It's been nearly five weeks since Tavares Gooden injured his shoulder in the Ravens' loss to the Bengals, and today, the third-year linebacker returned to the practice field for the first time since the injury.
"I didn't know. The head trainer came to me today and said, 'It's up to you. Go out there and see how you feel,'" Gooden said. "I took it a step further, went out there and ran around a little bit. Felt good, though. There's no shape like football. Me and Chris Carr were just joking around about it. You can do all the sprints and stuff you want, but there's nothing like football shape. I think that will help me out a bit."
Gooden had been getting reps from scrimmage as the Ravens' inside linebacker in passing situations in the first two games of the season, and he was a key member on special teams as well.
There were some questions after Gooden's injury whether the Ravens could afford to keep him on the active roster while he worked his way back, or if they would have to put him on Injured Reserve. They opted to keep the Miami product on the 53-man roster, and now he's finally working his way back to game shape to the delight of head coach John Harbaugh and Gooden's teammates.
"Coach Harbaugh was like, 'I love to see you in that uniform,'" Gooden said. "That's all. It was encouragement, kind of a lift from the team. Everybody kind of sparked up. That was a good feeling to go out there and have that feeling. Now, I just can't wait for my time to be up again.
"I only practiced one day, I don't know how that's going to go as far as me playing or depth chart stuff like that, but I can't wait until I do get an opportunity again."
Harbaugh acknowledged today that the Ravens' Week 9 game against the Dolphins - their next game after the upcoming bye week - could be a nice target date for both Gooden and wide receiver Donte' Stallworth to return.
Stallworth, who broke his foot in the Ravens' preseason finale, returned to practice yesterday and also took part in today's session.
Gooden said that returning against the Dolphins would be a dream scenario.
"That would be fun," Gooden said. "Against the home town? The home town, the home team - that would be fun. Like I said, I'm going to keep working hard and then take it one week at a time and pray that I can play against the Dolphins."