OWINGS MILLS -- For the first time since the Baltimore Ravens' bitter playoff loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts, the defending AFC North champions will assemble Tuesday as a complete football team for a mandatory minicamp.
As the Ravens reconvene for their penultimate three-day minicamp of the spring, the final game of last season still haunts them. Despite setting a franchise record with a 13-3 mark, this veteran-laden team is far from satisfied.
"We are ready to play, that's for sure," said defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, who was a finalist for the San Diego Chargers' head coaching job that went to Norv Turner earlier this year. "I think everybody in our organization is ready to get that taste out of our mouth and advance. We had a great season, won 13 games, but you feel like it's a disaster because you lose in the first round of the playoffs.
"The fact that it was the Colts, what it meant to the city of Baltimore, we all felt it, believe me. We are ready to get back, do our thing and put ourselves in the exact same situation this year."
Besides that motivation, a reality exists for several older players that this could be one of, if not their final opportunities to make another Super Bowl run.
All-Pro offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden is scheduled to attend this minicamp after pondering retirement this offseason following a difficult campaign preceded by his father's death. Regarded as a future lock for the Hall of Fame, Ogden, 33, hasn't made any definitive declarations about whether this will be his last year.
Perennial All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who is scheduled to talk to reporters after today's practice along with Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed, turned 32 in May.
Whether it's wide receiver Derrick Mason, 33, kicker Matt Stover, 39, center Mike Flynn, who turns 33 later this month, or defensive end Trevor Pryce, 31, there's definitely a sense that this is a team in transition that features several key veterans with a finite amount of time left in the game.
"I think everybody knew that once they beat us, they would probably win it," cornerback Samari Rolle, 30, said of the Ravens' 15-6 AFC divisional playoff defeat to the Colts at M&T Bank Stadium. "They wound up winning, and that could have been us. Everybody knows our team is getting older and guys are at their peak right now, so our chances are running out."
Besides allowing veterans to get back in football shape, the minicamps also represent an opportunity to get new players like running back Willis McGahee and first-round offensive guard Ben Grubbs acclimated to the Ravens' system.
"Like always at this time of year, it's always good to get back out and get into the flow of things, shake some of the dust off and see about the new additions and how they can help us have a better season," cornerback Chris McAlister said. "The energy around here is good and it feels good to be around your teammates."
The Ravens' final minicamp is set for next week, concluding June 14, for a total of six practices over the next two weeks. The Ravens are scheduled to report to training camp July 29 at McDaniel College in Westminster.
"This gets us into a good tempo," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "These next two weeks are pivotal. We've got to get a lot out of those six days."
NOTES: The Ravens remain in negotiations with Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, but no deal is believed to be imminent. Suggs is entering the final season of his rookie contract and triggered an escalator clause with his 40th career sack that boosted his 2007 base salary to $5 million. Suggs is the team's top negotiating priority, and they have been trying to sign him to a contract extension since shortly before the draft in April.
It's unlikely that linebacker Dan Cody (knee) will participate in the remaining minicamps with a target of being ready by training camp after suffering what team officials and Cody described as a minor setback. Cody said he has a small piece of loose cartilage in his knee that won't require surgery.
It's unclear if cornerback David Pittman (hamstring) will participate along with Mason (finger), wide receiver Clarence Moore or running back P. J. Daniels, who were out last week with unspecified injuries.
Ryan, who has lost at least 60 pounds, is excited about being back after signing a two-year contract extension with Baltimore. "This is what I do, this is what I know," he said. "I would like to be a head coach, no question everybody would, but I'm happy doing what I'm doing. If I'm going to be a defensive coordinator for anybody in this league, I want to do it right here in Baltimore where playing defense means something."
Added linebacker Jarret Johnson: "That's huge because a lot of what we are able to do is because of Rex. Rex has a lot of confidence in his players, putting them in situations that other coaches wouldn't. He has trust and faith in us, so to lose him would be pretty devastating."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.
Ryan: 'We are ready to play'
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