Bad Times For Ravens Tight Ends

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Ravens' offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's system definitely likes to utilize the tight end. Unfortunately for Baltimore, its top three producers at the position can barely get on the practice field.

Todd Heap has been held out of all Organized Team Activities (OTAs) as his recovery from a back injury is taking longer than expected.

Quinn Sypniewski is hobbling around Ravens headquarters in a massive knee brace because he recently had another surgery to attach a piece of bone in his left knee.

And L.J. Smith, one of this year's free agent additions, is easing back into drills this week because he was hampered by a hurt groin.

It's been a rough go for the Ravens' tight ends.

"It's tough, because you can't practice, but as soon as the team meetings start, the day is rolling," Smith said after watching Thursday's practice. "But, I'm definitely picking up the offense. It's getting smoother, even though everything is different, as far as the verbiage goes.

"You have to stay in the game mentally."

As such, Smith has been a regular on the field, mainly in a spectator capacity while donning a red mesh top over his purple No. 82 jersey. He looked rusty on his first few repetitions during seven-on-seven drills, dropping two passes from quarterback Joe Flacco.

Smith is confident, however, that once his health improves and he can fully participate in the sessions, he'll develop quickly.

That could come as early as next week.

"I'm just paying attention in practice," continued the former Philadelphia Eagle. "Really, the best way to learn is to actually do it and make your mistakes on the run. The problem is, when I do get out there, I'm probably still going to make a mistake, so I can't wait to get out there.

"I've made improvements, as far as my health goes. I think I can get into some full-team things soon. I'll be running routes with the first or second team next week. I think I can be at 100 percent at max in two weeks."

Heap has also been very limited in practice, as he is only taking part in light individual portions. The former Pro Bowler injured it late last season and fought through the pain during the playoffs.

"He tells me that he's really improving quickly right now," head coach John Harbaugh said of Heap. "Hopefully, we'll see him out here real soon. He's going through most of practice, but we'll see him through the team stuff and the seven-on-seven stuff."

Sypniewski is another story.

His status for a return by training camp was characterized as questionable by Harbaugh after his knee – in which he tore ligaments last year around this time – required an additional surgery.

With the trio of tight ends all battling injuries, the Ravens have turned to Edgar Jones to lead the group, which also includes 2008 practice squadder Isaac Smolko and 2009 draft pick Davon Drew.

Jones is taking most of the snaps with the starters and seems to be finally comfortable with the position after switching from a pass-rushing linebacker last season.

"It's been a blessing," Jones said of his opportunity. "Some of the guys are banged up right now, so I'm trying to take advantage of the opportunities that I am getting, just by studying a lot more when I leave the building.

"Sitting in the offensive meetings, that's all I'm hearing now, so that's made it more of a focus for me. I still have the defensive mentality in me, because that's just how I grew up. If you put me down to rush the quarterback, that's second nature. But, I'm feeling a lot more of the offense now."

Until the Ravens can welcome at least Heap and Smith back, that's just the attitude they need from Jones.

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