OWINGS MILLS - Barring a setback with his hamstring, Ravens tight end Ed Dickson appears on track to being a full-go when Baltimore opens its season Thursday night against the Denver Broncos .
Will Dickson be limited at all by the hamstring? Will he look like the same player he did pre-injury? How big of an impact will he make?
All of those questions will be answered Thursday, but Dickson's return to the lineup should do nothing but help a Ravens offense that sputtered at times without him during the preseason.
"Getting Ed back is huge," Baltimore free safety Michael Huff said. "It opens up the middle of the field. Obviously, we have Torrey [Smith] and Jacoby [Jones] out there on the outside. But Ed on the inside is a dynamic playmaker that can stretch the field on the inside."
Dickson suffered a partially torn hamstring during practice Aug. 4 and expressed doubt regarding his availability for the opener as recently as three weeks ago.
But he returned to practice days after making those comments and hasn't missed a practice since. He's been a full participant the past two days.
"There's no limitations with me right now," Dickson said. "I feel like I'm free to go. I feel good."
He apparently looks good, too.
Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said last week that Dickson already looked as explosive as he did before the injury.
Strong safety James Ihedigbo said Tuesday that Dickson has continued to look good.
"He looks fast," Ihedigbo said. "He looks like he's ready to go."
Dickson said one of the biggest challenges in working back from the hamstring injury was getting back to where he was from a conditioning standpoint after missing two weeks of practice.
"I do feel as explosive as I did before the injury. I'm just trying to get back in the condition I was," Dickson said. "I mean, you can look explosive for one or two plays, but I've been trying to make sure that I can sustain for a 12-play drive or whatever, being able to sustain for that, and I feel like I'm back in that shape."
With Anquan Boldin gone and Dennis Pitta injured, Dickson is viewed as a key piece of the Ravens' offense. Having him available Thursday figures to provide a significant boost heading into a game against a Broncos defense that was ranked among the best in football last season.
Dickson had only 21 catches last season, but he was one of the standouts in practice during the spring. And prior to Dickson suffering the injury, teammates raved about how impressive he had been through the early part of training camp.
"Getting Ed back helps tremendously," Ravens center Gino Gradkowski said. "Ed's a good player, and anytime you get a starter back from any type of injury, that's big."