Ending a tradition of preparing for the NFL season in Westminster and disappointing loyal fans, the Baltimore Ravens will continue to hold training camp at team headquarters next year. Until last summer, the Ravens had conducted camp at McDaniel College since their inaugural season in 1996.
The Ravens moved the camp to their training complex in Owings Mills this year, citing major logistical issues following the NFL lockout. Both college and team officials had indicated to the Times earlier this week that keeping camp in Owings Mills was a strong possibility.
And the team emphasized that it believes remaining at their facility for camp gives the team its best chance to win.
"We've had long, serious discussions about this decision, and when all is said and done, we believe we can better prepare for the season by holding training camp here as opposed to McDaniel College or any other facility away from here," team president Dick Cass said. "We owe much thanks to the leadership at McDaniel for their patience as we came to this decision and for all the outstanding help they have given the Ravens through the years. They have been a great partner, often going out of their way to make sure we could prepare our team at a high, high level."
The Ravens had been in discussions with McDaniel College vice president of administration and finance Ethan Seidel, but ultimately made their decision to keep camp at their facility going forward.
"It's been a great relationship with the Ravens," Seidel told the Times. "We understand it's a business decision and a football decision for them to have camp at their facility. The door is open as far as we're concerned should they ever reconsider in the future. It's been great having them on campus."
This move halts decades of the local NFL team camping in Carroll County.
The Baltimore Colts trained at the former Western Maryland College (now McDaniel) from 1953 to 1971.
Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti was torn by the decision, referencing his childhood of visiting the Colts' practices.
"From a football and team point of view, it's an easy decision," Bisciotti said. "Personally, this is difficult. Some of my best memories as a kid are my family's visits to the Colts' training camp in Westminster. Part of my devotion to the game and the players who made it great and are heroes to many of us, started on those visits.
"We completely understand that this takes away an important part of our connection with our fans. I regret that. Hopefully, we can find other ways to continue this outreach. We'll have more to say on this as we develop these programs."
The Ravens cited several reasons for making their decision, including the superior facilities at their $35 million training complex.
That includes an indoor practice field where they can shift practice during inclement weather.
The Ravens said there aren't nearly enough rooms at the Best Western Hotel, where they added trailers to hold position meetings and for office space for staffers.
"There aren't enough rooms for our players, coaches and staff," Cass said. "Nor are there rooms for the individual position meetings that are an everyday part of football preparation."
Besides the capacity, the hotel didn't completely mesh with the Ravens' technological needs for computers and video.
Under the new collective bargaining agreement, NFL teams are only allowed to hold one practice per day. That meant that efficiency had to be maximized for that practice.
Among the AFC North teams, the Ravens and Cleveland Browns are the only ones that have camp at their facilities with the Pittsburgh Steelers camping at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. and the Cincinnati Bengals camping at Georgetown College in Kentucky.
"In 1996, Westminster was the best place for us to have training camp," general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "How teams conduct training camp today is vastly different. Our football needs and requirements are different. The absence of two-a-days, how much space we need for the players and the meetings, the limited number of practices allowed by the new CBA, the importance of having an indoor field when the summer storms come, all of that and more football-influenced factors, had me recommend to Steve and Dick that we hold camp here."
The Ravens emphasized that the decision didn't come down to money even though shifting operations to Westminster is an expensive undertaking.
"This is not a financial decision," Cass said. "Because of our training camp sponsors and partners, we did not lose money going to Westminster."
However, it will likely cause a dent to the community, as it did last summer when the Ravens weren't there.
Economists have estimated that the Ravens' presence provided an annual boost from anywhere from $1 million to $2 million to the local economy.
"My reaction is one of great disappointment," said Harry Sirinakis, the owner of Harry's Main Street Grille. "When this happened last year, we all kind of raised an eyebrow that it's not a good thing. We had that special bond with them. It's like losing a loved one. There was a certain amount of pride from them practicing in our community.
"This is an old-fashioned concept, I guess, being out there in the public eye. Everybody relates back to the Colts. I'm disappointed. It's an emotional thing, but everything changes."
The Ravens held a free, open practice at M&T Bank Stadium last summer.
And they plan to have at least three practices away from Owings Mills, including one at their downtown stadium.
They may do something in Westminster as well.
Because of parking, traffic, insurance and legal reasons related to their lease with Baltimore County, the Ravens' practices in Owings Mills are closed to the general public.
"We've discussed a variety of possible community interactions," Cass added. "We will have smaller groups of fans at practices here and will have other community activities that include access to players and coaches. We want to do something in Westminster, and we are discussing some ideas. These will all have to fit into the first priority: getting the team ready for the regular season."
Last summer, it was a much different experience with the Ravens having camp without the backdrop of cheering fans.
Heading into Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens are off to an 8-3 start after their first camp away from Carroll County.
"We'll miss having all those fans at practice," coach John Harbaugh said. "It was fun having them so close and, at times, pushing the team to higher levels with the way they cheered and encouraged us."
Ravens list Ray Lewis as questionable
Chris Carr ruled out
OWINGS MILLS – Baltimore Ravens All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis was officially designated as questionable even though he didn't practice all week.
Lewis has missed the past two games with a painful right turf toe, and is regarded as a long shot to play in Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns.
The Ravens are hoping that rest will improve Lewis' status and he's expected to return within the next few games. The Times reported previously that Lewis would miss anywhere from one to four games.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh isn't completely giving up on Lewis for this game.
"I feel like there is a chance," Harbaugh said Friday. "We'll just see how it goes."
Meanwhile, the Ravens ruled out cornerback Chris Carr for the second consecutive game due to a back injury.
Carr missed the past two practices after being limited Wednesday and was sidelined against the San Francisco 49ers.
Inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring, groin), running back Anthony Allen (hamstring) and defensive tackle Arthur Jones (concussion) are probable.
Ellerbe is slated to start with Lewis sidelined at either middle linebacker or inside linebacker opposite Jameel McClain, who started at middle linebacker against the 49ers.
"Dannell progressed well," Harbaugh said.
The Browns ruled out safety T.J. Ward (foot, finger) and linebacker Quinton Spears (hamstring).
Safety Mike Adams (shoulder), running back Montario Hardesty (calf), defensive end Jayme Mitchell (ankle), offensive tackle Tony Pashos (calf) and defensive back Dimitri Patterson (ankle) are questionable.
Running back Peyton Hillis (hamstring), quarterback Colt McCoy (right elbow), linebacker Kaluka Maiva (knee), fullback Owen Marecic (concussion) and defensive lineman Scott Paxson (shin) are probable.
TOUGH MATCHUP: Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs grew accustomed to harassing the Browns during his first four seasons in the NFL.
He recorded eight sacks, forcing seven fumbles.
However, only four of his dozen sacks against the Browns have occurred since the Browns drafted offensive tackle Joe Thomas with the third overall pick of the 2007 NFL draft.
And Suggs has recorded only one sack in his last five games against the Browns.
That's why Suggs has immense respect for Thomas.
"I think he is definitely a top-three left tackle in the league now," Suggs said. "It was an era where it was the Walter Joneses, the Willie Roafs, and of course the greatest ever, Jonathan Ogden. Now it's the Jake Longs, the Joe Thomases.
"We always have battles when we go up against each other. When it comes to Joe, I think he is one of the best there is. He is very strong, He is very disciplined with his hands. He is very athletic. He is more athletic than people give him credit for."
Suggs leads the Ravens with nine sacks, registering a career-high three sacks against the 49ers.
Because of Suggs' capabilities, he commands extra blocking attention.
"I think on the last game on Thursday night the very first pressure we called, he lined up with two other guys to the right," defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. "They turned the protection, and we had a blitz coming from the other way. We designed a bunch of things as a staff to try and get him loose, just because of the protection issues. Everyone is making sure they take care of him.
"They double him, chip him or put a tight end over there. Our guys do a great job of trying to come up with some different things. We had him lined up behind the center one time, blitzed him up the A gap and got him on a back. So, we're trying to manage the thing so we're getting him some singles, at least some singles, and they can't double him."
Suggs takes it as a sign of respect, but it does get old facing so many blockers.
"It's frustrating, he'll be the first one to tell you," Pagano said. "He was like, ‘Coach, you think they're going to cut me?' I said, ‘I don't think so.' He went for a long stretch there without anything.
"So he's sitting there, ‘Am I a bad player? Are they going to cut me?' I said, ‘I don't think so, Siz.' It's respect, but it does get frustrating. So it was good to see him have a breakout game and get those three sacks."
HADEN EMERGING: It's been a big season for Browns cornerback Joe Haden, becoming one of the top young defensive backs in the league.
The Maryland native and first-round draft pick has deflected 16 passes this season.
He intercepted six passes as a rookie last year.
"He's been playing pretty well," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "He's a young guy that has a lot going for him out there. He'll come up in press and put some pressure on you. He'll be a guy we have to look at this year."
A year ago, Flacco was intercepted once by Haden.
Haden is coming off a tough game where he allowed three catches for 101 yards to Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green, including a 51-yard reception that led to the deciding field goal.
The Browns have the top-ranked pass defense in the NFL.
"We just have to go in there and attack them with our game plan," Flacco said. "Yeah, they have good players. And Joe is a good player, but I am going to trust my guys on the outside."
QUICK HITS: Harbaugh has never lost to the Browns since taking over as coach in 2008, but still considers them to have a formidable home-field advantage. "It's a tough place to play anyway," he said. "The stadium is huge, it's really right on top of you. It's a great stadium as far as that is concerned. They've got rabid fans. It's right on the lake. It's got great tradition. Obviously this rivalry, I think, has special meaning to both sides. It's a great rivalry to be a part of, and it's always a very intense game."
… The Browns switched long snappers this week, going with Christian Yount and cutting struggling former Pro Bowl selection Ryan Pontriand. "It's challenging," Harbaugh said. "It's not something that you can't do, because there are not a lot of mental things that he has to learn. The timing is really hard, would expect them to be very conscious of snapping it, catching it, getting it down, especially with the field conditions. It's not ideal, obviously. You wouldn't want to do that, but they felt like they had to make a move, and they feel like it will upgrade them." …The Ravens' decision to cut nose guard Kelly Gregg, tight end Todd Heap and wide receiver Derrick Mason has been borne out so far. "I think we have a lot of confidence," he said. "We have a lot of confidence in each other. Those are conversations that went all the way back to March, February, from the top down and throughout. They were made with a great deal of thought and care, and you hope they work out. So far, we have done some good things, but that story still has to be written."
The Ravens have seen Browns quarterback Colt McCoy escape the pocket and make things happen as a scrambler. "He's getting the ball out, simple reads, and then he's athletic and he's scrambling," Pagano said. "Last week he ran on the third-and-18 play and picked up a first down. So, he can beat you outside the pocket either looking downfield. He keeps his eyes downfield . If he sees something open, he'll hit it. If not, he can surely with his legs beat you athletically."
Ravens cut Prescott Burgess from injured reserve
By Aaron Wilson
OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens cut linebacker Prescott Burgess from injured reserve today.
The reserve defender and special-teams contributor was declared out for the season due to a torn abdominal muscle.
If Burgess clears waivers, he'll be a free agent again.
A former sixth-round draft pick from the University of Michigan, Burgess led the Ravens in special-teams tackles the past two seasons.
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