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Flacco, Ravens starting offense won't hit field until opener

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Ryan Mallett (15) throws to a receiver in the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco hasn't taken a snap this summer, the offensive line remains an unfinished puzzle and Baltimore's receiving group is still in flux.

It's been a peculiar preseason for the Ravens, who haven't lost a game despite fielding a patchwork offense led by backup Ryan Mallett and third-stringer Josh Woodrum.

Since none of the projected starters will play in the exhibition finale against New Orleans on Thursday night, Flacco and the first-team offense are scheduled to make their season debut in the Sept. 10 opener at Cincinnati.

This is a new experience for coach John Harbaugh, who received a contract extension Monday to the pact that had him signed through 2018.

Harbaugh decided early in training camp that the best course of action regarding Flacco's ailing back was to rest the nine-year starter and take off the bubble wrap when the games really count.

"We are looking forward to putting it all together and having all our guys out there," Harbaugh said Monday. "We've been missing guys pretty much all the way through."

That list begins with Flacco and extends to virtually every position. Offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley practiced Monday for the first time since Aug. 12, Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda participated in one preseason game and the tight end depth chart remains undetermined following season-ending injuries to Dennis Pitta and Crockett Gillmore, along with the one-year suspension handed to Darren Waller.

The injuries haven't been limited to offense. Linebacker Albert McClellan will soon join the rapidly expanding injured reserve list with a torn ACL, Harbaugh announced Monday.

Most of the concern this summer, however, has centered on an attack that is without its leader. Harbaugh won't reveal the practice plan for Flacco moving forward, saying only that he will start against the Bengals.

So, ready or not, the starting offense will get its first dose of game experience in Cincinnati.

"We're going to have all our weapons, Flacco will be back and I think we'll do great," running back Terrance West said. "We need all the pieces."

Most other teams in the NFL have already seen their offense operate in a game situation. The Ravens don't have that luxury, but West is confident it won't take long for the unit to jell.

"It's not a very long process," he insisted. "If everybody does their job, everything will fall in place."

The starting line may not be determined until the final days before the opener. Jeremy Zuttah signed a two-year contract last week and immediately stepped in at center Saturday night in a 13-9 win over Buffalo, and recently signed right tackle Austin Howard is still getting in shape.

"It's been a little bit here and there with different guys out there, but they've all been out there at one time or another besides Joe," Harbaugh said. "We'll just have to see how it is when we get out there. I think we're going be really good."

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