OWINGS MILLS – Baltimore Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth was remarkably patient during the NFL lockout as one of the key figures in the labor dispute as a member of the NFL Players Association executive committee.
However, Foxworth isn’t nearly as forgiving when it comes to the progress of his right knee one year removed from tearing his anterior cruciate ligament on the eve of training camp last season.
Although Foxworth is on the practice field and working with the starters, he doesn’t feel good about how things are going as far the flexibility, sturdiness and explosiveness of the surgically-repaired joint.
"It’s frustrating, it just doesn’t feel great," Foxworth said. "I’m not very happy about it. I’ll keep working. It hurts and I don’t feel as quick or as fast as I once was. Everybody says it’s a part of the process, but I can’t go out there and let down my team obviously. So, I’m just pushing it trying to get it where it needs to be as soon as possible.
Signed to a four-year, $27 million contract, Foxworth missed all of last season.
Now, the Ravens are counting on Foxworth to possibly start opposite either first-round pick Jimmy Smith, Chris Carr or Lardarius Webb after Josh Wilson joined the Washington Redskins via free agency.
Foxworth said he wasn’t sure if it was a matter of breaking through scar tissue. And he said no one has given him a time line for when he’ll regain the full health of his knee.
"I have no idea," he said. "I’m not a doctor. I just know it doesn’t feel good. I asked them and no one really knows."
Foxworth acknowledged that it was extremely difficult for him to get in his rehabilitation work during the NFL lockout because he was constantly in negotiations and briefings.
"It was a challenge," Foxworth said. "I did everything I could to do just as much, but the lockout hurt. I had my exercises I needed to do. I would do them at six in the morning or nine at night. I made sure I got them all in. I did what I was told to do, but it wasn’t as much as I would have done if we weren’t locked out."
Foxworth said it’s a balancing act between his desire to get prepared for the regular season and the coaches and trainers’ desire to preserve his health.
"The coaches and trainers try to roll me back and roll back my reps, and I’m trying to push them forward," Foxworth said. "I think they’re scared I’m going to reinjure it, and I’m scared it’s not going to be strong enough. So I just want to push and push and push, and they want to make sure that I don’t kill myself."
SMITH TWEAKS GROIN: Smith suffered a minor groin pull during pass coverage and didn’t finish practice, having a bag of ice applied to the injury.
He’s expected to return in a few days.
"Jimmy didn’t tear anything," Foxworth said. "So, he’ll be fine."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh declined to discuss Smith’s injury and said he won’t be discussing injuries during training camp.
"I’m going to establish this right now: Don’t even bother asking about injuries during training camp," Harbaugh said. "I don’t even want to get into all that."
Meanwhile, Smith has made an instant impression on his new teammates with his ability in press coverage as a 6-foot-2, 210-pounder.
"He stepped right in and I think the mental part of the game will get there," Foxworth said. "He looks like Kevin Durant out there playing corner. When he presses, he eliminates guys. I’m very impressed."
GRUBBS PASSES PHYSICAL: Ravens offensive guard Ben Grubbs was activated from the physically unable to perform list following offseason ankle surgery, practicing today for the first time since training camp started.
Grubbs had bone spurs removed from his ankle this offseason.
"He looked OK," Harbaugh said. "That’s the first time he’s been on a football field since January. I don’t think were any real major problems. He looked like he got through it physically."
UNION MATTERS: Due to NFL rules established under the new collective bargaining agreement, unrestricted free agents like offensive guard Marshal Yanda and linebacker Prescott Burgess, exclusive-rights free agents like linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and restricted free agents like safeties Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura aren’t allowed to practice until Thursday.
"There were a number of unintended consequences," Foxworth said. "It’s something that nobody likes, but it’s kind of a necessary evil. There had to be a lag time between recertification of the union and the ratification of the CBA. In order to negotiate the benefits that lag time had to be there.
"As a Players Association, we wanted there to be an injury waiver guys could sign to practice. The league didn’t feel like it gave them proper legal coverage. It’s them holding the lines up. We want to do what’s best for the players and the coaches want what’s best for the team. It affects people disproportionately, but it doesn’t affect teams disproportionately. Everybody is in the same spot. It’s fair to the teams. It’s unfair to guys like Prescott Burgess."
Harbaugh hasn’t made it a secret that he’s not thrilled with the rules preventing him from having all of his players on the field.
"It’s a piece of cake," Harbaugh said with a laugh. "There’s nothing to it. It’s just the way it is, it’s just part of the process. I think we expected it, so I’m definitely not surprised by it. Our goal is going to be to handle it better than everybody else.
Foxworth confirmed that the Ravens have signed their union cards to recertify.
"We voted on the first night," he said. "We did our part. We’re waiting for the rest of the teams. We’re done with it. It’s part of the process."
SAYING GOODBYE TO HEAP: With popular tight end Todd Heap leaving the Ravens to sign a two-year, $6 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals, Harbaugh wished him well.
The Ravens attempted to retain Heap after cutting him due to a $4.6 million salary, but it didn’t work out.
"I have the greatest respect for Todd," Harbaugh said. "I really like him personally. Todd is a huge part of what we have done, and we appreciate everything he did for his whole career. I know the fans feel that way, and on behalf of the fans, Todd, thank you for what you did all those years here.
"I am sure he will do very well in Phoenix. It worked out well for him financially and also he is home, in a sense, because his family is out there, so there are some pluses for Todd."
QUICK HITS: Due to lightning in the area, the Ravens concluded practice in their indoor facility. Had they been in Westminster at McDaniel College, they would have either had to stop practicing or use the school gymnasium. "That’s one of the benefits of being here," Harbaugh said … Rookie wide receiver Tandon Doss showed off his hands with a one-handed snag for a touchdown in the back of the end zone. "He has got great hands," Harbaugh said. "What we saw on tape, he has definitely showed." … The Ravens were granted a roster exemption for offensive tackle Eric Vanden Hueval, who left the squad after struggling with the heat. … Free safety Ed Reed practiced for the second consecutive day since missing the first few days of camp to deal with a family issue. … Center Matt Birk didn’t practice and his knee was wrapped up. Rookie center Ryan Bartholomew took the first-team snaps in his place…. Rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith dropped a few passes. … Not practicing and still on the PUP list: wide receiver David Reed (wrist), defensive tackle Brandon McKinney (knee) and offensive tackle Ramon Harewood (knee). … Even though the Ravens have signed Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach to a three-year, $11 million contract to replace fullback Le’Ron McClain, running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery isn’t crossing McClain off his list. McClain has been in discussions with the Kansas City Chiefs, but hasn’t signed yet. He’s considered unlikely to return. "Le’Ron, right now, I wouldn’t say we have lost Le’Ron," Montgomery said. "That’s still up in the air; Le’Ron could still be a Baltimore Raven until someone like Ozzie [Newsome] or coach Harbaugh says Le’Ron is not in the picture any longer. As of right now, I see him still in the picture."