It appears that Oniel Cousins is in line to start at right tackle when the Ravens open their preseason schedule against the Carolina Panthers at M&T Bank Stadium on Thursday night.
"I don't know," Cousins said with a shrug Monday when asked whether he expects to start. "It's up to the coaches and whatever they want to do. But I'll be ready to go."
The 6-foot-4, 315-pound offensive tackle's progress at this stage in training camp is eye-opening in that Cousins was just activated from the team's physically-unable-to-perform list Thursday. Cousins had undergone surgery to remove a cyst from his esophagus that forced him to miss many offseason workouts and the first eight days of camp.
But Ravens are short-handed at the tackle position. Jared Gaither has been shelved by back spasms, Tony Moll has sat out the past nine days because of a concussion, Stefan Rodgers (leg) returned Monday morning on a limited basis, and rookie Ramon Harewood sat out Monday's practice with both knees heavily wrapped.
So Cousins has been running with the first offense.
"It means a lot," he said. "Every day, I'm going to prepare myself as if I'm starting for the Baltimore Ravens because you never know what can happen. But I'm getting ready to play. I'm going to let everything take care of itself and just try to do my job to the best of my ability."
At times, Cousins has looked either slow or stiff, which linebacker/defensive end Terrell Suggs took advantage of during a full-team exercise Monday. Coach John Harbaugh conceded that those are the times when it is apparent that Cousins is still rounding into form.
"But at times, it doesn't look like he's missed any time at all," Harbaugh said. "To me, he's further along than I thought he would be. But he's got a ways to go. There's a lot of camp left. He shouldn't have a problem."
Cousins certainly hasn't lost his competitive nature, as he and defensive tackle Kelly Talavou got a little testy with each other Monday morning. And Cousins vowed to work on his footwork and flexibility.
"That's why we have training camp," he said. "It's a time to get better and improve on your skills. I just try to do my best every day. I'm just trying to take it one step at a time and just keep growing up."
Harbaugh said Gaither, who has not practiced since Thursday, is still in "limbo."
"I think we know what it is, and it's just a matter of working out those spasms and getting him out here," Harbaugh said. "From what I've been told, it's not serious. There is one more thing they're going to do to make sure it's not serious."
Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata became the latest starter to walk off the field with an injury. But it was a brief scare as Ngata had only back spasms.
"I think he caught a helmet or something in his back," Harbaugh said. "He should be fine."
Cornerback Chris Carr, who injured his left hamstring during Saturday's practice at M&T Bank Stadium, missed his second straight day of practice, but he said he is feeling better and hopes to be available Thursday night.
"Yeah, it feels like it is," Carr said when asked if the hamstring was improving. "Not as fast as I would like. I don't like seeing all my teammates out there when everybody is down. ÃÂ It's tough not being out there. You want to work on your skills and your technique, but I'll be back out there soon enough. I don't want to rush it though. I want to be ready for the season."
Besides Carr, rookie cornerback Prince Miller (daughter's birth) and safety Marcus Paschal (right leg) did not participate Monday morning.
David Hale returned to practice for the first time since suffering a back injury Thursday. "It was just day-to-day, to see how the back would react," the center-guard said Monday. "But I wanted to be out here the next day. ÃÂ Just tried to come out here as quick as possible and perform back up to the level that I need to be performing at."
Wide receiver Derrick Mason (bruised left knee), linebacker Tavares Gooden (unspecified) and cornerback K.J. Gerard (hamstring) returned to practice.
Harbaugh said the starters won't go beyond one quarter Thursday night. "It will be standard to what you see in the preseason," he said. ÃÂ The kickers are expected to get an equal amount of time to win the job this preseason. Shayne Graham and Billy Cundiff likely will get one half each, Harbaugh said. Harbaugh didn't say who would get the first half in Thursday's preseason opener, but Graham has been going on the field when the Ravens call for the first-team field-goal unit. ÃÂ There are 150 single seats left for Thursday's game.
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