If you were expecting a country-club atmosphere at a defending Super Bowl-champion series of OTA practices, you had another thing coming…
I was impressed by how fast and physical John Harbaugh's first round of full-team OTA's turned out, in fact just approaching the borderline of full-contact tempo.
Players were somewhat gassed by the pace, and were definitely relieved to get a few days off over the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
“Practices have been very, very fast and very efficient,” Harbaugh said.
Not only were the practices up-tempo, they were also held during a week of intense heat. The temperature was in the mid-80s for practice on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then in the mid-70s during a muggy afternoon on Thursday.
“The heat helped us,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “It made it tough for the guys, but it helped us. It’s something that’s good for us to push through. It made the practice tougher. I thought the guys did a good job of handling it.”
Part of these early offseason practices is to ensure that players are in shape. The team pays close attention to players’ weight and conditioning, and tough practices in May ensure everyone is ready when training camp rolls around at the end of July.
“You have to be in very good shape to practice at the pace that we practice at,” Harbaugh said. “You can’t make it through the practice if you aren’t in great shape. That’s why it’s so important in our program to be in great condition. Our guys believe in that. We believe that we play like we practice, and therefore, we are going to practice faster than a game, if we can. So our guys need to be in great shape.”
Garrett Downing, staff writer for the Baltimore Ravens.com site, was there for every minute of the practices. He collected some of these reactions from the players:
“We practice at a very high tempo, and if we just continue to do this for the next couple weeks, guys are going to leave in great condition,” quarterback
“OTA'S was very real today,” defensive lineman Art Jones tweeted. “I embrace the grind. If it was easy, everyone would do it!!!”
OTAs are the first time the team is able to hold 11-on-11 drills in a full practice setting and it was also the first opportunity for the rookies and veterans to get on the field together.
The Ravens ended OTAs Thursday to give players and coaches a long Memorial Day Weekend, and they’ll be back to work Tuesday.
For his part, Flacco has hit the weight room and put on seven pounds of muscle mass, most of which seemed to be gained in his upper body. After playing at 245 pounds last year, he is now at 252.
That’s a far cry from the Flacco the Ravens drafted in 2008 when he stood in at 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds.
And after turning in one of the most historic stretches of any quarterback in NFL history during the Ravens’ Super Bowl run, Flacco is on a mission to prove last season wasn’t “a fluke.”
It’s unclear why Flacco has put on the weight, or whether it will affect his performance at all. Perhaps it will make it harder for defenders to bring him down, or strengthen what is already one of the strongest arms in the NFL.
The Baltimore Sun’s Matt Vensel believes Flacco could have his best season yet in 2013, and give five reasons to support his prediction.
1) His comfort with new Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell.
2) Continuity along the offensive line, which was a “revolving door” last season.
3) He’s in his physical prime.
4) The development of playmakers, including receiver
5) “The monkey's off his back” because he won the Super Bowl.