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With Breshad Perriman and Elvis Dumervil back, Ravens beginning to look whole again

Ravens linebacker Elvis Dumervil speaks to the media Monday, August 22.
Ravens linebacker Elvis Dumervil speaks to the media Monday, August 22. (Mark Selig / Baltimore Sun)

Early in Monday morning's practice, outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil walked onto the field, prompting teammate Terrell Suggs to jokingly ask who the player was wearing the No. 58 jersey.

Later, in the afternoon's walk-through practice, it was wide receiver Breshad Perriman's turn to make his debut on the field.

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Perriman, who partially tore the ACL in his left knee during the team's final week of organized team activities in early June, passed his physical and was activated from the physically unable to perform list Monday. He's still not cleared to be a full participant in practice, but today's news was an important development for last year's first-round pick who missed his entire rookie season with a strained PCL in his right knee.

"I'm sure we'll all be holding our breath a little bit," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "That's just natural. He is in great spirits. He has worked extremely hard. He's really grown through all of this, and he's learned how to really work with the rehab. He's been forced to do that. I'm looking forward to seeing how he looks when he comes back."

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When training camp started nearly a month ago, the Ravens had five players on the physically unable to perform list. Now, only running back Lorenzo Taliaferro, who is dealing with a foot injury, remains.

If the Ravens are going to have success in 2016, they have to become stronger on the offensive line.

In the last week, wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., Suggs, Dumervil and Perriman have all been activated from the list and returned to practice, providing optimism that each player will be ready for the Sept. 11 opener against the Buffalo Bills.

While that was really never in doubt with Dumervil, who had early offseason surgery on his foot, there were some questions about Perriman's availability. He had his knee scoped on June 14, and renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews decided that the wide receiver's ACL was in good enough shape to avoid total reconstructive surgery.

A partially-torn ACL traditionally mandates an eight-to-10 week recovery period. Perriman's return this week falls in that window.

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"He still has to get in shape. He's not in great shape. That's the next challenge, as far as running route after route and play after play," Harbaugh said. "But he's a young guy. He's always been able to run. He's always been in shape, so we feel pretty confident. He's been working on that part of it, too. It's not like he hasn't been. He's been working on that as well. We'll just see how he does when he comes out. He's still not going to do the full practice until they tell me when. I don't have a day on that."

The Ravens got two of their best players back at practice last week and then won a preseason road game 19-18 in Indianapolis.

There is a lot of anticipation for Perriman's debut, but the Ravens will obviously proceed with caution given the knee issues the former Central Florida standout has already had. Last year, he hurt his right knee late in the first full-squad workout of training camp. The Ravens initially thought that he'd only miss a couple of days, but the injury proved much more significant.

He appeared to be getting close to his return before he aggravated the injury in late September while taking part in a workout before the Ravens' regular season game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Ravens finally put him on injured reserve in mid-November.

Finally healthy earlier this summer, Perriman had a good start to the offseason workout program and then he hurt his other knee while trying to catch up to a deep pass down the sideline.

"If he can play, believe me, I want him out there playing, and he wants to be out there playing," said Harbaugh when asked whether Perriman might play Saturday in the team's third preseason game against the Detroit Lions. "If he can play, he will play."

There is less of a sense of urgency to get Dumervil into a preseason game. Harbaugh said all along that recovering veterans such as Smith, Suggs and Dumervil would play very little, if at all, in the preseason.

"This is a day-to-day situation," Dumervil said when asked about his game readiness. "We will see how that works out. The goal is the opener, for sure. If I could try and get a preseason game in, that would be awesome. If not, we are looking forward to that challenge."

Dumervil again declined to offer much in the way of details about his surgery and the recovery from it. He said at the mandatory minicamp this summer that the procedure addressed some issues he's been having in his foot.

The 32-year-old is coming off one of the more difficult seasons of his 10-year career. His sack total dropped from a franchise-record 17 in 2014 to six last year, and he appeared to wear down after being forced to log every-down snaps when Suggs went down with a season-ending Achilles injury in Week 1.

"It was a tough year for all of us on many levels, but that is the good thing about football and life – you always have a second opportunity," Dumervil said. "We have to make sure we maximize it and seize the moment."

Dumervil joked that he has been keeping a list of people who have doubted his ability to be an impact pass rusher when he returns to the field.

"Especially as you get older, you understand your body kind of goes against the grain. That's why you have to do the necessary things that make sure you can be as competitive with the young guys. I look forward to being explosive, still," Dumervil said. "… This game will tell you when you can't play anymore. That is why you go out, you compete, and you don't take a day for granted. You appreciate when you are healthy, because that is not always the case, especially in this game that we play."

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