Ravens notes: Austin Howard's continued unexplained absence 'in the trainer's hands'

Four days after signing a three-year, $15.025 million deal with the Ravens, offensive tackle Austin Howard still hasn’t practiced with his new team and it isn’t clear why.

“Just like I said yesterday, the same answer as yesterday, it’s in the trainer’s hands,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said after Tuesday’s training camp practice, the last full workout before Thursday’s preseason opener against the Washington Redskins.

Howard, 30, had surgery in January to repair a torn labrum and rotator cuff in his shoulder. The Ravens signed him about a week after he was released by the Oakland Raiders on July 28. Howard took a physical for the team before the deal, which includes a $3 million signing bonus, a $1.525 million base salary this season and option years in 2018 and 2019, became official.

It isn’t clear whether Howard’s absence is a result of his offseason shoulder surgery or another injury problem cropped up in recent days. Harbaugh said after Saturday night’s practice at Navy that Howard was going to practice Monday, but he has not been on the field.

“I don't have any expectations for that kind of stuff," Harbaugh said. "You try to do what's best for the players and what's best for the guys and getting them ready to play. That's in their hands. That's in their ballpark."

Howard obviously won’t play in Thursday night’s preseason game, but the Ravens would certainly like to get him on the practice field as soon as possible so he can start building some chemistry with the rest of the offensive line.

Asked if he had a timeline for his return, Harbaugh said, “I don’t have anything to add to it, really.”

Harbaugh noncommittal about Thursday: Harbaugh said Monday that he expected quarterback Ryan Mallett to play “pretty extensively” in Thursday’s preseason opener. He was noncommittal about the rest of his starters.

“We’ll work it out as we go. We’ll see,” Harbaugh said. “Some guys will play, some guys won’t. [You] just have to play it by ear. We have a plan, but I’m just not really into it right now — as far as sharing it. It can change. It can change. We have a plan until the shooting starts, then plans change. All right?”

Harbaugh is traditionally conservative in playing his starters in the first preseason game. It will be interesting to see if he’s even more cautious this year, given the number of injuries the team has endured in training camp so far.

As it is, the Ravens have a number of starters, or at least top backups, who have either been not practicing or limited to individual drills. That list includes quarterback Joe Flacco, wide receiver Breshad Perriman, offensive linemen Howard, Marshal Yanda and Alex Lewis, and cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Maurice Canady. None of those players are expected to play Thursday.

Redskins coach Jay Gruden told reporters Tuesday that he’s still deciding how much he’ll play his starters.

End zone: Harbaugh had no updates on the status of Flacco and Humphrey. Both Humphrey and Lewis have missed five consecutive practices. … Harbaugh praised second-year defensive end Bronson Kaufusi, saying he’s “never seen a guy work harder.” Kaufusi missed all of last season after he broke his ankle in training camp. … Former Ravens cornerback and return man Asa Jackson signed Tuesday with the San Francisco 49ers.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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Baltimore Sun reporter Edward Lee contributed to this article.

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