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Ravens' Harbaugh not a fan of new kickoff rule

Ravens coach John Harbaugh isn't a fan of the new kickoff rule, which has led to an increase in touchbacks around the NFL.

In the Ravens' preseason opener at Philadelphia, six of the seven kickoffs resulted in touchbacks.

"If you look at the Eagles-Ravens preseason game, it was just a yawner," said Harbaugh, who has an increased knowledge of kickoffs after being a long-time special teams coach with the Eagles. "I wasn't very impressed with it the first week."

The new rule — which moves kickoffs five yards up to the 35-yard line — was passed because of safety. The thinking was that more touchbacks would mean fewer high-speed collisions, which lead to concussions and other injuries.

The Ravens contend otherwise.

"We've done a lot of homework on that and what causes the concussions in our building," Harbaugh said. "So, we'll be looking forward to the offseason and share some of that with the competition committee."

Harbaugh made it clear that Billy Cundiff won't be kicking it into the end zone Friday against Kansas City.

"In this game, we're going to have to punch it down there because we need to train our guys to cover kicks," Harbaugh said. "We're not going to go through the whole season kicking touchbacks. That would be foolish. Right now, they can know that they're going to get a chance to return kicks in this game because we need to cover them."

Instead of recording kickoffs — which would allow offenses to start at the 20-yard line — the better strategy might be to drop them inside the 10-yard line and stop returners short of the 20.

"I think teams will do that," Harbaugh said. "When you're coming from the 35-yard line, you are on top of that returner. It is scary how fast you can be on top of that returner. So, I think teams are going to try to pop it up inside the 10 and see if they can go smash the returner inside the 15. That will definitely be a strategy."

Won't that negate the rule's emphasis on safety?

"Yes, I think that's an issue," Harbaugh said.

C. Williams moving up

Cary Williams' strong play in training camp and in the preseason opener has led to a promotion.

Williams, who has started one game in his three NFL seasons, has been working with the first-team defense this week. Jimmy Smith has been the other starting corner, with Chris Carr running as the nickel back.

Is this a reward for strong play or just a move to see how he fits with the starting defense?

"Probably both," Harbaugh said. "A guy deserves an opportunity. We always say the best guys play the most and he's earned that. It's nothing against anyone else. I think everyone has played well."

The Ravens started Carr and Lardarius Webb at cornerback for the preseason opener. Domonique Foxworth (knee) has returned after missing the preseason opener, but he hasn't participated in team drills.

Reducing pressure

The Ravens won't have to rush the development of their young wide receivers after trading for speedy Lee Evans.

Evans immediately takes over the No. 2 spot alongside Anquan Boldin. That moves second-round pick Torrey Smith to No. 3 and fourth-rounder Tandon Doss to No. 4. David Reed, a fifth-round pick in 2010 who remains on the physically-unable-to-perform list with a wrist injury, could also figure into the mix.

"It kind of takes the pressure off the young guys a little bit," Harbaugh said. "It allows them to grow at the pace that you want them to grow. Developing players is really important, and there's a certain pace that you would like to adhere to if you could."

Smith wasn't surprised by the move.

"I knew the possibility of us getting a veteran receiver, which will definitely take the pressure off myself," he said. "I was kind of excited about it. I'm embracing learning from someone else."

End zone

The Ravens had their loudest — and perhaps most fun — practice of training camp. Players on offense and defense exchanged some animated trash-talking back-and-forth. Most was instigated by linebacker Terrell Suggs, but quarterback Joe Flacco joined in, too. "They challenged one another," Harbaugh said. "We're a team, but in practice we're kind of not. We kind of get after each other a little bit. I thought defense at times had the better of it and the offense at times had the better of it. It was good competition." … Harbaugh gave players the evening off after the three-hour practice ended around 7:30 p.m. "I'm going to give them a little more rest time," he said. "That's kind of the idea today." … Friday's game will mark the first time that the Ravens and Chiefs have met in the preseason.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jamisonhensley

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