Today was the first day that the full squad took the field together at Ravens Training Camp, and Baltimore Beatdown was there in person to witness what some say is the start of the 2008 NFL season.
The crowd was amazing and at times overwhelming. If you were there for an autograph (which I wasn't), you must have planned on waiting a long, long time, as I estimated there were thousands of fans, tons of family with kids of all ages, as well as middle aged fans like me who just can't wait for football season.
I wanted to catch a glimpse of the future (Flacco), as well as some of the rookies, including the two I interviewed earlier in the spring, Haruki Nakamura and Marcus Smith (see their interviews in previous postings).
I got there about 15 minutes after the start of the morning practice and was forced to park in another time zone. I'm told if you want decent parking, much less good seats, get there about an hour before practice starts - ouch! From where I stood, and believe me, it was behind a bunch of people at times, Troy Smith was definitely taking the snaps with the first team offense. He was followed by Joe Flacco and then Kyle Boller. While Smith oozed confidence, Flacco hit a couple of long passes with perfect spirals and a great soft touch. Boller was his typical self, looking sharp on one pass and flat the next.
Offensively, Willis McGahee ran hard, as did the other running backs. PJ Daniels seemed to injure his leg (knee or ankle) and was helped off the field. Left tackle Jared Gaither looked HUGE! Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron had his squad running hard play after play until the whistle blew, and they even tried a couple of fake field goals, completing one pass for a TD!
Defensively, Chris McAlister was there but in street clothes, which made me wonder why? Suggs is still out, not having signed his tender and therefore technically not under contract. Since the Ravens and Suggs cannot sign a new contract until after the season according to the NFL, he needs to get his butt in camp and put on the pads. Safety Ed Reed was there in uniform, but no pads and although he ran individual drills and exercised w/ fellow CB David Pittman, he did not participate in group drills. Of course, Samari Rolle is out due to the sudden death of his father. It was great seeing Ray Lewis in the middle, barking out defensive signals, looking in great shape as always.
Speaking of the rookies, both safety Tom Zbikowski (Notre Dame) and fellow safety Haruki Nakamura (Cincinnati) took snaps together with the second team defense They stood together on the sidelines, making me think that they may become a fixture in the defensive backfield in the Ravens future, and certainly on Special Teams.
Here are a few photos from today's camp and a video of Flacco throwing a pass (remember, I'm not a photographer, so no criticism of my skills allowed!).