One of the Ravens' top receivers was back on the practice field Monday. Marquise "Hollywood" Brown (hamstring) was a participant in practice for the first time since July 28, giving him two weeks to ramp up for the season opener Sept. 13 against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Brown has been running on adjacent fields and observing practices for several weeks. Joining, his teammates on the field was another positive step in his recovery.
"We'll see how he does and how he looks. He's excited," Head Coach John Harbaugh said.
Brown is the Ravens' primary deep threat and led them in targets (100), receiving yards (769) and touchdown catches (eight) last year while tying Mark Andrews for the team lead in receptions (58). On the first practice of training camp, Brown had a field day with multiple long touchdowns, showing how he could break out even more this season with upgraded weapons around him.
The Ravens were hit hard by the injury bug at wide receiver during training camp with Brown, Rashod Bateman, Miles Boykin and Sammy Watkins all missing significant time. However, Lamar Jackson and Brown are close friends and offseason workout partners, which should help Brown regain his offensive rhythm quickly.
Jackson said last week that he wasn't concerned about falling behind in the process of building chemistry with his targets.
"I worked with those guys before they went down," Jackson said. "So, I think when they come back, we'll be hitting right where we started off at. When they get back, we're going to go from there. We're not worried about it, because we know they've been working hard, and we've been working hard as well."
Also returning to practice Monday was backup quarterback Trace McSorley, who had been out since the second preseason game after suffering a back injury.
Harbaugh Doesn't Anticipate Nick Boyle Being Ready for Week 1
Tight end Nick Boyle remains out of practice following season-ending knee surgery, which also required cleanup surgery this summer. Harbaugh does not expect Boyle to be ready for Week 1, although he is making progress.
"Nick is getting close but he's not ready to play yet," Harbaugh said. "I don't anticipate him being ready for the first game. I do anticipate him being ready early in the season."
The Ravens have many decisions to make on their 53-man roster by Tuesday's 4 p.m. deadline, and they have several options with Boyle. They could activate Boyle from PUP and place him on the 53-man roster, making him eligible to play early in the season. If he is placed on the 53-man roster Tuesday but joins the injured list on Wednesday or later, he would be required to miss at least three games. If Boyle is placed on Reserve/PUP without being part of Tuesday's 53-man roster, he would be required to miss at least the first six games.
Tight ends Josh Oliver and Eric Tomlinson are both in the mix for a 53-man roster spot behind Mark Andrews and Boyle.
Jimmy Smith's Ankle Leaves Week 1 Status in Doubt
Veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith has been out of action since injuring his ankle on Aug. 6, and he will not practice this week. Harbaugh hopes Smith may return to practice next week, but his status for Week 1 remains in doubt.
"It turned out to be a little more serious than we initially thought," Harbaugh said. "So, he's not practicing this week. [I'm] very hopeful that he'll practice next week. He'll be back if not next week, [then] very early in the season. It just didn't come around as quickly as I think they thought it was going to in terms of his ankle. But it's an ankle sprain, just a little slower recovery than they anticipated."
Preseason Games Create Dilemma Regarding Playing Time
Every preseason, NFL coaches are faced with the dilemma of how much to play their starters, if at all. There are many factors to consider. Most players want at least a taste of preseason action to establish a rhythm and comfort level heading into the regular season. However, the risk of injury is always there.
In the aftermath of J.K. Dobbins' season-ending injury Saturday night, Harbaugh was asked what he would say to people asking why Dobbins saw any action. He was injured on the Ravens' first offensive series.
"It's a fair conversation," Harbaugh said. "We played Lamar. We played Mark [Andrews]. We played the starting offensive line. We played the whole offense for nine plays, I think it was. Those guys played for no more than 23 plays the whole preseason – that's what J.K. had.
"Some teams play their guys a lot. I watched certain teams, you know who they are, they've played their starters every single game extensively. A lot of teams in our division have done that. Great teams in the AFC [and] teams that we're competing against in the AFC have pretty much all done that. But there are other teams that don't play their guys at all; they don't play their starters even one snap. We are probably as close to that as we've ever [been] – I know we're farther down that road than we've ever been; we played our guys so little this offseason. It's just been how we've done it. Any time a guy gets hurt, you ask yourself those questions."
James Urban Says Tyler Huntley Learns Quickly
Backup quarterback Tyler Huntley is a fast runner, but he's also a fast learner. Quarterbacks Coach James Urban has been thrilled to watch Huntley's progress in his second season, exemplified by his five-touchdown performance in Saturday night's preseason win.
Huntley is blessed with physical gifts, but Urban has been impressed with how quickly Huntley absorbs coaching advice and takes it to the field.
"He is a fast learner," Urban said. "It's very important to him and he works very hard at it. That's why you've seen such great growth in my opinion. It happens one time, then that's in the can and we're onto the next thing."