Fabian Washington's surgically repaired left knee does not appear to be a hindrance, and the cornerback has the scars to prove it. Speaking after Tuesday morning's practice, Washington had a few gash marks in the shin area just below the knee as a result of covering wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
Washington, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in the knee Nov. 22, was activated off the team's physically-unable-to-perform list Thursday, but had practiced with a red noncontact mesh over his jersey until Sunday afternoon. Washington said he couldn't wait to take off football's version of the scarlet letter.
"That was my decision," he said. "It's distracting to me, and it's distracting to the other players. I'm out there with the red jersey on, but I'm still doing everything. It's just a situation where you've got to be smart. Guys know that they can't hit me, and I'm not going to hit the other guys. If I have to -- on a deep ball -- let him catch it, that's what's going to happen because I am still in no-contact [mode], but it's a situation where that red jersey is just ÃÂ it says, 'Stop,' but when you're out there playing football, you don't realize you have on that red jersey, you just play football. So I just took it off. I talked to [trainer] Bill T. [Tessendorf] and I talked to Coach [John] Harbaugh, and they just said, 'Be smart.'"
Washington said he is prepared to suit up for the preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers on Aug. 12, but he also acknowledged that the decision belongs to the coaches. Washington said he would welcome the opportunity to play against the Panthers.
"I think I need some of it," he said. "I don't know about four games, but you do need some of it just to get your timing down because there are more live situations."
Jared Gaither finally cleared the air on why he had missed 21/2 days of practice earlier in the week, and the offensive tackle chalked it up to nothing more than overworking a body that is getting accustomed to the rigors of training camp.
"I had a couple cramps," he said after Tuesday's morning session. "I dropped a couple pounds over the summer just preparing for a great season. I lost a little bit more than I was anticipating and cramped up a little bit my first time out there. I'm back now, and I'm fine."
As has been documented, the 6-foot-9 Gaither has shed 29 pounds from his previous playing weight of 340 pounds. Gaither underwent some blood tests Monday, but the results were negative.
Gaither also discussed his weight loss, which has emerged as an issue. The noticeably slimmer Gaither had said he dropped the weight to alleviate any undue stress on foot and toe injuries that had bothered him last season.
But Harbaugh sounded somewhat displeased about Gaither's transformation, and Gaither revealed that he had not informed the coaches about losing weight during the offseason.
"No, we had not previously talked about it," he said. "I wasn't planning on losing this much weight, but that's done now and we're looking forward to put it back on."
Gaither added, "To me, the weight, that's not a big problem. I'm focused on playing football and making sure that I'm 100 percent. Coach Harbaugh, anything he has to say, I'll abide by it and continue to work."
The newest Ravens
In cornerback Doug Dutch's first practice with the Ravens since being traded from the Washington Redskins for quarterback John Beck on Monday, there was a noticeable difference in the intensity of practice.
"Practice here is a lot more hard," he said. "It's a lot bigger and tougher grind."
Dutch, who spent part of last season on Washington's practice squad, is entering his second season in the NFL and has never played in a regular-season game. He is expected to challenge for a backup role in an injury-depleted secondary that is thin at cornerback.
There were several positives to the move for Dutch. He is reunited with his former head coach, Jim Zorn, doesn't have to make a big move to the Baltimore area and is familiar with the 3-4 defense, which he was learning with the Redskins this offseason.
"Learning the Redskins' new defense is very similar to the Ravens'," the former Michigan player said. "It's just a lot easier transition coming from that 3-4 into this new 3-4."
Second-year wide receiver Eron Riley only had one ball thrown to him during team drills Tuesday. But when the ball came his way, he made the most of the opportunity, going to the ground to grab a low pass in the red zone.
Taking advantage of his few opportunities is something Riley is concentrating on during training camp.
"Competition is stiff. But if I sat and worried about that all the time, I'd never be able to play to my potential," he said. "So I just go out there and try to have fun and make plays and do what I know how to do."
To crack a spot on the 53-man roster, Riley, who spent all last season on the Ravens' practice squad, says he'll need to make an impression on coaches in areas other than wide receiver.
"I feel like for me to make the team, I have to be on special teams," he said. "So, whether I'm covering kicks or blocking punts, wherever I can find a niche at on this team to fill out, I'll do it."