It’s going to be a surreal experience for Ravens players and coaches when they gather at the Under Armour performance next month for training camp.
It will be the first time the rookies are on the same field with the rest of the players. Coach John Harbaugh and his assistants will have to balance making up for lost time while making sure they meet all of the protocols adopted by the NFL to deal with the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nonetheless, there will be a sense of excitement in the air because football will officially be back after a more than five-month slumber.
“I think the league will, probably, put in some protocols and put a schedule in place that everybody will have to follow to ramp up towards the contact part of it,” Harbaugh said. “Exactly what those will be, we’re waiting to see, and we’ll just see what the deal is. But we just have to be smart about it. As coaches, we take it very seriously to prepare our team as best we can, with at the same time, staying as healthy as we can, because both of those aspects are very important.”
The Ravens have done their best to make sure players stayed in shape and are up-to-speed with the playbook through virtual meetings over the past several months. While there’s no substitution for live practice, the virtual environment provided Harbaugh with the opportunity to look at the game within a new perspective.
In short, he made the most of a difficult situation.
“The virtual stuff has been an interesting challenge and kind of a blessing in the sense that you have to really look at how you teach, how you put the system together, how we’re going to organize practices in a shorter time frame,” Harbaugh said. “[We] try to be more efficient than ever; we’ve always tried to do that.
“The communication over the virtual setup – just like us, it demands some real efficiency in the way you say things, the way you put together your presentations, the video that you watch, the drawings, those kinds of things. That’s probably helped us just become better at what we do.”
Despite the challenges, the Ravens are in an advantageous situation.
The team has its core roster intact with 13 players that were named to the Pro Bowl last season — Marcus Peters did not play because of an injury and Orlando Brown Jr. got the nod as an alternate. Both coordinators — Greg Roman and Don Martindale — are also back with the team.
That experience and familiarity with the playbooks should help the team stay relatively sharp despite the lack of practice sessions this offseason.
The NFL, as a whole, will look different this year, especially with the fan experience. The league will allow individual teams to dictate how many fans will be allowed in their respective stadiums for games, according to a report by The Athletic.
Whatever the Ravens decide, the games will provide some sense of much-needed normalcy and a distraction to one of the most challenging stretches of our lifetime.
There’s been a sense of excitement building around the Ravens throughout this offseason.
They want to deliver on those expectations, regardless of the circumstances.