SPROLES' RETURNS EARN ATTENTION

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Darren Sproles has the attention of the Ravens, and it's not just for his role as a running back.

The San Diego Charger ranks second in the NFL in kick returns with a 34-yard average and 170 total yards, which includes returns of 66 and 59 yards. Sproles, who compiled 246 all-purpose yards in a 24-20 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Monday night, ranked eighth with a 26.1-yard average in kick returns last season.

"He's so fast and he can change directions so well - just as good, if not better than, anybody in the league," Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo said. "So if he's going and he sees a little crease, he's just going to cut on a dime and go with it. If you lose your leverage a little bit or let somebody block you a little bit, a guy like him is going to be gone."

Sproles stands just 5 feet 6 and weighs 185 pounds, but he has the strength and elusiveness to shrug off tackles.

"Nobody here underestimates him because of his size," said linebacker Antwan Barnes, who is tied for second with three special teams tackles. "He still runs very powerfully. It's kind of hard for a lot of dudes to tackle him because he's so short. They tackle him high, and he just bounces off. Sometimes you think he's going to go one way, and then he just instantly cuts and he's gone."

The matchup with Sproles might present the Ravens with an opportunity to hone their gang-tackling skills.

"What it takes is everyone, it takes the whole team because this is a guy that not only can he attack the whole field, but even at the point of attack, he can make people miss and break tackles," said Jerry Rosburg, special teams coordinator and assistant head coach. "So it's going to be one of those games where you really have to focus on gang coverage."

Suggs practices

Terrell Suggs returned to full participation in Thursday's practice after sitting out Wednesday's session with a chest injury. The three-time Pro Bowl linebacker has never missed a game in his seven-year career.

"He's really 100 percent," defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. "He's just got a little soreness in his stomach, in his rib area. He's fine."

Five-time Pro Bowl free safety Ed Reed (concussion) and tight end L.J. Smith (pulled left hamstring) were limited for the second straight day. Linebacker Tavares Gooden (sprained right knee) participated fully in practice. Safety Tom Zbikowski (concussion) missed his second consecutive practice.

LT sits

LaDainian Tomlinson missed practice for the second straight day because of a sprained right ankle, but his former offensive coordinator said he expects the Chargers running back to play Sunday.

"I know, everybody knows, we all know the player he is," current Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said.

Three other starters - center Nick Hardwick (sprained ankle), guard Louis Vasquez (knee) and defensive end Travis Johnson (groin) - also did not practice for the second straight day. A pair of starters - left offensive tackle Marcus McNeill (hand) and defensive tackle Jamal Williams (arm) - were upgraded to full and limited participation, respectively. Punter Mike Scifres (groin) was limited.

Act of vandalism

Several Ravens expressed dismay after learning that the front lawn of a home belonging to Buffalo cornerback Leodis McKelvin was vandalized after the Bills' season-opening loss to the New England Patriots on Monday night.

An obscenity and the score of the 25-24 loss were painted on the grass after McKelvin fumbled a kick return that the Patriots turned into the game-winning touchdown. Cornerback Domonique Fox worth echoed the sentiments of Ravens teammates.

"You could move into a gated community or something like that, but you have to be around people," Foxworth said. "There's no way you can be 100 percent safe from crazies. They're out there, and that's for everyone, not just for athletes and celebrities."

Kruger 'disappointed'

Rookie linebacker-defensive end Paul Kruger, a second-round pick in April, acknowledged that he was a "little surprised" and a "little disappointed" that he was inactive for last Sunday's season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs.

"You never want to be sitting on the sidelines during a game. It's the worst feeling ever," he said. "That's never a good feeling, but you've just got to work hard and find a way to contribute. I'm going to keep doing what I've been doing. Just work hard and try to get reps on special teams and just be there and be ready whenever they need me."

End zone

Sunday's game marks Cameron's first return to San Diego since leaving to become the Miami Dolphins' head coach before the 2007 season. "I had a lot of great memories there, but ... it's still just another football game," he said. "You've got to go out and play well and try to win the game." ... Rosburg took the blame for Sam Koch's blocked punt that led to a Chiefs touchdown Sunday. "I take full responsibility for it," he said. "It was a communication problem that I should have handled long before this, and the first thing we did Monday was address it."

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
79°