By Aaron Wilson
The Baltimore Sun
7:10 AM EDT, August 2, 2013
The Ravens have gradually increased the workload of starting cornerback Lardarius Webb, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament last October against the Dallas Cowboys.
Webb intercepted a Joe Flacco pass in the end zone and also deflected a pass in red-zone drills during Thursday's practice. He appears to be on track to play in the season opener against the Denver Broncos, but the Ravens are cautious about exposing him to much contact during the preseason for now.
"I think it's going in the right direction," defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. "I think he's starting to feel comfortable. Teryl Austin is doing a great job of kind of monitoring him and getting him in on situations that aren't maybe going to be a lot of contact right now.
"We know what he can do. We need to get him ready for the season. I think Teryl has been doing a great job with that. It's coming along, and we will get him back."
Big leg for Tucker
Kicker Justin Tucker nearly powered through a 71-yard field goal Wednesday with the attempt coming up a few yards shy of the crossbar.
Tucker would love the chance to attempt a field goal that long in a game after hitting a career-long 56-yarder as a rookie.
"At a certain point, you don't even look at where you are on the field," Tucker said. "You just swing for the fences and try to put the ball through the yellow things. That tends to make people happy. That's what they pay me to do. They pay me to make kicks.
"If they want to send me out there to lay away at the ball, I'm all for it. I love hitting 'em. It's definitely far, but, hey, if they give me opportunities, I'm sure as hell going to try to make it."
Tucker connected on 30 of 33 field goals as a rookie, including four kicks from 50 yards or beyond.
"I don't really think about it in terms of, 'Is my leg stronger?' " Tucker said. "I think my technique is getting better."
Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said he's seen Tucker connect on practice field goals up to the mid 60-yard range.
Could the Ravens try that in games this fall?
"He’s got a strong leg, and we’re going to use the weapon that we have," Rosburg said. "You have to strategically go into the game saying, ‘When would we use this?’ The field-position gamble is not worth it during a normal game situation, it’s just not worth it. Percentages are not with you.
"At the end of the half, with three seconds, you really have nothing to lose, so you try to find out his range, see how far you can make it from and make sure your protection is good. We don’t change the timing of the kick, and we just make it a normal field goal. And if he doesn’t make it, it’s nothing lost.”
The Ravens currently have veteran James Ihedigbo listed as the first-string strong safety, but rookie Matt Elam is pushing hard for a starting job.
"I don’t know who I would pick right now," Pees said. "It’s just a really competitive situation right now. That’s great for us. It’s really great for them, because it makes them play even harder and get better. Right now, I just think that we have some depth there, because everyone is competing real hard.”
Pees gives Ihedigbo high marks for versatility, including his ability as a force player in run support and pass-rushing skills.
"The thing about James is one thing that is going to carry over from last year is that he is a multiple position guy," Pees said. "He can actually get out in the box in our sub package and play as a linebacker and do some things. Pretty good blitzer, all those kinds of things. The good thing about him right now is he kind of knows the package probably a little better than maybe Matt does, so we can do more things with him.”
A former consensus All-American at the University of Florida, Elam was selected with the 32nd and final pick of the first round. The Ravens have no buyer's remorse on Elam.
"He’s fast, and he’s tough, that’s what you want in a strong safety," Pees said. "The guy will come hit you. He had a play where he showed his closing speed on [backup quarterback] Tyrod [Taylor], who is very fast. The guy can run, and he can hit.
"He’s a smart player, and he just needs to keep on learning the system and getting used to it. He still makes the rookie mistakes and stuff that eventually he will get rid of. We always ask three things out a player: be tough, be smart and give great effort. When you are fast and give great effort, that shows up.”
Pro Bowl banquet?
Rosburg couldn't resist taking a funny dig at the NFL eliminating returners in its revamped Pro Bowl format, delivering a walk-off line to conclude his news conference.
"Why are we playing?" Rosburg said. "Let's just have a banquet."
The Ravens reached a four-week injury settlement with linebacker Spencer Adkins, who was waived-injured with a hamstring injury.