New practice facility opens to rave reviews from Ravens


Amenities allow for play when team isn't working

Pro Football

October 18, 2004|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Despite the end to the Ravens' annual weeklong in-season vacation, there were nothing but smiles filling the team's locker room yesterday.

Returning to work, at least for one afternoon, was fun and refreshing.

The Ravens held their first outdoor practice at their new training facility, a $31 million, 200,000-square-foot palace in Owings Mills that the team is billing as the best in the league. You could not get an argument from any of the players.

"We went from the Holiday Inn to The Ritz," guard Edwin Mulitalo said. "This is first-class. Now we are up there with the other facilities in the league."

Actually, the Ravens' home may be even better. The highlights for the players were predictable. The lounge, featuring a pool table and a couple of Sony PlayStations, and the full-service cafeteria, which looked three times the size of their old mess hall, took top honors.

"I dig the pinball game too," center Mike Flynn said of the vintage machine located in the same area. "I'm old school."

The Ravens will practice today before having tomorrow off and returning to their normal week's preparations Wednesday.

With all the new amenities, it should not be hard keeping the players around the complex.

"This is like one big toy that we are all playing with," linebacker Terrell Suggs said.

Said Ravens coach Brian Billick: "The guys are energetic. The energy that this has created for us, the attitude the guys have had coming back ... they're fresh, healthy and obviously excited about the circumstances we have to work in.

"Your surroundings are always going to affect how you feel about yourself. This is a first-class facility, and we like to think of ourselves as that as an organization."

Baxter feeling good

For a rare time this season, cornerback Gary Baxter strode around the team facility without bandages.

Baxter had been battling the after-effects of hernia surgery and an injured thumb through five games, but the time off has allowed his body time to heal.

Nothing was taped up or in a cast, which was Baxter's usual look in previous practices.

"It's still early in the season," Baxter said, "but overall I feel good and am ready for this long haul."

Stewart accepts fate

Quarterback Kordell Stewart is staring straight at his impending fate and not flinching.

Once Anthony Wright returns over the next month, Stewart appears headed for third-string status for the first time in his career. Wright had one of his most extensive throwing days yesterday and could be removed from the physically-unable-to-perform list this week.

"I can't control that," Stewart said. "All I can do is control the things that I do when I'm asked to do them. Whatever happens when we cross that bridge, it will."

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