Dannell Ellerbe thought about the question for a moment and then respectfully requested a minute to think about an appropriate answer.
The truth was that it had been a long time since the Ravens' inside linebacker had last felt 100 percent, but he smiled when he finally recalled the day.
"Oh, [it was] St. Louis last year," Ellerbe said following the Ravens' practice at Stevenson University.
Ellerbe, 26, hurt his hamstring in the Ravens' Week 3 blowout of the Rams last season. He missed six of the Ravens' next eight games with the hamstring issue, and another game after sustaining a concussion.
The hamstring issues, which dogged him all last season, have cropped up again in training camp, forcing the team's top reserve at middle linebacker to miss a couple of practices and be limited for several others. He's finally starting to feel healthy again and that was evident when he registered a team-high tying six tackles in the Ravens' 27-12 preseason loss to the Detroit Lions on Friday.
"He played a really good game," said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. "He's really played that way every time he gets a chance. He's had a few injury issues, a hamstring and things in this camp, but he seems to be overcoming them right now and he's playing well."
Ellerbe acknowledged that he's still bothered a little by the hamstring tightness. He spent part of Sunday's practice getting stretched out while his teammates went through drills.
"It's kind of aggravating. It's something that I thought I was over," he said. "I didn't pull them or anything. It was just precautionary so I didn't have to go through it this season, but you always want to be your best when you're out there. I feel like I'm getting as close to 100 [percent] as I possibly can at the moment. … The next two weeks are going to be awfully important, me getting my body ready and as far as mentally and physically showing everybody what I can do. I've been putting it on film and I just have to keep doing it."
Smith back on field
It was only one game — a preseason one at that — but it was excruciating enough where second-year wide receiver Torrey Smith hopes he doesn't have to go through it again.
"It was agonizing standing on that sideline just watching. I felt like it was taken away," said Smith, who was held out of the Lions game after he sprained his right ankle in the preseason opener at Atlanta. "You really appreciate what we have here and being a part of this organization. I don't want to miss anything else, whether it's practice or a game. I love being out there."
Smith returned to practice Sunday and mostly looked like his usual self. Barring any setbacks, he's expected to play Thursday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"I felt good," Smith said. "Obviously, it's one of those lingering things, but I can't complain. I'm running. I felt all right. It's only going to get better and better."
Dickson, Pitta remain on track
Three weeks away from the first weekend of the NFL season, injured tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta are on the mend and optimistic they will be ready for the Sept. 10 season opener. Pitta broke his right hand during practice July 30. Dickson sprained his right shoulder while hauling in a touchdown pass in a 31-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons in the preseason opener.
"It's much better, a lot better," Dickson said. "I can actually do some catching and stuff, and more conditioning. The progress is definitely pretty good. Hopefully I can get back there in a week or so. I'll do anything possible to get out there for the season opener. I don't want to miss those."
Pitta doesn't have a timetable for when he can return to action, but he's not overly concerned.
"We don't stray too far. We're in all the meetings," he said. "We're doing everything we can to mentally prepare."
Right place, right time for Brown
Omar Brown recovered one fumble in 43 career games at Marshall. But in his first two NFL preseason games, the rookie safety has scooped up three fumbles, picked off a pass, recovered an onside kick and pounced on a loose ball after one of Sam Koch's punts was blocked Friday.
"I've never come across this many opportunities. But at this level, you have to take advantage of them because I'm limited out there in my reps," said Brown, an undrafted free agent. "I just have to continue to work hard, like I have been, and keep my focus and my drive and everything else will take care of itself."
Harbaugh said that he felt better about the team's performance after watching the game tape of the loss to the Lions. "I was really disappointed with some of the mental errors in the second half with the second defense, but all things that we can correct," Harbaugh said. … Defensive end Pernell McPhee was excused from practice because of a death in his family. Special teams coordinator and assistant head coach Jerry Rosburg also was not at practice after his mother passed away. … The attendance at Sunday's open practice at Stevenson was 2,800. … Wide receiver Devin Goda (undisclosed) and linebacker Darryl Blackstock (groin) returned to practice, while linebacker Sergio Kindle (shoulder stinger) and safety Sean Considine (undisclosed) practiced in non-contact jerseys.