All eyes will be on Ed Reed next week as the Ravens' six-time Pro Bowl safety is eligible to come off the Physically Unable to Perform list and return to practice.
But Reed isn't the only Ravens player who will be able to toss on the pads and get back to the practice field.
Linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who suffered a torn quadriceps tendon against the Patriots last October, will be able to return from PUP as well, and Ayanbadejo said today that he expects to test out the leg at practice next week and see if he can play against the Bills next Sunday.
"Oh, I'm definitely ready to practice," Ayanbadejo said. "I know I'm ready to practice, we'll just see how I stack up. Three days of practice and sprinkle my way back in there, and hopefully I'll be ready for Buffalo. I'm shooting for Buffalo, but it starts with practice first."
Practice? We're talkin' about practice?
Ayanbadejo's rehab has taken much longer than originally expected. He was supposed to return in time for part of the Ravens' OTAs this summer, and was planning to be fully healthy for training camp. Instead, he's been limited to individual drills for the last handful of months.
The eight-year veteran said he still has some pain at times, but doesn't think it's anything outside of the normal soreness that he would be feeling at this point in an NFL season.
"I mean, the only time I really feel good is when I'm out running around and lifting weights and doing that stuff," Ayanbadejo said. "When I'm at home, just sitting on the couch, it tends to ache, but that's the same for any player. Once you're lubricated up and warmed up, and got a nice sweat going, you feel good. Even if you're 100 percent healthy, you sit at home and you're feeling achey."
Ayanbadejo says he's been told that he'll get some work on defense, special teams, and a little bit in goal line packages. Considered primarily a special teams ace for most of his career, Ayanbadejo worked his way into the mix at inside linebacker for the Ravens last year in nickel situations, and he even earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors the week before suffering his quad injury.
He says he's not really sure what his role will be when he returns this year.
"Are they going to throw in there and have me playing on all phases of special teams?" Ayanbadejo said. "Am I going to sprinkle in on defense? For me, I want to sprinkle in a little defense and sprinkle in a little special teams to break myself in. That's what I want to do, and then let my role establish itself. If I start excelling on defense, then [I'd like to] pick up my role where I left off on defense, and maybe tune things down a little bit on special teams. If that's not the case, then go back to a full-time special teams player.
"So, whatever I can do to make the team better, as long as it doesn't adversely affect the team or my knee, I'm all for it."
Just as a side note, reserve running back Matt Lawrence, who has been dealing with a knee injury, will also be eligible to come off PUP next week, but head coach John Harbaugh indicated on Monday that Lawrence might be further from returning than Reed or Ayanbadejo.