Inside the Ravens with Aaron Wilson

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mark Clayton returns to practice for Ravens


Wide receiver Mark Clayton practiced without restrictions after undergoing an arthroscopic surgical procedure on his right shoulder last month, running routes and catching passes in individual and team drills.

"It felt great," Clayton said. "I was able to fly around. I had my range of motion. I was able to catch balls."

Clayton said he's not quite 100 percent and will know more about the shoulder once he's grappling with cornerbacks to test the strength of his shoulder.

Clayton is competing for playing time behind starters Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason.

"We're still trying to see where I'll fit," Clayton said. "I'm just working hard. Anytime you get an opportunity to make a play, make a play and keep moving. It's exciting."

Nakamura ahead of schedule


Backup safety Haruki Nakamura has made an impressive comeback from surgery to repair a gruesome broken fibula suffered last season against the Cleveland Browns.

He participated in full-team drills on an extended basis for the first time this week.

"It's a good feeling to be back out there," Nakamura said. "I started out last week with a couple of plays. The coaches felt I was doing well enough and I felt physically well enough to take more steps. It's a great improvement.

"I've been really focused on getting back and getting healthy. This is just one of those steps you have to take to get better."

Nakamura is surprised to be back at practice this soon.

"With an injury like that, you never know if you can come back," he said. "I really focused on doing the things that got me here throughout my career and it really helped me out a lot."

Only last week, Nakamura was favoring his injured right leg noticeably and couldn't cut. He's still not quite 100 percent.

"I can run a lot better now, less of a gimp," Nakamura said. "When I first started out, I couldn't jog without limping. Now, I can get a full-speed burst and get back out there. I can make all my cuts on it now.

"At first, I was really overcompensating for it and depending on my left leg. I can do all my speed turns, can do cuts. I have a lot of confidence in it now."

And his personal erector set is still in his ankle from his surgery and may remain there until next year, if not longer.

Nakamura still has a metal plate and eight screws in his ankle.

"I'm debating whether I'll take it out next year," he said.

So far, he hasn't set off any metal detectors at airport security.

"I've flown a couple of times already," Nakamura said. "I haven't had an issue."

Troy Smith returns after another bout with tonsils


Other than being sacked by massive nose guard Terrence "Mount" Cody and having one of his passes rejected by the rookie defensive lineman, it was a good day for backup quarterback Troy Smith.

The former Heisman Trophy winner is feeling much better after having his tonsils removed, returning to practice this week after being sidelined a week ago after the procedure.

"Oh my god, it's tremendous," Smith said. "It's like night and day. That was huge."
Smith was sidelined for five games during the 2008 season because of tonsillitis, an illness that cost him his chance to possibly claim the starting job.

He has had recurrences of the tonsillitis since that year, recently dealing with a case of strep throat that prompted him to have his tonsils taken out.

"I just decided that this was enough," Smith said. "It was tough, but well worth it. Everything is getting back in order. It's still trying times when I bark out signals and use my voice, but we have practice. You show up, you got to work. I'm feeling great."

HARBAUGH WANTS A BALTIMORE SUPER BOWL

With New York awarded the 2014 Super Bowl despite resistance from Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti due to concerns about wintry weather, Harbaugh made his case for Baltimore to get a Super Bowl.

"You put one in New York, then come on down here to Baltimore and we'll have a Super Bowl, too. That's what I'd be for," Harbaugh said. "Baltimore built a stadium, put a lot of money into a brand new stadium. So, you start bringing it up here, I think we want one. But the main thing we're concerned with is getting into the Super Bowl. We try to take care of that first as a football team."

Quick Hits with the Baltimore Ravens


QUICK HITS: Besides Oniel Cousins (illness) and Jared Gaither (foot), several other players didn't practice due to injuries. That includes cornerbacks Lardarius Webb (knee surgery) and Fabian Washington (knee surgery), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (pectoral surgery), nose guards Kelly Gregg (shoulder surgery) and Brandon McKinney (back surgery), safety Ed Reed (hip surgery), offensive tackle Ramon Harewood (sprained knee) and wide receiver Maurice Price (ankle). Tight end Todd Heap was limited in drills as well as linebacker Jarret Johnson, who's recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. ... Several veterans didn't attend the voluntary practice, including: Boldin, middle linebacker Ray Lewis, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, defensive ends Trevor Pryce and Cory Redding and running back Willis McGahee. ...Wide receiver Demetrius Williams left practice after landing on his face, but Harbaugh said it was just a precautionary measure. ...

Terrence Cody was especially active one week after missing practice with inflamed hip tissue. "It's still giving me problems," Cody said. "It's still sore." Despite the pain, Cody dominated inside. "I hit my gap, I knew I had to get there fast," Cody said. "I bull-rushed and collapsed the pocket and threw my hands up. Troy didn't pump-fake. I touched him and sacked him. I didn't try to knock him down." ... Running back Ray Rice practiced after having his wisdom teeth removed Friday. The swelling has gone down. "It's not too bad," he said. "My jaw was a little sore, but now it's pretty good. I was out there running around." ... Rice said he's playing at 210 pounds this season. He was feeling spry enough to dunk the football over the goalpost after a touchdown. "It's all about having fun," he said. "You've got to get some spunk in practice." ... Rice ran over to undrafted rookie cornerback Prince Miller after he got juked badly by Mason. "I asked him if he was all right," Rice said. "It looked like Michael Jordan taking a guy to school, basic fundamentals. We knew what Mason was doing. It looked like the little, young boy had a little problem. I asked him if he was OK. I didn't want him to get offended by it. That's Derrick Mason." ...

The Ravens are set to unveil their new high-definition video screens at M&T Bank Stadium during a press conference Thursday. The screens cost over $7 million and will be used this weekend at the NCAA lacrosse championships.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ayanbadejo looks toward training camp for return from leg injury


Travis Fisher invited to next OTA; "Ray Lewis Way" unveiled

OWINGS MILLS – Baltimore Ravens special-teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo is still facing a long road back to recover fully from a torn quadriceps tendon suffered last season.

The three-time Pro Bowl selection and reserve inside linebacker is still experiencing pain in his left leg, but is confidently targeting training camp for his return.

“I still have a lot of pain, an unusual amount of pain,” Ayanbadejo said during the Ravens’ weekend minicamp. “With that being said, I still get better every week. I think they’re probably hoping I’d be further along than I am. I still expect to be ready by training camp in August, and that’s when they expected me to be ready.”

Ayanbadejo was scheduled to undergo a follow up visit with his surgeon, Dr. James Andrews, in Birmingham, Ala., on Monday.

Ayanbadejo was making a significant contribution in the Ravens’ nickel package when he injured his leg against the New England Patriots, ending his season.

He tore up his leg while tackling running back Sammy Morris by the sideline.

Ayanbadejo was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week following the third game of the season against the Cleveland Browns, registering a sack, an interception and six tackles.

Ayanbadejo’s durability had been impressive, appearing in 100 consecutive NFL games before the injury last season at Gillette Stadium.

“I never missed a game in college, high school, nothing,” Ayanbadejo said. “Never missed a game in my career, so the first game I missed was last year and I don’t plan on missing anymore.”

NOTES: Following a successful tryout last weekend, veteran cornerback Travis Fisher has been invited to the Ravens’ next organized team activity.

Fisher hasn’t been signed to a contract yet, but has been told that’s in the offing.

“They invited me back and said we’ll work something out,” Fisher told 24x7 on Tuesday from his home in Miami. “I’m sure we’ll get the paperwork done soon. They already gave me a plane ticket to come back to Baltimore for the next camp.”

Fisher drew praise from Ravens coach John Harbaugh following minicamp.

The former St. Louis Rams second-round draft pick tried out for the Ravens before the playoffs last season, but injured his hamstring during the workout.

Fisher, 30, has intercepted nine career passes with 32 pass deflections.

“The Ravens are a great new opportunity,” Fisher said. “It’s my kind of defense.
I’ve still got a lot of football left in me. I can still run and am still fast and I’ve got no injuries.

“I want to be on this team. I’m looking for that Super Bowl ring. The Ravens have a great defense and I want to be a part of it.” …

“Ray Lewis Way” was unveiled Tuesday afternoon at the corner of North Avenue and Broadway in Baltimore.

The All-Pro middle linebacker and two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year was honored at a ceremony attended by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Harbaugh.

“If Ray Lewis Way does nothing else, just look up instead of looking down,” Lewis told reporters. “If the street does nothing else but make you look up in life and say he did it differently, let that be the goal. .. Baltimore, I love you with every inch of my soul.”

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Cody's quick start impresses coaches and teammates

OWINGS MILLS – Rising out of his stance, massive nose guard Terrence Cody shot his meaty hands into the midsection of veteran center Matt Birk and charged forward.

The power that Cody generated was sufficient to stand Birk up high enough to straighten out his upper body after being hunched over the football at the snap.
That wasn’t the most impressive move from the Baltimore Ravens’ beefy rookie defensive lineman.

Cody disengaged from the clinch and nimbly maneuvered his 6-foot-4, 354-pound frame through the center-guard gap to penetrate the backfield. The surprising quickness from the second-round draft pick from Alabama opened a few eyes around the Ravens’ training complex during their minicamp that concludes today.

“Terrence is a big, strong guy who uses his strength and hands well,” said Birk, a six-time Pro Bowl selection. “He’s more than just big. He’s got a little wiggle to him. He’s impressive so far.

“Pushing a guy like that, I’ve got to use good technique or I don’t stand a chance because he’s so much bigger and stronger. It’s good practice for both of us.”

Despite weighing 400 pounds when he was in junior college and slightly less than that astronomical figure in high school, Cody is extremely athletic.

He claims to be able to dunk a basketball, which no one has ever disputed. He played tight end in high school, also starting on the basketball team. He even played fullback at times in junior college.

Is he off to a good start a few practices into his NFL career?

“I feel like I am, and the coaches think I am,” Cody said. “And it’s good right now.”

Cody weighed 370 pounds at the Senior Bowl, 354 pounds at the NFL scouting combine and 349 pounds at his Pro Day workout.

The weight is melting off.

“He’s been on schedule,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s been losing and he’s been lifting and training, and I think he looks good. I know he’s going to even look better when training camp starts.”

Cody has set a goal of eventually getting down to 330 to 335 pounds.

With his weight decreasing, his stamina seems to have improved.

He’s noticeably leaner than he was a few months ago.

“My conditioning is good,” Cody said. “I feel I can get my conditioning is better, and I can practice my way into shape. My weight is fine. The Ravens like it and I’m good with it.”

While Cody is one of the slowest defensive linemen to be drafted into the NFL in terms of the 40-yard dash with a 5.72 clocking, his ability to provide leverage and clog holes are extraordinary and he covers ground fast in a short area.

The Ravens like what they’ve seen out of Cody so far.

“The one thing you noticed on film and the one thing he showed out here, for a guy as big as he is, he’s got a really quick first step,” defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. “He really moves quick on his first couple of steps, and that’s very important in there with the guys he’s going to be playing against.

“We’ve always prided ourselves in stopping the run first. Terrence Cody has had a great reputation, has done a great job in his college years as a run-stopper and I don’t see any reason why he won’t do the same thing here.”

With starting defensive linemen Kelly Gregg and Haloti Ngata sidelined after shoulder and pectoral surgeries this offseason, Cody has been operating with the first-team defense.

Cody hasn’t looked out of place with one of the top defenses in the league.
And his run-stuffing, block-occupying style has been met with approval by All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis.

“My mindset definitely changed when we drafted Cody,” Lewis said. “I think I get to run around and have fun again, and that’s always a good thing.”

Cody’s intimidating presence is reminiscent of when the Ravens had super heavyweights Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams lined up in front of Lewis, a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

“I’m getting a lot of positive feedback,” Cody said. “We have a lot of fun in meetings. When I make a good play and it helps him out, he’s happy and I’m happy.”

During Cody’s two seasons at Alabama, he recorded 52 tackles, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble, 10 ½ tackles for losses and two blocked field goals.

During that span, the Crimson Tide never allowed an opposing runner to eclipse the century mark. Lining up behind Cody, middle linebacker Rolando McClain won the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker before being drafted eighth overall by the Oakland Raiders.

Now, Cody is learning on the fly in the NFL as an understudy to Gregg.

“He’s been teaching me a lot, telling me a lot, telling me things I can key in before the snap,” Cody said. “I have a real big chance to be probably a starter or sharing reps and such. I think it’s a big opportunity I can be that.

“I came from one of the best programs in college, but it’s a whole lot different. The speed is faster, and everybody’s bigger and stronger.”

At 6-foot-4, Cody occasionally plays too high. There’s been an emphasis that he lower his pad level.

Practicing against a technician like Birk has been an invaluable experience for Cody.

“We had a couple good battles,” Cody said. “He’ll get me sometimes, and I’ll get him sometimes. We just duke it out.”

Before the Ravens launched their minicamp, Cody was visited at his Florida home by defensive line coach Clarence Brooks.

While the playbook was discussed, it was mostly an opportunity to form a bond.

“At first, it was just to get to know me as a player and then as a friend because he wanted to build a relationship,” Cody said. “So, he wanted to get to know how my personality was. That’s when we talked about the defense and he went over some plays to get me ready for camp.”

Now that Cody is in the NFL, he has improved his discipline and eating habits.

For him, it’s a lifestyle choice as much as a smart move for a demanding job.

And Cody emphasized that his fitness is more important to him than it is to the Ravens.

“It wasn’t hard, it’s just that you had to think about your future and I thought about if I didn’t do the right things then I wouldn’t be here right now,” Cody said. “It was just a life thing. I feel it’s more important to me than it is to them because it’s my life and if I don’t get control of it and do what I’m supposed to do then I’m not going to have a long career or a long life.”

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

Ravens Notebook: Jared Gaither doesn’t practice due to ‘injuries’


Cousins steps in

OWINGS MILLS – Offensive tackle Jared Gaither remained on the move Saturday, one day removed from the Baltimore Ravens shifting him to the right side and replacing him with Michael Oher at left tackle.

This time, his destination was the training room where team officials said he was undergoing treatment for an unspecified injury.

Gaither wasn’t available for comment as he wasn’t present during the entire hour that the locker room was open to reporters. Gaither, who battled ankle, foot and neck injuries last season, made no mention of any injury Friday and didn’t appear to be in any discomfort.

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron didn’t indicate how Gaither got hurt or if he’ll practice today as the Ravens conclude their mandatory minicamp.

“I don’t know if it’s any one thing,” Cameron said. “It’s just a series of things. I don’t know if it’s any one specific play.”

Gaither is already the subject of rampant trade rumors, and his absence fueled further speculation about his status. The Buffalo Bills are known to be extremely interested in Gaither due to their inadequate tackle situation, and he has also been linked to the Dallas Cowboys, Oakland Raiders and the Washington Redskins this offseason.

Gaither is an unsigned restricted free agent who’s due a $2.396 million one-year tender.

Because he’s unsigned, he doesn’t have to attend these minicamps.

Gaither is represented by agent Drew Rosenhaus, who has a history of applying leverage to get his clients a new contract or a new employer.

Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt suggested that two of Rosenhaus’ players, wide receiver Anquan Boldin and Darnell Dockett, sat out of minicamp with fabricated hamstring injuries to show their displeasure with their respective contract situations. Boldin is now a Raven with a $28.5 million contract after switching representation last year to CAA.

“They showed up last night and reported an injury that we weren’t aware of,” Whisenhunt said last spring. “So as part of our procedure we sent them for MRIs. Hey, we know what’s going on, so I’m not really going to have much to say about that.”

Without being prompted, Cameron was extremely complimentary of backup right tackle Oniel Cousins.

Cousins worked with the first-team offense with Gaither out Saturday.

“I think the thing that’s most pleasing is the confidence in Oniel Cousins,” Cameron said. “We got a glimpse of it last year. He’s coming, and he’s playing well. He’s picked up right where he left off, and we’ve got three good young tackles.”

Cousins started three games last season. His run-blocking was solid, but he was exposed in pass-rushing situations in a late-season game by Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowl outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley.

“I keep working hard and preparing to be a starter whenever they need me,” Cousins said. “I love playing for the Ravens and I just keep working on my technique to become the best player I can be.”

Cameron, who informed Gaither that he was moving to right tackle, also emphasized that the Ravens want the former University of Maryland lineman back on the field.

“I think we all know the talent that he is,” Cameron said. “I think we all know the kind of player he can be. It’s just a matter of getting him healthy. Offensive line play is really the unit, not the individual talent or group of individual talents.

“We’re going with the five guys right now that are out there that give us the best continuity that can grow together and we can’t wait to get him back. I can tell you that.”

HAREWOOD INJURED: Rookie offensive tackle Ramon Harewood was carted off the field with a right knee injury and will be out for the next three to four weeks.

A sixth-round draft pick from Morehouse and the first NFL player form Barbados, the 6-foot-6, 341-pounder fell awkwardly during practice when he was accidentally tripped from behind.

Harewood said he only suffered soft-tissue damage with no ligament tear when he twisted his right knee.

“It could have been a lot worse,” said Harewood, who was down on the field for a long time. “They said I just did some damage to the tissue. I just know it’s not a ligament. I’m just happy about that.

“I thought it was some kind of ligament gone, but the doctor just said my knee cap probably slipped out a bit and it moved some tissue with it. It’s an injury, but it could have been a lot worse.”

Harewood had been working with the second-team offense at right tackle and was replaced by Stefan Rodgers.

Harewood could be back for a rookie minicamp that begins June 1.

Harewood had his leg wrapped, but was standing on his own without crutches and said he wasn’t in significant pain.

“It’s more frustrating because I’ve got a point to prove,” Harewood said. “That’s the reason I’m here. It’s more frustrating than anything else. It hurts a little bit, but that’s the hard part right now is just dealing with the frustration.”

Harewood drew praise from coach John Harbaugh for his size and mobility.

Coming from a small school, there’s a big adjustment for Harewood.

“I’m used to kind of dominating, so [Friday] was kind of an eye-opener,” Harewood said. “A couple of the older guys, they told me it’s the NFL. You go back to baby steps and you start again.

“I came out with my best foot forward. I actually thought I was having a good practice mentally and physically and then this happened. So, you move on from there.”

KATULA IS BACK: Long snapper Matt Katula proclaimed that he’s 100 percent recovered from tendinitis in his snapping elbow that plagued him last season.

“The elbow feels very good,” said Katula, adding that he’s ready to play golf at his charity golf tournament Monday. “It was kind of what we thought. Rest is what it needed, and it kind of went away.”

The Ravens signed undrafted rookie long snapper Morgan Cox, but Katula remains entrenched as the starter.

Last season, Katula’s elbow played havoc with his snaps and led to missed field goals. He had a pair of bad snaps in the Ravens’ final regular-season game against the Oakland Raiders.

Now, he has regained his old form.

“It was a struggle last year, it really was,” Katula said. “I’m just excited to get out and clean the slate.”

KINDLE LEARNING ON THE FLY: Rookie outside linebacker Sergio Kindle backed off his post-draft prediction that he’ll be named Rookie of the Year.

He has too much to learn to get hung up on ambitious goals. Right now, he just wants to learn the playbook.

“When I said that, it was just an exciting moment for me getting drafted,” Kindle said. “My head was in the clouds. First of all, you’ve got to learn the playbook, get on the field and then perform well to get Rookie of the Year.

“It will be a good goal for me to set for myself to try to strive to, but I’ve got to take it one step at a time. So, if you can copy, paste and delete that, that would be nice.”

Kindle reiterated that his knee feels fine after several procedures at the University of Texas and a report that he’ll need to have microfracture surgery eventually.

“My body felt good,” he said. “No knee issues.”

The speed of the game is Kindle’s biggest adjustment.

“The tempo out here was about 10 times faster than college, especially when they were throwing plays at you like bullets,” Kindle said. “First of all, you’ve got to slow down your head spinning. Then, you have to make your legs run as fast as your head is going and you’re just crashing.”

Kindle has already drawn praise from middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who announced him as the Ravens’ second-round pick.

“I just think he’s a great kid,” Lewis said. “I told him that when I got ready to call his name at the draft. I watched him in college. I like his fire, the way he plays the game.”

Lewis gave Kindle a welcoming sideline hit as congratulations for a good play.

"When he was coming out to the field and he slapped me on my head, he almost gave me a concussion," Kindle said. "That's when I knew he was intense 100 percent of the time when he's on this green grass. That's what I love about him."

QUICK HITS: Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson isn’t 100 percent yet after undergoing offseason arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He’s expected to make a full recovery by training camp, but will need to regain some of the bulk he’s lost. He’s down to roughly 245 pounds. … The Ravens are trying out undrafted former Mississippi State player Tay Bowser at defensive back. Bowser played wide receiver and cornerback in college. … Special-teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg didn’t say whether the Ravens are close to signing another kicker, referring questions to general manager Ozzie Newsome. They met with Shayne Graham during the NFL owners meetings. Rosburg also praised returning kicker Billy Cundiff. “You’ll have to talk to Ozzie about that,” Rosburg said. “He doesn’t let me make those decisions yet. I’ve been working on him, though.”… Two former Negro League baseball players addressed the team after practice. … Several players are in the mix to challenge Chris Carr for punt return duties, including wide receiver David Reed and Prince Miller. Carr is lining up with the first-team at cornerback with Lardarius Webb and Fabian Washington recovering from knee surgeries. … Cameron praised rookie fullback Mike McLaughlin, a physical undrafted player who excelled at linebacker at Boston College. “It’s early, but he’s a football player,” Cameron said. “He’s going to shine when the pads come on like most good fullbacks. When they’re out here without being able to hit anybody, they seem just like another guy out there. We’ll know more at training camp.” … Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison was complimentary of cornerback Cary Williams. “Cary has got a great body,” Mattison said. “He’s a prototype corner. He’s got a lot of length. He’s got good speed. A lot of emphasis is on him to see how good we can get him in a short period of time.” … Special-teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo is still expected to return by training camp after tearing his quadriceps last season against the New England Patriots.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Ed Reed expected to return by training camp


Clayton recovering from shoulder surgery

OWINGS MILLS – Now that Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed has undergone hip surgery, he's in a race to recover in time for the regular season.

The Ravens are projecting the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year will return at some point during training camp.

Training camp is set to begin at McDaniel College in late July.

"He decided to get the procedure now to give the best chance to get back for most of training camp that he can and be ready to go for the season," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.

The six-time Pro Bowl selection had a torn labrum in his hip repaired. A floating bone fragment was also discovered during the procedure in Vail, Colo., where Reed is recuperating.

Reed injured his hip during the first week of last season and fought through the pain before being sidelined for four games in December.

"We’ll have to see how it progresses," Harbaugh said. "What we try to do with Ed is push it as long we could from a rehab perspective. This is Ed’s process more than anything. I think he understands his body better than anybody. He’s been driving this."

Middle linebacker Ray Lewis said he sent Reed a text message, but hasn’t spoken with him.

“When people go through that, you let them know that you’re praying for them and they’re in your thoughts,” Lewis said. “Outside of that, Ed will definitely reach out when it’s time for Ed to reach out. When you go through your surgeries, you’ve got to figure it out for yourself like, ‘OK, where’s my mindset?’

‘Then, you kind of get back into football mode. He doesn’t want to hear about any football right now. Right now, it’s about his health and getting back healthy enough to walk.”Reed has contemplated retirement, but is expected to return this season. He has yet to make any kind of announcement, though.

“I’ve never thought about not having him,” Lewis said. “It think that’s one thing that me and him have always kept each other accountable about. When that first whistle blows, I know 20 is going to be behind me. So, that’s all that matters.”

CLAYTON HAS SHOULDER SURGERY: Wide receiver Mark Clayton had minor surgery on his right shoulder, a cleanup procedure that will sideline him for the next three weeks.
"It was just a scope to clean it out," Clayton said. "I'll be back soon."

A restricted free agent who has yet to sign his tender, Clayton had the surgery three weeks ago.

"Just a minor deal," Harbaugh said. "He should be back for most of the OTA's."
Clayton hasn't been present for the Ravens' voluntary offseason conditioning program because he has been working on completing his bachelor's degree in communications at the University of Oklahoma.

A restricted free agent, Clayton hasn’t signed his one-year tender yet. He indicated that he plans to do so soon.

Now that he's back and recovering from the shoulder surgery, Clayton faces major competition from newcomer wide receivers like Donte' Stallworth.

"That's what we like," Clayton said. "We want to put as many weapons on the field as we can and leave it at that.”

SIDELINED: Besides Reed and Clayton, several other players didn’t practice.

That includes Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (pectoral surgery), nose guard Kelly Gregg (shoulder surgery), cornerbacks Fabian Washington (knee surgery) and Lardarius Webb (knee surgery), safety Haruki Nakamura (ankle surgery), defensive tackle Lamar Divens (hip surgery) and linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (quadriceps surgery).

“Lardarius and Fabian are doing well," Harbaugh said. "They are ahead of schedule."
Washington tore his anterior cruciate ligament in November.

He expects to be back by training camp.

“I feel pretty good,” he said. “The recovery is ahead of schedule. I plan to be there for training camp, ready to go.”

Washington said he’s regaining his old movement, but doesn’t want to risk hurting it again.

“I can run, cut, backpedal, I can do it all,” Washington said. “It’s just at a little slower pace than normal. I just can’t re-injure it or else I’ll definitely be gone for the year. So, I’ve just got to take it slow.”

The Ravens lined up Chris Carr as the first-team cornerback opposite Domonique Foxworth.

Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson (shoulder surgery) and wide receiver Marcus Smith (knee surgery) practiced.

TRYOUTS: The Ravens tried out veteran free agent cornerback Travis Fisher and defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery.

Fisher, 30, is a former St. Louis Rams second-round draft pick who has also played for the Detroit Lions and the Seattle Seahawks.

The 5-foot-10, 189-pounder has intercepted nine career passes and deflected 32 passes.

“I can give them my experience,” Fisher said. “I’ve played this game for a long time and I hope I can contribute here.”

Montgomery is a former Washington Redskins fifth-round pick who was cut four days ago.

He has recorded 78 career tackles and three sacks in four NFL seasons.

The Ravens are also trying out rookie defensive backs Wondy Pierre-Louis (University of Florida) and Brad Jones (Cincinnati), wide receiver Reggie Smith (Elizabeth City State) and veteran punter Jeremy Kapinos.

Alabama running back Roy Upchurch wasn’t able to tryout because he didn’t pass his physical.

UNDRAFTED CLASS: The Ravens announced the signing of nine undrafted rookie free agents.

That includes UNLV wide receiver Rodelin Anthony, long snapper Morgan Cox, Wyoming defensive end John Fletcher, Marshall safety Ashton Hall, Marshall outside linebacker Albert McClellan, Georgia cornerback Prince Miller, Boston College linebacker Mike McLaughlin, who’s trying out at fullback, Central Washington cornerback Courtney Smith and Memphis running back Curtis Steele.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

Boldin off to fast start in Baltimore


OWINGS MILLS – Anquan Boldin accelerated past a flailing young cornerback before cutting sharply toward the middle of the field, a destination that represents familiar territory for the Pro Bowl wide receiver.

Extending his hands after gaining plenty of separation on a short post pattern, Boldin caught a Joe Flacco spiral in stride for a long completion.

It was their best connection of the day during Boldin’s first official practice with the Baltimore Ravens on Friday since joining the team through a March trade from the Arizona Cardinals and being signed to a $28.5 million contract extension.

After Flacco overthrew Boldin on a long post during their first play in team drills during the first day of the Ravens' mandatory full-team minicamp, failed to hit him in the red zone and Boldin dropped a post when he fell to the ground, the Ravens were glad to see some burgeoning chemistry between the newly-minted passing tandem.

“Everybody has those first-day jitters,” Boldin said. “For myself, I’m just trying to get out here and get familiar with my surroundings. Right now, we’re just getting into it, just to get a feel for everybody with the offense. I think the day went pretty good, considering it’s the first day.”

Of course, this wasn’t Boldin’s first actual day working with Flacco.

They have thrown together during several informal workouts as well as a series of quarterback schools ever since the Ravens acquired Boldin.

This atmosphere is the closest they’ve come to simulating what it will be like to work together during an actual game with Boldin as the Ravens’ new featured wide receiver.

The knowledge of where Flacco likes to deliver the football and Boldin’s preferred catch zone is something they’re working overtime to perfect.

“It’s growing,” Boldin said. “It’s a process. It’s a long season. Right now, we’re just trying to get a feel for one another. He throws a real catchable ball. I’m looking forward to the season."

Boldin and Kurt Warner had quite the collaboration in Arizona, but that connection didn't happen overnight.

"Kurt is a smart guy, a veteran guy," Boldin said. "I look to develop that same chemistry that I had with Kurt with Joe."

Between Boldin’s veteran presence, ability to run after the catch and imposing size and fellow newcomer wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth’s deep speed, the Ravens appear to have definitely upgraded a wide receiver corps that was arguably one of the worst in the league last season.

At 6-foot-1, 217 pounds, Boldin provides an imposing, hard-nosed downfield target.

“Anquan is a big, physical guy that makes every catch look easy,” Flacco said. “It can be two feet behind him and he’ll make it look like it hits him right in the head. And Donte’, he can just get up and go and I think he’s going to be a huge help to us.”

Stallworth had the catch of the day with his one-handed grab where he snared it with his right hand.

Besides adding Boldin and Stallworth, the Ravens also retained veteran possession receiver Derrick Mason.

“We did some good things this offseason,” middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. “Bringing in Anquan, bringing in Stallworth, re-signing Mase, picking up two great tight ends in the draft. Overall, we have a lot of pieces in a lot of places.”

The Ravens have built a rich defensive tradition and they’re known for a smash-mouth running game.

Now, they’re trying to transition into a more balanced attack.

“There are going to be times during a game where the defense has to carry the offense just because you have one of those days, and vice versa when the offense has to carry the defense,” Boldin said. “For me, I love to play with a great defense because they give you the ball.

“Whenever you have those types of weapons, it gives defenses fits. You can’t really key in on one guy or double a guy because you can spread the ball around, get the ball to different weapons. Having these guys definitely makes my job easier.”

Wearing his trademark No. 81 jersey, Boldin wore a nearly constant smile during the workout in his new environment and his new purple colors.

“Yeah, I look good in it,” Boldin said.

Boldin has been ultra-productive with the Cardinals, catching 586 career passes for 7,520 yards and 44 touchdowns in seven NFL seasons.

Now, the Ravens are looking for him to rejuvenate their offense with a strong outside presence.

So far, it’s been a smooth transition for Boldin in Baltimore as he assimilates his game into a new offense in a new city.

“I thought Anquan looked good,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “He made a couple of plays, taught the young guys a little bit. With man coverage underneath, you saw he got himself open pretty clearly against some of the rookie corners. He looks like he’s kind of in midseason form right now.”

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

Michael Oher moved to left tackle


OWINGS MILLS – Michael Oher shuffled several feet to his left Friday, and it wasn’t just a case of the Baltimore Ravens deploying him as a pulling tackle.

The Ravens have shifted Oher to left offensive tackle with Jared Gaither vacating the spot and being moved over to the right side where Oher lined up last season as an all-rookie blocker.

Now the subject of the best-selling book and popular movie, “The Blind Side,” has been assigned to protect quarterback Joe Flacco’s blind side. This is expected to become a permanent move.

“Nothing is official,” said Oher, who took every snap at left tackle as the Ravens began a mandatory minicamp. “You’ve got to get used to every position that you play. It’s a muscle memory. It’s like taking a basketball player that’s right-handed and telling him to play left-handed. It’s a big difference.”

Ravens coach John Harbaugh indicated that he’s inclined to stick with this alignment at tackle as long as it’s an effective strategy.

“What we try to do with every unit is put the guys together the best way we can for the best group we can,” Harbaugh said. “I wouldn’t read too much into it. It’s going to be permanent as long as it’s the best thing for us. .. It’s not a big story to us.”

The tackle flop fueled rampant trade rumors that have surrounded Gaither for the majority of the offseason. The Buffalo Bills are extremely high on Gaither and have a major need at offensive tackle.

However, no deal is imminent and the Ravens would probably be reluctant to part ways with Gaither unless the compensation is extremely attractive.

Is Gaither aware of the trade rumors?

“They were rumors, it didn’t sway me here or there,” Gaither said. “A lot of people talk and a lot of people listen, so it is what it is. You just have to stay focused and be prepared for anything.

“You don’t want to stop what you’re doing and not work out because you’re looking forward to getting traded. Then when you get traded, you won’t be as good as you thought you were.”

Displaced from his old position and moved to a spot that he hasn’t played since his freshman year at the University of Maryland, Gaither didn’t seem unhappy about the move. The 6-foot-9, 340-pounder apparently wasn’t offended by being moved to a lower-profile position on the line.

Gaither drew criticism from Harbaugh during the NFL owners meetings for not attending the offseason conditioning program.

He reported the following week and appears to be in good shape.

Asked to predict whether he’ll be with the Ravens when the regular season, Gaither replied: “Right now, it’s 100 percent. I don’t know anything different.”

Oher is an athletic 6-foot-4, 310-pounder who was a consensus All-American at Ole Miss.

He excelled in five starts at left tackle last season in place of Gaither when he was sidelined with ankle, foot and neck injuries.

“I know he'll do great," Gaither said. "He has a tremendous upside. He's much more improved and has much more improvement to do. He'll do a phenomenal job at left tackle."

Although Oher has been groomed to play left tackle ever since he emerged as a coveted blue-chip recruit in Memphis, Tenn., there will still be some adjustments to make.

“It’s kind of like telling a basketball player that’s right-handed that has to play left-handed,” Oher said. “It’s different. Did you see LeBron James shoot that left-handed shot? Something like that.

‘I’m trying to get back in the swing of things. You can’t go from position to position and it feels like home again as soon as you get back over there. It takes time to get used to things.”

The Ravens have a much longer-term investment in Oher, who’s signed to a five-year deal with a maximum value of $13.8 million that includes $7.8 million in guaranteed money.

Gaither is an unsigned restricted free agent who’s slated to play this season under a first-round tender of $2.396 million.

He can’t be traded until he signs his one-year tender.

Now, Gaither has to get acclimated to an unfamiliar position.

“It’s a task that I’ll have to overcome, and it’s something that I have to do,” said Gaither, adding that he learned of the change from offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. “Definitely, I’ve got an ample amount of time. Talking to Mike and talking to the coaches, it’s something we shouldn’t have a problem doing.

“Just being used to trying to learn a system for three years and flipping it all in your mind, it’s a little bit tough, but it’s a task I’m looking forward to. Things change and you make adjustments and I’m ready to do that. Take it full-steam ahead the best I can.”

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.