OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the training complex alive with players and media alike for the first time since draft weekend, the Ravens leave a long labor war behind them and thankfully turn their full attention to preparations for the 2011 season.
Tuesday’s voluntary report day included the likes of Ray Rice, Domonique Foxworth, Lardarius Webb, and Terrence Cody while rookies took the opportunity to gain their bearings in a facility in which some of them haven’t been able to set foot. Players had the option to take their physicals and conditioning test a day ahead of Wednesday’s report date for those under contract. The entire team will meet for the first time at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, according to coach John Harbaugh.
“The heat broke, the players will be happy, it cooled down a little bit, they’re just in time!” Harbaugh said. “We have labor peace and we have a break in the heat wave.”
While players expressed their enthusiasm for returning to work, Monday’s news of the impending cuts of veterans Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, Kelly Gregg, and Willis McGahee put a damper on an otherwise exciting day in Owings Mills. Some players such the third-year cornerback Webb hadn’t heard of the roster cuts until arriving at the facility Tuesday morning.
Harbaugh expressed hope that the Ravens may be able to bring back a few of the aforementioned players while acknowledging the chaotic nature of an abbreviated free agent period.
“I know Ozzie [Newsome] wanted to call those guys right away and let them know before they heard it from anywhere else,” Harbaugh said. “It’s just the reality of the salary cap, it’s the situation we’re in right now, and going forward, we’ve got to try to make the best team we can. That’s not ruling anything out, either. I think, in this climate, anything is possible.”
The veteran cornerback Foxworth — who missed the entire 2010 season with a torn ACL — quipped that he’s been avoiding general manager Ozzie Newsome in fear of being the next one who’s shown the door, in part because of his prominent role in the NFL labor negotiations.
“If they don’t resign [the four veteran cuts], I’m going to miss those guys,” Foxworth said. “Fortunately, they’re going to release them before free agency. You can add their names to this free agency bonanza that’s going on.”
Foxworth declared himself 100 percent healthy after an off-season of “ups and downs.” He has no intention of starting training camp on the physically unable to perform list and aims to be starting Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“When you get out there and play those guys, it’s going to be a great game.”
Foxworth proud of new safety rules
With Foxworth arriving at the complex less than 24 hours after appearing at the joint press conference announcing the new labor agreement on Monday, his involvement in the process was a hot topic of discussion.
One of the most prominent changes concerns player safety, taking effect immediately for training camp. Players will not take part in any hitting for the first three days of camp, and traditional “two-a-days” are now history. Teams are allowed to hold two practices in the same day — one can only be a light walk-through — but cannot be on the field for more than four hours per day.
“A lot of coaches aren’t happy with the rules changes, but it’s something that we thought was important to do to protect our players, especially with all of the new information we’ve gotten about head injuries,” Foxworth said. “Not only for us, I think it sets an example for college, high school, and youth players about the significance of taking care of your players and protecting your guys, especially during practice.”
Rice ready to take leadership role
With his top competitor in the backfield and two veteran offensive leaders now gone, Rice expressed a desire and a responsibility to take a more vocal role — along with quarterback Joe Flacco and left tackle Michael Oher — in the Baltimore offense.
“When you take away certain guys like that who are your leaders, it’s always next man up,” Rice said. “Needless to say, I think my time is now where I can become one of the vocal leaders on this team and on this offense.
“That’s not bashing guys, because guys know I work hard. I go out there, when something needs to be done, I’m not going to wait for the coaches to correct it. These guys understand that every game, every moment is precious.”
Undrafted rookies joining fold
The undrafted rookie names became trickling in via Twitter Monday night, with a number of them linked to the Ravens. With the four-month long lockout, rookie free agents have faced a difficult timeline compared to the normal timetable of being inked in the hours and days following the draft.
Many rookies announced their signing on social media while others have been confirmed by multiple media outlets.
Rookie free agents reportedly coming to Baltimore include Maryland receiver (and Baltimore native) LaQuan Williams, Missouri center Tim Barnes, Syracuse guard Tim Bartholomew, Miami running back Damien Berry, Ohio State guard Justin Boren, Oregon defensive back Talmadge Jackson, Tennessee defensive end Chris Walker, Florida defensive lineman Terron Sanders, Arkansas State defensive tackle Bryan Hall, St. Augustine running back Walter Sanders, Auburn linebacker Josh Bynes, Hawaii receiver Rod Bradley, Utah State long snapper Patrick Scales, and Hawaii safety Mana Silva.
Boston College linebacker — and cancer survivor — Mark Herzlich was linked to the Ravens Monday night, but he instead decided to sign with the New York Giants.
Cody trimmed down
The most prominent name many Ravens fans were concerned about in reporting to camp in shape was second-year defensive tackle Terrence Cody.
Looking noticeably slimmer, Cody adjusted his diet and calorie intake in the off-season and declared himself ready to be a three-down player. With Gregg no longer in the team’s current plans, Cody will find himself in the mix for a starting spot on the defensive line.
“I felt like I could have played [more] last year, but I had an injury that slowed me down and then it took me awhile to get into playing shape.”
Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear more from John Harbaugh, Derrick Mason, Ray Rice, Domonique Foxworth, Torrey Smith, Lardarius Webb, and Terrence Cody on the first day back at the training complex in Owings Mills.