What a sweet Monday it is. Fresh off a 26-14 win in Pittsburgh, the Ravens got even more good news when the returned to work in the morning.
Cornerback Jimmy Smith is back in the building, top draft pick Hayden Hurst is expected to make his debut this week in Cleveland and defensive tackle Willie Henry will return to practice.
After serving his four-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, Smith returned to the Under Armour Performance Center at 8 a.m. Monday, said Head Coach John Harbaugh, who had yet to speak with Smith face-to-face.
“He did not beat me in, for the record,” Harbaugh joked. “But he was here, and he’s been working out and those kinds of things. I expect for him to practice Wednesday.”
Harbaugh said the team will evaluate whether Smith is in good enough shape to practice this week and ultimately play in Cleveland, but that’s the expectation. He would still need to practice well and show that he’s ready to go.
Smith’s return will create a good problem at cornerback as starters Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Carr have played well, particularly Sunday night in Pittsburgh, with Tavon Young in the slot.
In terms of players returning from injuries, Hurst (foot stress fracture) is nearing his regular-season career debut. The first-round tight end was close to playing in Pittsburgh, but Harbaugh said the team’s trainers and doctors were not comfortable with just one week of limited practice under his belt.
“I would have been more comfortable than they were, but it was smart,” Harbaugh said with a chuckle. “We’ll just see how he does this week. Obviously, he has a good chance to play, but he has to get through full practices and be ready to go.”
Hurst’s return also sets up a logjam at tight end, as Nick Boyle, Maxx Williams and rookie Mark Andrews have all played well. Williams caught five passes for 51 yards in Pittsburgh and Boyle had three for 36. Before that, Andrews had the most receiving production.
Harbaugh said it will be a challenge to figure out who will be active on gameday and how reps will be distributed.
Lastly, Henry could also make his 2018 debut this week after sitting out the first four games following hernia surgery. Henry had a vigorous workout on the field before the game in Pittsburgh.
Henry played in 14 games last year and made three starts, logging 33 tackles and 3.5 sacks. He generated buzz this week as being on the cusp of a potential breakout season, and will help the Ravens’ interior pass rush when he returns.
“He’ll be at practice this week and we’ll see how he does,” Harbaugh said.