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National Opinion - Peter King


*Training camp is at its midpoint, and with so many interesting storylines regarding Baltimore football, the Ravens have already welcomed some national football writers. *


* caught up with senior writer Peter King, who attended practice this week. * You've been to countless training camps over the years. Does Ravens camp stand out at all to you?

King:"It's probably the most fan-friendly camp in the NFL. And there are a lot of them. Camps are now becoming more and more fan-friendly than they ever were, and I think teams are responding to what fans want. Fans really love this, because they are able to touch players, and during the season you can't touch a player unless you have just a chance encounter. Here, you know that you can touch players. I think it's a great idea.

"I also think it builds an incredible amount of good will. I mean, is there a Ravens fan that will ever really boo Derrick Mason? Maybe if he drops a touchdown pass against the Steelers, but he's built up so much good will here by signing 300 autographs a day. I just think it's a smart thing for players to do and it's a good thing for teams to do."

What are your impressions of John Harbaugh?

King:"It's like Ray Lewis said, 'Sometimes you need change.' Change is good. This team was getting stale, and that's not so much an indictment of Brian Billick. It's just a fact of life. After a while, if you're not getting the results you want, that's what you do in sports. You change the coach and you try to change the culture a little bit.

"Harbaugh is a bundle of energy. I think he's also a very, very smart man. He reminds me a little bit of [Boston Red Sox manager] Terry Francona in that Francona is an intelligent guy who knows how to deal with players, and I think John is basically the same way. Everybody wonders 'Who is John Harbaugh?' He's a guy who basically has majored in the chemistry of people his whole life. It's always fun to come to a team when the camp is new and getting used to new things, and I think John's going to do a good job."

People have said that this is a physical camp, as far as NFL standards go. Have you seen that?

"I didn't see them going live, so I don't know that [this is one of the more physical training camps], but I would assume that they'll probably go live more than Billick's camps. Brian was kind of a disciple of Bill Walsh, and Bill Walsh didn't do a lot of hitting in the summer. But, I'm not sure that's really going to matter much once the season starts. There are different philosophies that win, and some teams that haven't beat each other up in training camp have won Super Bowls. Bill Parcells beat the tar out of his guys and is a real successful coach. I don't think that's going to have a lot to do with whether this team wins or loses eventually."

What do you think about a three-man quarterback competition between Kyle Boller, Troy Smith and Joe Flacco? That is a rarity in the league.

"It is unusual, because usually you'll have a veteran trying to hold off kids. And in some ways, Boller is that but you don't think of him as a veteran. I'd be surprised if Troy Smith didn't win it, at least at the start of the season. I think Kyle Boller is basically a been-there-done-that guy here. He'll be a good insurance policy, but I'd be really surprised if he started the season."

Would you be surprised if Flacco started at some point this year?

"I think that's probably the way they've got things mentally set up. At some point, midway through the season or if they're 1-5 or whatever, they'll probably throw him in there. It's the age-old debate. On draft day three years ago, would you have rather been Alex Smith or Aaron Rogers? Alex Smith gets picked first and gets handed the keys to a franchise, and Aaron Rodgers is buried behind Brett Favre. Everybody thought it was a recipe for disaster for him. But who would you rather be now?

Aaron Rodgers, even with the weird situation in Green Bay, clearly has a chance to establish himself for a long time. There will always be that debate, and if I were the Ravens – and Cam Cameron knows how to work with quarterbacks – it wouldn't matter if I was 1-5 or 1-6, if I didn't think Flacco was ready, I wouldn't put him in there."

Finally, is NFL training camp season one of your favorite times of year?

"It's the best time of year, by far. I don't see a lot of practice during the year. On this trip, I've seen Jason Campbell up close having a tremendous practice for the Redskins. I saw a lot of the new Philadelphia Eagles linebackers and defensive linemen who I haven't really gotten a chance to watch very much. I'm seeing Smith and Flacco and Ray Rice here – guys who I don't know very well. I was up in Green Bay and saw Aaron Rodgers take control of that team. You get to see things that, and if you weren't out and about and had your eyes on it, you wouldn't have a chance to see.

"It's a good time of year to actually be able to sit down and talk to some guys that during the year might not be as cheerful as they are right now."

Read more from King by**clicking here**.

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