Webb's return gives secondary a boost

Cornerback could be ready to face Jets in season opener

August 23, 2010|By Jamison Hensley, The Baltimore Sun

Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb was activated off the physically-unable-to-perform list Monday, providing another boost to the team's scrutinized secondary.

Coach John Harbaugh wouldn't provide a timetable on Webb, but a league source said the team is hoping he'll be ready for the Sept. 13 regular-season opener at the New York Jets. The return of Webb is significant because many team officials believe he's the top cornerback on the Ravens.

Fabian Washington, who plays the same position and tore his anterior cruciate ligament a month before Webb did, said Webb doesn't have much further to go in his recovery.

"When you're back there practicing and I've seen him go through the drills, he's close [to coming back]," Washington said. "When he's healthy, he's a pretty good corner. I can't wait for him to get back out there."

Webb suited up Monday for his first practice since tearing the ACL in his right knee eight months ago, a Dec. 20 game against the Chicago Bears. Wearing a "leg sleeve," Webb was limited to non-contact, individual drills.

In the first half-hour of practice (which is the media viewing portion), he looked sharp when he made his cuts and backpedaled.

"I just want to be a part of the team this year," said Webb, who made 36 tackles on defense, broke up six passes and recorded one sack as a rookie. "So, I'm doing everything to get back with these guys."

Harbaugh said Webb would follow the same path as Washington, who also returned eight months after tearing his ACL.

Washington was held out of contact drills for nearly a week after participating in his first practice. His first game was about three weeks after being cleared to work out with the team.

Harbaugh said he didn't know if Webb would play in the Ravens' final two games of the preseason.

"You would love to, just because if he was out there doing it, you know he was ready," Harbaugh said. "But we're not going to push it. We're not going to do anything earlier than, as much you can be, sure there won't be a setback."

Harbaugh also declined to gauge the chances of Webb being available for the opener, which is 19 days away.

"I wish I could but I'm not a doctor, and the doctors don't even tell us that," he said. "It's impossible to put a number on."

Webb's work ethic has helped him return quickly. During the offseason, he only missed two days of workouts so he could attend his grandfather's funeral.

His progress accelerated over the last week of training camp, when the team increased his workouts to twice a day. There was talk that he would be activated off the PUP as early as the last full day of camp.

But Webb, who has never had a torn ligament in his knee, has been cautious with his recovery.

"This is my body," Webb said. "So I think it's going to have to wait to see how my body reacts."

The Ravens' cornerbacks have dealt with several injuries over the past year. After Webb and Washington tore their ACLs, Domonique Foxworth was lost for the season with the same injury just before the official start of training camp.

Now, there is a chance that Webb, Washington and Chris Carr will be the Ravens' top three cornerbacks when the season begins. Depending on Webb's status, he could start or be limited to nickel back.

Even with Webb returning to practice, it doesn't preclude a trade for a cornerback. The Ravens don't appear set with Cary Williams (who is suspended for the first two games) or Travis Fisher as the fourth cornerback.

But the Ravens cornerbacks don't feel the need for reinforcements.

"With our group of guys that we have, I think they'll do a great job," Webb said. "With me, I think it'll be a little bit extra."

Webb is thinking about his extra duties with the Ravens, too; he wants to resume his role on special teams. Webb was a gunner on the punt team as well as the kickoff returner. It's interesting to note that Webb's injury occurred when he was running down the field to cover a punt.

"I haven't been rehabbing to get back to play one thing," Webb said. "I've been rehabbing to get back to my full self. And my full self does everything. I want to do everything I can possibly do when I get back to 100 percent."

With Webb back on the field, the only defensive back on PUP is Ed Reed.

Harbaugh spoke to the Pro Bowl safety at the second preseason game in Washington. Reed, who had offseason surgery on his hip, has been seeing a rehab doctor in Atlanta.

"He said he feels good about his progress," Harbaugh said. "We don't have details. It's hard to say how it's going to continue to improve. Based on the conversation I had with him, he's happy with his progress."

Jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Twitter.com/jamisonhensley

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