Ravens hit camp hard

As overflow crowds flowed into McDaniel College for the morning practice on Friday the people and the many kids alike were excited to see the new Ravens of 2008.With veterans, free agents and rookies together for the first time the beginning of training camp is now in full swing and excitement was in the air on a beautiful day in Maryland.

These players had only a few practices together for brief periods but now the real work has begun and everyone on that field today knew what was at stake, a position on the 2008 Raven roster.

It became apparent early on that with pads on running backs and quarterbacks had not taken exchanges from center with the offense and all were a little rusty from the time off. Each quarterback in his own way showed signs of stress of trying to be the starting quarterback. Fumbling snaps to bad exchanges with running backs nothing was smooth at first. Rookie Joe Flacco looked uncomfortable at times as rookies do.

But Joe Flacco threw the ball the best during all the drills. Kyle Boller again had many inconsistent throws, at times right on the money and other times behind and up high. Troy smith was somewhere in between the other two quarterbacks. Many of the early drills with only qbs and receivers running pass patterns with no actually defensive backs drew raves of excitement from the crowd for all three qbs but that is not what happens in games but fun to watch for the fans.

It does help get the timing down between receivers and qbs. At the same time these passing drills were taking place at the other end of the field the rest of the players (offense against the defense) were having contact drills and running plays. It appears that in Coach Harbaugh's camp all players are working doing something at all times.

Troy Smith was always the first qb called on in drills with the defense present when contact began and this may or may not be a telling of future practices but Coach Harbaugh may be rotating each qb each day in these positions, we'll have to see what the next 5 days unveils by these coaches. What we have seen in early spring mini camps this year is Kyle Boller revert back to his first 2 years at training camps, nervous, unsure and inconsistent at times in all phases of his game.

It also appears that Joe Flecco will at least early in this camp be the third guy to get reps in all practice drills and may be brought along slowly in all phases of his pro football life. The coaches will want to make sure they feel he has his feet firmly on the ground and that is probably a smart decision.

A min fight broke out and it appeared a rookie lineman Joe Reitz started the event. Nothing really to report since this happens every year in training camp and is hardly worth mentioning. But what was interesting about it was most all veteran defensive players on the field got involved by surrounding Reitz. Veterans don't want rookies taking controlled or showing up veterans or trying to prove they are tougher especially at the first practice and it appeared that the veterans were making a statement to all the rookies that rookies were not in charge. Many veterans looked in top shape and better than any other training camp. Trevor Price,Haloti Ngata and Adam Terry look like they have been working hard to get in game shape early this year while others like Willis McGahee and Jaret Gaither have not taken advantage of these same workouts. Ed Reed, Daniel Wilcox and Chris McAlister did not practice.

The most impressive group on the field this morning was the running backs. Corey Ross looked poised and aggressive, very quick and made a statement that he wants to be that third running back. Ray Rice was extremely quick in his cuts and looked like a great selection by the Ravens in round two. Willis McGahee looked like he was not ready to start the season with fumbles, forgetting where to line up and even having a rookie qb place him in the right position at times.

The same players of past camps once again had minor injury occurrences at the first contact drills. PJ Daniels went down early in practice and left the field with the trainers during drills, he left on his own so it was hard to tell what he injured and Dan Cody got hit late in the morning scrimmage and limped off with what appeared to be a knee injury but did not go into the training room and has since returned to practices and looks promising.

You can see big changes in so many ways over previous Raven training camps. A much faster pace in everything the coaches are doing with each drill. When the horn sounds players are jogging to their next designated area and are ready to go in minutes. Even with mass substitutions every few plays when full offensive and defensive units are playing against each other everything runs quickly and smoothly. The play clock is being use on each play and each quarterback is calling and running plays even at this first practice in game conditions.

Kyle Boller had to call time out on several occasions to avoid a penalty situation. The play calling also shows early signs of major changes with many quick passes to tight ends and wide receivers almost at the snap of the ball, no long counts by qbs .The defense at times was not totally set when a play had already been executed by the offense .And this resulted in a quick throw for a 5-8 yard gain by the offense. Good crisp running plays were also seen today. No long counts by quarterbacks to allow the defense to set up and adjust their position or make additional defensive calls.

Coach Cameron has this offense setting up quickly, calling a play and always in a fast offensive aggressive play calling mode with a great mind set. This is a totally new approach on offense that Raven fans have never seen before, with a new spark and liveliness that all can observed. The entire team appears to have a new energy level from the last few years even in the veterans. Jonathan Ogden could be seen talking to the offensive lineman and giving advice at times today.

Although this is only the first practices for the full team, coach Harbaugh is very impressive with all he has accomplished in his short time being head coach and the players seem to be responding well to his new approach to building a winning football team. And for the fans and their families especially the kids with all the Ravens have for them to do up here it is a great place to spend a summer day. Make sure you call or check to see what the Ravens have scheduled on the day you are planning to visit training camp. You can check the Raven website for that information. With less than two weeks before the first preseason game on Thursday August 7th with the New England Patriots time is moving very quickly toward the beginning of the 2008 season. This team looks like it will be fun to watch and enjoy all year. A trip to training camp is a fun way to spend a day of vacation for all Raven fans.

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