Ravens informal workouts more about PR than TDs

May 24, 2011|Peter Schmuck

It won't be football season for at least three months — if there is a pro football season at all — but the NFL lockout already has created a vacuum that insists on being filled.

That's one of the many reasons that 27 Ravens took the field at Johnny Unitas Stadium Tuesday morning for the first of three days of informal conditioning and offensive drills, though they would rather you view the union-sanctioned workouts purely as a way to sustain team unity and give the team's recent draft choices a peek at the playbook.

It's also the reason superstar Ray Lewis sat down with ESPN's Sal Paolantonio recently and created quite a stir with his prediction that a lengthy NFL work stoppage could cause an uptick in street crime across America.

Even though it's baseball season, the media obsession with the NFL labor war has already reached a fever pitch, and Tuesday's workout on the Towson University campus was as much a public relations event as it was a football activity.

"Obviously, we want to try to come out for the fans and show them we are working, that we're not just sitting around on the couch not doing anything and waiting on the CBA,'' said receiver Derrick Mason, who doubles as the Ravens' union rep. "We are working. We understand that this thing could happen at a minute's notice. We go to be ready to get back on the field because the fans want to see us [at our best]. We just want to let the fans know that we are working and we're working hard. It's not our choice to be somewhere else working out. We'd rather be at The Castle, but obviously we can't."

To the credit of most of the players in attendance, they did not spend a lot of time bashing ownership. Most of the comments about the labor dispute were relatively neutral and focused on the hope that the sides come to an agreement soon.

"I try to stay on top of it as much as I can,'' said linebacker Jameel McClain. "I think everybody wants to get back to football on both sides of the ball. We want to get back and the fans want us to get back and hopefully it will be over soon. "

The lack of rancor may just be because the impact of the lockout has not really been felt by the veteran players in any meaningful way. They wouldn't be getting paid right now anyway, and most of them are probably happy to miss an OTA (Organized Team Activity) or two and maybe even a week or so of training camp.

Though Mason did not hide from the PR benefits that derive from a well-publicized three-day UTA (Union Team Activity), he said that was far outweighed by the practical considerations, most notably the importance of assimilating the new players who are not familiar with the way the Ravens go about their business.

"This time is really critical for free agents and rookies,'' Mason said, "and it's just a shame that they are going to miss it."

He was talking about the normal routine at this time of year. The Ravens already would have gone through a pair of OTAs by this point, and rookies such as receivers Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss would be deep into the study of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's passing scheme.

Instead, they ran some simple routes for quarterback Joe Flacco and rookie backup Tyrod Taylor and likely will get some time to go over the playbook with their veteran teammates, many of whom flew into Baltimore for these workouts.

Flacco also acknowledged the elephant in the stadium, but said he's focused more on being ready for the end of the lockout than the nuts and bolts that are holding it in place.

"You try to pay a little bit of attention, but at the same time, you don't want to cloud your mind with it,'' he said. "I'm kind of going and working out and doing my thing, and when we get the call, we get the call and I want to make sure I'm ready for that."

In the meantime, there's a vacuum to fill, and everybody has to do their part.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Listen to Peter Schmuck on "The Week in Review" on Friday's at noon on WBAL (1090AM) and WBAL.com.

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