You could not ask for more beautiful weather in late July than the Ravens fans received as they filed into M&T Bank Stadium for the first public practice of this seasons training camp. It was warm, not hot, and there was a nice breeze as the sun set on the Pigtown side of the field. The breeze led to a brief period of rain, but that didn’t dampen the 28,000 fans in attendance spirits one bit.
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Lardarius Webb was still sidelined with the back spasms. Chykie Brown however returned to practice and ran with the first and second teams, along with Asa Jackson. Chris Canty was also absent with a family issue, and Terrance Cody on the PUP list.
Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, and Richie Leone were first on field. Tucker and Leone warm up by playing catch and running routes like a QB and WR. I don’t think Tucker is vying for third QB though, despite his exaggerated “happy feet” Peyton Manning impression.
Some return game drills were up first, and it finished with Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata fielding punts. Hey, you never know, like when Chad Johnson used to kick field goals in preseason, just in case. How much do the Ravens have to lead by in order to have Haloti Ngata on punt return? Over 50 with under one minute left in the game?
Ray Rice got a nice ovation when he was shown upon the big screen for the first time. He interacted with a couple of the kids that we’re on the sidelines.
Ray Lewis and Brian Billick were in attendance last night. The Ravens radio crew interviewed Ray, and the might as well have just stopped practice for five minutes because no one had their eyes on the action on the field.
Defense got the better of the offense in the running game drills. Timmy Jernigan’s name was called often making a stop. Justin Forsett had the best run of the session, practically untouched to the DB level. Forsett actually had the best runs of any RB. He’s quicker than originally thought. Appeared slimmer too.
Torrey Smith had the catch of the day hauling in a high ball with one arm outstretched in the first play of red zone drills. A catch that was so tough that if this was a game it could have been the catch of the season. It set up 1st and goal from the two yard line. The Ravens failed to find the endzone and Flacco was nearly picked off by C.J. Mosely.
The second team offense would find the endzone in their first red zone shot, Lorenzo Taliaferro rushing from two yards out.
The first team offense wasn’t any better the second time around in red zone drills as Joe Flacco was “sacked” twice. Flacco was just off all night long, and threw his first INT of camp. Matt Elam came down with it, and was nearly tackled by a golf cart driven by Ravens owner, Steve Bisciotti, just shy of the endzone.
Michael Campanaro is making a case for kick returner opposite Jacoby Jones. He had a nice return on the first rep of special teams drills. Deonte Thompson was next up and made a seemingly weak effort in getting “tackled” inside the 15. Campanaro had a nice return on his next attempt as well. He had a nice session, but did drop what should have been a TD pass from Tyrod Taylor late in the game.
The defense definitely won the practice overall. Flacco was a little off most of the night, Forsett was the only RB to get something going. There were some good pass break ups by all of the secondary units and the defensive front was often making a push into the backfield.
Tyrod Taylor hooked up with LaQuan Williams late in practice during the team portion. It set up an 18 yard TD catch from a dump off pass to Lorenzo Taliaferro. The rookie from Coastal Carolina scored three TDs in red zone and game situation drills.
Following practice, the players stayed on the field to sign autographs for kids. Ray Rice was nowhere to be found, and was absent from the locker room later on. This night was about the fans, the military members in attendance, the kids getting up close to their favorite players. The team likely wanted to keep it that way, rather than have the event overshadowed by Rice’s ongoing response to his current situation.
I was able to grab some sound bytes on the field and in the locker room as the night came to an end.
Coach John Harbaugh on Ray Lewis in attendance, – “We all commented when he showed up that he looked very dapper. We don’t remember him looking very dapper out there when he was playing football. He looked great. We had a chance to talk to him. Our young guys were pretty thrilled. “
Harbaugh on Lardarius Webb’s injury, – “Backs are a little weird…At first it was no big deal, but now it’s starting to linger a little.”
Marshal Yanda on the defensive line he faces in practice, – “It’s a good front. They’re a talented group and they’re making us better. It’s good for us. The stiff competition is making us better.”
Jimmy Smith on Asa Jackson playing with him on the first team, - “He’s out there running with the ones right now. He’s very quick. He has confidence and he’s making plays. He needs to continue doing what he’s doing.”
Special thanks to the Baltimore Ravens for providing us at BSL, and myself the opportunity to cover the event.