Tempers flare as heat rises

WESTMINSTER -- The combination of sweltering heat and heavier contact triggered a few predictable reactions as the Baltimore Ravens concluded their fourth day of practice. Tempers flared as the first fight of training camp commenced. Later, rookie fullback Le'Ron McClain was carted off the field with leg cramps in the team's first heat-related incident since arriving at McDaniel College .

First, a brief scuffle ensued between undrafted rookie tight end Marcus Freeman and veteran linebacker Jarret Johnson during a goal-line drill. Freeman didn't hesitate to lock up with Johnson on the ground, but immediately realized that he was surrounded by the entire defense. He got the worst of the exchange.

It was definitely a chippy environment with a few assorted shoving matches throughout practice.

"Tempers flare a lot because it's really hot and there's a lot of testosterone out there," said Freeman, an undrafted free agent from Notre Dame. "Guys get into it. It's part of the game. I was scuffling with him on the ground and, all of a sudden, I saw all these purple shirts surrounding me and I was kind of by myself.

"I was wondering where my teammates are. There's no hard feelings. Terrell Suggs came up to me afterward and said, ‘That's how we do it around here.'"

Order was quickly restored, partly due to fear of punishment running being assigned by Ravens coach Brian Billick who kept blowing his whistle during the aborted boxing match.

"What I liked about it was the veterans were diving in and saying, ‘Get off,' because we don't want coach to go off and have do sprints in that heat," Billick said. "They all collectively yelled, ‘We got it, We got it, We got it.'

"They did the right thing. They were going to have ownership of those 500 gassers if they didn't handle it."

Meanwhile, the Ravens dealt with hotter temperatures that hit the mid-90s along with increased humidity as they began practice at 9:30 a.m. , just over an hour later than usual.

Toward the end of practice, it simply became too much for McClain to stand. His legs cramped up and trainers removed his shirt and escorted him off the field after draping him in cold towels and placing a bag of ice on his stomach.

"Yeah, the heat was tough," defensive tackle Justin Bannan said. "I think this was our hottest practice yet. I've got to drink a lot because I could lose eight to 10 pounds in one practice. You've got to replenish and get those electrolytes back in you."

The later practice was intended to prepare the defending AFC North champions for Saturday's noon scrimmage against the Washington Redskins at M&T Bank Stadium.

"Hopefully, it was good and hot," Billick said. "That was by design. I thought they handled it real well. If you're watching our training staff, they do a great job working it nonstop to make sure they've got fluids in them and monitoring where these guys are at."

There's at least one benefit to the steamy conditions that tested players' tolerance and patience, according to Suggs who joked about his Jim Palmer spokesmodel aspirations.

"I kind of enjoy it because you can shed some body fat and get cut up and become an underwear model or something," he said. "Seriously, we have to get used to it because we're going to have a lot of hot Sundays."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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