Inside the Ravens with Aaron Wilson

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Key Ravens ailing, Mason steps up for Harbaugh

OWINGS MILLS — Nose guard Kelly Gregg and tight end L.J. Smith will be sidelined at least for the Baltimore Ravens’ preseason game Saturday against the Carolina Panthers due to injuries suffered Monday night against the New York Jets. Gregg has suffered a shoulder injury that isn’t regarded as serious, but it triggered some initial concern from the team. His work may be limited for the remainder of the preseason as a precautionary measure.Gregg underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam Tuesday, and the imaging didn’t reveal any significant damage. The Ravens are confident that Gregg will definitely be back in time for the season-opener against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sept. 13.

"We had a little bit of a scare with Kelly because we weren’t sure exactly what it was, and it turned out to be just kind of a nagging deal," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "As you get older, those things get a little sore. So, he’s going to be OK. He’s going to be fine.

“We’re going to be smart with him through the rest of the preseason. He’s probably had plenty of reps. So, we’ll just kind of tune him up and get him ready for the regular season."

Meanwhile, the outlook isn’t as encouraging for Smith. He pulled his left hamstring.Smith was already dealing with an upper hamstring pull and a hip flexor problem, as well as the effects of a sports hernia procedure from earlier this offseason.Smith may not be back until the season opener, but is a question mark to play in any more preseason games. That includes the team’s preseason finale against the Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 3.

"It’s a concern," Harbaugh said. "It’s a hamstring pull. It’s going to take him a little while. I don’t know how long. You never know with those things. It’s in a different spot from the other one. What probably happened was, he had the hip flexor, the groin, the sports hernia, the upper hamstring. These things kind of compensate and tie into one another.

"He’s been working incredibly hard to try to get it right, and he’s going to have to continue to do that. He’s down about it. I told him, ‘Don’t get down about it.’ It’s a long season, and we’re going to need him to be a really good player for us, and we’ve got to get him ready hopefully for Atlanta. And, if not Atlanta, Kansas City."

Meanwhile, wide receiver Mark Clayton unexpectedly returned to practice after working out on his own during training camp to rehabilitate his strained left hamstring. It’s unknown whether Clayton will play Saturday.At the time of the injury, Harbaugh said that it had significant internal bleeding. Clayton has said he expects to be back possibly for the last preseason game, and definitely for the Chiefs game.

Depth is thin at offensive tackle with Oniel Cousins wearing a protective boot after spraining his right ankle Monday. However, Cousins insisted that he’s going to play against Carolina."I was blocking somebody and I just kind of went the wrong way, and it got twisted," Cousins said. "Hopefully, I’ll be ready by game time."

Cornerback Samari Rolle, who underwent neck surgery last season, remains on the physically unable to perform list."I’ve heard nothing," Harbaugh said. "Hopefully, he’ll be able to play."Not practicing in addition to Gregg, Smith, Cousins and Rolle: right offensive guard Chris Chester (strained right calf), linebackers Terrell Suggs (heel, strained left Achilles’ tendon) and Dannell Ellerbe (sprained right medial collateral ligament), offensive tackle Stefan Rodgers (sprained right foot) and wide receiver Biren Ealy (groin).Ellerbe is no longer wearing a brace and has increased his agility drills.

Offensive tackle Adam Terry proclaimed his recent microfracture surgery on his right knee as a success, indicating that he’s on schedule to play next season."It feels pretty good," he said. "It’s a little different protocol from what Kelly Gregg had. I can bend my leg, and I have pretty good range of motion. I just can’t put any weight on it."Terry is on crutches.Offensive guard Marshal Yanda, who tore three knee ligaments last season, saw his first playing time since the injury. He participated in seven snaps without incident."It was good to get back out there and get a feel for it," Yanda said. "It felt normal. It felt great, no pain, just like practice has been gong. Just knocking the rust off and getting back out there."Offensive lineman David Hale (bruised shoulder) said he’ll play this weekend

TAKING THE HIGH ROAD: Two days after former Ravens linebacker Bart Scott declared that Jets coach and former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan was really the head coach in Baltimore last season, Harbaugh didn’t add fuel to the fire.

"We don’t have any rearview mirrors in our car," Harbaugh said.

Scott doesn’t sound like he was much of a Harbaugh fan.

"Rex was the head coach of that football team last year, whether you guys know it or not," Scott said. "He kept that team together. The defense leads that team over there, and he controls the defense."

Wide receiver Derrick Mason seemed amused by Scott’s remarks, and denied that Ryan was running the team.

"You can never tell what’s going to come out of Bart’s mouth," Mason said. "They give the head coaching tag to one coach and that was coach Harbaugh. We respect Rex when he was here and he did a tremendous job with the defense."I’m pretty sure he had some input with what was going on, but there is only one captain that can control the ship and that was Harbaugh. If he was the head coach, he surprised me. I should have been going to him instead of going to Harbaugh."

QUICK HITS: Harbaugh indicated that the Ravens haven’t ruled out the possibility of veteran kicker Matt Stover, but the team seems to prefer that either Steve Hauschka or Graham Gano claim the job so that they don’t have to use a roster spot for a kickoff specialist. "We’re hopeful and I think everyone that is a Ravens fan should be hopeful that one of these two guys can do it because if one of these two guys can do it, that’s one more player we get to keep," Harbaugh said. ... Director of player development O.J. Brigance, who is bravely battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, will be saluted during a fundraiser at M&T Bank Stadium on Sept. 29 during his 40th birthday. The benefit is called "Two Rings for O.J," and signup information is available at ... Offensive guard Bryan Mattison, who played defensive end at Iowa and on the practice squad last season, played on the defensive line during the fourth quarter Monday. "It was fun," he said. "I’m glad I had a chance to do that, but I’m an offensive player now. I’m a little bit rusty." ... Mason wore the No. 9 again in practice to honor the memory of the late former Ravens and Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair, his close friend and former teammate.

Photo by Sabina Moran

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