Blessed with enviable size and speed, Antwan Barnes is getting noticed for his head.
During a linebackers meeting Friday night, players and coaches sat in a conference room at the team's hotel in Westminster watching practice film. During one play, linebackers Ray Lewis and Nick Greisen were on the field.
While everyone else watched the film in silence, Barnes pointed out to outside linebackers coach Mike Pettine that having two defensive players with radio headsets in their helmets on the same play would have earned the defense a penalty.
"We were like, 'Oh, yeah. You're right,' " Pettine said. "Just the little things like that and his football aptitude, you can tell that he has really applied himself and gotten himself into the playbook and kind of taken that extra step."
Excelling in the classroom has helped Barnes excel on the practice field. The organization's fourth-round pick in 2007 is poised to fill in for two-time Pro Bowl selection Terrell Suggs when the Ravens open the preseason Thursday night against the New England Patriots. (Suggs has not reported to training camp because of a contract dispute.)
"Coach has the belief in me - since Sizzle isn't here - that I've got the right to go in there with the first team and show what I can do," Barnes said. "All I do is go in there and know the plays and get into my playbook more. I think I've matured to the point where I know my plays and everything."
A feared pass rusher at Florida International, Barnes, 6 feet 1, 245 pounds, has refined his pass-coverage skills and frequently tangles with two-time Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap to hone his game.
Pettine said the coaches have been pleasantly surprised by Barnes' grasp of the defensive calls.
"It's just one of those things where you can never really predict a guy's timeline for 'getting it,' and he's shown - I know it's early - signs that he has a much better understanding of the game, especially at the NFL level," Pettine said. "I think he's poised for a potential breakout season if things fall the right way."
Cornerback Samari Rolle made his first appearance at training camp, showing up to watch yesterday's morning session. Rolle, who has missed the past two weeks mourning the death of his father, Harry, did not practice, but he was ready to participate in the morning, coach John Harbaugh said.
"He came in this morning - I think he had a 5:30 flight coming out of South Florida - and he was dressing for practice. Well, we had to give him a physical [first]," Harbaugh said. "That's part of the process and he's got a couple things to do, but he'll be out there this afternoon. He's excited and ready to go."
It's unclear whether Rolle will speak to the media after this morning's practice.
Ravens officials remain in constant contact with Suggs, but they are not certain when the team's franchise player will report. Suggs has missed camp to protest his franchise tag, which kept him from pursuing free agency. "We do have an idea of what he's thinking, but it's just an idea right now," Harbaugh said of Suggs' projected return. "There's no certainty." ... Heap (right calf), running back Willis McGahee (left knee) and defensive tackle Kelly Gregg (left knee) were three of 13 players who did not practice yesterday.
Sun reporter Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.