Ravens unified after rule violations

OWINGS MILLS - The Baltimore Ravens emphasized a united front a day after forfeiting their final week of offseason practices because of violations of rules governing the intensity of practices and how long players can be at team headquarters.

"Nobody is mad at each other," said Ravens cornerback Chris Carr, an alternate union player representatives. "We're still going out there and having fun. We've had a great offseason. "Guys are really working hard. I don't think there's any animosity between anybody, coaches and players."

Ravens coach John Harbaugh acknowledged that he was a little embarrassed about the situation, which was triggered by six players complaining to the NFL Players Association that they were kept at meetings too long and two players saying they were kept late after practice during the first passing camp in the middle of May.

The NFL management council and the players' union also noted that the Ravens' practice drills were too intense. Several players' agents told the Times that complaint centered on blocking drills between offensive and defensive linemen.

"I agree with it, I'm accountable for that," Harbaugh said. "As an organization, we want to do things the right way. We want to be within the rules all the time. We want our players to communicate with us when they have an issue and they did. We deserve to lose those last few days."

Harbaugh disputed the notion that he was upset that the players turned in the coaching staff to the players' union.

"We want to be transparent in everything we do," Harbaugh said. "We made a mistake. We ran over, and we shouldn't have."

Harbaugh said the team was informed that there were a few instances of plays that went over the line of what's allowed for offseason practices.

"There was no specifics," Harbaugh said. "There were a few plays where things were a little more than they should have been, but they didn't specify which plays they were, and I'm not sure which ones they were.

"Generally, I think it's just a reminder to us as coaches, to me as the head coach, to the players ... let's take care of each other. Let's keep each other healthy, and we need to do that."

Harbaugh discussed the rule violations with the team during a Monday meeting.

"He took responsibility, which is a great example for all of us men around here," said cornerback and NFLPA executive committee member Domonique Foxworth. "We still work harder than any other team in the league. It doesn't feel any different."

Veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason, the Ravens' primary player representative, laughed at the suggestion that Harbaugh could get even during training camp with longer, hard-hitting practices at McDaniel College.

The players don't seem afraid of reprisals.

"Well, you try to think positively," Mason said. "You try to think that coach Harbaugh won't see it that way, wink wink. It's a situation where there was wrong done. Whether it be by accident or not, I think it was a legitimate mistake. When you have a situation like that, you don't try to punish the team because there was an infraction laid down on you.

"What you do is you learn from it and you kind of re-evaluate your schedule and see where you're going over as far as timewise and you try to cut it back. You don't say, ‘Well, the guys want to complain, I'm going to get them back during two-a-days.' Coach Harbaugh understands that."

Joking aside, players have been labeled as 'snitches,' 'whistleblowers' and 'rats' by their own fans.

That bothers Mason.

"We're trying to protect the locker room," Mason said. "You don't want guys out there any more than what they need to be because the longer you're out there, the more you're susceptible to injury. Whether it is by accident or not, I think it was a legitimate mistake."

Under the joint ruling from the NFL management council and the NFLPA, players will still be paid next week despite the time missed. They were scheduled to have two days of special-teams work.

The Oakland Raiders are the last team to lose a week of practices for violating offseason rules, and that happened in 2007. So, it's fairly uncommon for a team to be disciplined for its offseason practice regimen.

Harbaugh is a high-energy, high-intensity coach, but there haven't been a lot of injuries under his watch. The only injuries of note this spring have been to offensive tackles Jared Gaither (bruised foot) and Ramon Harewood (soft tissue damage in his knee).

Carr emphasized that the Ravens remain a cohesive unit.

"We're all in this together," Carr said. "We're a team. You want to care about the coaches and you want the coaches to care about you. We're all trying to get to a common goal."

Added tight end Todd Heap, the Ravens' other player representative: "The second we all sat down and talked, everything was corrected. I think it's only been a positive thing as far as everybody's concerned. The communication level has been great."

Harbaugh said he doesn't think the team will be affected negatively by losing next week's practices.

"We've gotten so much done through the offseason," Harbaugh said. "I think we've more than accomplished what we hope to already."

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