Ravens hold workout at Towson University

Joe Flacco muscled a spiral into the outstretched hands of wide receiver Torrey Smith, hitting him in stride as the swift rookie darted upfield. Former Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice scooted into his patterns Tuesday morning, accelerating into the secondary with his trademark quickness. Meanwhile, defensive players shadowed receivers.

They were careful not to get too close so as to avoid risking a collision. For a few hours, several Baltimore Ravens escaped the dreariness of an NFL lockout that's now in its third month.

Organized by wide receiver Derrick Mason and other veterans, 27 Ravens assembled at Towson University for an informal, low-key workout primarily focused on conditioning and speed drills as they got in some cautious passing work at Johnny Unitas Stadium. It marked the first of three days of workouts that are closed to the general public.

Overjoyed to get back on the field with his teammates for the first time since an AFC divisional playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Rice didn't even mind setting his alarm clock early after a late night watching the NBA playoffs.

"I had to get up to come to practice," Rice said. "That felt good, getting to do that again. I'm excited to be out here with the guys, running around like a little kid."

Most importantly, there were no injuries. And the Ravens were able to get young players like Smith and fellow rookie wide receiver Tandon Doss somewhat acclimated to the offense. Flacco and the receivers didn't seem to have issues with any timing and the majority of the passes were completed. However, there was no pass rush to speak of and the defense wasn't attempting to knock down throws for fear of injuries.

"The biggest thing about getting out here right now is working with these young guys," Flacco said. "Guys that are missing out the most right now are the young guys. They're able to get in and have a guy go over the playbook with them and come out here on the field and get a real feel for how to run the routes."

Besides Flacco, Rice, Smith and Mason, other players attending the workout included wide receiver Anquan Boldin, cornerbacks Domonique Foxworth and Josh Wilson, safety Haruki Nakamura, defensive end Cory Redding, linebackers Jarret Johnson and Jameel McClain, kicker Billy Cundiff, punter Sam Koch and long snapper Morgan Cox. Four rookie draft picks participated: Smith, the team's second-round draft pick from the University of Maryland, Doss, quarterback Tyrod Taylor and running back Anthony Allen. "It was a great workout," Rice said. "We're at our own pace. We got in quality work. Nobody wants to waste their time.

"We can control one thing and that's being ready. It's not training camp and it's not minicamp, but it's the team getting together for one reason and that's to be prepared." It was a casual atmosphere with players laughing and joking.

The players had fun chiding Mason for arriving a few minutes late, which would have traditionally drawn the ire of Ravens coach John Harbaugh. On this day, Mason only had to answer to Flacco. "I got stuck in traffic," Mason said. "At least Harbs isn't here to fine me. Joe can only fine me 50 cents."

It was a day where there were unusual occurrences with beefy linebackers Johnson and McClain running fly patterns, Cundiff catching punts and players doing their best not to bump into each other. "I don't think there are any consequences if we don't do this because guys are going to be working out regardless," Mason said. "But just to get guys together, it's more for the camaraderie and the laughter than anything else. Because you're going to work out regardless if you're here.

"We want to show the fans we are working and we're not sitting around on a couch. We know football can get started at a moment's notice. It's not our choice to be somewhere else working out. We would rather be at the Castle." Following the workout, Flacco, Rice and Mason planned to spend extra time with the rookies to help them absorb the playbook.

Flacco said he's being careful not to overload the rookies with too much information.

"We'll definitely spend some time together and go over some basic stuff, so they can get a grasp on it," Flacco said. "It's not that easy to just look at papers and teach yourself a playbook. We're not going to kill these guys. "The big thing is I want them to walk away from this with an understanding of how we call our routes and can they recognize where they're going to line up and which route they're going to have from that. As long as they get those basics, I think they can grow off of that." Even though the workout wasn't full-speed, Smith's athleticism was on display.

So was Flacco's arm strength. "The guy has a cannon," Smith said. "It was weird knowing the ball was going to be there every time, but it's a great feeling." What isn't so pleasing to the rookie is the knowledge that this could be a short-lived experience.

The lockout shows no signs of subsiding as the labor dispute remains in litigation mode in the court system.

"It was great to get the feeling of being around the guys and my new team," Smith said. "It was kind of a tease knowing there's a lockout. It's a dream come true to play with these guys. The possibility of that not being able to happen after you already experienced it, it kind of hurts a little bit." A seventh-round draft pick from Georgia Tech, Allen was intent on obtaining a copy of the Ravens' offensive playbook. "I want to get in here and start studying," Allen said. "It's kind of like going into a test and studying the night before. I've got to get to Kinko's to make a copy."

Allen could wind up backing up Rice since veteran Willis McGahee is likely to be released because of his $6 million salary. The first team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection admitted he was dealing with some nerves.

"It's like when you're going to your first day of high school, first day of college," Allen said. "I was really nervous, but once you've met everybody you realize we're trying to do the same thing. It gets intense, but you ease up a little bit."

Unsigned due to the work stoppage, Allen's financial status doesn't reflect his burgeoning status as an NFL player.

"I still have about $17 in my bank account," Allen said. "But it feels real good to be out here with my new teammates."

First-round cornerback Jimmy Smith didn't attend the workout, but only three defensive backs were present. As an unsigned high draft pick, Smith may have been following the advice of his agent, Drew Rosenhaus.

Smith also lives in California. Most of the players who went to the workout live in the area or on the East Coast. "No, I'm not disappointed," McClain said when asked about Smith's absence. "A lot of people have a lot of stuff going on. You can't judge anybody's situation."

NOTE: The following players also attended the workout: tight ends Dennis Pitta and Davon Drew, wide receivers James Hardy and Justin Harper, running back Matt Lawrence, defensive linemen Arthur Jones, Brandon McKinney and Lamar Divens, quarterback Hunter Cantwell and undrafted rookie running back Walter Sanders (St. Augustine, N.C.). http://www.carrollcountytimes.com/sports/ravens/

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