Harbaugh: 'There's a buzz'

OWINGS MILLS -- John Harbaugh has been extremely busy since being introduced as the Baltimore Ravens' coach last month. There has been little in the way of downtime for the first-time head coach since team owner Steve Bisciotti hired the former Philadelphia Eagles secondary coach as Brian Billick's replacement.

Harbaugh has spent his time hiring a staff and completed that task this week to assemble an experienced group of assistants headlined by offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and incumbent defensive coordinator Rex Ryan.

Intent on creating a high-energy weight room atmosphere, Harbaugh is also reshaping the locker room. Players will no longer be grouped strictly by position, which is what the Ravens had traditionally done. Now, locker assignments will be shifted around in an attempt to increase camaraderie.

"There's a buzz," Harbaugh said Tuesday at the Ravens' training complex. "The previous staff, they did a great job and Brian did a great job of rallying everyone behind him in the whole building.

"I'm going to try to do as good a job as he did of rallying everybody around him. There's generally an excitement when things change. It's going to be our responsibility to validate that."

Mostly, Harbaugh has been watching film, becoming acclimated to his new surrounding and getting to know the players.

Harbaugh estimated that he has talked to 60 percent of the roster so far, including luminaries such as middle linebacker Ray Lewis and offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, as well as several other starters and key backups.

Harbaugh has also been planning ahead for what's expected to be a demanding training camp, touring the athletic facilities Wednesday at McDaniel College.

Plus, Harbaugh has learned where his designated parking space is located after initially parking far away from the coaches' entrance on his first day at work before being told that the spot marked with the letters, 'HC,' belongs to him.

"I definitely have learned my way around the building," Harbaugh said. "I haven't gotten lost since the first week. .. HC, what's that stand for?"

Harbaugh outlined his philosophy on taking a hands-on approach to every aspect of the team. While Harbaugh will be in charge of team meetings with Ryan and Cameron overseeing the defense and offense, respectively, with position coaches running their individual meetings, the head coach will be involved.

"I think every coach has a role, just like every player takes one of the 53 roles on the team," Harbaugh said. "Every guy is responsible for running their area. I think you need to give coaches the opportunity to do that, but I'm going to be in a lot of those meetings."

After hiring 13 new coaches with six retained from Billick's staff, including several coaches whose resumes include NFL or Division I coordinator experience, Harbaugh expressed surprise at the quality of assistants he was able to land.

"The No. 1 thing -- and far and above the most important thing -- is they all have tremendous character and they are men of integrity," Harbaugh said. "You can trust them, which is non-negotiable. The second thing is they're all great teachers. They can stand up in front of a classroom and they can probably teach sixth-grade math. If you can run a junior-high class, then you can coach football and take care of these guys.

"And the third thing is they all have great football knowledge. To me, that was the third-most important thing. We ended up getting coaches with pretty amazing resumes, and football knowledge is important, but it's the third-most important thing. I think we really got better people than football coaches."

While there's almost always a honeymoon period surrounding a new head coach, Harbaugh is aware that, inevitably, issues will arise.

As Harbaugh tries to turn around the Ravens following a 5-11 season and a last-place finish in the AFC North, he has regularly consulted Eagles head coach Andy Reid for advice.

Like Harbaugh, Reid had never previously been a head coach at any level and was tabbed by Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie after a stint as the Green Bay Packers' quarterbacks coach.

"He's been a great resource," Harbaugh said. "We talked about coaches, schedules, drills, minicamp and training camp. He's kind of alerted me to some land mines.

"We never really talked about what's different or the same. I think what's different is that as a head coach, you get hit from every angle, whereas a coordinator gets hit from basically one angle."

During an interview conducted close to the Ravens' glistening Vince Lombardi trophy from winning Super Bowl XXXV, Harbaugh made no guarantees about filling an empty display case with another trophy.

However, Harbaugh's ambition and confidence are in heavy supply.

"We don't know how fast all of this is going to come together, but it's going to come together," Harbaugh said. "We're going to have a great football team. .. When that happens, the challenge is going to be to keep it at a high level."

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

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