By Aaron Wilson, The Baltimore Sun
10:35 PM EDT, August 17, 2012
In his NFL debut, Ravens rookie outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw immediately got his legs chopped out from under him when he tried to penetrate the Detroit Lions' backfield.
And the former Alabama star's frustration mounted during the same play when he rose to his feet only to get knocked down again.
It was a painfully quiet NFL debut for the Ravens' top draft pick during a 27-12 defeat Friday night at M&T Bank Stadium, a game where he got manhandled at times by the Lions' offensive line.
"My first series, they got me good," Upshaw said. "I kind of felt a little slow. In the second half, I read it good and was able to stay on my feet. It's a whole lot different. These guys know what they're doing. In college, you have guys that don't know what they're doing. They can kind of do the wrong thing sometimes."
Lining up primarily at rush outside linebacker with the second-team defense, the Ravens' second-round draft pick got plenty of playing time during the first half.
However, Upshaw never pressured the quarterback and he failed to register a tackle.
"Nothing stood out that I saw," coach John Harbaugh said. "I think he played hard. It's good to get him out there. He needs to play. Here's a guy that hasn't practiced that much. He's only practiced a couple of days. So, just to have him out there playing was a good thing. We'll just see where he goes from here."
When Upshaw attempted to bull-rush Lions starting offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus, he got stonewalled. There were similar results against veteran tackle Jeff Backus.
Upshaw didn't create much of a push until the Lions inserted Jason Fox, their third-string right tackle.
"I really needed this game," said Upshaw, who was held out of the Ravens' first preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons with a sprained right shoulder. "I have been back at practice for a couple of days and I've gotten a few reps, but just being back in that game, I really needed it.
"In the second half, I felt a little better. In the first half, I was really just trying to get a feel of it. I really didn't feel myself. I really just wanted to come out and be more productive in a game."
In the second quarter, Upshaw lined up across the neutral zone and was called for an offsides penalty. That gave the Lions a first down.
Two plays later, Matthew Stafford delivered an 18-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson.
"It's just being disciplined," Upshaw said. "I'm just looking at the ball, and it cost seven points. I feel bad about it because we were third-and-short and I know they batted the ball down, but there was a penalty on me. I am sure coach is going to talk about that with me when we get back to it, and it's something I'm going to take to practice."
Upshaw indicated that his shoulder injury is improving.
"It's doing better," he said. "It's not 100 percent, but it's doing a whole lot better where I can play."
Upshaw reported to camp at roughly 280 pounds and didn't pass the conditioning test on the first try. Trying trying to reach a target weight of 270 pounds, Upshaw said he's down to 274 pounds.
Upshaw is starting to move around better now that he's dropped some weight.
"With the cardio and losing the weight," Upshaw said, "it really helped me a lot."
Solid outing for Kruger
Strongside outside linebacker Paul Kruger had his moments against the Lions and was much more active than his defensive teammates.
Kruger registered three solo tackles and a pass deflection, displaying more agility in pass coverage than he's shown so far during practice sessions. He finished with four tackles.
"I think there are always things to clean up," Kruger said. "I could have had a couple more tackles for a better yard situation. I got a little late on the tackles, but overall I think I played well and was in the right spot."
However, Kruger was also flagged for a late hit on Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford as he delivered a touchdown pass to Titus Young late in the first half.
Kruger acknowledged that his late hit could draw a fine from the league office.
"Yeah, I made a mistake," Kruger said. "He threw it right before I hit him and I don't know. It's one of those things I wish I could go back. I was just too high and tried to take my head down and hit him low on the shoulder, but it was just too high when I got close. It was a big mistake, so hopefully I won't have to pay too much for it.
"I was just trying to be aggressive, trying to get there before he released the ball and trying to get my head down. Like I said, it's just one of those things where you're going to have to learn to start to do more often or else you're going to be paying hefty fines every week."
Nose guard Ma'ake Kemoeatu started in place of Terrence Cody, perhaps a reward for getting down from his heavyweight status of 400 pounds several months ago.
Kemoeatu recorded two tackles, slamming running back Kevin Smith for a 4-yard loss in the first quarter.
Cody has been dealing with a slight hip injury. He entered the game in the second quarter, but wasn't particularly active as he had one tackle.
Reserve running back Anthony Allen is proving to be a liability in pass protection.
Allen's suspect blocking allowed blitzing free safety John Wendling to sack quarterback Joe Flacco.
This marks the second week in a row that Allen has allowed a sack. Each time, he appeared to drop his head and failed to make solid contact.
Sergio Kindle suffers stinger, Jah Reid has setback
Ravens backup outside linebacker Sergio Kindle suffered a left shoulder stinger during the second half and didn't return.
"It wasn't good," Kindle said. "I don't know how to grade it, though. There were stinging sensations and pain. I feel better now. I don't think it's serious."
Meanwhile, offensive tackle Jah Reid acknowledged that he had another setback to his strained right calf.
After returning to practice this week, Reid aggravated the injury for the second time. He first got hurt during a June minicamp and was carted off the field.
"It's disappointing to not be out there helping the team," Reid said afterward in the locker room. "It's aggravated right now. We're working on it. Hopefully, I can be back soon. It's not as bad as the first two times I hurt it. It just takes time. I thought I was going to be able to play, but I need to make more progress."
Wide receiver LaQuan Williams and fullback Vonta Leach sprained ankles and linebacker Ricky Brown has a hip contusion.
There were no apparent setbacks to previously injured players.
"The guys that had the issues injury-wise got through well," Harbaugh said. "So, that's good news."
The Ravens also deactivated tight ends Ed Dickson (sprained right shoulder) and Dennis Pitta (broken right hand), defensive end Ryan McBean (broken left ankle ), wide receiver Devin Goda (undisclosed), linebackers Terrell Suggs (Achilles tendon), Josh Bynes (back) and Darryl Blackstock (groin, high ankle sprain) and wide receiver David Reed (ACL surgery).
Starting wide receiver Torrey Smith didn't play due to a sprained right ankle that has kept him out of practice, increasing playing time for young receivers LaQuan Williams and Tandon Doss.
Cornerback Jimmy Smith played significantly after dealing with a tight back throughout camp.
Smith was beaten for a touchdown by Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson and seemed to have trouble moving smoothly throughout the first half.
Starting cornerback Lardarius Webb had forecasted an increased role for Smith this week after he didn't play against Atlanta, but Cary Williams got the start.
"He's coming along well," Webb said. "He's been a little short, but he is working his butt off, and that's something that we like to see from a young guy. He is coming out there as much as he can, and he's giving it all he's got."
Undrafted rookie inside linebacker Nigel Carr and veteran backup inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe led the Ravens with six tackles apiece. ... Former Baltimore coach Brian Billick, who called the game for FOX, wasn't the only link to the Ravens' Super Bowl championship team attending the game. ... Lions senior personnel executive James "Shack" Harris, a former Ravens director of pro personnel, was in the press box. ... The Ravens' game captains were middle linebacker Ray Lewis, Flacco and special-teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo.