Veteran defensive end Calais Campbell has heard the talk from teammates that you haven’t truly become a member of the Ravens until you’ve played Pittsburgh.
It’s a rite of passage he’ll now get to experience with an old Jacksonville friend after the Ravens acquired edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue from Minnesota last week. Ngakoue’s arrival comes at the perfect time as Baltimore faces an undefeated Steelers team that’s allowed just eight sacks in six games, tied for the third fewest in the NFL entering Monday.
Having combined with Ngakoue for 61 sacks over their three seasons together with the Jaguars from 2017-19, Campbell sees the University of Maryland product fitting nicely in a place he’s repeatedly described as “special” since being acquired in March.
“He’s probably one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met,” said Campbell as the Ravens returned from their bye week on Monday. “He watches a lot of tape. He’s always first in line running sprints as hard as he can. He gets to the ball. When they say lead the league in effort, he’s definitely going to be an effort guy. You see it when you watch his tape — he’s a high-motor guy. This coaching staff here, this organization, they’re going to allow him to be himself and to flourish.”
Head coach John Harbaugh said Ngakoue has already been taking part in Zoom meetings and should be cleared to begin practicing on Wednesday after going through COVID-19 testing protocols. With a crowded room of outside linebackers and only so much time to learn the Baltimore defensive playbook, however, Ngakoue’s role against the Steelers will be something to watch.
That won’t stop defensive coordinator Wink Martindale from lining him up to go after Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, a quarterback Ngakoue sacked twice in three previous meetings. With 42 1/2 sacks and 16 forced fumbles in 69 career games, the 25-year-old will have a chance to make an immediate impact in this storied AFC North rivalry.
“We’ll just plug him in. We’ll have to look and see what he understands and takes to and stuff like that,” Harbaugh said. “We always do that. But we’ll run our defense, and we’ll plug him into our defense.”
Waiting on Bryant
With COVID-19 protocols slowing down the process for teams to make outside additions this season, the Ravens haven’t yet signed veteran wide receiver Dez Bryant to their practice squad.
Harbaugh declined to discuss Bryant’s status with a resolution not expected for another day or two, but at least one Ravens offensive player is excited about the potential of playing with someone who caught 73 touchdown passes with the Dallas Cowboys from 2010-17.
“He’s been around the league for a long, long time,” tight end Mark Andrews said. “He actually followed me on Twitter a year or two ago, so I’m excited to meet him, and I’m excited to [be] around him hopefully, and just learn. Obviously, learn everything you can from a guy like that, just because they’ve done it, and they’ve been there.”
Bryant, who turns 32 next week, hasn’t caught an NFL pass since Andrews was in his final college season at Oklahoma, but this is at least the second time the Ravens have discussed a union with the 6-foot-2, 220-pound wideout since the start of training camp. The Ravens have just one wide receiver with more than 11 receptions through the first six games of the season.
Updates on Ingram, Levine
Harbaugh remains hopeful that veteran running back Mark Ingram will be able to play against the Steelers after leaving the Week 6 win over Philadelphia with a left ankle injury, but the practice week will be a determining factor.
“We’ll see. It wasn’t a major injury by any stretch,” Harbaugh said. “It’s just a matter of how he feels as the week goes on.”
The Ravens also hope to have reserve defensive back Anthony Levine back after the special-teams standout missed his first game since 2012 with an abdomen injury he’s been nursing since last month. The 33-year-old had played in 117 consecutive regular-season games for Baltimore.
“He needed the time off. He’d been fighting through a midsection strain for weeks and really just gutting it out,” Harbaugh said. “Hopefully, the time, the rest will give him a chance to get right. We’ll just have to see. It’ll probably go into the week here. We were targeting for him to be back for the Steelers game.”