After taking part in the most practice work he's seen all offseason, Todd Heap believes he will be able to fully participate by the start of training camp.
Heap has been limited in each of the Ravens' minicamps thus far, rarely able to take the field because of a back injury that dates back to last year.
But as he hauled in a Joe Flacco pass in the flat and quickly accelerated upfield, it seemed that Heap is nearing a full recovery.
"It's something where there isn't all that much pain, but it's sometimes stiff. Then sometimes, I feel like it's loosened up and ready to go," said Heap, who did not wear the red jersey that signified he was "untouchable" for the first time. "It's just a matter of getting it back to normal, and it's getting there."
Head coach John Harbaugh said that Heap actually participated more during Monday's session, but his back was sore after the extended workload.
That is not necessarily a bad thing.
"Todd seems like he's really coming along," Harbaugh said. "He did more yesterday than today, but I think he's a little sore. That's a good sign. Once you get to the point where the injury isn't causing the soreness and it's the workload, you can start working to get to where you need to be. He's a work in progress, so we'll see what he can do tomorrow."
The Ravens are closely eyeing No. 86 and need him to make a full recovery, considering fellow tight end L.J. Smith is being eased back into full-team drills with a groin injury and Quinn Sypniewski is sidelined indefinitely after having recent surgery on his knee.
In all of their absences, Edgar Jones has largely filled the void with the first-team. Heap said he was impressed with the way Jones – a former outside linebacker/defensive end – has developed with the increased reps.
"Edgar's doing well," Heap explained. "For a guy that was on defense and hasn't played a lot of offense, he's stepped in and picked it right up. He's doing well out there, learning and getting better every day."
But Heap's return will be critical for the offense to take another step forward. Last season, Heap regularly remained on the offensive line to supplement rookie quarterback Joe Flacco's protection. As such, Heap only totaled 35 receptions for 403 yards, the worst statistical year among the five in which he started all 16 games.
For 2009, the Ravens have made clear that they want to better utilize Heap's skills in the passing game, especially over the middle of the field.
"Our expectations for Todd are to be the player he's always been – and even better," Harbaugh noted. "I don't think Todd looks back on his career and says, 'OK, I've made a Pro Bowl or two and that's it.' That doesn't define a player. Todd's the kind of guy that is looking forward to what he can achieve for the rest of his career, and I think he's really motivated to have a great year."