As a former special teams coordinator, John Harbaugh always has his eye on that particular aspect of the game.
He's always looking for the next great kicker, gunner or return man.
But Harbaugh said today that one guy who likely won't be in the mix for much special teams action this year, especially when it comes to returning kickoffs, is Lardarius Webb.
Webb excelled in that area last year prior to tearing his ACL in December, averaging 26.2 yards per kickoff return. He took one to the house as well, running a kick back 95 yards for a touchdown against the Broncos.
But the second-year cornerback was just taken off the Physically Unable to Perform list yesterday, and is being eased back into action. Because of Webb's injury situation and because of the Ravens' lack of quality depth at corner, the team would prefer not to have him returning kicks this year.
Harbaugh gave us the thought process that goes into a coach's decision whether or not to use a key player as a returner, and it's pretty interesting stuff.
Here are his comments:
"You'd rather use a backup, no question. We used to always discuss Brian Westbrook in Philadelphia [when Harbaugh was the special teams coordinator with the Eagles], and when he returned it, he usually made big plays. How often do you get a great player in space offensively or defensively? Not that often. That's why you put an Ed Reed back there every now and then. By the same token, you don't want to risk an injury with a guy like that.
"So, if you're talking about Lardarius Webb, I think at some point in time in the future, he could be a returner again, depending on what his role is on defense and what other guys we have in the mix. But certainly not early, and I really don't think so this year, coming off an ACL. Now, he'll be a backup, if we have to put him out there, [we'll do it]. But we've got Jalen Parmele, we've got some other candidates.
"I think we're going to be very cautious with Lardarius that way. He loves to play. Not to say you wouldn't see him out there at corner on punt return later in the year, or even at gunner or something like that, possibly. We're trying to win games. But we're going to air on the side of making sure we don't put him at undue risk."