Attacking the learning curve

OWINGS MILLS — Now that the NFL draft is in the books, the crash course recommences for the Baltimore Ravens as they try to become fluent in a new offensive language. For the Ravens, the taxing mental demands stemming from offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's intricate playbook are as challenging as the increased tempo of coach John Harbaugh's practices.

The Ravens launch a three-day voluntary minicamp today at their training complex, practice sessions that are closed to reporters except for Friday.

"In the meetings, everything is very detailed," said quarterback Kyle Boller, who's slated to compete with former Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith and first-round draft pick Joe Flacco for the starting job. "You've got to know it. They are not going to spoon feed it to you.

"You've got to keep learning it. I think that's important. It makes guys be accountable, and that's what we need for our offense to be successful."

This season, Cameron wants to run more shotgun formations, emphasize a smash-mouth running game while throwing the football more out of the backfield and to tight end Todd Heap.

Before the Ravens can implement those schemes, though, they have to get a handle on the terminology.

"It's different because the West Coast system is names of the routes and numbers of the protections," Harbaugh said. "This is just the opposite. I think they're tying the concepts together with the numbers right now and doing a pretty good job of it."

One other change that's become evident around team headquarters to the offensive players is Cameron's willingness to take input from players and engage in a give-and-take.

"There are things he's going to say to you that you should take into consideration and there are also things that you're going to say to him that he's willing to listen to," Smith said. "This year, it's more of an emphasis on letting us know that our opinion counts."

The Ravens are banking on acquiring a new label that represents a stark contrast to the low-scoring, predictable brand of football they've played on offense while excelling on defense for the past several years.

First, though, the offense has a lot to assimilate during these minicamps and meetings.

"Learning a new offense, there are days you'll probably look back on and laugh at yourself," Boller said. "It's a lot of hard work. The new offense is not going to be easy to learn, but I think once you learn it, the sky is the limit."

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

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