Notebook: Ravens hurting at tight end

OWINGS MILLS -- Hard luck has defined the Baltimore Ravens' tight end situation as a position in flux is having its depth decimated by injuries.

With blocking tight end Quinn Sypniewski already out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament that required surgery, Daniel Wilcox still on the mend from toe surgery and Lee Vickers out of practice for the past few days of minicamp with an undetermined injury, a collection of free agents has been backing up veteran starter Todd Heap.

A bad situation deteriorated further Saturday morning when undrafted rookie tight end Scott Kuhn broke his left thumb during a punt drill.

"We're probably in a tryout mode right now with a lot of these young guys," coach John Harbaugh said. "When you've got guys who are hurt right now who can't practice, it becomes a bigger concern. We're got to bring Dan along and bring Heap along. They're going to be our two guys, and we've got to get them healthy.

With the team thin on bodies, Baltimore is experimenting with 6-foot-7, 256-pound former Western Michigan basketball center Joe Reitz.

Ranked third all-time at his school in scoring and rebounding, Reitz hasn't played football since going to high school outside of Indianapolis. He turned down an offer to play professional basketball in Europe to sign a free-agent deal with Baltimore in hope of becoming the next Antonio Gates, the San Diego Chargers' star tight end who played power forward at Kent State.

"He's very, very athletic, he's more athletic than I am," Reitz said of Gates. "Going from the hardwood and playing tight end, he definitely opened the door.

"I have a lot more to learn than the other guys because I didn't play four years of college football, but it's a great opportunity. They're throwing us rookies in there."

Reitz is so big that he could eventually bulk up enough to play offensive tackle.

Meanwhile, the team is also looking at former Florida State quarterback Xavier Lee at tight end.

Wearing a red No. 11 jersey, Lee caught passes at tight end after beginning Saturday's practice under center.

Ironically, the former prep Mr. Football selection from Daytona Beach left the Seminoles' program after his junior year when offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher asked him to move to tight end after a star-crossed three years at quarterback.

"Xavier's got a chance to be a quarterback, but, if you look at that body, he could play a lot of things," Harbaugh said. "Plus, we need help at tight end. It makes sense."

Lee is in camp on a tryout basis and is hoping to be offered a contract.

"I am a quarterback, but I'm open to playing tight end," said Lee, an athletic 6-foot-4, 240-pounder. "I want to show them that I can play in the NFL and that I'm willing to work hard."

The Ravens even had outside linebacker Edgar Jones line up at tight end for a few snaps.

When Reitz attempted to run with a football attached to a thick rubber band attached to the goalpost Friday, it slipped out of his hands and ricocheted backward.

"It's a different kind of ball," Harbaugh quipped. "He was in the punt formation, and we joked that it looked like he was getting ready for a jump ball. His stance was a little bit awkward.

"Boy, he looks good. He looks like a football player So, he's going to be a developmental guy."

INJURY UPDATES: Running back Willis McGahee and cornerback Fabian Washington didn't practice due to undisclosed injuries.

McGahee declined to talk about what was bothering him, but it wasn't believed to be serious.

"No, man, I can't talk about that," he said.

Return specialist Yamon Figurs didn't practice due to a hand or wrist injury that required a soft cast.

Outside linebacker Dan Cody was held out of drills due to soreness in his foot after breaking it last year and having a pin inserted.

"I don't feel like any injury is going to slow me down this time," said Cody, who has been placed on injured reserve the past three seasons due to multiple knee injuries. "I feel like I've made a lot of gains."

Cornerback David Pittman didn't practice due to a foot injury and is in a walking boot.

QUICK HITS: Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco threaded a spiral for a deep completion between several defenders. ... In a reversal of last year's alignment, Jason Brown lined up at right guard with Ben Grubbs playing left guard during team drills. ... Several players worked at center, including Chris Chester, right tackle Marshal Yanda and rookie Adam Kraus. ... Reserve tight end Jake Nordin has moved to fullback. ... Quarterback Troy Smith was intercepted by former Buffalo Bills safety Jim Leonhard.

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


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