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Courtney Upshaw sheds pounds, gains experience

Every day that

Courtney Upshaw

walks into the

Ravens

’ practice facility in Owings Mills, he steps on a scale. The six or seven pounds shed since the Ravens selected him in the second round of the

NFL draft

is proof of the hard work the outside linebacker has put in since late April.

The weight loss is welcomed as Upshaw prepares for his first

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training camp, but his biggest concern during organized team activities has been getting the Ravens defense down, not his weight. After all, with star linebacker

Terrell Suggs

sidelined with a season-threatening injury, Upshaw is expected to line up with the first-string defense at next week’s mandatory minicamp.

“I feel I’ve learned a lot. These past few weeks coming in, the preparation has been a lot,” Upshaw said. “We’re all trying to get better each and every day and I feel I’m improving in every aspect of whatever they want me to do.”

Ravens head coach

John Harbaugh

said Upshaw is faring well in the transition from college to the professional ranks. With the loss of Suggs and

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Jarret Johnson
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, who signed with the

San Diego Chargers

, Upshaw may have to meet high expecations for the Ravens to improve a defense that ranked third overall in 2011.

Upshaw will get the first crack at the strong-side outside linebacker spot that used to be manned by Johnson, and he spent a decent chunk of time in OTAs dropping into coverage. But

Paul Kruger

, who could sub in for Suggs, will need some help chasing the quarterback at times.

First things first, though, Upshaw gets to chase down

Ray Lewis

next week. Lewis is expected to be at the mandatory minicamp — along with

Pro Bowl

defensive tackle

Haloti Ngata

and perhaps Pro Bowl safety

Ed Reed

— and Upshaw is excited to learn from the legendary linebacker.

“Just the fact that I get to play with Ray Lewis and actually get to see him in action and be on the same field with him [is special],” Upshaw said.

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