Carroll County Times

Ravens Notebook: Rookie LB Brown back at practice

OWINGS MILLS - Baltimore Ravens second-round inside linebacker Arthur Brown participated in individual drills during Thursday's organized team activity practice, a positive sign for the Ravens considering that many thought Brown would be sidelined until training camp after undergoing sports hernia surgery early last month.

"I feel great," Brown said. "It was my first time out there physically participating. I'm really taking it slow. I'm four weeks into my recovery process, but I feel great.

"Things have been kind of slow, but that's needed. I've been taking mental reps every day at practice and really just staying in tune in the meeting room."

Brown is one of the favorites to emerge as a starter for the Ravens at inside linebacker.

Jameel McClain, if healthy, is penciled in as a starter at one of the two inside linebacker spots, at least based on what defensive coordinator Dean Pees said last week. If McClain isn't healthy, then both starting inside linebacker spots are seemingly up for grabs, with Brown, newly signed veteran Daryl Smith and returning veterans Josh Bynes and Albert McClellan the primary candidates competing for playing time at the position.

"The competition is going to be hot," Brown said.

WEIGHT CONCERNS: Ravens coach John Harbaugh commended second-year outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw for his play Thursday, but Harbaugh was also candid about the weight issues that are plaguing Upshaw for the second straight offseason.

Upshaw, Baltimore's top pick in last year's NFL draft, has appeared noticeably heavier during the offseason and said this past weekend that he currently weighs 285 pounds. Upshaw dealt with weight-related issues as a rookie last year as well, but he ended up playing the season around 270 pounds.

"My first thought is that he is playing pretty well," Harbaugh said of Upshaw. "That's my first thought. He understands the defense exceptionally well. He's working really hard, [but] Courtney's weight issue - which he does need to lose some pounds - is that he doesn't eat right."

"Courtney eats too much, and he doesn't eat all the right foods. He knows that's something that he's going to have to get a handle on or he's not going to be the best he can be. He's aware of it. We have everybody in our building involved in it. He'll be in fighting shape. I promise you that."

Upshaw played in all 20 games as a rookie last season and made 11 starts. He had 55 tackles and 1.5 sacks during the regular season.

Baltimore did sign outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil earlier this offseason, who is expected to start opposite Terrell Suggs ahead of Upshaw, but Upshaw, a highly regarded presence against the run, is still expected to play a significant role at outside linebacker.

"Me, I've got to drop a couple pounds and get ready for the season," Upshaw said Sunday at teammate Lardarius Webb's annual charity softball game. "My offseason has been kind of hectic. ... I had a personal issue where I had to handle that. Right now, I'm trying to get back into football shape. ... I'm feeling good. I've just got to look to good."

IMPRESSED WITH FLACCO: New Ravens safety Michael Huff faced Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco three times as an opponent, but Huff said Thursday that Flacco is "a lot better" than he even thought.

Huff spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Oakland Raiders before signing with the Ravens earlier this offseason.

"I knew he was good before," Huff said with a smile, "but just seeing him every day in practice, just seeing him put the balls here in certain places - I'll think I have great coverage and somehow he'll find a way to squeeze it in there - he's definitely an elite quarterback and definitely one of the best in the NFL."BACK TO WORK: Defensive lineman Haloti Ngata and fullback Vonta Leach were both present and participating Thursday after being absent for the Ravens' first two voluntary OTAs.

Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, right guard Marshal Yanda, outside linebacker Albert McClellan and defensive linemen Chris Canty and Marcus Spears were the lone players not in attendance Thursday.

Baltimore's mandatory minicamp begins Tuesday.