CAMP NOTEBOOK: Jimmy Smith leaves practice with apparent back injury

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OWINGS MILLS — Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith crumpled to the ground in a heap Thursday afternoon, staying down for a while before leaving the indoor practice field to get examined.

He didn’t return.

Although there was no formal diagnosis of what happened to the former first-round draft pick. Smith might have suffered a back injury.

"I don’t know," defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. "I didn’t find out afterwards. He just went down and grabbed his back. That’s all I saw. I don’t really know any extent of it."

Smith is competing with incumbent Cary Williams for the starting cornerback job opposite $50 million shutdown corner Lardarius Webb.

Smith intercepted two passes with 18 tackles during the regular season, picking off a Tom Brady pass in the AFC championship game.

"It’s a great competition," Pees said. "We’re very lucky to have two big guys like that fighting. It’s a luxury. It’s a very fortunate situation for us. They’re both doing very well."

Pees emphasized that all the cornerbacks are going to play significantly.

"You guys have watched enough NFL football to know that two corners aren’t going to get you through a season or even a game," Pees said. "Between sub, nickel, dime, teams going three wides, you’re going to use all those guys. In my eyes, everybody’s a starter that plays on a unit."

PITTA SAYS IT WAS A CLEAN BREAK: Tight end Dennis Pitta declared his surgery on his broken right hand a success.

"Good, yes, successful surgery," Pitta told 24×7. "It’s just a matter of letting it heal and staying in shape. It was a clean break. Everything lined up well. Now, it’s just a matter of letting it heal and get where I need it to be."

Pitta broke his hand earlier this week. He’s slated to miss the next four to six weeks and is expected to return in time for the Ravens’ Sept. 10 season-opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Pitta registered a career-high 40 receptions for 405 yards and three touchdowns last season, developing into one of quarterback Joe Flacco’s most reliable options.

"Absolutely, everything’s on schedule," Pitta said. "I’m just taking it one day at a time and doing everything I can to make sure it heals properly."

INJURY UPDATES: Six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk didn’t practice for the fourth day in a row.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh has said that Birk is being rested, but the veteran lineman does have a history of neck, ankle and knee problems in recent seasons.

Rookie outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw hasn’t practiced since the weekend due to a bruised right shoulder.

“I’ll start getting worried if it’s halfway through," Pees said when asked if he’s concerned about all the time the projected strongside starter is missing. “What we need to do is just get him out there, especially for some preseason games, and have him hit and get hit and actually play.

"There’s different situations here in practice that are just not the same as game-type tempo and game-type situations. We need to get him out there. I’m not too concerned yet until if we get down the road and he’s not playing in any games. Then, I’ll be concerned.”

Also not practicing: defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (hamstring, physically unable to perform list), offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie (lower back, non-football injury list), offensive guard Jah Reid (strained right calf, physically unable to perform list), linebacker Josh Bynes (undisclosed), wide receiver Tandon Doss (hamstring), tight end Pitta, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (partially torn Achilles tendon, non-football injury list), wide receiver Patrick Williams (undisclosed), running back Bernard Pierce (hamstring) and defensive end Arthur Jones (undisclosed).

Offensive guard Bobbie Williams, whose surgically-repaired right ankle has been bothering him, was given a day off.

Wide receiver Anquan Boldin didn’t do much at practice, another 30-and-over veteran’s prerogative.

INDOOR PRACTICE: For the first time since the opening of training camp, the Ravens practiced indoors.

It was a decision to get out of the torrid Maryland heat and to reward the players.

"We came inside to get out of the heat," Harbaugh said. "We’ve had outstanding work out in it since the start of camp, and we changed it up today. I’m not sure it was because we came inside, but we had a sharp, crisp, fast practice today. You can see the coaches are very pleased.”

Added Pees: "It was actually kind of good being in here just from the standpoint of getting out of that sun for just a little bit. I think John made a wise choice in getting out of that, and I’m sure that’s what the thought process was.”

REED CHANGES TUNE ON FLACCO: Free safety Ed Reed emboldened critics of Flacco in January when he was critical of him following a playoff victory over the Houston Texans, saying he got rattled.

One week later, Flacco nearly led the Ravens to the Super Bowl as he outplayed Brady with Lee Evans dropping a potential touchdown pass in the end zone.

The flap was quickly smoothed over with Reed and Flacco having a conversation prior to the title game.

Several months later at training camp, Reed sounds like a bonafide Flacco fan who has gained respect for the quarterback.

"Joe is smart," said Reed, who also is making nice with the front office after a rocky offseason and saying he wants a new long-term deal. "Obviously, I’ve been here since Joe has been here. He’s grown every year. Joe is the leader. Joe understands where we’re at right now and understands that this don’t count for his stats or whatever. He knows he can take chances out here, but when he is in the game, he is a totally different guy. He is more in command. Joe, you just watch him. He has grown. Joe is a family guy now.

"He has a lot more on his plate off the field. That makes you grow as a man. So, it makes you deal with things differently. It makes you lead in the locker room a lot differently. If you sit around and talk with Joe, you know a lot more about him. You know he is a lot calmer and a lot cooler. We all get shaken at some times, that’s football, but Joe is going to always come back. He is a fighter. He is a guy that you want taking that snap at the end of the game leading your team to go into that final drive to win the game.”

QUICK HITS: The Ravens’ offense was crisp for the most part, particularly during a full-team drill where Flacco marched them downfield with completions to tight end Ed Dickson and wide receiver Torrey Smith. … Cornerback Corey Graham intercepted the football when Jacoby Jones dropped a slant pass from Flacco. … Undrafted rookie safety Omar Brown intercepted backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor. … Billy Cundiff hit 5 of 6 field goals as undrafted rookie kicker Justin Tucker was given the day off. Cundiff will take today off, according to special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg. "You really find out about them in games," Rosburg said. "You find out how they handle the situations, you find out how they handle the weather conditions, you find out a lot about a guy’s poise in games. And so I’m excited to watch these guys compete in games as well.”

 

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About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson
Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best...more

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