In a training camp where virtually all of the injury news has been bad, the Baltimore Ravens got two positive developments Friday.
Six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk was activated from the physically unable to perform list, practicing for the first time since undergoing offseason elbow surgery.
And veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason returned to practice after missing the previous two days with a sprained right ankle.
"Great to see Matt and Derrick back," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Derrick looked 100 percent, and Matt really looked 100 percent, too. I’m sure Matt will be a little sore because it was his first practice, but it was good to see him in there."
Birk had been itching to get back on the field ever since players arrived in Westminster last month.
Birk took the majority of the snaps. Chris Chester had been filling in for him.
"There’s nothing like football shape, it’s so hard to simulate," Birk said. "I was happy with what I was able to do from a pain standpoint. I tested it out, and it felt pretty good. I just had to jump in and try to get caught up as soon as I can.
"It felt pretty nice to put on the helmet and hit a gain. I definitely have got some catching up to do, but it was great to get up there. I’m sure I will be sore. That’s part of it. You’ve got to get the body callused up and ready to handle the rigors of the season.
Mason was relieved to make a quick return after twisting his ankle Tuesday morning.
He was able to cut fluidly and caught a touchdown pass from Joe Flacco, beating Fabian Washington.
"I’m a little rusty," Mason said. "I’ve been out two days, and that’s equal to about four or five practices. It took me a few minutes to get back to it. I’ll be back to full-go Saturday.
"We didn’t have any live period, so that was a good thing. The ankle held up strong, which is a good indication. Now, I’ll continue to rehab it and make progress."
WALT HARRIS PLACED ON INJURED RESERVE: Veteran cornerback Walt Harris was placed on injured reserve due to a strained calf muscle, but he intends to play football this fall.
Harris’ agent, Patrick Capra, told 24×7 that he has spoken with team officials and an injury settlement is a possibility. No settlement is imminent at this time, though.
"Walt fully intends to play football this season and would definitely be open to the idea of playing for the Ravens again," Capra said in a telephone interview. "There’s no hard feelings on Walt’s part. It’s the business of the game.
"Walt needs a week or two to get over the calf injury and then he can hopefully look at other opportunities. The first thing is he needs to get healthy."
Harris, 35, was sidelined all of last season with the San Francisco 49ers with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
He didn’t initially pass the Ravens’ conditioning test and was placed on the non-football injury list.
Harris complained of a sore Achilles’ tendon. Once he was activated, the former Pro Bowl selection missed several practices after incurring the calf problem.
The Ravens signed undrafted rookie cornerback Chris Hawkins to take Harris’ roster spot.
"Walt was really disappointed that he wasn’t able to get healthy in practice," coach John Harbaugh said. "That was the toughest thing. He feels like he’s close. He’s coming off the injury from last season.
"When I talked to him this morning, his goal is to go back and really get with trainers and get himself right where he feel like he can play this year. But he knows that he’s not there right now."
Harbaugh didn’t rule out the possibility of bringing back Harris once he’s healthy. The Ravens signed Harris to an incentive-laden deal this summer after he initially declined a veteran minimum offer.
"We like Walt," Harbaugh said. "It would always be a possibility."
FIRST DAY FOR HAWKINS: Hawkins was excited to get back on the practice field after being cut last month by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Signed by the Ravens to a one-year deal after a previous tryout with the Detroit Lions, Hawkins recorded 119 career tackles, 19 pass deflections at LSU.
"It felt great to be back playing football," said Hawkins, a 6-foot, 187-pounder who was invited to the NFL scouting combine and carried late-round grades from most scouting services. "I was out, so it’s exciting to have the opportunity to continue playing. The coaches said I’m a bit raw and young and I need to come out here ready to go. I haven’t even gotten my playbook yet, so I’m learning on the run.
"I wasn’t antsy. I was just hoping and praying that I could end up somewhere. It’s hard wondering if you’ll ever play again."
Hawkins indicated that the Ravens also tried out veteran defensive Keiwan Ratliff at the four-player tryout Thursday morning.
"Chris is a young guy looking for a shot," Harbaugh said. "Had a nice career at LSU, it looks like he’s got some skills. He’d be a developmental guy right now. It gives us another guy to look at."
MCGAHEE HAS SWOLLEN KNEE: Former Pro Bowl running back Willis McGahee didn’t practice because of swelling in his left knee.
"Willis has a little bit of swelling on the knee, not much," Harbaugh said. "I’d say it’s precautionary, just to give it a little bit of rest."
McGahee indicated that the injury isn’t serious and that the Ravens are just being careful.
"It’s fine," McGahee said. "I’ll be out there. I just needed a day off."
INJURY UPDATE: Not practicing: offensive tackles Jared Gaither (upper back spasms) and Tony Moll (concussion) and Stefan Rodgers (knee, ankle), center-guard David Hale (undisclosed), cornerback K.J. Gerard (hamstring) and McGahee.
The following players are still on the physically unable to perform list: free safety Ed Reed (hip), special-teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo (quadriceps), cornerback Lardarius Webb (knee) and running back Matt Lawrence( knee).
QUICK HITS: The Ravens will hold one practice today at M&T Bank Stadium, beginning at noon. The practice is free with a $5 parking fee and lots opening at 9 a.m. "Kids, tell your parents to bring you out," Harbaugh said. "It’s free, it’s free. Would love to have you out there." … Inside linebacker Jameel McClain hosted a group of inner-city children from Philadelphia, his hometown. McClain was homeless at times as a teenager growing up in Philadelphia. … Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs burst past Oniel Cousins for a sack. Suggs is much quicker now that he has lost 20 pounds after weighing in at 283 pounds last year. "He’s going to be quicker and more explosive, especially on the pass-rush stuff," Harbaugh said. "We’ve seen that out here. I don’t think he’ll hurt his run-stopping ability at all. I think he feels strongly he wants to be down in that area, and he’s doing it." … Shayne Graham missed three of his six field goal attempts, missing kicks from 64, 51 and 48 yards. … Rookie nose guard Terrence "Mount" Cody is enthused about playing in front of a big crowd. "I’m real excited," he said. "Alabama has some diehard fans. In the NFL, it’s different. I’m looking forward to it." … Cody, a second-round draft pick, has been doing extra conditioning after practice. "I’m getting into playing shape," he said. "It’s pretty hot out here, but not as hot as what I’m used to down at Alabama."