'Stuck in a time warp' Ravens: To most players, it seems like the mind-numbing routine of training camp will never come to an end.

July 31, 1996|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Ravens offensive tackle Tony Jones walks outside the locker room and looks to the sky. Then he does a little dance and prays for rain.

Nothing happens.

Then he walks down two flights of stairs, muttering every step toward the practice field.

"Where do I hurt? My butt, my back, my knees, my thighs. I am the injury report. Where don't I hurt?" said Jones. "Every bone and every joint aches. But training camp is nothing but a mind game."

Actually, it is more than a mind game. It's hours of near physical exhaustion with two-a-day practices (nearly 4 hours total) in sometimes grueling heat, and seemingly endless meetings. Training camp is repetitive and regimented, a four- to five-week ordeal that allows players little time for freedom, even less with their families.

It's all part of the psyche of being a professional football player.

"You know coming in what you have to do," said Ravens strong safety Stevon Moore. "You know the pressure, and understand the aches, but mentally you have to overcome. It's part of the game, it's part of being a professional."

The veterans have been in camp since July 18, and the session will not end until Aug. 16. Until then, every player has his own method of getting through training camp.

Ravens running back Earnest Byner is going through his 13th, but he'll never forget his first as a rookie with the Cleveland Browns.

"It was like I was stuck in a time warp," said Byner. "Maybe it was because I was a rookie, but I never thought that thing was going to end. My recommendation is to take it one practice, then one day at a time."

Some of the players can't remember the day. Last week, Ravens defensive tackle Larry Webster thought it was Thursday, and it was actually Saturday.

Moore has had the same experience.

"I don't even keep track of the days anymore," said Moore. "I can't tell you if the day is Monday or Tuesday. You know why? Because every day is the same around here. Breakfast is at the same time, so is lunch and dinner. They blow the whistle at the same time every day to start and stop practice. It's a routine. Constant hitting. Nothing changes. Nothing."

A basic day consists of breakfast at 7, practice at 9, noontime lunch, a 1: 45 meeting, 2: 40 practice, 5: 30 dinner and 8 p.m. team meetings. That leaves the players with about a daily hour of free time around 10 p.m., with curfew at 11.

"A lot of people sleep during that hour," said rookie guard Marquin Bivins, from Alcorn State. "Or maybe go to the mall. It's not like there are a lot of things to do."

Entertainment is at a minimum. Remember, this is Westminster. Maybe during the hour, players play Sega. Another favorite game is dominoes. There is always competition among players for phone lines. Eighty of them can't call home at once.

"Whatever you do, you just don't want to close your doors," said Moore. "You're sleeping in a strange bed and you are without your family, so the best thing to do is to hang out with some players, even the ones you don't know. Make the rookies sing or do something enjoyable 'cause if you close the door every night and become isolated, it becomes extremely boring."

Tight end Frank Hartley suffers from a different kind of isolation. He came into camp eager to meet his teammates, a new coach and a new city.

Hartley was also looking to keep his job. The Ravens have four tight ends in camp. They will probably keep three. Hartley hasn't practiced in almost four days because of a hamstring injury, another side effect of training camp.

The injuries keep mounting.

"I'm trying to fight through this thing," said Hartley. "I'm in a situation where my job is not secure and I need to compete. This injury puts me behind everybody. The heat is on because you never know what the coaches are thinking.

"It's another part of the mind game," said Hartley. "You try to rush back from an injury or you're busting your butt, but tomorrow you may not be here. You never know when you're gone."

Defensive tackle Mike Frederick tried to rush back too soon from a hamstring injury. One day later, he was back on the sidelines.

"You can't get better from sitting around," said Frederick. "In this league, you sit and you're out."

Almost every Ravens player has awakened one time during the past two weeks wishing to hear coach Ted Marchibroda say these words: "You have the day off."

But it probably won't happen. This is a new coach in a new town installing new systems on a team that was already behind because of the move from Cleveland to Baltimore.

Instead, Marchibroda will continue the training camp grind and the players won't find any consolation until "hump day" -- the midpoint of camp.

The next reward comes on Sept. 1. That's when the Ravens open their regular season against the Oakland Raiders, and players can draw their regular salaries instead of the $700 a week they make during training camp and $200 per preseason game (rookies make $600 per week, nothing for preseason games).

"I did some work as a substitute teacher, so I'm not going to complain with the money we make," said Hartley. "This is a short-term job with long-term rewards. Training camp is rough, but the compensation comes later with the fun and games on Sunday, and the regular paycheck."

Ravens' preseason

Opener

Opponent: Philadelphia Eagles

Date: Saturday, 7: 30 p.m.

Site: Memorial Stadium

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Tickets: 2,600 remain

Schedule

Date .. ..Opponent .. .. .. .Time

Aug. 10 ..at N.Y. Giants ..1 p.m.

Aug. 17 ..Green Bay .. .. .7 p.m.

Aug. 23 ..at Buffalo ..7: 30 p.m.

Pub Date: 7/31/96

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