RAVENS NOTEBOOK: Clayton set to go on Sunday

Street Talk RAVENS NOTEBOOK: Clayton set to go on Sunday

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OWINGS MILLS — One month after suffering a strained left hamstring, Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Mark Clayton expressed confidence that he’ll be ready to play in the first game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

Clayton was sidelined for the entire preseason, but now his leg feels much better with no twinges of pain or tightness.

"I’m excited about it, I feel good," Clayton said. "I feel ready to go. I’m ready to have a good week of practice and get out on the field on Sunday.

“I’m ready to play a whole game, but we’ll do as the coaches see fit. I feel great. I haven’t had to hold back at all."

Ravens coach John Harbaugh was noncommittal, though, on Clayton’s status.

That may be just gamesmanship, though.

"I wouldn’t comment on it if I did know, and I really don’t know for sure," Harbaugh said. "Those are the kind of things that you just have to wait and see how they go, how he practices and how he feels with it because it’s a hamstring. We’ll just have to wait and see."

Meanwhile, tight end L.J. Smith is regarded as a question mark and is probably going be sidelined. Smith, who pulled his left hamstring last month, didn’t practice Wednesday and did some light running on the side.

"It feels better than last week," Smith said. "We’ve got to test it out and see if it’s ready. I feel pretty good about where I’m at. It’s 16 games, and the coaches definitely want to make sure that I’m available."

Offensive guard Marshal Yanda indicated that he has made significant progress less than a year removed from tearing three knee ligaments. However, he acknowledged that Chris Chester is likely to get the start at right guard against Kansas City.

"Chris is probably going to start, but they haven’t told us yet," Yanda said. "My knee feels good and I got a bunch of snaps against Carolina and felt good afterwards. Everything’s coming around on schedule."

Nose guard Kelly Gregg proclaimed himself to be recovered from a shoulder sprain.

"I feel great, you bet," he said. "It’s good to be back. The guys asked me if I know where to go on game day."

Gregg missed all of last season after undergoing microfracture knee surgery.

"Last year at this time, I was getting treatment and then going home and drinking a lot of beer," Gregg said.

Offensive tackle Oniel Cousins (sprained ankle) practiced without restrictions.

Rookie linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (sprained right medial collateral ligament) said he might be able to play against Kansas City. He was limited in practice.

"It’s getting better," he said.

Also limited in practice Wednesday: linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (foot) and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (foot).

Free safety Ed Reed isn’t on the injury report, but he’s still affected by a nerve impingement in his neck and shoulder that has been bothering him for over a year.

"I’m as ready as I’m going to be," Reed said. "I still take precautions and try to play smart. I try not to really worry about it as much, and let my mind focus on what we have to do."

Chiefs coach Todd Haley told Baltimore reporters during a conference call that quarterback Matt Cassel (sprained left medial collateral ligament) will be listed as questionable.

He was limited in practice as well as cornerback Brandon Flowers (shoulder) and running back Jackie Battle (illness).

LEARNING THE ROPES: Newly-acquired offensive tackle Tony Moll had has to make a lot of adjustments since joining the Ravens in a trade from the Green Bay Packers for defensive back Derrick Martin.

First off, there’s the humidity of Maryland after the "frozen tundra" of Lambeau Field.

"It’s a little muggy," Moll said. "It’s definitely a little warmer than it was in Green Bay."

Then, there’s offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s complicated playbook to absorb.

"It’s a lot of difference calls with completely different meanings," he said. "I’ve got some old habits to break and some new ones to learn."

Moll said he’s been installed as the backup right tackle behind rookie Michael Oher and will be dressing out for Sunday’s game. He’ll be learning other positions, too.

The trade was a complete surprise to him.

"I was definitely caught off guard," Moll said. "I’m definitely excited about it now once you understand you’re going to a team that has been in the playoffs.

“I definitely feel like the new guy. You don’t want to say you feel like a rookie, but you’re always trying to learn something."

STARTING OUT: Running back Ray Rice is preparing to enter the regular season the same way he began the preseason, as the starter ahead of former Pro Bowl runner Willis McGahee.

"Right now, I know I’m the starting running back, but I know it’s a long season and the more the merrier in our backfield," Rice said. "I’ll be starting the game, but I’m sure we’ll all be in there at some point."

McGahee has taken the demotion in stride and seems confident that he’ll get plenty of opportunities in relief of Rice.

"It is what it is, you just got to go out there and do your job," he said. "It’s the beginning of the season and it’s a long season. Whenever your number is called, you step up and play.

"Ray has been working really hard and his body has changed. He has bulked up and has been working hard on the football field, doing everything he has to do."

EXCITED: New starting kicker Steve Hauschka is aware that he has gigantic cleats to fill, figuratively speaking, as the successor to Matt Stover.

"I think with Stover’s situation that it might take a couple of years for the fans to get really excited about me," Hauschka said. "I understand that Matt was a legend and a special figure in Baltimore. I definitely feel honored to be in this situation. It’s really encouraging that people believe in me."

Hauschka converted 5 of 6 field goals during the preseason, including a 46-yarder against the Atlanta Falcons that locked up the job for him.

He’s excited about making his debut at home.

"I know the fans are going to be encouraging and wanting me to do well," Hauschka said. "My teammates have been supportive. We’re all raring to go and ready to beat up on the Chiefs."

QUICK HITS: Harbaugh lost his temper during the early portion of practice because he believed that television cameras were taping some of his special-teams schemes. He used a few choice expletives while demanding that the cameras be turned off. The media is allowed to watch the beginning of practice, but can be instructed under league rules to not tape certain drills. The cameramen said they weren’t taping the special-teams drills and were instead getting footage of quarterback Joe Flacco and other starters walking onto the field. It’s unclear what sort of competitive advantage an opponent could gain from watching the few minutes of practice footage that is typically broadcasted on the nightly news. … Wide receiver Marcus Smith has undergone surgery to repair his anterior cruciate ligament and is expected to recover in time for next season . …

Middle linebacker Ray Lewis isn’t expecting any major changes under new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, the replacement for popular former defensive boss Rex Ryan. "Do you love Rex? Yeah," Lewis said. "But Rex has never made a play when you step on the field. No defensive coordinator has. Bottom line, the players make plays. We have a core group that is dedicated to each other. Anytime you have that type of chemistry inside, it’s almost impossible not to come back and have the same defense." … The Ravens gave the players jackets with the words "53 Mighty Men of Baltimore" stitched in the front as a reward for making the team. "We have had some requests from coaches and scouts and other people around the building for a similar jacket, but it only goes to the players," Harbaugh said. "It’s a pretty big accomplishment to make an NFL football team, especially this one." Added Rice: "We think it’s special when you make this team because of the pride we have in playing for the Baltimore Ravens."
 
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 Ravens24x7.com. 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. 

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