Yesterday John Harbaugh made the first of many decisions that Brian Billick would have never made. On a dreary, 52-degree May afternoon in the driving rain, Harbaugh took his team out onto the main backfield at the Bellagio and welcomed the veteran players to the “new” Baltimore Ravens and the rookies to “Camp Harbaugh.”
You can gripe or choose to commend Billick’s sensibilities as an NFL head coach, but his reigning philosophy was to never put the players at risk of getting injured in May. If Billick were the coach, they would’ve been in the bubble yesterday.
And, certainly, you can take Harbaugh’s stance on Friday that “it’s football” – a little rain never hurt anyone.
And you wouldn’t be wrong either way.
It’s not about a right way or a wrong way, it’s just a “different” way. But if there were any remaining doubts, the Ravens’ players found out yesterday (if they didn’t already know it), there’s a new sheriff in town and things will be done a different way under Harbaugh.
Honestly, I expected to hear more players bitching about the conditions of their first team mini-camp practice yesterday, but at least on the face of it they were fine with the decision (of course many of them are rookies or very young players who aren’t in a position to play Bob Turk with the forecasts or practice schedule).
From where I was sitting, it looked like the players were having a lot of fun and were excited to be playing football the second week of May. That’s a good thing!
Certainly throwing a bunch of rookies onto the field with veterans who are also learning some new systems leads to confusion but all in all it felt like a positive energy day for the franchise.
Some random thoughts:
Quinn Sypniewski is gone for the season, which we all pretty much knew the day it happened. This will open up some opportunities for Dan Wilcox or a younger player, but it remains to be seen how much Cam Cameron will use the tight end/H-back combo in absence of the Billick-style offense.
The one thing many players on the offensive side of the ball have told me is that the new system is a difficult one to get a grasp in the early going. Every player has a completely new set of terms, language, responsibilities and the playbook has been “thick” from what I’ve been told. One veteran told me, “it’s a LOT of work for everybody on our side.”
The defensive players, with Rex Ryan’s returning concepts and terminology, will have a much easier time of it the next four months, NOT having to deal with the confusion of a new system.
The “new look” Ravens locker room has left me much like the new kid at school on the first day of class. I’m certainly more confused than anyone on the offense about simply finding guys’ lockers. Harbaugh’s “shake up” was interesting to see first hand, seeing longtime friends separated in the room and moving around amidst the many rookie lockers in the center of the room (it’s not a room built for 80 players). If his goal was to get guys moving around the room and meeting new teammates, he’s certainly succeeded.
Word is that training camp will begin on July 20th in Westminster. Harbaugh will run a complete four weeks of heaters at McDaniel College.
The Ravens final preseason game against Atlanta on Thursday, Aug. 28 has been moved back 30 minutes to a 7 p.m. start to accommodate the final night of the Democratic National Convention.