Reed questionable for Bengals game

OWINGS MILLS -- The reality that free safety Ed Reed may not be available for the season opener appears to be setting in with the Baltimore Ravens. With Reed still hampered by a left shoulder injury that involves nerve issues, Ravens coach John Harbaugh backed off his previous stance where he expressed confidence that the former four-time Pro Bowl selection would definitely be starting Sept. 7.

"I think it's a little more slow progress than we all thought it was going to be," Harbaugh said. "Maybe Ed has a sense of that at one time because he's the guy that feels it. We're still optimistic that he'll be there the first week, but I don't think you can say 'definitely' right now."

With Reed sidelined, veteran Jim Leonhard has started the first two preseason games. Rookie draft picks Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura are the Ravens' other options.

Reed has been grimacing in pain whenever someone bangs into his upper body, and doesn't seem to have full range of motion or strength.

"We continue to have doctors look at him, because we want to be absolutely sure," Harbaugh said. "It's not just about his ability to play in a game.

"It's the ability to make sure that we have no doubt whatsoever that he's good from now and forever, and that he's not at risk in any way. Right now, nobody thinks he's at risk in any way, but we want to make darn sure that's the case."

INJURY REPORT: One day after returning to practice from a sprained ankle, offensive tackle Adam Terry rejoined the starters. He replaced Mike Kracalik at right tackle with Chad Slaughter remaining at left tackle.

Outside linebacker Dan Cody returned to practice after missing three weeks with a sprained right foot.

Not practicing: running back Willis McGahee (left knee surgery), cornerback Derrick Martin (right shoulder), offensive tackle Jared Gaither (sprained right ankle), defensive tackle Lorenzo Williams (undisclosed), wide receiver Demetrius Williams (left Achilles' tendon), nose guard Kelly Gregg (left knee surgery) and defensive tackle Kelly Talavou (dislocated shoulder).

Gaither is uncertain when he will be back. He got injured in late July.

"Whenever I'm healthy, that's when I'm going to show back up," he said. "I don't know if it's going to be for these last two preseason games or Sept. 7. When I'm truly healthy, I will be back on the field.

"I've been pushing myself. There's a lot pressure with a new playbook, a new system, a whole new philosophy. So, I don't want to put any pressure on myself or my ankle."

Defensive end Trevor Pryce wasn't at practice during the portion that's open to reporters.

Tight end Todd Heap is being careful with a strained right calf muscle after missing the majority of last season with a hamstring problem.

"I want to make sure it's completely right," Heap said. "I definitely don't want setbacks at this point. I want to be 100 percent healthy going into the first game.

"I definitely learned some lessons last year trying to battle a hamstring. You have to let it heal before you get out there, so you have to be smart about it."

Starting cornerbacks Chris McAlister (right knee) and Samari Rolle (left leg) practiced for the second day in a row. They may play Saturday night against the St. Louis Rams, which would mark the first time they've been in a game together since a Dec. 3 loss to the New England Patriots.

"I would say yes, but I wouldn't want to put a definite on it right now," Harbaugh said. "I've got to see how they hold up."

QB QUANDARY: Harbaugh declined to reveal which quarterback will start Saturday, adding that he may not name a starter until shortly prior to the Bengals game.

"You'd like to know your guy in March, but that's not the situation we're in," Harbaugh said. "We need to manage it the right way and the smart way. It could be anywhere after the third game is over or five minutes before the Bengals game. We've got the option to do it however we need."

Because Troy Smith and Kyle Boller haven't separated themselves in the competition, there hasn't been any closure.

"It would be easy if one guy would jump out there or if one guy would just fall flat on his face," Harbaugh said. "Neither guy has really done, either.

"They've played well, but neither one of them has played great. They're both improving, so it's made it a tough decision, sure."

Harbaugh emphasized that whoever starts in St. Louis is not necessarily going to be the opening-game starter.

"I don't think there's anybody here that can say they'd be in position to make that decision yet," he said. "We want to take our time and try to find the right guy who gives us the best chance to win the next game."

Harbaugh indicated that rookie Joe Flacco, who has been eliminated from the competition, will not start either of the final two preseason games.

QUICK HITS: The Ravens are experimenting with linebacker Edgar Jones at tight end. Jones played tight end during minicamps and looked fairly adept at a position he hasn't played since his high school days in Louisiana . He has switched from No. 91 to No. 46 and is officially listed at tight end. ... Fullback Le'Ron McClain switched his jersey number from No. 37 to No. 33. Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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