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Mike Preston: Ravens observations on wisdom from former players, early minicamp standouts and more

Mike Preston, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in Football

The Baltimore Ravens had an old-timers’ convention on the first of three mandatory minicamp practices Tuesday in Owings Mills.

It was great seeing some of the old guys again, including the old guard of offensive linemen Wally Williams, Ben Cavil, Jason Brown, Adam Terry, Herman Arive and Harry Swayne; defensive backs Kim Herring, Duane Starks, Donny Brady and DeRon Jenkins; wide receivers Torrey Smith and Calvin Williams; defensive end Trevor Pryce; outside linebackers Adalius Thomas and Jamie Sharper; and running back Tony Vinson, just to name a few.

Of course, Cavil set the tone.

“Darn man, they still let you in the place?” he said, laughing and pointing at me.

That might be the biggest thing I miss with the current team. Back then, former Ravens owner and the late Art Modell made the local media feel as though they were part of the team.

So, it wasn’t unusual for the beat writers to spend an hour or possibly two in the locker room joking around with players. Sometimes, it was humorous and there were times when we crossed the line, but that was part of the locker room banter. The next day, we’d be at it again.

I used to like sitting around with offensive linemen such as the late Jeff Blackshear, Tony Jones and Orlando Brown and defensive tackle Tony Siragusa, as well as former standouts such as defensive linemen Mike McCrary, Rob Burnett and Sam Adams.

It was a different time, but there was mutual respect. That’s unlike today, when the media is allowed about 45 to 50 minutes per day in the locker room. Back then, it was about building relationships and developing trust.

It was fun listening to some of the old players because they started out at the old facility on the other side of Owings Mills, which was the former Baltimore Colts training facility and Baltimore County police headquarters until the Ravens arrived in 1996.

The older Ravens laughed and joked about the current facility and remarked how it looked like a castle. They commented on how soft these minicamp practices were and how the current Ravens spend more time in team sessions than individual breakdowns. They talked about how the game had changed, especially on defense, and how there were no longer any more “big butt” tackles such as Siragusa and Adams, and how offenses were more schemed toward individual matchups instead of overloads.

But it was Wally Williams who had the best story. He recounted how the team moved from Cleveland to Baltimore and Modell still didn’t have a name for the team. So the Ravens came out wearing white pants with black jerseys with no names on the back.

They looked like the old penitentiary team in the movie “The Longest Yard,” starring Burt Reynolds. The only thing missing was the chant of “Mean Machine, Mean Machine, Mean Machine.”

Those were the good old days.

Wide receiver turns heads

Undrafted rookie wide receiver Isaiah Washington from Rutgers turned a few heads Tuesday with three over-the-shoulder catches down the left sideline, including two over the back shoulder.

 

He once beat rookie cornerback T.J. Tampa, the fourth-round pick from Iowa State, and also wrestled a pass away from fourth-year cornerback Ka’dar Hollman. Of course, this is only practice and the cornerbacks don’t really want to contend for completions, but Washington’s concentration was impressive.

Top tight ends

It’s entertaining to watch Ravens tight ends Isaiah Likely and Mark Andrews. Both had great one-handed receptions on passes by quarterback Lamar Jackson that were either thrown too high or too far ahead.

Andrews hasn’t slowed down one bit. He still practices as hard as former Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis, and Likely had a breakout season a year ago filling in for Andrews when he missed seven games with an ankle injury.

Offensive coordinator Todd Monken has to find a way to get both of these guys on the field at the same time. They create too many mismatches.

Lamar Jackson watch

Jackson had a sporadic performance Tuesday. In a real game situation, he would have had two interceptions returned for a touchdown.

On one, he threw extremely late into the end zone and cornerback Arthur Maulet read the pass and would have taken it 100 yards to the house. On another, he threw an errant pass to tight end Charlie Kolar, which middle linebacker Roquan Smith tipped and would have probably scored on as well.

Jackson threw one other interception that would have been a touchdown for the defense, but it wasn’t his fault. Running back Derrick Henry bobbled a pass in the left flat, and cornerback Brandon Stephens intercepted and basically went 20 yards untouched for the score.

Overall, it was not one of Jackson’s better days.

Welcome back

Outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy, an 11-year veteran, participated in his first practice of the offseason. I bet he had to use a GPS to find the practice fields.

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©2024 The Baltimore Sun. Visit at baltimoresun.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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