And So It Begins ...

As Players Report, Oher Remains Unsigned, Mason Remains Retired And Harbaugh Remains Unfazed

Ravens Training Camp

July 28, 2009|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

As quarterbacks, rookies and selected veterans reported to Ravens training camp Monday, they were greeted with questions about two players who weren't there: top wide receiver (Derrick Mason) and top draft pick (Michael Oher).

While the Ravens seem certain that Oher will arrive by the end of the week, the same could not be said of Mason.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said he spoke with Mason a week ago and couldn't gauge whether his top target would change his mind about retirement. But it did seem that Flacco came away with a sliver of hope.

"He didn't sound too, too sure of himself," Flacco said Monday in his first public comments since Mason's announcement July 13.

"I told him, 'Whatever decision you make, it's your decision.' I let him know how much we want him and how much he means to the team. I just want to make sure he understood how much we appreciate him being around."

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he still couldn't predict what would happen with Mason. They haven't spoken since last week, when Harbaugh sat down with Mason at the receiver's house.

"We'll see what happens in the next few days," Harbaugh said.

With the Ravens' situation at receiver - which became shakier with Drew Bennett's surprising retirement Sunday - the team is looking to add another wide-out, Harbaugh said.

On Monday, the team didn't show any interest in Joe Horn, Amani Toomer or D.J. Hackett. Other mid-level free agents include Justin McCareins, Reggie Williams, Darrell Jackson and Matt Jones. The higher-priced options are Marvin Harrison and Plaxico Burress.

"We're looking for the best guys out there that we can - young guys, older guys, whoever that may be," Harbaugh said. "We've got some irons in the fire."

Meanwhile, the Ravens haven't expressed any concern about Oher, their only unsigned draft pick.

Harbaugh seemed unfazed by the fact that the first-round selection didn't report Monday. Oher worked as the starting right tackle during offseason minicamps.

"I know he wants to be here," Harbaugh said. "Ozzie [Newsome, general manager] wants him to be here, and his agent wants him to be here."

The problem is just four of the 32 first-round picks have signed, which makes it tough to slot Oher's contract between those of Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin (No. 22) and Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Peria Jerry (No. 24).

"We want to get the best contract we can and as soon as we can," Harbaugh said. "It should happen really soon."

The Ravens can only hope the issues at wide receiver will be resolved as quickly.

That position took another hit Sunday, when Bennett unexpectedly announced his retirement because of a knee injury. Harbaugh described Bennett's knee problem as "arthritic."

"It is time for him to move on," Harbaugh said. "He didn't feel like he could get through a practice, let alone a season at this level."

Without Mason and Bennett, the Ravens have just one receiver with more than five years of experience (Kelley Washington). They have one receiver who caught more than 13 passes last season (Mark Clayton).

Flacco, though, said he isn't concerned about the Ravens' wide receivers.

"The 3 1/2 weeks that we're here is plenty of time for somebody to stand out," Flacco said. "That's what is going to happen. We're going to have to have a guy step up.

"In a lot of ways, it's going to be good for us. Derrick not being here is going to force guys to make sure that they're 'The Guy' right away. The more guys we have feeling that they're 'The Guy,' the better we're going to be."

Overcoming distractions isn't anything new to the Ravens or Harbaugh.

Last year, players maintained their focus despite being constantly asked about the team's quarterback battle. Harbaugh doesn't expect anything less from his players this year.

"Everything that happens to our football team, every bit of adversity that we face, every bit of success that we face is an opportunity to get better," he said. "So I don't care what it is - who's here and who's not here, we don't care about any of that. It's irrelevant except to the extent that we can become a better football team today, and that's what our guys are going to be focused on.

"We're not talking about any specific players or anything like that. Everybody knows the situation. We've got a job to do today. That's what training camp is about."

Notes: : The Ravens apparently have no interest in Michael Vick, who was granted a conditional reinstatement by the NFL. Asked about Vick, Newsome said, "We have three quarterbacks that we really like." ... The Ravens injury-waived Quinn Sypniewski, their third-string tight end who was slow to recover from a knee injury that sidelined him all last season. But the team didn't sever all ties to Sypniewski, a fifth-round pick in 2006. "He's still very much in our plans down the road," Harbaugh said. "He'll be working hard to get that knee ready." ... The team also cut guard Brian Johnson, who was on the practice squad last season. ... The Ravens signed wide receiver Biren Ealy, who played at the University of Houston and was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Tennessee Titans. He played four games for the Titans in 2007. He has good size (6 feet 3, 207 pounds) and is athletic.

Today: Practices at 8:45 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

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