On Sunday, over 25,000 fans entered M&T Bank Stadium to not bare witness to the new renovations inside the stadium, but they also were able to see their team in the final open practice of the preseason. For the rookies, this was their first time performing in front of the hometown fans, and they were impressed to say the least.
First-round pick Matt Elam praised the fans for their support.
“I can see how loyal the fans are here during practice,” Elam said. “I can only imagine how they are during a game. It’ll be an exciting moment running out of the tunnel.”
Around the stadium, fans dressed head to toe in Ravens gear. For one certain rookie in particular, it was a reminder of of his collegiate days.
“It was a sea of purple,” said second-round pick Arthur Brown, who played at Kansas State and frequently donned a purple jersey. “It felt like home.”
The fans in attendance left a good impression on Brown, who is already displaying an understanding on the loyalty of the Baltimore football fan base.
“The fan base is definitely supportive of us, and that goes both ways,” he said. “I was trying to imagine [the stadium] being completely full and I couldn’t. I’m just looking forward to that first home game.”
One reason fans love to attend a practice is for a chance to meet some of their favorite players. While rookies still have to win over the hometown crowd on the field, fourth-round linebacker John Simon was appreciative of being afforded the opportunity to introduce himself to the fan base he rooted against growing up as a young fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“It was exciting to be out there and meet your fans for the first time,” Simon said. “Seeing them cheer for you and just how excited they were for a practice, it shows what kind of fans they are. They’re probably the best in the NFL.”
Next up for the Ravens are back-to-back preseason games at their home stadium, starting with the Atlanta Falcons and ending next Thursday against the Carolina Panthers. Since it’s only the preseason and the games are glorified scrimmages, many of the players were surprised to hear that the fans will occupy nearly every seat, at least for kickoff.
“If that many people come out for a practice, I can only imagine that a game is going to be ten-times better,” said rookie fullback Kyle Juszczyk.
For many of these rookies, what they saw today was simply an appetizer to what they’ll experience in the regular season. While it may be preseason for the players, today’s open practice also provided an opportunity for fans to practice their cheering and tailgating tecniques.
All things considered, it was a great day.
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