Earl Thomas III is always intense, regardless of where practice is held.
However, Thomas brought something extra to Saturday night's training camp practice at M&T Bank Stadium when the Ravens put on full pads for the first time.
Thomas leveled rookie free agent wide receiver Sean Modster with a forceful shoulder after he caught a short pass. After the play, Thomas jumped in the air and celebrated and was joined by several of his defensive teammates, as the enthusiastic crowd of 28,312 voiced its approval.
It was Thomas' first practice in pads with Baltimore, and his first visit to the home stadium as a Raven. He brought the attitude the Ravens expect from the six-time Pro Bowler, who is regarded as one of the NFL's most physical safeties.
This was Thomas being Thomas. Head Coach John Harbaugh wants players to take care of each other during practice, but he also wants Thomas to be himself.
"Got my attention a little bit and then I went, 'Oh, it's Earl,'" Harbaugh said smiling. "'OK. Good job Earl. Nice play.'"
Later in practice, safety Tony Jefferson gave similar treatment to rookie wide receiver Miles Boykin on a crossing route, knocking Boykin to the ground on a hit that brought another reaction from the crowd. Harbaugh said he talked to Jefferson about that hit perhaps being a bit too high, but said he was good with the increased hitting overall. There were several other bigger hits once the pads came on.
Practice or not, Thomas and Jefferson are playing with an edge that they will carry into the regular season. Some expect Thomas and Jefferson to be the NFL's best safety tandem, and they're setting a physical tone from the outset.
In other news from Saturday night's stadium practice:
- There was concern after practice about a thumb injury to Robert Griffin III's throwing hand. The backup quarterback was taken to the locker room for X-rays. He returned to the field after practice, but he had a forlorn look on his face. The team gave no official word on Griffin.
- Lamar Jackson had another nice throwing practice. An early pass sailed over the head of Hayden Hurst, but Jackson locked in and looked good the rest of the way. The early pattern for Jackson has been to finish practices stronger than he starts them. While it's good that Jackson is showing improvement as practice progresses, he'll want to start the day faster once the regular season begins.
- Marlon Humphrey was right in Seth Roberts' jersey, batting away a short pass for an incompletion. Humphrey, Jimmy Smith. Brandon Carr, and Tavon Young are practicing at a high level at cornerback. Quarterbacks who want to do business against the Ravens' corners this season are going to have a tough time finding a weak link.
- As they polish their new offense, the Ravens still need work on avoiding pre-snap mistakes. Jackson had to wave running back Kenneth Dixon onto the opposite side of a formation after he lined up the wrong way. The delay caused the ball to be snapped before Jackson was ready, and he muffed the snap. Those type of unforced errors can be drive-killers once the season starts.
- Second-year wide receiver Jordan Lasley dropped a nice throw by Griffin. It wasn't the first drop by Lasley since camp began. He can't afford those if he's going to make the team.
- Boykin continued to be the most impressive wide receiver in camp so far. One of his catches was on a deep sideline route for a touchdown, which showed Boykin's deceptive speed at 6-foot-4. It will be interesting to see if Boykin continues to flash once preseason games begin. But the third-round pick is handling practices just fine.
- Chris Board covered receivers out of the backfield and his quickness could be an asset as a pass defender. As good as C.J. Mosley was as an inside linebacker, pass coverage was not his strength. Board and Young hope to make up for some of their inexperience with speed.
- Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee flashed on several pass rushes that could have resulted in sacks if hits on the quarterbacks had been allowed. After signing McPhee this offseason for his second tour of duty with Baltimore, the Ravens are pleased with what they've seen so far. Fellow free-agent addition Shane Ray also exploded off the edge to beat backup tackle Greg Senat for what would have been a sack on Griffin.
- Rookie wide receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown and left guard Alex Lewis (shoulder) were the only two Ravens on the 90-man roster who didn't practice.