Michael Campanaro Tops Ravens' Returner Depth Chart


Head Coach John Harbaugh said he knows who will be returning kickoffs and punts in the season-opening game in Denver, but he isn't sharing that info.

If the Ravens' depth chart (which is compiled by the team's public relations staff) is to be relied upon, however, Michael Campanaro is the guy.

Campanaro is listed as the starting kickoff and punt returner. He is the only listed option at both positions since cornerback Asa Jackson and running back Fitzgerald Toussaint were cut Saturday.

"Returner, obviously, is a thin position for us," Harbaugh said.

Campanaro has been the Ravens' most sure-handed punt returner in training camp. He also has some experience doing the job, as he returned two punts for 17 yards last season.

The second-year wide receiver did not return kickoffs last season, but did so extensively in college at Wake Forest, where he averaged 23.7 yards on 35 attempts. His longest college return was of 53 yards.

Campanaro's issue has been his ability to stay healthy. He injured his hamstring on his second career NFL punt return last season in Cincinnati, which meant Jacoby Jones went back on those duties.

In case Campanaro, who has also dealt with soft-tissue issues this summer, were to get hurt during a game, the Ravens have options. Undrafted rookie running back Terrence Magee returned kicks in the preseason. In a pinch, wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. or cornerback Lardarius Webb can double as returners.

The Ravens don't want to use Webb or Smith because they are both so valuable on their respective sides of the ball, but Harbaugh isn't afraid to do so if needed. Webb has been used as a fair-catch specialist in years past.

"We're not going to shy away from putting whoever gives us the best chance to win, all things considered," Harbaugh said. "Obviously considering [injuries] is part of it, as well."

If Campanaro were to be out for an extended period of time, the Ravens have insurance on their practice squad. Recently signed wide receiver Jeremy Ross and cornerback Charles James also have return experience. Ross returned 47 kicks (25.2 average) and 53 punts (12.3 average) with the Packers and Lions over the past three years. James returned one punt for the Giants in 2013.

Baltimore may not have much need for a kickoff returner in Denver in Week 1. Considering the balls will be warmer, and thus softer, and given Mile High Stadium's thin air, the Broncos' Brandon McManus will likely be booming touchbacks out of the back of the end zone.

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