The Preseason Conundrum

Street Talk The Preseason Conundrum

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Most of the Ravens veteran players are not worried about the cancellation of this year’s preseason games. 

“Our guys will be going into the regular season safely,” quarterback Lamar Jackson said. “No little nick-ups, injuries, or anything like that will occur from preseason games. I’m cool with it. We just won’t be getting hit or anything like that until the regular season, so [we] just have to prepare well for that.”

It’s a different story for the rookies.

The biggest adjustment from college to the pro level is the speed of the game. 

For players expected to make an immediate impact, such as Patrick Queen, Malik Harrison, and J.K. Dobbins, they’ll have to make quick adjustments because they will be targeted by the Cleveland Brown in the regular-season opener Sept. 13. 

They need to be quick studies when it comes to the playbook. 

“They take their preseason games here very seriously,” Queen said. “That’s a learning process for us. For me, not to be able to get that is unfortunate, but at the same time, you’ve got to adapt. When the time comes for game one, let’s rock and roll.”

Ravens coach John Harbaugh is not going to put any player — rookie or veteran — in a position to fail. The biggest challenge with no preseason games is ensuring the players are able to absorb the hits and effectively block without any live-action prior to the regular-season opener. 

Harbaugh is confident in the preseason plan the team has been able to implement. 

“We’ll always try to find a way to keep our players as healthy and safe as we can,” Harbaugh said. “That’s the right thing to do, ‘A,’ and ‘B,’ it’s beneficial to the team. We have a common interest there. Secondly, we have to be ready to play. 

“You can’t put a team out there unprepared. Football is a tackling and a blocking sport, so we are going to have to find a way to get that tackling and blocking done in practice against one another to the level that we need to, to be ready to play the game against the Browns and all the other teams we are playing in September.”  

Ravens running back Mark Ingram understands both sides of not playing the preseason games. They are obviously more beneficial to the first-year players, but there are ways to prepare for the season in other ways. 

Ingram has embraced a leadership role in helping the rookies prepare to be effective NFL players. 

“There’s going to be some positives for some guys, and there’s going to be some negatives for some guys,” Ingram said. “There are guys who get paid a lot more money than me to decide whether preseason games are worthwhile and how it affects guys physically. But for me, I think that the training effect is that guys who would have gotten banged-up, jacked-up a little bit from preseason games, are not.”

The key for the Ravens will be to be in better physical shape than their opponents. They won’t be able to gauge that progress until they get on the field against the Browns.

Ingram is not worried about the team’s overall work ethic.  

“I would expect guys to go into the first game in better shape – stronger, faster, better conditioned,” he said. “Now, after the first game, might they be a little more sore? Absolutely, it’s to be expected. We’re going to have plenty of contact. We’re Ravens. But after that first game, might they be a little more sore than a regular Week One? Yes, potentially, but I think in the long run, we are going to be ramped-up and ready for the season. I think it’ll be a positive for us.”

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Todd Karpovich

About Todd Karpovich

Todd Karpovich has been a contributor for ESPN, the Associated Press, SportsXchange, the Baltimore Sun, among other media outlets nationwide. He is the co-author of “If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Baltimore Ravens Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box,” “Skipper Supreme: Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles,” and the author of “Manchester United (Europe's Best Soccer Clubs).” Karpovich lives in Towson with his wife, Jill, daughters, Wyeth and Marta, and a pair of dogs, Sarah and Rory. More from Todd Karpovich
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