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OWINGS MILLS — For Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Jared Gaither, it was a case of atypical rookie growing pains during Saturday night’s abbreviated 13-7 loss to the Washington Redskins.
Following two promising preseason starts at left tackle in place of injured All-Pro Jonathan Ogden, Gaither committed a false start in the first penalty of his NFL career.
Plus, quarterback Steve McNair absorbed his biggest hit of the preseason as Redskins defensive end Andre Carter took a free shot after Gaither and tight end Quinn Sypniewski banged into each other at FedEx Field.
â€œIt was a little spacing problem,â€ said Gaither, who dominated Carter during a scrimmage earlier this month. â€œThatâ€™s something we have to get ironed out, but it happens sometimes. Quinn kind of knocked me off, but weâ€™ll do better at that.â€
Later, the 6-foot-9, 350-pounder said he wasn’t culpable for a protection breakdown in the second half when linebacker Anthony Trucks seemed to burst past the former University of Maryland standout. The sack led to linebacker Dallas Sartz’s 3-yard touchdown, which put the Redskins ahead for good before the weather-plagued game was halted by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
"Every game is a learning experience," Gaither said. "I don’t think it was a bad game. There were a lot of distractions a lot of us had to overcome with all of the delays. It was tough to keep focused, but I think I did well.â€
Gaither regarded the third drive, which was capped by a 6-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Derrick Mason, as an encouraging sign.
"We had a couple penalties, but it was our first away preseason game and we had to get used to the silent count," Gaither said. "We put it together and had a pretty good drive out there, so it was definitely a game we can learn from and build off of."
FLAG FLURRY: One week removed from a penalty-riddled 13-12 loss to the New York Giants where they had 11 penalties, the Ravens managed to commit nine more in one half.
The main problem was false starts, which frustrated Ravens coach Brian Billick.
"We’ll go on the same snap count; we’ll just go on ‘one’ every time," Billick said. "In college we’re on ‘set go’ all year long. Maybe that’s what we need to do."
Besides Gaither, right offensive tackle Adam Terry, right guard Chris Chester and tight end Todd Heap were all penalized for false starts.
"You’ve got to get rid of them, that’s what it comes down to," Terry said. "We buried ourselves in a few drives, and it can’t happen. Look at what happened to us. As an offensive line we have to get better."
During the third offensive drive, McNair led the Ravens on a 13-play, 70-yard drive. That drive wasn’t plagued by penalties, though.
"When it’s third-and-18 and third-and-15, I’m not a really good play-caller," Billick said. "I’ll admit that right now. If we can not stop ourselves that way with penalties – and I’m confident that we will – we have a chance to be OK."
Added Mason, who caught a team-high five passes for 31 yards: "I think we did some good things out there, but whenever we don’t do good as an offense it’s basically because we put ourselves in a bad predicament. We pretty much stepped on our own feet. After a while, we got ourselves together, kept our composure and that’s the sign of a mature team."
SEVERAL CULPRITS: The offense wasn’t the only guilty party when it comes to penalties.
The defense committed three penalties on the Redskins’ final drive of the first half, which led to a 25-yard field goal with eight seconds remaining.
Bart Scott was called for pass interference on third down. Terrell Suggs jumped offsides on fourth-and-inches. And Chris McAlister was flagged for illegal contact.
"We can’t give them first downs with the penalties," Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. "Our job is to stop them and get the ball back for our offense. Our penalties let them keep the ball too long."
INJURY UPDATE: Rookie linebacker Prescott Burgess said he briefly lost consciousness when he suffered a concussion.
"I blacked out for a minute," said Burgess, who also injured his shoulder. "It was mild. I’ve had them before, so I knew it wasn’t that bad. They just wanted to keep it safe. I’ll be back next week.â€
Defensive end Trevor Pryce left the game with back spasms, but is expected to practice this week. Safety Ed Reed had a thigh bruise, which isn’t believed to be serious.
Rookie outside linebacker Antwan Barnes was held out with a sprained, swollen ankle, but a magnetic resonance imaging exam didn’t reveal any structural damage. He was wearing a walking boot, but said he expects to play in the preseason finale Friday night against the Atlanta Falcons.
Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (swollen knee) was scratched for this game, but is expected to be able to play against Atlanta.
His little brother, LaRon Landry, the Redskins’ starting safety registered three hard tackles and hit the quarterback twice.
"I’m proud of him as my brother and as a football player," said Dawan Landry, who had two tackles and a pass deflection. "You saw what he was capable of. He’s a great football player."
QUICK HITS: The Ravens didn’t record a sack for the first time this preseason. … The Redskins didn’t convert any of their seven third-down tries. … It was unclear why defensive tackle Atiyyah Ellison didn’t play after practicing Wednesday and Thursday. He missed Tuesday’s practice for the birth of his son.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.