The Ravens re-signed cornerback Prince Miller on Tuesday and speculation immediately centered on him replacing Tom Zbikowski to return punts against the Bengals on Sunday.
Don't expect it to happen. Although coach John Harbaugh indicated returns were part of the reason they signed Miller off the Patriots' practice squad, Harbaugh isn't likely to give up on Zbikowski after one game.
Although Miller had a flashy 57-yard punt return Aug. 12, he also muffed a punt return near his own goal line against the Giants on Aug. 28. Miller averaged 13.8 yards for 10 punt returns for the Ravens in the preseason. Waived on Sept. 5 -- a day after final cuts by the Ravens -- Miller signed with the Patriots' practice squad rather than go to the Ravens' practice squad.
NFL rules dictate that Miller must spend at least three weeks on the Ravens' active roster after being signed off another team's practice squad.
Harbaugh was typically vague speaking about Miller's role during Wednesday's session with the media.
"Obviously, that's part of our deal with that," he said of the prospect that Miller might return punts. "Whether he can do that this week, I don't know and I probably wouldn't give it to you anyway."
Harbaugh acknowledged the issue of ball security.
"That's why I like Zibby," he said. "He's going to be secure with the ball. But he's got to go north and south instead of going sideways."
Zbikowski made a poor decision against the New York Jets, catching a punt at his own 5 along the sideline. He attempted to out-run the Jets' coverage team by running laterally along the goal line, and was tackled at the 1.
"To be honest, I was caught up playing defense and I lost track where I was on the punt return," said Zbikowski, who gained five yards on four returns and one fair catch against the Jets.
Zbikowski averaged 11.5 yards on four returns in the preseason, including a 28-yarder. He did not fumble the ball. Until Monday night in the Meadowlands, he had been strictly a north-south runner.
Zbikowski showed no loss of confidence on Wednesday.
"We have much bigger worries than returning punts," he said about this week's game in Cincinnati.