Hurst, who last played in mid-October, returned from a back injury to take part in individual exercises and light drills in practice Wednesday, his first such appearance in over a month. He was limited again Thursday and Friday.
Harbaugh said last week that a problematic disk in Hurst’s back had led to a calf ailment caused by an issue with his nerve root, a fiber bundle from the spinal cord that carries sensory neurons to the central nervous system. This week, Harbaugh said, Hurst took a “big jump.”
“James has looked good,” Harbaugh said. “He will not be ready to play in the game. He just needs more time on task in terms of practice and getting back in the weight room and all those things, but I'd say next week would be a legitimate chance for him. We'll keep our fingers crossed for that. It's not a foregone conclusion, by any stretch.”
With the emergence of rookie Orlando Brown Jr. at right tackle and the play of fellow backup Lamar Jackson at quarterback, the Ravens have hit a groove with their long-dormant running game. Hurst’s return could force a reshuffling along the Ravens’ line as they seek their best five-man configuration for the season’s homestretch.
But Hurst, who has started at both guard and tackle over his career, has to return first.
“It’s one of those things where you can only do so much to help it along,” he said Wednesday. “Time is the biggest issue with that. It’ll heal and you rest it and you try to keep your strength up as you go and prepare yourself for when you’re ready to go. When you get the inflammation out of there, then you can go back to work.”
Dixon an ‘option’ Sunday
Running back Kenneth Dixon could be activated and is an “option” to play Sunday, Harbaugh said.
Dixon suffered a knee injury in the Ravens’ season opener and was designated to return from injured reserve Nov. 16. He was eligible for an earlier designation but first had to receive NFL clearance on what Harbaugh called a "unique situation." Harbaugh and Dixon declined to elaborate.
With Buck Allen and Ty Montgomery healthy and starter Gus Edwards and former starter Alex Collins full participants in practice Friday after earlier injuries, Harbaugh faces a roster crunch at running back. He said having five running backs active is a “rare” occurrence.
But Dixon must be added to the 53-man roster by next Friday or else revert to IR for the remainder of the season. He could help his case, Harbaugh said, by “being ready to go and being healthy and … knowing the offense — all things that go into being ready to go. He's real close, so we'll see.”
A fourth-round pick in 2016, Dixon rushed for 382 yards and two touchdowns and had 162 receiving yards as a rookie. But he was suspended the first four games of the 2017 season for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs and suffered a season-ending knee injury in late July.
Ed Block Courage Awards
Eleven players were named their team’s recipient of Ed Block Courage Award on Friday. They are: Buffalo Bills running back Taiwan Jones; Los Angeles Chargers tackle Joe Barksdale; Oakland Raiders tight end Jared Cook; Pittsburgh Steelers middle linebacker Ryan Shazier; Arizona Cardinals defensive end Markus Golden; Chicago Bears tight end Zach Miller; Detroit Lions defensive end Kerry Hyder Jr.; Los Angeles Rams cornerback Sam Shields; New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz; and Washington Redskins running back Chris Thompson. The honor recognizes a representative from each of the 32 teams who exemplifies professionalism, courage to overcome adversity and community service. The award is named after Block, the longtime head trainer for the Baltimore Colts who worked to help improve the lives of children. The 41st Ed Block Courage Award Gala will be held Saturday, March 23, 2019, at 5 p.m. at Renaissance Harbor Place Hotel in Baltimore.