For the first time in his seven seasons with the Ravens, Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap will spend the offseason in Baltimore, not in his home state of Arizona.
Instead of going for visits with the in-laws and other relatives, they have to come here. Heap has pressing business on his mind.
Usually at this time, he's finishing up a month of rest after the season. But he has already begun serious offseason workouts.
"I was so frustrated after this past year trying to get on the field, but my hamstring wouldn't allow it," said Heap, who missed nearly two-thirds of the season because of a torn left hamstring. "The biggest thing right now is to get it right through offseason preparation. Also, I'm going to be around here to see what Cam is doing."
Cam Cameron, the Ravens' new offensive coordinator, hasn't implemented an offense yet, but Ravens fans are so starved for one that Cameron is as popular as any of the presidential candidates.
He has Heap buzzing, too, and with good reason. Cameron built a highly productive offense when he was the offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers from 2002 through 2006, and his passing game was built around Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates.
The Ravens and the Chargers have similar personnel at the skill positions. Ravens running back Willis McGahee is no LaDainian Tomlinson, but Heap and Gates have a lot in common.
"I sat down and talked with [Cameron] on Monday," said Heap, who has been selected to two Pro Bowl teams. "The biggest thing that sticks out is what he did in San Diego. You see what he did with their talent, how he used their receivers as playmakers. He was extremely successful with that offense.
"I heard from a lot of people who said, You're getting Cam Cameron from Miami,'" Heap said. "I said, `No, we're getting Cam Cameron from San Diego.' You have to look at the entire resume. I'm definitely excited and ready to hit the field."
Even before the Ravens signed Cameron, Heap had studied film of the Chargers and Gates. He liked how they did different things to isolate him, such as putting him in motion or splitting him wide, and the Ravens ran similar plays.
Inside the opponent's 20-yard line, there was little doubt about who was getting the ball.
"Gates has quick hands, and I like the way he uses his body," Heap said. "When the ball comes his way, he is always trying to get it at the highest point, and he doesn't allow it to come down. He is always making plays."
Before Heap can make plays, he has to recover from the hamstring he tore in the fourth game last season, against the Cleveland Browns. Heap returned briefly for two other games but was never at full strength.
Early in this offseason, he has been a regular at the training facility, getting rehabilitation or lifting weights.
"A week after I injured it, I tried to come back in the 49ers game," Heap said. "I tried to play through it, tried to play at 70 percent, as long as I didn't extend. But as soon as the pass came to me, it was high, I tried to go get it, and I knew then there wasn't going to be a lot I could do to help this team."
Heap has dealt with severe injuries before. In 2004, he suffered a torn ligament in his ankle in Week 2 and played only six games. During that offseason, he had major reconstructive surgery on his ankle and shoulder.
He started every game in 2005 and 2006. As a matter of fact, he put up career bests in 2005 with 75 catches for 855 yards. In 2006, he had 73 catches for 765 yards.
Heap scoffs at being labeled soft, a criticism he recently heard about.
"In the last two seasons before this one, I pretty much played every down, even though I had to fight through scar tissue and the aftereffects of two major surgeries," Heap said. "If your ligament is torn, it's torn. There is nothing you can do about it until after the season."
"Soft? Are they football people or other people who say that?" Heap asked. "If somebody wants to come up and tell me I'm soft, then I'll talk to them about it. I can't really worry about it."
Heap is more concerned with his rehabilitation. When healthy, he is one of the best in the game. An offense like Cameron's can only raise his level of play.
"After my two worst injuries, including the high ankle sprain in 2001, I came back to have my two best seasons," Heap said. "I have full confidence that I'll be back on the field next year giving 100 percent and ready to go."