The Ravens got some welcomed additions back Saturday as tight ends Dennis Pitta (broken hand) and Ed Dickson (shoulder sprain) returned to the practice field.
The two tight ends worked with position coach Wade Harman, running routes and catching passes during the special teams portion of practice. Pitta had on a red non-contact jersey, but Dickson did not, during the 30 minutes of practice open to the media.
They were limited in their participation during practice, as neither player is back to full-go yet.
"They're starting to step up their activity a little bit," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "It's good to get them back out there and get them running around."
Pitta has missed the entire preseason after suffering the injury during practice on July 30. Dickson sprained his right shoulder while catching a touchdown pass in the preseason opener against Atlanta.
Both have been expected to return by the start of the regular season on Sept. 10, but they did not provide an exact timetable for their return.
"Each day it is getting better," Pitta said about his hand. "I'm continuing to rehab, doing what the trainers want me to do and just taking it day-by-day. That's all I can do and hope to be back as soon as possible."
"I do," Dickson responded when asked if he feels good about the season opener. "We'll go day-by-day, and we'll see how I feel."
Neither player was catching passes at game speed, but they said they felt comfortable in the limited work.
"The catching that I am doing feels good," Pitta said. "We're not going to push it too much, but we'll start to increase that as the days and weeks go by."
"It felt pretty good," Dickson added. "[I was] very limited out there. I didn't want to overextend anything."
Getting Pitta and Dickson back should provide a boon for the passing game, as they are two of quarterback Joe Flacco's favorite targets. They both said they expect to regain their chemistry with Flacco quickly once they're fully practicing again.
"That's something we've been developing for a few years now, and I don't think it's something that you lose right away," Pitta said. "I think it will come back quickly once I am able to start jumping in there and running with the offense."
In their absence, the Ravens have relied on veteran free-agent addition Billy Bajema, former practice squad player Davon Drew and rookies Bruce Figgins and Matt Balasavage. The Ravens will likely keep three tight ends on the active roster during the regular season.
While they have been watching the preseason from the sidelines, Pitta and Dickson both had praise for the way the offense has looked with the new no-huddle approach.
"Obviously, it has looked really good, last game being evidence of that," Pitta said. "We continue to evolve with it. It's something that's relatively new for us, but I think it's going to pay big dividends for us in the long run."
Yanda Misses Practice With 'Strain,' But Could Play
While the tight ends returned to practice, starting right guard Marshal Yanda was still out after missing Thursday's game because of a leg injury. Yanda got hurt in practice last week when a player got blocked into his legs, but Harbaugh said the injury was minor.
"It's nothing serious," Harbaugh said. "He could have played in the game if it had been a regular-season game."
The Ravens could choose to rest Yanda again next week in the final preseason game, but his status for the regular season opener does not appear to be in jeopardy.
The other players who missed Saturday's practice were wide receivers Tommy Streeter (unknown) and David Reed (ACL surgery), linebackers Josh Bynes (back), Darryl Blackstock (unknown), Ricky Brown (unknown), Stevie Baggs (unknown) and Terrell Suggs (Achilles), safeties Sean Considine (concussion) and Emanuel Cook (broken leg), offensive tackle Jah Reid (calf) and defensive tackle Ryan McBean (ankle).
Ravens Will Keep Five To Seven Receivers
The Ravens had six wide receivers on the active roster for much of last season, and Harbaugh said that the team will have between five and seven receivers on the 53-man squad this year.
The exact number still has to be determined.
"We'll just have to see how it shakes out at other positions, injuries are still part of that; I don't know yet," he said.
Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones are locks to make the roster, leaving second-year wideouts LaQuan Williams and Tandon Doss, free-agent addition Logan Payne and rookies Tommy Streeter and Deonte Thompson in competition for the final few spots. Third-year wideout David Reed will also be in the mix when he returns from ACL surgery.
The key for players to earn the last few roster spots, Harbaugh said, is how they perform on special teams.
"We have to fill up our special teams," Harbaugh said. "That's something that [Special Teams Coordinator] Jerry [Rosburg] and I spent a long time talking about today. You can't underestimate the importance of that. Special teams is going to be a huge part of those last few spots."
Ravens Open To Adding Safety
The season-ending injury to Cook and concussion to Considine leaves the Ravens with some depleted depth at safety. Considine's concussion is his second in as many weeks, and Harbaugh did not provide a timetable for how much time he would miss.
Harbaugh did not say that the team needs to add a safety from the free-agent market, but left the door open to the idea.
"I think we have enough safeties," Harbaugh said. "It's always a possibility, we always say. We're always looking for good players. We're comfortable with the guys we have."