Ravens Notebook Wednesday

OWINGS MILLS – Tom Zbikowski spent his time during the NFL lockout delivering a series of jabs, uppercuts and haymakers, intimidating opponents with his punching combinations. Now, here comes the third round of the preseason for Zbikowski as he makes his bid to replace Dawan Landry as the Baltimore Ravens'starting strong safety.

Tom Zbikowski slated to start Thursday night

OWINGS MILLS – Tom Zbikowski spent his time during the NFL lockout delivering a series of jabs, uppercuts and haymakers, intimidating opponents with his punching combinations. Now, here comes the third round of the preseason for Zbikowski as he makes his bid to replace Dawan Landry as the Baltimore Ravens'starting strong safety.

The former third-round draft pick from Notre Dame is expected to start Thursday night against the Washington Redskins and has lined up with the first-team defense all week in practice.

"There's no time to relax," Zbikowski said. "There's a lot of competition back there, there's a lot of talent back there. During the season, it's going to be a benefit to our defense because of how much we're going to be able to accomplish with personnel packages. Once the dust settles, we'll be playing to our strengths. It's never a bad thing to have that kind of depth." Zbikowski started the first preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles with Bernard Pollard getting the nod against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Zbikowski indicated that he wasn't entirely sure if he was going to start. However, that's the current plan.

The third preseason game is traditionally the most important preseason game, and starting and playing well this week would give Zbikowski a chance to stake a strong claim on the job. "I'm not sure, I don't know how it's going to pan out," he said. "They really haven't said anything . I'll go into it planning on doing that because you always want to be ready I'll go into it expecting to get a good amount of playing time and worry about my game more than anything." Zbikowski has had a fairly quiet preseason statistically with two tackles, but has been steady in pass coverage.

A 6-foot-1, 228-pound enforcer signed to a two-year contract after leading the Houston Texans with 112 tackles last season, Pollard has intercepted one pass and deflected two passes. And Haruki Nakamura, who's also competing with Zbikowski and Pollard has eight tackles to rank second on the team in tackles this preseason to go with one sack and a pass deflection.

"Tom played really well," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I put all those guys in the same category. What's interesting about those guys is that they all play with a different style. As we look at this thing, building packages for these guys is going to be what it's all about.

"You guys talk a lot about who is going to start and all that. They could all be starting based on what package is on the field. I know we say that, but the game is changing that way. Tom has done a great job with the coverage stuff and a great job with the pressures, and that's probably his forte."

Zbikowski started the first six games last season at free safety while former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Ed Reed recovered from hip surgery. The 5-foot-11, 205-pounder finished with 17 tackles one year after intercepting two passes with 29 tackles in four starts.

To separate himself from the pack, Zbikowski will likely need to make some bigger plays. "There's not going to be much to it," Zbikowski said. "It will be whoever's playing better at the time. Bernard's got some good size and has got a reputation for run-stopping, but he can cover with the best. It's not like he can't cover and can't cover ground. He's a very well-rounded safety. It will just be a competition through the season."

Zbikowski plans on dropping another five pounds to get even quicker, but seems to be carrying the extra weight well after fighting as light as 192 pounds as an undefeated cruiserweight in three boxing matches this offseason for promoter Bob Arum.

Zbikowski says he has grown accustomed to football again after spending his time earlier this year hitting opponents and punching bags. "I think that training helped me stay in shape," Zbikowski said. "I feel real good, conditioning wise. It's like anything, getting back into football shape and getting back into the groove of things and making plays. You've got to change every year. You can't stay the same."

Ravens roll the dice on $7.5 million deal for Bryant McKinnie

OWINGS MILLS – Gambling on a massive offensive tackle with a history of conditioning and character issues, the Baltimore Ravens agreed to terms on a two-year, $7.5 million maximum value deal with former Pro Bowl selection Bryant McKinnie.

The deal includes a $1 million signing bonus. Provided that McKinnie passes his physical today after being cut by the Minnesota Vikings on Aug. 2 after reportedly ballooning up to nearly 400 pounds and being placed on the non-football injury list and flunking their physical, then he'll officially join the roster.

The Ravens are listing the 6-foot-8 blocker at 345 pounds, but he's expected to tip the scales higher than that. McKinnie, 31, has been listed as heavy as 386 pounds.

The Ravens need an experienced hand at offensive tackle where Michael Oher and Jah Reid are unproven and former New England Patriots lineman Mark LeVoir is more of a backup. McKinnie could operate as the Ravens' starting right tackle or take over the left tackle spot and shift Oher back to the right side.

"Through the years, we've been fortunate to obtain players late in training camp or just before the start of the season who help us win," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "A couple of years ago, it was Willie Anderson. Last year, it was Josh Wilson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who each made big plays at the end of games that gave us wins.

"Bryant falls in this category. He's been a productive player at one of the hardest positions to play, and he has been in sync with Matt Birk when Matt was a Viking. Plus, he has a relationship with Michael Oher and our Miami players. Ray[Lewis] and Ed [Reed] vouch for him as a person and as a player who can help us. I know these veteran players are happy we're adding Bryant."

McKinnie has started every game each of the past two seasons and was named to the Pro Bowl two years ago. However, McKinnie decided not to show up to practice and was removed from the NFC roster. He was ordered to pay back nearly $5,000 in travel expenses paid by the league and forfeited a $22,500 game check.

"I'm out on the 1st flight smoking," McKinnie wrote on his Twitter account. "Let's Get it!" It's been three years since the former University of Miami standout and first-round draft pick had an off-field incident.

McKinnie was charged with aggravated battery, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest following an altercation at a Miami nightclub.

McKinnie also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge in 2005 stemming from the so-called "Love Boat" scandal where he allegedly received and performed sex acts on a woman on a Vikings boat cruise. He was fined by the court system and $41,000 by the NFL and ordered to perform community service.

McKinnie was also arrested that year along with a teammate on suspicious of disorderly conduct and obstructing the legal process. McKinnie has started 131 games and is regarded as a strong blocker.

"Some people look for speed, some people look for youth, but give me heart, wisdom and the will to play and win the game and I will take that player on my side any day of the week," middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. "That is what Bryant has. I have played against him, and I know from experience how tough he is. He has a proven track record as a winner, and he is a Raven. He is one of us, and I know he will make us better."

MCADOO SIGNED: The Ravens made it official, signing former University of North Carolina defensive end Michael McAdoo after he went undrafted in the NFL supplemental draft. McAdoo agreed to terms Monday night.

The 6-foot-7, 245-pounder recorded 29 tackles, 10 tackles for losses and 3 ½ career sacks, and had four sacks and an interception in the Tar Heels' spring game.

McAdoo missed all of last season after a plagiarism incident where the student honor court determined that he didn't properly credit someone else's work on a paper. He sued the university and the NCAA, but his request for an injunction and reinstatement were denied by a judge.

"Don't know much about him," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I've heard good things about him. I know he got caught up with some situations at North Carolina, but he's supposed to be a good guy and a talented guy. So, we're looking forward to seeing him here."

The Ravens placed defensive back Marcus Paschal on injured reserve after waive-injuring him due to his quadriceps injury. McAdoo has 4.6 speed in the 40-yard dash and could line up at either defensive end or outside linebacker. "The first thing I bring to the table is passion about the game," McAdoo told the Times before joining the team. "I'm very confident. I love the game of football. I'm somebody who works hard and goes hard every down. I can bring a lot to whatever team decides to pick me . I like both positions. I like rushing the passer. It really doesn't matter. I just want to play football wherever they put me." A former blue-chip recruit from Nashville, Tenn., McAdoo defended his character. "I'm not a bad person," McAdoo said. "I love the game of football. The people that I hung out with and associated with they assumed I was just like them other guys.

"It was guilt by association. I'm a good guy. They can check my background and know that I don't have any issues off the field. They just have to get to know me."

RAVENS HAPPY WITH TAYLOR: The Ravens aren't ruling out the possibility of installing rookie quarterback Tyrod Taylor as the potential backup to Joe Flacco, at least publicly. The sixth-round draft pick from Virginia Tech has completed 24 of 39 passes for 267 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions and has been sacked seven times for a 61.5 quarterback rating. He has rushed for 64 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.

Through the first two games of the preseason, the Ravens have given a vast majority of snaps with the second offense to rookie quarterback Tyrod Taylor

"The cement is still wet," Harbaugh said ."We'll see. He is doing well. I think he could be our backup quarterback. By the same token, we will keep our options open. You never know who is going to become available."

One potential backup quarterback is off the market as Brodie Croyle is heading to the Arizona Cardinals.

PLAYING TIME: The Ravens plan to have the majority of their starters play as long as into the third quarter or an entire three quarters

Thursday night against the Washington Redskins. Key players like Lewis, safety Ed Reed, linebacker Terrell Suggs and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata won't play nearly that long.

"Our plan will be to play them into the third quarter, maybe the whole third quarter," Harbaugh said. "You will see certain guys that won't go that long, as usual. There are other guys that really need the work, so we will be pushing them into the second half."

QUICK HITS: Harbaugh has been impressed with the improved maturity and play of inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. "Guys tend to grow up sometimes, and Dannell made a conscientious effort,"

Harbaugh said. "He talked to me when he first came in here. He had done a lot of thinking about it. He has always been a hard worker. He has always been a good person, a good-hearted person. I think he saw some things, just from a professional standpoint, that he could grow, and he has done a great job of that."

.. Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson returned to practice after missing the previous two days with a back injury . "I feel good, I really want to play in this game," Johnson said. "I didn't want to come out and do something where I couldn't play. The third preseason game is the biggest game of the preseason."

… Cornerback Domonique Foxworth (knee) was given a day off.

… The earthquake tremors from Virginia extended all the way to the Baltimore Ravens' training complex and throughout the East Coast. Players, including linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and cornerback Cary Williams, were in the lobby at the time of the tremors.No one was hurt.The Vince Lombardi trophy in the lobby of the AFC North franchise's offices was undamaged.

Ravens Insider Top Stories