WESTMINSTER, Md. — It was another day of training camp with another celebrity sighting at McDaniel College.
While the hoopla from Wednesday’s visit from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Hall of Famer John Madden was absent, former Maryland governor Bob Ehrlich attended practice with his family. Ravens coach John Harbaugh and Senior VP of Public & Community Relations Kevin Byrne joked they expected Gov. Martin O’Malley to visit on Friday after seeing Ehrlich in Westminster.
As for the morning practice, it was an “over-30″ day as veterans 30 or older were given the morning off as has become the custom with Harbaugh’s camps. This group included Todd Heap, Derrick Mason (ankle), Walt Harris, Travis Fisher, Trevor Pryce, Kelly Gregg, and Ray Lewis. Safety Ed Reed (hip), linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (quad), and center Matt Birk (elbow) would also fall into this group, but the three remain on the PUP list.
Quarterback Marc Bulger provided a scare when he injured a finger taking a snap in the morning session and went inside with a member of the training staff. However, Bulger returned to the field and the injury is not considered serious, according to Harbaugh.
“He took a snap on the finger,” Harbaugh said. “It’s nothing major; it’s not broken. He should be fine.”
Tackle Oniel Cousins (throat surgery) returned from the non-football illness list to practice for the first time on Thursday morning. The third-year tackle had a cyst removed from his throat a few weeks before training camp.
The Ravens still have five players on the physically unable to perform list, which includes Reed, Birk, Ayanbadejo, running back Matt Lawrence (knee), and cornerback Lardarius Webb (knee).
Stay right here for more updates throughout the day (time-stamped below) and check out the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from John Harbaugh, Billy Cundiff, and Shayne Graham as well as quarterback Troy Smith’s conversation with Thyrl Nelson immediately following the morning practice.
5:25 p.m. — The afternoon practice was largely a walk-through as players practiced in shells and shorts in the sweltering heat of Westminster. The “over-30″ club against sat out with other starters, including receiver Anquan Boldin, taking it easy during the afternoon session. Cornerback Fabian Washington did not practice as he continues to receive periodic rest.
The Ravens will be back on the field Friday morning for an 8:45 workout. The afternoon session will be a special teams practice at 2:00.
1:40 p.m. — This nugget of information brought a smile to my face as the Ravens are conducting a vote of whether to adapt the Baltimore Colts fight song (with new lyrics) as their new fight song.
As a third-generation Baltimore football fan, I cannot endorse this move enough as the Ravens fight song has never caught on in the Charm City as fans continue to hold the old Colts song in high esteem.
Here’s the link at BaltimoreRavens.com: http://blogs.baltimoreravens.com/2010/08/05/vote-on-the-ravens-fight-song/
1:35 p.m. — Joe Flacco has had a fantastic start to training camp in Westminster, but this morning was not the third-year quarterback’s finest outing as he tossed several interceptions during passing drills and 11-on-11 sessions.
Fabian Washington dropped a sure interception on a pass intended for Dennis Pitta in the end zone, but free safety Tom Zbikowski—who continues to be an early star in Westminster—capitalized on his opportunity to intercept Flacco, taking it to the end zone for a touchdown.
Following the play, we saw our most entertaining celebration of the summer as Chris Carr placed the football down and Zbikowski attempted a short field goal. It was no good.
Amusing as it was, we won’t have to worry about Zbikowski tossing his name into the kicking competition after that display.
Flacco was also picked off by cornerback Marcus Paschal in the morning workout.
12:50 p.m. — We saw a rare hiccup in an otherwise tight kicking competition as Billy Cundiff struggled, missing kicks from 32, 43, and 48 yards unofficially. Cundiff converted his other attempts including a 35-yarder during 11-on-11 periods.
Cundiff and veteran Shayne Graham have both performed well in Westminster, unlike last summer when Steve Hauschka and Graham Gano struggled mightily for periods of time during camp.
It is believed Graham has the inside track on the kicking job, but both kickers are putting themselves in good position for a job, whether with the Ravens or another NFL team.
“I feel for the most part I’ve been hitting the ball well,” Graham said after Thursday morning’s workout. “I think I’ve had one day when I wasn’t happy with the way things ended up. That’s going to happen.”
Graham praised the Ravens coaching staff for simulating more game situations than other teams he’s played for in the past. Of course, the four preseason games will create a clearer picture in the competition than practice kicks sailing through the uprights at McDaniel all summer.
12:40 p.m. — Expectations are high for rookie tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta after the Ravens selected the two in the third and fourth rounds respectively. Both have shined at times, but Dickson has played exceptionally well, catching nearly every ball thrown his way and created separation in routes against linebackers and safeties.
Todd Heap is still on top of the depth chart, but Dickson could conceivably push the veteran for playing time as the season progresses and he grows more comfortable in Cam Cameron’s offense.
“You try not to put an expectation on a guy because it’s usually limiting,” Harbaugh said of Dickson. “You say, ‘This guy’s better than we thought he was going to be,’ but gosh, we hoped he was going to be great. Ed’s played really well, but he’s got to sustain it. It’s tough. We’re just starting camp, basically, so he’s got a lot of work to do.”
Dickson has worked with the first team in two-tight end sets as well as spelling veteran Todd Heap on occasion.
12:30 p.m. — After a slow start to the morning workout, the team conducted a fairly extensive live session with most the first-team units going against the second-team units.
At one point, after the second-team offense ran successfully against the starting defense on successive plays, Harbaugh was very unhappy and let his defense know about it.
“That was our first defense getting their [butts] kicked!” shouted Harbaugh after another first-down run during the live session. “That was our second-team offensive line!”
Needless to say, Harbaugh wasn’t too thrilled when he was asked about it after practice, citing his preference not to discuss what’s said on the field.
“You don’t see a lot of things,” Harbaugh said. “That’s part of coaching a football team. We’ve got a lot of guys working hard. We’re a tight-knit group and that’s the way it’s got to be. [Reporters] don’t need to know everything.”
12:20 p.m. — The Ravens worked out a few cornerbacks after practice with only Chris Hawkins from LSU (and formerly of Jacksonville) confirmed. Whether or not the Ravens choose to sign any of these nondescript guys, it won’t do anything to address concerns at the position.
12:15 p.m. — Several other players were limited during practice including offensive tackles Michael Oher and Jared Gaither. Oher had his right ankle taped at two different points during practice and was limited in the latter portion of the workout.
Gaither participated in individual drills but did not participate during 11-on-11 activity as he stood on the field with his helmet off. Of course, Gaither previously missed two days of practice with what was labeled “cramps” in his back last weekend.
Offensive lineman Stefan Rodgers also limped off the field during practice. He had previously missed time after suffering a lower leg injury.
Defensive back K.J. Gerard (hamstring) and tackle Tony Moll (concussion) failed to practice again.