Trevor Pryce had been absent from all of the Ravens' voluntary minicamps this offseason, coming to team headquarters only for the single mandatory weekend and Jonathan Ogden's retirement press conference.
So to see him running around with the rookies on hand for the first day of training camp was somewhat of a surprise.
But even though he stayed away from the facility in Owings Mills, Md., for the Ravens' conditioning program, Pryce encouraged coaches when he arrived to Westminster in excellent shape.
One of the first things the 6-foot-5, 286-pound defensive tackle had to accomplish upon his return was to pass a conditioning test before he took the field, and according to strength coach Bob Rogucki, Pryce aced it.
Pryce, who enters his 12th season, attributed his fitness to a new training routine where he worked like a player in the NBA, not necessarily the NFL.
"I was training like a basketball player," he said. "The way they train is to take no rest and just to keep going all day. Even when you rest, you have to keep moving.
"My vertical isn't better, but my wind is better," he added with a laugh. "I didn't jump too much, because I can't play basketball, but [the conditioning] comes in handy. I thought today was pretty easy. I didn't really do anything, but it was still pretty easy."
Even more of a surprise was seeing big No. 90 line up at cornerback. With rookie safeties Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura the only defensive backs currently in camp, Pryce filled in spot duty, along with secondary coaches Mark Carrier and Chuck Pagano, and even head coach John Harbaugh.
"I was a corner in high school, so it's not completely foreign," Pryce said.
As a tenured veteran with four Pro Bowl honors on his mantle, Pryce wouldn't typically attend the Ravens' two-day rookie-intensive session, but he knows he has a battle to prepare for the upcoming season.
Injuries derailed a promising campaign last year, after Pryce played in just five games last season after breaking his wrist in Week 3. Then, he landed on Injured Reserve with a torn pectoral muscle three games into his mid-season comeback attempt.
"When they first called me and told me I had to come out [to camp], of course I didn't really want to," he explained. "But now that I'm here, I think it's good for me. I can work the kinks out before everybody gets here.
"Things like being on the grass right now will make things easier later in the week."
Some more notes and observations from the afternoon practice at McDaniel College:
- Pryce laughed when asked if his presence at camp served as an inspiration to some of the younger players aspiring to earn a roster spot.
"I don't know how much I agree with that. A lot of these young guys just want to make the team - they really don't care who is here," he said. "They're getting a shot, so that's their concern. It's not, 'Oooh, Trevor's here to help us get better!' I'm not. They just want to make the team, so they're not thinking about me too much."
Trevor was always one to look at things in a different - and sometimes more realistic - light.
- The offensive and defensive linemen went against each other in one-on-one drills, which definitely got heated on what turned out to be a hot and humid day.
Right tackle Mike Kracalik received praise for his efforts on outside linebacker Dan Cody, who made a move to the outside before spinning back in. Kracalik stayed with him the entire way on two different occasions.
- Speaking of Cody, he spent time apart from the linebackers and defensive linemen during position drills working with Chuck Smith, an intern coach for training camp.
Smith is the same Chuck Smith that starred at defensive end for the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers from 1992-2000, and now is teaching the art of the pass rush.
- One of the changes in Harbaugh's new regime is having all players wear their game jerseys during practice. Another showed up Tuesday in the form of what he called an "arm and hammer" patch.
"That's for the guys that made 85 percent of their offseason workouts, which is a heck of a number," he explained after the morning session. "That's something we want them to be proud of."
Reporters first noticed it on quarterback Kyle Boller's red jersey, but upon further examination, Troy Smith, P.J. Daniels, Jake Nordin, Kracalik and Cody were some of the others sporting the patches.
Players that are present at the Best Western in Westminster who did not practice include tackle Jared Gaither, tight end Daniel Wilcox and wideout Demetrius Williams.
Nakamura and Zbikowski were among the last to leave the field, as they worked on catching balls fired out of a JUGS machine from a close distance. They were followed only by rookie tackle Oniel Cousins, who put in some extra time with offensive line coach John Matsko and assistant Andy Moeller.
For Wednesday: All veterans arrive throughout the day. Rookies practice at 8:45 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Veterans will receive physicals at 3:00 p.m., followed by a full-team meeting at 7:00 that evening.
The Ravens kicked off their inaugural practice of training camp with all eyes on the quarterbacks. Troy Smith, Kyle Boller and Joe Flacco each had their bright moments, but also showed a little rust after a few weeks away from team headquarters.
First, a look at seven-on-seven drills, where Boller was the first man under center. It was an inauspicious beginning, as his first pass fluttered slightly in the static air, and he threw behind wideout Marcus Smith for what could have been an interception and a touchdown a few plays later.
Smith and Flacco took their turns after Boller.
Smith actually had to face a Pro Bowl defensive back when secondary coach Mark Carrier lined up at corner for a snap. When Smith's pass went over 6-foot-3 receiver Justin Harper's head, it led to some impromptu dancing from Carrier, the 1990 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, and some cat calls from his fellow defensive coaches.
Flacco got the first "Ooohs" from the fans when he launched a 25-yard dart to Harper down the left sideline, but his pass also was too tall for the lanky wideout.
The defense continued to take advantage of the quarterbacking trio during a nine-on-nine portion.
Nine-on-nine? That's right. With a limited number of players on hand, especially on defense, the Ravens removed the right offensive tackle and right guard, along with two others on the opposite side of the ball.
Smith was the first out in this formation. Still trying to find his groove, Smith fumbled the initial snap, and then threw an interception to secondary coach Chuck Pagano, who was stalking the left sideline.
Flacco didn't fare much better, watching one attempt to Harper get broken up by safety Haruki Nakamura. But, he bounced back on the next play, threading a needle to hit rookie free agent Patrick Carter in-stride over the middle for a 20-yard score.
One interesting point about Boller's three-play series occurred when he called a timeout. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who is constantly coaching down to the minute details, called Boller over and seemed to implore him to make a more deliberate "T" with his hands to signal the timeout.
The first two days of practice are mainly to shake out the cobwebs before the veterans arrive in Westminster, Md. Wednesday. That's why head coach John Harbaugh is reserving judgement on his signal-callers before he has the entire squad on the field Friday, even if he is still gathering information.
"I think [the evaluation] starts Friday, really," he said walking off the field. "And of course we say that it doesn't start today and we say that it's hard to evaluate, but of course you're standing there and you're watching guys make plays and watching them handle the offense. But you're certainly not making any decisions yet."
The Ravens are back at it at 3:30 Tuesday afternoon, when we may see some more full-team action.
Some more notes and observations from the AM session:
- Practice ended with the typical stretching and huddle in the middle of the field. While it was too far away from media to see exactly who broke the huddle down, you could hear everyone shout "hard work!" before walking off the field.
- Harbaugh took the field for a stint at cornerback, as well. He marked Harper, who had the coach sprinting to catch up with him.
Then, when a pass to fullback Jake Nordin fell incomplete, Harbaugh sprinted over to the downed pass, as if to show that no one was above running to the football on every play. Hard work, indeed.
- It was obviously a tough day for the offensive linemen, who don't have the luxury of resting during some drills because most of the veterans haven't reported to camp yet.
NCAA basketball player-turned-tackle Joe Reitz even stepped off to the side early in the morning to vomit in the July heat.
- The Ravens released undrafted rookie quarterback Brad Roach, signing former San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams tight end Aaron Walker. Walker will wear No. 82.
A former fifth-round draft pick by the 49ers, he is primarily known for his blocking skills.
- The award for Ravens fan jersey of the day has to go to Wayne Gosch of Delaware, who sported a red Joe Flacco replica practice jersey. It looked just like the deep red ones all Baltimore quarterbacks have been wearing all offseason.
"I'd seen him play before, but never really paid him any attention," Gosch said of Flacco. "But, being from Delaware, when I saw the Ravens take him 18th, I had to get the No. 5 jersey."
Gosch is celebrating his birthday today, as well. Hope you can get it autographed by the man himself, Wayne.