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The free safety position is a big-time question mark for the Ravens with All-Pro Ed Reed sidelined with a hip injury. Only God and Reed -- some of you may think they're synonymous -- know when he will return to the field, so there's a lot of interest in the training camp showdown between third-year safety Tom Zbikowski and recently-signed veteran Ken Hamlin.

Zbikowski came to camp in great shape, and he has a strong awareness of what he's supposed to do on the back end. He's not going to freelance like Reed. Like former fan favorite Jim Leonard, Zbikowski will make the smart, safe play more often than not. Plus he's more athletic than Leonard, and his boxer's mentality is a perfect fit for the Ravens defense.

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"Zibby is playing very fast," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday. "He's really covering ground. He looks really quick."

Meanwhile, Hamlin, an eight-year veteran who was named to the Pro Bowl in 2007, seems more and more comfortable each time he's on the practice field in Westminster.

He has been running with the second-team defense so far, and has been communicating well with fellow safety Haruki Nakamura and the Ravens' motley crew at a cornerback. Hamlin isn't the fastest guy, but he intercepted Troy Smith on a deep throw Monday morning.

"[Ken is] picking up the defense very quickly," Harbaugh said. "He's been in a lot of systems, so he's got a base foundation of knowledge, but he's done a great job picking up the system."

Getting Reed back by Week 1 would be ideal, of course, but having good depth behind him is a major plus for the Ravens.

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