xml:space="preserve">

Tom Zbikowski is getting noticed often at Ravens training camp this summer, and it's not just because he appears to be more jacked and tan than he was in years past.

With Ed Reed still sidelined after offseason hip surgery, Zbikowski has played with the first-team defense throughout camp. And with the extra reps, he seems to have an increased awareness of what's going on around him in the Ravens secondary.

Advertisement

Sure, he doesn't have the deep range or the big-play ability of Reed, but really, who does?

The Ravens drafted Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura in 2008 to start to prepare for life without Reed, but I don't think they anticipated it would come this quickly. Zbikowski, who doesn't shy away from contact, has the inside track on veteran Ken Hamlin for Reed's spot. He will likely start Thursday's preseason game against the Panthers.

"It's football. That's the way it's always been. It's a physical game. You never know who's going to be up and who's going to be down," Zbikowski said Tuesday. "If you're on a team, you've got to be practicing like you're going to be starting, because most likely — if you really look at the NFL — 53 people on a team, there are going to be injuries, and eventually you're going to be playing somewhere."

If Zbikowski is the starting free safety, it's unlikely he'll be used as the team's primary punt returner. But he still hasn't gotten word on that from the coaching staff. "If you find out, let me know," he said.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement