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As Baltimore prepares to face its first AFC North rival, the Cleveland Browns, three starters were missing from the portion of Wednesday’s practice open to the media.
Left tackle Jared Gaither, linebacker Jarret Johnson and cornerback Fabian Washington were the only three players that were not on the field during the 40-minute period when reporters can watch the session.
Gaither and Johnson’s injuries were undisclosed by the team, but Washington seems to still be affected by the concussion he suffered last Sunday against the San Diego Chargers.
While Gaither and Johnson were not on the field, Washington watched practice from the sideline as his fellow defensive backs went through position drills.
Several other Ravens have sustained concussions over the first two games of the season. Safeties Ed Reed and Tom Zbikowski were listed on last week’s injury report with concussions, as was linebacker/defensive end Terrell Suggs.
Head coach John Harbaugh said that the decision whether a player suits up or not is determined by the team’s medical staff, not the coaches.
“We aren’t really cautious with it or not, as a coach. That’s just up to the doctors,” Harbaugh stated Wednesday. “They do the tests and all that stuff – no matter what the injury is – but especially with the head because that’s black and white with the test and they just tell us if he can play or not.”
Zbikowski, who practiced Wednesday, did not play against the Chargers, but Reed and Suggs did.
As for this week, Zbikowski said that he was medically cleared to play if he is needed.
Meanwhile, tight end L.J. Smith continued to practice even though he has been dealing with a hamstring injury. Harbaugh said that the Ravens would continue to monitor that injury throughout the week, even though Smith is anxious to see his first live action of the 2009 season.
“I communicated to them that I’m ready,” Smith said. “I’ll get these practices out of the way, and we should be good. I was pretty close.”
The Ravens did add depth at the tight end position with the signing of free agent Tony Curtis this week. Curtis will compete for playing time with Smith and Edgar Jones behind starter Todd Heap.
“We want L. J., we want them all, healthy,” Harbaugh noted. “We’ll probably have three tight ends up most of the time; but you never know, we could go for four now. We’ve been with two the last couple of weeks. So, we don’t like that.
“We want to make sure we’ve got enough personnel in certain positions to make sure that we can get through the long haul and try to create a little competition between the two.”
Smith is not dwelling on the message that Curtis’ signing could have regarded his tenure in Baltimore. He simply wants to get back on the field and show that he is the receiving threat he once was for the Philadelphia Eagles and not injury-prone.
“To me, I don’t stress about stuff like that,” Smith said. “I have to go out there and just play. It is what it is. I know that I’ve been hurt. But, I’m happy right now, and I’ll be happy to play.”
As for Curtis, who will wear No. 80, the former Dallas Cowboy is simply trying to keep his head above water as he delves into the Ravens’ offensive playbook for the first time.
“I’m just happy for the opportunity,” Curtis said. “Right now, I just have to learn the system and go from there. I’m not sure what role they’ll need me for on this team, but whatever they need, I’ll try to fill that.”