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Eisenberg: Ravens Offense To Start Practice With Some Drama


The words "organized team activity" and "drama" are seldom mentioned in the same sentence. The late-spring season of practices and minicamps occurs behind closed doors, without the roar of the crowd. No one keeps score.

As basketball's Allen Iverson said, "It's practice, man."

But there's actually some drama as the Ravens take to the fields at the Under Armour Performance Center this week to begin a month of practices and classroom study. I'm not stretching things when I say there's a lot at stake.

The front office has ushered in a new era on offense, bringing in a new coordinator and several new position coaches, a new center, a veteran star receiver and more. There's a new philosophy, a new playbook, and by my count, at least three new starters.

The process of melding all that into a functioning unit gets cranking in the next month, and well, there's actually some urgency. We don't need to cue a ticking-clock soundtrack, but the Ravens open their exhibition season in 10 weeks, and play a game that counts four weeks later – a huge home game against the Cincinnati Bengals, no less, followed five days later by an equally huge home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

They're going to need that new offense up and humming when the season kicks off, and with practice time in scarcer supply now that it is strictly regulated by the league's collective bargaining agreement with the players, Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak only has so much time.

A lot needs to happen in these vital hours provided by OTAs and minicamps. The players need to get the new playbook down and start seeing it leap from the iPad to the field. Kubiak and quarterback Joe Flacco need to hone their crucial relationship. Flacco needs to develop some chemistry with his new targets, Steve Smith and Owen Daniels. The line has to adjust to a new center, Jeremy Zuttah, making the calls, and a new right tackle (at least for now), Rick Wagner.

These aren't the parts of pro football that send hearts fluttering or leave Twitter heaving with emotion. It's brick-by-brick foundation work, tantamount to putting in the cornerstone on a new house. A fair amount of it takes place in the classroom. But it's crucial stuff.

There's work to be done on the Ravens' defensive side, too, starting with seeing how rookies C.J. Mosley, Timmy Jernigan and Terrence Brooks can fit into the mix. Starting jobs are available.

But make no mistake, the drama, such as it is, is on offense, where the front office has focused its attention since a slide in performance in 2013 left the Ravens out of the playoffs for the first time in six years.

A long checklist has been drawn up and there's time to get everything done before the season begins, but there's also not a lot of time to waste.

Ryan Clark, the safety formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers, now with the Redskins, really nailed it in a recent appearance on ESPN when he noted the NFL's double standard for how it deals with players who get in trouble and owners who get in trouble.

Jim Irsay, owner of the Colts, remains unpunished by the league more than two months after he was arrested for DUI. Police filed four felony counts before prosecutors decided last week to charge Irsay with misdemeanor counts of operating a vehicle while intoxicated and possession of a controlled substance.

Clark correctly pointed out that the NFL is always quick to suspend and/or fine players who get in trouble along those lines, but Irsay was allowed to attend the owners' meetings last month.

"It shows the hypocrisy of the NFL and also Roger Goodell in the way that he deals with players and the way he deals with the people he works for," Clark said during an appearance on ESPN's "First Take."

Keep in mind that some players don't like Goodell, believing he is quick to judge, unduly harsh and takes money out of their pockets. I'm sure they shouted their support for Clark's comments as they watched.

The thing is, Clark was right. If the league punishes players for "embarrassing the shield," it needs to punish owners who do the same. After being held so publicly accountable by a safety, the league probably will punish Irsay relatively soon.

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