(Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens)
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With players returning to Owings Mills this week to officially begin preparations for the 2014 season, the Ravens are pleased with the early turnout for the first phase of the offseason training program.
Strength and conditioning coach Bob Rogucki said attendance was “high” for the first two days of voluntary workouts with quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Ray Rice, wide receivers Steve Smith, Torrey Smith, and Jacoby Jones, tight end Owen Daniels, inside linebackers Daryl Smith and Arthur Brown, cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith, and safety Matt Elam among the many players who were present. The first two weeks of the program focus solely on strength training and conditioning four days a week, but there is less time to ease players back into the routine under the current collective bargaining agreement that pushed back the starting date for the offseason training program.
Players were given the task of completing six 300-yard runs as a baseline for their conditioning and are focusing on strengthening their necks in the early stages of the program in addition to traditional weight training.
“Anybody that comes into this program, our expectations are always going to be high for them,” said Rogucki, now in his seventh year with the organization. “If we don’t start pressing that button today then three weeks from now, they aren’t going to be ready. Our expectations are always high and, right now, we’re pleased with what they’re doing.”
Despite a tumultuous offseason that included an indictment for aggravated assault, Rice has been present for workouts and received a positive review from the Ravens training staff. Reports indicated earlier this offseason that Rice had lost weight after head coach John Harbaugh said the seventh-year running back was too heavy in a career-worst season that included a Week 2 hip injury that hampered him for much of the year.
Rice’s pending legal case may still compromise his availability for the 2014 season, but his commitment to improve on the field hasn’t gone unnoticed. The 27-year-old rushed for a career-low 660 yards and averaged just 3.1 yards per carry while weighing in the neighborhood of 225 pounds last year.
The Ravens would like him to be at least 15 pounds lighter this season.
“He’s doing some things differently as far as his diet and so forth,” Rogucki said. “He told me he has a handle on it. He looks good. Whatever he did from the end of the season until now, he’s in a good position right now.”
Starting left guard Kelechi Osemele continues to make excellent progress after undergoing back surgery last fall and is expected to participate in organized team activities and minicamp practices.
Though workouts are officially voluntary, Rogucki and the rest of the coaching staff conveyed a clear message from the point players returned to the building.
“Every time they come in, they’re going to do more weight or more reps without bells and whistles,” Rogucki said. “There’s a lot of programs out there that have bells and whistles. In order to survive in this league, you’ve got to lift and you’ve got to lift heavy. That’s the bottom line. You’ve got to run and you’ve got to run fast. You’ve got to condition and you’ve got to condition long.
“There are no other answers but that to survive. It’s a collision out there. It’s a car crash every time they hit.”