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Ravens' Foxworth not rushing recovery

OWINGS MILLS - Managing his recovery like a baseball pitcher on an extended rehab assignment, Baltimore Ravens veteran cornerback Domonique Foxworth has learned to take a patient approach one year after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

Initially frustrated and disappointed with how his knee was responding early in training camp, Foxworth rested the knee and is now able to take on a bigger workload in practice. He played in his first game since the injury Friday night against the Kansas City Chiefs, but was used sparingly.

"I'm getting better," said Foxworth, who worked with the first-team defense during practice Sunday. "I have some plays where I feel great and some plays that I don't feel so great. So, I'm trying to ease my way back in.

"I think they wanted to be smart and tried to keep me on a pitch count is the best way to describe it early on in camp. I started out a little too overzealous, and it set me back a little bit. So, we're trying to be smarter this time around."

When Foxworth tore up his knee on the eve of camp last summer in Westminster, the Ravens were suddenly vulnerable at the position because they were still waiting for cornerbacks Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb to return from their own ACL tears. Webb and Washington recovered in time for the regular season. The situation has changed, though, this year. The Ravens can afford to let Foxworth return at his own pace because they retained Chris Carr with a four-year, $14 million contract and drafted big Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith in the first round. They also have Webb back and are pleased with the emergence of rangy cornerback Cary Williams. He started opposite Smith against Kansas City and knocked down three passes. "Last year, one of the most difficult things for me to deal with was kind of leaving a bit of a hole on the team that you feel responsible for," Foxworth said. "This year, we are really deep and really talented. No matter what happens with any one or two guys, we have more guys who can step in and do just as good a job."

Because of the Ravens' experience last year dealing with the recovery of Washington and Webb, they're inclined to take their time with Foxworth and not rush him back.

Unlike Washington and Webb, Foxworth didn't have the benefit of a supervised rehabilitation period due to the NFL lockout. And the NFL Players Association executive committee member spent the majority of his days locked in negotiations with NFL owners during the labor dispute. He would either get in his rehab exercises early in the morning or late at night.

"I think he's fine," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I kind of compare him to Fabian and Lardarius last year. He had the injury so much earlier, but he didn't have the offseason with us. That probably slowed the process. It's really a matter of pushing it and forcing it to recover, pushing it and forcing it to recover.

"It seems like he can push it a little harder and it takes a little less recovery time for it to go away or there's a lot less soreness. It seems like he's doing well. We're going to see how well he plays, how well he changes direction, how well he accelerates, breaks on balls, stuff like that That seems to be getting better every day." Two seasons ago, the former University of Maryland standout had a solid season with four interceptions, 53 tackles and 16 pass deflections. He was assigned to guard opponents' top wide receivers and notably shut down Brandon Marshall when he was with the Denver Broncos. Will Foxworth be ready for the Ravens' season-opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers? It's hard to say.

"They've done it with other players before," Foxworth said. "This is my first time with an ACL, but it's not our training staff's first time and it's not our coaches' first time. So, I'm just going to trust in them. Whatever they think is right, I'm going to do."

Foxworth's playing time may increase Thursday night against the Washington Redskins. "I'll play as long as they want me to or as short as they want me to," Foxworth said If Foxworth doesn't reclaim his starting job, then he would be one of the most expensive reserve cornerbacks in the league and a likely candidate for a potential restructure or a simple paycut.

Foxworth's four-year, $28 million contract includes $16.5 million in guaranteed money, and he's due a $4.4 million base salary this year and a $5.6 million base salary in 2012. He carries a $7.4 million salary-cap figure this year, and it rises to $8.6 million in 2012.

Foxworth seems prepared for a situation where he would be splitting time at cornerback.

"Whatever role the coaches expect me to play, I'm going to be there," Foxworth said. "I'm going to be there as a contributor on the field and a mentor to the young guys off the field." For Foxworth to truly regain his old form, he'll need to have full confidence and trust in his surgically-repaired knee. And he'll have to match speed, moves and reactions with some of the best athletes in the NFL.

"You can look at me, I'm handsome, fast, quick," Foxworth said with a smile. "Modest, humble, it doesn't take much for me to be confident."

Notebook: New linemen run through first practice R. Lewis returns, Birk 'progressing, Cousins to stay at guard By Aaron Wilson OWINGS MILLS - The Baltimore Ravens made it official Sunday, signing former New England Patriots offensive tackle Mark LeVoir and former Tennessee Titans center Jason Murphy. A 6-foot-7, 310-pound former Notre Dame starter whose primary NFL highlight was decking New York Jets cornerback Donald Strickland on a screen play, LeVoir alternated with rookie right tackle Jah Reid with the first-team offense during his first practice. "Obviously, I don't know a thing," said LeVoir, who played in 32 games with two starts for New England over the past three seasons. "I just have to get in the playbook and work as hard as I can and do whatever the coaches ask of me. Experience is one thing, but I'm not experienced here with how they do things.

"I'm excited to buy into the Ravens' way of doing things. All I've got down right now is, even play, go to the right, odd play, go to the left. I have a lot of work to do as far as getting ready."

LeVoir, 29, has been in the NFL since 2006 and is regarded as an athletic lineman as a former Parade Magazine All-American tight end in high school.

"LeVoir is a guy with a lot of experience," coach John Harbaugh said. "He has played in New England, and we love their system. Very well-coached by Dante Scarnecchia, so that's a big plus.

"Understands NFL defenses, and that's what we need right now. It was a fortuitous situation for us, and we'll see how he does."

The Ravens cut offensive linemen Colin Madison and Kyle Calloway to create roster spots for Murphy and LeVoir.

LeVoir was cut by New England earlier this week after refusing to take a paycut.

"No hard feelings there," LeVoir said. "They're a good team, a good organization. I wish them well, but I'm a Raven now. This is where I want to be."

Murphy, 29, was signed following a Saturday tryout that included former Washington Redskins offensive guard Derrick Dockery.

The Baltimore native and Edmondson graduate is overjoyed to join his hometown team after previous stints with the Titans, San Diego Chargers and the Seattle Seahawks and two UFL teams: the New York Sentinels and the Florida Tuskers..

"It's a great feeling, it's a long time coming for me," Murphy said. "It's one of those dreams that you've had since high school, and it's finally here. My parents, my wife, my whole family is happy. It's good to be home with my kids and play for the Baltimore Ravens. This is a great opportunity."

The Ravens don't have much depth at center while they wait for six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk to return from knee surgery.

"I bring a little physicality, quickness and good all-around offensive line play," Murphy said. "I love hitting big guys and blocking and keeping my quarterback off the ground."

BIRK MAKING PROGRESS: Sidelined since undergoing surgery to repair a bursa sac in his left knee, Birk was at the Ravens' training complex Sunday. He had a sleeve on his left leg and was walking with a limp.

The Ravens are holding out hope that Birk will return in time for the first game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it will be close.

"He is progressing," Harbaugh said. "It was supposed to be three to four weeks before he would be moving around pretty well. Now, he is starting to walk a little bit. I am anxious. I want to see him out here sooner rather than later, but it's not something that we really control."

R. LEWIS RETURNS: All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis returned to practice today after being excused from a preseason game due to his aunt's serious illness.

"Yeah, it's great to have Ray back, to walk up this morning and see him in his usual seat," Harbaugh said. "It's Sunday today so we had a little prayer blessing. He did it for us. Ray's our leader, so it's great to have him here.

Lewis issued a statement where he thanked the organization for giving him time off.

"Family always comes first and is the most important part of our lives," he said. "I want to thank everyone for every prayer and thought they've provided. I'd also like to give a special thanks to the coaches and Ravens organization who have always put family first and allowed me to leave and take care of my family during this very hard time. We will get through this together as a family and with God. Thank you again for the thoughts and prayers and for respecting our privacy during this challenging time."

CARR ON THE MEND: Cornerback Chris Carr returned to practice on a limited basis, staying out of full-team work.

Carr tweaked his left hamstring last week and was held out of the Ravens' preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

"Feels pretty good," Carr said. "It's getting better." Carr is known for his durability, starting every game last season.

Missing this much practice time on top of not being allowed to practice until Aug. 4 due to NFL rules governing unrestricted free agents has caused Carr frustration.

"Yeah, you never want to miss practice and miss being out there, especially this year because when I was an unrestricted free agent and then signed, I had to wait a week to practice," Carr said. "So, that was another week being behind. I really have only practiced about three or four times. It's been frustrating because you want to get ready for the season.

"Usually, at the beginning of the season, that's when you want to get all of your reps in. Towards the end of the season, it's not that big of a deal, but right now, you're really eager because you want to go out there and work and knock the rust off and show you can still play."

The Ravens have good depth at cornerback with Carr, rookie Jimmy Smith, Cary Williams, Lardarius Webb and Domonique Foxworth.

"It's crazy, because this is by far the deepest team I've ever played on," Carr said. "I think we have, legit, five starting corners. And not only people that are capable, but I mean legit, they could go out and be good starting corners in this league, who are better than a lot of players who are starting across the league. So, it's a good problem to have as a team, but we're all a family.

"We're looking to go out there and compete, play as good as we can. It's going to make everyone else better, and whoever plays, plays. That's the way it is. It's good that we have this depth, and just to see the young guys and people progress, it's really good, because when you have that much talent, it's always a plus."

INJURY UPDATES: Offensive guard Marshal Yanda was in uniform, but didn't do much Sunday after missing the past week with back spasms.

Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson has a sore back and didn't practice, but said he'll be back in the next few days.

Also not practicing: wide receiver James Hardy (hamstring), safety Marcus Paschal (quadriceps) and cornerback Chykie Brown (undisclosed).

Inside linebacker Tavares Gooden (hamstring) and rookie running back Damien Berry (ankle) returned to practice. Both missed the Kansas City game. Free safety Ed Reed was given the day off.

ROOM TO IMPROVE: Harbaugh didn't give completely glowing reviews to Smith, the Ravens' first-round draft pick.

Smith had tight coverage on Chiefs Pro Bowl wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, but allowed him to catch two passes for 40 yards.

"I'd say it was kind of mixed, good news and bad news, because now Jimmy has the chance to understand how those completions are really made," Harbaugh said. "Just being close to a guy is not covering a guy in this league. Guys are open because of the throw and the catch. You can be open by that much in the National Football League.

"I think for him to understand how fast that back shoulder fade gets in there on you, it's just an experience for him that he will learn from real quickly. He was right there. He was in good coverage. He didn't make any mental mistakes and he looked good to start with."

LINE REVIEW: After reviewing the game, Harbaugh was upbeat about the progress the offensive line made from the first preseason game where they allowed six sacks.

They cut it down to two sacks against the Chiefs, but still committed too many penalties.

"I thought they held up well, I thought they did a good job," Harbaugh said. "They worked well together. The communication was there, probably better than what we have seen in practice, and that's a good thing. Part of why you make practice so hard, the idea, in terms of making practice so challenging, so fast, so competitive with our defense, is that you want the game to actually be a slower experience for him. You don't want the game to be faster for him. I thought that kind of showed up in the way those guys played."

In particular, Reid seemed to play much better after a rough debut against the Philadelphia Eagles in the first preseason game.

"Yeah, absolutely, he has an understanding of the schemes and everything else," Harbaugh said of the third-round draft pick from Central Florida. "He's obviously, physically, very capable of playing the position. It's just a matter of transferring that knowledge into that part of the brain that just reacts. That's a process. That takes a little bit of time. He's working hard at it and he is doing well."

Oniel Cousins looked much more comfortable at offensive guard after struggling mightily at right tackle against Philadelphia. This looks like a permanent switch.

"I think we will put him in there at guard, leave him in there and see how he does," Harbaugh said. "He was comfortable in there. He is a big, strong man. That bodes well at guard. He is a good bender. He has got a lot of reach, and it worked out for him in there."

Outside linebacker Sergio Kindle narrowly missed blocking two punts against the Chiefs with one of them almost hitting his elbow. He has some work to do on his technique, which is very raw. However, he's a promising candidate for special-teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg.

"We actually did suspect that from him because he is a big, fast, powerful guy," Harbaugh said. "A lot of times those pass rushers are pretty good at that. That's going to be something that he is going to be good at for us. You have to learn how to take it off the foot. He and Jerry are working on that."

Cary Williams broke up three passes against Kansas City and graded out well with the exception of the touchdown he allowed to former Ravens wide receiver Terrance Copper in the two-minute drill. "That's just a technique issue on the goal line, you can't back up on the goal line," Harbaugh said. "We are in man coverage there. It's an all-out blitz. It's four guys covering four guys. He had the wide receiver by himself and he backed up and leaned up a little bit to an outside more and got beat inside. He knows that. That was really the only play that he had really that wasn't a good play in the game. He had no other minuses that I'm aware of. He did a good job."

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