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OWINGS MILLS — A pair of sprained right ankles are expected to shut down wide receiver Mark Clayton and cornerback Samari Rolle for the remainder of the preseason, although both starters insisted that they’ll be ready for the season opener.
Clayton’s injury appears to be more serious than initially thought as he was wearing a protecting walking boot Tuesday in the locker room.
And Rolle, who got injured during the first quarter of a 13-12 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday night, confirmed that he’ll miss the remaining two preseason games against the Washington Redskins on Saturday night and the Atlanta Falcons on Aug. 31.
"I’ll be running as soon as possible, catching balls as soon as possible," said Clayton when asked how he would react if the training staff suggested he sit out the Sept. 10 opener against the Cincinnati Bengals. "I need to be out there and work repetitions."
Clayton incurred a high-ankle sprain as a rookie, but said this injury isn’t nearly as painful or serious. The Ravens’ leader in receiving yardage with 939 yards last season hurt his ankle while blocking downfield in the first quarter.
"For me, it’s kind of the bone right above my ankle, kind of at the bottom of the shin," Clayton said. "That bone is really sore, so it’s tough getting on my toes and everything."
When Clayton and Derrick Mason sidelined against New York, Clarence Moore was inserted alongside Demetrius Williams. Now, Mason is back from a minor shoulder injury.
Meanwhile, Rolle is optimistic that this ankle injury won’t linger like the one he suffered in the second game last year against the Oakland Raiders. That setback affected the former Pro Bowl selection’s speed and eventually his confidence during a season where he drew heavy criticism and was picked on regularly downfield.
"Same ankle, but not as bad," said Rolle, who’s off crutches. "I think it’s just sprained badly. I’ll be out there in the opener definitely.
"You never want to get hurt in a preseason game or a preseason practice because, ultimately, that’s not what you’re playing for. I’m just glad everything worked out and I’m healthy."
Rolle is looking forward to his matchup with Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson and even shouted out the All-Pro’s nickname, "Ocho-Cinco," at the conclusion of an interview. He’s determined to regain his old standing as a shutdown cornerback.
"Like I told guys earlier, I’m here to get my name back and my reputation," Rolle said. "So, last year is done with."
When Rolle got hurt, the Ravens plugged in nickel back Corey Ivy. He held up fairly well overall, but allowed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith in zone coverage.
"Anytime somebody goes down, you’re looking to step in and play to the level that’s expected of you," Ivy said. "They’re going to catch a couple of passes here and there. You just need to play within the scheme and not overanalyze things."
However, don’t rule out the possibility of expanded playing time against the Redskins for cornerback David Pittman, whom team officials are curious about evaluating to determine if he’s ready for a more substantial role. Pittman was a disappointment as a rookie last season, when the third-round draft pick from Division I-AA Northwestern State (La.) was deactivated for every single game and drew criticism about his work ethic and toughness.
"The lights may have been a little too bright for David last year," secondary coach Dennis Thurman said. "He had a tough beginning, but the guys hung in there with him. He has started to understand what it is to be a pro, and his attitude has been 100 percent better than it was at this time a year ago.
"I think he has a bright future. He’s a great natural athlete. He has quick feet, wonderful change of direction, can cover man-to-man. If David understands what it means to be consistent and do his job play-in and play-out, it’s a matter of us incorporating what he can do into our scheme."
With Ivy running with the first defense, second-year defensive back Derrick Martin got the first crack at lining up as the fifth defensive back. Martin played in eight games as a rookie, primarily operating on special teams.
"When things like this happen, you’ve got to be ready," Martin said. "I’m ready. You’ve always got to practice like you’re going to play."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.