OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the Ravens wrapping their final practice of the week in preparation for their second preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Friday, coach John Harbaugh announced his team has essentially ended the training camp portion of the summer.
Of course, it’s tough to see it that way given the unusual circumstance of training camp being held at the team’s facility in Owings Mills due to the 134-day lockout that cancelled practices at McDaniel College for the first time in the 16-year history of the franchise. Harbaugh said the Ravens will resume a practice schedule similar to the regular season beginning next week, though he wouldn’t rule out some extra work where needed.
Without an offseason in which to work, the coach will play starters a bit more than they would normally go in the second preseason game. Harbaugh said most starters will play well into the second quarter against Kansas City at M&T Bank Stadium.
“We have a shorter offseason this year; we didn’t have any OTAs,” Harbaugh said. “We need to get ready to play. We’re going to be playing a regular season game very soon. But there are certain guys that don’t need to play that much.”
Harbaugh mentioned veterans Ed Reed and Ray Lewis by name as candidates to be pulled earlier than the rest of the first-unit players. Lewis was absent from Wednesday’s practice as he dealt with a family illness.
The Ravens will be shorthanded on the offensive line as Harbaugh confirmed right guard Marshal Yanda will not play on Friday after missing five straight days of practice as he deals with back spasms. With center Matt Birk already sidelined after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery two weeks ago, Yanda’s back issue conjures up memories of last summer and Jared Gaither’s back injury that sidelined him for the entire summer. The Ravens are being extra cautious with Yanda despite Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron maintaining a stance of the injury not being serious.
“Whether he’ll go next week or not, I don’t know,” Harbaugh said. “You know Marshal, he’ll want to. If we have to hold him back, it’ll basically be us holding him back. He’s going to be out this week. It’s not a serious thing; he’s not going to be out for the regular season or anything like that. He’ll probably play next week.”
With Birk and Yanda out, the Ravens will play Bryan Mattison at center, Oniel Cousins at right guard, and rookie Jah Reid at right tackle. Rookie Justin Boren has also received time at right guard with the first unit, so the Ohio State product is worth keeping an eye on.
Defensively, Chris Carr has missed the last two days of practice with a hamstring tweak, opening the door for third-year cornerback Cary Williams to start opposite rookie Jimmy Smith. The two have worked has the starting corners all week while Lardarius Webb and Domonique Foxworth have worked with the second defense. Harbaugh praised Williams’ improved technique in addition to his impressive size and athleticism.
With the starters receiving more playing time, many eyes will be on quarterback Joe Flacco, who will have the chance to work with newly-acquired Lee Evans for the first time in a game situation. Much was said about the Ravens’ intentions to give Flacco more freedom within Cameron’s offense, and Harbaugh was emphatic about the fourth-year quarterback’s increased responsibilities with play calls.
“In training camp, at least half the plays that we’ve called out here, and I haven’t done a count, but I’ll bet you it’s at least half have been plays where he’s had a choice to make a decision,” Harbaugh said. “He changes a run to another direction, he changes a run to a pass, he changes a pass to a maximum protection or to a run. And he’s done a great job with that.”
It’s clear general manager Ozzie Newsome and the coaching staff will be expecting improvements in a number of areas on Friday, particularly along the offensive line and tackling on defense. With the sloppy product shown in the Ravens’ 13-6 loss to the Eagles last Thursday, the Ravens coach has found himself needing to reflect from time to time on the unprecedented nature of this training camp.
“You just have to take a deep breath sometimes and say we’re not where my eye says we should be, whether it’s in terms of execution or in terms of personnel,” Harbaugh said. “You just have to take a step back and say we’re going to keep working on those things.
“We’re going to keep working on those guys out there [on the market] that can help us or trades or something. Those things usually got done three or four months ago. It’s a very strange training camp that way.”