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All About the Rookies


In his original plan for the offseason, head coach John Harbaugh scheduled a three-day rookie camp for mid-May. But when the most high-profile rookie couldn't attend, Harbaugh had to resort to some creative shuffling.

Moving what he called the "Joe Flacco Camp" to this week - one of the last remaining minicamps across in the NFL - may have seemed inconvenient at the time, but Harbaugh is happy that all his rookies had the past month to gain some veteran perspective.

Coming off the field after Monday's practice, Harbaugh was impressed with the young Ravens' initial effort.

"It's kind of neat to have the rookie camp now at the end after these guys have had the mini-camp plus all the OTAs [Organized Team Activities]," Harbaugh said. "They're so much further along than if we'd had this camp at the beginning before they had been through the offense twice.

"For a lot of these guys, it's their third time through the offense, and it showed up today in their ability to operate the offense and run the routes."

Flacco's absence at the first proposed camp was the biggest issue prompting the schedule change. The 18th-overall pick in this year's draft, Flacco fell victim to an NFL and NCAA rule that prohibits a prospect from joining a team before his respective school has finished its semester.

It took the University of Delaware until May 31 for exams to conclude.

While a limited amount of rookies prevents any real first- or second-team shakeout, Flacco has enjoyed the one-on-one instruction and taken a majority of snaps under center.

"I just need to go out there and do a good job of it," said Flacco. "It's really good to go out there and get a lot of reps. You really learn it out on the field.

"I feel comfortable, at least a little bit more than I would four weeks ago," he continued. "It's definitely been good to get the OTAs and get all that out of the way so I can come out here and feel comfortable with these guys."

The Ravens boast 23 rookie and first-year players on the roster, most of whom are crowded around a makeshift bank of black steel closets in the middle of a decidedly more cavernous locker room.

Such reduced numbers allow Harbaugh and the other Ravens' coaches to focus on the minute details of the playbook, hopefully maintaining the determined pace established when the veterans were onsite.

"The thing you have to do is slow everything down between the reps," Harbaugh explained. "What you're trying to do is make sure when you practice the rep, it is just as fast as when the whole team is here; and therefore, we're playing like Ravens. But, in between the reps, you've got to slow it down."

And even though the play clocks that stand sentinel over each end of the field were disconnected for part of practice, Harbaugh doesn't think any tempo was sacrificed for teaching.

"They've already seen how the veterans practice, and to some extent, what it means to be a pro, at least in the offseason," he said. "They can duplicate that through the rookie camp now because they've seen it already."

As they walked off the field, it was evident that the rookies were no longer the wide-eyed newcomers joining many of their childhood idols for the first time.

It took a few weeks getting acquainted with their teammates, coaches and surroundings, but the group that attended rookie camp seemed to be comfortably adjusting to life among the professional ranks.

"We kind of got thrown in the fire when we first got here, but coach [Harbaugh] has done a great job putting everything together for us," said running back Ray Rice. "Things should slow down in this camp. That should be good for us before getting back into training camp. This is the first time we have all been together as rookies, and we get to learn by ourselves and get a lot of reps out there."

"We were all trying to catch up with some of the guys that have already been here since the beginning of the offseason," safety Haruki Nakamura agreed. "Everything now is starting to slow down. Some of the vets tried to help us throughout the OTAs and a couple of the mini-camps we were in. They did a lot of things to help us out, and now it's paying off in rookie camp."

Harbaugh may have jokingly referred to the three-day stint as Flacco-intensive, but there is a large contingent of players reaping the benefits of rookie camp.

With just over one month before the July 21 start to training camp, that group knows it needs all the instruction it can get - especially before the veterans return.

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