Both Haloti Ngata and his coach expressed optimism about the rookie defensive tackle's availability for the preseason opener against the visiting New York Giants on Friday night.
Ngata, the 12th overall selection in April's draft, sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee during a scrimmage with the Washington Redskins on Saturday. But Ngata, who did not practice during a closed session at McDaniel College yesterday, said his knee was improved.
"It's loosening up a little bit, and the swelling's down," he said. "Other than that, my body's feeling good."
Ngata's health is a significant matter for the Ravens, who sent the 13th overall pick and a sixth-round choice to the Cleveland Browns for the chance to draft the 6-foot-4, 340-pound player as a run-stopper who can prevent offensive linemen from blocking linebacker Ray Lewis.
For now, Ngata has been replaced by Justin Bannan, who was lured away from the Buffalo Bills. Bannan had filled a similar role until Ngata signed his rookie contract with the Ravens on July 29.
"On the D-line, you've got to have a rotation," Bannan said. "You've got to have more than two or three guys on the inside that can go at all times. So on defense, you're always rolling guys in and out."
Ngata said he is anxious to return to practice and prepare for the Giants, but he also noted that he doesn't want to exacerbate the injury.
"We're just playing it day-by-day, just how it feels," he said. "I don't want to come out here when I'm not feeling comfortable."
Although coach Brian Billick said the trainers would have a say on whether Ngata would play on Friday, Billick said he did not anticipate Ngata being absent.
"I don't think it's serious," Billick said. "It's that Grade I, which means he just has to work through that soreness."
Ogden still out
Jonathan Ogden was absent for the eighth consecutive day, but Billick did not seem concerned about the nine-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle nor did he mention a timetable for Ogden's return.
"He's still got some family business to take care of," Billick said of Ogden, who buried his father Shirrel on Friday. "We'll just adjust as he's ready."
Running back Musa Smith (virus), safety B.J. Ward (migraine), wide receiver Clarence Moore (sports hernia) and cornerback David Pittman (strained hamstring) missed practice yesterday.
Trying to catch on
Second-year wide receiver Romby Bryant aided his own cause by catching a 24-yard touchdown pass from Drew Olson during Saturday's scrimmage with Washington.
Bryant, a 6-1, 181-pound Tulsa product who was signed to the Ravens practice squad in December, is competing with Moore and Travis LaTendresse for a spot on the team behind Derrick Mason, Mark Clayton, Devard Darling and Demetrius Williams.
"It helped me out, but I don't know," Bryant said of his touchdown reception. "It's not up to me, and they don't tell us anything. ... Every day's a new day, and you've got to keep on competing."
LaCasse looks for chance
As the seventh-round draft selection, linebacker/defensive end Ryan LaCasse can take comfort in knowing that the Ravens coveted him enough to spend a draft pick on the 6-2, 257-pound Syracuse product. But as the team's choice in the final round, LaCasse also knows that his position on the team is tenuous.
Still, LaCasse has strength, athleticism and intellect. The Ravens identified LaCasse as a "30-30-30" prospect - a player who bench-pressed 225 pounds 30 times, displayed a 30-inch vertical leap, and scored 30 on the Wonderlic test, a test designed to determine ability to think under pressure.
"He's going to know what to do, he's going to be physical enough, and the other thing is he can run," defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said of LaCasse. "It is rare to get somebody like that, but we saw him on film, loved the way he played and the energy he played with, and [general manager] Ozzie [Newsome] and Brian thought that he played like a Raven. That's why we pulled the trigger on him."