The Baltimore Ravens returned to practice Monday, emerging from their bye week with renewed optimism about getting their season back on course.
Baltimore (3-4) entered the bye with a two-game losing streak and its worst record after seven games since coach John Harbaugh took over in 2008. After getting four days off, however, the players appeared to have benefited from the mini-vacation.
"Everybody was here on time ready to go, working hard with a lot of enthusiasm, so that was fun and exciting," Harbaugh said.
Not only did the hiatus rejuvenate the spirit of the defending Super Bowl champions, but several players with bumps and bruises and aching muscles appreciated the time to mend during the break.
"The midseason rest is always good. You get a chance to get your legs back, get your chance to get your body healed a little bit," the coach said. "Those are positives of the bye week. That's the great thing about it. I think it was a plus for us and I'm looking forward to seeing how we respond in terms of how we play."
Next up for Baltimore: A rematch Sunday in Cleveland against the Browns. The Ravens won the first meeting in September, 14-6, and the stakes in this one couldn't be much higher.
Baltimore trails first-place Cincinnati by 2½ games in the AFC North. A victory would put Baltimore back at .500 and end the two-game skid. With a loss, the Ravens might have to turn their attention toward a wild-card berth during the second half of the season — even though they've two games left against the Bengals.
"We feel like we've got to go win this game," Harbaugh said.
The game in Cleveland concludes a stretch of four road trips in a five-game stretch for Baltimore. The flip side of that is the Ravens play five of the last eight at home.
"I noticed that," Harbaugh said. "When we get to those games, we'll be happy to be playing at home. But we've got to take care of this game right now. That's the one that's on our minds."
There was a new face at practice Monday: The Ravens signed former Bengals running back Bernard Scott, who will serve as a backup to Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce.
The 29-year-old Scott tore his ACL in the fifth game last year and began the 2013 season on the physically unable to perform list. He was released on Sept. 17 after Cincinnati opted for Giovani Bernard as its starting running back.
In four NFL seasons, all with the Bengals, Scott has 1,035 yards on 55 carries and four touchdowns. He also has 29 receptions for 165 yards and has been used to return kickoffs.
"We played (against) him in Cincinnati and he's got all those skills," Harbaugh said. "He's kind of a perimeter runner. Not that he won't run between the tackles; he will. But he's a speed guy on the perimeter, a pass-catcher out of the backfield and he's always done a pretty good job with pass protection as well.
"He's a threat. He's a dangerous guy. He's a guy that can take it the distance really at any time. We saw him practice today. He looked good, had a good start. We'll see where it goes."
He will back up Ravens running backs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce.
Monday's move enabled the Ravens to fill the roster spot vacated by the trade of left tackle Bryant McKinnie last week.