Bystanders could hear special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg counting loudly as the Ravens practiced kickoff returns this week.
Rosburg, standing within earshot of the returner, was looking to jump-start the mental clock of his charges in an attempt to make better decisions when bringing the ball out of the end zone.
Last week in a 31-3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, wideout Yamon Figurs took two booming Adam Vinatieri kickoffs from the end zone for poor returns.
One went to Baltimore's 19-yard line. The other came out to the 14.
Figurs may have had more success – or the Ravens could have simply taken a touchback – if he had listened to that tick-tock.
"That clock ticks while the ball is in the air, and you have to make an assessment whether, 'Is it a line drive or is it not a line drive?'" Rosburg said. "Some line drives are brought out [from] 3 or 4 yards deep in the end zone and are successful returns because the timing works with that hang time. The more distance that you have to cover, you need time to do that.
"Generally speaking, when the ball is a high, hang-time kick, and it gets 5 yards deep in the end zone, your mental clock goes off and you take a knee."
The Ravens currently rank 28th in the NFL, averaging 20.1 yards per kickoff return.
While Rosburg doesn't fault Figurs for his effort, he wants his returners to know that a touchback isn't all that bad sometimes.
"He was trying to make a play, and I appreciate his aggressiveness," Rosburg said. "But that one, we'd probably like to keep that one in, given the opportunity of a stopwatch and hindsight."
With Figurs (hamstring) ruled out of this weekend's matchup with the Miami Dolphins, the return duties could fall to safety Jim Leonhard, who averaged 23.0 yards on four attempts in Week 2, receiver Mark Clayton, or rookie running back Ray Rice.
Righting the Remark**
Several Dolphins players became upset with head coach John Harbaugh over his comments to Miami reporters about offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's one-year stint as Miami's head coach in 2007.
The Dolphins went 1-15.
"Even though the results weren't what people were hoping for, he did a great job there with what he had to work with," Harbaugh said.
On Friday, Harbaugh was asked about the uproar.
"I think our message all week from our players, from me, from all of our people has been very clear," the coach stated. "We've got great respect for their football team. It's a very talented football team, and we're really impressed with the direction of their program.
"It's obvious to see, from a leadership standpoint, where they're going as a football program. It's very clear-cut. We've got a lot of respect for it, and we're looking forward to playing them on Sunday."
In addition to Figurs, the Ravens will be without right tackle Adam Terry (knee), safety Dawan Landry (neck) and cornerback Samari Rolle (neck/shoulder).
Baltimore will likely start Leonhard in Landry's place, while four-time Pro Bowler Willie Anderson will fill in at tackle.
Meanwhile, the Ravens are expected to have cornerback Fabian Washington back after he battled through a shoulder injury suffered in Week 5. Washington, who was acquired in a draft-day trade with the Oakland Raiders, participated fully in Friday's practice.
"I'm going to go out Sunday, go through pre-game [warm-ups], and if I feel great, of course I'm playing," he said. "If it doesn't feel like it's worth the reward, I'm not going to play. But I had a great week of practice this week, and I think the shoulder's definitely improved from two weeks ago."
Said Harbaugh of Washington: "He looks good. I'll be surprised if Fabian doesn't go. He's had a good week; he looks strong."
Meanwhile, Terry's absence also indicates that he will not see time at right guard, a spot Marshal Yanda vacated this week due to torn knee ligaments.
Chris Chester will start in between center Jason Brown and Anderson.
Sunday's contest is the first of two NFL games featuring rookie head coaches, as Harbaugh and Miami's Tony Sparano helm their respective sidelines. Harbaugh will also face first-timer Jim Zorn of the Washington Redskins on Dec. 7…Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington has taken 10 sacks this year, but defensive coordinator Rex Ryan thinks he's still tough to get after. "He does a good job of getting rid of the football," Ryan said. "He knows where to go. He's a smart quarterback, reads defenses well."…In seven meetings against the Dolphins, running back Willis McGahee has averaged 91.8 yards per game.