and no longer appear to be a concern for Sunday’s game.

Reid was practicing — likely on a limited basis — for the first time since suffering a setback during training camp. The second-year offensive lineman injured his calf during the team’s mandatory minicamp in June and experience two different setbacks that kept him sidelined for nearly the entire preseason.

“As a coach-doctor — that we are as head coaches in the National Football League — you start learning about all these little injuries. I’ve learned that calves take a long time to heal. I was not aware of that. But he is getting back, he is getting closer. So, it will be good to have him back in the mix.”

The Ravens will wear their purple jerseys with white pants on Sunday night as the forecast calls for temperatures to be in the high 50s for the prime-time affair.

The referee will be Bruce Hermansen, who carries 37 years of experience officiating Div. II and III college football games as well as high school and semipro. However, he was responsible for awarding the Seattle Seahawks an extra timeout in the second half of their Week 1 loss at Arizona.

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Pollard, three others return to practice on Thursday

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Pollard, three others return to practice on Thursday

Posted on 20 September 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A day after four defensive starters sat out practice, the Ravens looked much better from a health standpoint on Thursday as all four returned to the practice field.

Safety Bernard Pollard (ribs), cornerback Lardarius Webb (knee), linebacker Jameel McClain (knee), and defensive end Pernell McPhee (knee) were all present during the portion of practice open to the media. They were listed as non-participants on Wednesday’s injury report.

Pollard reiterated he would play on Sunday after declaring himself ready to go on Wednesday. He spent time hitting a blocking sled during the opening portion of practice and appeared ready to go.

“I’m ready to go,” Pollard said prior to Thursday’s workout. “When my mind is made up that I’m going, I’m not going to hold anything back and I will not. Nobody really cares. Once I’m in uniform, everybody expects plays to be made and they expect you to win. I’m playing; it’s going to be all good.”

McClain said before practice that his knee felt good and wasn’t concerned. He briefly left Sunday’s game with the injury before returning to action against the Eagles.

Linebacker Paul Kruger (back) and left tackle Michael Oher (ankle) were present and working after being classified as limited participants on Wednesday.

Offensive lineman Jah Reid (calf) was present for practice but was not working.

Here’s a look at Thursday’s injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: T Jah Reid (calf)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB Jameel McClain (knee), DE Pernell McPhee (knee), S Bernard Pollard (chest), CB Lardarius Webb (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Paul Kruger (back), T Michael Oher (ankle)

NEW ENGLAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DT Justin Francis (ankle), TE Aaron Hernandez (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: C Dan Connolly (concussion), DE Brandon Deaderick (ankle), CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), TE Daniel Fells (shin), WR Brandon Lloyd (thigh), G Logan Mankins (hip), C Nick McDonald (shoulder), CB Sterling Moore (knee), RB Shane Vereen (foot), T Sebastian Vollmer (back)
FULL PARTICIPATION: S Patrick Chung (shoulder)

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Four defensive starters absent from Wednesday’s practice

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Four defensive starters absent from Wednesday’s practice

Posted on 19 September 2012 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 5:05 p.m.)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Turning their full attention to the New England Patriots with their first official practice of the week, the Ravens were missing four defensive starters on Wednesday.

After missing the final three quarters of Sunday’s 24-23 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, strong safety Bernard Pollard (rib contusion) was absent during the portion of practice open to the media. This came as a mild surprise after Pollard had spoken to the media less than two hours earlier and implied that he would be on the practice field.

“I’m ready to go,” Pollard said before Wednesday’s practice. “I know my dogs are going to be ready. We’ve got to be animals out there.”

Pollard’s conviction when talking to reporters Wednesday still bodes well for his status against New England, and coach John Harbaugh said Monday that Pollard’s availability would depend on his tolerance for pain. The veteran safety is regarded as one of the toughest players in the entire NFL.

Inside linebacker Jameel McClain (knee) and defensive end Pernell McPhee (knee) were also missing from the the open portion of the workokut. McClain briefly left Sunday’s game with what looked like a leg injury, but the fifth-year linebacker soon returned to action.

After being listed as questionable on the final injury report for the Philadelphia game, McPhee played against the Eagles after testing out his surgically-repaired right knee prior to the game. He finished with three tackles in Week 2, but the second-year defensive lineman has dealt with knee soreness since undergoing arthroscopic surgery in the spring.

“It held up pretty good,” said McPhee when asked how the knee held up against the Eagles. “I mean, after the first half, it was kind of stiff. But after that, I started rolling.”

A surprise appearance on the injury report was made by cornerback Lardarius Webb, who was listed as a non-participant despite being present and dressed out to practice during the opening portion of the workout. If Webb had been injured during practice, he would have been listed as a limited participant, making it likely that the Ravens planned to hold him out all along.

Linebacker Paul Kruger practiced on Wednesday after he was held out of Sunday’s game with a back injury. The fourth-year defensive player missed two days of practice last week before working on a limited basis on Friday.

He expressed optimism that he would be able to play, but rookie Courtney Upshaw started in his place at the strongside linebacker position.

“It’s feeling good,” Kruger said prior to Wednesday’s workout. “I’m going to be out there today running around. I’m just excited to get out there this week. Big game for us. I’m doing everything I can to get healthy. It’s killing me not to be out there every day.”

Offensive lineman Jah Reid (calf) was observing practicing but was not participating.

Quarterback Joe Flacco (ribs) told the media he was feeling much better after admitting he had his ribs rolled under early in the second half of Sunday’s game.

Here is Wednesday’s injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Jameel McClain (knee), DE Pernell McPhee (knee), S Bernard Pollard (chest), T Jah Reid (calf), CB Lardarius Webb (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB Paul Kruger (back), T Michael Oher (ankle)

NEW ENGLAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Aaron Hernandez (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: C Dan Connolly (concussion), CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), TE Daniel Fells (shin), DT Justin Francis (ankle), WR Brandon Lloyd (thigh), C Nick McDonald (shoulder), CB Sterling Moore (knee), RB Shane Vereen (foot), T Sebastian Vollmer (back)
FULL PARTICIPATION: S Patrick Chung (shoulder)

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Tuesday musings from the Ravens beat

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Tuesday musings from the Ravens beat

Posted on 18 September 2012 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens enjoying their customary Tuesday off before turning their full attention to the New England Patriots on Sunday night, I offer some thoughts from the beat through the first two weeks of the regular season …

> One of the few defensive bright spots of the 24-23 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday was the play of outside linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Albert McClellan. Drawing the start in place of the injured Paul Kruger at the strongside linebacker spot, the rookie Upshaw did a solid job setting the edge on run plays and was one of the few players to pressure quarterback Michael Vick with any level of consistency.

Compared to his preseason performances in which he seemed sluggish and hesitant in his defensive responsibilities, Upshaw displayed a good motor in backside pursuit and finished with six tackles with one going for a loss. He wore down a bit in the second half after receiving his most extensive action to date and still looks uncomfortable when asked to drop into pass coverage, but Upshaw looks to be in much better shape and is finally starting to show the potential general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens saw in him with the 35th overall selection in April’s draft.

McClellan was one of the best players on the field for the Baltimore defense against the Eagles, finishing with six tackles with two going for losses and breaking up a pass in coverage. Though undersized at 6-feet-2 and 245 pounds, McClellan did an excellent job setting the edge as the Eagles averaged just 3.1 yards per carry.

With Upshaw showing signs of improvement and Kruger’s struggles at the strongside linebacker position going back to the preseason, it wouldn’t be surprising to see defensive coordinator Dean Pees settle on McClellan and Upshaw as his starting outside linebackers and move Kruger to the situational pass-rushing role he held in past seasons. McClellan hasn’t shown an ability to get to the quarterback, so it might be in the Ravens’ best interests to replace him on third down with Kruger and allow Upshaw to line up at the other defensive end spot in obvious passing situations.

> Speaking of passing plays, much has already been said about the Ravens’ decisions in short-yardage situations on Sunday with few supporting the calls of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

The Ravens were faced with six situations in which it was third or fourth down and two or less yards to go and the offense elected to pass every single time. Running all six plays from the shotgun formation, the Ravens failed to convert on any as the final two offensive plays with less than a minute remaining drew the most scrutiny.

Whether observers want to admit it or not, third-and-short has become a passing situation more often than not in today’s NFL. The Ravens aren’t the only team in the league to throw the football in those spots as it’s become a more wide-open game than what we watched in the past.

That said, it’s perplexing to not only watch the Ravens throw exclusively on that down and distance but also do it from the shotgun formation, a package in which your choice of running plays is more limited. Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice said it best following Sunday’s game when reminding everyone that the Ravens have arguably the best fullback in the league in Vonta Leach. It seems wasteful not to at least present a bigger threat of a run in those situations by having quarterback Joe Flacco line up under center, with Leach and Rice behind him. Even if the Ravens still elect to throw, this simple alteration might keep defenses guessing more in those short-yardage spots.

Coach John Harbaugh said it best Monday when reminding everyone that hindsight is 20-20 and that any play call looks great when it works and foolish when it doesn’t, and it is worth reminding everyone that Flacco missed an open Dennis Pitta on that third-and-1 play on the game’s final drive. However, the Ravens’ 0-for-6 showing in short-yardage situations on third and fourth down screams that it might be time to change up their philosophies a bit.

> Through the first two weeks of the season, it’s no secret that Flacco has picked up right where he left off late last season in targeting Pitta frequently in the passing game as the pair has connected 13 times for 128 yards and a touchdown. Seven of those catches have gone for first downs as the third-year tight end has been a go-to target when the Ravens need to move the chains.

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