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WESTMINSTER — The combination of sweltering heat and heavier contact triggered a few predictable reactions as the Baltimore Ravens concluded their fourth day of practice.
Tempers flared with the first fight of training camp commencing. Later, rookie fullback Leâ€™Ron McClain was carted off the field with leg cramps in the teamâ€™s first heat-related incident since arriving at McDaniel College.
First, a brief scuffle ensued between undrafted rookie tight end Marcus Freeman and veteran linebacker Jarret Johnson during a goal-line drill. Freeman didn’t hesitate to lock up with Johnson on the ground, but quickly realized that he was surrounded by the entire defense.
It was definitely a chippy environment with a few assorted shoving matches throughout practice.
â€œTempers flare a lot because itâ€™s really hot and thereâ€™s a lot of testosterone out there,â€ said Freeman, an undrafted free agent from Notre Dame. â€œGuys get into it. Itâ€™s part of the game. I was scuffling with him on the ground and, all of a sudden, I saw all these purple shirts surrounding me and I was kind of by myself.
â€œI was wondering where my teammates are. Thereâ€™s no hard feelings. Terrell Suggs came up to me afterward and said, â€˜Thatâ€™s how we do it around here.â€™â€
Order was quickly restored, partly due to fear of punishment running being assigned by Ravens coach Brian Billick who kept blowing his whistle during the aborted boxing match.
â€œWhat I liked about it was the veterans were diving in and saying, â€˜Get off,â€™ because we donâ€™t want coach to go off and have do sprints in that heat,â€ Billick said. â€œThey all collectively yelled, â€˜We got it, We got it, We got it.’
â€œThey did the right thing. They were going to have ownership of those 500 gassers if they didnâ€™t handle it.â€
Meanwhile, the Ravens dealt with hotter temperatures that hit the mid-90s along with increased humidity as they began practice at 9:30 a.m., just over an hour later than usual.
Toward the end of practice, it simply became too much for McClain to stand. His legs cramped up and trainers removed his shirt and escorted him off the field after draping him in cold towels and placing a bag of ice on his stomach.
â€œYeah, the heat was tough,â€ defensive tackle Justin Bannan said. â€œI think this was our hottest practice yet. Iâ€™ve got to drink a lot because I could lose eight to 10 pounds in one practice. Youâ€™ve got to replenish and get those electrolytes back in you.â€
The later practice was intended to prepare the defending AFC North champions for Saturdayâ€™s noon scrimmage against the Washington Redskins at M&T Bank Stadium.
â€œHopefully, it was good and hot,â€ Billick said. â€œThat was by design. I thought they handled it real well. If youâ€™re watching our training staff, they do a great job working it nonstop to make sure theyâ€™ve got fluids in them and monitoring where these guys are at.â€
Thereâ€™s at least one benefit to the steamy conditions that tested playersâ€™ tolerance and patience, according to Suggs who joked about his Jim Palmer spokesmodel aspirations.
â€œI kind of enjoy it because you can shed some body fat and get cut up and become an underwear model or something," he said. "Seriously, we have to get used to it because weâ€™re going to have a lot of hot Sundays.â€
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.