Ngakoue, Mekari back at practice as Ravens ready for January rematch with Tennessee


OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens aren’t yet back to full strength as they prepare for Sunday’s wild-card clash with Tennessee, but a key player on each side of the ball returned to practice on Wednesday.

Outside linebacker Yannick Ngakoue (thigh) and starting center Patrick Mekari (back) were limited participants after sitting out the regular-season finale at Cincinnati. Both exited early from the Week 16 win over the New York Giants, but head coach John Harbaugh expressed optimism after Sunday’s 38-3 win over the Bengals about their availability against the Titans. Undrafted rookie Trystan Colon-Castillo started in Mekari’s place against Cincinnati as the Ravens rushed for a franchise-record 404 yards.

“I do think there’s a good chance we get both of those guys back,” Harbaugh said. “I can’t say for certain, but I think there’s a good chance for those guys to play.”

Cornerback Jimmy Smith (ribs/shoulder) also practiced on a limited basis as he did last Thursday and Friday before sitting out against the Bengals. The 32-year-old hasn’t played in a game since injuring his shoulder in the Week 14 win at Cleveland, but logging multiple practices for a second straight week would bode well for his chances of playing.

Veteran slot receiver Willie Snead remained out with an ankle injury after Harbaugh acknowledged Monday that he’s “not a given to play” in the wild-card round after sitting out in Week 17. Right tackle D.J. Fluker also missed Wednesday’s workout with a knee issue.

Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell was given a veteran day off, but his health and presence in the trenches will be critical in trying to slow Pro Bowl running back Derrick Henry, who rushed for 133 yards in Tennessee’s Week 11 overtime win in Baltimore. Neither Campbell nor nose tackle Brandon Williams played in that 30-24 loss, but the 34-year-old Campbell acknowledged this being one of the key matchups for which the Ravens acquired him last March.

“Not being able to play in that first game and not being able to play a bunch of games, I think the benefit is that I feel really good right now,” said Campbell, who added that Henry is “in the zone” after finishing a historic 2,000-yard regular season. “I feel really healthy in the sense where I can go out there and make some plays. I’m looking forward to it. I can’t wait to go out there and play some good football.”

Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey (shoulder) sat out Wednesday’s practice as he did last week before playing in Week 17 without incident.

Still on the reserve-COVID-19 list, punter Sam Koch wasn’t listed on the injury report or taking part in Wednesday’s practice, but he remains on track to be activated in time for Sunday’s game. The 38-year-old missed the first contest of his 15-year NFL career in Week 17 while Johnny Townsend handled his usual punting and holding responsibilities.

“He may not practice for a few days this week, but he’s really not going to need to be at practice to punt in the game,” said Harbaugh about Koch on Monday. “If things go according to plan, I expect him to be out there punting. If not, we have Johnny [Townsend], and Johnny did a real good job.”

Tennessee conducted a walk-through practice on Wednesday, meaning their participation levels on the injury report were estimations.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DE Calais Campbell (non-injury), OT D.J. Fluker (knee), CB Marlon Humphrey (shoulder), WR Willie Snead (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: C Patrick Mekari (back), OLB Yannick Ngakoue (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (ribs/shoulder)

DID NOT PARTICIPATE: G Aaron Brewer (non-injury), S Kevin Byard (non-injury), OT Dennis Kelly (knee), G Rodger Saffold (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB Daren Bates (hip), WR A.J. Brown (knee/hand), RB Darrynton Evans (shoulder), CB Adoree Jackson (knee), C Ben Jones (hamstring), TE Geoff Swaim (wrist)
FULL PARTICIPATION: OLB Derick Roberson (hamstring)