Ravens injuries multiplying, three players cut

Regardless of the varying seriousness of a multiplying list of injuries, one thing is quite clear about the Baltimore Ravens.<p> This football team may soon be in need of a contractor to expand its training room if this trend continues. The Ravens practiced Monday at McDaniel College without eight starters.

Headlining a list of injuries that dwarfs previous August totals, promising rookie tight end Trent Smith is out for the entire season after breaking his tibia against the Bills.

The seventh-round pick from Oklahoma underwent surgery in Baltimore after the game to repair the damage.

"It's an unfortunate loss," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "A good young man who I really believe could have been a factor f

or us, but is probably out for the year." This is the Ravens' second season-ending injury since camp opened with receiver Javin Hunter already rupturing his Achilles' tendon.

Crutches, athletic tape and ice are the balm of the moment for a team experiencing an unusual run of poor luck considering its training regimen isn't nearly as grueling as many teams around the league.

"We haven't changed anything," Billick said. "You know the way we conduct camp. It's just the way it's going down."

Beyond the five new injuries announced immediately after the Bills game, including fullback Harold Morrow (sprained medial collateral ligament), receiver Frank Sanders (dislocated toes), return specialist Hugh Smith (shoulder), outside linebacker Cornell Brown (strained left hamstring) and Trent Smith, receiver Travis Taylor and safety Anthony Mitchell have been diagnosed with ankle sprains and could return by Wednesday, Billick said.

"It was basically just a freak accident, had nothing to do with the turf," said Sanders, whose first game as a Raven ended after one reception. "The guy landed on me, it turned my foot and the doctor pulled my toes back in. Now, I have swelling there."

Taylor characterized his sprain as slight after getting his cleats caught in the Ravens' new artificial turf at M&T Bank Stadium. He said he would try to return by today.

"I'm limping right now," Taylor said. "I tested it out and it didn't feel too good, but another day and it should be all right."

Mitchell left the game Saturday, had his ankle re-taped and returned without incident.

"It feels worse now," he said. "I'm not going to sit out long. I'm fighting for a spot."

Several of the injured players are expected to miss a significant portion of camp, including center Mike Flynn, who had arthroscopic knee surgery and anticipates returning before the Sept. 7 season-opener against the Steelers, along with linebacker Bernardo Harris (fractured left fibula, out four to six weeks), safety Ray Perryman (dislocated shoulder), punter Dave Zastudil (strained hamstring, two to three weeks) and rookie running back Musa Smith (sprained capsule in his knee).

"I'm just out here working, doing the rehabilitation as hard as I can," Smith said. "They told me it could take four weeks to heal."

Inside linebacker Ed Hartwell got his left eyeball scratched by offensive lineman Jason Thomas during a contact drill Monday, but hopes to return quickly. Afterward, he was sporting the fashion of a pirate with a patch over his eye, which was initially swollen shut.

"I can't see out of my left eye right now," Hartwell said.

One player who won't get an opportunity to rehabilitate his injury is seventh-round pick Antwoine Sanders, who was released Monday.

Sanders received an undisclosed injury settlement after suffering a hamstring injury along with struggling to learn the team's defensive schemes. Meanwhile, tight end Todd Heap (back spasms), return specialist Lamont Brightful (hyperextended knee), defensive lineman Joe Salave'a (knee) and offensive tackle Orlando Brown (thigh), all of whom didn't play against Buffalo, are on the mend and optimistic about returning for this weekend's preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome.

Plus, receiver Todd Devoe has a mild hamstring injury that has kept him out of practice, and running back Chester Taylor continues to work despite a groin injury.

Brown began practicing again last week, and Heap and Brightful are easing back into their routines while staying out of contact work.

"Last year, I played through a sprained ankle," Heap said. "I would just tape it up. This is a little bit different. You can't tape up your back. "I've never had this before, so I want to be a little more precautionary. At the same time, I think I would be playing if this was the regular season."

NOTES: Ray Lewis could count on four fingers the number of yards the Bills gained Saturday night during their initial two series.

"I love our aggressiveness on defense," Lewis said on a soggy Monday in Westminster following the Ravens' 20-19 loss to the Bills to open the preseason.

The Ravens' perennial All-Pro linebacker declared the first defense ready for any situation after limiting the Bills to 29 yards, a single first down and a touchdown set up by a turnover in the first quarter.

"Our D is ready for anything right now," said Lewis, who was playing in his first game since undergoing shoulder surgery. "I think we're just ready to be battle-tested. "You get so anxious to play with each other and then you realize it's just preseason. We're still fine-tuning it up."

Lewis' attitude doesn't extend yet to the offense and special teams, units that created more questions than answers with some miscues. Offensively, Baltimore surrendered three turnovers, including:

Chris Redman interception caused by receiver Marcus Robinson's drop. Anthony Wright staring down his primary read on another interception. Undrafted rookie running back Ryan Brewer being stripped of the football.

Additionally, the Ravens' special teams allowed Buffalo rookie Antonio Brown to scoot 87 yards up the sidelines for the game-winning touchdown along with the Bills averaging 31.yards on kickoff returns.

Plus, there was a missed extra point by rookie kicker Dan Nystrom with the score tied at 13. Nystrom was released early Monday morning.

"We played well enough to win," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Now, you don't have three turnovers and let a punt return for a touchdown and win. That aside, we have to break it down. "We started the game very well and we finished very well. We have to draw on that. We have to either find individuals that can do it or those individuals that are going to be here that we know can do it a little better."

Lewis and Billick were definitely on the same page.

Lewis' summation: "We need to eliminate turnovers. I don't care how good you are if we get into a turnover battle and lose it 3-0."

ROSTER CUTS: Besides Nystrom, the Ravens waived undrafted rookie quarterback Grant Noel and Sanders.

The Ravens reached an undisclosed injury settlement with Sanders, a seventh-round pick from Utah who had a hamstring injury and didn't play against the Bills.

However, Sanders struggled to learn the defense and didn't appear to be progressing nearly as rapidly as fellow rookie safety Gerome Sapp.

The Raven' roster currently stands at 85 players and the team has a mandatory cutdown date to 65 players by Aug. 26. Smith (broken tibia) and Hunter (ruptured Achilles' tendon) are candidates for the injured reserve list.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.


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