OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw to some of his new wide receivers and tight ends at a public park near the team’s practice facility.
Even though training camp was more than a week away, the Ravens were eager to get back to work. A group of local kids playing pickup football eagerly approached the players, which added to the excitement of the upcoming season.
The extra practice time paid off as there were few drops among the receivers on the first day of camp Thursday. Flacco looked revitalized and was crisp, zipping balls downfield with pinpoint precision.
“Joe does seem charged up,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “I do see excitement. He does seem to like his receivers. He’s motivated and wants to go to work.”
Last season, the Ravens had the league’s 29th-ranked passing offense.
As a result, general manager Ozzie Newsome hoped to boost the attack with the addition of free-agent wide receivers Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead. Baltimore also added a pair of tight ends — Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews — in the first three rounds of the draft. Andrews missed the opening day of practice because of a soft-tissue injury.
The receivers have been impressed with Flacco’s arm strength and his willingness to listen to new ideas. The workout in the park proved to be a solid bonding experience.
“It was fun,” Snead said. “It was taking the stuff we did in OTAs and minicamp and put it all together out there on the field, just one-on-one with the quarterbacks. That type of time together is beneficial, just like later down the stretch in the season. It’s just being on the same page with different routes and knowing the receiver and the quarterback and what he’s thinking and what I’m thinking.”
Five Ravens began camp on the physically-unable-to-perform list — guard Marshal Yanda (ankle), cornerback Jaylen Hill (knee), linebacker LB Bam Bradley (ACL), tight end Vince Mayle (undisclosed) and receiver Quincy Adeboyejo (leg). Players on the PUP list can be activated at any time during training camp. However, if the players are still on the list by the regular-season opener, they cannot play in the first six games.
Despite the missing players, optimism is running high about ending a three-year playoff drought. The Ravens were able to open training camp a week earlier this year because they are playing the Chicago Bears in the annual Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 2. The rookies reported July 11 and veterans arrived one week later.
Coach John Harbaugh plans to use the extra time wisely, particularly with giving the veteran players some time off.
“In the big picture, you have one more week to work,” Harbaugh said. “It gives us an opportunity to have more of an acclimation period, especially for the veteran guys and also really for the whole team. It gives us an opportunity over the long haul to get more work in, but also spread the work out a little more and give us a little more recovery, which would be beneficial.”
The Ravens are looking to be equally adept on the other side of the ball with new defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale, who took over for Dean Pees. The players are already lauding Martindale’s approach and expect to be a dominant unit.
Linebacker C.J. Mosley, who is in the final year of his rookie contract, said Martindale’s scheme gives the players an opportunity to be “more diverse.”
“A lot of the plays stayed the same,” Mosley said. “We might have changed the verbiage here and there. But for the most part, it’s been pretty much the same. Guys are learning the different positions so we can be more versatile.”
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