OWINGS MILLS – Baltimore Ravens offensive guard Marshal Yanda will be sidelined Friday night against the Kansas City Chiefs after missing his fifth practice in a row due to back spasms.
Although it’s unclear if Yanda will play next week against the Washington Redskins, coach John Harbaugh downplayed the injury.
"We’re definitely playing it safe," Harbaugh said. "He’s got back spasms, like I’ve told you. Nothing major. No new injury or anything like that to the back. The linemen, they always have back issues over the years. All football players do to some extent or another. We’re going to keep him out the rest of this week for sure.
"Whether he’ll go next week or not, I don’t know. You know Marshal, he’ll want to go. If we have to hold him back, it will be us holding him back. It’s not a serious thing. He’s not going to be out for the regular season or anything thing like that and he’ll probably play next week."
With Yanda out and six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk still out following left knee surgery, the Ravens will deploy Oniel Cousins at right guard and rookie Jah Reid at right tackle with Bryan Mattison starting again at center.
"I don’t think we’re going to look like we’re at midseason form," Harbaugh said. "But I’d like to see us be solid in pass protection and get the run game going a little bit."
LEWIS EXCUSED: All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis was excused from practice due to a relative’s illness.
It’s unclear if Lewis will be back by Friday night.
"Personal, family matters," Harbaugh said. "Something he has to take care of."
FLACCO POWER GROWING: The Ravens insist that quarterback Joe Flacco has been granted increased autonomy to audible.
In the past, that wasn’t the case under offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s control.
"I think we’ve seen that a lot," Harbaugh said. "It’s just been built into the offense in the offseason. I said it last year a lot, that there’s more stuff in there than you realize, but there’s more this year. I think Cam and the offensive coaches have done a great job of building the offense in a way that Joe really has the choice almost every play."
Now, Harbaugh said Flacco changes plays quite often.
"He changes a run to another direction," Harbaugh said. "He changes a run to a pass. He changes a pass to a maximum protection or back to a run, and he’s done a great job with that."
PLAYING TIME: Harbaugh outlined that the majority of the starters will play into the second quarter Friday.
Some veteran players such as Lewis and free safety Ed Reed will only play sparingly in the first quarter.
"I think the starting group, so to speak, will play well into the second quarter.," Harbaugh said. "We have a shorter offseason this year. We need to get ready to play. We’re going to be playing a regular-season game very soon.
"There are certain guys who don’t need to play that much. I think Ray Lewis is an example; Ed Reed is an example. So, I think those guys will be pulled a little earlier."
INJURY UPDATE: Several players didn’t practice, including Birk and Yanda, cornerback Chris Carr (left hamstring), wide receiver James Hardy (hamstring), running back Damien Berry (ankle) and wide receiver David Reed, who’s coming off surgery on his left wrist.
Returning to practice after being given a day off: defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, running back Ray Rice, wide receiver Anquan Boldin, defensive end Cory Redding, linebackers Terrell Suggs, Brendon Ayanbadejo and Jarret Johnson and cornerback Lardarius Webb.
CAMP BREAKING, SORT OF: Wednesday marked the usual time the Ravens would break training camp in Westminster.
This year, though, practices are being conducted at the Ravens’ training complex due to planning delays caused by the NFL lockout.
"It really kind of wraps up the training camp phase," Harbaugh said. "We’re still in training camp in the sense that we’d be coming back home at this date. We’d be leaving Westminster right now if we were in a normal scenario. So, the format changes next week. We’ll be in more of an in-season type of a format, maybe a little more than we would do in season but not a lot more than we would do in season: a couple plays here and there."
QUICK HITS: Harbaugh praised cornerback Cary Williams, who has worked with the first-team defense at times during camp. "Cary is very talented, he’s worked very hard," Harbaugh said. "I think he’s been in the system now for over a year-plus. He really understands the defense. But, what I like about him is he’s playing with great technique, and at corner, that’s so important. He’s got a lot of talent, but he’s playing with great technique."
Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti is a proponent of the NFL eventually shifting to an 18-game regular-season schedule. "I think it became such a flashpoint, that our negotiating team figured that it wasn’t worth pushing," Bisciotti said during a conference call with personal-seat license holders. "What we did as a show of faith was to go from what we had as a unilateral opportunity to impose 18 games in the old CBA, we agreed to let it become a negotiating point with the union going forward Nobody likes things being forced on them, and the fact that the old CBA made it clear that we could impose it on them, I think that it kind of made them angrier that they didn’t feel like they were getting heard. We felt that it was in our players’ best interests to leave it out of this fight and open it up for negotiation a year or two from now and see what the additional revenue would be so that they’re making a decision with eyes wide open."
Bisciotti is awaiting a Monday night home game and was disappointed the Ravens weren’t awarded one this year. The Ravens’ last home Monday night game was four years ago against the New England Patriots. "I will bet you a Ravens hat and a shirt that we are on Monday Night Football at home next year," said Bisciotti, who’s on the NFL broadcasting committee. "You call back and ask for it if we don’t get it because I’m going to fight like hell for it. They kind of slipped that one in on me and it was too late. I obviously didn’t fight hard enough when they asked us for our preferences. I was very disappointed because I had mentioned it to the scheduling guys when we didn’t get it last year. They took note."
Bisciotti is hoping the Ravens will eventually be asked to play overseas in London in the NFL’s international series. "They haven’t come to me," Bisciotti said. "My time is going to come up and I’m going to accept it when I do it. I think it’s in the best interest. I would love to get some more Ravens fans over the pond. "If it’s our year in the next few, then I certainly hope that it’s an away game and our fans still get their eight home games." What if it’s a home game? Bisciotti’s reply: "Hopefully we’ll get a bunch of our season-ticket holders over there because they do give season-ticket holders a chance to buy tickets."