WESTMINSTER — Breaking his silence about his nerve impingement in his neck and shoulder for the first time since discussing the ailment at the launch of training camp, Baltimore Ravens All-Pro free safety Ed Reed acknowledged that he’s still affected by the injury.
"It’s still sore," Reed said. "It still is what it is at this point."
Reed has been able to take part in contact drills, delivering some hard tackles and blitzing without hesitation. However, he has to adjust to the condition to preserve the health of his upper body.
"Just got to be smarter," Reed said. "Thinking about my son and the longevity of life, that keeps you playing differently. I’ve been practicing, I’ve been hitting."
The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year has often worn his red jersey signifying that he’s off-limits to contact, but wasn’t wearing it Friday.
Reed played in a few defensive series against the Washington Redskins last week without incident.
"Sometimes, it’s just a fun thing to come out here with the red jersey on," Reed said. "At the start of training camp, it was just being smart, making sure that everything was on the up and up and that I didn’t have any setbacks hitting somebody."
With his knowledge about neck injuries, Reed has counseled injured cornerback Samari Rolle to be cautious in his recovery from a recurring neck problem. Rolle has consulted a few specialists after undergoing neck surgery last year, and he remains on the physically unable to perform list.
"Yeah, like I told Samari, be smart," Reed said. "This is just a game at the end of the day. Your life is what matters. You’ve got kids to take care of."
INJURY UPDATES: Wide receiver Mark Clayton ran pass routes on the side as he works his way back from a high-degree strained left hamstring that had significant internal bleeding when he first got hurt Aug. 2 during a rainy practice.
Clayton is expected to return prior to the Ravens’ season opener Sept. 13 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
"I’m just thanking God that the healing process has been really smooth," Clayton said. "They said it could be into the season or whatnot, and I didn’t think I’d be running routes and stuff at this moment.
"You thought that was full speed? That’s not full speed. I still feel pretty slow, but it’s coming along. I’m just happy to be back."
Clayton isn’t sure when he’ll be able to return to practice. Estimates have ranged from the final week of the preseason to the first week heading into the Chiefs game.
The Ravens haven’t conducted another magnetic resonance imaging exam on Clayton since the initial diagnosis.
"I would like to be back Monday, but we’ll just go," Clayton said. "I know I’ll be back by the start of the season, but I’m trying to get back to the practice field."
Right offensive guard Chris Chester (strained right calf) returned to practice as well as tight end Todd Heap (lower back) after being held out Thursday.
Not practicing: linebackers Terrell Suggs (strained left heel, Achilles’ tendon) and Dannell Ellerbe (sprained right medial collateral ligament), offensive tackle Stefan Rodgers (right leg) and Rolle.
Suggs has been jogging and riding a stationary bike.
A GOOD CAMP: Ravens coach John Harbaugh praised the hospitality of Westminster, including McDaniel College and the Best Western hotel.
"It’s been a great camp, the people here at McDaniel College have been off the charts and at the Best Western up there, have been fantastic," Harbaugh said. "We get treated like kings, everything we need. The fields are in great shape. The locker room, the facilities are in great shape.
"Everybody goes out of their way to make it a great camp. You can see why the Ravens have been doing it here for a long time, and we think we’ll be doing it for a long time to come."
The Ravens’ contract with McDaniel expires following their 2010 camp. However, team officials have said they intend to negotiate a new deal with the private, liberal arts school prior to arriving at camp next summer.
Team spokesman Kevin Byrne said that attendance has averaged 5,000 per day, which would break the record of 2001 following the team’s Super Bowl championship season.
"We appreciate, we’re thankful, for the fans," Harbaugh said. "The fans have been off the charts. That’s been fun because that gets the guys juiced up, it gets them excited."
QUICK HITS: Former University of Miami linebacker Rohan Marley, the son of the late reggae artist Bob Marley, visited training camp and was warmly received by fellow Hurricanes such as middle linebacker Ray Lewis, Reed and running back Willis McGahee. "The Ravens are my favorite team," said Marley, whose visit was preceded two weeks ago by rapper Snoop Dogg. "They have the greatest defense ever. I came here to bring my good energy and push us to the Super Bowl. I’m a good-luck charm." … Wide receiver Derrick Mason switched back to his No. 85 jersey after wearing the No. 9 jersey to honor the memory of the late Steve McNair. … The Ravens canceled their afternoon practice due to a heavy rainstorm. The practice was closed to the public. Today is the final day of camp that’s open to fans and media. … Reed offered a prediction for the swimming competition between basketball player Shaquille O’Neal and Olympic champion swimmer Michael Phelps: "Oh, come on, man. Shaquille’s going to sink unless he’s in a boat. Then, I like Shaquille." … Lewis, center Matt Birk, Reed, Mason, defensive linemen Kelly Gregg, Trevor Pryce and Justin Bannan all returned to practice after being given Thursday off in a nod to their plus-30 age.