Ravens use unusual defensive alignment

WESTMINSTER -- It was an unusual sight as the Baltimore Ravens' defense took the field Tuesday morning to open training camp. Big defensive end Trevor Pryce lined up at cornerback with coach John Harbaugh and assistants Chuck Pagano and Mark Carrier joining him in the secondary.

Due to a lack of any cornerbacks at practices occupied by just rookies and quarterbacks and a handful of veterans coming off injuries, the defense needed some extra assistance since the only defensive backs in camp are safeties Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura.

"We've got no cleats on now," Harbaugh said when the former Miami (Ohio) defensive back was told his coverage wasn't exactly Pro Bowl material. "We did tell our guys, 'No excuses,' though, right? That was fun.

"Trevor looked pretty good at corner. He probably saw me and Pagano out there and thought that he could do a lot better."

Pagano had the highlight of the day, intercepting quarterback Troy Smith and lateraling it to a player to avoid a tackle. Carrier, a former Chicago Bears All-Pro safety, drew the most praise from Harbaugh.

At 6-foot-5, 286 pounds, Pryce was primarily looking for extra conditioning in his temporary assignment.

"Well, I was a corner in high school, so I ain't that bad," Pryce said. "It's not completely foreign."

Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco declined to take the bait when asked to assess Harbaugh's football skills.

"I'm not criticizing the head coach here," Flacco said. "He looked pretty good out there on defense. We should suit him up."

Added Kyle Boller: "I tried to throw away from him a little bit."

ROUGH TIME FOR ROLLE: Starting cornerback Samari Rolle was excused from the first few days of training camp to attend his father's funeral. Harry Rolle died suddenly from a heart attack.

Rolle is expected to report to camp following a Saturday funeral. Veterans are scheduled to report to camp today.

Rolle had a trying season last year, missing several games after discovering he had epilepsy. His seizure frequency has reduced significantly with the proper medication.

GETTING READY: A four-time Pro Bowl selection, Pryce easily passed his conditioning test after missing the majority of the Ravens' voluntary offseason workouts.

A new training regimen has paid dividends.

"I was training like a basketball player," Pryce said. "The way they train is to take no rest and just to keep going all day. My vertical isn't better, but my wind is better.

"I didn't jump too much because I can't play basketball, but it comes in handy. I thought it was pretty easy."

Initially, Pryce wasn't thrilled with being ordered to participate in the rookie camp after suffering a torn pectoral and a broken wrist last season.

"When they first called me and told me I had to come out, of course I didn't really want to," he said. "But now that I'm here, I think it's good for me. I can work the kinks out before everybody gets here."

ROSTER MOVES: In a depth-building move at a thin position, the Ravens signed journeymen tight ends Aaron Walker and Adam Bergen.

Walker is a 6-6, 270-pounder who is known for his blocking. He has caught 25 passes in five seasons with two catches in three starts last season for the St. Louis Rams prior to a season-ending shoulder injury.

Walker was drafted in the fifth round by the San Francisco 49ers in 2003 out of the University of Florida.

Bergen is a 6-4, 267-pound third-year pro from Lehigh.

Plus, the Ravens terminated veteran cornerback Lenny Walls' contract and cut undrafted rookie quarterback Brad Roach, a free agent from Catawba.

The team formally announced that defensive tackle Salomon Solano had joined the practice squad under the NFL's international development program. Solano is from Tamaulipas, Mexico.

HARD WORKERS: Several players, including Boller, Smith, running back P.J. Daniels, fullback Jake Nordin, offensive tackle Mike Kracalik and linebacker Dan Cody, have an "arm and hammer" patch on the left side of their jerseys. They are awarded to players who participated in at least 85 percent of the offseason workouts.

"That's something we want them to be proud of," Harbaugh said.

QUICK HITS: Nakamura was impressive, knocking the football away from wide receiver Ernie Wheelwright in the end zone and toward Zbikowski for an interception. During the afternoon session, Nakamura broke up a would-be touchdown.

... Offensive tackle Jared Gaither is at training camp, but isn't practicing. ...

In a rubber-band resistance drill, Daniels was snapped roughly to the ground. He wasn't hurt. ...

Rookie offensive tackle Joe Reitz struggled with the oppressive heat, losing his breakfast during the morning workout. ...

The opening practice was halted after 1 1/2 hours. "There's only about 25 guys out there, and there's no way to run a two-hour practice with the guys who are here," Harbaugh said. "We basically got the same amount of reps. It just doesn't take as long." Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.


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