For Ravens And NFL, Only Offseason Constant Is Change
GOOD ON-FIELD ATTENDANCE AT OTA; ROOST PARADE UPDATE
By Joe Platania
OWINGS MILLS -- When it comes to the National Football League in general -- and the Ravens in particular -- the only constant is change.
An ever-evolving landscape governed by an accelerated desire to win quickly has led to discussions within the league office about changing the dates of the annual Scouting Combine, the draft and the start of the league year and free agency.
Free agency and the new league calendar could be moved from early March to mid-February, putting it about a week and a half after the Super Bowl. That could push the combine into March with the draft moving from late April to early May, which is not unprecedented.
But Ravens head coach John Harbaugh is not one who embraces change readily, if at all.
"We have to do what's best for the players and what's best for the sport," he said May 22 at the conclusion of the second day of organized team activity practices at the Under Armour Performance Center. "We have to ensure that the rookies, especially, are prepared the best they can be. I'd like to think that every year, we get them ready to be the best they can be."
The draft has spilled over into May on six other occasions (1977, 1978, 1979, 1984, 1985, 1989). It could do so again because of the annual Radio City Music Hall Easter show, although other New York City venues could and have been used before, such as the Felt Forum in Madison Square Garden.
But league officials seem to enjoy the pomp and circumstance Radio City provides for their new show-business-type emphasis on the draft, particularly the Thursday-night, prime-time first-round extravaganza. Without that, commissioner Roger Goodell has indicated that the league could look to move the draft annually to other cities, just as the NBA and NHL do.
The league's spring meeting in Boston adjourned without votes being taken on those matters, although discussions are certain to continue among the ownership and the league hierarchy.
Closer to home, in what is thought to be an unprecedented rate of turnover, the Ravens' 14-man undrafted class has been rendered practically unrecognizable.
Six players from that class have been released, although Towson University wideout Gerrard Sheppard was re-signed the morning of May 22 to bring the team's active roster back to the 90-man limit -- including unsigned free agents and draft picks -- just before the start of this week's OTA.
The Ravens have signed seven other rookie street free agents cast aside by other teams in advance of the OTAs. Not surprisingly, most of them are at positions of need: two wideouts, two defensive backs, a linebacker and a defensive tackle.
But if there's one thing that hasn't changed around the Ravens, it's Harbaugh's desire that the team work as hard as it possibly can -- as much as it possibly can -- to guarantee its stamina for a long season and postseason run.
Out of a roster of 90, 83 players took to the field for the second of three voluntary workouts May 22.
"We've had two really good days," Harbaugh said. "We've been very fast and efficient. We're working at a high tempo.
"We pay close attention to everything. You have to be in good shape to practice at the pace we practice at. I believe that you play like you practice."
Among those that were missing were free-agent defensive lineman Chris Canty (knee) -- who was at the May 21 session -- as well as wideout Jacoby Jones, offensive linemen Antoine McClain and Marshal Yanda, fullback Vonta Leach, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (knee sprain) and linebacker Terrell Suggs (biceps).
Several injured players were present and dressed, but limited. In that category are: rookie defensive lineman Kapron Lewis-Moore (knee surgery), rookie linebacker Arthur Brown (sports hernia surgery), linebacker Jameel McClain (spinal cord surgery), linebacker Albert McClellan (unknown) and cornerback Lardarius Webb (knee surgery).
The surgeries for Lewis-Moore, Brown, McClain and Webb, as well as guard Jah Reid (dislocated toe), nose tackle Terrence Cody (hip) and linebacker Pernell McPhee (groin), are mostly not expected to keep those players out for an extended period of time.
Lewis-Moore is the exception, as the team plans to have him go through a redshirt year of sorts as he tries to recover from a knee injury suffered during the Bowl Championship Series national championship game, as he played for Notre Dame against Alabama.
The next three-day OTA is set for May 29-31, with the third and final voluntary practice set slated for June 4-6. The three-day mandatory minicamp follows June 12-14, with training camp report day set for July 21.
ROOSTS RUMBLE: When the 49th annual Council of Baltimore Ravens Roosts Convention and Parade takes place in Ocean City the weekend of May 31 and June 1, it is thought that eight Ravens players and four coaches could be taking part in the festivities as part of the team's own sanctioned Beach Bash, which runs concurrently to the Roost event.
The names of those players and coaches have not yet been officially announced, but it is thought that second-round rookie Arthur Brown and tight end Ed Dickson will be among those players making the trip.
Sandwiched in between the second and third OTAs, it will be a busy weekend for those players and coaches, many of whom will be making their way to Aberdeen June 2 for Lardarius Webb's annual charity softball game.
The Ravens Roosts recently opened their 130th chapter, in the Canton section of Baltimore City. The Roosts have donated $2.7 million to player foundation charities since 2007 alone, with more than $1.1 million of that going to Special Olympics Maryland.
Roosts Council president Charlotte Krause (Roost 60, Middle River) and vice president Bill West (Roost 15, Arbutus) will preside over the event; this year's theme is "Fly Like A Raven."
The parade, featuring the player/coach appearances, marching band, drum units and decorative floats made by Roost members, will take place at 10 a.m. June 1, and culminate at the reviewing stand at Baltimore Avenue and 26th Street.
West; the attending players; and yours truly, the parade master of ceremonies, will all be part of a live broadcast from the convention from 6-8 p.m. May 31 on WQLL-AM (1370) live from the convention headquarters, the Castle In The Sand Hotel on 37th Street.
Posted May 22, 2013