The Ravens have changed their approach to training camp this year, after a 2021 season that was marred by injuries.
Practices have moved from the morning to the afternoon. The first week of training camp will feature fewer 11-on-11 segments and more drills that feature players working against air, rather than competing against another teammate.
The organization spent ample time this offseason collecting data and examining ways to prepare for practice, work efficiently, recover afterward and hopefully reduce injuries. The Ravens are still practicing hard, but they're going about it in a different way. Head Coach John Harbaugh was pleased with the process after Day 1.
"Yes, we've kind of re-organized practices," Harbaugh said. "Especially the first four or five practices, we're going to kind of ramp our way into some of the team stuff, try to get a lot of the football movement things in, try to get our timing down as much as we can.
"The challenge is that guys have got to go full speed on air, and that's a little bit of a challenge. So, you've got to put yourself in that setting, mentally, where you go full speed. So, we were pushing them a little bit to do that, because it's a little harder without a defense over there. I thought they did a good job with it."
Moving practice to the afternoon means players are working in the midday sun when temperatures are the hottest. However, they have more time in the morning to prepare their bodies and fuel themselves with proper nutrition at breakfast and lunch.
"We did a lot of homework, we did a lot of studies, and we really looked at it really hard," Harbaugh said. "You can never say for sure what causes anything, but we just feel like this gives us the best chance to have the best practices and to get our guys the most ready that they can be for practice. It's also better from a nutrition standpoint. I like the teaching tempo of the thing, because we get a meeting, and we get a walk through before practice goes, so that helps us. But we'll see how it goes; nothing is written in stone."
To combat the sultry conditions, longer breaks between drills and cool tents can be used on the hottest days. When players reported for camp, they naturally wanted to know why practices had been moved to the afternoon. When the reasons were explained, veteran defensive lineman Calais Campbell said it made perfect sense.
"I think that the coolest thing is using the data," Campbell said. "All of the different math that comes up from the data we collect during practice. Then, using that to put together the best practice where we can get maximum workload, but also while recovering and making sure we're at our best.
"With the injuries that we had last year, I think that was a high priority. We have a great team of people who work through that information, so it was cool. But, he [Harbaugh] did share it with us. We went through the whole process, the why. For the leaders, I think it was huge for us to kind of get an understanding of why we're making the changes, because this is definitely a big change."
A native of Louisiana, inside linebacker Patrick Queen is used to working in the heat and likes the change.
"It gets you in shape better, so when games are hotter and you're moving more, that's a plus," Queen said. "And then just the way the day is set up now, it's so much easier to get in and get all your work done, and now you've got time to recover. I love the schedule now."
Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey trusts the process that led to implementing the training camp changes. He wants the Ravens to be healthier this season and supports anything that can help make that happen.
"It's clear that they put a lot of studying into it," Humphrey said. "It's a little different, but I like it. I like the science behind it so far, and I think it will work really well."