Ravens break camp

WESTMINSTER -- The Baltimore Ravens' caravan of luxury cars and moving vans hurriedly exited Westminster on Tuesday morning, signaling the annual close of training camp.<br><br> "Goodbye, Westminster," Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed said before piling his luggage into the back of his sport utility vehicle after early-morning meetings at the team hotel. "See you next year."

For the defending AFC North champions, their sojourn in Carroll County before returning to their training complex in nearby Owings Mills primarily represented a time to hone a passing game that ranked last in the NFL last season.

For the team's fans, it was a time to derive their own scouting reports while seeking players' autographs and photographs.

Daily, Ravens coach Brian Billick would clench and unclench his hand during press conferences after signing his name hundreds of times.

Billick cancelled Tuesday's final day of practice. Fourteen players missed practice with injuries Monday, including seven starters.

Billick said he considered canceling Sunday's practice. Center Mike Flynn broke his clavicle Monday in a blocking drill and will be out for six to eight weeks.

"I always look at practice as: Can we get done what we need to get done? Is there a higher priority," Billick said. "Any time that you put a player out on the field, you put them at risk and so you have to be careful. I didn't think that what we would get done this morning vs. what we might risk was worth it."

The camp drew high attendance numbers again with an estimated total of 83,875 fans, an average of 4,933 per day, without the mock game that traditionally has high numbers. The record for attendance was established in 2001 with 111,492 following the Ravens' Super Bowl victory.

The coaching staff was generally pleased with the results on the field.

"This is probably one of the most enjoyable camps that I have been a part of," Billick said. "Again, for the reasons that we alluded to, this is a homegrown group. They were responsive and they knew what their responsibilities were from the get-go.

"Notwithstanding the unfortunate hit with Mike Flynn, I think it was a productive camp and we stayed relatively healthy."

It was also a time of great preoccupation about depth at cornerback as Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister, the team's franchise player, skipped the entire training camp because of a contract dispute. During camp, the Ravens learned that running back Jamal Lewis, the reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year, will face federal drug conspiracy charges Nov. 1 in Atlanta.

Meanwhile, the question of whether retired Pro Bowl cornerback Deion Sanders will make a comeback with the Ravens is rapidly approaching the status of a foregone conclusion barring any setbacks in his training at his Texas estate. Billick has said that he expects a decision by Monday.

True to form, it wasn't a grueling, old-school camp where hitting and fights are prevalent. It was another Club Billick, as former tight end Shannon Sharpe once dubbed it.

"Brian took care of us this whole camp, so everybody is pretty much fresh," Lewis said. "We respect that. He didn't beat us up or anything. I think guys are really ready to go out and play for him. That's a good thing for a player-coach relationship."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.


 


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