Smith's status remains fluid as preparations begin for Cleveland


OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A day after turning in a remarkable two-touchdown performance in the Ravens’ 31-30 victory over the New England Patriots, wide receiver Torrey Smith returned to Virginia to be with his family as they continue to mourn the loss of his 19-year-old brother Tevin Jones.
Head coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens are working under the assumption that Smith will play against the Cleveland Browns on Thursday, but the family must make funeral arrangements while dealing with the loss of a family member. The Ravens dedicated their victory to Smith’s late brother after the second-year wide receiver caught six passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns.
“Again, it will be up to him,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t want to speak for him on that, and he hasn’t made any definitive statement to me about it. He is with his family today, and he plans on being back here [Tuesday]. We’ll just play it by ear and see how he is doing.”
Smith announced on his official Twitter page that the family has created a scholarship to honor the memory of his younger sibling.
Teammates expressed support via social media and expressed how proud they were to have Smith as a teammate following the win on Sunday night.
“He’s got two families, he knows that we have his back,” running back Ray Rice. “We’re facing a different fight with everything that’s been going on the past few weeks with Art Modell [passing away]. We’ve all been playing with a chip on our shoulder. Torrey Smith is one of the hardest working guys on the team, so he would have had to have been broken to not play.”
Bulkier Ngata feeling stronger early
Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata’s weight gain earned attention this offseason when he reported to June’s mandatory minicamp looking noticeably heavier than he was lat season.
Ngata told reporters he weighed 342 pounds during the preseason and bulked up from his playing weight of 325 pounds last season. The three-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman felt he wasn’t strong enough as the 2011 season progressed and was also dealing with a deep thigh bruise as the year went on.
Three games into the new season, the 28-year-old is pleased with how he’s performed at the higher weight. His conditioning has not appeared to be an issue as some thought it might as Ngata took 77 of the Ravens’ 82 defensive snaps against New England.
“I definitely feel the power,” said Ngata, who expressed a need for the front four to pressure the quarterback more consistently. “I’m pushing back the lineman a little bit more and able to get some knockbacks. That’s been good, so hopefully I can just continue that throughout the season.”
Ngata has 16 tackles with 2 1/2 sacks and one pass breakup this season. He is tied with linebacker Dannell Ellerbe for the team lead in sacks.
The defensive tackle has admitted to putting more pressure on himself to contribute in the pass rush as the Ravens play without Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs.
“He’s playing really well,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a guy that we expect to play at the highest level; he’s a guy that we need to play at the highest level, and Haloti’s doing that.”
One eye ahead, one eye back
Playing their next game roughly 96 hours after their prime-time contest against New England, the Ravens are a balancing act this week with only a limited amount of time until welcoming an AFC North rival to M&T Bank Stadium.
However, the Ravens do benefit from playing at home and Harbaugh acknowledged that their past Thursday night game experiences aid greatly in striking the right balance between taking care of players from a physical standpoint and making sure they’re mentally sound to take on the Browns.
“Two things are important: preparation and recovery,” Harbaugh said. “One can’t really take a backseat to the other; the recovery is going to be just as important as the preparation. Obviously, we have to be prepared.”
Harbaugh regularly talks with veterans on the 53-man roster regarding the practice schedule and has shown flexibility when necessary.
Always creatures of habit, players must accelerate their preparation, but the familiarity they have against Cleveland aids in the process.
“Our coaches are doing a really good job as far as making sure we know what’s going on with the game plan,” safety Bernard Pollard said. “For us, we can’t study as long as we normally have, but that goes along with being a pro.”
Injury report
With the Ravens conducting a walk-through on Monday, the injury report was more of an approximation of what the participation level would have been like for a regular practice.
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Brendon Ayanbadejo (knee)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Mohamed Massaquoi (hamstring), TE Alex Smith (head)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: DB Sheldon Brown (chest), WR Joshua Cribbs (knee), LB James-Michael Johnson (ribs/oblique), DB Ray Ventrone (hand)
FULL PARTICIPATION: OL Jason Pinkston (ankle), DL Frostee Rucker (wrist), RB Trent Richardson (knee), LS Christian Yount (shoulder)