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Haruki Nakamura has received his fair share of accolades since camp opened in July. Heâ€™s shown great instincts and a knack for being around the football â€“ exactly what coaches look for in a safety.
Lurking in the background, waiting to make his own mark on the coaches stood third round pick Tom Zbikowski.
During the spring, some believed that Zbikowski was in danger and might not make the team. The thinking was that Nakamura had an edge, Jim Leonhard was a free agent signing and incumbents Ed Reed and Dawan Landry were firmly entrenched.
That thinking was fairly short-sighted.
Draft picks arenâ€™t cut during OTAâ€™s and rarely are third round picks let go, particularly those of the Baltimore Ravens. Now one could argue that the Ravens havenâ€™t been very successful in the third round but that is beside the point. The Ravens have been excellent on draft day over the years and it would represent a mutiny of sorts if the team released a third round pick.
But such discussions about Zbikowski seem like ancient history now that the former member of the Fighting Irish has come on strong as of late. Coaches raved about his performance on special teams against the Patriots including a bone crunching hit to spring Yamon Figurs on his 52 yard punt return.
Itâ€™s difficult for a team to keep 5 safeties but the Ravens may do exactly that with the 2008 53 man roster this year. The coaches like the two rookies and Leonhard. And letâ€™s not forget a developing story in Owings Mills â€“ the shoulder of Ed Reed. Details of Reedâ€™s ailing shoulder have been cloked in secrecy. Reed hinted on Monday that it is possible that his mysterious injury could sideline him for the season opener against the Bengals.
While we are on the subject of unsolved mysteries, can anyone figure out why P.J. Daniels and Dan Cody are so injury prone? Apparently the Ravensâ€™ training staff canâ€™t. Weâ€™ve been reporting for two weeks that Daniels has been sidelined with a shoulder injury while others have been listing him as out due to cramps. Cramps? Iâ€™m sure cramps didnâ€™t land him on IR. It’s doubtful that Ravens’ Trainer Bill Tessendorf stocks Midol.
Daniels season is now done and Dan Cody looks like heâ€™s marching down the same lane. Letâ€™s see, between the two players the Ravens have gotten a grand total of 2 games out of a possible 96. If Cody isnâ€™t healthy when the season starts, look for an injury settlement.
Speaking of injured Daniels, Daniel Wilcox was expected to be ready by the start of training camp. So here we are after 14 days of full team camp practices and Wilcox still canâ€™t get on the field. And when we mix in Todd Heapâ€™s history of injuries, the tight end position is alarmingly thin. Adam Bergen and Lee Vickers were awful in pass protection against the second string Patriots and Aaron Walker has been on the training room table more than heâ€™s been on the practice field. Ozzie Newsome might only have to look in the mirror to find the second best tight end in Westminster. Anyone seen Brian Kinchen lately?
Prescott Burgess was also placed on IR. The wrist injury may end up being a lucky break (pun intended) for the Ravens. Burgess was on the bubble and the Ravens may have outright released Burgess. Placing him on IR allows them to take another look at the former Wolverine next year when the linebacker corps could be depleted. Remember Bart Scott, Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs are all without contracts at this point for the 2009 season.
Frank Walker has been very combative and talkative on the field despite being beaten like a drum by anyone he takes on one-on-one. The Ravens coaches say that they are happy with Walkerâ€™s performance so far but the guess here is that is just the public spin. They canâ€™t be happy, particularly when reminded that they gave up a $1.2 million signing bonus to a player who has been outplayed by virtually every cornerback in camp. For the Ravens sake, letâ€™s hope heâ€™s better inside the numbers in nickel and/or dime packages than heâ€™s been outside the numbers filling in for Chris McAlister, Samari Rolle or Fabian Washington.
According to the Boston Globe, â€œOne of the undercurrents felt from the Ravensâ€™ visit to Gillette Stadium was the support in the team’s locker room for Troy Smith to be the team’s starting quarterback on opening day. Linebacker Ray Lewis, in particular, is privately lobbying for Smith – the former Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State – to take the reins over Kyle Boller and 2008 first-round draft choice Joe Flacco.â€
If the Globe is right maybe Ray should just shut up and play. He needs to be a leader on the field, not in the coachâ€™s corner or in the front office. Havenâ€™t we all been down this road before with not so good results?
Word around Ravens camp is that Troy Smith is extremely confident and expects to be the teamâ€™s starter. Heâ€™s had some mild run-ins with Coach Harbaugh over locker room music and the number of practice reps heâ€™s received. Might he be a prima donna in the making? Hey AD, how about one of those humble pie t-shirts for Troy.