The Gang's All Here


In saying goodbye to stalwart quarterback Steve McNair, head coach John Harbaugh said hello to a number of other players at the first day of offseason minicamps.

Linebacker Ray Lewis was on the field, donning a familiar white No. 52 game jersey. Defensive tackle Trevor Pryce joked with linebacker Bart Scott and cornerback Samari Rolle in the sunny, 75-degree weather.

Even franchised linebacker Terrell Suggs was on hand for meetings (Suggs can't participate in the actual practice until he signs the Ravens' one-year contract offer).

Although the opening of voluntary camps is rarely attended by such esteemed veterans, Thursday's session was a who's who of Ravens stars, all at team headquarters to show support for their new coach.

News of the high attendance was buried under McNair's bombshell, which caught many Ravens off guard. Once they took the field, however, the absence of McNair took a backseat to installing offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's lengthy playbook.

"It's business as usual," said widoeut Derrick Mason during the retirement press conference. "You have to go out there and put that behind you, especially going through a new offense. It was fast and it was frustrating and confusing at times, so that kind of took your mind off Steve a bit.

"But, once you step off that practice field, it reality hits: No. 9 is not going to be in the huddle."

That designation largely fell to quarterback Kyle Boller, who took the majority of the snaps with the first team. With the release of longtime center Mike Flynn in February, Chris Chester snapped the football, while Jared Gaither manned left tackle for Jonathan Ogden, who is contemplating retirement himself.

As the players and new coaches worked to get a feel for each other, there were obvious kinks that come along with any first practice: a dropped ball here, a misstep in a blocking assignment, or a pass slightly floating in the breeze.

Regardless, the energy was apparent, especially with Harbaugh, who had never led a practice as a head coach before. Harbaugh buzzed all over the field, making sure to take time with each position group and chat up each player.

On the media-free day, Harbaugh and the players were unavailable for comment, but general manager Ozzie Newsome offered his thoughts on a healthy beginning.

"It was a typical first practice with a new coaching staff," Newsome explained. "There was energy out there, but I think they realized that they haven't played football in a while once things got started. Once they play with each other a little bit more through the offseason, they will get more comfortable."

Clearly, the Ravens are not ready to open against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 7, but there is a palpable sense of anticipation for that game already coursing through the halls in Owings Mills.

It showed with the voluntary arrival of Lewis and Co. It showed in the way the Ravens flew around on the field.

And, it was audible when Harbaugh broke the final huddle. After giving a quick pep talk, the players surrounded their coach and shouted "Together!" before hitting the showers.

It must have been music to Harbaugh's ears.

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