Ravens coach John Harbaugh had a relatively healthy contingent of players at a light practice Tuesday, the team's last before the preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints, and he said those who were out would be handled with caution Thursday.
"It won't be based on them not practicing, per se," Harbaugh said. "If a guy didn't practice today and he was cleared, then he'll play. But we're going to be on the more conservative side, probably, being the first preseason game and all that."
Just six players who are on the active roster and not announced as seriously injured or on the physically unable to perform list missed practice Tuesday, a list highlighted by first-round NFL draft pick Breshad Perriman (knee) and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (foot).
Both likely would run with the first team if they're healthy, and considering Perriman won't have practiced in two weeks by the time the game arrives, it is unlikely he will play.
Those starters who are healthy likely are going to play sparingly, leaving a bulk of the game to the reserves, as Harbaugh said they've done in years past. Last year, quarterback Joe Flacco played just one series in the preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers.
"It'll be similar," Harbaugh said. "We've got a way that we like to do it here. It's individualized to a great extent, but it'll be similar to what you've seen in the past."
As such, plenty of time will go to the Ravens rookies and reserves aiming to earn a spot on the back-end of the roster. Missing from their ranks in practice Tuesday were guards John Urschel (concussion) and Robert Myers (concussion), defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi, and defensive end DeAngelo Tyson (unspecified strain).
Harbaugh has said throughout the week that he can tell players are starting to itch for real football action, including rookies who will be playing their first preseason game and the more experienced players eager to make their mark.
The players who might stand out when the stadium is full and the games begin Thursday are the ones who have shown it throughout camp, Harbaugh said.
"I would say the games are big because that's when the lights are on," Harbaugh said. "Rarely do you see a guy who doesn't do anything in practice just all of a sudden comes out and lights it up in the game. But the guy who then goes out and does it again in a game, that's the guy that really gets your interest."