Ravens defensive tackle Michael Pierce isn't in good enough physical condition as he enters the final year of his rookie contract.
Pierce was at mandatory minicamp practice Tuesday, but he was not on the field very long. After a brief on-field chat with Head Coach John Harbaugh, Pierce went back inside. He looked heavier than last season.
"He's not ready to practice from a safety standpoint and for his own health," Harbaugh said. "We recognize that and pulled him off."
Pierce did not participate in voluntary Organized Team Activities, but it was surprising that his first offseason impression wasn't positive. After last season, Pro Football Focus graded Pierce as the team's top defensive player on a unit that was ranked No. 1 in the NFL. Pierce has steadily improved each season with the Ravens and was a primary run-stopper.
Now, a primary goal for Pierce will be to improve his conditioning before the start of training camp in July.
Asked if it's a problem that Pierce wasn't permitted to practice, Harbaugh said, "Oh sure, it's a problem. Absolutely. You want guys practicing, ready to practice, physically able to practice. That's very important. ... But, he's not ready for [this] practice yet. You can probably tell."
Outside linebacker Matthew Judon and right guard Marshal Yanda returned to practice after sitting out OTAs. Safety Tony Jefferson (ankle) was also back on the field for the first time in a limited capacity.
Left Guard Jermaine Eluemunor Is Still With First Unit
There is competition for the starting job at left guard, and Jermaine Eluemunor looks to be right in the thick of it.
Even with Marshal Yanda back on the field at right guard (where James Hurst was filling in) it was Eluemunor who took reps with the first unit Tuesday.
It's far too early to determine who will win the starting job. But entering his third season as a fifth-round pick, Eluemunor is being given a chance to impress.
"That's how football should be," Offensive Line Coach Joe D'Allesandris said. "Give everyone a chance. "Between now and our opener, we don't know what's going to happen. So let's let each day take its course and see how each player plays. Usually the cream surfaces to the top."
James Hurst, Alex Lewis, and rookie fourth-round pick Ben Powers are also in the running to start at left guard, but Lewis is currently sidelined while recovering from shoulder surgery. The Ravens are looking for physicality along the offensive line, and at 6-foot-4, 335 pounds, Eluemunor is one of their bigger linemen. D'Allessandris likes what he has seen so far.
"He's done a very nice job," D'Alessandris said. "Jermaine has grown as a player. He played as a rookie, and that's tough. We put him in a very difficult situation but he responded well. This guy's athletic and he's another big guy that can move. I just saw continued growth and I said, 'Give him a chance.' We'll see how this all pans out."
Cyrus Jones Still Recovering From Undisclosed Health Issue
Cyrus Jones missed Tuesday's practice and is not expected on the field until training camp. The Baltimore native and Gilman School product has missed OTAs with an undisclosed health issue. Jones played a key role on special teams last season with a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown while averaging 14.4 yards on 27 punt returns.
"He has a health issue," Harbaugh said. "It's not for me to describe it exactly, but he's not allowed to practice right now. He had kind of an episode a few months ago. He's not cleared to practice at this time because of that. We do expect him back for training camp as far as I've been told, but I think there are tests and things like that he has to pass."
Jimmy Smith Can Relate to Marquise Brown's Foot Injury
First-round pick Marquise Brown is expected to be ready for the start of training camp, but he'll still have hurdles to clear once he gets on the field.
Brown remained sidelined Tuesday as he continues to rehab from Lisfranc foot surgery performed in January. Veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith had the same injury several seasons ago and learned that the recovery was a gradual process.
"It's a serious injury," Smith said. "I think he's going to bounce back just fine, knock the rust off. He's a speed guy, not a reaction… His stuff is timed. He knows where he's going, so I feel like he's going to do well with it. I don't think it's going to be an issue with his speed or anything like that. But he has to knock some rust off and get back in the swing of things."