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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens will open their first preseason game without several of their top playmakers who have not been able to practice. Linebackers Elvis Dumervil (foot) and Terrell Suggs (Achilles), along with wide receivers Steve Smith Sr. (Achilles) and former first-round pick Breshad Perriman (knee) will not play Thursday against the Carolina Panthers.
However, Ravens coach John Harbaugh is confident that group should be healthy for the first regular season game Sept. 11 against Buffalo.
“We do expect them all to play in the opener,” Harbaugh said. “As far as the preseason, it goes back to, ‘We’ll see.’ They all want to play, I know that. They’re all working really hard to play in the preseason, but we’re certainly expecting them all back for the opener. We’ll just have to make some decisions.”
Suggs has not played since the 2015 season opener when he was carted off the field in Denver. He has been rehabbing at the team’s practice facility and has expressed optimism about his return. That sentiment is shared by Harbaugh.
“Terrell Suggs is the closest,” Harbaugh said. “He had the injury the soonest. He’s already on me about practice, and I’m holding him back right now. He’ll be out there soon practicing. How much we play him remains to be seen. The other guys are probably a little longer away than he is – him being ready – but we’ll just see where we go. But they should all play in the regular season.”
With Suggs and Dumervil out with injuries, second-year player Za’Darius Smith has been taking reps with the starters. Smith had a solid rookie year, playing his way into the rotation and finishing with 5.5 sacks. He said the transition into training camp in his second year has gone smoothly.
“I feel good about everything,” Smith said. “Right now, I’m getting a lot of reps. I’m just getting ready for the week and preparing for one of the best teams in the league that we play on Thursday. I’m ready for it.”
While Suggs has not been able to play, he has provided Smith with tips in the film room. Smith takes that advice with him on the field. Smith has seen his biggest improvement with setting the edge and getting to the quarterback. An aggressive pass rush will be vital for the Ravens’ this season.
“I feel good about myself,” Smith said. “I think I will do a lot of great things this year. Just like I said, getting a lot of reps and learning from my mistakes is making me better. Coach put me situations in which I can do a lot of things, to dropping in coverage, playing inside and playing outside.”
— Another player to watch in Thursday’s preseason game is rookie cornerback Tavon Young, who has impressed coaches throughout camp with his ability to get to the ball. Young was selected in the fourth round (104th overall) out of Temple and could make an impact his first year.
Young has not been overwhelmed by his first NFL training camp.
“You have to play with confidence,” Young said. “When you are a cornerback, you have to play with confidence; you can’t be scared. If you play scared, you are going to give up plays. If you have confidence, you give up a play, and you come back and make a play back. That is just the life of a cornerback. You have to have confidence, and that is what I bring to the game.”
Young started 32 games for Temple and finished with seven interceptions and 2.5 sacks. He could also play a key role for Baltimore on special teams.
“You have to play special teams,” he said. “I’m a young guy – that is the way you make the team, and that is what I’m trying to do. Wherever I fit in, that is what I’m trying to do, to help everybody, so I can make the team.”
NOTES: TE Crockett Gillmore (hamstring) has been injured since July 29. He also underwent offseason shoulder surgery. Gillmore took over the starting job at tight end last year, but he will have to battle newly acquired Benjamin Watson for the top job this season. Watson has been healthy throughout camp. … TE Dennis Pitta (finger) has not been able to play since the team’s practice at M&T Bank Stadium on Aug. 1. Pitta sprained the finger on his right hand during a scuffle between the offense and defense. … TE Maxx Williams (undisclosed) was apparently injured Monday and did not practice the following day. This makes his status questionable for the preseason opener. … CB Maurice Canady was back on the practice field Tuesday and could potentially play Thursday against the Panthers. Canady, a sixth-round pick, is looking to be part of the rotation at cornerback. … Rookie WR Chris Moore (undisclosed) was a spark for the offense early in camp. However, he has been out with “a little tweak” and his status for Thursday’s game against the Panthers is questionable.