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Injury-riddled Ravens will lose backup RB Taliaferro for weeks with sprained knee ligament

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OWINGS MILLS, Maryland — In the corner of the Baltimore Ravens practice field Monday, a cozy group of eight offensive linemen went through drills.

Nearby, a lonely trio of running backs weaved through tackling dummies.

The dearth of players was mostly because coach John Harbaugh decided to give many of the veterans a day off. But more than a few of the holes could be attributed to the team's expansive injury list.

Reserve running back Lorenzo Taliaferro will miss several weeks with sprained MCL ligament, Harbaugh said, and the offensive line is so thin that Baltimore had difficulty getting five players across the front in Saturday's 40-17 preseason loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

"We'll be in a lot better shape this week," Harbaugh said, hopefully.

Things got so bad Saturday that two members of the offense — Taliaferro and tackle James Hurst — were forced out of the game after making a tackle during an interception. Hurst's replacement, De'Ondre Wesley, subsequently left with a leg injury.

Now in his second season, Taliaferro is competing against rookie Javorus Allen to be a backup to Justin Forsett. Taliaferro's best game last year came in Week 3 against Cleveland, when he ran for 91 yards on 18 carries.

His playing time lessened as Forsett established himself as the featured running back, and Taliaferro went on injured reserve in December with a foot injury. He finished with 292 yards on 68 carries.

The only running backs at practice Monday were Allen, LSU rookie Terrence Magee and Fitzgerald Toussaint. Forsett was among more than a dozen veterans who got the day off, including quarterback Joe Flacco and wide receiver Steve Smith.

PHOTO: Baltimore Ravens running back Javorius Allen (37) runs a drill in front of teammates Terrence Magee, back left, and Kiero Small during NFL football training camp, Monday, Aug. 24, 2015, in Owings Mills, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Baltimore Ravens running back Javorius Allen (37) runs a drill in front of teammates Terrence Magee, back left, and Kiero Small during NFL football training camp, Monday, Aug. 24, 2015, in Owings Mills, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

"This was a practice for young guys, guys we felt needed the reps, guys fighting to make the team," Harbaugh said.

The Ravens needed all the bodies they could get last weekend in Philadelphia. Six offensive linemen didn't dress, and three more left with injuries after the game started. Marcel Jones, who spent all last season on the practice squad, was forced into action much sooner than anticipated.

"I looked out there and saw Marcel with the 1s. And you know what? He stepped up and acquitted himself very well," Harbaugh said.

"It's not really how you plan it, but sometimes you're forced into finding out that sometimes guys can do more than you think they can do. Maybe we built some versatility into our group. Sometimes it's a painful method, and it definitely was in that game."

Harbaugh would prefer to avoid shifting Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda to right tackle, which is what happened against the Eagles.

Rick Wagner (foot) and Jah Reid (back spasms) were back Monday. But this has been a tough camp for the Ravens in terms of injuries.

Top draft pick Breshad Perriman hurt his knee on the first day of camp and has not practiced since. Safety Matt Elam and defensive end Brent Urban are likely lost for the season with torn biceps, mishaps that occurred early this month, and cornerback Lardarius Webb has been slowed by a hamstring for much of August.

What can be done to stem the parade to the trainer's room?

"If there was something that you could do, if there is some science that told us that this will help in injuries, you would do it," Harbaugh said. "Sometimes guys get hurt here in half-speed drills and sometimes they hurt in full-speed games. It's just so unpredictable."


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Photo Gallery:
PHOTO: Philadelphia Eagles' Connor Barwin (98) loses his helmet as he combines with Emmanuel Acho (51), Vinny Curry (75) and Fletcher Cox (91) to tackle Baltimore Ravens' Lorenzo Taliaferro (34) during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)
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