OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With 13 NFL seasons under his belt, new Ravens defensive tackle Domata Peko was waiting for the right opportunity after his contract with Denver expired in March.
Coaching his son’s football team and staying in shape in California this fall, the 34-year-old declined his first chance to join Baltimore after working out and ultimately declining an offer last month. A few more wins by the Ravens — as well as a reported $1 million to play for the rest of the season — apparently changed the former Cincinnati Bengal’s mind about joining a Super Bowl contender.
A right ankle injury sustained by starting defensive tackle Michael Pierce in Sunday’s win at Cincinnati increased the urgency for the Ravens to beef up their defensive line as general manager Eric DeCosta signed Peko and former Oakland defensive tackle Justin Ellis on Tuesday. Head coach John Harbaugh described Pierce as “day-to-day” Monday, but the fourth-year defensive lineman didn’t practice Wednesday and appears unlikely to play against Houston in Week 11.
The Ravens giving up 157 yards on the ground against the Bengals reinforced the concerns about the depth along the defensive line after Pierce played only three snaps. Peko and Ellis own a combined 228 starts in the NFL.
“It’s about everything. It’s about being the best football team we can be,” Harbaugh said. “Those are two really good players that help us at that position. They’re very stout, physical guys, and we appreciate guys like that.”
Peko and Ellis are the latest additions to help fortify a defense that’s undergone significant change due to injuries and shaky performance since Week 1. The in-season arrivals of inside linebackers Josh Bynes and L.J. Fort, pass rusher Jihad Ward, and cornerback Marcus Peters have helped the Baltimore defense improve from 27th in total yards and 23rd in points allowed after four games to a respectable 14th in total yards and 13th in points allowed entering Week 11.
That improvement and the NFL’s top scoring offense led by MVP candidate Lamar Jackson have made the Ravens an attractive destination for a veteran like Peko eyeing a Super Bowl.
Pierce was the only Ravens player to miss Wednesday’s practice solely due to injury, but safety Earl Thomas continues to nurse a knee issue as he received a veteran day off. Running back Mark Ingram and cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr were also held out of practice.
Conducting their first official practice since their bye week, the Texans listed six players as limited participants. That group includes starting wide receiver Will Fuller (hamstring), starting offensive tackles Laremy Tunsil (shoulder) and Tytus Howard (knee), starting safety Tashaun Gipson (back/wrist), and starting cornerback Bradley Roby (hamstring), who all missed at least one game in the weeks leading up to the bye.
Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Brandon Carr (non-injury), RB Mark Ingram (non-injury), DT Michael Pierce (ankle), CB Jimmy Smith (non-injury), Earl Thomas (non-injury/knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Marquise Brown (ankle), WR Chris Moore (thumb)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB Dylan Cole (knee), WR Will Fuller (hamstring), S Tashaun Gipson (back/wrist), OL Tytus Howard (knee), CB Bradley Roby (hamstring), OT Laremy Tunsil (shoulder)