Ed Reed, Other Focused Veterans Silently Report To Camp
NOTEBOOK: ROSTER NOW AT 90; SUGGS' REHAB PLAN
By Joe Platania
OWINGS MILLS -- Maybe it was because of the head coach's constant "team-first" philosophy.
Maybe it was because of a turbulent offseason during which mixed messages were sent, received and sometimes misinterpreted, if they were indeed understood at all.
Or, maybe it was simply a case of a football player reporting to his workplace headquarters.
Whatever the reason, Ravens free safety Ed Reed walked into the players' entrance at the Under Armour Performance Center shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday -- the day the team's veterans players were expected to check in -- with a steely gaze, a lowered head and, presumably, a single-minded purpose.
Injured outside linebacker Terrell Suggs made the same kind of entrance about a half-hour earlier, dressed in black and not interested in assuming his "Ball So Hard University" persona in front of the waiting cameras.
(But Suggs does have a plan for training camp, as outlined below, in "What Would Terrell Do?").
As is his wont, newly re-signed running back Ray Rice flashed a megawatt grin, saying, "The smile says it all."
In keeping with his ever-changing persona, Reed did engage in a little playful avoidance when he saw the phalanx of media outside the building. He good-naturedly tried to stay out of sight by ducking in between the many sport-utility vehicles and luxury cars already crowding the players' parking lot.
But Reed seemed anxious to get inside the building without having to comment on a turbulent offseason during which he alternately said he didn't feel committed to the 2012 season and that he could play four or five more years.
During recent days, Reed had sent signals that he would indeed report to training camp on time for the final season of his contract and the 11th of a career that began when he was the team's first-round selection in 2002.
Perhaps the best indicator yet was the fact that Reed actually contacted head coach John Harbaugh and told him he would be there, unlike the lack of correspondence before the team's mandatory minicamp, an event from which Reed was absent.
"Ed Reed plans on being here," Harbaugh said Tuesday afternoon. "I talked with Ed, had a great conversation, and I’m looking forward to seeing him."
Someone that is perhaps more blase about Reed's arrival is inside linebacker and fellow University of Miami alumnus Ray Lewis, who has repeatedly said he is in almost daily contact with Reed and was sure he would report at the appointed hour.
"I talked to him," Lewis said during the June mandatory minicamp. "I talk to Ed all the time, and I don't expect anything different. And Ed is Ed, and [when] July 25 comes on, Ed will be here, and we will be getting ready to roll.”
As a free safety, Reed's game is based on timing, which has been usually very good.
His 57 career interceptions are tied for 11th on the all-time list and are the most among active players. He was the first in Ravens history to block a punt -- after the team went six years without one -- and is the only player in NFL lore to have scored touchdowns on a punt return, blocked punt, interception and fumble recovery.
Reed is also one of three different Ravens to be named the league's Defensive Player of the Year, an honor he captured in 2004.
But there is one aspect of Reed's situation in which the timing might not be so accomodating.
An eight-time Pro Bowl pick, Reed is one of approximately two dozen Ravens -- including quarterback Joe Flacco -- who are entering the final seasons of their current contracts. He is expected to make more than $7 million this year, and has sometimes expressed disappointment with a perceived lack of respect from the organization.
Because Flacco's career has many more years to run and there is no certainty as to Reed's status beyond this year, it's almost a given that Flacco would be higher on the franchise-tag priority list than Reed, if a long-term deal with the ex-Delaware quarterback isn't done by next March.
But despite bruises to his ego -- not to mention a neck impingement and injuries to his hip, groin, foot and ankle through the years -- Reed has played through the pain, albeit at a level not quite as a high as that of previous years.
The Ravens allowed a league-low 11 touchdown passes last year, but that can be partially attributed to a much-improved pass rush.
Despite a late-game pickoff that saved the Ravens' Divisional Playoff win against the Houston Texans, Reed has but three regular-season interceptions during two of the last three seasons and has not recorded more than 60 tackles during a season since 2006. Before that juncture, he had 60 or more during four of his first five campaigns.
But Lewis has no doubt in his mind that, despite the rocky offseason, Reed will be at or near the top of his game once again.
"[Missing minicamp] won't take away from where Ed Reed’s focus is," Lewis said, "and that is to come back in and help our defense be the best defense there is in football.
"So, I don’t think it is an issue at all -- not for us."
Apprarently, that's why nothing needed to be said Wednesday morning.
PLAYER MOVES: The Ravens' active roster reached the NFL-mandated training-camp limit of 90 when the team signed former Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots linebacker Ricky Brown on Wednesday morning, as well as eight-year veteran linebacker Darryl Blackstock and second-year guard Cordard Howard during the afternoon.
Presumably, the Ravens wanted to bolster their linebacker depth as well as acquire more help on various special-teams units.
Brown, 28, was one of several outside linebackers the team hosted during a tryout session on Tuesday.
The 6-foot-2, 250-pound Brown played on one of the nation's best high school teams, Cincinnati Elder, before heading to Boston College and signing with the Raiders as an undrafted free agent in 2006. At the time, he boasted a 4.48 40-yard dash time and a 32-inch vertical jump.
Brown spent five years in Oakland, missing most of the 2009 season with an ankle injury, and was a Patriot briefly in 2011 before returning to the Raiders for most of last season, during which he suffered a concussion.
Once he became a Raven, Brown was assigned jersey No. 47. Blackstock and Howard were added to the roster after practice, so they do not have official jersey numbers yet.
The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Blackstock was originally a 2005 third-round pick by the Arizona Cardinals, and has also played for Cincinnati and Oakland during his career.
Howard played in 10 games with Buffalo in 2010 before spending last season on injured reserve.
PRACTICE REPORT: Conditions were a lot more pleasant Wednesday afternoon -- at about 88 degrees, the atmosphere was a lot less humid -- as the Ravens' rookies, quarterbacks and injured veterans completed two days of practice and five days worth of meetings, walk-throughs and workouts.
The first full-team practices at the Under Armour Performance Center are set for 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday before a day off Sunday. The new collective bargaining agreement stipulates that players cannot practice for more than five consecutive days.
Here are a few highlights from the Wednesday midday session:
- The team practiced without helmets for the first time during recent memory, leading to a tempo that wasn't much more intense than its usual morning walk-through session.
- Among the players who were placed on the Physically Unable To Perform list Tuesday, second-year guard/tackle Jah Reid practiced with a sleeve on his injured leg, while guard Kelechi Osemele, wideout David Reed and defensive end Pernell McPhee were present, but not practicing.
- Top draft pick Courtney Upshaw showed great flow and pursuit toward the sideline as Damien Berry took a running play wide.
- Despite the cooler conditions, Upshaw is apparently doing all he can to lose weight and to get into better conditions. He was one of the few players on the field to wear long black sweatpants, while most of his teammates were in shorts.
- Quarterback Joe Flacco put two nice passes down the seam, one on each side, into the hands of tight end Bruce Figgins.
- Sixth-round draft pick Tommy Streeter and undrafted Florida wideout Deonte Thompson were apparently told how to catch the ball, concentrating on snaring it with their hands instead of letting it get into the body.
- Despite being five inches shorter than Streeter, safety Christian Thompson outleaped him one-on-one to make an interception.
- Wide receiver Dorian Graham made an outstanding leaping catch by the sideline, fully extending his arms to catch the ball, and yet keeping both feet inbounds.
- Later, Graham beat cornerback Jordan Mabin on a deep pattern and caught a well-thrown ball just before safety help came from the middle of the field in the person of Omar Brown.
- Because helmets were not required for the session, several players were seen wearing "Gilligan's Island"-style hats, including defensive end Bryan Hall and nose tackle Terrence Cody. Thompson wore a black Gilligan hat.
- Rookie fifth-round draft pick and cornerback prospect Asa Jackson appeared to have suffered an injury to his right hand or wrist toward the end of the session, but it did not appear serious and he continued to practice.
WHAT WILL TERRELL DO?: Even though Terrell Suggs did not speak to the media when he reported to the team facility Wednesday morning, he did tell the team's official Web site how he plans to continue rehabilitating his injured Achilles tendon.
"I'm probably going to be in three-a-days while the guys are in two-a-days," Suggs said, perhaps forgetting that full-scale two-a-day practices are now a thing of the past, as per the new collective bargaining agreement.
Suggs is no longer using a walking boot and strode slowly into the team facility with little difficulty when he reported to work.
When the injury first occurred in late April, Suggs said he would be back on the field by early November, but he has backed off that promise.
But Suggs is still going to put himself through as much of the true training-camp experience -- a part of the year he previously loathed -- as he can.
"I'm definitely going to be out there in the hot sun with the guys, just because that's where you build your team, in [those] trenches," he said. “Right there preparing and working and trying to win the championship and there's where it's won.
"You don't win the game on Sunday; you win it in your preparation. That's everything you do leading up to [it]. Sunday is just the icing on the cake, to fine tune it. That's where you get to have all of the fun of your hard work."
RELIVE THE MAGIC: As usual, the NFL Network will be either airing or rebroadcasting all 65 preseason games, including the four Ravens contests.
The network has released its re-air dates and times for all the games. If you're a Ravens fan without the ability to tape or DVR the games, you may have to literally lose sleep about how the second-string defense looked.
The game in Atlanta will be played at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 9, and then re-aired at 3 a.m. that same evening, which is technically Friday morning.
As for the nationally televised home game against Detroit on Friday, Aug. 17, that will be shown at 7 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 19.
Jacksonville's visit to Baltimore on Thursday, Aug. 23 will be rebroadcast at midnight the following evening, Friday, Aug. 24.
The preseason finale at St. Louis, set for Thursday, Aug. 30, is set for re-air at a much more reasonable hour, 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 1.
Any subsequent rebroadcasts of these games, if any, have yet to be scheduled or announced.
QUOTES OF THE DAY: For someone with a rough-hewn exterior and years of football savvy, center Matt Birk always comes to the microphone armed with a sardonic sense of humor.
Birk, who turned 36 on Monday, was asked whether younger players asked him things that maybe he didn't expect.
"Normally, I just tell them that I have six kids," Birk said, "and they are just in disbelief and then they say, 'What year were you born?' "
As for longtime Minnesota and Baltimore teammate Bryant McKinnie, who has been battling weight issues, Birk hasn't recently talked to him.
"We'll see [about McKinnie]," Birk said. "I've been with Bryant a long time. We kind of have a telepathic relationship."
JOEY P'S TRIVIA TIME ANSWER: Here's the question we asked you in our previous entry:
Yesterday in Ravens Report, we pointed out that there have been 70 instances when a Ravens player has won one of the AFC weekly awards. But offensive players have snagged only 17 of those honors.
Which Raven was the first to win an AFC Offensive Player of the Week award?
It took just five weeks for a Raven from the offensive side of the ball to put his name on the weekly AFC honor roll. But the circumstances were rather dire at the time.
After the feel-good Week One win against the Oakland Raiders at Memorial Stadium to begin the team's 1996 maiden season, the Ravens lost consecutive road games at Pittsburgh and Houston before the bye week.
The Ravens then rallied to even their record at 2-2 by winning their first-ever interconference game before 61,063 fans on 33rd Street over the winless New Orleans Saints, 17-10.
Running back Earnest Byner gained 149 yards on 24 carries that day and was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week. He bolted off left tackle for a 42-yard run late during the game to seal the win, even though it seemed as if the Ravens got a generous spot on a third-down carry not long before that big play.
Byner was the first Raven to be inducted into the team's Ring of Honor, a bone of contention for some fans, who point out that EB made his name in Cleveland, not Baltimore. But Byner contributed to the Ravens' front office in the player development department for several years before entering the coaching ranks.
Byner coached running backs in Washington, Tennessee and Jacksonville before taking the same job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this year.
Posted July 25, 2012