Baltimore Ravens star free safety Ed Reed is making steady progress following hip surgery this offseason, and he has been traveling regularly to Atlanta to try to accelerate the healing process.
The organization remains hopeful that Reed will make it back for the opening game of the season against the New York Jets.
However, Reed has said he doesn’t know if he’ll be ready for the first game of the season or the first game of October, November or December.
The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year is still on the physically unable to perform list.
Reed has been attending practice except when he goes to Georgia.
If Reed isn’t ready by the start of the season, then Tom Zbikowski is expected to start in his place.
NECK BOTHERING BIRK: Six- time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk hasn’t practiced since last week due to a tight neck, a problem that affected him last season.
Birk’s injury isn’t regarded as serious.
"He’s just got a little tightness in his neck," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Matt’s going to be a guy that we’re going to be very judicious with throughout training camp and even throughout the season.
"I don’t think a lot of practice is what he needs, but he’s up there. When you’ve played on the offensive line for that many years, you want to be smart with those guys with how many contact reps they take."
HALE TO UNDERGO MRI: Reserve offensive lineman David Hale has a bruised tailbone.
He’s set to have a magnetic resonance imaging exam to determine if there are any broken bones in the next day or two.
Hale is still feeling the effects from his violent collision with Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata Monday morning when he was carted off the field.
"He landed right on his tailbone, so it appears to be a bruised tailbone, which is extremely painful," Harbaugh said. "They haven’t been able to get a CAT scan or MRI on it, to my knowledge, to make sure it’s not fractured. Just landed straight on it with Haloti on top of him, so it’s a little painful."
Medical officials are waiting for the pain and swelling to subside before they order imaging for Hale.
Hale is having trouble getting around.
Harbaugh said it’s too soon to say whether the injury is going to force Hale out for the season.
"I really don’t know," he said. "We haven’t gotten the MRI on it yet. I wouldn’t be writing that yet."
NO RUSH WITH WEBB: Injured cornerback Lardarius Webb made it clear Monday that he believes it would be too soon for him to play in the preseason after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament against the Chicago Bears last December.
Basically, Harbaugh agrees with him.
Webb remains on the physically unable to perform list, but Harbaugh said that status could change soon.
"That’s kind of been our position all the way through with all of our guys," Harbaugh said. "As you said, we might want to be cautious with it. We’re going to be cautious with all these guys. The thing you don’t want to do is have a setback. He’s really doing well.
"I think he’s progressing ahead of schedule from what I’ve been told. It won’t be long before you see him off of PUP and out here practicing with the guys, but I think we are going to be cautious with it. If he can play in the preseason and we feel very comfortable that there’s not going to be a setback, then we’ll do it. If we think there is any possibility of a setback, a reasonable possibility of a setback, then we’ll probably just save him."
GOODEN RUNS WITH THE STARTERS: Tavares Gooden worked with the first-team defense at inside linebacker next to All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis.
He was out of the red jersey he wore Monday that signified he was off-limits to contact due to neck and back soreness.
Gooden and Dannell Ellerbe are competing with Jameel McClain, who started the preseason opener against the Washington Redskins.
Is Gooden going to start Saturday night against the Washington Redskins?
"It’s not up to me, that’s for the coaches to decide," Gooden said. "I’m good with [that]. Why not play all of us? You don’t want to just burn out one guy.
"It helps out our team depth that all of us can play, and I’m talking about play well when we’re in there. We’re going to ball out. Everybody is just holding up our own."
Gooden made the point that all of the linebackers will complement Lewis, and he complimented general manager Ozzie Newsome for assembling the group.
"Everybody knows this is Ray’s defense, and we’re all pieces to the puzzle," Gooden said. "He’s the master plan, and all of us fit around him to do that. Mr. Newsome does a great job. We’ve probably got the realest linebacker corps in the NFL."
The only topic Gooden was unwilling to discuss in detail was his health status.
"All the injury things, coach Harbaugh would like to address," Gooden said. "It was his decision to give me a red jersey. He wants to answer every question about injuries.
"I can’t answer questions technically about injuries. You’ve got to talk to the man. You saw me practicing. I practiced both days. That’s all I can tell you about the injury situation."
ANOTHER HEAYVWEIGHT FIGHT FOR COUSINS: Offensive tackle Oniel Cousins got in another practice scuffle, squaring off with outside linebacker Edgar Jones.
Conservatively, it’s at least his third fight since camp started.
"They might be coming after me," Cousins said with a smile.
Cousins is running with the first-team offense at right tackle.
Does he fight to prove he’s tough?
"In life in general, and in football, every day I come out here and I always feel like I have something to prove," Cousins said. "I wake up every day and appreciate every day of my life. I feel like I have something to prove every day. The chip is always on my shoulder."
During the fight, Jones ripped off Cousins’ helmet. And Cousins responded with a right-hand punch.
"It’s just a little something we got into," Cousins said. "It’s part of practice. By the end of the day, we’re friends again. It’s hot out there, and sometimes you need that excitement."
PLAYING IT SAFE: The Ravens didn’t have Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice carry the football or catch it out of the backfield against the Panthers.
"Ray’s a competitor. He wants to play," Harbaugh said. "And we’ll be smart with Ray. He’ll play as much as he needs to in the next few games, but Ray is going to play a lot in the regular season, too."
Rice worked out of the Wildcat formation Tuesday, taking a direct snap from center Chris Chester. He also took a handoff from backup Willis McGahee following a direct snap.
"We do a lot of stuff, so teams have to prepare for that," Harbaugh said. "I’m sure the Jets will be lining up against that now ."
QUICK HITS: The following players didn’t practice: offensive tackles Jared Gaither (strained back, back spasms) and Stefan Rodgers (shoulder), center-guard Daniel Sanders (shoulder), Birk, Hale and safety Marcus Paschal (right quadriceps). … Reed, running back Matt Lawrence (knee), Webb and linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (quadriceps) are still on the physically unable to perform list. … The Ravens hosted several hundred military personnel at practice from several branches of the military. All of the players as well as Harbaugh signed autographs and posed for pictures. The coaches wore camouflage hats during the practice. "We’re really proud of what all the personnel in the military all across the country and overseas have done for us," Harbaugh said. "To see the sacrifices their families make and some of the things they have to endure so that we can live the way we do and enjoy freedom and safety the way we do, I just can’t thank them enough. This is a very small token of our appreciation from the Ravens and all the Ravens fans." … Cornerback Cary Williams intercepted a pass that ricocheted off the hands of rookie wide receiver David Reed. … Shayne Graham and Billy Cundiff both knocked in 51-yard field goals.