So John Harbaugh decided to cancel practice Wednesday in Owings Mills. Instead he decided that team building was more important. The team building wasn’t team building that many of us in corporate America have done. You know where we sit in a circle and tell everyone about ourselves. Where we share goals and how to achieve them. Harbaugh instead decided to take his rookies and selected veterans to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. If this raises an eyebrow, you clearly don’t understand John Harbaugh or haven’t ever listened to a post-game press conference of his after a big game.
And while I wasn’t there personally, I have spoken to Harbaugh on several occasions about the military, his appreciation for our armed forces and his love of history. I know what this trip was all about. It was as much about teaching these young boys about history as much as it was about teaching them about their own future. Today was about taking young boys and giving them a small tool in learning about how to be a man.
See, John Harbaugh gets it. He gets it more than the average fan can understand. We are in a professional sports world, moreover an NFL, that places higher emphasis on the individual, rather than the team. That reinforces the ideology that a big pay day comes first and winning comes second. And one where off the field actions make bigger headlines than stats in a box score. John Harbaugh gets it. He understands that what these young men saw today may not stick with them. They may not remember Cemetery Ridge, Little Round Top or Pickett’s Charge. But they will remember the day. They will remember being there. And if it works the way Harbaugh hopes, they will remember the concept of struggle and fear – and the reward of honor and sacrifice.
There is a reason that as the Ravens head into year six of Harbaugh’s tenure, that the players who have been in Baltimore and grown-up as a Raven, are rarely involved in off-the-field messes. They aren’t overly boastful. They don’t forget what it means to be in the NFL and more importantly, to be a Raven. The players here are focused. They do the little things right. They expect sacrifice and diligence to be part of their daily routine. That’s what today was about.
While training camp is far from over and some of the players who were at Gettysburg today may never end up coming out of the tunnel at M&T Bank Stadium, they certainly will be different men then when they got up Wednesday morning. And for that, they can always thank John Harbaugh.
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