OWINGS MILLS - The Baltimore Ravens have officially ruled out veteran wide receiver Lee Evans for Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams, shelving him due to a left ankle injury that has hampered him since the preseason. Evans hasn't practiced all week, and will probably be replaced in the starting lineup by rookie Torrey Smith.
The Ravens also ruled out rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith due to a high left ankle sprain and wide receiver David Reed because of a damaged left shoulder.
The Ravens have also given extensive work in practice this week to fellow rookie LaQuan Williams with the first-team offense as Smith continued to struggle with his hands as late as Friday.
The thinking with holding out Evans is to see if the ankle responds to an entire week off.
"We've been trying a lot of different things, and the only thing we hadn't tried was rest the whole time and see how it reacts," Evans said. "The reality of it is you've got to be able to rest, play and still recover. So, you don't want to play and then be back to square one and trying to do that the whole year, because that's counterproductive. So, you've got to take all that into account."
A second-round draft pick from the University of Maryland, Smith has played a high number of snaps as the third wide receiver.
However, he's only been targeted once by quarterback Joe Flacco and has yet to catch a pass.
"I haven't had the ball come my way yet, and I can make a play if I get a chance," Smith said. "I've definitely been open. That's a good thing and a positive, but just because you're open doesn't mean they're going to throw you the ball. It's coverages and progressions Joe has to go through. It's not like Joe is just looking for Anquan Boldin. He's going through his reads."
Unsure of himself during the preseason, Smith struggled with dropped passes and admitted he was pressing and trying too hard.
Now, he seems more comfortable and relaxed.
"I've played quite a few snaps, I've porbably played like 60 or 70 or snaps now," Smith said. "You get comfortable. It's just football. I'm not thinking out there. I know my assignments."
For Smith to make one impactful play would provide a boost to his confidence.
"It would be big, it would be nice to get it under my belt," Smith said. "I haven't made one in a while. I haven't made one since last year. I'm not going to be pressing the issue. I saw what happened with my play during the preseason with my play when I did that. For me, it's knowing that I can play football and taking advantage of this opportunity."
Flacco said that he believes in his young receivers, but his actions haven't necessarily demonstrated that.
"They are going to have to go out there and make catches and make plays for our team," Flacco said. "We're going to have to have confidence in it, and have trust in them. I don't know if we should or we shouldn't. I think we should.
"I think these guys are good football players, but the bottom line is we are going to have to go out there and trust it. That's my job, to trust these guys. Whoever we put on the field, they are ready and capable NFL players. I have all the trust in the world in those guys."
GRUBBS IS QUESTIONABLE: Offensive guard Ben Grubbs will be a game-time decision for the second consecutive week because of strained ligaments and bruising in his right toe.
He didn't practice all week.
A magnetic resonance imaging exam conducted Thursday revealed no additional damage.
"Everything looked good in there," coach John Harbaugh said. "We just wanted to make sure everything was OK. Those toes are tough, but there's a chance he'll play."
Grubbs said Friday that he's still in pain
"It's still sore," he said. "It's still a day-to-day thing. Every morning, I hope I wake up feeling a little bit better, but I guess because of the size of the joint, it takes forever for the swelling to go out. Right now, I think that's what's causing most of my pain just the inflammation."
He wouldn't rule himself out necessarily, though.
"I can't speak on that right now," Grubbs said. " Sunday, I may feel like playing. So, it just depends on how I feel at that time."
The Ravens are leaning toward going with Andre Gurode at left offensive guard after starting Mark LeVoir against the Tennessee Titans.
"He's done a good job," Harbaugh said. "He's a big, strong guy, he's very mobile, he's got good feet. He looks good."
Gurode is a five-time Pro Bowl center.
He started at right offensive guard for the Dallas Cowboys for two seasons.
"I feel pretty good," Gurode said. "I think I can go out there and play well. Overall, it's been a good week. I've got a good center in Matt Birk next to me. If I have any questions, I can ask him. I feel a lot more comfortable."
The Ravens started LeVoir against Tennessee primarily due to his higher familiarity with the offense since he was signed before Gurode.
"He hasn't been here very long, about three weeks," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "Mark has been here four and some change. The key there is you have your two centers up in the starting lineup, so then we have to factor in our third center into some other things there."
INJURY UPDATES: Cornerback Chris Carr is listed as questionable, but said he'll definitely play Sunday.
He was limited in practice.
"He made it through the week, practiced at full-go," Harbaugh said. "So, we'll just have to see how it responds. I'm fairly optimistic, but I think with hamstrings you're never certain."
Birk (left knee), defensive end Cory Redding (toe) and nose guard Terrence Cody (concussion) are probable.
Birk participated fully after being rested Wednesday.
Redding and Cody have been limited for the past two days.
Rams star running back Steven Jackson (strained left quadriceps) is questionable and was limited in practice again.
The Ravens are preparing as if Jackson is going to play.
"Everything he does, he does well," Harbaugh said. "He's a big, physical back, he's a very hard runner, north and south, but he's elusive. He's got a real loose lower body, so he can make you miss.
"He's a strong-ball, security runner. He's really good in pass protection. He's really good in the pass game. He's just a complete back. .. We're assuming he's going to play, absolutely."
Wide receiver Danny Amendola (dislocated elbow) is doubtful.
Running back Cadillac Williams (hamstring), outside linebacker Ben Leber (groin) and defensive end C.J. Ah You (wrist) are questionable.
Wide receiver Greg Salas (ribs) and tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (calf) are probable.
MORE CAP SPACE: By signing All-Pro defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to a five-year, $61 million contract, the Baltimore Ravens created $5.376 million in immediate salary-cap savings this year.
Ngata was due a $12.476 million one-year franchise tender, all of which counted against the 2011 salary cap. Now, they've reduced that figure through his new deal.
Ngata's deal, which included a $25 million signing bonus as well as a $10 million option bonus next year, carries a $12.2 million average annual compensation with $40 million to be paid in the first two years of the contract.
His base salary for this year is $2.1 million, including two weeks of game checks at the $12.476 million rate.
And the deal includes the following salary-cap figures and base salaries: 2012 ($10.4 million cap, $2.9 million salary), 2013 ($11.5 million cap, $4 million salary), 2014 ($16 million cap, $8.5 million salary), 2015 ($16 million cap, $8.5 million salary).
HOW NGATA'S DEAL STACKS UP: Ngata's contract stacks up well compared to his NFL colleagues regardless of position.
Instead of playing this season under a $12.476 million franchise tag, Ngata will make $27.1 million this year.
That's the highest increase in total compensation, a rise of $14.6 million over his franchise tag, than any other franchise player signed to a contract extension this year.
That includes New England Patriots offensive guard Logan Mankins ($11.4 million increase), Carolina Panthers center Ryan Kalil ($8.9 million), Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley ($8 million), Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali ($5.9 million), Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick ($3.9 million), Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Chad Greenway ($3.9 million), Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning ($3.3 million), Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis ($1.4 million), New York Jets linebacker David Harris (minus-$91,000) and Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley (minus-$6.3 million).
Of course, those lowered franchise numbers were replaced by signing bonuses.
In terms of two-year compensation, Ngata is tied with teammate Terrell Suggs and DeMarcus Ware with $40 million paid out in the first two years of the deal. For Ngata, that includes a $10 million option bonus next year and a $2 million base salary this year.
Ngata's two-year compensation ranks ahead of Charles Johnson ($39 million), Albert Haynesworth ($35.6 million, Julius Peppers ($31.5 million) and Dwight Freeney ($31.5 million).
Ngata ranks fifth in the entire NFL for two-year compensation, topped only by quarterbacks Peyton Manning ($61.8 million), Brady ($42 million), Ben Roethlisberger ($41.086 million) and Rivers ($40.05 million).
For all defensive linemen, Ngata's guaranteed money ranks behind Peppers ($42 million),Haynesworth ($41 million), Ware ($40 million), Elvis Dumervil ($40 million), and Tamba Hali $39.5 million), and is tied with Suggs ($37.1 million).
For total guaranteed money, Ngata's $37.1 million is tied for ninth in the NFL with Suggs and ranks behind Tom Brady ($57 million), Larry Fitzgerald ($45 million), Peppers ($42 million), Haynesworth ($41 million), Dumervil ($40 million), Hali ($39.5 million) and Philip Rivers ($38.15 million).
In terms of average pay per year, Ngata ($12.2 million) ranks behind defensive linemen Richard Seymour ($15 million), Peppers ($14 million), Ware ($13 million), Johnson ($12.666 million) and Jared Allen($12.21 million).
QUICK HITS: Harbaugh and Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo are close friends from their time together on the Philadelphia Eagles coaching staff. "I have a lot of respect for Spags," Harbaugh said. "We've known each other for maybe 25 years. In coaching, obviously we were very close. Our offices were right next to each other, but more than that, we spent a lot of time together just talking about stuff. Our families are very close. His wife and my wife are very close. We just have a lot in common. We spent a lot of time talking about a lot of stuff; a lot of fun stuff, a lot of in-depth stuff, a lot of football stuff, a lot of life stuff, spiritual stuff. I would say he's one of my real close friends." .
The Ravens are anticipating a tough challenge against Rams wide receivers Mike Sims-Walker and Danario Alexander and compared Sims-Walker to Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt physically. Britt caught nine passes against the Ravens last week.
"Mike Sims-Walker, he's a very physical guy, real explosive guy," Harbaugh said. "Great body control, makes a lot of catches. They are similar guys, big, physical guys, 215-220 pound guys. Then, you put Alexander in there who is a guy who we really liked coming out of Missouri at 6-foot-5. He may give you the kind of Britt-like comparison that you're making. They've got some good weapons outside."
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