By Peter King
Pro Football Writers of America
NEW ORLEANS—Two key starters nursing injuries for the AFC champion Baltimore Ravens, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and tight end Dennis Pitta, ran and practiced well Wednesday afternoon at Tulane University as the Ravens opened on-field preparations for Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVII against San Francisco.
It’s unlikely that either player will miss the Super Bowl. Pitta has a thigh injury but moved freely during the workout. Ellerbe, who starts next to Ray Lewis in the Ravens’ 3-4 alignment, ran without a limp. “I’m definitely playing in this game,’’ Ellerbe said at Super Bowl media day on Tuesday.
While the NFC champ 49ers worked out at the Saints’ facility across town in Metairie, the Ravens practiced for one hour and 55 minutes on a makeshift 80-yard field stretching across the FieldTurf outfield, from foul pole to foul pole, at Tulane’s Greer Field baseball diamond. And while the Niners worked out inside the Saints’ indoor facility to prepare for a game that will be played in a wind-free domed stadium, Baltimore’s passing game—with deep-throwing quarterback Joe Flacco—dealt with wind gusts in New Orleans up to 24 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service.
Baltimore had the option of working out at the Saints’ indoor facility late in the afternoon or early Wednesday evening, after the 49ers finished their work. That would have negated the impact of the wind. But Harbaugh said he and the players preferred to practice on schedule in mid-afternoon.
Flacco had a sharp practice, hitting wideout Torrey Smith on one deep touchdown thrown through a crosswind. Flacco also hit Anquan Boldin in tight coverage on a perfectly thrown ball downfield. Judging by one practice in difficult conditions, it appeared that the 10-day layoff since Baltimore’s last game has not affected the quarterback who has thrown eight touchdowns and no interceptions in the Ravens’ 3-0 playoff run.
“We had a great practice,’’ said coach John Harbaugh as his players left the field late Wednesday afternoon. “We didn’t like the wind, but we got all of our work done. Spirits are high. They looked great.’’
“Our players are upbeat and happy,’’ said Harbaugh. “They don’t complain about anything.”
On hand to watch practice was the CBS game and pre-game crew, including Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Boomer Esiason, Bill Cowher and former Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe, who exchanged warm greetings with Ray Lewis and several coaches and members of the organization. The league allows the TV crew doing the game to observe one afternoon of practice for each team during the practice week.
The Ravens will resume practice Thursday afternoon at Tulane.