The Ravens are the first team in the NFL to kick off their 2018 training camp by virtue of playing in the Hall of Fame preseason game on Aug. 2.
While that's exciting, the extra practice time also has fans worried about the increased risk of injuries, especially after the past two offseasons have been quite painful.
How do the Ravens view the extra work?
"I think it's a positive thing," running back Alex Collins said after the team's first full-team practice Thursday. "It's giving us a head start, giving us the opportunity to get ahead of everybody."
While the Ravens have some core veterans such as outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, safety Eric Weddle, quarterback Joe Flacco and guard Marshal Yanda, many of the team's key players are young. Add in a huge rookie class, and extra time can help them develop individually.
The additional practice also gives Baltimore more time to gel as a team.
It's especially beneficial for a passing offense that ranked 27th in the league last season and has been overhauled this offseason. Flacco is trying to get in sync with new targets Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Willie Snead IV, rookies Hayden Hurst, Mark Andrews, Jaleel Scott, Jordan Lasley and more. While the defense returned all of its starters, it's also adjusting to a new system under Defensive Coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale.
"[We're] spending more time with the QBs and just bringing that team camaraderie together," Snead said. "I guess building that 'band of brothers,' so to speak. That's definitely a good way to look at it, and just spending more time with the playbook and just preparing our minds to have a great year."
Of course, with more reps comes a great risk of injury. If the players simply had meetings all day and skipped practice, everyone would stay healthy. They also wouldn't be very good because playing football requires practicing football.
The point is there's a balance, and that's something Head Coach John Harbaugh has put a lot of thought into this offseason.
On Thursday, Weddle, Suggs, Collins, C.J. Mosley, Buck Allen, Brandon Carr, Flacco, Crabtree and others were excused from practice well before for the rest of the team. The defensive veterans did conditioning drills before finishing for the day.
"To me, it's time on task," Harbaugh said. "We don't need to do maybe quite the same pace, especially starting off this first week, that we would [normally] do. I think it gives us an opportunity to have more of an acclimation period."
As Harbaugh pointed out, it's really an extra week, which Baltimore will use to ease into their usual training camp regimen. Harbaugh feels that could help the Ravens avoid some of the soft-tissue injuries that can often happen in the first two or three days of training camp when players' bodies aren't quite ready for the summer workload.
It's something he feels could help the rest of the league as well.
"It gives us the opportunity probably over the long haul to get more work in, but also to spread the work out a little more and give us a little more recovery, which would be beneficial," Harbaugh said. "Maybe this is an idea that the powers that be would consider … An acclimation is really important."