There's No Place Like Home

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When Ravens linebacker Tavares Gooden was asked how it felt to return to team headquarters in Owings Mills, Md., on Wednesday, he was quick to quote – oddly enough – "The Wizard of Oz."

"Just like Dorothy said, there's no place like home!" he stated with a smile.

After a hot, humid and hard-nosed month in Westminster, Md., for training camp, the Ravens finally returned full-time to their familiar surroundings this week with two preseason games under their belt.

Just like the move to McDaniel College and Westminster's Best Western on July 27, there was an energetic buzz in Wednesday's practice, something that comes with any transition to new surroundings.

"It is nice to be back here," said head coach John Harbaugh. "I think the players really felt it energizes you again. You come to camp, you get energized, and you grind it out. Then, you come back here and get re-juiced up a bit.

The Ravens are one of 17 NFL clubs that still holds their training camp at a remote location. Some teams travel as far as four hours away, like the Dallas Cowboys' camp in San Antonio. Even though the Ravens only trek 19 miles up the road to Westminster, it is still a good way to get away from everyday life and focus on football.

That return to everyday life, however, is the thing that makes players the most happy. Family, friends and the simple things like a cozy bed are the immediate joys players mentioned.

"I'm excited to be back here," said linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo. "It's a great facility, and we have these beautiful green fields to come back to. Not to mention that I can sleep in my own bed. I think everyone is happy to come back after a long camp.

The fact that this summer marked the Ravens' second rigorous training camp under Harbaugh made things somewhat easier.

"I believe we're more accustomed to [Harbaugh's camps]," explained running back Willis McGahee. "We knew what to expect. We knew what we had to do to come into this camp and be ready for it.

"I think we worked pretty good this offseason to get ready for it."

That's not to say the Ravens don't have a rough road to end the preseason.

After defeating the New York Jets, 24-23, on Monday night, the Ravens take on the Carolina Panthers this Saturday before closing out their preseason on Thursday, Sept. 3 against the Atlanta Falcons.

With three games in 10 days, the Ravens will certainly be challenged by an off-kilter schedule.

"In the third preseason game, you generally game-prep it like you would a regular season game and take the guys through that," Harbaugh noted.

"We can't do that, because we're a couple of days short. We won't have that."

As such, the Ravens will not be able to install a full game plan specifically tailored to Carolina, the defending NFC South champion.

Baltimore had a regular training camp practice on Wednesday, and then will focus on the Panthers for Thursday before traveling to Charlotte Friday afternoon.

Because the Ravens got so much accomplished against New York, which featured many of the special situations coaches address in practice, Harbaugh is not worried about the busy slate facing his team.

"We're going to go play," said Harbaugh. "We didn't game plan the Jets. We had a camp game in the Jets game. But we had an emotional preseason game, even though we didn't play the [starters] at full lengths. I think we're going to have these two games, and we're going to get what we need."

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