Who Will Be Ravens' Returner?


For the past three years, the Ravens knew exactly who their returner was going to be.

Jacoby Jones was one of the most electrifying returners in the game, but Baltimore parted ways with the former Pro Bowler for financial reasons.

Now one of the best position battles at Ravens camp this offseason will be at returner.

Pundits expected a clearer picture to form in the draft, as it seemed one area where the Ravens could invest a pick. That didn't happen.

So where do the Ravens stand at returner as they head toward organized team activities?

Head Coach John Harbaugh was asked for who he thinks will be the returner this year during a conference call with PSL owners and General Manager Ozzie Newsome.

"I'm looking at Ozzie and Ozzie's looking at me," Harbaugh said with a laugh. "That's a great question. We're not there yet. We don't have that answer yet, but we're going to get it."

The top candidate appears to be wide receiver Michael Campanaro, who Harbaugh said in March is "definitely in the mix" and brought up first on Tuesday.

Campanaro returned two punts for 17 yards as a rookie, and would have likely had more opportunities had he not hurt his hamstring returning a punt in Week 8, which sidelined him for six weeks. In last year's preseason, Campanaro averaged 30.4 yards on kickoff returns and 6.4 yards on punts.

Another option is cornerback Asa Jackson, who hasn't returned a punt or kick in a regular-season game, but has shown flashes in the preseason. He ran back a punt for a 78-yard touchdown in 2013 and had an 85-yard touchdown return called back in 2012.

While the Ravens didn't draft a rookie returner, they did bring in some rookie free agents that they will audition for the job. Special Teams Coach Jerry Rosburg had about seven rookies catching punts at rookie camp last weekend, and Harbaugh said there's potential for them.

"They all look good," Harbaugh said. "A few of them looked good enough to catch it at this level, so that's a foot in the door for some of these young guys."

One player that could get a particularly long look is Sacramento State wide receiver DeAndre Carter. The quick-footed 5-foot-8, 185 pounder had 18 career kickoff returns for 426 yards (23.7 yard average) and 10 punt returns for 125 yards (12.5 yard average). He had one return for a touchdown.

"He has done a really nice job as a receiver, and he has looked good as a punt returner," Harbaugh said. "He has had some experience doing that in college – and I think in a bowl game – so that's a plus."

An outside-the-box option that Harbaugh mentioned is cornerback Lardarius Webb. Webb returned kicks during his rookie year, but has only two since 2009. He was a main punt returner last in 2011, and averaged 9.8 yards per return.

Webb has excellent hands, and has been used mainly for fair catches the past three years.

"I don't know if we'll let him do it or not, but he's a talented guy," Harbaugh said. "And there are other guys that can do it."

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