Ogden: 'It's a step in the right direction'

OWINGS MILLS -- Baltimore Ravens All-Pro offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden passed his physical Tuesday and was activated from the physically unable to perform list after missing training camp with a nagging turf toe injury. The 10-time Pro Bowl selection was held out of full-team drills and limited to individual work as he returned to practice for the first time this season.

Ravens coach Brian Billick declared that Ogden wouldn't play in Friday's preseason finale against the Atlanta Falcons.

Ogden, who injured his left big toe last season, said he hopes to be ready by the Ravens' season opener Sept. 10 against the Cincinnati Bengals. However, Ogden stressed that timetable was far from a lock. Especially considering that his toe has to withstand supporting his 6-foot-9, 345-pound frame.

"The toe is sore," said Ogden, who waved at cameras recording his every move during a morning practice. "It's about what I expected, which is not great, but not terrible. I'm just trying to feel it out, ease into it.

"I guess you could say I'm on schedule. It's hard to tell with it, though, it really is. I still haven't hit anybody, haven't thrown the pads on, but this is a step forward."

If Ogden hadn't been activated by Saturday when the NFL mandates that teams must cut rosters down to 53 players, then he would have been required to miss at least the first six weeks of the season under league guidelines. The Ravens cut former starting offensive guard Keydrick Vincent on Tuesday, clearing a spot for Ogden.

"It's good to have J.O. back," Billick said. "Got to get him moving around and see how the toe is going to hold up. So, this is the first step."

Billick has expressed confidence that Ogden will be able to handle being sidelined for such a long period in light of how well he performed last season after being excused from training camp for personal reasons following his father's death.

Now, Ogden is looking forward to testing out his toe as soon as next week when he hopes to don full pads and see how far he's progressed.

"You can't really get into football shape without playing football," Ogden said. "I don't care how much conditioning you've been doing. I haven't really been able to run, but I've been working out, trying to get as ready as I can."

Ogden started in a playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts in January after missing the last two regular-season games, but needed a painkiller to get through the game and aggravated his injured left big toe. He pondered retirement, but decided in April to return for at least one more season after consulting with the Carolina Panthers' team orthopedist and meeting with Billick in Las Vegas.

Compared to most other players entering their 12th season, Ogden has enjoyed a relatively injury-free career with no major injuries. He has missed only 10 career games.

"I've had a few things here and there, but nothing that really set me back," Ogden said. "No surgeries, knock on wood."

Ogden said he's not concerned about getting acclimated again to playing alongside left guard Jason Brown after getting accustomed to the third-year lineman over a dozen games last season.

Until Ogden tests himself in an actual game, though, it will be difficult to determine his readiness for the entire season.

"That's when I'll really know," Ogden said. "It's impossible to tell from what I did. Pads and full speed and a game is when you really know, when you get the adrenaline flowing. This is a step in the right direction."

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

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