OWINGS MILLS — Courtney Upshaw is nearing his return to the practice field, perhaps even as soon as today, a development hinging on two factors.
One, his right shoulder injury is no longer causing him as much pain.
Upshaw has been sidelined for a week, but feels his condition has improved.
"Most definitely," Upshaw said. "I’m getting treatment every day. I’m feeling good, actually. Whenever the trainer says it’s OK to go out there, I’ll be ready to go."
Two, the Baltimore Ravens’ rookie outside linebacker and top draft pick is losing weight and is at roughly 276 to 277 pounds with a target weight of 270 pounds after reporting at roughly 280 pounds.
Upshaw failed the conditioning test on his first try at the start of training camp and was initially placed on the physically unable to perform list before passing it on his second try. He’s listed at 6-foot-2, 272 pounds.
"I’m close to 270, I’m not there yet," said Upshaw, the Ravens’ second-round draft pick from Alabama. "I still got six, seven pounds to go, but I’d be working while I’m out with the little injury. I’ve been doing a whole lot of cardio. I’m going to reach my goal soon."
Initially characterized as a bruise by coach John Harbaugh, Upshaw described the injury as a sprain.
"It wasn’t a stinger because I’ve had plenty of stingers," Upshaw said. "Probably a little sprain, a little soreness in there."
Upshaw sustained the injury during a collision with rookie running back Bernard Pierce.
On the sideline, he moved his right arm in small circles and appeared to be in discomfort.
"Honestly, there really was no pain, but the second play I went to try to extend it, being at the position I’m at, I have to use my hands and try to be powerful and I really could not do it," Upshaw said. "It flared up as I was out for the rest of the practice. And it was just sore. Right now, it’s still sore and it’s still a little stiff. We’re just trying to work on getting that out."
If Upshaw is able to practice this week and participate fully, then he has a chance of playing in the Ravens’ preseason opener Thursday night against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome.
Although the Ravens list Upshaw as the starting rush linebacker on their official depth chart and Paul Kruger as the starting strongside or Sam linebacker, Kruger has lined up more often at rush in practice even before the rookie was sidelined.
It appears the Ravens want to be as interchangeable as possible, and have been using Albert McClellan and Sergio Kindle in reserve at the outside linebacker spots.
"The first thing coach told me coming in was that I would have to learn multiple positions," Upshaw said. "Right now, I’ve just been playing the rush. Still, in meetings, I’m learning Sam. He’s still coaching me at the Sam position, but I’m getting all my reps at the rush right now."
Upshaw recorded 9 1/2 sacks last season for the Crimson Tide.
Now, he’s envisioning his regular-season debut Sept. 10 against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I was just talking about that," Upshaw said. "To open up in this stadium with all these fans, it’s going to be a great experience being a rookie and coming in the first game to be on a big stage like that. I’m definitely waiting for that experience."
Upshaw got a taste of playing in front of the home crowd Saturday night when the Ravens held an open practice at M&T Bank Stadium, sharing the stadium with veterans like middle linebacker Ray Lewis and free safety Ed Reed.
"The experience alone, just walking in the stadium when everybody went out to practice, it was like a wow moment to see all the fans packed in just to be at a practice," Upshaw said. "I’m sure because you got a lot of players like Ray or Ed or everybody like that. It was a great experience. I’m sure everybody would say the same.”