Smith relies on his instincts

WESTMINSTER -- Mike Smith has adopted a relatively simplistic approach to football. Whenever the Baltimore Ravens' rugged backup middle linebacker is in doubt, he hits someone. In the case of Friday's preseason opener against the New York Giants, Smith's instincts took over as he ran with the starting defense for the first time because middle linebacker Ray Lewis was given the night off.

In the second quarter, Smith penetrated the line of scrimmage and slammed Giants running back James Sims for a seven-yard loss.

Despite clearly being held, Smith decked Sims a moment after he got the handoff. The football popped out and hit the ground, but the runner had already been ruled down by contact.

"I read the offense well," Smith said. "It was one of those nights where I got into a groove. It was fun."

A year ago after making the team as a seventh-round draft pick out of Texas Tech, Smith only registered two tackles before being placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. Against the Giants, he registered two tackles for losses.

On the same drive that he knocked Sims down seven yards, the 6-foot-1, 235-pound native of Lubbock, Texas tackled Sims for a one-yard loss. Plus, he chased Sims down in the open field following a 25-yard reception.

"My game is built around running to the football and playing hard," Smith said. "I don't make it too complicated. I'm very fortunate that I have such a good linebackers coach in Jeff FitzGerald and that I have Ray to learn from, too.

"Coach FitzGerald really teaches you the game and why offenses do what they do. That puts you in a better spot to make an impact."

TRAINING ROOM: Cornerback Samari Rolle (heel) practiced after being held out of the Giants game with a mild heel injury.

As if to demonstrate that nothing was wrong with him, he slam-dunked a football over the goalpost.

Lewis practiced after being held out of the preseason opener as a coaches' decision. Wide receiver Derrick Mason practiced after suffering a mild concussion against the Giants.

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, the team's first-round draft pick, practiced without incident in his most extended workload since spraining his medial collateral ligament in his left knee a week ago in a scrimmage against the Washington Redskins.

"He's moving around and he needs a lot of reps," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.

Offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden worked on the sidelines again alongside his brother, Marques Ogden, and is expected to be activated from the physically unable to perform list as soon as today.

Wide receiver Clarence Moore (sports hernia), offensive guard Brian Rimpf (hamstring) and tight end Rob Abiamiri (leg) didn't practice. Safety B.J. Ward is still recovering from a bout with migraines.

PITTMAN UPDATE: David Pittman has had a rough transition to the NFL. The third-round draft pick has been hampered by a strained hamstring for the majority of training camp.

On Sunday, the former Division I-AA standout returned to practice and took part in team drills. It didn't go smoothly, though.

Obviously rusty, Pittman was beaten for a first down on a reception by tight end Bobby Blizzard. Team officials remain hopeful that Pittman will begin to regain ground he's lost to nickel back Corey Ivy and undrafted rookie cornerback Ronnie Prude.

Pittman might make his debut this week against the Philadelphia Eagles.

FUMBLING: Rookie running back P. J. Daniels was accountable about fumbling twice in the second half against New York, but he said the miscues were uncharacteristic of his game.

"This is not what normally happens with me," Daniels said. "I'm not a fumbler, but I did fumble this time. I'm going to grip it even tighter and not let it happen again. I'll learn from my mistakes."

UNCONCERNED: Rookie punter Sam Koch hit nothing but air when he attempted to tackle Giants return specialist Michael Jennings on his 57-yard touchdown return. It was the fifth tackle missed on the short punt, and Koch finished with a 33.3-yard average on three punts.

Veteran Leo Araguz wasn't much better, averaging 36 yards per punt, although he landed one inside the Giants' 20.

When asked if he was concerned about the punting, Billick replied: "Not after one night."

HIGH ATTENDANCE: Spurred by a Ravens' kids club at practice for a so-called "Rookies Day," the Ravens posted their high attendance so far of training camp at McDaniel College with 5,100 attending.

QUICK HITS: Prude led the Ravens with a team-high four tackles. "We really like him," Billick said. "For an undrafted free agent, he's really opened up some eyes.He's played very, very well, but he's got to maintain it. We want to see him keep it up." … Kickoff specialist Aaron Elling booted three of his four kickoffs into the end zone. … While third-string quarterback Brian St. Pierre hit rookie tight end Quinn Sypniewski for a 26-yard gain, rookie quarterback Drew Olson didn't make it into the game.
 


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