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Sunday Notes: Zbikowski With the Ones


With Ed Reed sidelined due to a shoulder injury, the Ravens have gotten a good look at two of his possible successors.

Sixth-round draft pick Haruki Nakamura has already shown that he has the ability to contribute on an NFL level at safety during the first portion of training camp.

Recently, it's been Tom Zbikowski's turn.

Zbikowski, a third-rounder, has taken the reps with the starters alongside incumbent strong safety Dawan Landry for the past few days, marking a move up in the ranks after spending much of camp's early practices with the second team.

"I just want to show the coaches that I can make plays when I'm out there," Zbikowski said. "Playing with Dawan and Jim [Leonhard], those guys have been out there and have experience, so I can learn from them about the game when I'm in the secondary with them."

The fact that Zbikowski is seeing time with the first-string doesn't mean he is atop Nakamura on the depth chart at this point, however.

Following Sunday's practice, head coach John Harbaugh noted that the Ravens are still fact-finding about their rookie safeties.

"We're rotating all of those guys right now," he said. "None of those guys is ahead of one of the other guys, and with Ed [Reed] out any one of those guys could go in with the first defense. They've all done a nice job with the first defense."

Through mnicamps and the first part of training camp, Nakamura rose to the head of the class, nabbing interceptions almost every day. Now, Nakamura is taking snaps with the second team, heading a defensive backfield with Leonhard, a free agent signee from the Buffalo Bills.

While the 5-foot-10, 205-pounder out of Cincinnati is still sticking close to the football, Zbikowski has opened some eyes as to his playmaking ability.

And Zbikowski's strong grasp of the playbook can not only be seen, but also heard.

The Notre Dame alumnus is showing more confidence on the back end by making more of the secondary calls.

"On defense, when you talk more, that means you're anticipating better," Harbaugh said. "What you're doing is you're anticipating the motion of the shift before it happens, and then you're communicating it as it happens.

"If there's quiet back there, that means that they're behind. So when you hear them talking, that means they're ahead of the process on defense, as far as recognizing the formation and the play and those kind of things."

Zbikowski claims that communicating hasn't always been something he is comfortable with. The hard-nosed former amateur boxer preferred to take a back seat to Landry and Leonhard until he mastered the playbook.

"That's the way I am with everything," Zbikowski admitted. "I don't really speak up until I'm sure about it. That could be a positive and it could be a negative because you want to be on the field talking all the time so I want to make sure that I'm getting the bulk of the defense and understanding it. I don't want to be calling out something that messes up a vet out there at corner or linebacker.

"Me being a rookie, I don't want to come in and start screwing up calls, so you want to make sure that you have it down before you start making calls. Whether that's a good thing or a negative, what I've learned is that you always have to be talking."

It is a voice the Ravens are enjoying more and more.

Here are some more notes and observations from Sunday's practice:

· Running back Cory Ross (undisclosed), wideout Mark Clayton (shoulder), fullback Justin Green (knee) were back on the field Sunday, after 24 hours of rest time, but the Ravens' injury list was still full.

Tight end Todd Heap (leg), running back Willis McGahee (knee), offensive tackles Adam Terry (ankle) and Jared Gaither (ankle), and defensive tackle Kelly Gregg (knee) were some other starters not participating.

Linebackers Edgar Jones (undisclosed) and Dan Cody (foot) also were out, along with offensive tackle Oniel Cousins (knee), defensive tackles Haloti Ngata (MCL) and Justin Bannan (undisclosed), and wideout Demetrius Williams.

Safety Ed Reed (shoulder) and tight ends Daniel Wilcox (foot) and Aaron Walker (knee) worked on catching footballs hurled out of a JUGS machine on a side field.

Wilcox looks to be close to returning to action, as he ran sprints on the sideline in Saturday's practice.

· Rookie offensive lineman David Hale continues to impress in run blocking, driving out each opponent during one-on-one drills with the defensive linemen. Hale is primarily playing right guard.

· David Pittman snatched an interception of Kyle Boller and ran it back for what would certainly been a touchdown. Pittman drew praise from Harbaugh for his dedication to the Ravens' offseason conditioning program.

"I can tell you one guy – David Pittman – who looks a lot bigger and stronger," said Harbaugh. "It will be interesting to see if it pays off in the way he plays."

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