Ravens OTAs are underway
I know. Big deal, right? Championships aren’t won before Memorial Day. But they have OTAs for a reason, right?
The Ravens have kicked off their first set of organized team activities this past Tuesday. They will wrap up their first three-day week today. The team will reconvene from June 1-3 an again June 6-9. Minicamp is held from June 14-16. The difference in minicamp and OTAs being that minicamp is mandatory and the days are allowed to be longer. The last day of mandatory minicamps for most teams involves some kind of team building activity to bring to a close the offseason workouts. Teams either take in a day at the movies, bowling alley, John Harbaugh has taken his guys to the Gettysburg battle fields before.
EDIT: 5/26/16, 3:30pm. The Ravens have been docked the June 1-3 days of OTAs for violating the NFL’s CBA when they put players in pads for a brief stint in the rookie minicamp. The organization and John Harbaugh have been fined.
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So what should the Ravens hope to accomplish in OTAs? One answer is to ensure everyone is 100% healthy when training camp begins later this summer. Easier said than done as injuries can be fluke occurrences. We have already seen rookies elsewhere like Jalen Ramsey (JAX) suffer a torn meniscus. Shaq Lawson (BUF) having shoulder surgery after aggravating an injury in bag drills. Maybe players should be permitted to wear pads, even in non-contact drills in order to protect the player’s body parts even more. Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered for these guys. Certainly won’t happen under this CBA, but we’ll see.
Joe Flacco will not be on the field as he continues to rehab his ACL in hopes of being ready to rejoin the club at the beginning of training camp in late July. Get ready for a slew of articles about “Flacco unable to build chemistry with receivers”. That garbage seems to come out every year even when healthy. It’s not like Mark Sanchez playing catch with his guys every year made any improvement in his game.
Ryan Mallett is taking the first team snaps with Jerrod Johnson and Josh Johnson working out behind him.
Eugene Monroe is not at OTAs either as he is out in Las Vegas speaking on a panel called “Breaking Barriers to Medical Marijuana Research.” He posted an article in his own words to The Players Tribune titled “Getting Off the T Train”. “T” standing for Toradol. A pain killer that players can receive before a game, orally or injected, that allows the player to play through pain.
Here is a quote from Monroe on the drug:
“Some guys don’t feel any pain for two days. Of course, that’s the point of these drugs — they block out the pain and reduce inflammation. But they also temporarily mask injury. That’s not a good thing if you get hurt during a game — you might need to address your injuries right away. But you feel nothing, so you do nothing.”
If you read the article, you will find that Monroe is standing up for a cause he truly believes in. He’s done his due diligence, plenty of research, he’s come to some educated conclusions. He’s not advocating strapping a bong to a gas mask with your buddies on a Saturday night for kicks. The addictive nature and harmful side effects of opioid drugs to mask pain seem more detrimental than that of medicinal marijuana. So Monroe wants to see the NFL relax it’s testing on the the drug.
Even if Monroe wasn’t speaking in Vegas, he likely wouldn’t be participating in OTAs while he rehabs a shoulder injury that placed him on IR late in 2015.
The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec noted that he would not expect to see Steve Smith Sr. (Achilles), Terrell Suggs (Achilles) or Jimmy Smith (foot) out there for OTAs. Jeremy Zuttah (Pectoral) and Crockett Gillmore (shoulder) could be doubtful as well. Marshal Yanda and Elvis Dumervil usually do not attend the voluntary workouts.
The Ravens posted a video to their site giving us a sneak peek at the first day of OTAs. Two players with large injury question marks in Breshad Perriman and Dennis Pitta were practicing. A very positive sign for the Ravens and their fans. Veteran newcomers Eric Weddle, Ben Watson, Mike Wallace and Jerraud Powers also practiced.
Also worth noting that Justin Forsett was pictured practicing in full as well. He suffered a broken forearm that ended his 2015 season.
So what else can the Ravens do in the coming weeks, besides try to keep everyone out of the trainer’s room? An important task might be to evaluate the newcomers on the team. Set clear goals you want certain players to achieve before you see them in late July. See who has been hitting the weight room versus who has been hitting the buffet. Motivate where motivation is necessary.
Many teams approach OTAs in a number of different ways. We have heard stories of teams using virtual reality to assist quarterbacks in preparation. This, as opposed to coaches with brooms in their faces forcing them to adjust on the fly. Some teams have adopted robotic tackling dummies as an alternative to the stationary sleds and bags to give some sense of facing a moving object. Some teams emphasize more time in meetings than on the field with a classroom approach. Lowers the risk of injury for sure.
The Ravens are going at it the old fashioned way. Individual drills with stationary sleds and bags. Team non-contact drills in shorts and helmets as one side of the ball tries to beat the other.
What the Ravens have focused on this year is a new approach to nutrition. Long gone are the fried chicken wings and pizza Friday’s at the cafeteria. Instead, fresh fruits and veggies, a bevy of blenders for making nutritious smoothies. They are educating their players in which foods fuel you during a workout and which ones promote recovery.
All of this is well and good. Putting the team in a position to succeed. But the ultimate goal of OTAs is to get to training camp unscathed. Do that, and Ravens fans will have a lot to look forward to. Possibly the most weapons Joe Flacco has ever had at his disposal. Energy on the defense with some youth added to that side of the ball. Position battles all over. Could be an interesting summer coming up for sure.
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]