The Great Philadelphia Field Fiasco now behind them, the Ravens began preparation for their first preseason game - again.
Ravens coach Brian Billick said, "I don't let too many people change my schedule," but the defending Super Bowl champions conducted a workout at Western Maryland College yesterday that wasn't on the itinerary when the coach plotted training camp.
A day off became a practice when Monday's preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles was canceled because of dangerous conditions on the artificial turf at Veterans Stadium.
The game will not be rescheduled. With both the Ravens and Eagles playing twice over a six-day span between Saturday and Aug. 23, the NFL canceled what had been a postponement.
An engineering firm inspected the field for several hours yesterday and was supposed to provide recommendations to the city, which owns the much-maligned Vet.
"It is our expectation and desire to have this stadium in a suitable playing condition for the remainder of this season," said Joe Martz, the city's managing director.
The grounds crew had immediately began preparing the field for football after the Philadelphia Phillies' six-game homestand on Sunday. It was the first time the Vet's new NeXturf, had ever been converted from baseball to football.
Heavy rain over the weekend caused the dirt along the base paths to become extremely soft, making the turf on top mushy and uneven, Martz said.
"I think more than anything else what was most remarkable was the amount of water that settled under the base paths," he said.
The Eagles lost between $5 million and $10 million because of the cancellation, but hoped to recoup at least some of that through insurance, Eagles president Joe Banner said. He refused to say whether the team would sue the city for restitution.
"It is embarrassing to the franchise," Banner said.
The Eagles said yesterday they will offer refunds to an estimated 45,000 fans who expected to see Monday's game.
Both the Ravens and Eagles will go into the 2001 regular season with three preseason games instead of the customary four.
"A lot of people have been advocating that we go to three preseason games," Billick said. "Everyone complains that the preseason is too long. We'll see how it works."
The Ravens lost a chance to gauge young personnel and bring into focus a fuzzy picture at running back.
The Ravens traveled to Philadelphia by train Sunday afternoon and walked a gauntlet of curses as they exited Veterans Stadium through a fan concourse, but Billick tried to put a pleasant face on a testy situation. In a profession that attracts control freaks, his attention to detail is exceptional, and he sarcastically deflected a question about the frustration of wasting two days on a game that was never played.
"It's not wasted," said Billick, who alluded to a full weekend the Ravens had on their first weekend of camp. "We have a Friday night scrimmage, we have a Saturday morning mock game. We now have incorporated mock travel, so we've learned what it is to get on that train or bus, to get to the hotel, do the evening meeting, the pregame. We ought to be pretty good at it come Saturday."
The belated preseason opener comes Saturday at Giants Stadium against the New York Jets. Minus the opportunity against the Eagles, the Ravens ended yesterday's practice with a brief scrimmage that had some of their younger players doing some serious hitting. As hot as training camp got last week, there weren't as many players calling for water.
"We finished the practice up with good, physical hitting," Billick said. "These guys saw that live hitting takes it out of you. That's what they needed."
It didn't exactly fulfill Damion Cook, one of the rookie free agents trying to win a roster spot. Cook played defensive tackle for Bethune-Cookman, but he's trying to make it in the NFL as an offensive lineman.
"I wasn't too comfortable about the [Veterans Stadium] turf, but I was ready to play," said Cook, who is backing up Harry Swayne and Sammy Williams at right tackle. "You never know when you're going to need an extra game to make a lasting impression on the coaches. I was so hyped up, I lost my voice. The adrenalin was flying high, and after they called it off, I had to sit and calm myself down."
Even for the Ravens' most famous newcomer - quarterback Elvis Grbac - Monday was an unsettling evening.
"Anytime you don't have an opportunity to go out there and try to do something, it's a disappointment," Grbac said. "A lot of guys [starters] on offense wanted to go out there, even if it was just eight plays ... The biggest disappointment organizationally is for the young guys. You want to see what they can do. You try to make it up out here in a live drill, where it's hard to evaluate somebody."
The Associated Press contributed to this article.