Zbikowski starting to close in on a return

Once Tom Zbikowski learned that he wouldn't need surgery on his ailing back, he knew it was just a matter of time before he got healthy and would be able to return to the field.

With the postseason arriving this weekend, the Ravens' third-year safety couldn't have picked a better time to start feeling healthy enough to practice.

Zbikowski has missed the last three weeks because of a bulging disc in his back, and while the team was initially concerned he might need to miss the rest of the season, Zbikowski said he was assured that he won't need to be put on injured reserve or require offseason surgery.

He got a cortisone shot a few weeks ago to relieve some of the pain and returned to practice yesterday for the first time since suffering the injury back in a Week 14 game against the Texans.

"Just to move and be with the team again and just knowing it's not going to get worse (feels good)," Zbikwoski said. "I'm feeling pretty good right now. We'll see how the rest of the week goes, see how it feels. But it's finally feeling good and straightened up and everything. I'm able to move around and everything so it should be alright."

After starting the first six games of the season in place of the injured Ed Reed, Zbikowski has been the one battling the injury bug. He was inactive for eight of the Ravens' last 10 games of the year because of the back injury and a foot issue as well.

The most recent injury has left Zbikowski noticeably slimmer than he was earlier in the season. He says he'd like to be able to return for this Sunday's wild card game against the Chiefs, but acknowledges that it might be a little soon for him to be back in game form.

"You're always going to want some more practice time, especially when you've been off," Zbikowski said. "Getting back out there, honestly, it felt a little weird, you know what I mean? Literally, I had to get my legs back under me. But it felt good today. It should be feeling good tomorrow. I didn't feel anything at practice that would make it worse."

Zbikowski said it was a huge relief to hear that he wouldn't have to go under the knife, "But it didn't help pass the time staring at the ceiling," he added.

He said he doesn't have any pain in the back at this point, and is looking forward to returning as soon as he's healthy enough to play.

"I feel good," he said. "Just a little soreness and fatigue from not really using it too much. I was a little worried about how it was going to feel when I woke up this morning, but it felt pretty good. It felt real good, actually. So, I'm excited to be back out there and I can't wait to dress back up."

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