Ravens Notebook

OWINGS MILLS - The Baltimore Raven have already ruled out offensive tackle Jared Gaither for Monday night's season regular-season opener against the New York Jets due to his thoracic disc injury. So, who's going to play right tackle? The candidates are Oniel Cousins, Tony Moll and Marshal Yanda.

The candidates are Oniel Cousins, Tony Moll and Marshal Yanda. Cousins is the likely first choice. That is, if he's healthy.

Cousins was carted off the field Aug. 18 during training camp with a concussion, and his status is unclear for this game. He's practicing fully, but hasn't played in a game since early in the preseason.

Cousins said he has experienced limited contact in drills, and his symptoms have subsided. "I feel pretty good coming off the concussion," Cousins said. "I was able to get out there, put the pads on and do some stuff. I feel pretty good overall. Get back at it today, and just continue to get better and progress every day so I can be ready to roll on Monday night. "Doctors say just work back into it slow. I'm going to be smart, but mentality is I want to play on Monday. That's why I'm out there trying to do whatever I can, trying to see how my body feels every day. But overall so far, there haven't been any problems." If Cousin can't go, Moll would be the likely next option.

Moll started preseason games against the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants and has worked extensively with the first-team offense. He was a starter at times with the Green Bay Packers.

"I don't know exactly," Moll said. "It doesn't matter where we play, center, guard tackle, we prepare to play every position. "I was able to get a lot of work with the first team for the first time in a while in the preseason. Hopefully, we'll find out soon who's going to be playing where. I'll at least be dressing hopefully."

Yanda is the Ravens' starting right guard, but has taken work at right tackle. If he moves over there, the Ravens could insert Chris Chester at right guard.

"They're just getting me some reps there in case I have to play there," Yanda said. "If need be, we'll be ready to go. We don't know yet. They're just taking precautions. If we go that route, we'll be ready to go up there and play well." The Ravens are taking the position that at least they've got some solid choices at the position, which was manned by Michael Oher until he shifted to left tackle this preseason.

"The good news is we've got options," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "You saw that Tony Moll started in the preseason and played well. It's nice having Oniel Cousins back, it looks like he's back to form. Everybody knows we've got some flexibility.

"Michael played right tackle. We've got some flexibility there. So we've got a lot of options going into the game, and I feel really good about the guys we're going to have up, and the guys we're going to play."

PUNT RETURN DEBATE: The Ravens have an interesting debate on their hands, deciding who should return punts.

Their top punt returner through the preseason is Tom Zbikowski, who averaged 11.5 yards per return. However, he's the Ravens' starting free safety. The Ravens also can insert cornerback Chris Carr in the wake of trading for cornerback Josh Wilson. Zbikowski, Carr, who averaged 8.2 yards last season, and cornerback Lardarius Webb all caught punts Friday.

Rookie cornerback Bryan McCann averaged 10.8 yards this preseason for the Dallas Cowboys. "The good thing about our football team is we have a lot of guys who can do that job," special-teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. "It's always been my belief that that's a positive thing in your program. There are situations where some teams have a returner and that's all he does is be the returner, and he doesn't help your other special teams, he doesn't help your offense or defense.

"We happen to have returners who are football players. So it helps the rest of our team, and also gives us depth at that position. We have others, as a matter of fact, to develop. We look at it as a strength."

Rosburg said the team won't hesitate to use a starter on special teams, but it would seem logical to use Carr in that capacity.

"My view on that is every play in a football game is a football play," Rosburg said. "So whether it's a defensive play, an offensive play or a special teams play, they're all football plays. Our guys look at it the same way, and our staff looks at it the same way. Certainly, we're mindful of the depth chart,.

"Meaning if we have only one or two guys who can do a specific task for us on offense or defense, we don't want to put them out there just because of the repetitions that they might be getting during the game, let alone the risk. There's an inherent risk in football in all football plays. So we don't necessarily look at it, 'Well, we can't put him in there because we can't risk him.' We look at it as a matter of fact of balancing the roster and balancing the weight of the work."

WEBB ON THE MEND: Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison has been impressed with the return of Webb from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee suffered last December against the Chicago Bears.

So much so that he wouldn't rule out the possibility of Webb playing as soon as Monday. Ravens coach John Harbaugh has said he doesn't anticipate using Webb in the first game.

"I was watching practice and they had these yellow shirts on out there and I kept looking at the new guys," Mattison said. "You can't see their faces, and this guy with dreads kept making plays. Honestly, I walked over to John and I was sitting there watching this and I said, ‘I wonder who this guy is.'

"Then I said, ‘Oh, that's Lardarius.' He's a lot closer. He's worked extremely hard. We're excited about him coming back."

Webb was noncommittal this week on whether he'll be able to play. He's not expected to return for another week or two.

"I'm comfortable with whatever coach has for me," Webb said. "If he wants me to get out and test it, I will. If he doesn't, then I won't. It all depends on how this week goes. I feel better every day. It gets better every day. My confidence keeps rising and rising, and it gets better."

WATCHING HARD KNOCKS: Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron acknowledged that he watched the Jets' star turn on Hard Knocks, studying the HBO program to try to glean any knowledge about their personnel and schemes.

"Yeah, there was probably a lot revealed in that strategically, the way I viewed it," Cameron said. "At least what we were jotting down. There was a lot of stuff in there strategically. I've had people newsreel it because you're looking for any strategic advantage just like anybody else would."

Cameron backed off his comments when asked if he'll be able to utilize the information Monday night against the Jets.

"I'm not going to say that yet," Cameron said. "You'd have had me if I'd have said 'yes' right there. That was pretty good. He had me, didn't he, because I could read that one already? So, you can't say it because I didn't say it."

INJURY UPDATE: Defensive end Paul Kruger was upgraded to limited participation in practice Friday. He has a sprained shoulder, but thinks he has a solid shot to play Monday night. "Absolutely," Kruger said. "It just depends on how the coaches feel, but I feel like it's getting strong enough. I think by game time, it'll be ready to go."

Kruger has been sidelined for the majority of the week.

He admitted he's still dealing with some soreness that he experiences whenever he makes an aggressive move.

"It's hard when I haven't practiced as much this week," Kruger said. "So, kind of take a risk putting me out there. At the same time, I've been fine the whole preseason. So, we'll see what happens."

Besides Gaither, the Ravens have previously ruled out nose guard Terrence Cody (arthroscopic knee surgery) and wide receiver Donte' Stallworth (broken foot).

Cousins and Webb (knee) participated fully again. The Jets removed defensive end Shaun Ellis (knee) from the injury report. Free safety Brodney Pool (ankle) was upgraded to limited participation. Defensive end Calvin Pace (foot) has been ruled out.

WINNING THE JOB: Rosburg explained the reasoning behind choosing Billy Cundiff as the kicker over Shayne Graham following a competition. Essentially, Cundiff's superior kickoffs and overall consistency won him the job over the fourth-most accurate kicker in NFL history.

"No one ever really leaped forward," Rosburg said. "What happened in the preseason, we saw Billy's ball flight was really true and clean. And he's the No. 1 kickoff in the whole NFL during that preseason. In my view, those are the things that separated them." A former Pro Bowl selection, Graham remains a free agent

"Shayne had a great camp," Rosburg said. "He's a guy who could kick in the NFL tomorrow if someone calls his number. I'm sure they will be soon." Cundiff converted all three of his preseason field goals.

The journeyman kicker is now settling into being the incumbent who was retained after a solid first season in Baltimore last year "It feels really good," Cundiff said. "Going into this competition, I was assured that it was going to be all about: What have you done in training camp? What are you doing this year? Kind of like the old saying, ‘Past performance doesn't predict future success'.

"I knew that going in, if they held up their word, then I was confident that I was going to be the guy at the end. Why wouldn't I? It's one of those things that if you go into a competition, if you don't think you're going to be the guy, you probably shouldn't go into that competition." Neither player was given any guaranteed money, further convincing Cundiff that it was going to be an honest competition where contractual status wouldn't be weighed.

"When I was tendered back in March or April, I said, ‘Look, I'm not going to sign my tender until I know what the situation is," Cundiff said. "And they said, ‘Well, here's what we want to do: We want to bring in Shayne Graham to compete against you. We're not going to give him any money upfront, we're just going to let you guys duke it out. Whoever the best guy is in this competition while we're watching is going to be our guy.' Once they said that, they've been nothing but truthful to me. So I just took them for their word, and they came through."

QUICK HITS: The Jets signed former Miami Dolphins third-round wide receiver Patrick Turner to the practice squad. ... Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley attended practice and spoke briefly with the team and broke down the huddle to end practice. Afterward, he spoke with Harbaugh and team president Dick Cass for several minutes.


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