Door opens for Michael Campanaro to become Ravens' primary return specialist

The wait is over for Michael Campanaro.

After recording eight kick and punt returns in his first two years with the Ravens, Campanaro (River Hill) was promoted to the active roster before Wednesday's practice and will get the first crack at succeeding Devin Hester Sr. as the team's primary return specialist.


"I definitely have a lot to prove to my teammates and the team," Campanaro said. "I have a lot of plays to make up. It's my third year. So I'm just excited."

Campanaro, a seventh-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft, was signed on Nov. 7 to the practice squad after spending the first nine weeks of the season rehabilitating a calf strain suffered in the preseason. The 25-year-old has averaged 13.2 yards on five career punt returns and 26.3 yards on three kick returns.

Campanaro will be relied upon to revitalize a dormant return game, especially on punts. Although the Ravens rank sixth in kick returns with a 24.6-yard average, they rank 26th in punt returns with a 6.8-yard average.

Despite his relative inexperience on the pro level, Campanaro welcomes the challenge.

"It's not too much pressure on myself," he said. "I just think we haven't done a good job as a team. It's not put on one person when it comes to kick returns and punt returns. So I think just as a collective group, I know special teams, we just want to get better."

Coach John Harbaugh pointed out that Lardarius Webb could also return punts, but acknowledged that he is eager to see what Campanaro can do.

"I want to see him catch the ball and make good decisions. Those are [Nos.] 1 and 2," Harbaugh said. "And then get us some yards, No. 3. That's the job of that position."

Harbaugh praised Hester, a likely Hall of Famer who was signed to a one-year deal before the regular season but averaged just 7.2 yards per punt return and appeared to be hesitant about catching punts in traffic.

"I told him I feel like we didn't get the job done," Harbaugh said. "We didn't do enough to make the return game productive enough to make it worthwhile. Just as far as our team and where we're at and value for those spots, where that's gone for the last three games and into the playoffs, this is a move that we just think makes us stronger as a team."

Campanaro credited Hester with offering advice to younger returners such as himself and rookies Chris Moore and Tavon Young.

"We talked a ton about different returns," he said. "A great mentor, a great veteran who was willing to teach me and always give me advice. It sucks to see him go, but it is an opportunity, and I'm going to try to make the most of it."

End zone: Quarterback Joe Flacco said he is warming up to Tuesday's announcement that the Ravens' road game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2017 will take place in London. "Instead of traveling two hours [to Jacksonville], we are traveling however many it is," he said. "You probably have to spend a whole week over there. We all have families and things like that. We are not baseball players. We are not used to spending a week away from home. So we cry about it a little bit. It really will not be bad. I have four kids now. I think that is probably why I am looking at it a little bit more optimistically now."

… At 5-8, the Eagles are not yet mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, but there aren't too many scenarios in which they would qualify for a spot in the postseason. "We don't really worry about all of the external things, what's happened in the past going forward," rookie quarterback Carson Wentz said Wednesday afternoon during a conference call with Baltimore reporters. "Our goal is to win each week, and that starts with practice every week going forward. We just want to get this organization and this team going in the right direction, and our goal is to win the last three, for sure."

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