Ravens finish minicamp with a scare

OWINGS MILLS -- Shortly after a hurry-up drill that ended with wide receiver Derrick Mason limping off the field, Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick dismissed his football team for the next five weeks.

As the Ravens concluded their final minicamp and organized team function Thursday prior to reporting for training camp on July 27th, Mason experienced a scare.

While leaping to haul in a Kyle Boller spiral in the end zone, the two-time Pro Bowl selection stumbled and turned his left ankle when he tried to get both feet down inbounds along the sideline.

"How many times do I tell them, ‘Don't go to the ground,'" Billick said afterward. "But he'll be all right."

As a precautionary measure, it's believed that Mason went to the hospital for X-rays, which were ruled negative. The injury isn't considered serious.

During a voluntary workout where 11 starters were either held out for injuries or chose not to attend, Mason was still playing extremely hard.

On the play before he got hurt, Mason dragged his foot and touched the pylon when Boller faked a spike and lobbed it to him in the end zone.

However, Billick ruled that it wasn't a touchdown and motioned that he was out of bounds.

"This ain't college," nose guard Kelly Gregg said. "You need two feet."

The play ended 15 days of practices and an offseason where the team was reshaped.

Baltimore replaced Boller by trading for former Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair, re-signed running back Jamal Lewis and linebacker Bart Scott, added former Denver Broncos Pro Bowl defensive end Trevor Pryce and drafted massive defensive tackle Haloti Ngata in the first round.

Following a 6-10 campaign that landed Billick on the hot seat, he was retained by owner Steve Bisciotti. Now, Billick is banking that the team's busy offseason will pay dividends with a return to the playoffs after a two-season absence from the postseason.

"I like the balance, always worried about depth, always worried about a lack of experience in some areas," Billick said. "I like the personality. I think the additions we've made -- not only from a physical standpoint but from a personality standpoint and character-wise -- have been outstanding."

While several coaches and players embarked on vacations, McNair is heading to summer school with offensive coordinator Jim Fassel to get acclimated to the playbook.

Meanwhile, the work is just beginning for wide receiver Clarence Moore, who is recovering from two surgeries to repair a sports hernia. The mesh implanted in his stomach during a surgery performed when he was at Northern Arizona had to be removed and replaced.

The 6-foot-6 wideout hasn't been practicing, but he hopes to be ready by training camp.

"I've got to continue to strengthen my stomach and core and put weight back on," said Moore, who's grateful that he's only down to 217 pounds."I can't have stuff like this bothering me at camp. I'm looking at this as a second chance to try to prove what I can do out there again."

In five weeks, the Ravens will reassemble at McDaniel College. They're scheduled to conduct 25 practices prior to breaking camp Aug. 19.

"The groundwork has been laid," Billick said. "This was just a starting point for them and they have a lot to do over the next five weeks.

"That curve still has to be going up, both mentally and physically. You have to be a professional when you're away from one another to maintain that integrity, but this group knows what's in front of it."

Aaron Wilson writes for Ravens Insider and the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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