Byrne Identity: I'm Just Sayin'… Training Camp Musings


 I'm just sayin'...

            ...We practiced against the 49ers last year, and now we're doing the same with the Eagles. I'm not a scout, and this isn't anything against Colin Kaepernick, Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow or any other QB on the field for these practices. But, watching Joe Flacco throw is a thing of beauty. It's different from the other quarterbacks. He's fluid, accurate and can throw it 60 to 70 yards seemingly with only a flick of his wrist. (I've always loved Ozzie Newsome's line on finding Joe: "We were out in the desert for years looking for that one special guy and then we got him.")

            ...Terrell Suggs is in his 13th season and will be 33 in October. You have to marvel at the energy and enthusiasm he brings to training camp practices. He loves football. He loves to compete, and he runs around like he's 24 years old. There are veterans of Suggs' vintage who would be finding ways to take days off in this summer grind. Suggs doesn't do it – unless the coaches or trainers force him.

            ...Here's a suggestion for some NFL teams practicing against each other – talk about respect for the other athletes and the importance of practicing hard without fights before each joint session. In concert with his brother Jim and Chip Kelly, that's what John Harbaugh has done for two years in a row. Fights can happen. Tempers of great competitors can flare, but when teams emphasize respect for each other, fewer confrontations happen.

            ...Loved what NFL Network's Albert Breer said last week when he wrote about the strengths of the Ravens' offensive and defensive lines: "It fits into what the Ravens always strive to be: A team that's most comfortable dragging games into a dark alley and winning them there." Yes, we are a physically tough team that tries to impose our will on opponents, but we are not a cheap-shot group that looks for the wrong kind of fighting.

            ...Our history of adding veteran players from other teams, who also happen to be leaders on and off the field, continues. (Way to go, Oz!) With Hall of Famers like Shannon Sharpe and Rod Woodson, to Tony Siragusa and Steve McNair, we've had special players help us win in big-time ways. The current Ravens with standouts like Steve Smith Sr., Justin Forsett, Chris Canty, Jeremy Zuttah and Daryl Smith may be as good a set signed after being with other teams that we've ever encountered. These guys get it – and they're all playing at a high level.

            …Here's a special shout out to Daryl Smith, who we believe – our coaches and scouts – has played at a Pro Bowl level the last two seasons. This is a man's man. Quiet, smart, go-to-work guy who shows all of our young defenders how to be a professional every day. Quality, quality person who doesn't get as much recognition as he should, mostly because he never puts the spotlight on himself.

            ...Also loved what Harbs recently said about the way Smith Sr. practices: "He's going to force you to practice every single day, or he's going to humiliate you. It's a simple as that. He's going to force you to bring your A game, or you're going to look really bad. And, he doesn't apologize for that."

I'm just sayin'…

            ...When the players and coaches arrived at their lockers in Philly on Wednesday morning, they found T-shirts that said "Get Comfortable" on the front and "Being Uncomfortable" on the back. Another way Coach Harbs is reminding the Ravens to stay sharp and to guard against any complacency. (I don't like it when so many reporters are predicting that the Ravens are going to be good and that we will be a serious Super Bowl contender. There's a karma involved there that makes me a little nervous. We like being underdogs. It fits us and Baltimore. On the other hand, you study our roster, respect the history of how Ozzie and Co. assemble a team and how good John and the coaches are, and you can understand the predictions.)

            ...A good number of observers, both media and personnel executives around the NFL, have applauded the Ravens for our 2014 draft. C.J. Mosley became the first rookie in our history to earn a trip to the Pro Bowl. Timmy Jernigan appears to be special at defensive tackle. Crockett Gillmore has grabbed the starting tight end position as a sophomore, and he can play. John Urschel started for us in the playoffs. Lorenzo Taliaferro is the real deal, and he combines power as a runner and pass protector. We can't cover Michael Campanaro in practice – and neither could the Eagles. Plus, safety Terrence Brooks is back from an injury, and he was starting to make plays last season before he was hurt. Brent Urban has had some bad luck with injuries, but he can be very good when healthy.

            ...Now there's some talk that the 2015 draft could match the '14 collection. Might be early for that, but, oh boy, if the critics are right, that's a pretty good base for staying competitive in future years in the very tough NFL world. I know No. 1 choice Breshad Perriman is hurt, but I don't hear anyone in the know from our football group who doesn't believe this big receiver with the special speed will help us in 2015. Maxx Williams, the tight end, catches everything. Did you watch Carl Davis and Za'Darius Smith against the Saints? That was the first pro game they ever played. How good can they be? Buck Allen, Nick Boyle, Darren Waller and Tray Walker – these guys make plays every day in practice. Could be very exciting watching these two sets of choices progress.

I'm just sayin'…

            ...Inspired by our owner, Steve Bisciotti, there is a servant leadership atmosphere around the Ravens. Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman fits right in with that. He's humble, he listens and clearly believes in his work. He doesn't make it about himself. When a reporter asked him the other day, "What will the Trestman offense look like compared to the Gary Kubiak offense from a year ago?" Marc prefaced his answer with this, "First, it's not my offense, it's our offense, the Ravens' offense..." I like that. And, it's clear that Marc and Joe Flacco work well together.

            ...Historically, the Ravens have enjoyed unusual success in signing quality rookie free agents. Think Priest Holmes, Bart Scott and current players like Justin Tucker and Zach Orr. Have we done it again with rookie safety Nick Perry, an Alabama product? How does this happen? Perry clearly looks like he belongs and that he should have been a draft choice despite starting just one season for the Tide. Here's part of the reason: three Alabama safeties were taken among the top 33 drafted players over the last three seasons: Mark Barron (7th overall by Rams in '12), Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (1st round, Packers in '14) and Landon Collins (1st player in the second round in this year's draft by the Giants).

            ...Pretty cool to see Joe Flacco's wife Dana and their three sons on the sideline at these joint practices against the Eagles. The couple, high school sweethearts, grew up just a few miles from Philadelphia's practice. Joe had dinner with family last night. How did the famed QB get out to the suburbs? He took a local train. Can you name another star athlete in any sport that would do that? That's our Joe.  Also in attendance to watch practice yesterday were Matt Schaub's parents. Matt's hometown is Philly.

Coming to Philly for four nights (five days – we arrived Tuesday evening), creates a bonding that you don't get back in Baltimore. You get the sense that this team is coming together. No doubt that the players and coaches are working hard, but they're also getting the opportunity to know each other better and have a little fun. Watching curious onlookers gawk at packs of four to 12 players walk the streets of downtown Philly before or after a dinner has been entertaining.

Looking forward to tomorrow night's game against the Eagles. Will be an interesting test for all, especially the young players trying to be part of the 2015 Ravens. Keep an eye on our defense and how it reacts to the fast-paced Chip Kelly offense.

Talk with you next week,


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