Jacoby Jones broke toward the left corner of the end zone, racing past rookie cornerback Jordan Mabin to create enough space for Joe Flacco to lob him the football.
Jones' burgeoning chemistry with Flacco was on display as the veteran wide receiver hauled in a back-shoulder touchdown catch on a fade route.
It was a crisp moment during the Baltimore Ravens' open practice Saturday night before 20,324 at M&T Bank Stadium.
And it was a much different experience for Jones than the last time he played in this stadium during an AFC divisional playoff game in January when he was with the Houston Texans.
"This is my first time they cheered for me instead of booing me," said Jones, who fumbled twice in that playoff game before signing a two-year, $6.5 million contract with Baltimore this spring. "I felt good in that purple, being a part of the Ravens Nation. It was fun. It was a good practice. It was nice to get out there under those lights. I had that adrenaline pumping."
So did Flacco and backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
Flacco appeared to have good rhythm with his receivers, finding wide receiver Anquan Boldin for a score and connecting often with Jones.
"Yeah, you know it's funny," coach John Harbaugh said. "We look really, really sharp the last couple of days in practice. Came out here and looked sharp, but I think because of the setting, it wasn't quite there like it was the last two days, a couple of drops, things like that. Joe is really on the money, so that's good to see."
And Taylor dashed away from the defense in a red-zone drill, demonstrating his athleticism as he scored twice on designed scrambles.
"I thought Tyrod played really well," Harbaugh said. "Tyrod looked good, made a lot of plays. Tyrod is a very accurate passer. He was on time, played well."
Meanwhile, kickers Billy Cundiff and Justin Tucker had strong performances.
Cundiff connected on 7 of 8 field goals with his only miss a few yards shy of 65 yards while Tucker, an undrafted rookie looking to unseat the former Pro Bowl selection, made all seven of his tries with a long of 63 yards.
"It's amazing, the competitiveness in these guys," Harbaugh said. "Both of those guys kicked about as well as you could kick."
Defensively, $50 million shutdown cornerback Lardarius Webb intercepted a Chester Stewart pass and deflected several passes.
Pro Bowl free safety Ed Reed intercepted a deflected pass.
Overall, the offense appeared to win the majority of the matchups.
"It's always good to get out there in front of the fans, very excited to be out there," Boldin said. "It allows the younger guys to get a chance to get in the stadium and see how it feels. I thought especially on offense we were sharp and moved the ball down the field. I'm pretty satisfied."
Thirteen players didn't practice at all, including six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk because of back spasms and rookie outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw with a sprained shoulder.
There were only two new injuries sustained Saturday, and both are relatively minor.
Tight end Ed Dickson got poked in his right eye and didn't continue. Afterward in the locker room, his eye was bloodshot.
"He just couldn't get it back where he could really get going," Harbaugh said, "but he's going to be fine."
Dickson said he got hurt during a red-zone drill.
"It was getting blurry," he said. "The trainers and the coaches wanted to make sure I was all right.. My vision was impaired a little bit. You get poked in your eye and it started messing with your other eye. I went back in for one play."
Right now, Dickson plans to practice Monday.
"Nah, I won't need a few days," Dickson said. "It's pretty good right now, my vision. I've just got a headache."
Veteran outside linebacker Darryl Blackstock headed to the training room after limping off with a leg injury.
"Yeah, he had a little muscle issue, a little groin thing," Harbaugh said. "I don't think it's serious, but I'm not sure what happened."
With a large crowd on hand to watch the defending AFC North champions, the players and coaches said it was a positively charged atmosphere.
Players and coaches signed autographs during and after the practice.
"I thought it was a great night," Harbaugh said. "I thought everyone had a lot of fun. The energy was unbelievable. Driving up here about a half hour before the gates opened, it was eight deep around the stadium to get in. When Ray Lewis came out and then when Ed came out, and I think a lot of the fans here probably saw those guys in person for real for the first time ever. They went crazy.
"I had goose bumps. It was just one of those really rare moments. The idea of practicing in here in front of this crowd is really helpful. I think we get our guys in a situation that is more like a game, and they have to handle themselves, make catches, make throws, whatever, think under pressure. It's very helpful."
NOTE: The Ravens had roughly 1,500 military personnel, 2,000 including their families, in attendance at practice for a military appreciation day.
"Just want to thank all the folks from the U.S. Military who were here, the family of J.T. Thompson, just all of our good friends in the military for being here," Harbaugh said. "Thank you for what you do. Freedom is not free and we can't do what we do without you."
Ravens notebook: McKinnie seeking answers to weighty issues
BALTIMORE -- Bulky offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie wants to get to the bottom of why he's having trouble losing weight.
So, the Baltimore Ravens' left tackle will meet with a doctor Monday to discuss his diet and metabolism.
McKinnie said he currently weighs about 360 pounds after playing at 370 pounds last season after being cut by the Minnesota Vikings last summer when he tipped the scales at 387 pounds.
"I think it's my metabolism," said McKinnie, who's been activated from the non-football injury list after passing the conditioning test Friday. "I don't know how to diagnose it until I find out on Monday. It's just to better help me with my whole weight thing because this wasn't an issue my whole career until about three years ago.
"I think there's kind of like an imbalance or something maybe that is going on with metabolism. Thank the Ravens for even going out and getting a doctor to come in and check me out so we can take care of this issue."
McKinnie ballooned up to nearly 390 pounds during the NFL lockout last year, causing his exit from the Vikings.
Signed to a two-year contract last year and due a $3.2 million base salary this fall, McKinnie was paid a $500,000 roster bonus in March after pledging to general manager Ozzie Newsome that he would get into better shape.
McKinnie said he gained more weight after he slipped and fell at his South Florida home prior to training camp, not showing up for the first four days of practice.
"I was lower before the accident but for me to gain that much weight I knew that it was just water weight," McKinnie said. "It will be something that I address on Monday with the doctors and how to actually treat it. Like I was explaining to coach [John] Harbaugh, in the past, I was doing stuff like going to practice and after practice I would go with sweat suits and stuff on and go play tennis for an hour and a half just to make weight.
"It kind of takes a toll on your body trying to do all that. I'm sure other people in the league have to do stuff like that to try and keep your weight down. Actually, you're dehydrating yourself. So, I'm finally going to get checked and see what's going on and correct it."
As for his back, McKinnie said it's improving rapidly.
He expects to be ready for the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 10.
"My back is feeling better," said McKinnie, who started every game for the Ravens last season at left tackle. "When I came back, I was good enough to travel and everything and then I got more treatment. I kind of practiced the little conditioning thing. I didn't do the full test, just to make sure my back held up. And then I felt I was good enough to do it and I just did it."
"If you all check my track record, I don't stay injured at all. I don't miss games with injuries and stuff like that. The whole being injured thing wasn't a big deal to me. It's just how fast I could recover. I'll be ready by next week or whatever."
McKinnie said that he fell when bricks on a staircase outside his house came loose, causing him to lose his balance.
"I have a brick staircase outside my house and I was actually running to the car and one of the bricks came loose," McKinnie said. "It wasn't cemented down, I guess, and I didn't know it. I kind of slipped and it caused me to fall,"
The injury delayed his arrival at training camp.
"I was getting back spasms," McKinnie said. "You don't want to sit on the plane for two hours. I went to the chiropractor or whatever and he called up here and told them that they were giving me treatment until he felt like I was well enough to get on a plane.
"That's behind me. Now, I took the test and I am done. I'm going to go in and get some extra running in. We had to go two days trying to get acclimated with no real pads on. So, Monday I'll come back and I'm in full pads."
The Ravens have been lining up Michael Oher at left tackle and having rookie second-round draft pick Kelechi Osemele play right tackle.
Ultimately, McKinnie expects to regain his starting left tackle spot.
"I feel confident," McKinnie said. "I'm lighter, believe it or not than I was at this time last year. I just have more time to practice. I have a better confidence within myself this year compared to last year, too. Last year, my confidence wasn't that high. Football-wise, I have more confidence this year."
NGATA ON THE MEND: Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said he's on track to participate fully Monday after being limited the past two days since passing the conditioning test.
Ngata was activated from the physically unable to perform list Friday.
"I'm way excited to be able to be out there," Ngata said. "I'm excited to get back out there Monday."
Ngata is getting over a hamstring injury sustained when he initially tried to take the conditioning test, a series of timed running intervals.
"Yeah, it sucked. You're running and you feel a little hamstring pull."
Ngata said he weighs 345 pounds, but appears heavier.
"I feel great," Ngata said. "I feel pretty good."
Ngata played at 335 pounds last season, but felt he wore down because of his lighter weight.
Now, he's regained his old bulk.
"Right now, I can feel the power," Ngata said. "We'll just see how it goes. As the season goes, if I feel like I need to lose the weight, then I'll probably try to lose the weight during the season. For now, it's up and we'll see how it goes."
Ngata's wife, Christina, gave birth to a 10-pound, 10-ounce son named Haloti Maximus earlier this week.
Ngata said his wife and son are both healthy and doing well.
The boy's size inspired his name.
"He was just huge," said Ngata, noting he has a sore neck and back from sleeping at the hospital for a few nights. "He's a big boy. We thought it fit him."
INJURY REPORT: Thirteen players didn't practice during the open practice at M&T Bank Stadium.
That includes running back Bernard Pierce (hamstring), wide receivers Tandon Doss (hamstring), David Reed (ACL surgery) and Patrick Williams (undisclosed), tight end Dennis Pitta (broken right hand), center Matt Birk (back spasms), offensive lineman Jah Reid (strained right calf), cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (back) and Cary Williams, linebackers Josh Bynes (undisclosed), Terrell Suggs (partially torn Achilles tendon) and defensive end Arthur Jones (strained hip flexor).
Birk said his back is beginning to loosen up. He's missed the past six days of practice.
"Yeah, it's making progress," Birk said. "I don't try to predict anything or rush anything. Just every day, making progress every day and doing everything I can and everything they tell me to do. Rest and strengthening and flexibility and therapies, all sorts of stuff."
Doss has been sidelined for a week.
"I've been out of football for a while," Doss said. "I started off camp well and unfortunately I had some maintenance issues that I had to take care of. I'm ready to get back on the field now. I should be back Monday. That's the plan."
"I felt it tighten up, so I'm just trying to lay low. I've been in treatment every day, multiple times a day. I've been hitting it pretty hard."
Williams said his absence from practice isn't related to his right hip surgery during the offseason.
"It's nothing to do with my right hip that I had my right hip that I had surgery on," Williams said. "It's perfectly fine. I'm just taking a couple of days off.
"It's been pretty good. It responded really well. It's everything I wanted to be. I'm just trying to shake the rust off right now."
The following players returned to practice: fullback Vonta Leach (back), linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, cornerback Asa Jackson.
Upshaw said he didn't suffer a shoulder stinger or a bruise, indicating some kind of sprain.
"It's probably a little sprain, a little soreness in there," Upshaw said. "Honestly, there really was no pain, but the second play I went to try to extend it, being at the position I'm at, I have to use my hands and try to be powerful and I really could not do it. It flared up as I was out for the rest of the practice. Right now, it's still sore and it's still a little stiff. We're just trying to work on getting that out."
Upshaw said he's getting close to returning.
"I'm getting treatment every day," he said. "I'm feeling good actually. Whenever the trainer says it's OK to go out there, I'll be ready to go."Upshaw reported at roughly 280 pounds and didn't pass his conditioning test on his first try, but is beginning to shed some pounds.
"I'm close to 270," Upshaw said. "I'm not there yet. I still got six, seven pounds to go, but I'd be working while I'm out with the little injury. I've been doing a whole lot of cardio. I'm going to reach my goal soon."
Jones said he expects to return soon, but didn't indicate when.
He expressed relief that he didn't tear his hip flexor. A magnetic resonance imaging exam revealed it was just a strained muscle.
"Definitely, I was praying and everything like that just to make sure it was nothing too serious," Jones said. "God answered my prayers so I'm excited about that. Yeah, it was a little nagging injury that bothered me. I'd rather fix it now before it becomes a serious, big injury.
"Right now, we're doing all the right things, icing it and stem and treating it every single day. I can't wait to get back out here with these guys."
FORMER CFL LB SIGNED: The Ravens have signed former Canadian Football League linebacker Stevie Baggs.
According to his awesome Wikipedia page entry, Baggs was known as Shakespeare to his CFL teammates because all he does is make plays.
The 6-foot-1, 241-pounder played collegiately at Bethune-Cookman.
He was signed after the Ravens cut offensive lineman Paul Madsen, formerly of the Buffalo Bills.
Baggs was cut by the Hamilton Tigers-Cats this spring.
Two years ago, he was with the Arizona Cardinals and was cut before the start of the regular season
He had a previous stint with the Detroit Lions and has also played for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Edmonton Eskimos and the Sasketchewan Roughriders.
Baggs had 50 tackles and five sacks with the Tiger-Cats before being released.
Three years ago with the Roughriders, Baggs had a dozen sacks, four forced fumbles and was named a West Division All-Star as Sasketchewan reached the Grey Cup.
QUICK HIT: Former Ravens majority owner Art Modell and actor Josh Charles were among those attending the opening practice.
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