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Marcus Williams returns to Ravens practice — and crowded picture at safety

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With starting free safety Marcus Williams returning to practice after a two-game absence and understudy Geno Stone leading the NFL in interceptions, the Ravens face a good problem ahead of their Week 9 clash with Seattle.

How does defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald find enough room for both as well as 2022 first-round safety Kyle Hamilton?

Such depth explains why Baltimore enters the week ranked first in scoring defense, second in total defense, and third in pass defense. That the Baltimore secondary has played at such an elite level with Williams playing just three games because of hamstring and pectoral injuries and three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey missing the first four games due to August foot surgery is a testament to the roster depth built by general manager Eric DeCosta, the coaching staff, and the players themselves.

“It is a good problem. I mean, it’s a lot of good guys,” said Stone, whose five interceptions tied Ed Reed’s franchise record for most picks through the first eight games of a season. “Having depth like that is great because we’re a team that’s going to put the best players out there. Mike’s going to put a good game plan in to make sure we’re all on the field — whoever’s on the field no matter what it is. Especially Marcus, he’s the playmaker we need with the other guys going out there to be great in coverage and take the ball away. You can’t have too many good guys. It’s always a good problem.”

When Williams returned in Week 5 from a pectoral injury suffered in the season opener, Stone reverted to a limited role in sub packages — playing 20 defensive snaps in the 17-10 loss at Pittsburgh — but the answer may not be as simple this time around with Pro Football Focus grading the 2020 seventh-round pick fifth among qualified NFL safeties this season. That said, Williams was only a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice, so the Ravens could play it slow with his return by keeping the 27-year-old on a more limited snap count. The Ravens could also move Hamilton to the nickel role in a greater capacity, which would allow Stone and Williams to be on the field together more frequently. Veteran Arthur Maulet has served as the primary nickel role over the last month or so.

Though there’s no questioning Williams’ overall play as he’s collected four interceptions in 13 games since signing a five-year, $70 million contract last year, the durability he showed in New Orleans hasn’t carried over to the Ravens with the 6-foot-1, 207-pound safety missing 12 contests over the last two seasons. Williams missed a total of five games over his first five NFL campaigns.

“I’ve always had a strong mentality. I’ve always seen stuff happen in life that’s worse than my situation,” Williams said. “I always continue to be positive and optimistic because I know I will be back, and it’s not the end. I’ll come back better than I was before. My mentality is to be the best, and the only way I can do that is be on the field. I’m going to continue to keep my health up after that.”

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Williams wasn’t the only safety to return to practice Wednesday as reserve Daryl Worley was designated to return from injured reserve.

Six players sat out Wednesday’s workout, but head coach John Harbaugh downplayed questions about their availability. Starting offensive tackles Ronnie Stanley (shoulder) and Morgan Moses (shoulder) as well as running back Gus Edwards (toe) were among those missing from the field.

“Nothing to really report that’s concerning that way,” Harbaugh said. “As it goes along in the week, we’ll kind of see it unfold that way.”

Running back Keaton Mitchell was a full participant after sitting out the Week 8 win at Arizona due to a hamstring injury.

Only two Seattle starters missed Wednesday’s workout with the absences of safety Jamal Adams (knee) and wide receiver Tyler Lockett (hamstring) regarded more as health maintenance than any concern for their availability on Sunday.

Below is the full injury report for Wednesday: 

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Odell Beckham Jr. (shoulder), RB Gus Edwards (toe), OT Morgan Moses (shoulder), OLB Odafe Oweh (ankle/knee), OT Ronnie Stanley (shoulder), CB Rock Ya-Sin (illness)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: S Marcus Williams (hamstring)
FULL PARTICIPATION: RB Keaton Mitchell (hamstring), DB Daryl Worley (shoulder)

SEATTLE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: S Jamal Adams (rest/knee), WR Tyler Lockett (hamstring)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: G Anthony Bradford (ankle), G Phil Haynes (calf), LB Boye Mafe (shoulder), S Jerrick Reed (shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: NT Austin Faoliu (knee), G Damien Lewis (ankle), RB Kenny McIntosh (knee), WR DK Metcalf (hip), TE Brady Russell (biceps)

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