OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said there is "no question" safety Earl Thomas showed restraint on the hit that knocked Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph unconscious, and Harbaugh said he would be surprised if the hit draws any further discipline from the league.
In the third quarter of the
Ravens' 26-23 win at Heinz Field Oct. 6
, Rudolph scrambled to his left and released a pass just before cornerback Brandon Carr hit him from the back and Thomas hit him from the front. Rudolph fell to the ground unconscious and was tended to by a host of medical personnel for several minutes before being helped from the field. Players from both teams were visibly shaken as Rudolph lay on the ground.
After the game, Thomas insisted that he "hit the strike zone like we talk about. I didn't go high. I didn't intentionally hurt him. I'm worried about him. ... I never try to hurt anybody."
Asked the next day about the hit after he had time to review the play on tape, Harbaugh said he thought it was "very clear" that Thomas showed restraint on the hit.
"I see Earl trying to pull off," Harbaugh said at his weekly news conference. "There's no question about it if you watch the tape."
"Mason's scrambling, and going and [Thomas] is running to the ball and playing fast, and he tries to pull out," Harbaugh explained, leaning to his right as if to demonstrate. "It's clear. I respect him for that. Just an unfortunate collision. He ticked his chin and that's what happened. He tried to get out of there."
Rudolph was taken to a Pittsburgh hospital for further evaluation, and ESPN reported that Rudolph had been discharged from the hospital.
Thomas "felt awful about the result of it," Harbaugh said. "He didn't want to see an injury, for sure. None of us do. And it looks like Mason's OK. We're glad to hear that. We prayed for him after the game."
Thomas was penalized on the play, and it's possible that he could still face a suspension or fine, but NFL Network reported a suspension was unlikely and Harbaugh doesn't think expect any further discipline.
"It would surprise me based on what's on tape, in all honesty," Harbaugh said, "but I don't know what to expect."
JEFFERSON PLACED ON INJURED RESERVE: As expected, safety Tony Jefferson was placed on injured reserve after suffering a torn ACL in the win against the Steelers. Jefferson, who is in the third year of a four-year, $34 million contract with the Ravens, finishes the season with 21 tackles and three passes defensed. The team did not yet announce a move to fill Jefferson's spot on the 53-man roster.
Harbaugh called Jefferson "the heart and soul" of the Ravens' defense, "a great player, just a high-energy player. "
"These are things that happen in this game, and you just have to deal with them," Harbaugh said. "The guy that has to deal with them the most is Tony."
With Jefferson out, the Ravens will turn to either Chuck Clark or DeShon Elliott at one safety spot, and Harbaugh said he has "the utmost confidence" in both players.
Clark started one game last year as the strong safety and one game this year as a dime back. He has 11 tackles and one pass defensed this season. Elliott, who missed his entire rookie season with a broken arm, has appeared in all four games this year, primarily on special teams. He has made two tackles on defense.
The past two weeks, Jefferson had been wearing the team's headset helmet to communicate the play from the sideline to the players on the field, taking that assignment from linebacker Patrick Onwuasor. Harbaugh said they have not yet decided whether that role will fall to Onwuasor or someone else moving forward with Jefferson out.
LARGER ROLE FOR FERGUSON: Harbaugh said Jaylon Ferguson is likely to get more action, as the Ravens have liked what they have seen recently from the rookie outside linebacker. Inactive for the Ravens' first two games, Ferguson has seen an increased workload the past two weeks, with 21 snaps against both the Cleveland Browns in Week 4 and the Steelers this past week.
"His role, based on what he did, will keep expanding," Harbaugh said.
Ferguson's role was bound to go up after the Ravens released outside linebacker Tim Williams last week, leaving the team with just four true outside linebackers. Ferguson recorded his first tackle of the season against the Steelers.
BROWN INJURY NOT SERIOUS: Harbaugh said the ankle injury that sidelined rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown for a portion of the game at Pittsburgh is "nothing serious." Brown made a tough, contested 11-yard touchdown catch in the first half but later missed several series.
According to the television broadcast, Brown was dealing with an ankle injury, so it appears the injury was unrelated to the Lisfranc (foot) surgery kept Brown sidelined for most of training camp.
In five games this season, Brown has 21 catches for a team-high 326 yards and three touchdowns. After bursting onto the scene with 12 catches for 233 yards in the first two weeks, he has clearly become a target of opposing defenses and has been held to an average of three catches and 31 yards the past three weeks.
MODSTER ADDED TO PRACTICE SQUAD: The Ravens have re-signed wide receiver Sean Modster to the practice squad. The undrafted rookie out of Boise State was with the Ravens in training camp but did not make the 53-man roster. He was signed to the practice squad but then released 10 days later. In preseason action, Modster had seven receptions for 45 yards and one punt return for 10 yards.