Camp Notes TRAINING CAMP 2006 KICKS OFF

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Today the Ravens took the field without top draft pick Haloti Ngata.  There is no reported progress in the negotiations and Brian Billick was predictably irritated by the subject and deferred all questions to Ozzie Newsome.  I had to wonder if Haloti, his aunt, uncle and agent were on that Gulfstream IV that took off from a nearby airport at around 11 AM.
 
This morning’s practice looked no different than the organized team activities (OTA’s) back in June.  After practice, Brian Billick stated as much and said that the first true training camp practice will take place on Monday.  You may recall that the Ravens originally scheduled training camp to begin on July 31 but moved it up to today.  Be sure to check the home page schedule for all practice dates and times.
 
Overall the practice was relatively uneventful with very little to get excited about.  A normally exuberant crowd was left with little to cheer about.  The focus of most fans and media members was Steve McNair.  McNair received a raucous ovation yet he did very little to maintain the fan enthusiasm.  After practice, McNair said that during OTA’s he had to think about every play as he walked to the line of scrimmage.  However after many hours of classroom study with Jim Fassel since the conclusion of OTA’s, McNair gauged his comfort level at about 70% of where it needs to be to feel completely at ease.  After practice, McNair was upbeat, talked about the importance of managing the offense and while the Ravens might not be explosive they can be effective.  Those that have followed McNair know that he’s always been at his best when complimented by a strong running game.
 
While throwing, McNair looked a little rusty.  The ball seemed to come off his hand a bit awkwardly and it showed.  His ball fluttered and he failed to hit receivers in stride although he does survey a defense and looks to go to the proper place with the ball.
 
Kyle Boller was way off the mark this morning.  On his very first snap during 7 on 7 drills with no pressure except the assumed clock ticking in his head, Boller tried to deliver a pass to a double covered Quinn Sypniewski who was standing about 5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.  The ball traveled 3 yards and landed at Sypniewski’s feet.  Later in limited 7 on 7 drills, Boller was intercepted by Jamaine Winborne while throwing into double coverage.
 
Jamal Lewis was at practice and ran through some agility drills early but was held out of the full squad and 7 on 7 drills.  He and Clarence Moore have been placed on the PUP list although Ravens VP Kevin Byrne was quick to note that the Ravens can activate either at any time.  Jamal’s status was said to be precautionary and he will be back at full speed and fully engaged in Monday’s practice.  In his place was Musa Smith who looked very good and moved well both laterally and vertically.  He seems to have the attention of his coaching staff and considering his skills as a special teams player, Musa may figure prominently.  After practice, Brian Billick seemed particularly impressed with Smith.
 
Mark Clayton moved very well and had a bounce in his step and looked very shifty.  He appears to be close to 100% with no apparent signs of lingering hamstring issues.  Cory Ross is an exciting player and one to keep an eye on.  If he can push B.J. Sams as a returner he could be a hard player to cut.
 
Demetrius Williams ran well but he looked a bit unsure of himself at times and that is to be expected since he missed all of the OTA’s due to Oregon’s late graduation (June 16). For the moment he is behind Darling on the depth chart who ran several plays from the slot position with the second team and a few with the first unit.  Clarence Moore’s roster spot seems to be on shaky ground and it would not be surprising to see him remain on the PUP list and then be available to the team 6 weeks into the season.
 
Other notables: Mike Flynn practiced and seemed to move decently.  He showed a nice punch during offensive tackle drills; Ross, Tres Moses and Mark Clayton alternated with B.J. Sams fielding punts.  Leo Araguz was inconsistent in limited reps but Sam Koch hit several booming spirals through a left to right crosswind; Gerome Sapp and Dawan Landry alternated with the first team defense; Steve McNair and Ray Lewis posed for an upcoming edition of Sporting News Magazine after practice.
 
Folks hoping for a change in Brian Billick got exactly that today.  His customary straw hat was left in the closet, a “radical” departure from prior camps.
 
PM Practice (4:00 – 5:00)
 

Some observations from today’s PM practice…Contrary to what many believed would not happen, Ray Lewis practiced this afternoon.  Ray as stated in the AM camp notes, appears rejuvenated and had he not had such a tumultuous offseason, one might think that it was 2000 all over again.  Good early signs from the Ravens defensive leader.  More on that in a bit…On a light note, Brian Billick found that straw hat that he apparently forgot or misplaced this morning.  All was normal again….sort of.  Brian Billick when asked to describe the morning practice, the normally optimistic head coach said “it sucked!”  Certainly the team had better OTA practices over a month ago in Owings Mills.
 
Mike Flynn ran with the first team and moved about fairly well.  Sam Koch picked up where he left off this morning nailing missiles through the breeze.  He even showed a bit of directional efficiency forcing Mark Clayton out of bounds with another lofty punt.  Cory Ross struggled with the wind and the wobblers off the foot of Leo Araguz.  Tres Moses didn’t seem to have the same problem with the wobbling offers of the veteran punter as he ran up and caught one short twister in full stride.  B.J. Sams handled punts flawlessly.
 
In full team drills, as in years past the defense dominated.  McNair struggled to find any rhythm.  The first defensive unit featured the 4-4-3 alignment with Justin Bannan at LE, Gregg LT, Pryce RT, Suggs RE, Johnson OLB, Bart Scott ILB, Ray ILB, A.D. OLB and McAlister, Reed and Rolle along the back.  At the snap Suggs dropped back to OLB and AD fell back to safety.
 
On one swing pass caught by Musa Smith for a short gain during 7 on 7 drills, , Ray Lewis closed quickly and had the defense been firing live bullets, Ray was set up to flatten Musa, prompting Ray to say, “that’s a headache…that’s a headache!”
 
Later on during the same 7 on 7’s, McNair found Daniel Wilcox in a soft spot in the zone about 25 yards downfield, just avoiding the outstretched arms of Samari Rolle.  On the next play while simulating a third and 7, McNair hit Heap (who had positioned himself in the right slot) on a slant in for a gain of 20.  Heap showed those steel trap hands of his while extending in front of a defender.  On the next play while simulating a 3rd and 4, Wilcox ran a route along the first down yard marker but dropped the perfectly thrown ball from McNair.
 
When the second unit came on, Boller threw the football a bit sharper than he did during the AM practice and completed a nice pass to Devard Darling.  During that same sequence just as he had in the AM practice during his interception, Jamaine Winborne had a great read on Boller and showed an impressive burst when closing quickly from the secondary to bat down a swing pass in the left flat intended for Musa Smith.
 
The always entertaining 1 on 1 drills with McNair and Boller alternating went as follows with the advantage if any to the player in bold letters:
 

Offense
Defense
Comments
Derrick Mason
Chris McAlister
  
Mark Clayton
Samari Rolle
Low throw, incomplete
Devard Darling
Evan Oglesby
Interference on Oglesby…fly pass from Boller
Demetrius Williams
Ed Reed
Great move by Williams to beat Reed easily
Brian Bratton
Ronnie Prude
Very tight coverage but still completed
Romby Bryant
Gerome Sapp
  
Tres Moses
Duvol Thompson
Nice catch and footwork
Rufus Skillern
B.J. Ward
  
Travis LaTendresse
Derrick Martin
Battle off line of scrimmage won by T.L.
Mark Clayton
Corey Ivy
Pass knocked down
Derrick Mason
Chris McAlister
Nice move on deep out
Demetrius Williams
David Pittman
Incomplete
Devard Darling
Evan Oglesby
  
Romby Bryant
Jamaine Winborne
  
Brian Bratton
Ronnie Prude
Pass Defended
Rufus Skillern
Gerome Sapp
Tight coverage
Derrick Mason
Derrick Martin
Excellent timing between McNair & Mason.  Ball was airborne when Mason turned to look on crossing route.

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and CBS Sports 1300. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, Guinness, Orange Crushes and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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