Joe Flacco will have an abbreviated window to orchestrate the Ravens' offense Thursday night at the Georgia Dome.
That's because coach John Harbaugh has no plans to deviate from his traditional blueprint for the opening preseason game. The starters will only make a brief appearance against the Atlanta Falcons.
The strategy involves some first-string players operating on a specific snap count, while others will line up for the entire first quarter and some shortly beyond that.
"It will be a standard first preseason game kind of a concept," Harbaugh said. "Not everybody is on exactly the same schedule."
Older players like middle linebacker Ray Lewis, 37, and free safety Ed Reed, 33, are unlikely to see much action -- if they even get into the game.
"Some guys won't play at all," Harbaugh said. "Some of the more senior veteran guys won't play at all by design."
The Ravens are going to be conservative with injured players, meaning that the following players will likely be sidelined: center Matt Birk (back spasms); linebackers Courtney Upshaw (sprained right shoulder), Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring) and Darryl Blackstock (groin); cornerback Jimmy Smith (back); running back Bernard Pierce (hamstring); defensive linemen Arthur Jones (strained hip flexor) and Pernell McPhee (knee surgery); and wide receiver Tandon Doss (hamstring).
Projected to start opposite veteran outside linebacker Paul Kruger, Upshaw returned to practice Tuesday after missing a week.
Upshaw took part in full-team drills, hitting rookie wide receiver Tommy Streeter hard when he ventured over the middle.
"From an injury standpoint, not too much has changed," Harbaugh said. "Guys you didn't see out here won't be playing. We'll decide by Thursday, but that would be the thought. They probably need to practice a little bit more. [Upshaw's] been out over a week, so we probably want to get him practice before we play him."
Although there's a growing chorus of complaints about the replacement officials the NFL is using due to a labor dispute with the regular officials, Harbaugh said he's not concerned. "We don't even think about that," Harbaugh said. "The refs will be fine. They will be what they are. Everybody is going to try to do their best. Our guys have plenty of things to worry about besides the officiating." ... Reserve inside linebacker Josh Bynes has been dealing with a serious injury, cracked vertebrae in his spine sustained during a goal-line scrimmage at the start of camp. "Josh had a back injury that probably sounds worse than it is," Harbaugh said. "On the end of your vertebrae, he basically chipped a couple of pieces off of the boney protrusions on the spine. It happens sometimes in car accidents. It was really unusual for a football injury. It's about a four-week injury, maybe a five-injury. He's coming along really well." ... Flacco had a bit of fun, firing a spiral off the wall directly above reporters' heads. "I just wanted to see if I could scare you guys at all," Flacco said with a laugh. "I was a little bit scared about where the ricochet might come off and hit somebody, but I just wanted to send a little scare. I said, 'Hey, you think it'd be funny if I did it?' And everybody was like, 'Yeah, do it. do it. do it.' Yeah, it was unanimous."
Ravens' starters to play sparingly in preseason opener