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Jimmy Smith has limited role in return to field for Ravens

Jimmy Smith

's return to the

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Ravens

was an uneventful and quiet one.

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Making his first appearance since suffering a high left

ankle sprain

in the season opener, the rookie cornerback was limited mostly to special teams play against the

Jacksonville Jaguars

at EverBank Field Monday night.

Perhaps the best news was that Smith did not re-aggravate his ankle injury or leave the game with a new one.

Smith, the organization's first-round pick in April, played primarily on the punt return unit, lining up on the outside.

"We would have liked to put Jimmy on defense more … We didn't feel like this was the game to do that," Ravens coach

John Harbaugh

said.

Smith wasn't expected to overtake

Cary Williams

and

Lardarius Webb

as starters on the team's depth chart. Williams and Webb made their sixth consecutive starts at cornerback.

Curiously, Smith did not line up as the fifth defensive back in the team's nickel package as anticipated. That assignment went to third-year cornerback

Danny Gorrer

, who has been filling that role over the last three games.

Gorrer did break up a pass from Jacksonville quarterback

Blaine Gabbert

intended for wide receiver

Jason Hill

on the offense's first series of the contest.

But Gabbert connected with Hill for an 8-yard gain on third down-and-3 from the Jaguars' 45 in the third quarter. Even if the play had not resulted in a completion, Jacksonville would have gotten the first down because Gorrer had been flagged for holding Hill prior to the catch.

Still, it was a little strange not to see Smith line up on defense. It might have been an admission that Smith's ankle isn't fully recovered or that the first-year player still needs to be acclimated to the defensive playbook.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Smith had been lauded as the strong, physical cornerback the Ravens defense so desperately needed. But he sat out a significant portion of the preseason due to a

groin

injury.

Then Smith missed four consecutive games after sustaining the high ankle sprain while covering a kickoff in the Ravens' 35-7 rout of the

Pittsburgh Steelers

on Sept. 11.

He was limited in practice Thursday before fully participating Friday and Saturday.

"I feel good," Smith said after Saturday's session. "I don't know if I'm going to be able to play this game, but I feel good. … I'm optimistic. Like I said before, I don't really know what the coach is going to do."

The process of rehabilitating the ankle was an unusual one for Smith, who said he had never been injured prior to joining the Ravens.

"It's something I had to adapt to," he said. "I've never been in a situation like that. I didn't know what to expect or how you come back from something like that. But the team has been real supportive, everybody has been supportive, just encouraging me. They keep my spirits lifted."

On Saturday, Harbaugh was asked whether Smith would benefit from another week of rest.

"Yeah that's probably part of it, but the other side of the coin is, you want to get a young guy out there playing," Harbaugh said. "He needs to play, too. He hasn't played much. He played very little in the preseason. I think that's going to be tough for him. So both of those things are on our mind."

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