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Offense Standing Up


Typical of a Ravens training camp, the defense is fired up and excitable on a daily basis. This year, however, the offense is dishing it right back.

It is a swagger that fiery wideout Derrick Mason has always practiced with, but now his energy is bolstered by Cam Cameron's high-tempo offensive philosophy. And that enthusiasm is carrying over to the rest of the unit.

There are still major depth issues at tight end and tackle that need to be addressed throughout the duration of camp. The quarterback situation is nowhere near conclusion. In addition, injuries are mounting across the board.

Still, seeing the offense rise together and challenge its counterparts, not to mention itself, offers the impression that things have changed in Charm City.

"I think what you're seeing there is that you have a lot of guys who care about each other," said Cameron. "We talk about the Raven Way, and there is a culture here amongst these guys. They care about each other. Obviously, there's some noise coming from the defense and some noise coming from the offense, which I think is a good thing.

"It can go too far, but it hasn't gone too far yet. It's good and spirited. We're a family here and I think they understand that."

The family dynamic, skewed to the defense as it may have previously been, seems to be equaling out and creating the truly competitive atmosphere that head coach John Harbaugh wants.

For the past few days, Mason has kept up his usual running dialogue with any and all players on the other side of the ball, making sure he's getting the best effort from any cornerback he faces.

Running back Willis McGahee cajoled linebacker Ray Lewis, a longtime mouthpiece of the defense, to square off against him in a blocking drill that ended in a stalemate.

Quarterback Troy Smith makes it a habit to run down the field and chest bump his receivers after a long touchdown completion.

Quarterback coach Hue Jackson and Lewis have a running bout that Harbaugh likened to a "WWE Smackdown talk session."

Even rookie Joe Flacco is getting in the mix, quick to fire up his teammates after positive yardage in the face of a barking defense.

"That's what makes the game fun is when you can go out there and set a tempo and have fun with it," Mason said. "And you see everyone around you is having fun. No one is crying or whining about it being too hot or the tempo is too fast; everybody is engaged at practice.

"Everybody is running to the ball. Everybody is excited to be out here, and that's what you want in a football team."

Practice was particularly spirited Monday morning, especially in goal-line scenarios. Each signal-caller had a shot at the end zone, and emotions ran high.

When running back Ray Rice tried to punch it in from 1-yard out on fourth down, linebacker Bart Scott stuffed the rookie at the line, tossing Rice's helmet in the aftermath.

Even though the defense was riled, the offense didn't back down. Rice scored on his next two tries, pounding the ball behind left guard Ben Grubbs the first time, and then diving over the pile the next.

"It was nice to see the ball get in the end zone a couple of times," Cameron explained. "There's a way, there's a system that John is establishing here and it's about enthusiasm. It's about energy. It doesn't matter whether you're a rookie or whether you're in your 25th year coaching, that's our way."

Cameron thinks that energy translates to the coaches.

"Ray Lewis gets me jacked up," he said with a laugh. "I remember being around some other guys like Junior Seau that can do that. We want to impact these players as coaches, but these players impact us as well. It's nice to see that enthusiasm from the coaching staff and offensively, that starts with me."

Baltimore's defense has always had an identity of being tough, hard-nosed and physical. With Cameron at the helm, the Ravens' offense is beginning to create something similar. As the unit builds confidence, the on-field banter is becoming more reciprocal.

While such passion is playful and harmless most times, both sides of the ball are always looking to keep things competitive.

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