Johnson returns to practice, Pagano talks J. Smith's progress

The one surprise holdout from yesterday's practice - linebacker Jarret Johnson - was back on the field today participating in the Ravens' afternoon session.

Johnson got yesterday off to rest his injured back, but returned to action today. Rest assured, the veteran linebacker and resident tough guy will increase his streak of 118 straight games played (which is a franchise record, by the way) Monday night against the Jaguars.

Cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (high left ankle sprain) and Chris Carr (hamstring) participated today for a second straight day, while wide receiver Lee Evans (ankle), guard Ben Grubbs (toe) and safety Tom Zbikowski (concussion) were not a part of practice.

Meanwhile, defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano talked earlier today about how Smith - the rookie corner who has been out since the season opener - dealt with having to miss the last six weeks, and how he has responded to being back on the practice field yesterday.

"The mental part of it, he did a great job," Pagano said. "He was in every meeting, taking notes and preparing as if he was going to play. He looks pretty good. Like anything, it's like starting over. You have to knock the rust off a little bit, and trust the ankle that it is healed. Playing the position that he plays, there's a lot of starting and stopping and cutting and those types of things. He looks good."

Fans will be eager to see the Ravens' first-round pick in action as soon as possible, and many will expect him to return to his peak form as soon as he's back. Pagano cautioned that Smith will need to be eased back into action, and he likely won't have his A-game immediately upon his return.

"It will be tough being out. It's like starting all over again," Pagano said. "But we'll throw him out there, we'll see where he's at, we'll see how he continues to progress throughout the weekend and we'll see Monday night where he's at. He'll be OK. He'll do a good job."

Personally, I still would be surprised if Smith played Monday night against Jacksonville. The best course of action, in my view, is to play things safe and give Smith some extra rest Monday, run him out there next Sunday against the Cardinals and give him a chance to get his feet wet, and then have the rookie full-go come Week 9 against the Steelers.

We'll see if the coaching staff and trainers concur, or if they opt to give Smith some playing time Monday night and see how he responds.

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