Ravens training camp is back in full force, so now it's time to rev up Insight to the Limelight… This is my fourth season with the team, and it feels pretty good to finally kick off another stint in Westminster.
This year during camp, the Limelight blog will feature a few new components. Every few days, I'll provide some brief observations and notes in the following four sections: Spotlight, Note the Quote, Numbers to Rave About *and Fanfare.*
Hopefully, they give you an idea of what's going on here at camp. Whether it's football-related, media coverage or behind-the-scenes action, I'll cover a little bit of everything over the next couple weeks. Let's get started.
On Friday, ESPN was here at practice filming a segment called For Love or the Game. This is slated to run during the pre-game show on Monday Night Football before we play at Pittsburgh (Sept. 29).
For Love or the Game is a fun "who knows him better" competition between a player's wife and one of his teammates. To represent the Ravens, we rolled out Derrick Mason as the featured contestant. Derrick's wife, Marci, who absolutely charmed the entire ESPN crew, battled the always-entertaining (and certainly unpredictable) Bart Scott to see who knows Derrick better. I won't reveal the winner (you'll have to watch on Sept. 29), but I will tell you that the entire shoot was hilarious.
Click here for a generic sample of the game that ran on ESPN The Magazine's Web site several months ago. Featuring the Redskins' Chris Cooley, his fiancé and teammate Clinton Portis, it's entertaining, but nowhere near as amusing as the one Mase, Bart and Marci produced for our upcoming MNF telecast.
NOTE THE QUOTE
Dan Cody on overcoming three season-ending injuries sustained in as many years:
"I want to show that I can come back from it all. It hasn't been easy. I don't want to say the word 'depressed,' but it'll kill your spirit. It's kind of like that lion locked up in the zoo. You wonder why he is so sad. It's just that you're not able to do your thing."
Insight: It was great to see Cody back on the gridiron, bull-rushing his way into the backfield this week. A chiseled 6-5, 255 pounds, he is one of the most physically imposing players we have. Also blessed with a motor that rivals a Ford F-250, Dan is an absolute freak who's intent on validating the second-round pick Baltimore used on him in 2005.
There aren't too many people who work harder than he does either, and you'd be hard-pressed to find somebody with more heart. So now, looking as if he's finally healthy, opponents beware: The lion is out of his cage…
Ray Lewis on mentoring fellow Miami alum and linebacker rookie Tavares Gooden:
"Anytime you can have a young kid like that come up, whether he wore your number [in college] or not, it's just passing on the tradition and passing on the knowledge. And that's what I told his father I would do for him. I also told Tavares, 'Anything that I can do for you, young man, use me."
Insight:Many people may not know that Ray requested Tavares to be his roommate for training camp. It's rather uncommon to see an established veteran bunk with a rookie. I think that says lot about Ray and his role as a leader. Tavares, who was nicknamed "Baby Ray" while at Miami, now jumps into a situation where he'll be mentored by perhaps the greatest linebacker of all time.
What a great opportunity.
NUMBERS TO RAVE ABOUT
Total training camps 40-year-old Matt Stover has attended during his career. The Ravens' kicker calculated that he's spent nearly 1½ years of his life in training camp.
Number of media credentials our PR department had issued just six days into training camp.
Number of fans who attended Friday morning's first full-squad practice. It was the second-largest crowd to witness a non-scrimmage event in Ravens training camp history. The largest – 6,900 people – occurred on Aug. 6, 2006.
The Gilmore family – comprised of Hezekiah (dad), Veda (mom) and Davon (son) – has been coming to Ravens training camp every year since 2000. On average, Hezekiah says the loyal trio attends two or three Ravens games a season. Donning purple and black gear from head to toe on Saturday, they joined thousands of other diehard fans on a toasty morning to watch coach Harbaugh and Co.
I always enjoy hearing what our fans are thinking, so I asked the family several questions after they finished snagging post-practice autographs. Here are some of the interesting things they had to say:
What keeps bringing you back to training camp each year? (Hezekiah)
"I enjoy watching all the rookies. It's fun to see what they'll bring to the team. I was really looking at Joe Flacco today. He's got a strong arm, and he's even got some speed."
What's your outlook for the 2008 campaign? (Hezekiah)
"I think we'll go 9-7, especially because of the new and young O-line."
Who's your favorite player? (Davon)
"It's got to be Ed Reed."
Editor's note: Davon must own several Ravens jerseys, because he was actually wearing Ray Lewis' No. 52 Saturday.
Describe Ravens training camp in three words: (Veda)
"Impressive. Expectation. Observation… I think each year, people come filled with expectation and excitement for the season. There are a lot of observers who are making comparisons, just like with the quarterbacks today. People are looking at them closely. Overall though, camp is very impressive."
Thanks for reading this edition of Insight to the Limelight. Until next time…