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Upon further review: Smith injury latest Ravens' obstacle

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Upon further review: Smith injury latest Ravens' obstacle

It has been that kind of year for the Ravens, one challenge after another.

Knowing they will play the second half of the season without Steve Smith is the latest kick in the stomach for the Ravens. Nobody in the locker room was trying to pretend that losing Smith wasn’t a major blow following Sunday’s victory over the Chargers.

Smith is more than just the Ravens’ leading receiver. He is a leader – period. He practices hard, plays hard, leads with his actions, and leads with his words.

Smith and linebacker Terrell Suggs have side-by-side lockers at the Ravens’ practice facility. It’s going to be eerie for players, walking into that room and not seeing, or hearing either Smith or Suggs – both lost to season-ending Achilles injuries.

The bye comes at a good time for the Ravens (2-6), giving them extra time to exhale before their Nov. 15 home game against the Jaguars. Kamar Aiken is now the No. 1 receiver on the Ravens’ depth chart. While he won’t be hearing Smith’s voice at practice, Aiken is vowing to remember his words.

“He’s always told us to keep pushing,” said Aiken. “That’s what he’s embedded in our heads. Even though he wasn’t around us at the end (Sunday), we feel like he was with us. A little bit of him is in every one of us.”

Smith’s presence transcends the offensive side of the ball. Ravens defenders feed off the intensity Smith brings to practice, and admire his toughness.

MORE RAVENS: FIVE RAMIFICATIONS OF SMITH'S INJURY

“Steve is the toughest person I know,” said defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan. “He’s the toughest person I’ve ever seen in my life. The dude’s tough as nails. I just pray everything works out for him. We’re definitely going to keep fighting for him until he gets back.”

But that’s another thing. Will Smith ever come back? He is 36 old. He had already said that 2015 would his last season. If he decides to keep playing, rehabbing is going to be a long challenging road, one that Smith will surely attack head-on if he decides to come back.

Smith’s future will be revealed whenever he makes a decision. But for the Ravens, losing Smith will be another test of resiliency, in a season that has been full of tests.

“It’s very disheartening to be honest with you,” said cornerback Jimmy Smith. “He’s a big-time leader on our team – just the way he competes and plays. His presence alone is huge for us. To see him go down, one of our top warriors, it’s a big deal but we haven’t caught any breaks all year. This is another one, so we have got to rally.”

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Ravens agree to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst

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USA TODAY Sports

Ravens agree to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst

The Ravens have their entire 2018 draft class locked up.

The team agreed to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Hurst's rookie contract - like all first-round picks - is a four-year deal with a team option of a fifth year. According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the 25th overall pick is due $11.1 million. 

The 24-year old, who was a walk on at South Carolina at 21-years old after being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012, finished his three-year career with 100 receptions, 1,281 yards and three touchdowns.

Standing at 6-foot-3, Hurst will be a nice addition to the TE corps with Nick Boyle and third-round draft pick Mark Andrews. 

Fellow first-round pick Lamar Jackson signed his rookie contract on June 5th.

Training camp kicks off for the Ravens July 19th. 

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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

Since drafting Lamar Jackson, the Ravens have made it clear that Joe Flacco is their starter. That doesn't mean they're not experimenting with having them both on the field at the same time, however. 

During this week's minicamp, the team has been lining Jackson up at multiple positions. 

"Gosh, I sure like him out there helping us," coach John Harbaugh said of Jackson during Tuesday's minicamp, via ESPN.com.

"If you put two quarterbacks on the field at once, what options does it create for our offense? That's what we're trying to figure out."

While at Louisville, Jackson rushed for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns in three seasons. That's more rushing yards than No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley. That unique skill set could be the creative options the Ravens are looking for. 

While at the NFL Combine, however, Jackson refused to workout at any other position than QB. 

"I have a lot of fun seeing what they come up with and what they're going to come up with next," Jackson said. "We'll see where it goes. You have to use your good players."

The Ravens are already viewing Jackson as one of those 'good players.' 

"Once he gets out of the pocket, it's like watching a young Michael Vick," LB C.J. Mosley said after minicamp practice. "It's amazing to watch. When you're defending him, you just have to act like you're tagging off -- you don't want to be on the highlight reel."

Harbaugh has alluded to the fact that the rookie will be active on game days, just exactly how they get the most out of him is what's in play.

"There's a lot of considerations that go into that," Harbaugh said of using two QBs at the once. "Everybody has an opinion. I've read a few. You want to find a way to get the most out of all your guys."

While Flacco isn't the fasted QB in the league, he has shown glimpses of running ability in the past. Figuring out how to utilize Flacco when Jackson is under center is where things will get interesting.

Interesting - as long as it works - is what Ravens fans have been searching for over the last several seasons. 

"Joe has to be able to do other things if [Jackson is] throwing the ball," Harbaugh said. "It gets the creative juices flowing for our offensive coaches, and they've worked hard on that."

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