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Live from Owings Mills: Webb a “game-time decision,” Cousins expected to play against Jets

Posted on 11 September 2010 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With an opening night encounter against the New York Jets only two days away, the Baltimore Ravens took the practice field on Saturday for a final tuneup before Sunday’s walk-through and train ride to East Rutherford, N.J..

Cornerback Lardarius Webb was practicing again on Saturday and is listed as probable on the official game status report released Saturday afternoon. Coach John Harbaugh,  however, labeled the second-year corner a game-time decision, which often means a player will be listed as questionable on the final injury report. Even if Webb does play, Fabian Washington and Chris Carr are expected to start against the Jets, with Josh Wilson working as the third corner.

“[Webb has] practiced 100 percent the whole week; he’s done everything,” Harbaugh said on Saturday. “We didn’t rule [him] out, and we haven’t said he was going to go. That’s kind of one we’re leaving up in the air for you.”

The Ravens are at least making it sound like Webb might play after defensive coordinator Greg Mattison claimed the second-year corner was “a lot closer” to returning following Friday’s practice. As he has said repeatedly since returning to the practice field last month, Webb will defer to the coaching staff to decide whether he plays in the opener,

“I think I can play if it came down to it,” Webb said. “I’m still leaving it up to coach  Harbaugh and [trainer Bill Tessendorf], but I am prepared and ready.”

Webb did not sound encouraged when asked about the potential chance of returning to the field for Week 1 after failing to receive any action in the team’s four preseason games. The cornerback missed training camp and the entire preseason as he rehabbed the surgically-repaired ACL in his right knee.

“It’s just all about the right timing,” Webb said following Saturday’s workout. “Me, [Harbaugh], and [Tessendorf will] come together and see what we want to do this week. We’re going to leave it to the game-time decision.”

The Ravens are keeping everyone guessing regarding the right tackle position with Jared Gaither already ruled out with the same back injury that has kept him off the practice field since early August. Oniel Cousins is listed as probable for Monday’s game and practiced on Saturday. Harbaugh’s comments following practice suggested all indications point to the young tackle being on the field against the Jets; however, it does not mean Cousins will be in the starting lineup. The third-year tackle said the symptoms from a concussion sustained in the final week of training camp have disappeared over the last few days.

“I don’t believe [Cousins] is touch-and-go,” Harbaugh said. “I would expect him to play. I shouldn’t speak for the doctors, but it looks to me like he’s ready to play.”

Cousins had made comments on Friday suggesting he may not be ready to go against the Jets. Tony Moll or starting right guard Marshal Yanda would be the most logical candidates to start should Cousins be held out. Moving Yanda to right tackle would force top reserve Chris Chester to move into the starting lineup at right guard, a position at which he split time last season with Yanda, who was still working his way back from a devastating knee injury suffered in 2008.

The preseason hype machine has been as loud as ever in Baltimore with expectations soaring for third-year quarterback Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense. The receiving trio of Anquan Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Derrick Mason appears tremendous on paper, but the question remains whether the young quarterback can keep all three former Pro Bowlers content by spreading the ball around in the passing game. The three possess similar traits, but none have a strong ability to stretch the field, making the trade of Mark Clayton a perplexing short-term decision with speedy receiver Donte’ Stallworth out with a broken foot until at least the bye week at the end of October.

Despite Houshmandzadeh being a Raven for less than a week, Harbaugh expects the veteran wideout to receive extensive playing time against the Jets. The former Bengals and Seahawks receiver wants to play as much as possible but is realistic about his limitations after only practicing four days with the team.

“That’s what I’m used to doing is playing the entire game,” Houshmandzadeh said following Saturday’s practice. “I’m not a fool, I know that’s not going to happen. But I want to play as much as I can.

All signs point to safety Tom Zbikowski returning punts against the Jets, as he is listed as the top returner on the team’s official depth chart and was again fielding punts in the portion of practice open to the media on Saturday. Webb has also fielded punts in practice this week, but one would think the coaching staff would prefer not to use Webb in the return game before he establishes himself as fit to contribute on defense.

There were no surprises among the players absent from practice, as Gaither, Stallworth, and defensive tackle Terrence Cody (knee) were absent from practice again on Saturday. All three have already been ruled out for Monday night.

NOTES: Ed Reed celebrated his 32nd birthday on Saturday and celebrated by working out on the side field at 1 Winning Drive. Several teammates wished the free safety a happy birthday during the portion of practice open to the media. Reed will miss at least the first six weeks of the season after being placed on the reserve Physically Unable to Perform list last week. … Walt Anderson will be the referee in Monday night’s game. His crew officiated the Ravens’ Monday night loss to the Packers last season in which a total of 23 penalties for 310 yards were called between the teams.

Check out the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from Harbaugh, Webb, Cousins, and Houshmandzadeh following Saturday’s practice in Owings Mills.

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Ravens-Giants Purple Haze chat now!

Posted on 28 August 2010 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens will try to win their third straight preseason game this evening as they host the New York Giants at 7:30 p.m. The third preseason game is widely-regarded as the most critical of the four preseason contests, so we can expect extensive playing time for the starting units.

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Glenn Clark and I are live from the press box at M&T Bank Stadium for all pre- and post-game coverage at WNST.net. We’ll have the Purple Haze chat open for business at 7:30 to talk about tonight’s preseason action, and you can expect a number of WNST.net personalities to chime in throughout the game. It’s the newest and best way to enjoy the game other than actually being at the stadium yourself!

If you haven’t done it already, remember to sign up for the WNST Text Service to receive all breaking news including injury updates prior to tonight’s game. It’s our best feature at WNST.net, and it’s free! As always, you can get the quickest updates and quips by following us on Twitter (@WNST)!

Stay right here for updates (time-stamped below) leading up to the start of the Purple Haze chat at 7:30 p.m.!

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7:00 p.m. — Interestingly enough, cornerback Lardarius Webb is dressed and going through pre-game activity. He was listed as a scratch tonight, but as we saw with Chris Carr in the preseason opener against Carolina, the preseason inactive list is not official like the one we see in the regular season.

We’ll continue to monitor Webb’s status as we get closer to game time.

6:55 p.m. — The Giants have an equal number of inactive players this evening. Receiver Ramses Barden, quarterback Jim Sorgi, safety Michael Johnson, cornerback Terrell Thomas, running back D.J. Ware, cornerback Aaron Ross, tight end Travis Beckum, linebacker Chase Blackburn, center Shaun O’Hara, guard Kevin Booth, receiver Sinorice Moss, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, and defensive lineman Chris Canty will all sit out tonight’s contest against the Ravens.

Rich Seubert will slide over to center in place of O’Hara and Guy Whimper will play left guard. Defensively, Rocky Bernard will replace Canty at defensive tackle, Bruce Johnson will take Thomas’ place at cornerback, and Jonathan Goff will start at MLB. Keith Bulluck is expected to play, however.

6:35 p.m. — If you’re on the WNST Text Service, you would already know the Ravens inactive list for this evening!

Thirteen players will not play this evening, including Lardarius Webb, Jared Gaither, Terrence Cody, Oniel Cousins, Demetrius Williams, Eron Riley, Marcus Paschal, K.J. Gerard, David Hale, Daniel Sanders, and the three remaining members of the PUP List (Ed Reed, Brendon Ayanbadejo, and Matt Lawrence).

Tony Moll will again be at right tackle with Gaither and Cousins sidelined, and Tom Zbikowski will receive the start at free safety with Reed still on the PUP list.

6:00 p.m. — Several players dealing with injuries were out on the field going throughout workouts earlier as we await to learn their status for tonight’s game.

Receiver Demetrius Williams was doing some agility work after not practicing the entire week. He sprained his ankle during last Saturday’s victory over the Redskins.

Cornerback Lardarius Webb was doing extensive work with secondary coach Chuck Pagano, though it is doubtful the Ravens would want Webb to play so soon after coming off the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Receiver Eron Riley (back) was also working out on the field.

5:40 p.m. — The Ravens will try to improve their preseason mark to 3-0 and win their seventh straight preseason game. The team holds an all-time 34-23 record in preseason play and is 17-12 at home.

Tonight marks the 12th time the Giants and Ravens have met in the preseason. Baltimore holds a 6-5 series lead in the preseason. The teams last met in a preseason contest on Aug. 19, 2007, a game in which the Giants won 13-12.

5:25 p.m. — The NFL will experiment with an eighth on-field official for tonight’s game, one of four preseason games the league is using as a test study. The deep judge will not be used in the regular season and is solely intended to provide the NFL Competition Committee with video and feedback for future consideration.

The “deep judge” will be positioned in the defensive backfield, opposite the back judge on the head linesman’s side of the field. His primary job is to watch eligible receivers.

Of course, the official crews are also adjusting to the newly-positioned umpire, who is now in the offensive backfield. Umpires were previously positioned behind the defensive line but have been moved because of safety concerns after several umpires were seriously injured in recent years.

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JOIN US NOW!!! Ravens-Redskins Purple Haze chat…enter here!

Posted on 21 August 2010 by Luke Jones

LANDOVER, Md. — Training camp may be over, but the Ravens hope to improve their preseason mark to 2-0 when they travel to FedEx Field to take on the hated Washington Redskins on Saturday night. Despite only being a preseason game, there’s always a little more spice when the team from D.C. is involved.

Glenn Clark and I are live from Landover to bring you all pre- and post-game coverage at WNST.net, and we’ll have the Purple Haze chat underway at 7:00 p.m. Join us to talk about tonight’s game as a plethora of WNST.net personalities will be checking in as well. It’s the newest and best way to enjoy the game other than actually being at the stadium yourself!

If you haven’t done it already, remember to sign up for the WNST Text Service to receive all breaking news including injury updates prior to tonight’s game. It’s our best feature at WNST.net, and it’s free!

Stay right here for updates (time-stamped below) leading up to the start of the Purple Haze chat at 7:00 p.m.!

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6:30 p.m. — Despite not being listed as inactive, cornerback Lardarius Webb remains on the PUP list and will not play this evening. It was simply an oversight.

6:20 p.m. — The Redskins only have two players on the inactive list: wide receivers Malcolm Kelly and Mike Furrey (who was placed on Injured Reserve earlier this week).

Larry Johnson will get the start at running back ahead of Clinton Portis for the Redskins.

6:10 p.m. — If you’re on the WNST Text Service, you’ve already received the Ravens inactives for tonight’s game, which include Oniel Cousins, K.J. Gerard, Marcus Paschal, David Hale, Daniel Sanders, Stefan Rodgers, and the four players on the active PUP (Lardarius Webb, Ed Reed, Matt Lawrence, and Brendon Ayanbadejo).

Tony Moll will start at right tackle in place of Jared Gaither and Oniel Cousins. Of course, Tom Zbikowski will start at free safety in place of Ed Reed.

5:57 p.m. — Mark Clayton just did some work on the field but wasn’t suited up to play. The receiver has battled a sore ankle this week and missed practice on Thursday.

We’ll learn the inactives shortly.

5:47 p.m. — Chris Carr is not suited up as he does some running on the field. No official word whether he’s playing or not.

If Carr cannot go, Travis Fisher would presumably start in his place opposite Fabian Washington in the starting defense.

5:35 p.m. — The Redskins will wear white jerseys with burgundy pants while the Ravens will sport their purple jerseys with white pants tonight at FedEx Field.

Lardarius Webb is doing some conditioning work on the field. With John Harbaugh saying he was “very close” to coming off the physically unable to perform list, it will be interesting to see if the second-year cornerback is back on the practice field in Owings Mills this week.

5:00 p.m. — Tonight’s game marks the sixth time the Ravens and Redskins have met in the preseason, with Baltimore holding a 3-2 advantage in the series. The Ravens bested Washington 24-10 in the 2009 preseason.

Of course, the Ravens have also dominated when it actually matters with a 3-1 all-time record against the Redskins in the regular season. Their most recent meeting was a dominating 24-10 victory for the Ravens in a nationally-televised Sunday night affair on Dec. 7, 2008.

Both teams won their preseason openers, with the Ravens beating the Carolina Panthers, 17-12, and the Redskins scoring 41 points in a victory over the hapless Buffalo Bills.

4:50 p.m. — Glenn Clark and I have arrived in the FedEd Field press box and have been seated at the corner of the end zone.

Upon arriving, Glenn sais to me, “You know what’s great about this place? … Nothing.”

What a funny guy. He truly loves D.C. or Landover or Raljon or whatever they’re calling this place these days.

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Optimistic Ravens exit Westminster as stakes begin to grow

Posted on 19 August 2010 by Luke Jones

Optimism percolated from every route leading to Westminster as the masses flooded to McDaniel College over the last four weeks to take a glimpse at a team with its sights set on a date in Dallas on the first Sunday in February.

The Ravens set an all-time training camp attendance record of 112,051 despite a new kid-friendly autograph policy that many thought would temper the masses.

Even with the uncertain status of Ed Reed and the unfortunate losses of rookie Sergio Kindle and Domonique Foxworth, the Ravens have practiced with a swagger indicative of a team fully expecting to be playing deep into January or—with some good fortune—even later. A workmanlike demeanor from third-year coach John Harbaugh has muzzled some of the flamboyant comments uttered by players in past anticipated seasons, but the goal is clear, even under the hot sun of Westminster.

“[Camp has] just been tremendous,” Harbaugh said. “First of all, we’ve gotten a lot of work done. Our guys have worked really hard, and it’s a grind. Football training camp is hard work.”

Despite injury concerns in the secondary (Reed and Lardarius Webb) and offensive line (Jared Gaither), the Ravens managed to avoid any more catastrophic injuries after the deflating loss of Foxworth on July 29.

Breaking camp marks the next step in the quest for a Super Bowl, but the stakes rise much higher from this point forward. Optimism and good vibes are easily found in the secluded confines of an NFL training camp.

Despite the open nature of practices in Westminster, coaches and players work within a cocoon of order. Distractions are at a minimum as players live with curfews and are away from everyday responsibilities related to family and friends.

It was football and only football for four taxing weeks, but players return to a sense of normalcy on Friday.

Now, Joe Flacco and a much-improved offense—on paper anyway—have three more preseason games to fine-tune their work to determine if the vision of becoming an elite unit comes to fruition.

As much as we analyze every play and every day of the summer, picking on cornerbacks like Doug Dutch and Chris Hawkins shows little in terms of how explosive the Baltimore offense will ultimately be. The pressure gets that much heavier, even if the workload of practice decreases.

An unsettling situation at the right tackle position might derail that optimism as quickly as Ray Rice can take it 83 yards to the end zone. The physical and mental health of Gaither is critical with unproven players in Oniel Cousins and Tony Moll—who have also been hindered with injuries—waiting behind him.

An even shakier atmosphere exists with the defense, a perennial top-5 unit in the NFL for over a decade. Even before the loss of Foxworth due to a torn ACL, the Ravens were light on quality at cornerback and occasionally-promising showings from the likes of Travis Fisher, Cary Williams, and Prince Miller in Westminster will not get it done against the Cincinnatis and New Englands of the world.

Fabian Washington has progressed nicely in his recovery from a torn ACL last season and will see his first game action against the Washington Redskins on Saturday. Chris Carr, the nickelback a season ago, will be relied upon to hold down the other starting spot as Webb will presumably be getting back to the practice field in the coming days.

And, oh yeah, the six-time All-Pro Reed still has no timetable for a return despite making progress in rehabbing his surgically-repaired hip. Tom Zbikowski has competently held his spot at free safety with the Ravens showing cautious optimism that Reed might be able to play Week 1. However, only the enigmatic safety really knows when he will be ready.

“We feel like the guys that we have are going to be able to go in there and get the job done,” said Carr, who reminded reporters the Ravens finished with the eighth-ranked pass defense last season despite late-season injuries. “We feel like we’re experienced, and we have a lot of potential to get better. We feel like we can do a lot of things back there.”

Easy feelings to have within the sheltered atmosphere of Westminster, but Ozzie Newsome knows better. The front office clearly wants—and needs—to upgrade the cornerback position, even if  it’s only a quality third or fourth defensive back from another team.

The most critical component to enhancing the suspect pass defense is improving the pass rush, as the Ravens produced their second lowest sack total (32) in franchise history in 2009.

Despite the absence of the rookie Kindle, Antwan Barnes and Paul Kruger have impressed in that area, both in camp and against the Carolina Panthers last Thursday. The emergence of these two coupled with a healthy and motivated Terrell Suggs might just mask a weaker secondary.

However, we’ve seen strong preseason performances from countless young players in years past—Barnes being one of them—only to see them forgotten by mid-September.

When the Ravens put Westminster in the rear-view mirror on Friday, they leave training camp behind and return to the cozy confines in Owings Mills, but the summer sun rapidly transforms to the white-hot expectations created—locally and nationally—over the last seven months.

“Hopefully, we’re the best football team we can be coming out of this training camp at this time, but we still have work to do,” Harbaugh said. “Next week we’ll be right into training camp again, and it’ll be one-a-days, more of an in-season type schedule, but we’ll still be in camp as far as we’re concerned.”

Cutdown dates loom for players trying to secure a roster spot, the clock ticks on whether Newsome can find another piece to enhance the secondary, and the New York Jets and Monday Night Football await in less than four weeks.

Thankful players say goodbye to the team hotel in Westminster and return to their own beds on Friday, but with that come the more restless nights as a season of lofty expectations quickly approaches.

Training camp is in the books.

From here on out, it gets a little more real.

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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: 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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Live from Westminster: Gaither to miss 2-3 more weeks with back ‘tear’

Posted on 14 August 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. — What originally started as an innocent case of back cramps has transformed into a long-term concern for offensive tackle Jared Gaither and the Ravens.

Gaither will miss another two to three weeks with what’s being described as a “small tear” in his back, according to coach John Harbaugh. The tear continues to cause the spasms Gaither has experienced since July 30 when he was carted off the field during the first afternoon practice for veteran players.

“He’s got something in his back,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a very small tear. I don’t know the medical term for it. It’s not a serious thing, but it’s going to keep him out a couple weeks until it settles down.”

After briefly returning to practice for four days after missing the first weekend of workouts in Westminster, Gaither has not practiced since August 5 and missed the team’s preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday.

Gaither has now seen at least two back specialists, including one in California who made the diagnosis earlier this week.

“[Gaither’s] going to have to work as hard as he can,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll have to try to work it out. I wouldn’t hold my breath for two weeks, three weeks through camp here and we’ll see where we’re at at that point.”

Third-year tackle Oniel Cousins has played in Gaither’s place on the right side with the first offense and started against the Panthers on Thursday.

Stay right here for updates (time-stamped below) and check out the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from John Harbaugh, Mark Clayton, and Haruki Nakamura.

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8:25 p.m. — In addition to Gaither, others missing from practice included cornerbacks Chris Carr and Marcus Paschal, center Matt Birk, and offensive lineman Daniel Sanders, who had his left arm in a sling during practice.

Offensive tackle Tony Moll (concussion) and defensive back K.J. Gerard (hamstring) returned to practice. Cornerback Fabian Washington (knee) was a full participant in Saturday’s practice after sitting out Thursday’s game as a precautionary measure.

There was no change to the active physically unable to perform list, which includes safety Ed Reed (hip), cornerback Lardarius Webb (knee), running back Matt Lawrence (knee), and linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (quadriceps).

7:40 p.m. — With John Harbaugh canceling both practices on Sunday, it’s no shock the players were taken aback, given the head coach’s workmanlike, no-nonsense reputation. The team will be back on the practice field on Monday at 8:45 a.m. and will have a special teams workout at 2:00 p.m.

“They were a little bit surprised,” said Harbaugh, drawing laughs from reporters. “They didn’t say much, they didn’t really respond. I think they were looking for the catch, they were waiting for the ‘but.’

“The truth is I don’t think it’s a reward, it’s where we’re at right now. It’s a reward, I guess, in the sense that they’ve earned it. We’ve worked really hard throughout training camp—coaches and players—and I think the best thing for us is a little recovery time. We pack a lot of work in every single practice. I like where we’re at right now as a football team, and, really, the best thing for us is to give them a chance to get a jump-start on their legs.”

Sunday’s cancellation leaves only four days of training camp practices before the Ravens break camp on Friday, a day before their second preseason game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field on Saturday night.

“Just grateful for [the time off],” said receiver Mark Clayton, who admitted many players thought the coach was joking when he gave the news. “I know we’ll take advantage of it, rest up, and come out Monday and give it everything we’ve got.”

7:35 p.m. — Despite missing a 50-yard field goal against the Panthers on Thursday night, veteran Shayne Graham rebounded on Saturday afternoon by connecting on all five attempts, including one from the same distance he missed in the preseason opener.

Billy Cundiff missed wide left from 50 yards but connected on his other five tries during the afternoon practice.

John Harbaugh still sees the competition as being wide open despite some recent struggles from Graham, including his miss against the Panthers.

“It’s too early to say. They’ve both done well. I think [Graham’s] kick in the game was a tough one. He wants to make that kick, but it was a tough kick.”

7:25 p.m. — As for the afternoon practice itself, it was a sloppy day for the passing offense as numerous receivers dropped passes, something we haven’t seen very often in an otherwise crisp training camp for the revamped passing game.

Fullback Le’Ron McClain and receivers Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason dropped passes on three of four plays at one point during 11-on-11 drills. One defender shouted, “More carries, not more catches!” after McClain dropped a short pass out of the backfield, a jab at the fullback’s comedic campaign to receive more carries in the Baltimore offense this season.

It was, however, an impressive afternoon for rookie tight end Dennis Pitta who made two impressive catches during 11-on-11 work. Pitta caught a Marc Bulger pass over safety Dawan Landry in the back of the end zone and later made a diving, juggling catch to earn cheers from the Westminster crowd.

Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe lined up on the inside with the starting defense, perhaps signifying a change in the depth chart after the preseason opener.

Jameel McClain received the start next to Ray Lewis on Thursday and had been the starter through the first couple weeks of camp but was out of position and missed tackles on several occasions against the Panthers.

McClain worked at outside linebacker with the second defense for most of the afternoon practice. The other contender for the starting inside linebacker position, Tavares Gooden, was not very active during the team portion of practice.

7:05 p.m. — The other big news of the day was the Ravens parting ways with veteran long snapper Matt Katula. The Ravens re-signed cornerback Brad Jones, who was with the team during the OTA schedule, and waived Katula, leaving rookie Morgan Cox as the only long snapper on the 80-man camp roster. Cox handled all long-snapping against Carolina in the preseason opener on Thursday.

“We wanted to see [Cox] in a game situation,” Harbaugh said. “He’s been doing a real good job throughout the offseason and throughout training camp, but you never want to make a move until you know [he can do it] in a game. He did a nice job, and we feel comfortable he can be our snapper, so we’ll go with the younger guy.”

Harbaugh said Katula’s issue with elbow tendinitis last season did not factor in the decision and the veteran was healthy. Katula had been the Ravens’ long snapper since 2005 when he unseated veteran incumbent Joe Maese during training camp.

That’s life in the NFL as a long snapper.

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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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Live from Westminster: Carr, Gooden sit out afternoon practice

Posted on 08 August 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. — The Ravens were back on the practice field in Westminster with the “over-30” club sitting out the Sunday afternoon session. The remaining players practiced in shells and shorts with many players dealing with “soreness” after two weeks of camp workouts, according to coach John Harbaugh.

Cornerback Chris Carr did not practice after leaving the field with a hamstring injury Saturday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium. He left the field before practice was over to dodge reporters’ questions, but Harbaugh does not consider the injury to be serious.

“It looks like [a short-term injury],” Harbaugh said. “[Carr] was out doing some things today, so he should be fine.”

Linebacker Tavares Gooden was a new absence from practice on Saturday afternoon despite downplaying the significance of him not practicing. The third-year linebacker would not comment on any injury, simply saying he was “good, just running around; that’s all.”

Gooden’s absence was labeled “precautionary” by Harbaugh, and he expects the linebacker to return to the practice field on Monday.

In addition to the veterans over 30—including Derrick Mason who bruised his knee during Saturday’s workout—Jared Gaither (back spasms), David Hale (undisclosed), Tony Moll (concussion), Stefan Rodgers (ankle), Marcus Paschal (leg), and K.J. Gerard (hamstring) joined Carr and Gooden as the others missing practice. Prince Miller was absent from practice to witness the birth of his daughter, according to his Twitter account (@Sheeeesh_Miller).

The afternoon practice focused on passing drills with safety Dawan Landry continuing to lead a patchwork secondary. The fifth-year player picked off Joe Flacco to continue a strong camp in which he’s delivered vicious hits and provided tight coverage in the defensive backfield. With Ed Reed continuing to work his way back from hip surgery and several cornerbacks hampered by injuries, Landry is being leaned on to provide leadership in the secondary.

He and Tom Zbikowski have excelled throughout training camp, helping to ease concerns at the safety position.

“[Landry] is the guy that’s probably been there the longest, maybe the most experienced guy back there now,” Harbaugh said. “I really feel good about our safeties. Our safeties, as a group, have done really well. The corners that have played have done well. I think the safeties have anchored us so far in camp.”

With so many corners missing time during training camp, it’s allowed Cary Williams to receive reps with the first-team defense, a golden opportunity if not for his off-field issues. The third-year player is suspended for the first two games of the season after violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy during his time with the Tennessee Titans. The Ravens signed Williams from the Titans’ practice squad last November.

The suspension was announced the week before training camp began.

“He’s got to pay a consequence for a mistake that he made,” Harbaugh said. “That’s the way it is in the world, and he understands that. It’s going to be damaging to us and to him, but he’s got to move on from it. I think he’s matured quite a bit, even the time he’s been here with us, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from John Harbaugh following Sunday afternoon’s practice at McDaniel College.

The Ravens will be back on the field for a Monday morning workout at 8:45 a.m. and another full-squad practice at 2:45 p.m. Don’t forget to tune to AM 1570 or streaming online at WNST.net for training camp updates from Westminster every hour on the :30s!

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Live from Westminster: Ravens welcome Goodell, Madden to camp

Posted on 04 August 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. — It lacked the hoopla of last season’s surprise visit from Snoop Dogg, but the Ravens rolled out the purple carpet for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Hall of Fame coach and broadcaster John Madden this morning at McDaniel College.

The two arrived shortly after 9:00 a.m. in the large Madden Cruiser—or whatever they’re calling it these days.

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Goodell and Madden visited with general manager Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh before the commissioner stepped to the podium to answer questions from the Baltimore media. Goodell also met with Ravens season ticket holders at McDaniel as well as an encounter with the Ravens in a players-only meeting at noon.

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“It’s exciting; it’s different,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not something that you’re kind of used to. You feel like you want to do a good job and show him that we know what we’re doing. Players are kind of excited.”

As for the action on the field Wednesday morning, Derrick Mason sat out the session as he recovers from a right ankle injury. He was walking around on the field—with the ankle taped—during practice and doesn’t appear to be feeling too many ill effects.

Cornerback K.J Gerard (hamstring) and offensive tackle Tony Moll (concussion) did not participate in the morning practice, but cornerbacks Chris Carr (back) and Fabian Washington (knee – sat out Tuesday afternoon) participated fully.

Harbaugh also said Matt Birk (elbow – PUP list) is close to returning, and Birk confirmed that he would see the team doctor today to get an update on his status.

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