Ravens preparing for August training camp

OWINGS MILLS – Imparting a message of maintaining discipline, Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick emphasized using the next six weeks until training camp as a working vacation before dismissing his players for the summer. As a caravan of sport utility vehicles exited the training complex Thursday, conditioning, rehabilitation and studying the playbook were the chief watchwords.

"The next six weeks are very important, and they understand that," said Billick, whose team reassembles July 31 in Westminster prior to their first practice Aug. 1 at McDaniel College. "Each player has a specific time frame and plan about what they're going to do between now and training camp. But keep in mind they need some time away from the game. It's got to be an upward arc between now and the beginning of training camp.

"The advances they've made in the last six weeks can be matched in the next six weeks. Our veterans understand that. There are some young players that can impact this team that have to learn what that's about. Hopefully, they got the message."

For injured players like tight end Todd Heap, who is rehabbing from ankle and shoulder surgery, there's little time to relax.

As one of a handful of players Billick mentioned as a candidate for the physically unable to perform list when camp starts along with running back Jamal Lewis (ankle), running back Musa Smith (leg) and nickel back Deion Sanders (toe), Heap is intent on accelerating his recovery.

"In my situation, I don't have a lot of days to waste so I'm trying to make sure every day counts," said Heap, in town for a team meeting and to sign his six-year, $30 million contract that includes a split-tier $11 million signing bonus "In six weeks we'll get to camp, so use that time wisely to not only get your rest, but get your body prepared for the season. You don't want to take any steps back."

Rookie wide receiver Mark Clayton, the team's first-round pick from Oklahoma, has immediate plans to go to Arizona to seek specialized treatment, including deep-tissue massages, for his nagging hamstring strain.

"I've never nursed a hamstring before, so I have to be careful with it," Clayton said.

Clayton's other priority is reporting to training camp on time, adding that he has given his agent, Ben Dogra, specific instructions to avoid a contract holdout.

"Without a doubt, I'm going to be here on time," Clayton said. "This is a very veteran team, and I don't want to set myself back or hold the team back. I don't want to rock the boat."

Players typically follow their own unique workout rituals to supplement the team's conditioning program, and right guard Keydrick Vincent takes an ‘old-school, Rocky,' approach to training.

Vincent returns to his hometown of Lakeland, Fla., and works out with a trainer in a sandpit, performing strenous drills he calls his secret to developing leg drive.

"It's a hard-core regimen that helps me a lot, but I'm not looking forward to it," Vincent said. "It hurts, but it works."

For veterans like center Mike Flynn, relaxation is a priority along with strengthening his knee and shoulder. Rookies like outside linebacker Dan Cody are required to attend the NFL's annual rookie symposium in Los Angeles.

"I'm going to stay right here in Baltimore and continue to work out so I'm ready to go for the whole season," said wide receiver Derrick Mason, a two-time Pro Bowl selection signed to upgrade the NFL's 31st-ranked passing game. "I clear my mind and concentrate on football and family."

To a man, players said the bitter taste of last season's 9-7 campaign that fell short of the playoffs will be on their minds.

"We feel like we have a lot to prove this year," Heap said. "Last year, we really didn't meet our expectations. We didn't make it to the playoffs, so that's our main focus now is to get back to that point."

NOTES: Lawyers representing Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs in his felony aggravated assault trial in Arizona plan to call character witnesses, including Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, to support their case. Suggs declined prosecutors' plea bargain offer last month that wouldn't have entailed jail time. Court officials said the trial is likely to conclude June 30. "This is a good young man," Billick said. "There's been nothing in the time we've been with Terrell to indicate that he's not a good young man. The circumstance he found himself in was one that was somewhat out of his control." … The Ravens are sending personnel to visit Lewis in Atlanta as he serves two months in a halfway house, including trainer Bill Tessendorf, running backs coach Matt Simon and Billick. "It sounds like the environment he's in is excellent for rehab and getting into shape," Billick said. … Billick indicated that cornerbacks Samari Rolle (hamstring) and Dale Carter (leg) aren't question marks for training camp.

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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