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New Clocks Speed it Up


They might seem out of place to many Ravens veterans out on the practice field, but back behind each end zone stands a giant play clock, with bright red numbers.

Throughout much of Wednesday's session, Troy Smith or Kyle Boller stepped under center, glanced at one of the square clocks and released a throw to one of their wide receivers as it ticked from 40 to zero. As soon as the play was ruled dead, the offense ran – not walked – to the next line of scrimmage.

A brand new 40 seconds marked a brand new play.

While this may seem like a routine for most NFL teams, the reality is that it's not. Having a play clock on the practice field is new for the Ravens and foreign to many other squads.

When offensive coordinator Cam Cameron came to Baltimore, he not only brought a proven playbook to jump-start a Ravens offense in need of some energy, but he also implemented the timers. He and head coach John Harbaugh were looking to amp up the tempo, and they seem to be successful in doing so.

On a practice field once dominated by defense, the offense is slowly catching up to the other side of the ball.

"The tempo has been really good," Harbaugh said after Wednesday's session. "We've got to think within that tempo. We want the tempo to stay fast and we want the guys to manage their improvement within that tempo, so we're getting better within the tempo."

The offensive players have taken note. Wideout Derrick Mason, who has previous experience practicing with play clocks during eight years with the Tennessee Titans, thinks they will help the Ravens in the long run.

"We used the game clock just to try to simulate game tempo as much as possible," Mason noted. "Once you're on the clock, you really have to get back. We're trying to set a tempo that is really as close to game simulation as possible. It can only help us.

"If we're going fast, the defense tends to go faster, and then when we get in games, we're all moving at that clip."

It was crucial to speed up the offense at this point in the offseason. Tuesday marked the first of three passing camps for the Ravens, followed by a three-day rookie session before training camp begins July 21.

First-rounder Joe Flacco will join the team – and the quarterback race – for passing camp No. 2, after the University of Delaware finishes its semester on May 31.

That left Smith and Boller to split all of the snaps, even though Smith, last year's fifth-round draft pick, took all of them with the first-string. Mason was one of the players on the receiving end of the former Heisman Trophy winner's pinpoint darts.

Mason was confident that both quarterbacks managed the urgent practice well.

"A lot of guys have never had the 40-second clock out there," he said. "I think in time, we'll get used to it the more and more we do it. Once we get to two-a-days and use it that much more, it's going to become second nature. You want to get to the point when you don't have to put the 40-second clock out there and the tempo is going as quick as you'd like it."

The change in offensive tempo has forced Baltimore's defense to speed up in response.

"I love seeing those guys getting in and out of the huddle fast, snapping the ball faster," said safety Dawan Landry. "We have to recognize what they're doing faster and make our adjustments on the fly. It will help when we are in-season."

Linebacker Bart Scott agreed.

"It's good for us because it's going to build our cardio up, it's going to get us to continue to play faster and make us communicate fast whenever we get in there," he said. "If we prepare to communicate fast as a team in a traditional huddle, then we're going to be one step ahead in our communication.

"Communication is always the key in being a successful defense."

Watching Cameron radioing all plays to the quarterbacks, and then that unit executing swiftly, the offense is realizing the importance of crisp communication and performance, as well.

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