Trashing Teammates Is Talk Of Camp

Offense, Defense Get In Each Other's Face Masks During Intense Practices

August 08, 2009|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

There haven't been any punches thrown at this year's Ravens training camp, but there has been plenty of sparring.

After Domonique Foxworth made a diving interception Thursday, the former Western Tech and Maryland standout slapped hands with fellow cornerback Frank Walker a couple of times before leaping for an animated chest bump. All this occurred a few feet from the offense.

One play later, wide receiver Justin Harper caught a deep pass down the sideline and made a mad dash to the goal post, where he tossed up the football as if he were LeBron James shooting a jumper.

In between the creative celebrations, the players - and even coaches - jaw at one another with language that would make Snoop Dogg blush.

With one full week of training camp complete, it has become apparent that this has been one of the most competitive and entertaining summers for the Ravens in Westminster.

"Out there, sometimes we forget we're on the same team," Foxworth said. "I think that increases the intensity of practice. It makes it a little more dangerous, but it's a dangerous game."

The players say they never cross the line with teammates, but it seems as if they straddle it.

Running back an interception last week, safety Haruki Nakamura got blindsided by Troy Smith, who knocked him out of bounds. In retaliation, Naka-mura threw the ball at the backup quarterback.

On Friday, after picking off Joe Flacco, Walker ran to the quarterback and put the ball close to his face. Flacco angrily swatted the ball out of Walker's outstretched hands.

"Once you walk in between these lines, if you're not on the defensive side of the ball, you are the enemy until we walk off," Walker said. "It's all about being competitive."

One reason the intensity of this camp has been ratcheted up is the addition of receiver Kelley Washington, who isn't shy about showing his confidence.

When he lines up, he is talking trash at cornerbacks. After plays, he has been known to go face mask-to-face mask with defenders. And then, on back-to-back days, he performed his version of Ray Lewis' pre-game dance to celebrate scoring a touchdown.

"You do everything you can do to gain an advantage," Washington said. "I've played with the top receivers - Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Randy Moss. When it came to challenging defensive backs, all of those guys said it's about getting in their heads."

These antics have come as a surprise to many.

Last year, the defense repeatedly needled its teammates, but the offense didn't really respond. And these types of celebrations don't seem to fit coach John Harbaugh's old-fashioned, disciplined approach.

"We want our guys to have a thick skin," Harbaugh said. "If they put one in the end zone on you, you're going to have to watch them celebrate. That's part of the deal."

The verbal jabs aren't only between players. Some coaches - namely quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson - love the give-and-take with players.

When Flacco overthrew an open Demetrius Williams deep down the field, Jackson teased safety Ed Reed by saying, "Ed, you've got nine lives."

Before a snap on the goal line, Jackson warned Lewis, "Coming at you, 52." When the offense committed a false start, Lewis shouted back, "Take it back."

"To be able to compete against those guys on defense each and every day, you have to be on your game," Jackson said. "You can't talk the ball up the field. You have to hit the ball up the field and have some intensity doing it."

For the most part, the heated exchanges serve a dual purpose. The talk not only gets under the other player's skin, but it's also a form of self-motivation.

"When you say something, you got to be able to back it up," Walker said. "It elevates your play."

When emotions settle after practice, the players and coaches say it's about having fun and breaking up the monotony.

Jackson has even told players that he would back off if the banter got to be too much. Nobody has asked him to stop, he said.

"I don't think anybody takes it personal; I love all of our players and our coaches," Jackson said. "But I think there is something about competing. I don't think you can play football very quietly. You got to have some bark with the bite."

Baltimore Sun reporter Edward Lee contributed to this article.

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