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Thomas doesn't mind crossing the line

Defensive end Adalius Thomas received an unexpected wake-up call yesterday.

When Peter Boulware missed the morning practice to have X-rays on his strained neck, Thomas filled the void by playing outside linebacker with the starting group.

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Thomas, who is competing with Marques Douglas for the left defensive end job, will serve double duty as the fourth outside linebacker during the regular season. But with both starters -- Boulware and Cornell Brown (strained left hamstring) -- listed as day-to-day, Thomas jumped up the depth chart.

"Today was a good example of what can happen in the middle of the season," defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. "All of a sudden, you get knocked out and everybody's gone. It was a great opportunity for us to say, 'Bam, we've been hit with something. What do we do?' It was kind of neat for it to happen today, to some degree."

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It was about the same time in training camp last year when the Ravens switched Thomas from outside linebacker to defensive end.

As a lineman, he finished as the eighth-leading tackler and added three sacks, two interceptions, 11 batted down passes and three forced fumbles. Making the temporary move back to linebacker isn't a confusing change for Thomas.

"I'm a football player," said Thomas, who stands 6 feet 2, 270 pounds. "I come out and play football regardless if it's defensive end, safety, linebacker or corner.

"I want to be the only player to play all 11 positions in one game."

While the knock on Thomas has been his consistency, the Ravens rely heavily on his versatility.

Even though he hasn't played the position or attended one linebacker meeting in a year, Thomas said he made just one mistake in practice and didn't have trouble dropping back in coverage. During one team drill, he came off the edge to deflect a pass from Chris Redman.

"He's very valuable to us," Nolan said. "I think it's a position that he could shine, but that's a decision he has to make as a player. They have to be sold on, 'I'm going to do this, and I'm going to be the best.' Otherwise, it's not worth his time."

One in, one out

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As far as injuries, the offense broke even, gaining one starter while losing another. The Ravens welcomed back Todd Heap and had to make due again without right tackle Orlando Brown.

Brown missed practice because his knee flared up. Trainer Bill Tessendorf said Brown is doubtful for Saturday's preseason game at Atlanta.

Heap returned after not practicing for the past 11 days with a back injury and made his presence known in a red-zone drill, catching a touchdown pass in the right corner of the end zone. The Pro Bowl tight end experienced some tightness in his back after practice.

"It's been stiff all week, so that was expected," Heap said. "It's where I can fight through it now and get a little motion into it."

Feeling cornered

The concerns over depth at cornerback may have increased.

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Oft-injured nickel back Tom Knight strained his left hamstring while covering receiver Randy Hymes midway through practice and may be sidelined the rest of the week. The six-year veteran missed all of last season with a torn right hamstring and had already sprained his thumb in camp.

When Knight went down, safety Gary Baxter moved to nickel back to cover the slot receiver and Will Demps came in at safety. Knight's injury leaves the Ravens with only three veteran cornerbacks and could prompt the team to add another free-agent cover man.

"We'll address it as best we can with people in this camp or out," coach Brian Billick said.

Taylor speaks his mind

One play after getting into a playful shouting match with cornerback Corey Fuller, receiver Travis Taylor caught a touchdown pass and let everyone know about it. He spiked the ball, which ricocheted at cornerback Chris McAlister, and continued jawing across the field at Fuller.

"We got great cover corners and anytime you get a chance to get a touchdown -- especially when they're talking trash -- it's great," said Taylor, who returned after missing Monday's practice with an ankle injury.

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End zone

Backup inside linebacker Bernardo Harris had a pin inserted in his left leg to help his fractured fibula heal. He was expected to be back by September but now will likely be out until November. ... Starting inside linebacker Ed Hartwell returned after missing one practice with an eye injury but still had some blurring. "I just need to see a figure with a ball," Hartwell said, "and I'm going to seek and destroy." ... Billick considered yesterday's effort as one of the flattest practices of camp. "I think this is the first practice we've had that they were feeling a little sorry for themselves," Billick said. "They worked OK, but they didn't have the same focus and intensity that they've had because it's Tuesday and it's in the morning and it's muggy. I think this is the first morning that the way they practiced wasn't quite what I've come to expect from them." ... Morning practice has been closed to the public. Full-squad practice will be from 4 to 5:30 p.m.


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