‘No Problem’ With Lardarius Webb Returning Punts

John Harbaugh would prefer a backup have the job, but also says you can’t ‘play scared.’

Posted by Garrett Downing on Thursday, April 5th, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Categories: 2012 Offseason, Garrett Downing

It can be worrisome to see a franchise cornerback also line up as a punt returner.

If he goes down with an injury on a special-teams play, then it’s a significant blow to both the return unit and the defense, and cornerback is one of the most vital pieces of a defense.

But last year the Ravens used starting cornerback Lardarius Webb as their main punt returner, and while they’re looking for other options to take over the job, Head Coach John Harbaugh said he has no problem with Webb staying in that role.

“You can’t sit there and play scared, so I don’t have a problem with [Webb returning],” Harbaugh said Wednesday. “But I would rather have a backup doing it, yes.”

With Webb agreeing to a new six-year contract with the Ravens on Thursday, there may be some increased urgency to find another player for that role.

Webb was the Ravens’ main punt returner last year and ranked 16th in the league in average yards (10.0) per return. He also took one punt back for a touchdown.

As much as the Ravens like him returning punts, they are keeping their eyes out for an alternative. 

“If there is another option that is a better player or takes your starting corner and takes him off the punt return, that’s even better,” Harbaugh said.

Baltimore tried to bring in a punt returner with free agent receiver/return specialist Ted Ginn, but he opted to remain in San Francisco on a one-year deal.

“We tried to do something with a free agent or two, and it didn’t work out, but that’s OK,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll move on to the next opportunity.”

One place the Ravens will likely look is the draft.

Harbaugh didn’t provide specific names in terms of who they could target, but Ravens Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz said the draft has some quality options for them to consider.

“There are some good ones out there,” Hortiz said. “There are some guys that are impactful guys in college, and there are some guys that maybe haven’t done a lot of it but have potential.”

In addition to a punt returner, the Ravens may also be looking for a player to do kickoff returns. David Reed is heading into his third season and is a candidate to re-claim the job, but he’s also coming off ACL surgery.

To find the answer in the return game, Harbaugh said they’ll continue to consider Reed and other options currently on the roster, but will also try to find players to come in and compete for the spot.

“The answer, you’ve got to consider it always being on the roster, because that’s where you’re at any given point in time,” Harbaugh said. “But, we’re looking.”

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