Troops Are In Ravens' Camp



500 Armed Forces Members Turn Out For The Team's Military Appreciation Day

August 20, 2009|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,

Continuing a strong relationship between the Ravens and the U.S. armed forces, approximately 500 uniformed members attended the team's Military Appreciation Day at Wednesday's training camp.

After practice, the Ravens invited the military personnel to encircle their huddle.

"We thank you for everything you do," Ravens coach John Harbaugh told them. "We can't thank you enough."

Last year was the first time the Ravens held this event, and it drew about 50 military members. This year, the team saw about 10 times as many turn out, enough to fill a couple of bleacher sections.

After a two-hour practice in the afternoon heat, the players talked with the military personnel, signed autographs and posed for pictures.

"The response you get from them is amazing, about how you're their heroes," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "What they don't realize is that we look at them as our heroes. They've dedicated their lives to dying for our country, if that's what it takes. When you see them, it's very heartfelt."

Harbaugh has a close bond with the U.S. armed forces. Last month, he was part of the inaugural NFL-USO Coaches Tour in the Persian Gulf, where he met nearly 6,000 troops on the morale-boosting trip.

"Coach Harbaugh preaches how hard these guys work overseas," said undrafted linebacker Tony Fein, an Iraq war veteran. "We're very appreciative of what those guys do, and I know on a firsthand basis."

Mason honors McNair

Wide receiver Derrick Mason will wear No. 9 during practice for the rest of the season as a tribute to Steve McNair, a former teammate and a close friend who was murdered last month.

Mason, who will continue to go with No. 85 in games, made the switch at Wednesday's practice. McNair suited up in the Ravens' No. 9 jersey for two seasons until he retired in April 2008.

Mason declined to comment through a spokesman.

No talk of retiring numbers

Even before the recent tirade by New York Jets coach and former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, Ravens officials said they haven't discussed the matter of retiring numbers.

The Ravens are one of five NFL teams (the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders are the others) that have yet to retire a jersey number.

If the Ravens chose to do so, the first candidate would probably be Jonathan Ogden, the all-but-certain future Hall of Fame offensive lineman who was the team's first draft pick. He wore No. 75, a number no one has used since.

"I think it's more out of respect," team president Dick Cass said of no one wearing Ogden's number since he retired in June 2008.

"Ed Carroll [the equipment manager] just isn't about to issue it."

End zone

Chris Chester, who is currently the starting right guard, limped into the locker room late in practice with a right leg injury ... Free safety Ed Reed went back to wearing a red jersey, a strange move for a noncontact practice. ... Wide receiver Mark Clayton continued to work off to the side, running at half speed while catching passes. Other players who didn't practice: linebacker-defensive end Terrell Suggs (heel), backup inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (right knee) and reserve offensive tackle Stefan Rodgers (right leg). ... Three injured wide receivers (Demetrius Williams, Yamon Figurs and Biren Ealy) returned to practice. ... In one-on-one drills between the wide receivers and cornerbacks, the offense completed 12 of 17 passes including five for touchdowns. ... The Ravens placed wide receiver Marcus Smith, who has a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, on injured reserve.

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