Haruki Nakamura provides example to campers

Standing on the practice field, Haruki Nakamura alertly noticed something that he didn't like. The defensive back drills had got off to a haphazard start Thursday morning at McDaniel College, and the Baltimore Ravens safety immediately made corrections.

Nakamura pointed out to the older players at the Derrick Mason youth football camp that the younger players were repeating the high school players' mistakes, adding that they needed to set a better example.

"I told the older kids this is the opportunity to develop great leadership skills because of the amount of younger guys around," Nakamura said. "You don't have to say a single word because these young guys are watching what they're doing. When they screwed up, I emphasized that the younger guys are screwing up because they're watching you do it the wrong way. "By the next reps, the younger guys were doing it right because the older guys were doing it right. I told them I'm not just talking. I'm actually saying something that means something." For Nakamura, making it to the NFL has required more than athleticism and speed. Excelling at football has required toughness and heart to combat a lack of ideal size.

The 5-foot-10, 205-pound former University of Cincinnati standout intercepted a pass during the Ravens' playoff victory over the Kansas City Chiefs last season. He has developed into a viable candidate to compete with Tom Zbikowski for a starting job at strong safety if Dawan Landry departs via free agency. "Heart has brought me a long way," Nakamura said. "Some of these kids are gigantic. When I was a senior in high school, I might have been 175 pounds. Some of these defensive backs are 6-1, 190 already. You've got to play smart and with great technique.

"The one thing I've kind of been telling everybody is they should enjoy this. This is a very unique camp. I didn't see camps like this when I was growing up. This is pretty cool." Nakamura hasn't been in touch with Landry, who's expected to command a lot of interest and a high salary as an unrestricted free agent.

"I think he's been down in Louisiana this whole time," Nakamura said. "I know what he's doing. I know he's working hard. The guy is a machine. He doesn't stop moving. He's going to have a lot of success whether he's back here with us, which would be great, or somewhere else." Being back in Westminster felt strange to Nakamura since the team is shifting training camp to its $35 million training complex in Owings Mills due to the NFL lockout.

"It's awkward," he said. "It's very awkward being out here when I really don't have to be." Mason expects camp to have a much different feeling since fans aren't allowed to attend practices in Owings Mills. The Ravens plan to have at least one practice at M&T Bank Stadium open to the public. "It will change things for the fans," Mason said. "I don't think it will change anything for the players much other than not taking that trek from the hotel to over here and just being familiar with your surroundings and having our own locker room and lunch room and all that stuff

"That's the good part. The bad part about it is the experience the fans get that they're going to miss this year. I'm going to miss seeing the fans out here as well. I know we're going to do something at the stadium to get the fans involved." Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti grew up in Maryland as a Baltimore Colts fan, annually visiting the former Western Maryland College to see his heroes like Johnny Unitas.

"That's why he chose to keep camp here," Mason said. "Some guys might have wanted to move it elsewhere, but this is where he first saw an NFL team. This is where he got that love for the game. He's going to keep it here as long as he can. Unfortunately, the lockout is going to cause us to cancel things here and be down in Owings Mills." The NFL labor dispute remains unresolved although there are signs of progress with a deal expected to be reached within the next few rounds of negotiations this week or early next week.

On Thursday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith resumed talks at a Manhattan law firm

"This is a very important day," Nakamura said. "The last couple of weeks, people have emphasized how important this week is. If it doesn't happen this week, it could start to affect the season. "The fact that they're really saying that they need to crunch things and put things together is really important. It's cool that they're getting together. Hopefully, this is one of the last meetings to get a new collective bargaining agreement."

This has been a momentous offseason for Nakamura. The 25-year-old Cleveland native just returned to Maryland after getting married and honeymooning in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. He was recently honored by the Japanese ambassador and the Red Cross for his work raising funds for disaster relief.

"It was a great honeymoon and I got to experience the Mexican culture and see some of the Mayan temples," Nakamura said. "That stuff is pretty cool. Meeting the Japanese ambassador was a lot different than what I expected. I was very impressed with his demeanor.

"I've had so much stuff going on. I got married. We've done fundraising. I've done every camp and event I could. T When we're having these CBA issues and lockout the fans don't get to interact with us. This is a change to give back and spend time with them."

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