Finding A Spot To Stand


During John Harbaugh's first minicamp, the new Ravens head coach joked that he was "just trying to find a spot to stand."

He's had one more voluntary camp since then to carve out a space, but that could change with this weekend's three-day mandatory session.

The practice fields in Owings Mills, Md. will be considerably more crowded.

The Ravens are expecting a full locker room, with the arrival of key veterans - like Ray Lewis and Willis McGahee - all 10 draft picks and a slew of rookie free agents. For Harbaugh, it will be his first chance to address the team as a whole.

"It's going to be fun," he said. "I know the scouts are looking forward to that, seeing their draft picks come in, and the coaches are, too.

"That's going to be exciting. It's going to be like when the freshmen report for the first time. I can't wait."

While there is only so much evaluation coaches and scouts can do when the players are wearing shorts, the ability to install the basic tenets of the Ravens' (new) offensive and (familiar) defensive philosophies.

The real roster-paring will begin July 21, the start of training camp.

"No one is winning a job right now," explained the coach. "It's part of the process. It's laying the foundation stone by stone, guys learning the offense so when they come back to training camp, they've got a chance to win a job, because football is played in pads. It's not played in shorts."

Because defensive coordinator Rex Ryan was retained from Baltimore's former regime and carries 10 years of experience with the Ravens, the defense shouldn't be too difficult a transition.

And, with a critical quarterback battle looming, as well as the possibility of left tackle Jonathan Ogden's retirement, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has his hands full.

"If you talk to our players, they would say we're giving them everything," Harbaugh commented. "We're not giving them everything, there's still more, but we're giving them a lot. It's all part of our philosophy. We're trying to give them as much as we can in the offseason, and then parse it back out during training camp."

New arrival Joe Flacco will surely draw much of the media's interest. The 18th-overall draft pick is expected to step right into the quarterback fray with incumbents Kyle Boller and Troy Smith.

One point in Boller and Smith's favor is the fact that they've been able to work with Cameron every day, while Flacco was forced to leave team headquarters after an introductory press conference April 27 with his playbook in-hand.

"I'm ready to get down [to Owings Mills] and work really hard to prove to everybody that they made a good decision in picking me," he said to reporters at the Ravens' facility. "I was the coaching staff's first pick here at this organization and I want to prove to everybody that they made a good decision in doing that."

But while many fans and pundits are declaring Flacco the answer under center, Harbaugh insists that the competition will remain fluid until training camp.

"If we had a crystal ball and knew who the quarterback of the future is going to be, the quarterback of the future is going to be whoever gives us the best chance to win games at that time," Harbaugh said, pointing out that he expects Flacco to eventually take the job. "To say anything else or assume anything else would be a mistake, except for the fact that when you have a first-round pick coming in here, that's the expectation for him.

"We drafted him because we believe he can be that guy. If he's going to be that guy, that's up to him. We'll find out."

But that is what the rest of the offseason is for. At this point, Harbaugh's goal is simply to get the entire squad together to see exactly what he has to work with during his inaugural campaign.

"Technically speaking, there's always competition," he said. "Maybe it's competing against themselves. We're looking to see if guys can learn the offense quickly, if they can move their feet, if they can run. The things you can find out in shorts we are certainly looking for."

Now that he has a little more knowledge of the practice fields, Harbaugh can easily find the spot with the best view.

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