As we conclude training camp at McDaniel College tomorrow, Ravens players will separate from roommates with whom they've lived since July 21. It's a strange thing we do with our players at training camp. It's not like anything other professionals do in their jobs. MedStar, for example, doesn't take its highly respected nurses and doctors to a place like the Best Western in Westminster, MD, place them two to a room, keep them from their families and friends for a month and throw in an 11 p.m. curfew with bed check every night.
We have married players like Todd Heap, who rooms with Kyle Boller, and is away from his wife Ashley, their daughter and twin sons. Defensive tackle Dwan Edwards, who rooms in Westminster with Trevor Pryce, misses his wife Kelsey, their two daughters and son. John Harbaugh is removed from wife Ingrid and daughter Alison. Such is life in the NFL.
We talked to a number of players about life with their roommates during camp. Every player we asked had a smile when we asked if he would be willing to share some insights about the guy sleeping in the next bed. We thought you'd enjoy some of the observations.
BRENDON AYANBADEJO & SCOTT KUHN
Pro Bowl special teamer and OLB Brendon Ayanbadejo, our key offseason free agent addition, shares his room with rookie TE Scott Kuhn, who is on injured reserve after getting hurt in an offseason mini-camp. As you fans will discover this season, Brendon is not shy and has a lot of personality. All I said to Brendon is, "Tell me about your roommate. How is living with a rookie? And, are you a good roommate?" Here's his response:
"Scott's a good roommate. He doesn't snore. He's pretty clean and he lets me have the remote. But, I might be the best roommate in the NFL. I've added ambiance to the room with some Febreze – a little fragrance. The soap in the bathroom isn't good enough, so I buy a dispenser that gives out foam. That's very 'green,' you know? I go get late night snacks for us. We're the dynamic duo. We're ebony and ivory. Plus, as the veteran, I give a plethora of knowledge about the NFL and life that is, well, priceless."
RAY LEWIS & TAVARES GOODEN
Ray Lewis asked Coach Harbaugh if he could room with rookie LB Tavares Gooden, the 3rd-round choice from Ray's alma mater Miami. "We have a great relationship already," Ray explained. "We're so similar, like brothers almost. We clicked instantly. We laugh a lot. He asks a lot of questions about life and football. If he doesn't get something, we can stay up to 5 in the morning having a discussion. That's the kind of relationship we have."
Tavares agrees: "We do have a lot in common, and only a guy from Miami could room with him. We have inside jokes that only we know and only we laugh about them."
"He's a comedian," Ray added. "His spirit is overwhelming, and he's great to be around." Gooden noted that he sets the alarm, and because he gets treatment early in the morning, gets up first. "I always make a little extra noise to bother him. I'll say, 'You up, bro?' And he'll mumble 'No, bro.' But, he got me back. I was asleep in the training room with a hoodie over my head and Ray startled me."
Asked about what TV shows they're watching in camp, Ray said, "America's Best Dance Crew is on Thursday night. We're hooked on it. It gave us something to look forward to in camp."
KYLE BOLLER & TODD HEAP
Boller, who has roomed at camp with Heap since his rookie season in 2003, said Todd "couldn't be a better roommate. I get to watch and listen to him when he calls his wife and kids. It's great to see. He doesn't snore and we don't argue about what to watch on TV – a lot of Olympics since they started."
Kyle also told this story: "When we're in the room, we're either watching TV or going over the playbook. On one of the first nights of camp, we were going back and forth on some plays and Cam (Cameron, the offensive coordinator) came by for bed check. When Cam looked in, he said, 'You guys set this up. You're not really studying the playbook.' To this day, I don't think he believed we were really doing that, and we were."
SAMARI ROLLE & CHRIS McALISTER
Pro Bowl cornerbacks Samari Rolle and Chris McAlister were together again in Westminster. C-Mac is in charge of the remote. "I'm an ESPN guy," Samari said. "But, Chris likes to watch other shows, and I'm okay with that. He does ask me what I want to watch, but I let him choose."
When asked if McAlister snores, Samari replied, "You know, I don't know. When I go to bed, I sleep and fall asleep fast. He stays up later." Rolle also noted that they share snacks. "C-Mac is a Safeway guy. I'm more Rite-Aid. But, we always share and take turns making runs."
TROY SMITH & KERRY REED
QB Troy Smith shares his room with Kerry Reed, a 1st-year receiver from Michigan State who spent part of last season with the Dolphins. "We're good together," Smith said. "But he does snore and I think I'm neater. He gets the remote, because the quarterbacks always meet later and he's in the room when I get there. He likes those drama-filled shows like I Like Money and Who Wants to be Diddy's Assistant? And somebody is always getting slapped in those shows. I'm starting to get into them."
DERRICK MASON & DEMETRIUS WILLIAMS
Receivers Derrick Mason and Demetrius Williams are camp roommates. "The worst thing," according to Mason, "is that he doesn't have to get up when I get up. He gets 30 minutes more because I have to get ready for practice, and he has been going to get rehab." Williams appreciates the extra sleep time. "What's really nice is that Derrick always checks back with me to make sure I get up at 7:30."
Mason added that one of the best things about Williams is "that he doesn't mind if the TV is on when we fall asleep. I like the TV on." The two said they've been falling asleep to the Olympics.
J'VONNE PARKER & AMON GORDON
A pair of defensive tackles, J'Vonne Parker and Amon Gordon, who may be fighting for the same spot to stay on the roster, are roomies. "It has been a blessing to have him as a roommate," Parker said. "We're both men of God and he's actually helping me grow in my faith." Gordon explained more: "We're trying to lift each other up, motivate each other and find things in common via our faith."
But all is not calm in the Parker/Gordon room. Gordon admits to being an erratic sleeper. "My sleep patterns are horrible. I think I'm so fatigued, I have insomnia. I'll get up at 3 or 4 and feel like I've had enough sleep. I'll pop some almonds in my mouth for a little protein and get some water," Gordon said. Parker describes the routine this way: "He gets up at 3 in the morning and eats almonds while sitting on the side of the bed – Crunch, Crunch, Crunch!"
KELLY GREGG & JARRETT JOHNSON
Kelly Gregg and Jarrett Johnson, two of the Ravens' standout defenders, are rooming together for the 5th straight year. "We're good together. We pretty much lie down and go to sleep – maybe watch a little TV," Johnson said.
TOM ZBIKOWSKI & HARUKI NAKAMURA
Rookie safeties Tom Zbikowski (3rd round) and Haruki Nakamura (6th round) seemed to be together all the time, and they're Westminster roommates. Neither complained about the other, but they do get asked who would win if they got into a fight. (Tom is 1-0 as a professional boxer, and Haruki is an expert in judo.)
"We don't talk about it, but the veterans ask every now and then," Zbikowski said.
So who would win? "They are different styles. Who knows? That's probably why that mixed martial arts fighting has become so popular," 'Zibby' offered. Nakamura agreed, somewhat: "I really have no idea who would win. But, I'm too competitive to say it wouldn't be me."
MATT STOVER & NICK GREISEN
Nick Greisen jokes that rooming with Matt Stover is "like living with my parents because I have this older father sleeping next to me."
On the serious side, Nick believes he is fortunate to be with Matt. "My wife and I are having our first child in January and Matt has three children. He gives good advice about parenting and other things. It's great to learn from him. It's almost like he's a counselor for me," Greisen explained.
But, the 7th-year linebacker can't help but continue to rib Stover: "He brought his whole house to our little room. He changed the whole bed, brought a DVD player. Brought an egg crate, his comforter and 2 pillows. And, have you seen the (football) pads he wears? I wanted to head butt him after he hit the field goal to give us the night and practice off, but I thought I'd break his little Hutch helmet. It looks like a little plastic one you buy at a toy store."
Stover does enjoy his status as a kicker. "My meetings are over by 8:15 every night. The linebackers go to 10. I'm well into a movie on my computer by the time Nick comes to the room. We are crazy about the Olympics now," Stover added. "It's the bomb watching those athletes. We were watching that first relay with Michael Phelps and had a blast. We were really fired up. We couldn't even sleep after the race because we were so excited."
MARCUS SMITH & JUSTIN HARPER
Rookie receivers Marcus Smith and Justin Harper, another pair of roomies who could be fighting for the same roster spot, rely on each other. "Marcus is my alarm clock. We use his phone to wake us," Harper explained. Smith said Justin "usually gets up pretty easily, but sometimes I'll give him the extra five minutes while I get dressed."
Harper believes that they were both "raised well. We're not too messy. We get along…share a lot of music. We hold each other accountable. We never leave the room without each other."
FRANK WALKER & FABIAN WASHINGTON
Two new Raven veterans, corners Frank Walker and Fabian Washington, are roomies and are becoming friends. But they have differences. "Fabian likes to freeze the room like Antarctica," Walker said. "Man, he must be anemic," Washington responded. "He wants the room at 90 degrees." They also disagree on TV watching. Washington likes sports, including the Olympics. "I like watching things like '30 Minute Meals' with Rachel Ray," Walker said.
MARSHAL YANDA & ADAM TERRY
Who's the good roommate in the pairing of offensive linemen Marshal Yanda and Adam Terry? "He is, without a doubt," Yanda said of Terry. "I snore so loud, I got a fan to help Adam sleep. He's cleaner, too. We do sleep a lot. We're linemen. We're tired and beat up. Sleep is a good thing anytime we can get (it)."
WILLIS McGAHEE & ED REED
Two other former Hurricanes, Willis McGahee and Ed Reed, are Westminster roomies. "We've been good friends since college, so it's good here. We're both kind of neat and clean. He gets the remote and I'll watch what he watches," Reed said. "We watch all kinds of things. We agree on one thing right now. It's time to go home. No offense to the folks up here, and being with the fans is fun. But, no doubt, it's time to go."
Think all of Ed's teammates would agree with that right now.
Thanks to our PR interns Sam Angell, Kristen Deahl, Jeff McAdam and Denver Parler for their help in talking with some of the players about their roommates for this blog. THE STOOP
Another thing about camp: One of the benefits the coaches hope is that there are team building and bonding happening at camp. Well, you could visibly see the growth of that unity every night on the patio at the front of the Best Western. Some of the players called the area "the stoop" or "the porch."
Ten days ago, there were about 4 to 6 players hanging out at the stoop around dinner time. By last evening, there had to be 35 players out there laughing, telling stories, listening to some music. There were vets like Samari, Derrick and Ray. Young vets like Troy and Demetrius were there, along with rookies, too. It was fun to witness.
We'll miss that part of our journey to Westminster and McDaniel College.
Looking forward to Saturday's home opener against the Vikings. It will be Coach Harbaugh's debut at M&T Bank Stadium. He's clearly excited about it. We'll introduce the offense, and, as a bonus, we'll add Matt Stover at the end.
Talk to you next week.
Kevin Byrne is the Ravens' Senior Vice President – Public and Community Relations. He has worked in the NFL since 1977, when he was the then-youngest public relations director in the league (for the then-St. Louis Cardinals), except for the two years he was the Director of Public Affairs for TWA (Trans World Airlines). He has been with the Ravens since they began, and before that was a vice president with the Cleveland Browns. He has won a Super Bowl ring with the 2000 Ravens and an NCAA basketball championship with Al McGuire's Marquette team in '77. He was on the losing end of historic games known for the "Drive" and the "Fumble." He has worked closely and is friends with some of the best in the game: Ozzie Newsome, Brian Billick, Ray Lewis, Bill Cowher, Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan, Marty Schottenheimer and Shannon Sharpe to name a few.