After a month-long intermission, the search for Jonathan Ogden's replacement continued for the Ravens.
Left tackle Jared Gaither, who is slated to take over for the retired future Hall of Famer, took his first practice snaps Monday after spraining his ankle July 26 in training camp.
Head coach John Harbaugh is hopeful that Gaither will be protecting his quarterback's blind side in the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals - whoever that signal-caller is.
"It will be interesting to see how he does and how he feels after practice," Harbaugh said.
The 6-foot-9 offensive lineman weighed in at a svelte 337 pounds Monday morning and was noticeably eager to get back to work. But when Gaither did actually take the field, he did not immediately step in with the first offense during the 30-minute portion open to the media.
"I haven't put on any pounds, so I've been doing great with that," Gaither admitted. "I've been doing some cardio, too, so I'm looking forward to being out there and seeing where I am."
In Gaither's absence, the Ravens turned to free agent signee Chad Slaughter, who was out of football working construction last year.
While Slaughter, a five-year veteran that has started games for the Oakland Raiders, performed admirably in three preseason contests, the Ravens want to see what the 22-year-old brings to the line after an offseason dedicated to improvement.
"[I've been] making sure I stayed focused over the past couple of weeks, and I think I did a pretty good job of studying and being mentally ready and taking those mental reps in practice and games," said Gaither.
"It's been frustrating, but things happen," he continued. "When it happens, you react to them. I've been doing a good job, and I'm looking forward to going out and practicing with my team."
Even when Gaither was sidelined, the University of Maryland product says he was diligent in studying offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's system.
One of the first things he must do is establish chemistry with left guard Ben Grubbs, a first-round draft pick in 2007 that moves over from the right side this year.
"Even though I've been out, we've both been talking and making sure we're on the same page," Gaither said of his relationship with Grubbs. "If something goes on in practice, he'll come back to the sideline and I'll ask him about it."
According to Harbaugh, Gaither could be ready for Week 1 at M&T Bank Stadium.
"If there are no setbacks, then he should be ready for opening day," said the coach.
Since Ogden officially announced his retirement June 12, all eyes officially shifted to Gaither. When the Ravens selected him in the supplemental draft last year, it was to eventually supplant the 11-time Pro Bowler.
They just didn't know it would be so soon.
The Ravens now hope there aren't any more interruptions in Gaither's development.
The Ravens must cut their roster down from 80 to 75 by Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET, and even though it is only five players, it is always a tough decision from the standpoint of taking away someone's job.
"It's going to be hard because we have a bunch of guys that really worked hard and can play in the NFL," said Harbaugh.
Still, Harbaugh is quick to bracket his statement with the reason cut day is made easier.
"It's not going to be hard in the sense that we are going to pick the guys that give us the best chance at being successful, our strongest 53-man roster," he added, noting that the Ravens' roster will continue to shift as the season progresses. "We are going to keep working to get better throughout the season and on into the draft, free agency and everything else. It's an ongoing process."
After missing basically all of the offseason following surgery on his toe in January, tight end Daniel Wilcox finally played in last weekend's game against the St. Louis Rams.
Wilcox may not have made any catches, but Harbaugh thinks his presence on the field was invaluable.
"Dan Wilcox was a bright light," the coach said. "To see him go out there and push people was great. The thing about that injury, from what I understand, is what he is working with is very painful. Some things you just have to push through. He did a great job of fighting through that and played pretty well."
Cornerback Chris McAlister was on the practice field, walking out with a large brace on his knee…Wideout Demetrius Williams seemed to be nearing full health, as he was running routes for the first time since injuring his Achilles in minicamps…Not practicing were defensive tackles Kelly Gregg (knee), Kelly Talavou (shoulder) and Dwan Edwards (undisclosed), wideout Marcus Smith (shoulder), quarterback Troy Smith (illness), cornerbacks Derrick Martin (shoulder) and Fabian Washington (leg), safety Ed Reed (shoulder), linebacker Tavares Gooden (concussion), and running back Willis McGahee (knee).