Camp Billick opens to rave reviews

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Players praise pace of first day of practice

Mulitalo, Stokley are in

July 30, 1999|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

The Brian Billick era dawned for real yesterday morning, when 77 players took the field for the Ravens' first training camp practice. The result was a two-hour, 15-minute exercise that had players glowing about the crisp pace and singing the praises of a head coach who did the unthinkable.

The Ravens practiced in shorts. That's right, on the first practice of the first day.

"I love this guy," cornerback Duane Starks said of Billick.

"Usually, you come out on the first day in pads and you're all rusty," Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa said. "We're getting the bugs out with the shorts on. It's nice. You feel a lot better than when you're lugging that extra 40 pounds around."

Just another sign that a new sheriff is in town. Billick has set up a daily schedule from now until the day camp breaks on Aug. 26, detailing every practice time, an intrasquad scrimmage, off days, a mock game, even specific practices when pads are required.

As for kicking off camp without contact, Billick said, "Training camp is arduous, long and hard. You expose your players to fatigue and injury. We've got to take care of them. We're going to hit [in practice]. There are a lot ot things to adjust in training camp. We plan our work and we work our plan. That's been successful [for me] so far.

"They may like the schedule today, but we'll probably have to drag them out of the locker room from now on. This is going to feel like a long camp, probably because we're starting so late. We've got to pace it the right way."

The opening workout featured a limited number of dropped passes, some excellent work by Starks -- who broke up several passes in one-on-one drills -- and decent throws by quarterbacks Scott Mitchell and Tony Banks.

Third-year quarterback Wally Richardson struggled noticeably early in practice, bouncing several balls at the feet of receivers and throwing behind them. Richardson even drew a mild scolding from Billick, but the seventh-round draft pick out of Penn State recovered as practice went on.

"It doesn't matter how hard you prepare, the first couple of days you still have to get your feet under you," Mitchell said. "For the first day, I didn't feel too badly."

Said Richardson: "I started off a little slow. I threw the ball behind guys this morning and was off a little bit on the curl routes. I've got to work out some of the kinks, but I feel good about what I did. There is pressure on all of us [quarterbacks] to show what we can do. This is a new coaching staff with no pre-conceived ideas."

Actually, Billick has one idea in place. Responding to a reporter's question about the competition between Mitchell and Banks, and whether a quarterback controversy is possible, Billick said, "There will be some good, healthy competition at that position. But right now, this is Scott Mitchell's team.

"I think [the quarterbacks] were pretty crisp today. A couple of balls got away from them. There were a few missed reads, but that's because they are still thinking [too much]."

With so many new players in camp, Billick said the next four weeks are more critical for the Ravens than numerous NFL teams.

"We're behind the eight-ball, so to speak, compared to the Jacksonvilles and Denvers and New Yorks," he said. "When you talk about their 53-man rosters, they can probably tell you who 46 or 47 of them are right now. You can't go much beyond 30 or 35 on our squad.

"Overall, there weren't a lot of clear-cut, mental errors out there, and everybody seems to be in pretty good shape. It was pretty good for the first day."

McCrary, Boulware sit out

Defensive end Michael McCrary (knee), outside linebacker Peter Boulware (shoulder) and fullback Rob Robertson (lower leg strain) sat out yesterday's workouts.

McCrary, who is recovering from arthroscopic surgery from four months ago, hopes to rejoin the action by the middle of the preseason.

Boulware is recovering after slightly separating his right shoulder -- the same shoulder he injured early last season -- on June 12, the last day of the team's final minicamp. While he continues to strengthen the shoulder, the Ravens decided to place Boulware on the physically-unable-to-perform list. They hope he is participating in practice by next week.

Backup linebacker Cornell Brown is working in Boulware's place.

"Peter has gotten stronger. The only problem is he's not at the point where he feels he can hit the bags [in drills]," Ravens head trainer Bill Tessendorf said. "That might happen as early as next week. We've just got to see how it goes."

Said Boulware: "It's one of those things where you have to take some time and not rush it. We've got four or five weeks where I can get it better. It's not a big concern, but it's something for me to be cautious about. [The Ravens] would rather have me during the season than now."

Mulitalo, Stokley sign

Fourth-round draft picks Edwin Mulitalo and Brandon Stokley reported to camp yesterday after agreeing to three-year contracts.

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