Almost 24 hours after Bernard Pollard pointed himself toward Baltimore on a red-eye flight from the west coast — and three hours after jumping into his first Ravens practice — the veteran safety was still giddy about his new team.
"Well, I caught the red-eye at 10:40 [Wednesday night], and didn't get here until 6:50, 7 o'clock this morning," Pollard said. "I'm ready to play. I don't care what I have to do. I try to prove something to myself every year. I want to suit up, and I want to help this team win. I really do. The organization is tremendous. We're blessed to have talent. I'm excited, because I know the history here, I know the rivalry they have, and I want to be part of that."
Pollard, who spent the past two seasons with the Houston Texans after three years with the Kansas City Chiefs, signed a two-year contract with the Ravens to compete with Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura for the strong safety position vacated when Dawan Landry left for Jacksonville.
His practice debut was a strong one. He got off two good blitzes and intercepted rookie quarterback Tyrod Taylor on a pass intended for Justin Harper that was floated.
The merger of Pollard's physical play and the Ravens' physical defense is the perfect match, he said.
"The biggest thing is me knowing the type of player I am, [playing on] the team that would allow me to be that player and not hold back," Pollard said. "You look at the players here, you have a great bunch of players. You've got Hall of Famers. It's exciting. I was trying to learn so much from Ed [Reed]. He understands the game, he knows the game. … I'm just trying to soak up everything with him, and I want to help this team win."
The Texans finished with the worst pass defense in the NFL last season, and they declined to make a tender in the offseason for Pollard, 26, who would become an unrestricted free agent under the new collective bargaining agreement. He led the team with 111 tackles, which was second-most in the league for non-linebackers.
Pollard was fined $40,000 last December for hitting a defenseless receiver (Tennessee's Justin Gage) in the head. It was his second fine of the season.
Ed Reed working to 'preserve'
Reed sat out Thursday's practice and said his absence had more to do with preserving his body than with an injury.
"I'm 32. I've been doing this for 10 years. Preserving is the key," the free safety said. "If I'm not smart about taking care of myself during training camp, who else is? It's also a business. That's part of me being a great businessman and taking care of myself and understanding that this is my company [tapping his chest], and I run my company."
Reed said he worked with a doctor in Atlanta on conditioning himself in a way to get the maximum power and strength. But he made clear that he was trying to conserve that strength through the preseason.
"I don't feel like I have to prove anything," he said. "I'm not trying to be an individual or anything, but preseason is preseason. It doesn't count for anything. So long as we are ready come September, which I will be and I am, I don't feel there's any more I have to prove."
Ravens remain in lead for Floyd
The Ravens remain in the lead to sign free-agent wide receiver Malcom Floyd, and the deal could get done as early as Friday, a league source said.
Floyd, who played three seasons under Cam Cameron in San Diego, wants to come to the Ravens, the source added. The Ravens have reportedly offered Floyd $3 million per season.
While the Ravens remain in pursuit for Floyd, they haven't ignored Derrick Mason, who visited the New York Jets on Thursday.
"Derrick and I texted back and forth the last couple of days," coach John Harbaugh said. "We didn't actually talk about that [his visit to the Jets]. I didn't ask, and he didn't volunteer. So, that's all part of the business. We'll just have to see how it goes."
Reid eager to compete with Cousins
Since the first practice of training camp a week ago, rookie Jah Reid has taken most of the reps at right tackle. In Thursday's practice, though, Oniel Cousins got his share after rejoining the team with a group of restricted and exclusive-rights free agents.
Reid, the club's third-round pick in April, didn't mind Cousins' return, saying after practice on Wednesday, "It's always good to have competition. We'll make each other better. Right now, I've been running with the ones and twos. So, competition is always good, and we're going to welcome him to the party."
Arthur Jones running with first team
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the first full-team practice was Arthur Jones running with the first-team at defensive end. He got the nod over Cory Redding, who made 11 starts last year.
"Arthur Jones is doing really well," Harbaugh said. "He's grown and matured. He's a little bit leaner and a little bit quicker. He's just making more plays. He's a better technician. He's doing a nice job."
Jones, a fifth-round pick from a year ago, didn't make a tackle in two games played. He was inactive for 16 games (including twice in the playoffs).
Webb starts as punt returner
Lardarius Webb, who finished last season with a huge punt return against Pittsburgh in the playoffs, will start this season as the Ravens' No. 1 punt returner, special teams coach Jerry Rosburg said.
Webb had a 55-yard return for an apparent touchdown against the Steelers, but a holding penalty erased the score in a game the Ravens ultimately lost.
"Lardarius Webb finished the season as our punt returner, and he was a very explosive returner for us," Rosburg said. "If you recall when he took over, things changed, including the dynamic return in the playoff game that he scored on.
"So Lardarius is taking our returns right now as our No. 1 guy, but we're always looking for returners. That never changes. Every year we try and get as many guys back there to catch the ball — and show us what they can do — as we possibly can. This year is no different, but Lardarius is definitely our lead guy as far as punt returner at this point in time."
The start of Thursday's practice was delayed 3½ hours, until after the 10-year collective bargaining agreement was approved by the recertified players union. That allowed restricted and exclusive-rights free agents to participate. The Ravens didn't finish practice until 8 p.m. as the sun was setting. "We kind of joke about adapt, adjust and overcome," Harbaugh said. "It really was one of those days. We're creatures of habit, and all of a sudden we didn't have that. We had to come out and have a great practice. And we did that." … Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith (groin), the team's first-round pick, missed his third straight practice. … Inside linebacker Jameel McClain was removed from the non-football injury list and safety Tom Zbikowski was taken off the non-football illness list. … Long snapper Morgan Cox (knee), who is wearing a knee brace, remains on the physically-unable-to-perform list. Undrafted rookie Patrick Scales (Utah State) is filling in for Cox.
Baltimore Sun reporter Edward Lee contributed to this articleCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun