Quarterback Lamar Jackson, tight end Mark Andrews, cornerback Marlon Humphrey, safety Marcus Williams and outside linebacker Justin Houston are among the Ravens starters who will not play in the team’s preseason opener Thursday night against the Tennessee Titans.
Coach John Harbaugh said he was not ready to announce his plans for subsequent preseason games but made it clear he will be guarding the health of his front-line players after the team was devastated by a spate of preseason injuries in 2021.
In a scary moment at Saturday’s practice, Andrews appeared to get his cleat caught in the turf, leading to an awkward fall. He was uninjured but did not take the field for another play the rest of the afternoon.
“I had seen enough,” Harbaugh said. “He was like, ‘I was practicing my slide.’ And I said, ‘It wasn’t one of your better ones.’ But he’s had so many reps this week; he’s had plenty of reps, so that was really my call.”
Harbaugh said he sometimes has to be the voice of reason with key players such as Andrews and Humphrey (out for a veteran rest day Saturday) who want to compete nonstop throughout training camp.
“Which we appreciate, but it’s my responsibility to make sure they don’t do too much,” Harbaugh said.
Meanwhile, wide receiver Devin Duvernay returned to practice after missing five days with a thigh bruise. Outside linebacker Steven Means left practice with an unspecified injury, further straining the depth in a position group that had already lost Vince Biegel to a torn Achilles tendon.
TE Nick Boyle embraces slow build
Tight end Nick Boyle also did not practice Saturday but that was by design as the veteran continues to build his way back from a knee injury that ended his 2020 season and kept him out most of last year.
Boyle has alternated practicing and taking the day off through the first week and a half of training camp and will soon escalate to participating in two of every three practices.
“We had a rotation. [Head trainer] Adrian Dixon put it together,” Harbaugh said. “It’s kind of just a building process, and he’s done well with it.”
Boyle said he’s happy with his physical condition but eager to play in preseason games so he can sharpen his football skills. When he first donned pads in practice, for example, he was frustrated that he could not hold blocks as he would have in 2018 or 2019, when he was regarded as perhaps the best blocking tight end in football.
“I think I’ve got to get better just getting back to football stuff again,” he said. “I need to play in the preseason games. I wouldn’t want to not play in those. I think those are kind of like reps you can’t get on the practice field.”
He praised Dixon’s slow-build approach to preparing him for the season. The former Titans director of physical therapy and sports rehabilitation was named the Ravens’ new head athletic trainer in February.
“I think it’s really great plan, to be honest,” Boyle said. “They’ve thought about it, the trainers and the staff. Prior to coming in for training camp, they had this all laid out. I just think it’s a smart way to go about it, with ramping it up, getting back to actual football stuff while feeling good.”
Boyle has acknowledged the psychological toll he felt when his knee did not come around as quickly as he hoped last season. Though he played in five games, he did not begin to regain his confidence until the offseason, when he chiseled his body during workouts in Arizona.
“Now, for me, it’s about transitioning as my knee feels better,” he said. “Let’s get this football stuff back down. Let me get my technique down. … I know that will come with time.”