Although Nick Boyle has not practiced since his recovery from knee surgery, Head Coach John Harbaugh remains hopeful that Boyle can be ready be Week 1 to face the Las Vegas Raiders (Sept. 13).
The veteran tight end had surgery in November following his season-ending injury, then had a minor clean-up procedure this summer. Boyle is arguably the NFL's top blocking tight end.
"He's making progress," Harbaugh said. "It's a knee. It was a serious injury. He'll be back as soon as he can be. We're still very hopeful for the opener, but we just have to see.
"The good thing is, we have other options. I like the way our tight ends our coming along. We've got depth at receiver when those guys come back. We'll be able to put a good offense out here if he doesn't make it. If he does make it, it'll be great."
Backup tight ends Josh Oliver and Eric Tomlinson are making strong bids to be part of the 53-man roster behind Mark Andrews. Acquired in an offseason trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Oliver had seven catches for 50 yards Saturday night in Carolina while being targeted a team-high 10 times. Tomlinson added two catches for six yards, but he has done well as a blocker.
In addition to not having Boyle, the Ravens have multiple wide receivers dealing with injuries. However, Pro Bowl fullback Pat Ricard isn't worried about the offense. Ricard's superb blocking and improvement as a pass catcher can help pick up the slack until Boyle returns, and Ricard likes how the Ravens have executed during training camp and their two preseason games.
"The guys that are out there, they've been making plays," Ricard said. "They've been showing they can play in this offense.
"Regardless of who is ready to go Week 1 or whatever week, I think the guys that have been putting in the work this offseason, they're deserving to play. I think we're going to put out winning football. The guys that haven't been out here, you mentioned Boyle, they're working extremely hard to get back with us. There all still mentally in our rooms, in the meetings. I know when they do get back out there, they'll be ready to go. They're going to make our team better."
Surgery Has Solved Ricard's Hip Woes
Ricard has been a Pro Bowl fullback the past two seasons, but he never felt 100 percent healthy. A torn labrum that was first detected in 2019 had bothered Ricard, but he dealt with the pain and missed just one game the past two seasons. Ricard finally had surgery immediately after last season, and he has felt good during training camp.
"Last year I played knowing it was torn," Ricard said. "As the year went on, I started feeling more sore, a little more pain. Had another MRI after the season. I had to get it done."
Ricard said having the surgery right after last season ended gave him plenty of time to recover. He sat out OTAs and minicamp, but returned at the start of training camp. Ricard sat out the first preseason game, but was back to his usual self in Carolina, helping to get the Ravens' ground game going.
"I went to Colorado as soon as the season was over, had the surgery, rehabbed out there for a week, went home to Massachusetts, was there for two months," Ricard said. "I came back down here for OTAs and stayed here pretty much the whole summer until training camp to make sure my hip was feeling good. It is. I'm just working through different things as training camp goes on, but overall it was a good surgery. I feel good from it."
Justin Tucker Believes Verity Is NFL Ready
The Ravens are blessed to have Justin Tucker, one of the best kickers of all time, entering his 10th season with the team. However, the Ravens have another kicker on their current roster, undrafted rookie Jake Verity, who has been impressive throughout training camp and the preseason.
Verity is 3-for-3 on field-goal attempts during the preseason, including a 53-yarder against the New Orleans Saints and a 44-yarder in Carolina. Meanwhile, Panthers kicker Joey Slye missed a 37-yard field-goal attempt in the same game.
With several teams in the market for a placekicker, Tucker believes Verity will find an NFL home before Week 1.
"I'll be shocked if he's not on somebody's 53-man roster to start the season," Tucker said. "Jake has come in with a great attitude, great work ethic. You don't just find your way on an NFL roster, regardless of whether it's 90 or 53 men, without being a good football player, without being talented. Jake certainly has that. He came in with good technique already and he's just getting better and better. He's got great power. I'm excited to see what the future has in store for him. I know we all are."
In 2019, the Ravens had another promising placekicker in camp, Kaare Vedvik, who they traded to the Minnesota Vikings for a fifth-round pick in 2020 that they used to draft defensive tackle Broderick Washington. Tucker can envision Baltimore getting value for Verity as well. The Ravens have a proven reputation for developing kickers.
"I would also be surprised if we don't get a pick for him," Tucker said. "There's a track record that we have. We're able to develop not just our specialists, but we develop everybody here. He seemingly has put himself in a position, not just to be a Week 1 starter somewhere, but hopefully help our team out as well by getting something for him."
Justin Houston Assumes Leadership Role
There was a familiar scene after Monday's practice, when newly-acquired pass rusher Justin Houston took extra time to work with rookie pass rushers Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes.
That type of leadership is one reason why Marcus Peters urged Houston to sign with the Ravens. Peters and Houston were teammates with the Kansas City Chiefs, and Peters knew Houston would bring more than just his talent to Baltimore. He has also brought his knowledge as a proven NFL pass rusher with 97.5 career sacks, and he's willing to share it. Tyus Bowser has also pumped Houston for information.
"He's been great from Day 1, just being a guy that you can go to, to ask any kind of questions, to work on any kind of moves," Bowser said. "Even after practice, just giving us small little things. You see him out there, walking back to the facility with the young guys. He's out here doing it for us. That just shows you the leader that he is. Just having a guy like that around, it's been fantastic."