Fact: The Ravens are set to begin Organized Team Activity practices next week at the Under Armour Performance Center.
Opinion: At the risk of offending basketball great Allen Iverson, who didn't care for practice, I'm really looking forward to seeing these workouts, several of which are open to the media. I know, it's "just practice, man," but there's a whole lot to check out, such as: 1) the status of receiver Breshad Perriman, who missed all of 2015 with a knee injury and is rumored to be ready to go; 2) the status of tight end Dennis Pitta as he tries to come back from hip injuries; 3) how well young pass rushers Kamalei Correa, Matt Judon and Victor Ochi adapt to the speed of pro practices; 4) whether top draft pick Ronnie Stanley really looks like a plug-and-play rookie starter; 5) whether rookie running back Kenneth Dixon could vault up the depth chart, and 6) did I mention Breshad Perriman could be on the field?
Fact: In a recent flurry of free-agent signings, the Ravens added cornerback Jerraud Powers, guard Vlad Ducasse and quarterback Josh Johnson, all veterans.
Opinion: Which will have the most impact in 2016? Well, unless Joe Flacco is unable to play, it won't be Johnson, who hasn't thrown a regular-season pass in the NFL since 2013; he's here to take practice reps while Flacco recovers and is a longshot to beat out Ryan Mallett for the No. 2 job. That leaves Powers, who could become the slot corner if he beats out Kyle Arrington and Tavon Young, and Ducasse, who started 11 games for the Chicago Bears in 2015. I'm guessing you'll hear Powers' name more. While Shareece Wright figures to start opposite Jimmy Smith after signing for significant money, Powers played a lot on a talented Arizona defense in 2015. The Ravens can use him.
Fact:Several media outlets have reported that the Ravens could be in trouble for putting players in pads for a five-minute period during a non-contact drill at their rookie camp earlier this month. Players can't wear pads until training camp, according to the NFL's Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Opinion: This doesn't strike me as something akin to trading state secrets. But the players cared a lot about negotiating safety rules into the CBA, and the league cares a lot about making sure those rules are followed. In other words, this could be a situation where the Ravens get held up as an example and have to take their medicine.
Fact: Ravens tackle Eugene Monroe has called for NFL players to be allowed to use medical marijuana for chronic pain, and has backed his advocacy by donating $80,000 for research into the subject.
Opinion: Monroe deserves credit for standing up for the greater good of his fellow players. This isn't some cockamamie campaign to open up the league to weed. Medical marijuana is legal in 24 states, including Maryland. CBS Sunday Morning recently aired a segment about seniors increasingly using it to combat pain – in pill form. Monroe didn't like how opioids made him feel when he used them for pain, under prescription. I'm sure he's not alone. His solution requires some outside-the-box thinking that I'm not sure the league is capable of right now, but before anyone dismisses it out of hand, they should put themselves in the shoes of the players, who deal with tons of injuries and chronic pain as a byproduct of their violent sport. Monroe is serious about trying to make their lives better.
Fact: The Ravens have signed veteran free agents at a bunch of positions other than inside linebacker.
Opinion: Daryl Smith's departure left an opening in the lineup that the Ravens haven't addressed, leaving Zach Orr and Arthur Brown as the likeliest candidates to start alongside C. J. Mosley. But I still think they're going to sign a veteran to compete for the job. Orr's stock is on the rise, but it's not clear if he can go from undrafted rookie free agent to carrying a heavy load. Brown, of course, has played little since joining the Ravens as a high draft pick. They'll get a chance to show what they can do, but the Ravens have more than enough cap room to make a move at the position.