If you're among the Ravens fans discouraged by the inconsistent play of Lee Evans and Domonique Foxworth, you have company in head coach John Harbaugh.
Harbaugh said Monday that it's clear the lingering injuries to Evans and Foxworth are affecting their ability to make plays, and the Ravens are going to have to make a difficult decision about whether it would be better to shut them down until their healthy rather than continue to send them out there.
Evans has been nursing a sore ankle for nearly a month, and it has limited his practice time. In the Ravens' 26-13 loss to the Titans, he looked like he was having trouble finishing his routes, and he was unable to come back to the ball on a play where quarterback Joe Flacco threw an interception in the first half.
"I think It's affecting him," Harbaugh said of Evans. "There is no doubt about it. We're going to have to take a hard look at that. To me, if he can do the things we need him to do, he plays. If he can't, he won't play. We've been nursing this thing now for a month. And I don't see it getting a lot better. So either he can play like we need him to, or he can't. The same thing goes for Domonique Foxworth."
Foxworth, who had surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament less than a year ago, was beaten several times by wide receivers during the Ravens first two games. Although the Ravens didn't plan on having him start this year, injuries to Jimmy Smith and Chris Carr have forced the Ravens to use him in a more prominent role.
"I don't think he feels like it's a 100 percent," Harbaugh said of Foxworth. "He's said that before. And it's definitely showing up in the way he's playing. He's playing very, very conservatively. And he knows — we all know — we've just got to get that thing right if that's what it is."
Harbaugh made it clear he wasn't trying to single out Evans and Foxworth for their poor play. But he feels it's clear the Ravens can't keep sending them out there, asking them to make plays even though they're not 100 percent.
"If they can't play the kind of football we need them to play because they're injured, it's no fault of theirs," Harbaugh said. "These guys are gutting it out. But they'll have to sit for awhile until they're healthy and then we'll see how that goes this week."
The Ravens are also going to be without wide receiver for at least three weeks, Harbaugh guessed, after he injured his shoulder against the Titans.
"It's probably three weeks, but I'm not a doctor, even if I play one during press conferences," Harbaugh said. "That's what it normally is."
Ngata not signed
Tuesday at 4 p.m. is the deadline for the Ravens to reach a long-term deal with Haloti Ngata, otherwise he'll play the rest of the season under the franchise tag and count approximately $12.5 million against the Ravens salary cap. The Ravens have said repeatedly that they do not comment on contract negotiations, and reports differ as to how far apart the two sides are. Signing Ngata to a long-term deal would give the Ravens some immediate cap flexibility if they decided to sign a free agent wide receiver or cornerback, but they're running out of time.
"I'm worried about football right now," Harbaugh said, when asked whether he was optimistic the Ravens would sign Ngata. "I'm not involved in contract negotiations, but thanks for asking."
Attempts to reach Ngata's agent, Mike McCartney, were unsuccessful.
If the Ravens don't sign Ngata now, they'll likely use the franchise tag on him again after the season.
Oher's struggles continue
Harbaugh was frustrated with a number of facets of Sunday's loss, but he seemed particularly annoyed by the two false start penalties by tackle Michael Oher. It's a problem Oher battled in 2010, but also something the Ravens assumed might improve when Oher switched from left tackle to right tackle. Asked by a reporter if the media was making too much of Oher's problem, Harbaugh gave perhaps his most animated answer of his press conference.
"No, you're not making too much of it," Harbaugh said. "Nobody is more frustrated with it than Michael. There's no reason for it. It's illogical, it makes no sense. Michael Oher is a great athlete. No offensive tackle in football is quicker than Michael, so he doesn't have to beat the snap count. That's got to stop. We've said it before. My advice for Michael is just to slow down. 'Slow down with your first set. When the ball is snapped, you're set, nobody is running around you. They are not going to run around you. You're too quick.' That's something we have to get done."
Gurode at guard?
When Ben Grubbs missed his first game in 61 starts against the Titans with a toe injury, it was a bit surprising that the Ravens decided to play tackle Mark LeVoir at left guard instead of trying to use back-up center Andre Gurode. Although Gurode made the Pro Bowl five times at center as a member of the Dallas Cowboy, he did play guard under Bill Parcells for several seasons. (Parcells later said it was a mistake to play Gurode at guard.) Harbaugh, however, defended the decision to start LeVoir in place of Grubbs on Sunday.
"[Gurode] never really played there before," Harbaugh said. "He's been a center his whole career, a starting center. Some of the stuff for him was different, the techniques, the angles. That showed up in practice last week. That's why we decided to play Mark at guard. And Mark did OK. I think Mark will get better, too. I think Andre is going to make a lot of progress there real fast and he could be part of that equation real soon."
Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times