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OWINGS MILLS - Unable to convince imposing wide receiver Malcom Floyd to leave San Diego as he signed a two-year deal with the Chargers worth up to $7 million, the Baltimore Ravens are still hoping to get Derrick Mason to rejoin them. Mason is contemplating whether to return to Baltimore after being cut days into training camp due to his scheduled $4.5 million salary. His other choices are a veteran minimum offer with the New York Jets or going back to the Tennessee Titans, where he began his career. The Ravens are believed to be the frontrunners for Mason.

"I'm carefully considering all the options available to me right now," Mason said. "I've been speaking with my family and my agent and hope to come to a decision very shortly."

A two-time Pro Bowl selection and the Ravens' all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards, Mason's decision is expected to come down to three elements as he approaches the end of his career: chances of winning a Super Bowl, financial package, his projected role and proximity to family.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh had been texting back and forth with Mason, 37, but said he hasn't in the past day.

"Not in the last 24 hours," Harbaugh said. "I've been on the practice field; I don't bring a phone out here, as you all well know."

If the Ravens are unable to get Mason back on the team, then they could turn their attention toward former Jets wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery. Cotchery underwent back surgery after last season, but has resumed running and cutting. However, he was cut by the Jets with a failed physical designation.

"There are several teams interested in Jerricho," said Jack Scharf, Cotchery's agent. "Jerricho is healthy now and we're looking for the right fit for him. He's cleared to play football. The back is fine."

It's a thin group of currently available free agent wideouts, including retired Randy Moss, hobbled Terrell Owens, Steve Smith, former Ravens receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Bryant Johnson.

The Ravens haven't ruled out getting another veteran wide receiver to work in tandem with former Pro Bowl selection Anquan Boldin. The Ravens added former Buffalo Bills second-round wide receiver James Hardy after last season, but he has struggled with hamstring issues and dropped passes so far during training camp.

"It's a possibility," Harbaugh said of signing another veteran. "We're not going to shy away from adding players, and it's a position where you talk about the rookies, and we're counting on them. I think we'd be happy to bring in a really good player.

"We definitely have room for one. That doesn't mean that we're not looking at guys like Hardy out here. There are some really good players out there with the veterans, too."

It was a disappointment for the Ravens to not land Floyd after several days of discussions with the athletic 6-foot-5, 225-pounder.

Floyd played for Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron for three seasons in San Diego.

The Ravens were willing to give Floyd over $3 million annually on a long-term deal, but he decided to stick with the Chargers.

"I'm not surprised Floyd stayed in San Diego," Houshmandzadeh said in a telephone interview. "That makes sense. If you have a chance to stay with your old team, that's always a good thing."

Houshmandzadeh reiterated that he doesn't expect to return to Baltimore after the most unproductive season of his career.

"I would love to come back to Baltimore, but it has to be mutual," he said. "I didn't have a good year and I dropped a ball that really mattered. I'll be playing football, I know that. It's a matter of when and where. I'll prove it to people all over again. My agent and I have been talking to several teams. I'll be playing somewhere."

The Ravens drafted University of Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith in the second round and Indiana wide receiver Tandon Doss in the fourth round.

They haven't ruled out going with a youth movement.

"The history is guys can play right out of the game," Harbaugh said. "We're not going to lower the bar for these guys. The bar is high, and they knew what they getting into when we drafted them. "We did draft them because we thought they were guys that would get up to speed quickly. They're smart guys. They catch the ball well. They're good football players."



Ravens: Battle in secondary to start alongside Reed

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens' heated strong safety competition to replace Dawan Landry is comprised of three combatants accustomed to physical confrontations.

In one corner, there's undefeated professional cruiserweight boxer Tom Zbikowski. With three victories during the NFL lockout for promoter Bob Arum, Zbikowski enters training camp as the top-ranked contender.

Haruki Nakamura comes from a family of skilled martial arts champions. His father, mother and brothers were all black belts.

And rugged newcomer Bernard Pollard is no stranger to the fine police at the league office. The so-called Tom Brady rule to protect quarterbacks was adopted after he knocked Brady out for an entire season with a knee injury with a low hit.

He was also fined $40,000 last season for an illegal helmet-to-helmet shot on Tennessee Titans wide receiver Justin Gage.

The hard-hitting, 6-foot-1, 228-pounder is one of the biggest safeties to ever play for the Ravens, and the former Houston Texans starter immediately displayed his aggressiveness with a series of blitzes during his first practice after signing a two-year contract.

The competition is regarded as wide open. "Play the best," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said when asked how he'll determine who to start. "We pretty much have our options there, adding Bernard now, so they're going to have to duke it out. We'll see who the best player is.

"I expect them all to play at that level, and I expect it to be a tough decision. Those are three really good players, so it's going to be fun to watch. ..I think guys have to play with their own style and just play well – play good, solid football, tackle people and make plays on the ball."

Zbikowski started the first six games of last season when All-Pro free safety Ed Reed was sidelined following hip surgery. In three NFL seasons, the former third-round draft pick from Notre Dame has 65 tackles and two interceptions. He's embracing the competition as a way to raise his game and earn the job vacated by Landry after he signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"It always ups the level of your performance when it's competition," Zbikowski said. "There is definitely some good young talent also, so there is definitely not a lack of talent in this safety area."

How will the job be decided? Whomever practices the best and shine in the preseason games will get the first crack at starting the season-opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"Just perform, play and make plays," Zbikowski said. "That's what safeties are paid to do is make plays, interceptions, force fumbles and have the defense down and be able to run it. The experience last year definitely helped out." The former third-round draft pick from Notre Dame has been activated from the non-football illness list after battling a skin condition that affected his face and hands.

Zbikowski said he dealt with a case of impetigo. "I had some sweat rashes just from working out a bit," Zbikowski said. "I was in the boxing gym and then just training where I always train. You can pretty much catch it from anywhere. It's being around gyms and stuff like that. I don't know exactly where it came from, but it's not fun having it, that's for sure."

A former sixth-round draft pick who was an All-Big East Conference selection at Cincinnati, Nakamura is a special-teams standout who intercepted his first NFL pass during a playoff win over the Kansas City Chiefs last season. He overcame a broken fibula and dislocated ankle suffered two years ago to return last season. Nakamura has bulked up to 205 pounds and is noticeably bigger in his upper body.

"I don't really look to emphasize my skills or anything on one thing," Nakamura said. "I feel like I'm a pretty good overall player: play the run, play the pass, pretty versatile. I think the biggest thing for me was just getting healthy. That was by far the hardest thing I've had to do in my life.

"I look at last season as a success. The fact that I had this offseason to train at 100 percent, I feel like it gave me an advantage for the first time in a couple years.

Pollard led the Texans with 111 tackles last season for the NFL's last-ranked pass defense, but wasn't retained because he wasn't regarded as a fit for Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme.

Pollard embraces his enforcer reputation, and he arrives with a chip on his shoulder. "I'm looking to bounce back and I'm looking to be used, whether it's blitzing, whether it's covering," Pollard said. "I'm ready to shut people up because I get tired of hearing so many people say things. You try to block it out, but I'm on a mission. ..

"Nobody on this team wants anything handed to him. "I'm the type of dude where I'm going to hit you in the mouth and I'm going to take it from you. You don't want to respect me, I'm going to take it from you."

As tough as the battle for Landry's old job shapes up to be, it's a friendly rivalry. Nakamura and Zbikowski are good friends, but Zbikowski sarcastically said all bets are off now that there's a starting position to be won. "Yeah, there is a lot of tension," Zbikowski said. "Our friendship is pretty much over." Nakamura was listening during the interview and broke into laughter. "It's competition, it doesn't' take away from each other's friendships, it doesn't add grudges," Nakamura said. "We joke around all the time, but there's no tension in the room. It's just unique to have a place like this because we all feel like we could start anywhere in the NFL. We feel like the backups are some of the best in the league and we just happen to be all on the same defense."

NOTES: The Ravens cut fullback Jason McKie, who became expendable when the team signed Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach to a three-year, $11 million contract. … First-round cornerback Jimmy Smith didn't practice for the fourth day in a row due to a groin pull. … The Ravens gave several veterans the day off, including: linebackers Ray Lewis, Jarret Johnson and Brendon Ayanbadejo, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and cornerback Domonique Foxworth. … Still on the physically unable to perform list: defensive tackle Brandon McKinney (knee), long snapper Morgan Cox (knee surgery), wide receiver David Reed (wrist surgery) and offensive tackle Ramon Harewood (knees). … Also not practicing for undisclosed reasons: tight end Ed Dickson. … Wide receiver James Hardy (hamstring) didn't practice. … Harbaugh said the coaches are focused on practice, not free agency. "We're not watching," Harbaugh said. "As coaches, we're not watching tape on players. We're coaching the team. Ozzie [Newsome] and Eric DeCosta are doing a great job of monitoring the free-agent market. We work with them and we definitely make those decisions together, but our focus is on the field.".



Ravens to hold free, open practice today at M&T

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens will conduct their lone open practice of training camp today at M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens canceled their annual camp at McDaniel College in Westminster, shifting practices at their training complex due to delays caused by the NFL lockout. There is no admission charge or parking fees to go to a practice scheduled to begin 10 a.m. with parking lots opening at 8 a.m. and stadium gates opening at 9 a.m.

"I can't wait," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We just want to give everybody the opportunity to get in that stadium and see the Ravens, especially anybody who doesn't normally get the chance to get in that stadium.

"That's really what it's all about. It'll be a good chance to see us. It'll be the only chance to see us practice. We'll have a good three-hour practice. It should be pretty intense."

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