OWINGS MILLS – The Baltimore Ravens made it official Sunday, signing former New England Patriots offensive tackle Mark LeVoir and former Tennessee Titans center Jason Murphy.
A 6-foot-7, 310-pound former Notre Dame starter whose primary NFL highlight was decking New York Jets cornerback Donald Strickland on a screen play, LeVoir alternated with rookie right tackle Jah Reid with the first-team offense during his first practice.
"Obviously, I don’t know a thing," said LeVoir, who played in 32 games with two starts for New England over the past three seasons. "I just have to get in the playbook and work as hard as I can and do whatever the coaches ask of me. Experience is one thing, but I’m not experienced here with how they do things.
"I’m excited to buy into the Ravens’ way of doing things. All I’ve got down right now is, even play, go to the right, odd play, go to the left. I have a lot of work to do as far as getting ready."
LeVoir, 29, has been in the NFL since 2006 and is regarded as an athletic lineman as a former Parade Magazine All-American tight end in high school.
"LeVoir is a guy with a lot of experience," coach John Harbaugh said. "He has played in New England, and we love their system. Very well-coached by Dante Scarnecchia, so that’s a big plus.
"Understands NFL defenses, and that’s what we need right now. It was a fortuitous situation for us, and we’ll see how he does."
The Ravens cut offensive linemen Colin Madison and Kyle Calloway to create roster spots for Murphy and LeVoir.
LeVoir was cut by New England earlier this week after refusing to take a paycut.
"No hard feelings there," LeVoir said. "They’re a good team, a good organization. I wish them well, but I’m a Raven now. This is where I want to be."
Murphy, 29, was signed following a Saturday tryout that included former Washington Redskins offensive guard Derrick Dockery.
The Baltimore native and Edmondson graduate is overjoyed to join his hometown team after previous stints with the Titans, San Diego Chargers and the Seattle Seahawks and two UFL teams: the New York Sentinels and the Florida Tuskers..
"It’s a great feeling, it’s a long time coming for me," Murphy said. "It’s one of those dreams that you’ve had since high school, and it’s finally here. My parents, my wife, my whole family is happy. It’s good to be home with my kids and play for the Baltimore Ravens. This is a great opportunity."
The Ravens don’t have much depth at center while they wait for six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk to return from knee surgery.
"I bring a little physicality, quickness and good all-around offensive line play," Murphy said. "I love hitting big guys and blocking and keeping my quarterback off the ground."
BIRK MAKING PROGRESS: Sidelined since undergoing surgery to repair a bursa sac in his left knee, Birk was at the Ravens’ training complex Sunday.
He had a sleeve on his left leg and was walking with a limp.
The Ravens are holding out hope that Birk will return in time for the first game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it will be close.
"He is progressing," Harbaugh said. "It was supposed to be three to four weeks before he would be moving around pretty well. Now, he is starting to walk a little bit. I am anxious. I want to see him out here sooner rather than later, but it’s not something that we really control."
R. LEWIS RETURNS: All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis returned to practice today after being excused from a preseason game due to his aunt’s serious illness.
"Yeah, it’s great to have Ray back, to walk up this morning and see him in his usual seat," Harbaugh said. "It’s Sunday today so we had a little prayer blessing. He did it for us. Ray’s our leader, so it’s great to have him here.
Lewis issued a statement where he thanked the organization for giving him time off.
"Family always comes first and is the most important part of our lives," he said. "I want to thank everyone for every prayer and thought they’ve provided. I’d also like to give a special thanks to the coaches and Ravens organization who have always put family first and allowed me to leave and take care of my family during this very hard time. We will get through this together as a family and with God. Thank you again for the thoughts and prayers and for respecting our privacy during this challenging time."
CARR ON THE MEND: Cornerback Chris Carr returned to practice on a limited basis, staying out of full-team work.
Carr tweaked his left hamstring last week and was held out of the Ravens’ preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
"Feels pretty good," Carr said. "It’s getting better."
Carr is known for his durability, starting every game last season.
Missing this much practice time on top of not being allowed to practice until Aug. 4 due to NFL rules governing unrestricted free agents has caused Carr frustration.
"Yeah, you never want to miss practice and miss being out there, especially this year because when I was an unrestricted free agent and then signed, I had to wait a week to practice," Carr said. "So, that was another week being behind. I really have only practiced about three or four times. It’s been frustrating because you want to get ready for the season.
"Usually, at the beginning of the season, that’s when you want to get all of your reps in. Towards the end of the season, it’s not that big of a deal, but right now, you’re really eager because you want to go out there and work and knock the rust off and show you can still play."
The Ravens have good depth at cornerback with Carr, rookie Jimmy Smith, Cary Williams, Lardarius Webb and Domonique Foxworth.
"It’s crazy, because this is by far the deepest team I’ve ever played on," Carr said. "I think we have, legit, five starting corners. And not only people that are capable, but I mean legit, they could go out and be good starting corners in this league, who are better than a lot of players who are starting across the league. So, it’s a good problem to have as a team, but we’re all a family.
"We’re looking to go out there and compete, play as good as we can. It’s going to make everyone else better, and whoever plays, plays. That’s the way it is. It’s good that we have this depth, and just to see the young guys and people progress, it’s really good, because when you have that much talent, it’s always a plus."
INJURY UPDATES: Offensive guard Marshal Yanda was in uniform, but didn’t do much Sunday after missing the past week with back spasms.
Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson has a sore back and didn’t practice, but said he’ll be back in the next few days.
Also not practicing: wide receiver James Hardy (hamstring), safety Marcus Paschal (quadriceps) and cornerback Chykie Brown (undisclosed).
Inside linebacker Tavares Gooden (hamstring) and rookie running back Damien Berry (ankle) returned to practice. Both missed the Kansas City game.
Free safety Ed Reed was given the day off.
ROOM TO IMPROVE: Harbaugh didn’t give completely glowing reviews to Smith, the Ravens’ first-round draft pick.
Smith had tight coverage on Chiefs Pro Bowl wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, but allowed him to catch two passes for 40 yards.
"I’d say it was kind of mixed, good news and bad news, because now Jimmy has the chance to understand how those completions are really made," Harbaugh said. "Just being close to a guy is not covering a guy in this league. Guys are open because of the throw and the catch. You can be open by that much in the National Football League.
"I think for him to understand how fast that back shoulder fade gets in there on you, it’s just an experience for him that he will learn from real quickly. He was right there. He was in good coverage. He didn’t make any mental mistakes and he looked good to start with."
LINE REVIEW: After reviewing the game, Harbaugh was upbeat about the progress the offensive line made from the first preseason game where they allowed six sacks.
They cut it down to two sacks against the Chiefs, but still committed too many penalties.
"I thought they held up well, I thought they did a good job," Harbaugh said. "They worked well together. The communication was there, probably better than what we have seen in practice, and that’s a good thing. Part of why you make practice so hard, the idea, in terms of making practice so challenging, so fast, so competitive with our defense, is that you want the game to actually be a slower experience for him. You don’t want the game to be faster for him. I thought that kind of showed up in the way those guys played."
In particular, Reid seemed to play much better after a rough debut against the Philadelphia Eagles in the first preseason game.
"Yeah, absolutely, he has an understanding of the schemes and everything else," Harbaugh said of the third-round draft pick from Central Florida. "He’s obviously, physically, very capable of playing the position. It’s just a matter of transferring that knowledge into that part of the brain that just reacts. That’s a process. That takes a little bit of time. He’s working hard at it and he is doing well."
Oniel Cousins looked much more comfortable at offensive guard after struggling mightily at right tackle against Philadelphia. This looks like a permanent switch.
"I think we will put him in there at guard, leave him in there and see how he does," Harbaugh said. "He was comfortable in there. He is a big, strong man. That bodes well at guard. He is a good bender. He has got a lot of reach, and it worked out for him in there."
QUICK HITS: Outside linebacker Sergio Kindle narrowly missed blocking two punts against the Chiefs with one of them almost hitting his elbow. He has some work to do on his technique, which is very raw. However, he’s a promising candidate for special-teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg. "We actually did suspect that from him because he is a big, fast, powerful guy," Harbaugh said. "A lot of times those pass rushers are pretty good at that. That’s going to be something that he is going to be good at for us. You have to learn how to take it off the foot. He and Jerry are working on that." … Cary Williams broke up three passes against Kansas City and graded out well with the exception of the touchdown he allowed to former Ravens wide receiver Terrance Copper in the two-minute drill. "That’s just a technique issue on the goal line, you can’t back up on the goal line," Harbaugh said. "We are in man coverage there. It’s an all-out blitz. It’s four guys covering four guys. He had the wide receiver by himself and he backed up and leaned up a little bit to an outside more and got beat inside. He knows that. That was really the only play that he had really that wasn’t a good play in the game. He had no other minuses that I’m aware of. He did a good job."