Injuries could force Ravens to add 2 cornerbacks

Webb and Washington might not be ready for camp, Harbaugh says

March 25, 2010|By Jamison Hensley | jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

The Ravens are considering adding two more cornerbacks, coach John Harbaugh said.

The moves could become a necessity given the uncertainty surrounding Lardarius Webb and Fabian Washington, who are coming off season-ending knee injuries.

At this point, Harbaugh said Webb and Washington "are still a ways away."

"Here's how the gauge will be: When we get into June, I'm hoping they will be moving around on the field in drills a little bit," Harbaugh said. "If they're doing that, that would be a good sign for August. If they're not and they can't even open up training camp, then they can't. We'll put them on [the physically-unable-to-perform list] and get them healthy. So, we'll have to have a contingency plan at corner."

If the Ravens place them on PUP to start training camp (which is called Active PUP), they can't practice with the team until they are removed from the list. If they remain on PUP at the start of the regular season (which means they are put on Reserve PUP), they are ineligible to play for the first six weeks of the season.

Washington said he is aiming to return by the start of training camp. Webb looks more like a candidate for the list.

Harbaugh said the contingency plan could be signing two veteran free agents or the combination of signing a veteran and drafting a cornerback.

There are still a lot of options because only two of the top 15 unrestricted free-agent cornerbacks have been signed. Some of the free-agent cornerbacks who remain unsigned are: Lito Sheppard, Nick Harper, Philip Buchanan, Dre Bly, Nathan Vasher, Fred Smoot and Ken Lucas.

"You can't have enough corners," Harbaugh said.

Another option is re-signing Frank Walker, a physical backup cornerback who has drawn criticism from fans for his frequent pass-interference penalties. Walker reportedly is drawing interest from Houston, Jacksonville, Oakland and St. Louis.

Would the Ravens be interested in bringing back Walker?

"It's funny you ask the question and the whole fan base, everybody's going to be like, 'Don't do it.' But Frank's a better player than what people think," Harbaugh said. "I get as frustrated with Frank as anybody does, and Frank knows that. He'll tell you about it and he'll laugh about it. Frank has got as much talent as any corner in the league. He's tough, he's competitive, he's a physical guy. He loves to play the game. When he gets carried outside of his technique, he struggles just like any corner does. When he stays within himself and plays technique, he plays very well."

Harbaugh added, "Frank has got some other options right now, too. People have respect for him. We may not be able to get him signed back. Right now, I'm not so sure that he's not the best guy out there. You can give me a list of guys and we could think about it, but ... he knows how we play. He knows how we practice. He knows the expectations. We've had him for two years. We've been through some moments as we all know. And those moments, you kind of grow through those things. Hopefully, he understands now what's expected of him."

It doesn't appear that Samari Rolle is going to be an option at cornerback.

Rolle, a four-year starter for the Ravens, has not announced his retirement, but he hasn't played since the Ravens' AFC divisional playoff win over the Tennessee Titans in January 2009. He underwent surgery during the 2009 offseason to repair a bulging disk in his neck, and he had another procedure on the neck several months later.

"I would say I'm under the assumption that with Samari, his health is the No. 1 concern," Harbaugh said. "There's been no indication that I've heard from anybody that Samari is going to be physically ready to play. If that changes, great. We would have to be very convinced that he would have no risk."

Note: Ravens offensive tackle Jared Gaither will report to the team's voluntary offseason workout program Monday. His decision - which he announced on his Twitter account - comes one day after Harbaugh expressed disappointment over Gaither's absence. A restricted free agent, Gaither will earn $2.3 million this season, but he has yet to sign his tender. He is seeking a long-term deal.

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