Day one is in the books and in the hot, windy weather at the Under Armour Performance Center, there were some highlights and some lowlights.
One of the most important things is that everyone showed up. With storylines about players holding out for larger contracts aroudn the NFL, it is great to see that players like Justin Tucker, Kelechi Osemele, and Marshal Yanda were at practice. It's also great to see aging veterans like Terrell Suggs out there in a helmet and working off some of the offseason rust. Other teams and coaches don't have the luxury of having 100% so early in the practices.
The Ravens did miss a few players out on the field, but that was due to tweaks that kept them out of practice. Dennis Pitta is not formally cleared by the doctor, which means that he can't participate even if he wants to. Right tackle Ricky Wagner and center Jeremy Zuttah were joined by wide receiver Michael Campanaro, offensive lineman Robert Myers and wide receiver Aldrick Robinson on the sidelines in shorts and not practicing.
"All those guys that weren’t practicing today have some tweak," Harbaugh said when asked about the players not on the field.
It was apparent that all the players were back because the intensity was ratched up for the defense. Clearly working on jumping routes and stripping footballs, the defenders went after the offensive players like it was a real game. It led to some interceptions and fumbles, but more importantly, it showed that the Ravens defense wants to get to mid-season form as quick as possible.
Senior's intensity and coaching
Steve Smith was feeling that intensity and helped kick it up a notch with several comments during the day.
After kicker Justin Tucker missed a 54-yard kick, Smith let Tucker and the media know all about it. "C’mon Tuck," he shouted. "You have to make kicks! How am I supposed to get my three percent?" He was a lot less jovial after a sideline throw he caught in front of Rashaan Melvin. "I'm gonna beat your ass up today" led Melvin to get a little upset at himself for letting a big completion happen. Cornerbacks werent the only ones getting yelled at either, with Smith screaming onto the field after an interception, "Don't give up the ball and just walk over to the sideline"
Senior is fully buying into the hustle mentality as he could be heard screaming at young players "Hustle... Run yo ass back." Clearly, Steve Smith is looking to be a coach on the field as only he can... through intimidation.
With the intensity and the heat, it would be easy for players to get dinged up or slow down and get hurt. However, the Ravens have been preaching "take care of each other" all offseason and it showed off on Tuesday. Players were yelled at for going to the ground on anything, where injuries typically happen. There was a minor scary moment where rookie tight end Maxx Williams went down to the ground and could be seen in a bit of pain on the sidelines. The injury had the player doubled over in pain as a trainer looked at him. It was nothing serious as Williams went back on the field to practice a short bit later with no ill effects.
After a disastrous 2014 season in regards to injuries, the Ravens definitely want to keep everyone healthy. A championship caliber team can be quickly derailed by crucial injuries, leaving the team to look for replacements. Hopefully for the coaches and players, the streak can continue.
Hit and miss
Tuesday's practice were filled with hits and misses. Now that the full team is out on the field, the offense and defense traded barbs all day long as one would make a big play over the other and vice versa. As I mentioned, a lot of the defense's positive plays came from jumping routes leading to interceptions and stripping the ball leading to fumbles. The offense had their own set of positives though, throwing the ball well, blocking consistently and running crisp routes that led to touchdowns.
In the heat of the day, the Ravens had fun overall. Owner Steve Bisciotti sat next to Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta, along with some other guests and all were clearly enjoying watching the team practice.
Bisciotti even got a question in on head coach John Harbaugh with the media.
Coach, on a personal note, you look good. Do you feel good? (Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti) “Thank you. We have an owner here that models [why] looking good is really important, and having a good tan. Remember the old saying, ‘It’s better to look good than to feel good.’? Was that Billy Crystal, Saturday Night Live?” (Reporter: “You look marvelous.”) “You look marvelous.” (laughter)
Justin Tucker got to work on his long-range kicking skills as he booted a 67-yarder through the uprights on a seriously windy day. Kicking from sideline to sideline in addition to working the hash marks on the field, Tucker was kicking the ball everywhere all day long. After hitting the 67-yard field goal during the two-minute drill, Steve Smith looked over at owner Steve Bisciotti and general manger Ozzie Newsome. With a smile on his face, he made the money sign with his fingers.
For another practice, the Ravens turned up the music. A nice mix of hip hop and rock could be found, but the sound guys mixed in a little oldies with some Marvin Gaye and 'Ain't no mountain high enough'. Some of the players would shimmy to the music throughout the day as they waited their turn in team or individual drills. These practices can get boring and tiring for the players and even the media. The music and players ragging on each other a little bit helps to alleviate some of that and keep things fresh.