OWINGS MILLS – The Baltimore Ravens’ stingy defense is about to get even stronger.
Star free safety Ed Reed is going to start practicing Wednesday after spending the first six weeks of the regular season on the physical unable to perform list following offseason hip surgery. This is the first week that he’s eligible to be activated.
Although Reed is not a lock to play in Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills, the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year has displayed good mobility in drills while working on the side at practices.
It’s unclear if Reed will start or see limited action, and Harbaugh said his status is up in the air.
"We’ll just see how it goes," Harbaugh said. "I think it’s going to be something that we’re going to have to figure out. I know he’s worked really hard, and when you look at him, he looks very fit.
"But the hip is the issue. How is the hip going to hold up with the football-related stuff? We’ll have to see."
The Ravens rank third in pass defense.
They have intercepted three passes in six games.
With Reed’s impactful presence in the secondary, the Ravens could become more opportunistic on defense and more aggressive with blitz packages.
"It’s only going to get better with Ed Reed back there," Harbaugh said. "He’s going to add a dynamic that is going to be a problem for offenses. You never know where he’s at in coverage. He sees things that other guys don’t see."
The Ravens will have to create a roster spot for Reed as well as three-time Pro Bowl special-teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo, who’s also scheduled to practice this week after being on the PUP list following a torn quadriceps tendon suffered last year.
The Ravens can wait as long as 4 p.m. Saturday before making a roster move, either by cutting a player or placing them on injured reserve.
The Ravens could possibly place offensive tackle Jared Gaither on injured reserve.
Gaither is dealing with a thoracic disc injury suffered during the first week of training camp and has practiced only once since Aug. 5.
"I asked him how he’s feeling and he said it’s unchanged through the weekend," Harbaugh said. "So, that’s going to be part of the equation."
Harbaugh acknowledged that Gaither is a potential candidate for injured reserve. The back just isn’t improving.
"I don’t know the likelihood of anybody right now," Harbaugh said. "I haven’t thought about percentages. I’m looking forward to getting those guys back and not looking forward to losing anybody. That’s the tough dilemma of it."
RAVENS NOT TRADING MCGAHEE: Harbaugh shot down trade rumors surrounding former Pro Bowl running back Willis McGahee on the eve of today’s afternoon NFL trading deadline
McGahee rode the bench during the Ravens’ 23-20 overtime loss to the New England Patriots.
"There is no Willis trade talk," Harbaugh said. "Unless there is something I don’t know about, which is almost impossible, there is absolutely no way he’s being traded. He will be on our team this week and for the rest of the season. He will be a key part in what we’re doing."
McGahee said he didn’t know why he was held out of the game. He wasn’t injured.
"That’s all coaching," McGahee said. "I got nothing to do with that. They going to go with who they want in there. All I can do is watch. I don’t know. It is what it is, man."
Harbaugh also said that McGahee wasn’t held out because of any violation of team rules. There have been unconfirmed rumors that the former Pro Bowl runner had lateness issues during the road trip to New England.
"Willis has been great," Harbaugh said. "Willis is 100 percent on top of everything and he’s been working really hard. He’s been tremendous."
So, why didn’t he play?
"I think to define it in a sense of an X-and-O sense, it’s just week to week," Harbaugh said. "It’s how you feel about how the game is going. I think the biggest thing is we felt good about Ray [Rice]. It wasn’t a defined plan that Willis wasn’t going to see the field, by any stretch. I think we all felt that Willis was going to play.
"The plays we were calling were good for Ray. The surface we were on was good for Ray, and we just decided to stick with Ray. But you’ll see plenty of Willis as we go forward."
IN FAVOR OF SUSPENSIONS: In the wake of tight end Todd Heap suffering a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit from Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather, the NFL is looking into potentially issuing suspensions as punishment for that kind of infraction.
"I think we’re all responsible to adhere to the rules, the letter of the law and the spirit of the law as much as we can, especially when it comes to injuries," Harbaugh said. "I’d be disappointed if one of our guys got suspended, and I would think that they’d do something in terms of, I doubt that would be a one-strike-and-you’re-out kind of thing, but if you become a repeat offender trying to hurt guy, and I’m not saying he is. I’m just generally speaking. That’s something that would need to be addressed probably with suspensions. I’d be for that."
Meanwhile, former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira expressed concerns about the rising amount of helmet-to-helmet hits.
And Meriweather’s launching shot to the Heap’s head has upset Pereira.
Pereira discussed the hit and said that Meriweather should be sanctioned.
"I cannot muster any kind of sympathy for Meriweather," Pereira wrote in his FOX Sports column. "This is another cheap shot, and, in my mind, worse than the hit Cleveland’s T.J. Ward put on Cincinnati’s Jordan Shipley two weeks ago, and Ward was fined $15,000. Meriweather clearly launched and went helmet-to-helmet against Heap, and Heap was injured on the play.
"At least Ward did not launch. This type of hit is totally avoidable, and another message needs to be sent by the league to all players, forcing them to realize this type of contact is not acceptable. I look for a big fine to come from the league against Meriweather."
TALKING TRASH: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has issued a rebuttal to Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.
Suggs and Brady traded words during the Patriots’ 23-20 overtime win.
"He was trying to tell me how to bag a Hollywood actress," Suggs said. "He said, ‘If you want to get a Hollywood actress, take my seminar on Saturday.’ He was going over the Dow and the economy and politics. He doesn’t really talk football that much."
And Brady got the last word during his WEEI radio appearance Monday morning.
"Well, he had his chance so maybe if he gets another chance he can try to back those words up," Brady said. "We play those guys a lot and they’ve only beat us once .They talk a lot for only beating us once in nine years."
If there’s a brewing feud here, it doesn’t exist between Harbaugh and Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
"I talked to coach Belichick, and he said he wanted to see us again," Harbaugh said. "And we both laughed about it because there’s a lot of respect for both teams. There’s no question about it. I feel like they respect us, and I know we respect them.
"That’s why that win up there was so meaningful to the Ravens last year, because of the respect we have for that football team. We’ll probably get a chance to play them again. I know we will at some point in time, and we look forward to it."
INTERESTED IN LIGHTS OUT?: The Ravens are interested in possibly pursuing San Diego Chargers outside linebacker Shawne Merriman once he’s a free agent, according to Sports Illustrated.
The Ravens have discussed Merriman internally.
However, Merriman, who has a history of injury issues and a previous suspension for violating the league’s steroid policy, would have to be willing to play for a lower salary and pass a physical.
Plus, the San Francisco 49ers are extremely interested in Merriman after discussing a potential trade with the Chargers previously.
Merriman would have to clear waivers, too.
The former University of Maryland standout is on injured reserve with a minor injury designation with a calf injury.
The Chargers will cut him as soon as he’s regarded as healthy.
Most teams won’t want to take on his $3.269 million contract. And Merriman has recorded only six tackles and zero sacks in three games this fall.
The Ravens sacked Brady three times Sunday.
"I think we’ve gotten good pressure," Harbaugh said. "We had three sacks against a guy that’s pretty hard to sack. We had a number of quarterback hits that were perfectly well-executed hits. I was really pleased with those, but we want more. We definitely want more, and we’re going to try to get more."
Merriman, who recorded 39 ½ sacks from 2005 to 2007, reportedly prefers to play for the Ravens, Miami Dolphins or the Dallas Cowboys, all 3-4 defenses.
TAKING RESPONSIBILITY: Reserve cornerback Cary Williams admitted he was at fault for a block-in-the-back penalty in overtime.
"I got him in the back, I’ll take full responsibility," Williams said. "I’m supposed to get the guy in the front. I got him in the back. It was a good call. It was a call that should have been made. You win some, you lose some.
Rookie tight end Ed Dickson was also hit with another holding penalty on a kickoff return.
If this continues, Harbaugh said that guilty parties are going to be benched.
"If you can’t block without holding a guy on special teams, if you can’t tell that that’s his back and not his front, then you can’t play for us," Harbaugh said. "It’s just that simple."
LOSING IT: Pro Bowl fullback Le’Ron McClain was flagged with a costly personal foul in overtime. when he retaliated against Patriots rookie outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham.
McClain said it was a selfish move on his part to shove Cunningham after he said he was shoved and taunted.
"I don’t get frustrated," Harbaugh said. "I think that it’s something that you work with. It’s not something that helped us. You can get mad about it, you can get disappointed about it. It’s not helpful. That’s 10 yards that we don’t need to regain. We showed a tape on Saturday about some things around the NFL.
"The retaliation always gets called, and that’s what you have to understand. There’s a whole lot of talking, there’s a whole lot of grabbing going on in there, and you just can’t retaliate. That’s what emotional control is all about, and we have to be 100 percent passionate and 100 percent in control of our emotions at all times."
QUICK HITS: Harbaugh said that the team hasn’t decided if running back Matt Lawrence (knee) will be practicing this week. Lawrence is on the physically unable to perform list. … Safety Tom Zbikowski (heel) and linebacker Edgar Jones (knee) were scheduled to undergo examinations Monday. "There’s nothing really definitive," Harbaugh said. "It doesn’t look like there’s anything serious, but we’ve got a couple of MRIs out there. So, we don’t have anything defined right now." … The Ravens scratched cornerback Josh Wilson because his strained hamstring didn’t feel good during warm-ups. "It was a situation where when Josh felt like he opened up to his top speed, it was a possibility that it would go," Harbaugh said. … Zbikowski’s playing time will probably be reduced once Reed returns. He’ll be competing with Haruki Nakamura and Ken Hamlin for work behind Reed. "I’d like to say yeah, because he’s played so well," Harbaugh said. "And Haruki’s in that mix, and Ken Hamlin’s in that mix. We’ve got some depth there, and we always do packages for guys where we’ll be mixing guys in. So, we’ll just have to figure that out this week, and some of it will have to go with Tom’s heel and how it plays out with that." … Harbaugh said that trainer Bill Tessendorf reports progress for inside linebacker Tavares Gooden (dislocated left shoulder). "I’m not sure what the time frame is," Harbaugh said, "but I don’t think it’s going to be too long."