OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Nobody was safe from John Harbaugh on Thursday as the Ravens held their toughest practice of the first week of training camp.
After the practice officials were slow to blow the whistle on one particular play, the eighth-year head coach chastised them from the middle of the field, screaming, “Get your [stuff] together! You’re getting lunch and you’re getting paid!”
Of course, they weren’t alone as Harbaugh challenged his young defensive linemen to be tougher and quicker firing off the ball during 11-on-11 short-yardage drills during the first half of practice. The coach singled out rookie defensive tackle Carl Davis and second-year defensive end Brent Urban at different points, but the coach said the ranting was calculated in trying to challenge young players the Ravens figure to count on heavily this season.
“It was a very physical, very tough practice,” Harbaugh said. “The guys fought through it really well. It’s always the one where — at least in my case — this coach gets a little crazy, because it’s a tough step to take from the hitting level of intensity to this level of intensity.
“For me, it’s more of a feel thing than anything. If I think I go too far, then I try to let them know I went too far. If I don’t go far enough, I have to grab them again. You always circle back and try to have communication.”
The motivational tactics appeared to work as the defense dominated the trenches by taking advantage of an offensive line without starting left guard Kelechi Osemele or reserve guards John Urschel and Robert Myers.
Second-year inside linebacker Zach Orr and rookie safety Nick Perry had tackles for losses in run support, standout plays for two players fighting for roster spots this summer. In Orr’s case, his emergence as more of a factor at linebacker could put former second-round pick Arthur Brown’s roster spot in jeopardy. After Matt Elam’s season-ending injury, the Alabama product Perry figures to have a better chance to enter the conversation for a reserve safety spot with a strong summer.
On a day with few offensive highlights, quarterback Joe Flacco’s long touchdown pass to Jeremy Butler was a bright spot as Butler beat cornerback Quinton Pointer in coverage.
Thursday was another difficult day for veteran backup quarterback Matt Schaub, who threw an interception returned for a touchdown and also fumbled a snap.
Rookie tight end Nick Boyle has shown more ability as a receiver this summer than many anticipated, but he had two bad drops.
The Ravens had an extensive list of injured players missing from the practice field at the start of the session before three more left with injuries.
Harbaugh said Urschel and Myers were being evaluated for potential concussions suffered during practice and they will be conservative with both linemen. Urschel’s injury was particularly concerning as he was down on the field for several minutes before ultimately walking to the locker room with assistance.
Rookie tight end Maxx Williams also left practice early after being poked in the eye.
Harbaugh said Osemele was given Thursday off after having his foot stepped on a day earlier and veteran cornerback Kyle Arrington was given the day off to rest.
Players missing at the start of practice included wide receivers Breshad Perriman (knee) and Marlon Brown (back), cornerbacks Tray Walker (hamstring) and Chris Greenwood (hamstring), and linebackers Steven Means (ankle) and Zach Thompson (undisclosed). Tight end Dennis Pitta (hip) and safety Terrence Brooks remain on the active physically unable to perform list, but both watched portions of Thursday’s practice.
In addition to trying to light a fire under his younger players, Harbaugh took a hands-on approach to test Asa Jackson as a returner, trying to distract the fourth-year cornerback by bearing down on him while trying to field a punt.
Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda was particularly amused by the coach’s activity as he yelled to Jackson, “Run his ass over!”
Have a catch
During a special-teams portion of practice, top cornerback Jimmy Smith took some time out to play catch with a handful of young fans in attendance Thursday’s practice.
It was a nice way for a standout player to spend a period of practice in which he wasn’t participating anyway.