- Bellowing at a few stragglers who were slow to hit the practice field, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh couldn't wait to finally have his entire football team assembled. Due to the final ratification details of the new collective bargaining agreement not being approved until late Thursday afternoon, the Ravens didn't conduct practice until 5 p.m. It was over three hours later than originally scheduled.
Once the deal was signed and unrestricted free agent signees like offensive guard Marshal Yanda, cornerback Chris Carr and fullback Vonta Leach were able to practice as well as the restricted free agents and exclusive-rights free agents , Harbaugh was waiting on the practice field.
Not so patiently.
"There were a couple guys that took a little longer to get dressed than I would have expected," Harbaugh said. "They know me, I know them. We get each other. .. As I told the guys, I was the calmest guy in the whole building.
"They laughed when they heard that. We kind of joked about, ‘adapt, adjust and overcome,' and it really was one of those days. We are creatures of habit. We like to know what our schedule is and, all of the sudden, we didn't have that."
Harbaugh sternly reminded rookie linebacker Josh Bynes to hustle onto the field when he strolled out of the Ravens' training complex.
"A little sense of urgency, Josh!" Harbaugh said.
An influential member of the NFL Players Association executive committee who was instrumental in the labor talks, Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth explained that the delay for the league year to officially begin was an unintended consequence of the new labor deal.
Foxworth said players offered to sign injury waivers, but NFL management didn't think that would provide them with enough liability coverage.
The holdup prevented several young players like linebackers Jameel McClain, Tavares Gooden, Dannell Ellerbe and Prescott Burgess, safeties Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski and offensive tackle Oniel Cousins from getting on the field for the past week.
"It felt good, I was able to release some frustration," Gooden said. "It was fun being out there. I hated to see my teammates out there working hard and I couldn't be out there."
Just like the rest of the problems associated with the NFL lockout, this was yet another inconvenience for coaches and players to deal with.
"Yeah, they had to make sure both sides were equally favored," Gooden said. "That's what we were waiting on. We're all happy they were able to get that deal done today."
Now, the Ravens were able to distribute repetitions instead of having just a handful of offensive linemen to work against a talented defense.
"It was good to have everybody back," Harbaugh said. "We were able to bring a line in for every period, and we appreciated that."
Signed to a two-year contract, Pollard began smashing into running backs on blitzes.
And new fullback Vonta Leach crashed into Burgess and other linebackers. It looked like a real football practice.
"I'd like to welcome Bernard here," Harbaugh said. "Wow, this guy comes out and has two huge hits in the backfield on pass rushes and kind of established himself. And Vonta got after it and had some big collisions out there. It was good to see the new guys in the mix, plus all the guys who hadn't been able to practice for the last week or so."
Even though it was nearly dark when the Ravens left the practice field, Harbaugh said the concentration and tempo were excellent.
"I thought the practice was urgent the whole way," Harbaugh said. "It kind of built the way it was supposed to. It was cooler for one thing. That helped a lot and we had more players out here, so we were able to kind of keep the pace a little more."
A player union representative, Carr was glad to finally be able to rejoin his teammates after being re-signed to a four-year, $15 million deal.
"Yes, it's definitely been difficult since everybody has been out there practicing," Carr said. "I didn't want to get rusty while everyone else is in midseason form. It felt good to get out there for the first day back.
"It was one of those things where you knew that with the lockout it was going to be different from any other year and free agency was a hassle. It beats jumping right into the season. If you're expecting the worst and preparing for the worst, then you get this and it's not as bad."
Ravens notebook: Safety Bernard Pollard off to fast start
Carr looking to start
By Aaron Wilson
OWINGS MILLS - During his first day at work, Bernard Pollard barreled into the backfield untouched on blitzes.
He intercepted a lobbed throw from rookie quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
Displaying the physique and aggressiveness of a linebacker, newly-minted safety Bernard Pollard seems to fit in with the Baltimore Ravens like a snug glove.
"I'm a hard-nosed player, and I believe with any player in the NFL, you put him in the right position, they're going to make things happen," said Pollard, who signed a two-year contract. "In Houston, that first year they played me that way and I was able to make things happen, and we just had some things go wrong last year. And I'm looking to bounce back, I really am.
"I'm looking to bounce back, and I'm looking to be used, whether it's blitzing, whether it's covering, I'm ready to shut people up, because me as a player, I get tired of hearing so many people say things. You try to block it out, but I'm on a mission."
Pollard is slated to compete for the strong safety job with Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura as they vie to succeed Dawan Landry, who signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars..
The former Texans and Kansas City Chiefs starter once smashed into New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's knee and knocked him out for a season, leading to the so-called Brady rule to protect quarterbacks.
The 6-foot-1, 228-pounder led the Texans with 111 tackles on the last-ranked pass defense in the NFL. He recorded eight tackles, a forced fumble and 1 ½ sacks against Baltimore last season.
The hard-hitting enforcer also was fined $40,000 for his illegal hit against Tennessee Titans wide receiver Justin Gage.
Pollard, 26, didn't seem to fit the Texans' new 3-4 scheme being installed by Wade Phillips and he wasn't retained.
Now, he's being welcomed by the Ravens.
"This guy comes out, and he has two huge hits in the backfield on pass rushes and kind of establishes himself," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He is a big, physical player. He is a hard-nosed guy. I think he does have a lot to prove.
"He has a lot of pride. I think he is proud to be a part of this team now, and I think he thinks it fits his personality. I am really looking forward to seeing how he does."
CARR LOOKING TO START: When the Ravens signed cornerback Chris Carr to a four-year, $15 million contract, they didn't guarantee him a starting job.
However, as Harbaugh has pointed out, Carr was paid starter's money.
"We haven't really talked about it and I don't really expect to talk about it," said Carr, who started every game last season. "It seems like they're going to give me my fair shot. If you're a competitor, that's all you can ask for. And that's all I've ever asked for in my career.
"My main concern is always getting better and I feel like if I get better then I will start. So, offseason I worked on a lot of things I wanted to improve. Hopefully, we'll see if it pays off."
Carr was pursued by the New York Jets, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the San Francisco 49ers, but opted to remain in Baltimore.
"Ultimately, it wasn't enough for me to leave," Carr said. "I'm glad to be here with my teammates. It was a difficult decision, but I felt good about it is one of those things it's enticing when people are really eager to get you on their football team and they're offering you the same amount of money or more money than one team. Ultimately, here it's first class and there's no other place I want to be."
FLOYD, MASON UPDATE: The Ravens' search for a veteran wide receiver continues and team officials remain in touch with San Diego Chargers free agent wide receiver Malcom Floyd and are still regarded as the frontunners to land him.
A contract for Floyd is expected to average $3 million annually. Floyd played for Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron for three seasons.
The Ravens have also remained in touch with wide receiver Derrick Mason since cutting him from the roster.
Mason visited the New York Jets on Thursday and took a physical, but didn't sign even though the AFC East club cut wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery when he failed his physical.
Mason didn't disclose his Jets visit during a series of exchanged text messages with Harbaugh.
"Derrick and I texted back and forth the last couple of days," Harbaugh said. "We didn't actually talk about that [Jets visit]. I didn't ask, and he didn't volunteer. So, that's all part of the business. We'll just have to see how it goes."
Meanwhile, Harbaugh expressed confidence in rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith.
"Comfortable is probably not a good word for any player," Harbaugh said. "You are never comfortable. I think I would be confident in him. I think he has a chance to be a real good player this year. We'll just have to see how it goes."
ARTHUR JONES MOVING UP: After a quiet rookie season where he didn't record a tackle in two games, Arthur Jones ran with the first-team at defensive end ahead of Cory Redding.
The fifth-round draft pick from Syracuse is much leaner than last year when he reported overweight.
It's unclear if this will be Jones' permanent status, but it's an encouraging start.
"He is doing very well," Harbaugh said. "Arthur Jones is doing really well. I think he has just grown and matured. He is a little bit leaner. He is a little bit quicker.
"He is just making more plays, but his technique. He is a better technician. He is a year older. He is doing a nice job."
ED REED TAKES A DAY OFF: In what amounted to a veteran's prerogative more than any kind of health problem, All-Pro free safety Ed Reed was granted a day off.
"I'm 32, I've been doing this for 10 years," Reed said. "Preserving is the key. If I'm not smart about taking care of myself during training camp, who else is. It's also a business.
"That's part of me being a great businessman and taking care of myself and understanding that this is my company and I run my company."
Reed said he trained in Atlanta this offseason. He appears to have bulked up a bit since last season.
The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year intercepted eight passes last season despite missing the first six games on the physically unable to perform list.
"I don't feel like I have to prove anything," Reed said. "I'm not trying to be an individual or anything, but preseason is preseason. It doesn't count for anything. So long as we are ready come September, which I will be and I am, I don't feel there's any more I have to prove."
COUSINS GETS SOME WORK: Oniel Cousins ran with the starters at right tackle ahead of third-round rookie Jah Reid.
This was Cousins' first practice because he's a restricted free agent.
However, they are going to compete for the job.
"It would be unfair for me to just probably put a grade on it right now without watching the tape, but I thought he held up fine for the first day out there," Harbaugh said. "Jah is a little bit tired right now, and he should be. Gosh, he went every rep for three straight days. He took every rep. He said, ‘Coach, I want to take every rep.'
"We know he can go long, now we just need to see if he can go well. I think it is going to be a good battle. Oniel would have the edge, obviously, with his experience, so we'll see."
PUNT RETURNER: Cornerback Lardarius Webb is the Ravens' primary punt returner.
He averaged 9.5 yards last season. He also had a 55-yard return for a touchdown in a playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it was wiped out due to a penalty.
"Lardarius Webb finished the season as our punt returner, and he was a very explosive returner for us," assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. "If you recall when he took over, things changed, including the dynamic return in the playoff game that he scored on. Lardarius is taking our returns right now as our No. 1 guy, but we're always looking for returners.
"That never changes. Every year we try and get as many guys back there to catch the ball and show us what they can do as we possibly can. This year is no different, but Lardarius is definitely our lead guy as far as punt returner at this point in time."
INJURY UPDATES: First-round cornerback Jimmy Smith (groin) didn't practice again.
Safety Tom Zbikowski (skin condition) was removed from the non-football illness list.
Starting inside linebacker Jameel McClain practiced after starting camp on the non-football injury list.
Long snapper Morgan Cox, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament last December, isn't practicing yet and remains on the physically unable to perform list.
Also not practicing and on the PUP list: wide receiver David Reed (wrist surgery), defensive tackle Brandon McKinney (knee surgery) and offensive tackle Ramon Harewood (knees).
QUICK HITS: The Ravens shifted practice to this afternoon due to the late meetings and practice Thursday. ... Bryan Mattison was the starting center with Matt Birk sidelined after undergoing knee surgery.
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