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7/29 Notebook


PM Notes

Entering his 10th season in Baltimore, Chris McAlister is one of the most-senior members of the Ravens' roster.

He just doesn't feel like it.

Even though the 31-year-old is currently heading an inexperienced secondary - fellow cornerback Samari Rolle (family issue) and safety Ed Reed (undisclosed injury) are out of action - McAlister still does a double-take when a young player asks for his advice.

"I just feel like one of the young guys still," said the 6-foot-1, 210-pound McAlister. "They look up to me in a way that at times catches me off guard, and they ask questions and what advice I can give - all the help I can give.

"To that aspect, it kind of makes me appreciate being able to play as long as I have, so I can help someone else and give them the knowledge that I have."

After spending his first two days at McDaniel College on the sideline until he passed a physical, McAlister finally took the field Monday, manning his spot in a position group with many questions the veteran just can't answer.

Some have doubted Rolle's ability in the coming year, considering the 11-year veteran missed 10 games in 2007 due to a battle with epilepsy and a shoulder injury.  According to defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, there is every chance for an unheralded Raven to ascend to the starting lineup. 

"There's competition from starting corner all the way down," Ryan said. "Right now, Samari is not here, unfortunately, with his father passing. So, this is an opportunity for someone to step up.

The Ravens haven't set a date for the incumbent's comeback after his father's funeral last weekend, as head coach John Harbaugh said Saturday, "The timetable is Samari's right now."

That leaves an open spot for Baltimore's stable of hungry corners to fill. Corey Ivy has the most experience and could be considered a greybeard, having played in 94 career games. After Ivy, there is Frank Walker (26 years old), Fabian Washington (25), David Pittman (24), Derrick Martin (23) and Ronnie Prude (26).

At this point, the advantage goes to Washington, a former first-round draft pick who came to the Ravens in a trade with the Oakland Raiders. Walker and Ivy have both seen time at nickel back, as well.

"Right now, someone is running with that starting group, and anytime that happens, you have to raise your level of play," Ryan noted. "We always say around here that if a starter goes down, you have to play at his level or better, and that's what we're looking to find out."

As Harbaugh, who is one year removed from coaching the Philadelphia Eagles' secondary, and Ryan attempt to sort out the talents at their disposal, having McAlister as a constant seems to be a luxury.

"I love it because he's working through it and he's doing an outstanding job," Ryan said of No. 21, whom the Ravens selected 10th overall in 1999. "It's good to see a smile on his face, and when he runs out there I feel pretty confident."

One of the main reasons for McAlister's grin is his clean bill of health after a 2007 campaign where he suffered the worst injury of his career.

After never missing more than three games in a single season his entire career, a knee injury kept him out of eight contests and eventually landed the three-time Pro Bowler on Injured Reserve.

McAlister admits that he now needs a few practices to work off the rust and build faith in his knee following offseason surgery.

Perhaps those will be the days when he accepts his status as elder statesman.

"You learn more as a veteran," he said with that familiar smile. "You can practice at the same pace as everyone else, but have an advantage by knowing what you see from your offense. Or, from the other side, knowing what the offense sees from the defense and knowing where you have to get to.

"Those little things put you in position to make plays."

Here are some more notes and observations from Tuesday's afternoon practice:

  • Add linebacker Edgar Jones to the list of DNPs (Did Not Practice), as the former rookie free agent was held out of the session with an unknown injury. Jones walked delicately off the field with a trainer after the morning session.
  • McAlister also had some interesting insight into the history of the cornerback position.

"For a second, it did change, a long time ago," he said. "I'd say about six years ago the corners came out and started getting bigger and bigger and bigger as the wide receivers grew taller.

"Right now, it's just at a happy medium. The guys who aren't 6-foot-2-plus playing the corner position have a tremendous amount of skills in other areas to make up for it, so I think it's all kind of balancing out."

  • The pass of the afternoon goes to Joe Flacco, who executed a fake double reverse and then unleashed a high-arcing rainbow to Darnerian McCants racing downfield. The crowd cheered in approval.
  • Yamon Figurs, Mark Clayton and Tom Zbikowski all returned punts during the special teams portion.

Rookie running back Ray Rice has also pitched in with punt returns, but with Willis McGahee taking a minimal amount of reps in the afternoon session, Rice was resting off a full workload of carries.

  • The afternoon session was shortened to only about one hour.

For Wednesday:The Ravens have a full practice at 8:45 a.m. and a special teams practice at 2:00 p.m. Fans, please note that quarterbacks, wideouts and cornerbacks have to lift weights directly after practice Wednesday, so they will not be available for autographs.

AM Notes: Rice Carries Offense

As a collegiate record-setter and second-round draft pick, Ray Rice was expected to contribute to the Ravens' offense quickly.

But with Willis McGahee in and out of the lineup due to an undeclared injury, Rice is already taking snaps with the starters. The former Rutgers star is making the most of his opportunities.

During Tuesday's morning practice, Rice shone in the backfield as McGahee watched from the sideline. McGahee was also held out of Sunday's sessions.

While the Ravens are anxiously awaiting McGahee's return to full health, the six-year veteran has enjoyed contributing to Rice's development.

"If I know it, I'm going to help him out," McGahee said. "If I don't know it, I'll tell him to ask the coach. As far as him asking questions, I have no problem answering for him or helping him out with whatever he needs."

It seems that Rice is absorbing everything that McGahee and the Ravens' coaching staff is throwing at him.

Rice was the main weapon on offense Tuesday, drawing praise from the capacity crowd (consisting of suite-holders and sponsors) for his tough runs between the tackles.

The Ravens focused on the red zone, with the 5-foot-8, 205-pound Rice displaying his uncanny ability to disappear into the offensive line and come out on the other end dragging two defenders.

On one play, he scooted by an Oniel Cousins block and weaved his way through the defense. His run may have been stopped short of the goal line because of the two-hand touch tackling, but it definitely would have been a positive gain when there was no daylight.

Rice's playmaking ability and stature have drawn comparisons to Maurice Jones-Drew, the standout running back/returner for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jones-Drew - who is similarly sized to Rice at 5-foot-7, 208 pounds - amassed 1,709 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns, along with 86 receptions and two kickoff returns for scores in only two seasons.

With such gaudy numbers, it is easy to see why Rice appreciates the talk.

"I idolize Maurice Jones-Drew, because of what he did last year and what kind of back he is," Rice said. "It's just special to see a guy that size. Size doesn't matter; it's all a bunch of hype. If you're a football player, you're a football player – you get the job done."

After proving he could be that type of game-breaker in college with three 1,000-yard rushing campaigns, including 2,012 yards last year, the Ravens are trying out different ways to get the ball in Rice's hands.

"It just comes down to, 'Can you make plays?,'" Rice said. "[Jones-Drew] is a playmaker, and when I put myself in a position to make a play, that's when we'd be compared."

Recently, Rice has joined Yamon Figurs and Mark Clayton returning kicks, something he hadn't done on a regular basis since high school.

"Ray Rice has done a great job fielding punts," said head coach John Harbaugh. "He's got good hands, and it seems like he's got a knack for it."

The Ravens are confident that McGahee can carry the load at running back, but with Rice shining at practice, the rookie is making a good case for the No. 2 spot.

As the big man on campus less than one year ago, Rice is working hard to regain that status.

"You just have to come in with a beginner's mentality," Rice explained. "Everyday you have to take a different note for different things, and you go back on it. That's how you become a better runner."

Here are some more notes and observations from Tuesday's morning practice:

  • The Ravens seem to be snake-bitten at the tackle position, as Adam Terry dropped to the ground in what appeared to be a serious leg injury. Terry clutched his surgically-repaired left ankle shouting in pain after tripping over Rice on a typical running play. Terry had to be carted off the field.

Tackles are running thin on Baltimore's roster. Starting left tackle Jared Gaither injured his right ankle last weekend, moving Terry from the right to the left side and putting Mike Kracalik at right tackle. With Terry down, Kracalik went to left tackle and rookie Oniel Cousins subbed at right.

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata spoke to the media after the session and revealed that he sprained his right MCL yesterday, but wasn't worried about a speedy recovery.

"It's just a little speed bump I have to get over," he said. "I'll be back soon."

  • Not practicing was safety Ed Reed, running backs P.J. Daniels and Cory Ross, fullback Justin Green, linebacker Dan Cody, wideout Demetrius Williams, Gaither, and Ngata.
  • Defensive tackle Trevor Pryce and linebacker Antwan Barnes took specific advantage of the Ravens' lack of tackles. Both players were constantly in the backfield and would have notched multiple sacks.

Pryce was also particularly dominant rushing from the inside in Baltimore's sub package, which puts him over a center or guard.

  • The completion of the morning probably wouldn't have been completed because of Pryce. Troy Smith lofted a perfect ball to Derrick Mason, who reached for the catch just outside of cornerback Frank Walker's grasp.

Despite cheers from the stands, Pryce was so far past tackle Joe Reitz that Smith would never have gotten the pass off.

  • Punter Sam Koch showed a strong arm when he rolled to the right on a fake field goal and delivered a bullet to Todd Heap for a first down.
  • Cornerback Chris McAlister complained to the officials when he was challenged in the end zone by Smith. McAlister blanketed wideout Yamon Figurs, but Figurs pushed him away before hauling in the touchdown pass.

"You going to throw that flag, ref?" McAlister shouted.

The Ravens had their annual visit from NFL officials over the weekend, so Harbaugh has started the practice of inviting local officials to training camp each week.

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