Hamstring strain puts Zastudil out

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The team's rash of injuries has now spread to special teams.

Punter Dave Zastudil strained the hamstring in his kicking leg yesterday and will miss tomorrow's preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills.

A fourth-round draft pick in 2002, Zastudil is listed as day-to-day, but he may be sidelined as long as two to three weeks, a timetable that should allow him to be ready for the season opener in Pittsburgh on Sept. 7. Derrick Frost, an undrafted rookie out of Northern Iowa, will kick in his place.

Zastudil is one of eight Ravens - tight end Todd Heap (back), offensive tackle Orlando Brown (knee), center Mike Flynn (knee), running back Musa Smith (knee), receiver Javin Hunter (Achilles' tendon), linebacker Bernardo Harris (broken leg) and safety Ray Perryman (shoulder) - who will be sidelined for the game.

Zastudil's injury occurred in the morning practice when he felt his leg cramp up on a punt. After stretching off to the side, he returned to kick again and felt the hamstring strain. Ravens trainer Bill Tessendorf said a magnetic resonance imaging revealed no significant tear.

"It's just a freak thing, I guess," said Zastudil, who finished seventh in the AFC last season with a 41.6-yard average and was second in the NFL with 31 punts inside the 20-yard line. "Hopefully, I can get the rehab going as fast as I can and get ready to get back on the field.

"It's so frustrating because the first preseason game is coming and I was healthy, excited and looking to have a great year. Then, you get a fork in the road here. I'm not worried about it. I just want to get it taken care of and get back as fast as I can."

Frost was signed after the draft by the Philadelphia Eagles, who then released him in May when they brought in former Ravens punter Kyle Richardson.

The Ravens claimed Frost off waivers to compete for the job of kickoff specialist. With Zastudil hurt, he will now punt and serve as the holder on field-goal attempts. Frost, who has worked with a right-footed kicker for only one season, was concentrating on his holding technique during both practices yesterday.

"You never like to be happy about taking advantage of somebody else getting injured," said Frost, who averaged 43.9 yards a punt last year. "I hope Dave has a speedy recovery - a lot faster than the doctors think - but I'm here and I'm going to do a good job, I hope, this week. I want to take advantage of what's been put in front of me."

Baxter's been there

For the first time since a May minicamp, Gary Baxter practiced at cornerback, but it will be only a brief stay.

Baxter, a starting cornerback for the Ravens last season, will be the starting free safety when the regular season begins. His move back to cornerback was only a one-day affair that gave veteran starting cornerback Corey Fuller a breather and backup Will Demps a chance to work with the first team.

If either Fuller or cornerback Chris McAlister get hurt, there is as possibility the Ravens would move Baxter back to the corner, since they have more depth at safety.

"At some point, we have got to give Gary some reps at that," coach Brian Billick said. "Today was a good day to do it. You may see a little in the game, as well. The great thing is that Gary has that flexibility and we have got to try to keep current if we can."

Baxter, who was informed of his temporary move during practice, said: "There was no adjustment. I got in there and got it going. It felt great."

Rutledge in fold

Inside linebacker Johnny Rutledge, who worked out for the team Wednesday, signed a two-year contract. The former second-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals adds depth at linebacker, where the Ravens lost Harris for at least a month.

Rutledge played nine games for the Cardinals last season before becoming an unrestricted free agent in March.

"I was at home sweating, waiting on a phone call," Rutledge said. "Then at the 12th hour, the call came and I was really happy."

Bad habit for Boller

Between drills, rookie quarterback Kyle Boller worked with the coaching staff on his hand placement under center.

The problem is his right hand - the top hand - hangs down and tends to go up right before the snap. If he continued this habit, it would tip off the play count to the defense and could lead to broken fingers if a snap came early.

"I'm thinking about so many different things," Boller said. "Just the smallest thing - having my hand dangle - is something they pointed out to me and I got to make sure I work on it."

Fans keep coming

As the expectations have grown, so has camp attendance.

According to Bob Eller, the Ravens' director of operations, the first week of training camp drew 44,324 fans. That total nearly matched the attendance for last year's entire camp (55,730).

The team projects 90,000 people will make their way to McDaniel College by the time camp ends Aug. 19.

End zone

The Ravens moved today's practice from McDaniel to M&T; Bank Stadium. The workout will be closed to the public. The team will resume open practices at McDaniel on Monday at 9:30 a.m. ... There are approximately 500 tickets remaining for tomorrow's game. For tickets, call 410-481-SEAT. ... Instead of selling game programs, the Ravens will give out a 48-page color booklet to each fan attending tomorrow's game.

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