'McClain 4 RB' movement stays alive

Fullback Le'Ron McClain has not been shy about his "McClain 4 RB" movement, which includes T-shirts proclaiming "Mo Carries, Mo Touchdowns."

On Thursday night, McClain outplayed featured tailbacks Ray Rice and Willis McGahee, carrying the ball four times for 21 yards against the Carolina Panthers, including a 14-yarder. McGahee rushed once for no yards, while Rice did not get a single touch.

"I'm not voting for McClain, even though he gave me one of his T-shirts," coach John Harbaugh said in comments distributed by the team at halftime. "It was good to see him run hard. We know he can play, and we're having fun with him."

Added offensive coordinator Cam Cameron: "I'm a big fan of Le'Ron. We all know he's a good player. We know he can run the ball well. He's proven that."

Lewis says Reed 'feeling good'

As Ravens starters rested in the second half, 11-time Pro Bowl linebacker Ray Lewis spent a few minutes in an interview with ESPN's Suzy Kolber.

When Kolber asked Lewis' "gut feeling" on the return of six-time Pro Bowl free safety Ed Reed, Lewis sounded optimistic.

"Just to listen to him, I think he's excited just about his improvement and where he is," Lewis said. "The surgery is healing kind of fast. I won't really speak for him. I just speak about what he told me. He's just feeling good, and anytime you can come out of surgery and hear somebody is feeling good, that's all you can ask for."

Change in cornerback plans

In an unusual turn of events, cornerback Chris Carr started against Carolina despite originally being deactivated by the team before the game.

Carr had not practiced since injuring his left hamstring Saturday, but with the secondary missing Fabian Washington (left knee surgery), Lardarius Webb (right knee surgery) and K.J. Gerard (hamstring), Carr might have convinced the coaches that he could play. The coaches might also have asked Carr to suit up.

The team deactivated Reed (hip surgery), offensive tackles Jared Gaither (back spasms) and Tony Moll (concussion), linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (quadriceps surgery), running back Matt Lawrence (knee surgery) and safety Marcus Paschal (right leg).

Tom Zbikowski started for Reed. Oniel Cousins filled in for Gaither.

Barnes makes plays

Outside linebacker Antwan Barnes got to Panthers left tackle Jordan Gross.

On back-to-back passing plays in the first quarter, Barnes forced Gross to pull him down, drawing holding penalties that negated first downs in Ravens territory.

After Carolina recovered a fumble by Marc Bulger in the second quarter, strong safety Haruki Nakamura stripped running back Tyrell Sutton, and Barnes pounced on the fumble at the Ravens' 1-yard line.

Rookies step into limelight

Terrence Cody has played before sellout crowds at Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium, which seats 101,000. But Cody said that suiting up for his first NFL contest — albeit a preseason one — at M&T Bank Stadium would be special.

"I've played in front of a bunch of big crowds," Cody, the Ravens' second-round pick in April, said earlier this week. "But this is a whole lot different."

For the 11 rookies on the team's roster, Thursday night's exhibition against the Panthers marked a watershed moment in their fledgling careers, a point that many had dreamed about for a long time.

"The emotions are going to be high," said tight end Ed Dickson, a third-round choice. "You're going to be ready to go out and hit somebody right from the jump. So after that first hit, I'll be good."

Thursday's game marked the second time in six days that the rookies had played at M&T Bank Stadium.

"It's nice to get out and see the conditions, run on the field a little bit, see what the footing is like," said tight end Dennis Pitta, a fourth-round pick. "That's important, seeing where the play clock is and all the different things throughout the stadium. Those are things that you've got to be cognizant of when you're out on the field."

Zibby makes his mark

Zbikowski was a dual threat against Carolina.

On the first series of the game, Zbikowski sacked and stripped quarterback Matt Moore on third-and-10 from the 50-yard line.

"The lanes really cleared up because we had some guys in the front that just opened up the blitz," Zbikowski said. "Basically, I was just trailing behind two guys and I was able to storm in free."

On the ensuing play, Zbikowski returned a punt 28 yards and was only stopped only when punter Jason Baker stuck his right leg out to trip him.

Cody stumbles, recovers

Cody's debut got off to a shaky start.

Lining up as a fullback with the offense at the Panthers' 5-yard line, Cody was flagged for a false start when he lifted his right hand from the turf before the ball was snapped. A third-and-3 became third-and-8, and Joe Flacco was then sacked by defensive end Tyler Brayton.

Cody made amends by stopping running back DeAngelo Williams for a 1-yard loss later in the first quarter.

Cundiff takes early lead

Billy Cundiff made his case to win the Ravens' kicking battle with a solid showing in the first half.

Cundiff's opening kickoff went 9 yards into the end zone, and his second went 5 yards deep, resulting in two touchbacks. He also converted an extra-point attempt.

Shayne Graham also drove his kickoff into the end zone, resulting in a touchback. He booted a 32-yard field goal to cap the team's opening drive, but a 50-yarder late in the second quarter strayed wide right.

End zone

Brayton sacked Flacco twice, beating left tackle Michael Oher and then left guard Ben Grubbs. … Linebacker Tavares Gooden and defensive end Paul Kruger sacked Carolina backup quarterback Jimmy Clausen on the team's final series of the first half. … Long snapper Matt Katula was the only player who did not play against Carolina. Rookie Morgan Cox filled in for Katula, who was not an injury concern before or after the game. … The Panthers deactivated wide receivers Steve Smith (broken forearm), Trent Guy (hamstring) and Charly Martin (finger); running backs Jonathan Stewart (heel) and Mike Goodson (ankle); offensive tackles Jeff Otah ( knee) and Garry Williams (shoulder); linebackers Thomas Davis (torn anterior cruciate ligament) and Jordan Senn; cornerback Chris Gamble (knee); and safety Aaron Francisco (hamstring).


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