Kevin Cowherd: New Ravens have team breathing easier

August 21, 2011|Kevin Cowherd

Judging by the smiling faces and relentless trash-talking going on, it was Camp Happy for the Ravens at the Castle on Sunday, even with practice moved indoors because of the apocalyptic-looking thunderstorms moving through Owings Mills.

No, it wouldn't do to have a player fried by a bolt of lightning during, say, a routine 7-on-7 drill. So coach John Harbaugh wisely moved the team into the indoor facility, which is the size of a NATO air base and about as cozy.

As the storm raged outside, a few members of the media speculated on whether we were about to witness something like what happened to the Dallas Cowboys a couple of years ago, when their indoor practice "bubble" collapsed during a storm and falling debris injured players and staffers.

Yes, this is the kind of thing reporters do to kill time. I know it's sick. But you deserve the truth.

On the other hand, the Ravens' indoor facility looks strong enough to withstand an assault from heavy artillery, never mind a late-summer storm. And anyway, midway through the two-hour-plus practice, the sun was back out and the skies over the Castle looked so blue you thought you were in Montego Bay.

Meanwhile, the ridiculous mini controversy over whether the Ravens piled it on in their 31-13 preseason win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Friday had finally abated, which was a good thing.

As you'll recall, Chiefs coach Todd Haley mean-mugged Harbaugh during the traditional post-game handshake, upset that the Ravens had called a couple of timeouts in the final minute of the game and scored a touchdown with five seconds left.

By the time he met the Kansas City media for his post-game remarks, though, Haley had apparently regained his senses. This is why coaches need a cooling-off period even more than players.

How could any NFL coach ask another coach to dial it back in a preseason game when you have all these rookies and free agents desperately trying to make the team?

How could you ask those players no to go for it when they have a chance to shine and score a touchdown and maybe nail down a roster spot?

Mercifully, though, Harbaugh didn't have to field even one question Sunday about Haley's post-game wig-out, which might have explained his good mood.

Another reason was that Ray Lewis was back with the team, the All-World middle linebacker having returned from helping his family deal with an aunt's illness.

Harbaugh revealed that No. 52 had led the team in a Sunday prayer and blessing, and when I heard that, I thought: Maybe that explains what's going on with this team.

Maybe Lewis put in a good word with the Man Upstairs, because look at all this team has done to improve itself recently.

The Ravens needed a blocking back and went out and got Vonta Leach, who was only the best fullback in the NFL. Did you see him take that short pass from Joe Flacco against the Chiefs and level their linebacker Brandon Siler? Siler, he must've thought he was hit by a Ford F-150.

Sure, Leach's helmet flew off and rolled 10 yards. But it was Siler who looked like he was in la-la land.

Then the Ravens needed a running back to spell Ray Rice, and they signed Ricky Williams, who rushed for 1,121 yards two years ago with the Miami Dolphins and is still thought to have plenty left in the tank.

And finally the Ravens needed a veteran wide receiver to stretch the field, and they landed Lee Evans from the Buffalo Bills. And all he did was haul in three catches for 68 yards in the first half against the Chiefs, including a 43-yarder that led to the Ravens' first touchdown.

Just like that, three important needs were addressed. And when the last of the moves was made, when Evans was in the fold, you could almost see the Ravens coaching staff take a deep breath and relax, which Harbaugh all but admitted Sunday.

"You see those so-called question marks answered," he said. "And then to see them go out there [against the Chiefs] and play well — that's a good feeling.

"And they're such good guys. They're legitimately good, humble people who are really happy to be here."

So no wonder it was Camp Happy at the Castle on Sunday. Things were looking up for the Ravens. Their leader, the great Ray Lewis, was back. And heading into their third preseason game against the Washington Redskins on Thursday, the Ravens were a far stronger team than they were a week before.

And the rest of the NFL knew it.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

Listen to Kevin Cowherd at 7:20 a.m. Tuesdays on 105.7 The Fan's "Norris and Davis Show."

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