Sams was placed on injured reserve Wednesday after getting hurt in the Ravens' 27-20 season-opening loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, setting the stage for Figurs to return punts and kickoffs in the home opener Sunday against the New York Jets.
"I feel excited, a little pressure," Figurs said. "I'm getting ready and prepared to fill a great player's shoes, which makes it more pressure on me."
Figurs might get some assistance from second-year running back Cory Ross, who returned kickoffs and punts in four games last year when Sams fractured his ankle. Ross was activated from the practice squad to take Sams' place on the roster, and Ross and Figurs split punt-returning duties during special-teams practice.
"We'll determine at the end of the week how we want to proceed," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "It could be a combination of both."
A third-round draft pick out of Kansas State, Figurs hopes to immediately flash his 4.29 speed, but is aware that he needs to concentrate on a more important task: catching and holding onto the football.
That mandate has been drilled into Figurs' head repeatedly by special teams coach Frank Gansz.
"Like coach Gansz told me, the big plays will come," Figurs said. "Just secure the ball first. I just want to stay focused and not make bad decisions. The NFL prepares you for things like this."
During the preseason, Figurs displayed big-play capabilities. He averaged 31.6 yards per kickoff return to rank 12th in the NFL, including a long of 54 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles and a 36-yard effort in a loss to the Washington Redskins.
"That gets you prepared," Figurs said. "That gives you a lot of confidence."
Of course, the Ravens could always use safety Ed Reed as a spot punt returner again after he returned one 63 yards for a touchdown against the Bengals.
"Looked pretty good, didn't it?" Billick said. "Every time I do it, both Ozzie Newsome and Rex Ryan cringe."
INJURY UPDATE: Backup quarterback Kyle Boller ran the first-team offense with starter Steve McNair sidelined with a groin injury.
Also not practicing: middle linebacker Ray Lewis (triceps), offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden (turf toe), tight end Daniel Wilcox (sprained ankle), cornerback Samari Rolle (foot) and linebacker Gary Stills (chest).
"Obviously, his situation is probably the most serious," Billick said regarding Ogden.
Wide receiver Mark Clayton (toe) and wide receiver Demetrius Williams (chest) were limited in practice.
Tight end Todd Heap (elbow), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (knee) and Reed (ankle) practiced fully, but were listed on the injury report.
Corey Ivy started at cornerback in place of Rolle.
The Jets are expected to be without quarterback Chad Pennington (ankle) and are preparing to start Kellen Clemens.
"We're just going to prepare as if he's playing," cornerback Chris McAlister said. "It's not going to change our game plan."
Also limited in practice for New York: cornerback Andre Dyson (foot), running back Thomas Jones (calf), cornerback Justin Miller (thigh), offensive lineman Brandon Moore (shoulder) and defensive back (Eric Smith).
Tight end Joe Kowaleski, defensive lineman Dewayne Robertson (knee) and fullback Stacy Tutt (foot) were able to practice fully.
MOVING UP: With Ogden out indefinitely, rookie Marshal Yanda is likely to start his first game at right tackle with Adam Terry shifting over to take Ogden's place at left tackle.
Yanda is hopeful that he's gotten the penalty bug out of his system after being flagged twice for false starts and once for holding during his NFL debut Monday.
"That puts the team in a tough spot, and it was a learning experience," Yanda said. "I tried to watch the film and take something away from it.
"It's still in the back of my mind what happened. It reminds me why I can't do those things and that I need to calm down and get myself right. I don't ever forget the repercussions of taking us out of a drive."
JUST IN CASE: With Lewis out, Dennis Haley practiced with the first-string defense at middle linebacker alongside Bart Scott.
It wasn't a completely unfamiliar experience for Haley, who's preparing to start in case Lewis has a setback between now and Sunday's kickoff.
A year ago, Haley registered a career-high 10 tackles and a deflected pass in an emergency situation with Lewis and backup Mike Smith both out with injuries in a win over the Tennessee Titans.
"I feel like I have the ability," Haley said. "I definitely have the confidence."
Added Scott: "He's stepped up. That's the tremendous depth. The next man steps up and holds the weight until the other guys can come back."
QUICK HITS: Running back Mike Anderson returned to practice after missing two practices last week and the game due to personal reasons. ... Ross' practice squad spot was filled by wide receiver Romby Bryant, who was cut by Baltimore after the preseason. ... Billick acknowledged turning in several questionable calls to the league, but declined to elaborate on what type of response he received. When asked if the NFL increasing scrutiny of officials' performance has improved their calls, he replied: "I'd like to have that hammer right now." ... Billick weighed in on the controversy surrounding the New England Patriots' cheating scandal. "I've never been smart enough to do it, I feel kind of bad that I haven't that someone else is getting an advantage and I'm not bright enough to do the same," Billick said. "I don't know if it's an advantage or not."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.
Notebook: Figurs thrust into Sams' old role
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