Dean Pees has been through this before.
He was the linebackers coach for the New England Patriots when he learned that Tedy Bruschi, a Pro Bowl middle linebacker and one of the team's emotional leaders, had a stroke, putting both his 2005 season and the rest of his career in jeopardy.
Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, needed surgery to repair a torn Achilles and would be lost for a big part of — if not all — of the 2012 season.
"I think as a coach, you just go out there and you have to coach the guys that are here. There aren't any other choices," said Pees, who was promoted to Ravens' defensive coordinator in late January after Chuck Pagano was named the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. "Those weren't exactly the words that I wanted to hear about [Bruschi] … but we put in somebody else, Mike Vrabel, who had never even played [middle linebacker]. I'm not saying he was great at it, but we had schemes and things that we could do until Bruschi came back. It will be the same thing with Terrell. We'll have guys in the place, and we'll do things that we need to do until he gets back. When he gets back, we probably won't change a whole lot. We'll just try to put him in a position to do what he does best."
Bruschi returned to play nine games for the Patriots in 2005. The Ravens would be lucky to get Suggs back as quickly. Though Suggs maintains that he'll be back in action by November at the latest, the history of the injury suggests that he'll miss more time than that.
"Unfortunately, the situation with Terrell, we would like that to be different, but it's not," Pees said. "But it's also not the first time in any of our careers — especially in mine — that we've had a good player either miss some time, or even miss a whole season. What you do is, you've still got to install the defense. You've still got to find out who can play the position. I don't think that we're not going to show up next fall, so the thing of it is, somebody's got to step up, somebody's got to take his spot."
During the Ravens' offseason team activities, it has been fourth-year linebacker Paul Kruger who has primarily filled Suggs' rush linebacker role with rookie second-round pick Courtney Upshaw playing the strong-side linebacker spot formerly occupied by Jarret Johnson. Pees praised both and also mentioned Albert McClellan and Sergio Kindle, who could play on the outside while Suggs is out.
But he also acknowledged that things will obviously have to change some scheme-wise without the presence of Suggs who led the AFC with 14 sacks and seven forced fumbles last year.
"It's just like last year when we lost Ray [Lewis] for four games. Did we change the package? Some. You tweak it a little bit, you don't really change it," Pees said. "You've got enough stuff, hopefully within your package, that if something happens to somebody, you can go to something else that'll really kind of plays to their strengths. And that's what you look for in personnel. You try to find everybody's strengths."
Lighter turnout than previous week
Nineteen of the Ravens' 90 roster players were absent from today's voluntary OTA, a drop-off from the attendance at last week's workout.
Veteran center Matt Birk, who didn't take part in last week's OTA, did participate Wednesday, but several players went the other direction. The group of players that participated last week but not today included fullback Vonta Leach, wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Rodney Bradley, guards Marshal Yanda and Jah Reid, tackle Bryant McKinnie, linebackers Brendon Ayanbadejo and Cody Glenn, defensive end Pernell McPhee, defensive tackle Bryan Hall, cornerback Jimmy Smith and safety Bernard Pollard.
Running back Ray Rice, linebackers Lewis and Suggs, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, cornerback Asa Jackson and safety Ed Reed have not been here for either session. Lewis, Suggs, Ngata and Reed traditionally don't attend while Rice is staying away as his agent works on a long-term contract for him, and Jackson is still attending classes at Cal-Poly.
The Ravens have another three-day voluntary OTA next week followed by a mandatory veteran minicamp from June 12-14.
Cundiff still has edge
A week after being the only kicker at the team workouts, Billy Cundiff had some company today in the form of Justin Tucker, an undrafted free agent out of the University of Texas who the Ravens signed Tuesday. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said that the two will compete for the starting kicker job, but he made it clear that Cundiff is out in front.
"He has done nothing to make us think that he can't handle that competition," Harbaugh said. "There is always competition. Billy obviously has the edge, but everybody is fighting for their job."
Tucker impressed coaches during a tryout at the rookie minicamp earlier this month. He made 40-of-48 career field goal attempts while at Texas.
"All I can do is put my best foot forward and do my best to impress coaches and my other teammates," Tucker said. "I'm learning new stuff everyday. Whether it's really small or a schematic thing, I'm always learning. I feel like all I can do is be me and do what I do. I've put in a lot of hard work, a lot of training, a lot of mental focus into trying to perfect different aspects of my technique."
Rookie Kelechi Osemele, a second-round pick and a candidate to start at left guard, did not participate in Wednesday's practice because of an undisclosed injury. Harbaugh said that Osemele, like several of the rookies, has "little bumps and bruises … but he's fine." ... Assistant head coach/Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg said that the staff is looking at veteran Jacoby Jones both as a punt and kickoff returner. Jones only returned punts for the Houston Texans last year … Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said quarterback Joe Flacco had had "his most consistent offseason. He has always done well, but he is stacking days on top of each other right now," Cameron said. … Second-year wide receiver LaQuan Williams also stood out, making several tough catches in practice … Second-year tackle Ramon Harewood, on the other hand, struggled and was flagged several times for false starts and holding penalties. … With no Yanda, McKinnie or Reid, Harewood, Jack Cornell and Justin Boren spent some time with the first team offensive line and Michael Oher played some left tackle. Fourth-round pick Gino Gradkowski remained mostly at center.
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New defensive coordinator Dean Pees says Ravens can overcome injury to Terrell Suggs
In New England, Pees had to make up for the loss of start middle linebacker Teddy Bruschi
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