It had been eight years since Wink Martindale was calling the shots in an NFL defense.
Thus, training camp and preseason has been just as important for the Ravens' new defensive coordinator as it has been for his players.
After calling plays for one year in Denver in 2010, Martindale must get back up to speed. Through two preseason games, he said he's having a blast and is pleased with the overall operation.
"It's been beneficial," Martindale said of having five preseason games this year. "It really has been because everything's more up-tempo now."
Martindale said Coaching Analyst Jesse Minter is high above the field in the coaches' box reporting what offensive personnel is in the game. Then Martindale calls what personnel and play he wants. Assistant Defensive Line/Outside Linebackers Coach Drew Wilkins relays the call to the players on the field.
"It's really like an orchestra that we're practicing," Martindale said. "I've been really pleased with that, with the communication upstairs, downstairs, on the sidelines and everything else."
Calling plays is very much a fast-paced rhythm. It takes practice. Martindale, who has been clear that he'll bring an aggressive approach to his play-calling, thrives in that kind of environment.
Asked whether he's having more fun this season, Martindale, who was promoted from linebackers coach, said, "Oh heck yes! Heck yes it's more fun."
"I think any time when you're an assistant, you can't help but go through and go, 'I don't know if I'd do [that]. What would you do in this situation?'" Martindale said. "Now you get to do it. It's a humbling experience, but it's a lot more fun."
Marty Mornhinweg Is Installing More Plays
The Ravens offense is still adding to its repertoire, as Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said he gave his players the final round of installation Sunday night.
Mornhinweg wanted to give the unit new plays before its trip to Indianapolis for two days of joint practices with the Colts on Friday and Saturday, then two games within five days of each other.
Not too surprisingly, there were hiccups on Day 1, as the defense had multiple interceptions and there were instances when it seemed offensive players weren't on the same page.
"Last night, we put an awful lot of new formations, personnel groups [and] plays in, so there were too many mistakes today," Mornhinweg said. "We have to get those things squared away."
Mornhinweg stressed that his players have to do better taking what they learn in the classroom to the practice field because that's what will be required during the season when it's very game-plan specific.
Starting Inside Linebacker Job Still up for Grabs
There aren't many competitions for starting spots at Ravens training camp, but the inside linebacker spot next to C.J. Mosley may be the most wide-open.
While right tackle is still up in the air, Head Coach John Harbaugh said veteran James Hurst has the edge over rookie Orlando Brown Jr. At inside linebacker, it's still anybody's guess who it will be between rookie Kenny Young and third-year linebacker Patrick Onwuasor.
"I still think it's an even competition," Martindale said. "It doesn't bother me who starts between the two of them and rotate them back-and-forth. You're going to have a really good linebacker in that situation and somebody will eventually take that job over, and you'll see it."
Young had what would have been a pick-six during Monday's afternoon practice. Onwuasor, who started 13 games and made 90 tackles last season, has also made plays in practice.
Martindale said Young is getting better every day because the fourth-round UCLA product is understanding the playbook more. Onwuasor, a converted college safety, it still also learning.
"I just don't know who to bet on yet," Martindale said.
Chuck Clark Will Have a Defensive Role No Matter What
Safety Tony Jefferson has returned to the practice field the past three days, which has meant that Chuck Clark's reps alongside veteran Eric Weddle on the first-team defense have dropped.
However, Clark has done enough in practice during his two preseason starts to show that he deserves defensive reps, even with Jefferson and Weddle on the field.
"We'll move him around," Martindale said. "I'm not going to tell the rest of the league how we're going to do it. If guys make plays on special teams, we'll make packages for them on defense, because we're going to use everybody we got on the sideline and the defense knows that as well."
A sixth-round pick out of Virginia Tech, Clark excelled on special teams as a rookie last year and got increased defensive reps near the end of the season. He finished last year with 15 games played, 13 tackles and two passes defensed.