The Ravens coaches are hoping the players are a quick study when training camp opens in just over three weeks.
It will be the first time all of the players congregate on the same practice field this year. Some of the rookies have not even seen the Under Armour Performance Center.
The coaches have been preparing for these adjustments and there will be a learning curve for those first-year players. The overall roster will also need some extra time to get back into football shape.
Coach John Harbaugh is dealing with an especially tough situation because he’ll have to balance implementing the necessary work while following the league’s guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“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,” he 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 will already be hard-pressed to top their success from last season, when they had the league’s best record (14-2), No. 1 scoring offense (33.2 ppg), and broke the NFL’s single-season rushing record (3,296 yards).
In addition, quarterback Lamar Jackson was unanimously named the league MVP after throwing for 3,127 yards with an NFL-high 36 touchdowns, along with 1,206 yards rushing — the most by a quarterback in NFL single-season history.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman admitted the lack of practice time will have an impact on the offense. The team might err toward caution when implementing new plays to make sure they are not giving the players too much to absorb in a short amount of time.
“Every day is going to be incredibly important, as is their training period from now until then, to show up in the best shape of their life,” Roman said. “That’s something I think about every day, at least once a minute, and how we are going to kind of put things together.
“How it’s going to look a little different. Especially in a season like this, you don’t want to get too far off the rails. You have to kind of stay on the rails and be selective with what you want to do differently.”
Defensive coordinator Don Martindale expects the players to be fully ready to move forward with the game plan. He is confident the team has put in the necessary off-the-field work and that preparation will translate to the grass and chalk.
That time is edging closer.
“We’re definitely ready to hit the ground running. John [Harbaugh] has done a great job with the schedule and us doing everything from home, and meetings haven’t changed,” Martindale said. “We were talking the other day as a defensive staff, and if you just took the transcripts from OTAs last year, and then our Zoom meetings this year, you couldn’t tell the difference.
“Because we’ve made Zoom meetings an event that our guys didn’t want to miss them, and they took something away from them. It just makes you appreciate the small things in life. It makes you appreciate, as a coach, the time away from the grass how much you really do miss them – being hands-on if you will. But we’re right where we want to be as far as installation and all that.”