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Mailbag: The questions Ravens fans are asking as training camp nears

Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman makes a catch during OTA at the Under Armour Performance Center in May.
Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman makes a catch during OTA at the Under Armour Performance Center in May. (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun)

Fans often tweet and email questions to Ravens reporter Jeff Zrebiec. Here are some of the topics coming up most frequently with training camp about to begin, and Jeff's takes on the subjects.

When does training camp officially begin?

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The first full-squad practice is on Thursday morning. Rookies and veterans coming off injuries already reported to the Under Armour Performance Center last Friday. The rest of the team is due to report Wednesday. The Ravens will have their first media availability session of training camp Wednesday when quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Justin Forsett and rush linebacker Terrell Suggs are scheduled to speak to reporters.

Who isn't expected to practice?

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The Ravens currently have 89 players on their roster – they have room to add one more before Thursday – and at this point, 83 of them are expected to practice. The six who aren't and who have already been placed on the physically unable to perform list: running back Trent Richardson (knee), wide receivers Steve Smith Sr. (Achilles) and Breshad Perriman (knee), outside linebackers Suggs (Achilles) and Elvis Dumervil (foot) and cornerback Jumal Rolle (Achilles). The Ravens can activate any of the six when they're ready to practice. If any of the players are still on PUP at the end of the preseason, they'll have to miss the first six regular-season games. At this point, the Ravens remain optimistic that Smith, Perriman, Suggs and Dumervil will be ready to play by Sept. 11, when they open the regular season. Rolle is expected to miss the entire year after tearing his Achilles.

Are there any updates on Perriman?

Nothing definitive. He's rehabbing after having his left knee scoped six weeks ago. Perriman was diagnosed with a partially torn ACL. Renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews didn't deem the ligament damage to be significant enough to perform reconstructive surgery, which would have ended Perriman's season. However, that doesn't mean Perriman is out of the woods. Partial tears can take about 10 to 12 weeks to heal. Obviously, Perriman's issues last season when what was initially believed to be a day-to-day knee injury morphed into a season-ender prove that it isn't prudent to speculate on when he'll be ready. The Ravens seem optimistic that Perriman will return in time to be ready for the regular season, but that's hardly a given.

Who are some of the veterans who enter training camp "on the bubble?"

The Ravens love maintaining a young roster, so with an 11-man draft class and a 12-man undrafted free agent class, there obviously will be some veterans who need a strong training camp to save their roster spots. Some of the veterans in this category include running backs Terrance West and Lorenzo Taliaferro, wide receivers Michael Campanaro, Chris Matthews and Jeremy Butler, offensive lineman James Hurst, defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore, cornerback Kyle Arrington and safety Matt Elam. There are others, too.

What's the status of tight end Dennis Pitta?

Trying to come back from a twice fractured and dislocated hip, Pitta is expected to be on the practice field Thursday with the rest of his teammates. To this point, Pitta has passed every test and looked good in doing it. The next physical test will come when the Ravens have a fully padded practice with contact. There's still a ways to go for Pitta, but the groundwork has been laid for quite an inspirational comeback story.

Are all 11 draft picks guaranteed roster spots?

No. In fact, as much as general manager Ozzie Newsome abhors moving on from draft picks early, it's going to be difficult to find room for all 11. Last year, the Ravens cut fifth-round offensive lineman Robert Myers late in camp. The year before that, they released sixth-round quarterback Keith Wenning. And in 2013, seventh-round cornerback Marc Anthony didn't make it through the preseason. It would be hard to imagine the Ravens dumping any of their five fourth-round picks this year. However, I'd stop short of calling fifth-round pick Matt Judon and sixth-round selections Keenan Reynolds and Maurice Canady roster locks.

How will the Ravens handle Joe Flacco?

Carefully. A little more than seven months removed from surgery to repair a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee, Flacco has been cleared to practice, so he'll be on the field and in action Thursday. Flacco says his knee feels great and the hurdles he still has to overcome in his return are mental rather than physical ones. The Ravens will obviously be conservative with Flacco. The veteran quarterback, who traditionally takes most of the repetitions in training camp, said last week that he'll split the repetitions this summer with Ryan Mallett. Flacco has also said that he won't hesitate to tell Harbaugh if he needs to miss a practice or two to give his knee a break. Expect Flacco to see some action to work off the rust in the preseason, but not a whole lot.

What are the starting positions up for grabs?

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Harbaugh, who wants competition for every spot on the roster, will probably say just about all of them are. That's obviously not the case, but the answer to this question depends so much on health. For example, if wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. isn't ready to start the season, then a starting spot opposite Kamar Aiken will be up for grabs. Injuries notwithstanding, the most obvious starting competitions are at left guard (John Urschel is the favorite over Ryan Jensen and rookie Alex Lewis), weak-side linebacker (Zachary Orr leads Arthur Brown and maybe Kamalei Correa) and defensive end (Lawrence Guy could platoon here with Brent Urban and Bronson Kaufusi).  As for tight end, the Ravens will probably use two tight end sets so often that I'm not sure it's important whether Crockett Gillmore or Benjamin Watson is designated the starter.

Will the Ravens still make roster moves?

Newsome usually has a move or two up his sleeve at this time of the year. The Ravens have at least one open roster space and more than $13 million in salary cap room, so they have the necessary flexibility. They figure to make a minor move before Thursday's first workout and then Newsome and Harbaugh will likely monitor practice for a little while and see where there is a need. The Ravens could probably use a more accomplished veteran left tackle and weak-side linebacker, and they believe you never can have enough cornerbacks. There's not a whole lot available at any of those three spots, but that could change when roster moves start occurring.

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