Today was the live media portion of the first wave of OTAs, so we got to attend this one in person. An incredibly bright and hot day at the Under Armour Performance Center, the temperature hit into the 90s, meaning that the players got their first real chance at working up a sweat on the field.
The Ravens had a really good turnout this year with the first set of OTAs. Typically veterans choose to sit out of these practices as they are a little older and tend to not need the reps like the young kids do. Even with that, the Ravens got quite a few of their vets on the practice field today. Most notably were Joe Flacco, Steve Smith, Justin Forsett and Daryl Smith.
Both Flacco and head coach John Harbaugh made mention of what it means to have veteran players like Steve Smith and Daryl Smith on the practice field right now.
Flacco said "It's always nice to see the guys out here that you are going to have to rely on a ton during the year and Steve is definitely one of those guys."
"Daryl being out there as a veteran leader on defense, getting guys lined up and running the show," Harbaugh said. "It's a big plus for us."
One of the players that was not expected to be a full participant was cornerback Jimmy Smith. He wasn't 100% according to John Harbaugh, but that didn't stop him from refusing the wear the red injury jersey and going all out on the field today. Harbaugh noted that Smith is "probably ahead of schedule" in coming back from his Lisfranc foot surgery that put him on injured reserve last season.
As we've reported before, John Harbaugh confirmed that Michael Campanaro has a tear in his quad and would be missing these sessions. Other players that couldnt see the field due to injury were center Jeremy Zuttah (hip) and right tackle Ricky Wagner (foot). Defensive lineman Kapron Lewis-Moore returned to the field for the Ravens while defensive end Brent Urban missed Thursday's practice due to personal reasons.
While the Ravens did get some turnout from veterans, there were a few no-shows, with Terrell Suggs being the top name missing from the list. In addition to some of the veterans, the Ravens had first-round wide receiver Breshad Perriman, tight end Maxx Williams and running back Javorius Allen missing in order to go to the NFLPA Rookie Premiere that we reported about yesterday.
Safety Terrence Brooks was on the field today and is looking good according to Harbaugh. "Terrence Brooks is doing really well," Harbaugh said. "No predictions right now, but he looks good. He has worked hard."
We also got to see safety Will Hill on the field running around and making plays. Hill is in his second year with the Ravens after a turbulent career beforehand. "I'd almost say lightyears ahead of where he was last year," Harbaugh said. "Came in kinda late and under challenging situations he was in. When you're off the field for six weeks, a lot of rust builds up, especially for a guy still learning the system."
Kendrick Lewis and Matt Elam were also at practice and were flying around at times. It should be an interesting battle for the starting safety jobs this season. We could even end up seeing different packages built around each player's strengths with a rotation to keep everyone fresh like we did last season when there were so many injuries in the secondary that forced the Ravens' hand.
Defensive line is dominant
It should come as no surprise that the Ravens' defensive line was absolutely dominant all day long. Brandon Williams picked up where he left off last season and was a run-stuffer in the middle of the line during his snaps. Timmy Jernigan showed off his power and speed during practice by getting in the backfield on multiple occasions and completely disrupting things. Even though the offensive line was patchwork today, it was amazing to see exactly how nasty the defensive line is already playing and should give some hope to a much improved stat line for all involved in 2015.
Like most teams, the Ravens employed referees at today's practice in order to gain a little more insight on what games will actually be like. With penalties flying a few times and even a few complaints to the refs from some players, it will certainly give the young players a better understanding of the rules and what will be called in most situations.
In addition to the refs, the Ravens played music at various levels to help simulate crowd noise. This is nothing new for teams as coaches want to give practices a gameday type feel and make sure that communication is at it's peak before heading into the season. With it being a voluntary practice, I noticed a few of the players enjoying the tunes at times and goofing off in between snaps.