OWINGS MILLS – Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco will be appropriately cognizant of San Diego Chargers free safety Eric Weddle’s ball-hawking presence whenever he looks to throw Sunday night.
That’s a smart idea.
Weddle is tied for the NFL lead with seven interceptions and is regarded as a natural center fielder with excellent instincts and range.
“He’s just got good ball skills,” Flacco said. “He’s back there at safety, and he’s got the skills. When the ball goes in the air, he does a good job of being a guy that can go get it and judge the ball and catch it and do all those things.”
The Chargers signed Weddle to a five-year, $40 million deal that includes $19 million in guaranteed money.
And he has justified their investment with the fourth-most interceptions in franchise history in a single season.
“He’s smart, he’s tough,” offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. “Everybody that watched him coming out of college, you can see why they traded up to get him. He kind of quarterbacks the defense and is having a solid year.”
NGATA, GRUBBS BACK: Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday after missing the previous practice with a back injury.
Offensive guard Ben Grubbs also returned to practice and was limited after being rested Wednesday with a right turf toe injury.
For the second consecutive day, middle linebacker Ray Lewis (right turf toe) practiced on a limited basis.
He declined an interview request after practice due to a meeting, only saying: “I’m good.”
Not practicing for the second day in a row: kicker Billy Cundiff (left calf), cornerback Lardarius Webb (left turf toe) and defensive end Cory Redding (ankle).
Cornerback Chris Carr (back) was limited again.
Rookie running back Anthony Allen (hamstring) participated fully.
For the San Diego Chargers, linebacker Takeo Spikes (back), defensive end Jacques Cesaire (ankle), linebacker Donald Butler (foot) and center Colin Baxter (ankle) didn’t practice again.
Safety Darrell Stuckey (groin) was upgraded to limited participation.
RETURN GAME: Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg isn’t ruling out Webb just yet even though the cornerback and punt returner is expected to be sidelined Sunday.
Webb is averaging 10.7 yards per punt return and ran one back for a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns.
“Well, we really don’t know yet,” Rosburg said. “Honestly, we have to wait and see how he’s going to be on Sunday, and we’ll make a decision on Sunday.”
The top candidates to step in for Webb are Carr, Tom Zbikowski and LaQuan Williams. Carr is regarded as the most likely choice.
“The same guys that we have been all year long have been taking the practice reps,” Rosburg said.
Meanwhile, Rosburg indicated that kick returner David Reed has improved his ball security through practice drills with running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery.
Reed fumbled twice in a loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
“The drills have been really productive,” Rosburg said. “I mean Wilbert is really good at this, and he’s been grinding on David. What I see happening now is I see him taking the drills to the practice.
“So, we do kick the ball to him and we have kickoff return drills. I see him paying attention to the detail that we need to. So, yeah, progress is being made.”
Will Reed regain his old duties that have been handled capable, albeit without any long returns, by Zbikowski?
“From the very start, we said as soon as we’re ready to use him, we’ll be using him,” Rosburg said. “So yes, I do see us using him again.”
NGATA HONORED: Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was named to the USA Football All-Fundamentals team for the third consecutive year, the only NFL player to be named to the list every year.
“Ngata’s ability to get into an opponent’s backfield and disrupt an offense is based on his sound fundamentals,” USA Football stated. “Even when executing complex moves, he is quick and precise.”
“This is awesome, definitely an honor,” Ngata said. “Coaches are a big part of it, helping you find things you can study up on and helping you with techniques.”
Ngata has 49 tackles, five sacks, four pass deflections, three fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles.
“It’s a great honor, and it’s a testament to what we feel is the best defensive tackle in all of football,” defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. “He’s a great player, but he’s a great person. You are not going to find a better person. He cares about his teammates. We’re very fortunate to have him on the Ravens.”
For the award, Ngata received a silver helmet trophy and a $1,500 equipment grant to donate to a youth or high school football program.
“He goes out every day and works on something to make himself better,” defensive line coach Clarence Brooks said. “It’s not easy. He is blessed with an awful lot of talent, but he’s also blessed with a great work ethic.”
RADIO SILENCE: Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano won’t be holding conversations this week with his brother, Chargers linebackers coach John Pagano.
“We don’t talk this week,” Chuck Pagano said. “One text after Sunday’s game, ‘Good job,’ and then we kind of shut it down and wait until the game is over, and then we’ll visit.”
Chuck Pagano said he’s 1-6 against his brother previously having matched up with him when he was the Oakland Raiders secondary coach in the past.
“The first six were JV teams that we took in there,” Pagano said. “Took varsity team there in 2009 and won. We’re taking a varsity team out there again. Anyway, it’s always fun to do it. When that ball is kicked off, it’s football, you know? You forget about all that stuff.”
QUICK HITS: Deactivated for the past few games with the Ravens having up extra linebackers, the Ravens have seen positive changes from Williams in practice. “He’s really making a lot of progress,” Rosburg said. “He’s one of those guys that can do a lot of things, because he’s big enough and strong enough and fast enough, and he has ball skills enough to do a variety of things. And we have high hopes for LaQuan. I think he’s got a very bright future here. I think that as we go forward the rest of the season, his practice reps have been good, and he’s going to be a very good special-teams player. And the Ravens have a lot of plans for LaQuan.” … Former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy visited the Ravens’ training complex Thursday and attended practice.