Heat Gets Turned Up High On Ravens, Fans
NOTEBOOK: MCKINNIE ON 'DNR' LIST; MORE ROSTER NOTES
By Joe Platania
Thursday afternoon's Ravens training-camp practice had that old-time Westminster feel, in good ways and bad.
For one thing, the first batch of 200 fans -- the first-ever members of the general public to get to watch a Ravens practice at the Under Armour Performance Center -- were thoroughly entertained, cheering loudly whenever Ray Rice caught a pass or when a defender snagged an interception, both of which occurred plenty of times.
Red-clad security personnel were on hand to shepherd the crowd to certain areas from which they enjoyed watching the session. Many of the crowd were autograph-hungry children -- an intentional move by the Ravens to ensure complete customer satisfaction -- who wanted just a glimpse of Joe Flacco or Ray Lewis, a chance to say hello and get a signature.
But oppressive summer heat, surprisingly absent from most training camps during the past decade, returned with a vengeance.
The official high temperature of the day was 98 degrees, but the heat index was well higher than 100, making it tough on players and fans alike.
It was in similar conditions 11 years ago that Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Korey Stringer collapsed and later died of heatstroke, helping to debunk the myth that the further north a training camp is held, the less susceptible players are to that sort of thing.
Years ago, teams such as the Kansas City Chiefs and New Orleans Saints would trek all the way up to Wisconsin for training camp -- it was called the "cheese league," an answer to baseball's Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues -- so they could work out in cooler, drier conditions.
The Baltimore Colts' history also features training camps held in distant places such as Golden, Colorado, and Sun Valley, Idaho.
But Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, who typically chooses conditions that are as close to spartan as he can get in this new, one-a-day practice era, sees the weather as a chance to turn the heat up on his team in a figurative sense, rather than a literal one.
"That's what it’s all about," he said. "That's why guys need to be in great shape. That's why you need to prepare in the offseason and to get yourself ready in the interim period before training camp, because camp is tough.
"Anybody that has played the game understands -- training camp is tough. You start off in 95-degree weather, 95-percent humidity, and you end up with the snow blowing all around you. It's one of the beauties of the game."
According to The Weather Channel, the average high temperature for this area at this time of year is 88.5 degrees, a number that helped the Ravens' camp earn the dubious distinction of being the eighth-toughest weatherwise on its recently-released top 10 list.
Despite the Stringer tragedy, it was the Ravens' headquarters that was the northernmost locale on that list.
The Houston Texans' training camp ranked first, followed by the Miami Dolphins' workouts in Davie, Fla. Rounding out the top five were the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Saints -- who train close to home in Metairie, La. -- and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In order, the second five are the Washington Redskins -- who are moving their camp to Richmond starting next year -- the Atlanta Falcons, Ravens, Carolina Panthers and Tennessee Titans.
But as hard as Harbaugh likes his team to work, even he understands that constant exposure to such extreme conditions could lead to a dangerous situation.
"It's good to have hot weather," he said. "It's good to get yourself out there and get acclimated to it. All the doctors will tell you that you have to be in it to get used to it. It takes about a week to a week and a half to get used to it.
"But, you don't want to be out here every day in it, because that can be debilitating. So, if we get a long period of hot weather, we'll go [use the indoor field] and turn the air on and be smart about it."
If the Ravens ever have to do that, it would be another good news-bad news situation.
The players would be more comfortable and be better able to stay hydrated, but the fans would be deprived -- once again -- of that old-time Westminster feel.
JOEY P'S TRIVIA TIME: Today's question:
Curtis Martin, one of the most understated running backs to ever play in the league, will be one of six inductees in this year's Hall of Fame class next weekend.
Martin played for the New England Patriots and New York Jets right around the time the Ravens first came into the league. How many times did Martin play in Baltimore?
The answer will be revealed at the bottom of Friday's post-practice entry.
MCKINNIE IMPLICATIONS: As Ravens Report and other outlets reported late yesterday afternoon, tackle Bryant McKinnie did not report to the Under Armour Performance Center for the start of training camp.
As a result, McKinnie was placed on the reserve/did not report list.
"He contacted us through a representative," Harbaugh said. "He is dealing with an issue right now. I don't really want to speak for him on that. Just let him speak for himself on that when the time comes."
McKinnie is listed as the heaviest Raven at 354 pounds, but wildly varying reports had his weight in the 385- to 400-pound range before the ex-Minnesota Viking took the field last season.
McKinnie did a better job run blocking than in pass protection last year, and could be seen at various junctures struggling with his stamina. To correct that this year, he did not take the field at the team's mandatory minicamp and for a portion of organized team activity practices.
Harbaugh said Michael Oher would move from right to left tackle and stay there for the time being. But Oher has led the team in penalties during each of the last three seasons, and his highest single-season total (12) came as a left tackle in 2010.
That season, Oher had eight false starts and two holding calls among his misdeeds, and his total was tied with cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie for the third-most in the league.
Also, free-agent pickup Bobbie Williams, ostensibly acquired to lead the crowded race at left guard, will switch to the right side.
"It's going to be really important," Harbaugh said. "Right now, Bobbie is going to take most of the work at right guard, and with our situation Michael Oher is the left tackle. And just for the record, we’ve always believed Michael Oher is a left tackle here.
"We're going to put the five best linemen out there, and last year to do that, Michael was a right tackle. I am very comfortable with Michael at left tackle. Until further notice, he is a left tackle. My point is we have to find a right tackle. There will be heated competition for that spot."
ROSTER BREAKDOWN, PART TWO: Here are a few more facts and figures about the Ravens' 90-man training-camp roster, continued from Thursday afternoon's entry:
- Even though some of the Ravens' biggest stars have dates of birth that would suggest they are long in the tooth, a whopping 69 of the team's 90 active-roster players have five years or less worth of experience.
- Speaking of dates of birth, there were three Ravens born during the 1990s (linebacker Nigel Carr, safety Christian Thompson, running back Bernard Pierce) and eight born during the 1970s (Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Ma'ake Kemoeatu, Bryant McKinnie, Bobbie Williams, Tony Wragge, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Matt Birk).
- There is a tie for the lightest Raven; kicker Justin Tucker and cornerback Danny Gorrer are both listed at 180 pounds, two pounds lighter than starting corner Lardarius Webb. As for the heaviest listed Raven, that is McKinnie at 354; he is also the tallest at 6-foot-8. Running backs Ray Rice and Bobby Rainey are the shortest on the team at 5-foot-8.
- There are 15 players from Atlantic Coast Conference schools on the roster, including the three signed this week (Blackstock, Virginia; Brown, Boston College; Cordaro Howard, Georgia Tech). That is tied for the most from one conference, for there are also 15 Southeastern Conference products in Baltimore.
- The most from one school is the group of five ex-Miami Hurricanes: wideout Tommy Streeter, free safety Ed Reed, running back Damien Berry, linebacker Ray Lewis and tackle Bryant McKinnie.
Posted July 27, 2012