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WESTMINSTER — Baltimore Ravens offensive guard Ben Grubbs returned to full-team drills Tuesday morning, declaring himself back from a sprained right knee that sidelined him for a week.
The first-round draft pick from Auburn sprained his medial collateral ligament a week ago, although a magnetic resonance imaging exam didnâ€™t reveal any structural damage.
"It’s pretty good now," said Grubbs, whoâ€™s wearing a knee brace. "I gradually worked up to it. I gained the confidence back in my leg to where I trust that I’m not hurt.
"I wanted to get back out there earlier, but they didn’t think that was the right thing. Hopefully, I can get out there soon and show what I have."
Grubbs is slated to make his debut Monday night in the preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. He’s competing with Chris Chester for a starting job and has significant ground to make up.
"Ben needs every single rep he can get," offensive line coach Chris Foerster said. "So, it’s good that he can bounce back from his injury."
So far, Grubbs has proven to be a quick study. The 6-foot-3, 315-pounder former All-Southeastern Conference selection hopes to make an immediate impact in the NFL.
"Ben is one of the smartest offensive linemen as a rookie that I have ever coached," Foerster said. "I don’t know if it’s the offense they ran at Auburn or maybe it’s just him, but he’s learned the offense as well as any young guy I have seen in 15 years of coaching the line."
BEATING THE HEAT: In a nod to extreme heat that approached triple digits, Ravens coach Brian Billick moved an afternoon practice indoors to the Gill Center at McDaniel College.
Billick also canceled today’s afternoon session. The players have Thursday off before resuming workouts Friday morning.
Beyond factoring in the potential danger of the heat, part of the reasoning behind Billick’s decision was to reward the players.
"You have to be very aware of why you are going to put guys on the field and putting them at risk," Billick said. "Part of it is the heat, part of it is I think we’re practicing well enough that if we did it the right way this morning and Wednesday morning, it would be enough.
"We can get done what we need to get done and get ready for the Eagles. So far, they’ve fulfilled their part of the bargain."
The players endured sweltering temperatures, gulping down fluids as much as possible as the team increased its water breaks.
"I’m from Alabama, I know it gets hot down there, but the heat here is unbelievable," Grubbs said. "It’s a different type of heat. I wasn’t ready for this."
INJURY UPDATE: Nose guard Kelly Gregg (right thigh bruise, knee) and linebacker Jamar Enzor (undisclosed injury) didn’t practice…Linebacker Antwan Barnes (sprained ankle) was limited to individual drills.
"It’s unfortunate about the ankle sprain because he was really beginning to come on," Billick said of Barnes. "It doesn’t mean there’s still not plenty of time for him to do that. You hate that he’s missing the time that he is, but he’ll be back."
Offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden (turf toe) and linebackers Dan Cody (knee surgery) and Mike Smith (shoulder surgery) remain on the physically unable to perform list.
Running back P.J. Daniels is practicing with his shoulder wrapped since hurting it on a touchdown run during the Redskins scrimmage.
"When I scored the other day, someone fell on top of it," Daniels said. "It never popped out. It’s no major injury. It’s just taking a little while to heal."
MONSTER LB: Defensive coordinator Rex Ryan got the idea of inserting 6-foot-4, 340-pound Haloti Ngata at middle linebacker while pondering the linemanâ€™s rugby background. Watching the destruction Ngata causes on blitzes has convinced Ryan to continue the experiment.
"He hit Willis McGahee and literally made him break dance," Ryan said. "He spun on his back and he never broke stride. I sat back and said, ‘He could be a monster.’"
What happens if Ngata has to perform the other duties of a linebacker like pass coverage?
"I don’t know if that would be his strength," Ryan said. "We hope we get to the passer before he’s back in coverage.â€
RUNNING HARD: New franchise running back Willis McGahee had his most impressive practice yet, running with power between the tackles before eventually plunging into the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown off right guard. Plus, running back Mike Anderson trucked Samari Rolle, steamrolling the diminutive cornerback for a red-zone touchdown.
"Very physical," Billick said. "We did that by design. We wanted to give Willis some good carries. He did very, very well."
QUICK HITS: It was a rough morning for Rolle, who was teased by wide receiver Derrick Mason after his unsuccessful tackle attempt: "You need some help out there, double-deuce." Rolle also had an interception broken up by receiver Mark Clayton. … For the second week, Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs failed to beat mammoth rookie offensive tackle Jared Gaither during pass-rush drills. … Rookie linebacker Edgar Jones had the best hit, crushing rookie tight end Kendrick Ballantyne with a sideline tackle.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.