Training camp officially kicks off in full force for the Ravens on Wednesday.
With that in mind, here are 10 things we love about camp.
1) Report day
There may be no more joyous day around the NFL as the day when players report for training camp. It's like the first day of school when you see all your buddies again, get your classroom assignments and usually don't have homework (it's an administrative day). Now if only it weren't for that pesky conditioning test.
2) The conditioning test
The players may not like this one at all, but it's of some enjoyment for those who don't have to run it. Other than at the end of a Sunday, the players perhaps never look more winded than at the end of the conditioning test. Players bond over its difficulty. It's also a good indicator of whether the players have been working out enough during their time away.
3) Hitting permitted
Organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp are a tease when it comes to "real football." For the first time, the pads will come on during training camp and players can start hitting each other (still being wary not to hurt a teammate, of course). It's the best test of the offensive and defensive lines, and it's a chance to see some new players such as big hitters Darian Stewart, C.J. Mosley and Terrence Brooks, start to intimidate.
4) Trash talk
It's just practice, but two-minute and red-zone drills between offense and defense are taken quite seriously. Joe Flacco and Terrell Suggs frequently get into a war of the words, and it's not limited to just when they're on the field. Sometimes the two will exchange barbs from their respective sidelines. There are always some entertaining quotes.
5) When friends & family come to play
This is a new one, but one that will certainly be cherished. The San Francisco 49ers will stick around and practice with the Ravens for several days after their Aug. 7 preseason game. Under Head Coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens have never scrimmaged with another team. It should make for some interesting moments as the two teams engage in the Harbaugh philosophy of iron sharpening iron.
6) The position battles
Players aren't oblivious. They know who they need to outshine to earn a position on the 53-man roster. To see two players in a battle take back-to-back reps and try to prove themselves to coaches is pure competition.
7) Pass rush vs. offensive linemen drills
This is one of the best drills to watch. Often, spectators have to choose between watching the ball or focusing on a single player during any particular play. This drill is quite simple, and it's easy to see a winner and a loser. The combatants occasionally get a little testy.
8) Camp scuffles
Speaking of getting a little annoyed, there's always a point in camp where the combination of the competition and heat get the better of some players and scuffles start to break out. They're not generally serious, and the players have always made amends. Steve Smith Sr. and Lardarius Webb already got things started in minicamp.
9) The grind
As Ravens Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda once told his teammates during training camp, "Embrace the grind." It's a good mentality. Training camp can feel long, it can feel rough. But there's a certain pleasure in getting better every day amidst those challenges. Through the difficult practices, the players build a camaraderie that carries them through the rest of the season.
10) Those crazy kids
While training camp is no longer in Westminster, Md., the team still invites a ton of kids to come see practice at the facility. Seeing them go bonkers for their favorite players as they walk over after practice to sign autographs is a sight to see. Players enjoy it almost as much as the kids, and pose for a lot of pictures and engage in conversation.