Notebook: Grubbs nervous in debut

BALTIMORE -- Ben Grubbs' NFL rite of passage was marked by an inauspicious launch to his starting debut at right guard. Prior to the Baltimore Ravens' first offensive snap in a 13-12 loss Sunday to the Giants, Grubbs jumped offsides. It was a clear case of nerves for the first-round draft pick, who was admitted excited about playing on national television in front of his family in Eclectic, Ala.

"Just the anticipation, I was just excited, and the first play showed it when I jumped offsides," Grubbs said. "I've just got to do better.

"It was national television, I was playing with the starters, so I just tried to take advantage of the opportunity that they gave me."

Grubbs eventually relaxed and had a few encouraging moments. With Chris Chester sidelined with a sprained foot, Grubbs opened big holes for backup running back Mike Anderson.

"After that first drive, I settled down and started flowing more," Grubbs said. "Overall, I did pretty decently for my first game.

"I'm just kind of beating myself up over that offsides penalty because I know that I'm better than that. But I'm glad I made the mistake during preseason."

Grubbs generally hasn't had any setbacks other than a sprained knee that he recovered quickly from.

The main thing for him is not dwelling on mistakes.

"You can't let that bother you," center Mike Flynn said. "Everybody jumps offsides and everybody gets beat, but Ben played well. He's got the tools. He has the ability, has that squared away. It's just settling into making calls and adjustments."

The demands of pro football dwarf what Grubbs experienced as an All-Southeastern Conference selection.

"It's physical in the trenches," Grubbs said. "In the game, there are a lot of bullies out there. I just can't really get past that penalty. I know that when I watch the film I'll see some good things."

INJURY UPDATE: Cornerback Samari Rolle and wide receiver Mark Clayton are both nursing sprained ankles with X-rays ruled negative.

Rolle's injury is believed to be more serious than Clayton's. Rolle was helped off the field into the locker room, but was able to walk without crutches later.

"I don't know the extent of it," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "I think we should be OK."

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata incurred a minor injury, bruising his knee.

PROGRESSION: Rookie quarterback Troy Smith improved markedly from the first preseason game.

The Heisman Trophy winner completed 4 of 8 passes for 60 yards, including a 20-yarder to Matt Willis.

"Every week, I'll iron some things out," Smith said. "There's still a lot of work to be done. I'm not going to get complacent."

Smith avoided a sack and engineered two drives that ended in field goals. He followed Drew Olson, who completed just 1 of 4 passes for six yards.

"That's why he got drafted, because he has the ability to make plays inside of the pocket and outside the pocket," quarterback Steve McNair said of Smith.

TURF ENEMY: Middle linebacker Ray Lewis reiterated his disdain for artificial turf after several injuries at M&T Bank Stadium.

"I don't believe in anything but grass," said Lewis, who also made his case for shortening the preseason. "I think we need to take care of our athletes. When these guys play on these fields, they get hurt. Grass is God's surface, and natural grass is where football is meant to be played on."

QUICK HITS: Rookie linebacker Edgar Jones executed a crisp move for a sack, combining with Gary Stills for another sack. "Some of the guys said it was a pretty good swim move and I worked my hands pretty good," Jones said. ... When Rolle got hurt, nickel back Corey Ivy replaced him. Derrick Martin took Ivy's place as the fifth defensive back on third downs. Ivy was beaten for a touchdown pass. ... Rookie speedster Yamon Figurs had a 52-yard kickoff return. "It was great blocking upfront," Figurs said. "The fullback got his man, everybody blocked and kicked out the safeties and it just opened up for me." ... Running back Cory Ross was shocked when he was clotheslined by 6-foot-5, 345-pound defensive tackle Manny Wright and no flag was thrown. "This isn't wrestling," said Ross, who was unhurt. "That was crazy. That's got to be a penalty." ... Kicker Rhys Lloyd, a Dover, England native who didn't report until the final day of training camp due to work visa issues, connected on 40 and 38-yard field goals. He also had two touchbacks on kickoffs with all five reaching the end zone. "It's good to be here finally and get back in action," Lloyd said. "I still have to get into kicking shape."

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

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