I gave it a week to see if Ravens training camp would be different this year without Ray Lewis.
Either I need more time, or not much has changed.
When Ray wasn't around for minicamp in May, the media buzzed about his absence. It did so again the first day of camp. Since then, it's gone largely unmentioned.
Ray's presence was most noticeable through his famously vocal leadership. And yeah, his voice would carry across the field, but usually Terrell Suggs did more talking anyway. And Sizzle's still yapping. Even the usually quiet Haloti Ngata's been giving Joe Flacco a hard time during full-team scrimmaging.
Flacco's filled any silence with more trash-talk than ever before.
The intensity of the competition between offense and defense hasn't changed a bit. In fact, it may even be heightened with the addition of a scoreboard to the practice field.
Practices don't feel different. The mood at camp feels the same.
The impact of Lewis' absence from training is being felt more behind closed doors.
Ray was quiet in the meeting rooms before and after practice, but influential. Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees said what he'll miss most about Lewis is having him as an example to the younger guys of how to take notes. I heard players talk about leaving Ray's old seat in the back of the classroom empty.
Ray will forever be a legend in Baltimore. But the NFL is driven by change.
Even when players are simply injured, they tend to get lost in the shuffle of the next practice, the next game. Teams and players move on and accommodate immediately in the fast-paced NFL. They have to.
Ray's retirement makes him even further removed. He's graduated to more of a legendary status. His locker room nickname, Mufasa, is now more appropriate than ever.
So is training camp any different without Ray Lewis? Na. Outside, things feel exactly the same. But inside, there's still a lot of love for No. 52.