After three days of the Ravens’ optional offseason program, the team held a press conference featuring Head Strength & Conditioning Coach Steve Saunders, along with wide receiver Rashod Bateman, fullback Patrick Ricard, defensive end Justin Madubuike, and inside linebackers Patrick Queen and Josh Bynes. Here are my takeaways from the press conference.
Changes to the Offseason Program and Beyond
A lot of talk this offseason circulated around the Ravens changing their training program to minimize the risk of injury. During Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh’s end of season press conference, he talked about a four hour meeting with “our performance people.” Then, during the league owners meetings, Harbaugh announced some changes in how they’ll be modifying their regimen.
“We’re going to approach training camp— big picture schedule differently in terms of the way we ran. In terms of the way we time practices, how long we’re on the field and what we’re doing on the field. How we pace the rhythm of the practices and even within the practices... It’s priority one, for sure.”
But in meeting with Saunders and the players, little was revealed. When asked what Saunders changed, he didn’t quite show the Ravens’ hand.
“Philosophically, the program still stands on its own merits but you just make little tweaks,” Saunders replied. “And we’re going to say, ‘Okay, we don’t know what these guys have been doing.’ So let’s take a little step back and say okay, maybe spend a little more time in the evaluation process, add some other things to the program and it’s just like little tweaks.”
However, Bynes, Queen and Ricard said they’ve noticed differences in the beginning of the program, which they’re only three days into.
“And they’re taking their time, also building day by day and layer on top of layer, instead of sometimes, I guess – I’m not necessarily speaking [about] here; just in general – going head first right into it,” Bynes said. “You don’t want to do that and tear guys down. Especially [for] a guy like me, who’s been playing for a long time, you want to build those layers up.”
“Yes, the training, the workouts have been phenomenal,” Queen said. “Just the velocity that we’re getting on the pad or whatever you want to call it, we’re seeing those things. And just knowing the workouts have changed and they’re better, people are getting active. There’s a lot of competing in the workouts now, and obviously, whenever we get to practice and stuff, we’ll see how the practices are.”
“I definitely see some changes. I think our warmup is more broken down,” Ricard said “We’re stretching more. We’re doing a little bit more for flexibility and just overall mechanics of warming up. I also think our workouts are still very good work. I think it’s what we need, and I think it’s also a little bit of less reps. I always remembered we always started out with reps of a range of 10 to 12, and now we’re starting out with eight to 10. So, I think they’re trying to tone it down a little bit and make sure that we’re really just getting into the groove of things and not really shocking the body too much. I’m excited to see how OTAs and practices really start and how that schedule changes, and then training camp itself. I know in the training room, there have been a lot of positive changes.”
It sounds like things have been modified, but with it being only three days into the offseason program, the sample size is a bit too small to notice the larger alterations to the schedule, which will likely be more recognizable during training camp and throughout the season. After all, it’s only April. Keep in mind, the Ravens aren’t rebuilding the entire program as an overreaction to the injuries sustained in 2021, which is a good thing.
“John [Harbaugh] is great at that,” Saunders said. “John has a vision, and he just takes it all in. He’s really good about [saying], ‘Hey, we don’t want to overreact, but we’re not going to minimize it either.’ I applaud him for that. Everybody knows football is physical, but that doesn’t excuse anything. You should still look and see if there’s something we can tweak or something we can do better. We sat down, and we had a long talk about everything, from training, to rehab, to practice, and it was really productive. I think we’ll just make a couple tweaks, and we’ll go from there.”
Last season didn’t go the Ravens way. A team was constructed to compete in the playoffs, yet they fell below .500 after injuries ravaged the roster. Now, the team is wanting revenge, according to Bynes.
“Obviously we didn’t end the season the right way,” Bynes said. “Not the way we wanted to at all, losing six-straight games, and, what, five out of six by 10 points if I remember correctly. Obviously, it’s about seeking revenge at the end of the day. We’re coming out with a vengeance this year. We’re trying to get back to it and get to work and show what the Ravens are really about and take over the AFC North.”
This echoes what safety Chuck Clark said at the last post-game press conference for the Ravens.
"Watch how we bounce back." @ChuckC36 pic.twitter.com/wA3VmVbpNo— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) January 9, 2022
Last season is still on the minds of many Ravens, with some using it as fuel for next year or acknowledging this is a part of the sport and trying to correct it for the upcoming season, as Ricard mentions.
“It’s a new year and I think that everyone’s trying to correct any mistakes that we may have had that maybe added to the injuries, but injuries could be a million things. I just think sometimes we have some bad luck or whatever it is. I think it’s good that we are trying to address it.”
Players Excited for New Defensive Coordinator
One of the biggest changes the Ravens went through with was changing defensive coordinators. They mutually parted ways with Don ‘Wink’ Martindale, who is now the defensive coordinator for the New York Giants, while the Ravens hired Mike Macdonald, the former linebackers coach for the Ravens who was the defensive coordinator for the Michigan Wolverines last season. Both Bynes and Queen gave glowing reports of their new play-caller.
“We have a lot of expectations in how we wanted to handle things, and obviously, Mike, right now, he’s setting the foundation on what he [envisions] and how he wants to eliminate some of those things that we didn’t do great at the end of the season last year,” Bynes said. “And obviously it takes everybody being in the building and us being in the meeting rooms and the camaraderie, and that’s what this part is for. I’m just really, really excited and can’t wait to get this whole thing going, especially minicamp. That’s what matters – the minicamp.”
“[Macdonald’s] my guy,” Queen said. “Obviously, he was here [my] rookie year, and we had a very good relationship – him and [inside linebackers coach] Zach Orr. So, just having those two guys back, I’ve got a coach that trusts in me, a coach that really understands the game and is going to give me feedback on what I need to be doing right and what I was doing wrong. So, I’m really excited to have [defensive coordinator] Mike [Macdonald] and ‘Z.O.’ [Zach Orr] back.”