OWINGS MILLS – Still unable to run and cut at his full capacity, Baltimore Ravens rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith basically ruled himself out for Sunday's game against the Houston Texans. Smith has been sidelined ever since suffering a left high ankle sprain in the season-opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"I'm optimistic about everything, but realistically I doubt it," Smith said. "I've just got to get over that last little hump, agility, moving side to side and lateral and backpedaling and planting and that stuff. That's the final stage we're in right now."
"I got on the field and I ran for the first time, ran without my body weight being 100 percent. It's not 100 percent, it's not even 80 percent there."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh interrupted a locker room interview with Smith, reminding the first-round draft pick from Colorado to not give out details about his injury.
"Hey, hey, hey, no you're not doing it," Harbaugh said. "You're not asking him about his injury. He's not telling you about his injury situation. You don't comment about your injury. Nobody needs to know how far along you are, especially not Houston."
However, Harbaugh had already made it clear during his own press conference that Smith wasn't quite ready to return.
"He's not there yet, that's for sure," Harbaugh said. "So, we'll just have to see throughout the course of the week. I've got my fingers crossed. This was the target week, and we'll just have to see how it goes."
Smith continues to make progress, but has hit some plateaus.
"That's what makes it frustrating, is the fact that you get healthy and you hit a wall and you want to push past it," he said. "But I can't go out there and try to do something and re-injure myself."
Meanwhile, veteran wide receiver Lee Evans returned to practice Monday after missing the past two games with a left ankle injury.
Although Evans said he feels much better, he was noncommittal on whether he'll play Sunday.
"Hopefully, I'll be well enough to play," Evans said. "I think we're on the right path. It's frustrating. I've never been in this situation before.
"The goal is to play without being hampered. It feels better but tomorrow might be a different story. When the time is right, I'll be out on the field."
Evans continues to make progress, though, from an injury that has affected him since the third preseason game and has limited him to two receptions for 45 yards this season.
"I've done the most since the Titans week," Evans said. "I did some individual, and ran a few routes from quarterback. I ran some sprints and gassers. We'll see how it reacts the next few days. I did some weight-bearing things. We'll see what kind of residual pain I'm having and decide after that."
Starting offensive guard Ben Grubbs practiced after being sidelined for the past three games with a right turf toe.
He took part in individual drills, but is still considered a question mark for Sunday. Andre Gurode has started in Grubbs' place.
"It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad," Grubbs said. "I made steps toward getting back on the field. I'm hopeful, yeah, more hopeful than I have been in the past. The question now is how it's going to react.
"We'll see what kind of residual pain I'm having." I got through individual drills. I was coming off the ball well."
Wide receiver and kick returner David Reed (separated left shoulder) is no longer in a sling and might return in the next week or two. He has been out since the Titans game after being suspended for the first game of the season for violating the NFL substance-abuse policy.
He practiced Monday.
"Hopefully, I'll be back this week," Reed said. "That's what I'm shooting for. I'm trying to keep working, keep getting stronger, keep recovering and hopefully I can play this next Sunday. If not this week then definitely the week after."
Reserve safety Haruki Nakamura practiced Monday on a limited basis after being out against the New York Jets with a sprained right posterior cruciate ligament.
"There's always a chance, but it's all about setbacks," Nakamura said. "If I have a setback, that's horrible. If I had a setback after all the work I've done, I'd be really frustrated. I'm going to be patient with it. I've worked extremely hard to get to where I'm at today.
"I'd be really disappointed if I put myself out there and had another setback. That's not what I want or need, but I do want to get out there this weekend. It kind of killed me to watch the Jets game. I really took advantage of the bye week. I got a lot of work done."
Nakamura acknowledged that he might need one more week just to be safe.
"They said if I needed another week to take it," he said. "If this was a do-or-die type game like the Super Bowl, I would play. If this was the last game of the season, I would say I'm definitely playing."
There were no updates on the status of cornerback Chris Carr (left hamstring) and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (right hamstring).
Starting strong safety Tom Zbikowski hasn't been cleared to return to practice after sustaining a concussion against the Jets.
"With concussions, I have no idea," Harbaugh said. "Until the doctor says he is cleared, you just go, ‘OK, see you when you are cleared.' He has not been cleared yet."
Notebook: Bryan McCann excited to be a Raven
OWINGS MILLS – It wasn't difficult for the Baltimore Ravens to convince cornerback and kick returner Bryan McCann to join them.
Cut by the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 20, McCann worked out for the St. Louis Rams and fielded interest from a few other teams.
All along, the Ravens displayed more of a need for McCann due to their injuries at cornerback and in the return game.
And the Ravens signed him last week to a two-year, $1 million contract that included base salaries of $450,000 and $540,000 and a $10,000 signing bonus.
"I was definitely excited," McCann said. "The Ravens are a team that's known for their defense, throughout the whole franchise's history. For them to want me to be a part of that defense is definitely an honor."
The Ravens have been playing without kick returner David Reed since the second game of the season when he separated his shoulder. And cornerbacks Chris Carr (left hamstring) and Jimmy Smith (left high ankle sprain) remain sidelined.
"They said I could come in and contribute on teams immediately whether it's on the coverage units or return units," McCann said. "Obviously, we're banged up in the secondary. So, it was just a matter of learning the system. That will really be the key as far as how fast I can get on the field. Hopefully, my road to get on the field on defense won't be as long as if we had everybody healthy."
McCann returned kickoffs Monday.
McCann was briefly on the Ravens' roster last season, but was waived after being inactive for one game.
"He's obviously a corner who we've had interest in," coach John Harbaugh said. "We had him here last year early on and he left and went back to Dallas, and whatever situation happened there, they let him go. We felt like there was an opportunity for us to bring him in.
"He brings us a developing young corner who has a lot of ability. He's another year experienced than he was a year ago. He is a return guy also and a good special teams player."
The Ravens have been using LaQuan Wiliams on kickoff returns lately and he has five returns for a 21.8 average. Reed led the NFL with a 29.3 kickoff return average last season and he had a 77-yard return against the Titans before hurting his shoulder.
All-Pro free safety Ed Reed returned punts against the New York Jets.
With the Cowboys last season, McCann returned a punt 97 yards for a touchdown against the Detroit Lions. He also returned an interception 101 yards for a score against the New York Giants.
For his career, McCann has a 22.2 kickoff return average and a 17.8 punt return average.
"I just try to be a playmaker wherever I'm at, whether it's returning the ball or blocking for the guy who's returning the ball or covering kicks and making tackles," McCann said. "I want to come in and make an impact."
DEFENDING FLACCO: Quarterback Joe Flacco struggled with his accuracy against the Jets, completing only 10 of 31 passes for 163 yards with no touchdowns and an interception return returned for a score.
He finished with a 37.4 passer rating.
For the season, Flacco has completed only 49.3 percent of his throws for 973 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions for a 79.8 passer rating.
Harbaugh prefers to focus on Flacco's winning percentage, though
"The only real way, in broad terms, to assess it probably is he's 3-1," Harbaugh said. "To me, he's a 3-1 quarterback right now, which is pretty darn good. Can he be better, just like every guy on our team? The standard thing is always what we talk about, because we can all get better in everything we do. And Joe, just like everybody else, is going to tell you, ‘Hey, I can get better.'
"We were watching tape this morning, and he's pointing out all the things that he thinks he can do better and all the things he was going to try to get accomplished today. So, that's real. It's not really exciting, but it's really the fact of it. I think he's got to get better, just like our whole team has to continue to get better. But I think he's played well."
Harbaugh noted that Flacco has done a good job in general of handling protections and improvising as well as striking deep more often, which is one reason why his percentage has fallen.
"He's making big plays at a record clip – especially for us, since we've been here, probably historically if you look at the Ravens," Harbaugh said. "That's real. I mean, the big play part of it is big for us. I think he's playing well enough to be 3-1, and I think our offense is more explosive than it has been in the past thanks to Joe and the other guys.
"I think we can attack you in more ways than we have been able to recently. We've got to keep building on that, we've got to become more consistent. Obviously, the completion percentage, that's going to have to come up. We've got to all work on that together."
PERFECTION: Under Harbaugh, the Ravens are 3-0 following bye weeks.
And the Ravens have won eight of their past games after byes since 2002.
"We built both of our schemes for the first four games," Harbaugh said. "So, we will have to kind of take a look now and see, ‘OK, what do we like, what don't we like, what do we want to add?'"
Harbaugh said he spoke with the players Monday about the identity and goals of the team, using a Biblical verse to illustrate his point.
"We talked a little bit about Proverbs: ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish,'" Harbaugh said. "That is something that I think our guys, it resonates with them. Who are the Ravens? What are we going to be about?
"What do we stand for? How are we going to play? What can the people and the fans in Baltimore and across the country expect from us and be proud of? That's important. It's a good time to kind of talk about that."
Harbaugh said he expects the Ravens to remain a physical, hard-hitting outfit.
"I think they love it," he said. "I think that's who they are, and that's who they want to be. A lot of it is the type of people we bring in here, right? We are looking for that kind of personality. When we say, ‘Play like a Raven,' some people get it, and some people don't. For us, it is real. People who love football
"Terrell Suggs is out there, and he loves practice. We like to get after people. We like players that like to get after it, who love football and like to play the game. We want to attack people in every way we can: offense, defense, special teams, down the field, at the point of attack, in all three phases. That's what we're about. That's the way we're going to try to play every week."
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