In just two games, Ed Reed already leads the Ravens in interceptions, collecting his third of the season in the team's 26-10 win against the Miami Dolphins Sunday.
In fact, the six-time Pro Bowl free safety has almost as many interceptions as the rest of his teammates, who have four between cornerbacks Chris Carr and Lardarius Webb, inside linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ken Hamlin.
After Sunday's contest, NFL Network analyst and former Ravens cornerback Deion Sanders called Reed "the best safety in the game."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he remains impressed by Reed, who missed all the preseason and the first six games after undergoing hip surgery in the offseason.
"Obviously, he's a great football player," Harbaugh said. "He's worked really hard on getting himself prepared for the time when he was going to come back, and you guys saw how hard he was working. I think it's a tribute to him, the kind of person he is, how important it is to him, and the caliber of player he is. I've said it many times: I think he's going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and that's the way he's playing."
On Sunday, Reed captured a high pass from Miami quarterback Chad Henne that deflected off wide receiver Brandon Marshall's fingers in the fourth quarter. He returned the interception 18 yards to the Dolphins' 18-yard line, and Billy Cundiff nailed a 24-yard field goal.
"I was in the right spot at the right time," Reed said. "I caught it, and I just took it down."
During the return, Reed almost pulled off what has become a patented move for him, appearing ready to lateral the football to Ray Lewis as the Miami players began to close around him. But Reed reconsidered and held onto it.
"If I was ever pitching it, I have to be smart in that situation," he said. "We had great field position, and the offense was doing a great job moving the ball, so I just have to be smart with it."
Cornerback Fabian Washington was not present during the portion of practice open to the media, but walked out of the team's indoor facility with the rest of his teammates, suggesting that he did practice Monday.
Washington was benched in back-to-back games in favor of Josh Wilson, but he was not reported to have an injury Sunday.
Free safety Tom Zbikowski, who has missed the past two games because of a bruised right heel, was also absent.
Harbaugh said the team appears relatively healthy for the short week.
"There's nothing serious," he said. "There's the usual bumps and bruises, but guys are working hard."
The Ravens' first of two practices for Thursday's game took on a lighter tone: The practice were held inside the indoor facility in Owings Mills, and the players just wore jerseys and sweatpants, not full pads.
Pitta, Lawrence return
Rookie tight end Dennis Pitta returned to practice after being scratched against the Dolphins, and he thought the week off would help him in the long run.
"I think it's important to be cautious with certain injuries, especially head injuries," he said. "So I think it was smart, and we'll be ready to go in the next game."
Running back Matt Lawrence took part in his first practice since being placed on injured reserve Nov. 24 with a knee injury.
"It was good to be out there," said Lawrence, who missed the preseason and the first six weeks of the regular season while languishing on the team's physically-unable-to-perform list. "It was a pretty good pace, a pretty good workout. … I was full-go. The coaches just told me, 'Go play ball. Do what you've been doing all these years.'"
Right tackle Marshal Yanda knew he was in for a tough meeting with the Dolphins' Cameron Wake, and the outside linebacker did not disappoint.
Wake accounted for two sacks, two quarterback hurries and eight tackles Sunday, and he made an impression with Yanda, the Ravens' starting right tackle.
"He's everything you've seen on film," Yanda said. "He's a relentless pass rusher, a great player, and he got me a few times. That's the way it goes. I'm [upset] about it, I'm mad. I watched him all week, and I knew I'd have to have a good game against him. I just wish I could've shut him out. But … he's a good player."