Notebook: Defensive stalwarts get a look on offense

Street Talk Notebook: Defensive stalwarts get a look on offense

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OWINGS MILLS — Three days after his arrival in Baltimore, Ravens rookie quarterback Joe Flacco didn’t seem dazed and confused.

The first-round draft pick maintained his composure throughout his first minicamp and delivered several crisp throws while undergoing a crash course in the playbook.

"It’s pretty cool, it’s a lot of fun to learn something new every day," Flacco said Sunday after his fifth NFL practice. "There was a lot thrown at us, and I did the best job I could to absorb as much as I could. It was a good experience.

"I don’t think it’s intimidating. You’re just anxious to get out there and see what it’s like. I’ve grown a lot over the past three days. I got to know everybody, and I think it worked out well."

The Ravens don’t have any buyer’s remorse about acquiring the former Delaware star, who displayed a lot of arm strength and accuracy on deep balls while showing he needs to take some heat off his rocket-armed short passes.

"He can throw the ball, he’s smart," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "The thing I saw when we were moving the ball is he’s got to get the ball out quicker.

"Those guys can cover some ground when they’re blitzing and he’s got the red jersey on now so he didn’t feel the ramifications of that. I think he understands the speed of the game a little bit at this level."

INJURY UPDATE: Tight end Todd Heap was held out of practice for precautionary reasons after being placed on injured reserve last season with a strained hamstring.

"He’s just rehabbing those hamstrings," Harbaugh said. "There are certain issues he’s got to strengthen and certain flexibility issues he’s got. We do not want a reinjured hamstring."

Also not practicing: cornerbacks Fabian Washington (hamstring), David Pittman (foot) and Frank Walker (undisclosed), return specialist Yamon Figurs (hand), tight ends Dan Wilcox (foot), Scott Kuhn (broken thumb) and Lee Vickers (hand), fullback Jake Nordin (undisclosed) and linebacker Dan Cody (foot).

Figurs had a soft cast on his hand.

"I’m not even sure what he’s got to do as far as the rehab part of it yet," Harbaugh said. "He’ll be fine."

Offensive tackle Adam Terry (ankle) was limited, and running back Allen Patrick (sore legs) didn’t practice.

ON THE MEND: Running back Willis McGahee returned to practice after incurring a minor groin injury and being held out Saturday.

"He was out the first day and was in real good shape, but tweaked something," Harbaugh said. "Doing the football movements is a little different than doing the conditioning stuff. He was able to rehab and he practiced really well."

Among the backs pushing for playing time behind McGahee: second-round pick Ray Rice, Cory Ross, P.J. Daniels and Patrick.

"Behind him, you have some backs with a similar style," Harbaugh said. "You’ve got Cory Ross and Ray Rice, low-built guys who are really quick and you’ve got P.J., who’s kind of a slasher and a speed guy. We’ve got some guys pushing Willis, but you can see why he’s a top-level back in this league."

FULL-HOUSE BACKFIELD: Massive defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was an imposing sight as he played fullback in a goal-line package. However, the 6-foot-4, 340-pounder fumbled the football on a botched exchange.

Ngata, who has a rugby background, hadn’t played fullback since his sophomore year of high school back in Salt Lake City.

"It took me back to my rugby days, it was fun," Ngata said. "I would love to actually play fullback in a game."

Ngata wasn’t the only one shifting positions as nose guard Kelly Gregg and other defensive players played on the offensive line.

"We’re going to use guys’ talents," Harbaugh said. "Plus, it’s fun."

ON THE MOVE: Right offensive tackle Marshal Yanda was in constant motion as he lined up at guard and played center for the first time since he was a freshman in high school.

The Ravens are experimenting with several lineups, including having left guard Jason Brown and right guard Ben Grubbs flip-flop positions. Other options include moving Brown to center and having Yanda play guard, or leaving Yanda at tackle and inserting Chris Chester at center.

"I’m a lot more comfortable at tackle, but I will get better at guard and center day by day," Yanda said. "The biggest thing is making the line calls and identifying the front.

"It’s tough because our defense moves around so much. You have to think a lot more out there. Center is a tough job."

Meanwhile, rookie quarterback Xavier Lee had a strong day at tight end and didn’t take any snaps under center.

Lee is unsigned, but is expected to be invited to rookie minicamp. He said he was scheduled to meet with team officials Sunday afternoon to discuss his status.

"I think he was into it a little bit," Harbaugh said. "He was running routes and catching the ball and he would have a chance athletically to play tight end.

"They were right at Florida State. He could be a heck of a tight end. We’ve got to talk about it, but he looked pretty good."

QUICK HITS: Harbaugh was complimentary of Troy Smith, who’s competing with Kyle Boller and Flacco for the starting job. "You can see he can play quarterback in the NFL, without question," he said. "He’s got the arm strength. He can move around and operate the offense. Now under pressure, proving himself in games, that’s going to be up to him, but he’s got the ability to be a starting quarterback in this league." … There were no fights after a massive brawl Saturday. … Former New York Jets offensive lineman Adrian Clarke was in camp for a tryout. … Promising rookie Oniel Cousins took snaps at left tackle behind Jared Gaither.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.
Photo by Sabina Moran

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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and 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 Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors.  More from Aaron Wilson


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