Live from Westminster: Practicing in the heat, no celebs in the morning

August 10, 2009 | Luke Jones

4:53 p.m. — Harbaugh was wearing what appeared to be a new shirt this afternoon at practice.  The phrase “Mighty Men of Baltimore” appears on the front.  This was a phrase Harbaugh began using last season, and I’ve even seen one or two players wearing the same shirt walking through the hotel lobby this afternoon.

4:22 p.m. — The team will hold their last full day of workouts tomorrow (8:45 a.m. full squad and 2:00 p.m. special teams) before the first preseason game against Washington on Thursday night.  Both practices are open to the public.

The Ravens will have a walk-through on Wednesday, but it is closed to both the media and the general public.

The team will then be back to practice in Westminster at 8:45 a.m. on Saturday.

4:19 p.m. — Ed Reed again sported a white jersey in the afternoon session, as he did yesterday, but I wouldn’t read too much into it since there was no contact.  Reed was wearing the red jersey this morning.

4:17 p.m. — Jerry Rosburg and the special teams spent a good portion of practice working with the hands team unit.

While we’ve mainly focused on the field goal side of the kicking game, kickoffs and onside kicks will clearly factor into the competition.

4:16 p.m. — In Williams’ absence, Justin Harper took most of the reps starting opposite of Derrick Mason with the first offense.

When the Ravens ran three-receiver sets, Mason, Harper, and Kelley Washington lined up with the first team.

4:09 p.m. — The afternoon practice was a brief, hour-long workout, as the coaching staff tried to keep the exposure to the Westminster heat at a minimum.

The players practiced in helmets, shells, and shorts with Todd Heap (back), Demetrius Williams (right hamstring), Jared Gaither (left shoulder/neck), Willis McGahee, and Ernie Wheelwright getting the afternoon off.

Mark Clayton (hamstring) walked out to the field near the end of practice, but I did not observe him doing any running.

Prescott Burgess left the field early in practice and was holding the right shoulder/chest area.  There was no real contact this afternoon, so it’s unclear what happened to him.

Another player to watch on Tuesday morning is Trevor Pryce.  He appeared to have some type of issue with his foot for a brief time in the morning, but he then returned to practice.  I don’t want to call it an injury at this point, but we’ll see if the veteran defensive end is out there tomorrow.

2:01 p.m. — Being brand new to the Baltimore media, it was an absolute honor talking to Vince Bagli this morning.  He was out in the sweltering heat watching the Ravens practice this morning, but he was in good spirits as always.  At 82 years old, Vince still looks great and was excited for the new football season to kick off.

1:43 p.m. — The afternoon’s full-squad practice will take place at 2:45 p.m. and is open to the public.  If you’re coming out to McDaniel College, please bring plenty of fluids and sunscreen.  I just looked at the updated Westminster forecast, and they’re predicting temperatures in the low- to mid-90s.  It actually looks a little better than this morning when they were predicting triple-digit temperatures.

1:24 p.m. — Le’Ron McClain will undoubtedly remain a big part of the running game despite being moved back to fullback. In the first live play of the morning, McClain rushed for 6 yards against the starting defense and looked quick hitting the hole. The coaching staff wants to see him drop a few more pounds by the start of the regular season, but he has looked good in the first two weeks of camp.
Le'Ron McClain warms up on Monday morning

1:22 p.m. — Despite the brutal heat this morning, the Ravens continued to show why they’re one of the finest organizations in the NFL, staying after practice to sign autographs for the Ravens fans in attendance.  Here’s a shot of Chris Carr talking to some of the Ravens Rookies this morning:
Chris Carr signs autographs in the heat

1:15 p.m. — Ray Rice spoke to the media after practice—available in the audio vault at WNST.net—and talked about his increased role with the starting offense.  Rice took most of the starting offense’s reps this morning with Willis McGahee mostly working with the second offense.

Rice continues to look smooth catching passes out of the backfield, but McGahee continues to work hard.  Cameron complimented McGahee’s work ethic—quite a change from last season when the coaching staff was questioning his dedication.

1:12 p.m. — Fabian Washington had the defensive highlight of the morning, picking off a Joe Flacco pass inteded for Kelley Washington.

Despite some concerns over Flacco’s interceptions during training camp, Cameron defended his quarterback, even saying he’d be concerned if Flacco wasn’t throwing interceptions.  This is the time for Flacco to experiment, with his own limits and his receivers’ abilities.

Cameron even shared a story dating back to his time in San Diego with quarterback Philip Rivers.  He recalled Rivers throwing interceptions on four consecutive throws but assured head coach Marty Schottenheimer that Rivers was fine.  The Chargers quarterback then threw a touchdown pass and has had a very promising start to his NFL career.

1:07 p.m. — Steve Hauschka received most of the field goal attempts today, as it was obvious Graham Gano was dealing with a tired leg on Saturday.  Hauschka was unofficially four out of six this morning, missing attempts from 40 and 54 yards.  Hauschka made field goals from 49, 44, and 39.

Gano made field goals from 40 and 49 yards but also missed from 54 yards.  Both kickers came up short from 54 yards, as previously reported.

12:45 p.m. — Marcus Smith had a rough morning, dropping a few passes, as he continues to fight Justin Harper and Kelley Washington for playing time with the starting offense.

With Mason and Williams lining up as the starting receivers, Washington and Harper are receiving most of the reps at the No. 3 spot with Smith mostly working with Troy Smith and the second team offense.

Smith will surely get plenty of opportunities in the preseason games, but, for right now, he appears to trail Harper on the depth chart.

12:40 p.m. — With Heap sitting out practice, L.J. Smith and Edgar Jones shared reps at tight end with the starting offense.  Smith continues to work his way back from the hamstring tweak he sustained at the beginning of camp.  He’s looking more comfortable in the offensive system and has been more active in the passing game in recent days.

An unlikely player to line up at tight end was offensive linemen David Hale.  The Ravens were working on some tackle-eligible plays this morning, and Hale even ran a pass pattern at one point.  Flacco did not throw it to him.

I would expect the Ravens to continue to show many of the unbalanced line looks we saw throughout the 2008 season.  Michael Oher has lined up next to Jared Gaither on several occasions, and it will be interesting to see how well these two can open up the running lanes while working side-by-side.

12:22 p.m. — With Demetrius Willliams sidelined for a good portion of practice, it gave Kelley Washington and Justin Harper a chance to line up with Derrick Mason in the starting offense.

Washington continues to impress, as he is able to play any of the receiver positions.

The key for Harper is his ability to catch the football in traffic.  He has proven over and over that he can stretch the field against any defensive back on the roster, but the coaching staff wants to see him go over the middle and catch the football.  This will be one of the more interesting players to watch during the four preseason games.

12:16 p.m. — One of the more positive notes from the morning was the improving health of the starting offensive line.  Jared Gaither, Ben Grubbs, and Michael Oher all practiced without incident, a good sign with the preseason opener against the Redskins just three days away.

Cameron spoke glowingly about new center Matt Birk, calling him an outstanding leader.  The young offensive linemen have really responded to Birk’s veteran presence.

Considering Chris Chester is the next longest-tenured linemen on the roster—and only in his fourth season himself—Birk’s presence is an absolute necessity.  And, oh yeah, the six Pro Bowl appearances are also a plus.

12:13 p.m. — Players resting on a knee was a common scene this morning, as you can see here with Domonique Foxworth and Dawan Landry.
Foxworth and Landry rest in between reps.

11:55 a.m. — Todd Heap sat out practice with what Cam Cameron described as some tightness in his lower back.  Heap battled a back injury—sustained against the Titans in the playoffs—for most of the offseason.  I spoke to Heap after practice, and he did not seem concerned and described it as more of a precautionary measure taken by the coaching staff.

Heap had not missed any practice time before this morning and has looked healthier than he did last season.

As reported earlier this morning, Demetrius Williams was seen with an ice pack on his right leg and sat out the second half of practice.  Williams has pushed through a hamstring issue for most of camp, and Cameron gave him credit for playing through it.  The offensive coordinator said they wanted to give Williams some rest in the conditions and wanted to be careful with the receiver’s health.

11:51 a.m. — The morning practice has concluded as the players are certainly trying to escape the heat for a few hour before getting back on the field at 2:45 this afternoon.  Hydration was the buzz word for this morning, as John Harbaugh built in a few water breaks into the morning practice.

The overall pace was slower than normal, but that’s to be expected with the sweltering conditions.

10:48 a.m. — Much to the dismay of the local media, there were no celebrity sightings at this morning’s practice.

10:14 a.m. — It looks like Todd Heap has an ice pack on his back. He’s resting on one knee.

9:58 a.m. — Shaky day of long-field goal kicking:  Steve Hauschka and Graham Gano both come up short from 54 yards.

9:45 a.m. — Demetrius Williams resting on the cart. He looks to be getting ice on his right leg.

9:26 a.m. — The notable missing players today are Mark Clayton, Brendon Ayanbadejo and Terrell Suggs. Also, Todd Heap has not been very active so far this morning. He’s been resting on one knee with L.J. Smith and Edgar Jones taking the reps at tight end with Joe Flacco and the first unit.

9:19 a.m. –The heat is already taking its toll. Several players are doing the “one knee” thing between plays. Also, Ed Reed is back in the “red” no contact jersey this morning.

8:51 a.m. –Cam Cameron, Greg Mattison and Ray Rice will meet the media at the end of the practice today. It’ll be interesting to hear their thoughts about the progress of the team over the first two weeks of camp, especially given the defense’s daily domination of the offense.

The entire offensive line is dressed and ready to practice today. It’s toasty out here!

8:42 a.m. — It’s a boiler out here in Westminster this morning and the morning practice is closed to the public and open only to the sponsors and suite holders. There have been a myriad of rumors regarding more celebrities appearing at McDaniel College today but nothing could top Snoop Dogg’s appearance in the mist last week. (Or could it?)

With the Michael Oher movie trailer making the rounds and Sandra Bullock’s involvement, there have been rumors about an appearance. Others have opined that Tim McGraw could be involved. They are the co-stars of the Oher movie “The Blind Side,” which is set to be released Nov. 20.

Obviously, at this point these are just rumors and we’ll keep you in the loop as to the facts.

What’s more important is hydration out here today as the temperature is expected to get to three digits on the main field. As you know if you’ve been to Westminster, there’s not much shade out here.

Follow our Tweets and we’ll continue to keep you in the loop via our live blog.

Just two more days of practice and the Redskins will be here on Thursday night.

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