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Harbaugh Anxious for Camp's Kickoff


Sitting at a press conference in the lobby of the Best Western in Westminster, Md., Harbaugh beamed out at the media horde, praising the energy his fellow Ravens coaches have shown on camp's opening day.

He spoke of the rookies, quarterbacks and injured veterans, who seem to have a "bounce in their step" as they arrived at the Ravens' makeshift headquarters.

He talked about the prospect of building a team from the ground up, taking care of the "thousand little challenges" that can derail the development of a winning franchise.

Make no mistake, Harbaugh isn't one for catchy slogans or soulless platitudes, but he is an optimist, a trait that provides the spark behind his megawatt smile.

"I've had a chance to see a lot of players come in, the guys who are going to be practicing the first couple days," he said. "They're ready to go. We'll see if that carries over a week from now after we've been through two-a-days, but we've got guys who are excited to be here.

"The same can be said for the coaches. Our coaches couldn't be more fired up to get to work, and that's what we're ready to do."

Over the next 25 days, Harbaugh hopes that energy can remain high through a camp stocked of grueling double practices that will undoubtedly be marked by stifling humidity. With a steady dose of fully-padded sessions and live hitting, it isn't going to be four weeks for the faint-hearted.

But that seems to be exactly what Harbaugh wants in his quest to construct a no-nonsense juggernaut, one that is rough, tough, and perhaps most importantly, filled with an abundance of character.

"Training camp is tough. Training camp is hard. It's different than the old days," he said. "I've heard the term 'old-school training camp.' I don't know if that's real accurate because back in the old days you had 120 players in training camp, and you ran those 3½-hour practices. That's not what we're talking about here.

"We're going to run an intelligent camp. I think guys are going to work hard. They're going to get tired. Their legs are going to get weary because that's how you get good. But the goal is to become a good football team."

Harbaugh already established the quick tempo he demands during various offseason minicamps, so a focus on military precision shouldn't be a surprise to any of the players. Large play clocks loomed over each end of the field, while a shrill air horn prompted players to hustle back and forth to drills.

He is now looking to pick up where the Ravens left off June 12 (or June 18 for rookies), with an all-business approach on McDaniel College's practice fields Tuesday morning.

Already, one of the Ravens' most important pieces of business was accomplished Monday afternoon when general manager Ozzie Newsome announced that all 10 draft picks agreed to terms of their contracts, including quarterback Joe Flacco.

Flacco, the 18th-overall selection, will most likely be linked with Harbaugh throughout his tenure in Baltimore, making a happy marriage between team and quarterback crucial from the beginning.

"It says a lot [having all draft picks at training camp]," Harbaugh said. "Joe's probably the tip of the spear on that and got it going. All the other guys wanted to be here, too. We're proud of the fact that we were able to draft a bunch of guys who like football."

The early arrivals will have three practices before all veterans report to Westminster July 23, but Harbaugh isn't looking too far ahead.

The coach is living in the present, not letting his positive vibes cloud the realism of a team that needs to rebound from a disappointing 5-11 campaign.

"The biggest single challenge is taking it one day at a time, one moment at a time, and winning the moment," Harbaugh stated.

Still, there is part of him that marks a clear idea for what he wants to accomplish in the near future.

"The goal is not to be a fresh football team coming out of training camp because that's impossible," he explained. "The goal is to be a strong football team coming out of training camp, and that's what we're going to try to build."

Harbaugh has been in coaching for 25 years, but never as a head man, while his father coached collegiately for 41 years and his brother currently helms Stanford's football team. With such a tenured family history to Harbaugh's credit, saying the start of training camp is a big moment would be an understatement.

It may only be July, but to John Harbaugh, this time of year must feel a little bit like Christmas.

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