Jared Gaither has returned to lifting weights and is close to his playing weight from last season. Returning to practice is a different story.
The offensive tackle has not practiced at his customary right tackle spot since Aug. 5, when he suffered back spasms. Later, Gaither said he was diagnosed with a thoracic disk injury that contributed to the spasms.
On Monday, Gaither said he is unsure when he will be able to practice.
"It's really hard with this type of injury, as I've been told," he said. "As soon as you feel better, you just want to go out there and play. I'm looking forward to doing that. But I pretty much couldn't tell you because that's how the injury is. So as soon as I get better, I'll be out there."
Coach John Harbaugh was noncommittal about Gaither's progress.
"I really don't know," Harbaugh said. "We'll just have to see where he's at and how he feels in the next couple days."
Oniel Cousins would seemingly be the next choice to start at right tackle in the Ravens' season opener against the New York Jets on Monday night. But Cousins, who is recovering from a concussion, must be cleared by a doctor before returning to full contact.
"I've got to go see the doctor [Tuesday]," Cousins said. "I'm out there, and I feel pretty good so far. ÃÂÃÂ I have the mindset that I'm ready for anything. If I'm called upon to go on Monday, I'll be ready to go. I'll prepare myself as if I'm the one, but if not, I'll still be ready."
The team appears to be making contingency plans, though. Last week, Marshal Yanda, the team's usual right guard, acknowledged taking a few snaps at right tackle with Chris Chester lining up at right guard.
"We're getting reps there just in case we had to go to that, but nobody knows yet," Yanda said Monday. "We'll see."
Gaither said he is running and lifting, and weighing in at 330 pounds, 19 pounds heavier than his weight in training camp and 10 pounds lighter than last season's playing weight.
"To me, that really wasn't a concern," he said of his rapid weight loss, which has been linked to his back injury. "It wasn't that hard to put the weight back on because I know what I did to lose the weight. Really, the weight's back there, and I'm just trying to get healthy enough with my back for me to get back onto the field."
Gaither emphasized that he won't accelerate his return until his back is completely healed.
"No, I really just want to be as healthy as I can," he said. "Like I told you before, my back is a big part of my life. It's not only my career, but it's also [for] living. So I just want to make sure that I'm 100 percent healthy and with the coaching staff and training staff, I know they'll work with me and I'll be out there soon."
Reed could return in Week 7
In his first comments since the Ravens placed Ed Reed on the physically-unable-to-perform list, Harbaugh said Week 7 is "absolutely" a realistic goal for the six-time Pro Bowl free safety to return.
"We were really hoping he could do it," Harbaugh said of Reed's trying to get ready for the season opener.
Harbaugh said it was "Ed's call" to go on the PUP.
"He made the decision in the end," Harbaugh said. "I think he feels with the team interest first that's the best thing. But he'll be ready to go soon enough. I know we can play well when he's not there, and look how much better we're going to be when he gets back."
Kruger hopes to play Monday
Paul Kruger said he "jolted" his left shoulder in the team's preseason finale Thursday night but that he plans to be available for the team's season opener.
"Yeah, absolutely," the defensive end said of his intent to play against the Jets. "If it does [limit me], it does. I'll get my conditioning in to make sure that I'm ready for the game. But I'm not sure how it will affect me."
Kruger, who practiced Monday after sitting out Friday's session, said he is dealing with pain and stiffness. He pulled off his jersey with only his right hand in the locker room after Monday's practice and said he will go through the usual treatment plan of ice, heat and rest.
"It's like spraining your ankle," he said. "You just need time to recover. Of course, you can do things to help, but it's just going to be a matter of time before it gets better."
Cody likely out for opener
Rookie nose tackle Terrence Cody said that arthroscopic surgery on a torn meniscus in his left knee will likely prevent him from playing Monday night.
"Probably not," Cody said of his chances of being available against the Jets. "I wish I could, but probably not. I'll be ready for the second game, though."
Cody, one of the Ravens' two picks in the second round of the draft, hasn't played since the team's second game of the preseason, against the Washington Redskins on Aug. 21. Cody said the inactivity is the worst part about the recovery process.
"I'm fighting that right now because it's tough sitting out and watching them practice for the first game, and I can't do anything and I can't play in it," he said. "Every little nick and bruise is a frustrating thing for me because I'm not used to it. I've never been injured in my whole college career or high school career."
Baltimore Sun reporter Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.
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