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News & Notes: Ravens Getting Healthier at the Right Time

Left: DE Yannick Ngakoue; Center: WR Willie Snead IV; Right: CB Jimmy Smith
Left: DE Yannick Ngakoue; Center: WR Willie Snead IV; Right: CB Jimmy Smith

The Ravens head into the playoffs hopeful that they will be healthier than they have been in a long time.

Head Coach John Harbaugh gave updates on several injured players after Sunday's game and more on Monday.

After the game in Cincinnati, Harbaugh said pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue (thigh) and cornerback Jimmy Smith (ribs/shoulder) could return to face the Tennessee Titans.

"I do think there's a good chance we get both of those guys back," Harbaugh said. "I can't say for certain, but I think there's a good chance for those guys to play."

On Monday, Harbaugh said he believes wide receiver Willie Snead IV (ankle), who also did not play Sunday in Cincinnati, has a chance to return to the lineup. Snead is third on the team in receptions (33) and receiving yards (432).

"Willie's a good option (to play)," Harbaugh said. "It's not a given. I got the report today. I'm really hopeful for Willie to be back."

Harbaugh expects to have punter Sam Koch (Reserve/COVID-19) available by Sunday's game. Recently-signed Johnny Townsend punted twice (50.0 yards per punt) on Sunday, and Koch's streak of 239 consecutive games came to an end.

"He (Koch) may not practice for a few days this week but he's really not going to need to be at practice to punt in the game," Harbaugh said. "If things go according to plan, I expect him to be out there punting. If not, we've got Johnny, and Johnny did a really good job. He did a really good job holding, he did a nice job punting."

There is also a chance that backup quarterback Robert Griffin III (hamstring) returns to practice this week. Griffin was placed on injured reserve after being hurt Dec. 2 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. With backup quarterback Trace McSorley (knee) also on the injured list, undrafted rookie Tyler Huntley has backed up Lamar Jackson the past two games and seen action both times.

"He's done a good job of the rehab, he's in a good place," Harbaugh said of Griffin. "Talked to him once or twice a week as he rehabs. He's doing well. We'll see how it goes. A lot of that stuff is roster decisions, too. That will be up to (General Manager) Eric (DeCosta) and the front office. We'll try to make the best decision for our roster going forward and we'll see how it plays out."

Scott Cohen Draws Front Office Interest From Texans

The Ravens have their first interview request of the offseason. Harbaugh confirmed that the Houston Texans have requested permission to interview Ravens Director of Football Research Scott Cohen to be Houston's next general manager.

Bill O'Brien was fired as Houston's head coach and general manager during the season. Cohen has been with the Ravens for six seasons, and he has also worked in the front office with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars.

The search for general managers and head coaches has become more intense now that the regular season has ended. Harbaugh said the Texans' request to interview Cohen was the only one Baltimore had received so far, but Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale, Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman, and Assistant Head Coach/Pass Coordinator David Culley are just some of the coaches on Baltimore's staff who may draw interest.

"I've known Don since the early 90's," Harbaugh said. "He's coached with my dad, we've always been friends, I've always admired him as a coach and person. He'd be a great leader of a team.

"Greg Roman has certainly established himself in a tremendous way over the years. He'd do a great job. David Culley would be an excellent candidate as a head coaching candidate. My gosh, Coach Culley is a leader, he's energetic, high motivator. He's been in winning programs consistently his whole career. There's a reason for that.

"(Special Teams Coordinator) Chris Horton at some point in time is going to start getting interest, and there are others on our staff. I don't want to shortchange anybody. But we'll see what happens. Those guys are definitely worthy candidates."

Ravens Will Emphasize Tackling This Week vs. Titans

Titans running back Derrick Henry is one of the toughest NFL ball carriers to bring down, but he's not their only physical runner.

When the Ravens lost to Tennessee, 30-24, in overtime in Week 11, Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown scored a key fourth-quarter touchdown when he caught a short pass and shook off four attempted tackles to reach the end zone. Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill, listed at 6-foot-4, 217 pounds, averaged 6.2 yards per carry this season and ran for seven touchdowns.

Harbaugh believes Baltimore's tackling has improved late in the season, but he wants it to be top-notch on Sunday.

"We work on tackling different kinds of ways," Harbaugh said. "It's not really tackling at the end of the season where you're actually out there doing live tackling drills. I don't think that would be wise.

"We have tackled well. Have we tackled as well as we want? No. We can still tackle better. They have numerous tackle-breaker ball carriers – tight ends, wide receivers and running backs, and the quarterback can make you miss and can break tackles. We just have our hands full that way. We're just going to have to be at our best doing it."

There Will Be Fans for Ravens-Titans Playoff Game

The Nashville Mayor's Office has been allowing about 21 percent capacity at Titans' home games during the coronavirus pandemic this season, meaning about 15,000 fans are expected at Sunday's playoff game.

Harbaugh likes the atmosphere that fans bring to the stadium, but he has reminded the Ravens to bring their own energy all season, regardless of the surroundings.

"We've been in stadiums with that kind of number," Harbaugh said. "It's not deafening loud, but it's more realistic. When you have fans there, it feels more like a game. When you don't have any fans, it's really different. Either way, you've got to bring your own energy. I don't care if it was 70,000 fans in the stands. You have to bring your own energy to compete in this league, especially in the playoffs against the energy that you're going to be faced with."

Terrell Bonds Re-Signed to Practice Squad

Cornerback Terrell Bonds was re-signed to the practice squad Monday. Bonds began the season on the practice squad, but he suffered a knee injury in November and was released last week after being activated from injured reserve. Bonds has appeared in four games this season with six tackles, playing 84 defensive snaps and 31 snaps on special teams.

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