Optimism Abounds As Ravens Open Camp


Running back Ray Rice strolled into the Under Armour Performance Center for the first official day of Ravens training camp at 9:27 a.m.

Asked by reporters if he was happy to be back, Rice simply said, "The smile says it all."

Baltimore's offseason wasn't exactly rejuvenating after taking a difficult AFC championship loss.

The team lost a few key free agents in Pro Bowl guard Ben Grubbs, stalwart outside linebacker Jarret Johnson and defensive end leader Cory Redding to free agency. Veterans Arrive For Training Camp

Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs injured his Achilles tendon. There were contract negotiations with Rice and quarterback Flacco. Future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed scared fans with comments suggesting he could hold out.

But by Wednesday, much of those potential distractions had dissipated.

Rice is signed. Reed has arrived. Flacco says he's not at all worried about his contract.

Optimism abounds again as all the players and coaches are reuniting.

"The smiling faces are going to be gone shortly, but this excitement for a short window is priceless," safety Bernard Pollard said. "This is the year we expect to do great things."

The Ravens have reached the playoffs four straight years, a feat no other team in the NFL can claim. They've reached the AFC divisional round twice and conference title game twice, but have yet to get to the big dance.

"We were right there," Pollard said. "Everybody is talking about New Orleans [site of the Super Bowl]. There are two teams that are going to mean it, two teams that are going to fight all the way. I think we're one of those teams."

Rice said the "mood of camp" will be getting past the AFC championship loss.

"It's time for us to get over the hump," he said. "And we've got the pieces to do it."

Nose tackle Terrence Cody began to express the same sentiment before defensive end Pernell McPhee stepped in.

"We all about the Super Bowl this year?" Cody asked McPhee, expecting to be backed up.

"Game by game," McPhee responded with a grin. "You've got to win first to get to the Super Bowl."

The Ravens are also aware it's only July and there's still a long road ahead. They are focused on training camp and getting ready for a Monday Night Football showdown against the rival Cincinnati Bengals to open the season.

Head Coach John Harbaugh has been pleased with what he's seen so far.

"Excited to have the players back," he said. "The guys came back in really great shape for the most part. A couple of guys will learn their lesson the hard way, as far as the conditioning test and getting out and practicing at our pace, but that's a good thing, too."

Having Rice back and signed for the next five years creates a positive vibe* *that spreads through the rest of the team. At the very least, they don't have it hanging over their heads.

"You don't have to answer those questions," Birk said. "We are happy for him, and I'm sure he's happy and can just focus on football."

That's where the attention turns now. Pollard, despite his big predictions, knows that as well.

"Talking in the paper doesn't win you games," he said. "When you step in between those whites, you've got to do what's right and play hard. That starts today."

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