Opener All About Young Players
Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh didn't make any declarations about playing time for the starters in the preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers Thursday at M&T Bank Stadium.
But he did hint that quarterback Joe Flacco and other veteran starters will be used sparingly, if at all, in the opener.
"I think everybody can figure out what's going to happen," Harbaugh said. "It's going to be the young guys."
The Ravens have historically played Flacco and the first-team offense for a couple of series in the first preseason game under Harbaugh. But that might change this year as Flacco is not even nine months removed from tearing his ACL and MCL.
Flacco has been a full participant in every training camp practice – Quarterbacks Coach Marty Morhinweg said Flacco hasn't missed a single rep – but the Ravens may decide to give him another week before getting into game action. The decision to play Flacco could also hinge on how much they want to player veteran offensive linemen like Marshal Yanda and Jeremy Zuttah.
Flacco said early in the preseason that he wasn't too concerned about playing much in the preseason, and "the goal is to make sure I'm as healthy as possible [for] regular-season Game 1."
While Flacco and some of the other veterans will spend most of the night on the sidelines, the rookies will have a chance to prove themselves. Rookie linebacker Kamalei Correa and offensive lineman Alex Lewis are both competing for starting jobs, and other young players like wide receiver Keenan Reynolds and running back Kenneth Dixon want to show they're ready for the NFL.
"It's going to be the guys that need to play in this game that we want to find out about," Harbaugh said. "It's just going to be one of those kinds of camp games that we learn about our young guys."
Stanley Will Be 'Game-Time Decision'
The player whose status is perhaps the biggest question mark going into the game is rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley.
The No. 6 overall pick suffered a "soft-tissue injury" Saturday, but he returned to action for Tuesday's light practice session. Stanley told reporters that he was eager to play in his first game, but deferred to Harbaugh on whether that will happen Thursday night.
The Ravens want to get their new left tackle on the field, but also aren't going to force the issue.
"We'll see if he can play Thursday night with how it feels out there and everything," Harbaugh said. "It probably is a game-time decision, to be honest with you."
Ravens Won't Risk Injured Players
The Ravens have a handful of players dealing with injuries, and Harbaugh did say "anybody that has a health issue or anything like that is not even going to be thinking about playing."
That probably eliminates tight ends Crockett Gillmore (hamstring), Dennis Pitta (finger) and Maxx Williams (undisclosed), and wide receivers Michael Campanaro (strain), Chris Moore (reported foot) and Chris Matthews (undisclosed).
The players on the physically unable to perform list – Terrell Suggs (Achilles), Steve Smith Sr. (Achilles), Elvis Dumervil (foot), Breshad Perriman (knee) and Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot) – are also not going to play. They are all still on track to return for the regular season.