Prude on the move

One year ago, Ronnie Prude was merely hoping to crack the Baltimore Ravens' roster as an undrafted free agent. Fast forward to today in Westminster, and it's a new set of circumstances for the second-year cornerback.

After beating the odds to make the team last year and intercepting two passes with one returned for a touchdown, the former LSU standout is cross-training at safety after working exclusively at cornerback last season in 15 games.

With veteran Corey Ivy fairly entrenched as the nickel back, the team is experimenting with Prude in hopes of identifying a fourth safety to play behind starters Ed Reed and Dawan Landry and backup Gerome Sapp.

"I like playing safety so far, but it's a lot to learn," Prude said. "I'm taking it all in and listening to my coaches and asking the other guys questions.

"There could be a time where they might need me to play safety, so I'm trying to get myself prepared to go in there if they need me."

Playing safety represents an entirely different viewpoint for the 5-foot-11, 178-pounder, who has gone from being asked to cover one side of the field to being a centerfielder responsible for roaming the secondary.

"This is basically like being the quarterback of the defense, because you have a lot of communicating to do with everybody," Prude said. "You can't just be in your own little world checking a receiver and not worry about what else is going on. So far, it's been fine."

A BETTER FIT?: Since the Ravens have instituted more one-back formations and zone blocking schemes, the benefits of those changes could extend beyond new featured running back Willis McGahee.

Veteran Mike Anderson, who has outplayed Musa Smith so far in their competition to be McGahee's primary backup, is extremely familiar with these alignments from his tenure with the Denver Broncos.

"What we're doing now, Mike will be much more comfortable with and much more productive," Ravens coach Brian Billick predicted.

A year ago, Anderson, 33, was signed to a four-year, $8 million contract. However, instead of becoming the starter, Anderson wound up backing up Jamal Lewis.

Anderson rushed for 183 yards on 39 carries last year, scoring one touchdown. In 2005 in Denver, he gained 1,014 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. The Ravens, though, are optimistic about Anderson's opportunities in relief of McGahee.

"Mike is a great zone runner," offensive coordinator Rick Neuheisel said of Anderson, a former NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year who enters his eighth season with 4,005 career yards and 37 touchdowns. "He reads those blocks. His time in Denver was obviously very, very productive. He's a proven veteran.

"I think anytime you have guys like them on your roster, you're going to benefit from it. Musa just needs to stay healthy, and obviously we're all excited about McGahee and the opportunity to create big plays in our running game."

INJURY UPDATE: Offensive tackle Jared Gaither returned to practice after sitting out of the afternoon workout Friday when he took an elbow to the stomach.

Tight end Daniel Wilcox didn't practice, limping around the field with a sprained left ankle. Nose guard Kelly Gregg (right thigh bruise, knee) continues to increase his activity in individual drills.

Neither Wilcox or Gregg is expected to play in Monday night's preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. Both could return next week.

Meanwhile, offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden (turf toe) and linebackers Dan Cody (knee surgery) and Mike Smith (shoulder surgery) remain on the physically unable to perform list.

Billick didn't sound optimistic when asked about Cody's outlook. Cody underwent arthroscopic knee surgery two weeks before camp and had been contemplating whether to undergo microfracture surgery to create new cartilage.

"The doctors can answer that better than I can," Billick said. "No one's worked harder than Dan, but it's really for him and the doctors and trainers to determine what his time frame is going to be."

SATISFIED: The Ravens had a fairly crisp practice Saturday morning, enough so that Billick deemed it satisfactory.

"Excellent tempo for what we needed to get done," Billick said. "These guys continually give me what I'm looking for in terms of tempo and pace."

QUICK HITS: Rookie wide receiver Yamon Figurs drew applause from a sizable, noisy crowd, stretching out for a diving catch from quarterback Kyle Boller. ... Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, all 6-foot-4, 340 pounds of him, blitzed from the middle linebacker position and flattened center Ikechuku Ndukwe to harass rookie quarterback Troy Smith. Smith hurriedly uncorked an interception to cornerback Chris Mcalister. ... At one point the offense lined up wrong, prompting Billick to gripe: "Can you read the damn card?" ... Cornerback David Pittman intercepted a Steve McNair pass meant for Mark Clayton. ... Offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden did a few light individual drills. ... Rookie receiver Matt Willis dropped an accurate deep ball from Smith, who later connected with Figurs for a short touchdown pass that split McAlister and Ed Reed. ... Drew Olson was intercepted by McAlister and Evan Oglesby during red-zone drills. ... Tempers briefly flared between offensive guard Jason Brown and linebacker Jarret Johnson, but the confrontation was quickly defused. ... Since contact is limited now, Ivy took it slightly easy on receiver Damien Linson, declining to body-slam the vulnerable, airborne rookie. ... The Ravens have Tuesday off following the preseason opener, returning to work Wednesday afternoon. at McDaniel College. ... Billick was complimentary of former Ravens defensive lineman Larry Webster, who's with the team under the NFL's minority coaching internship program. "A coach can talk until he's blue in the face, but when a player who has done it says something that registers, it's great," Billick said. "For the young players, that's a resource. Larry is deciding if this is something he wants to make a career of, and I think he'd make a fine coach."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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