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Ravens Take Over Annapolis

Aug 05, 2013 04:21PM ● By Cate Reynolds

By Jake Russell

On a picturesque day with temperatures topping off at only 80 degrees, the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens took their talents to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis Sunday in front of an estimated 20,000 fans.

For more than two hours, fans of the purple and black got their first public glimpse of their favorite players like Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, and Torrey Smith during training camp. The team took part in individual and team drills.

Owner Steve Bisciotti and general manager Ozzie Newsome were on hand and greeted fans. Bisciotti even allowed young fans to see and touch his Super Bowl ring.

Despite admitting the field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium was hard on his body compared to the team’s home practice field at Owings Mills, eighth-year defensive tackle Haloti Ngata soaked in the environment.

“It’s good to see the fans watch us practice and interact with them,” Ngata said. “I think it’s great and very productive for us to come out and be with the fans and show them what we’ve been doing.”

For University of Maryland product Torrey Smith, he, too, enjoyed the atmosphere that thousands of fans bring when compared to closed training camp practices that are limited to 200 fans.

“At Owings Mills it’s quiet, a lot of arguing,” Smith said. “Here it’s a little loud, you feel like you’re playing football and it brings the competitive nature out of you. Anytime you get to interact with your fans it’s a blessing and we’re grateful for them.”

Fellow Terp Matt Furstenburg, who signed with the Ravens as an undrafted rookie free agent in April, liked the pace the practice in Annapolis brought to the team.

“It was a nice changeup,” he said. “The fans were out there – a lot more people. It was a better environment – a little changeup to make you feel better.”

“We started camp in Gettysburg, and now we’re moving through Annapolis, so that should say it all,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “We’ve got great respect for the military – the Navy, the Marines, in particular. Of course, the Army and the Air Force, as well. We just really feel strongly about who the heroes are in our country. We understand that the freedom we enjoy to make all of our dreams come true – the American Dream – is made real by the sacrifices that are made by the American heroes in our military all over the world. We understand that. Coming here is a small way for us to say, ‘Thanks.’ It’s important for us to do that.”

Even though this is the second summer the Ravens have practiced in Annapolis, this year’s team has quite a different feel with so much roster turnover, led by the departure of leaders Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.

“We all have something to prove year in and year out,” said prized offseason acquisition Elvis Dumervil, who is making the transition from 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 linebacker. “I think the culture and the era [Lewis] left behind – the legacy – I think it’s amazing. I think hopefully I can learn some of the stuff that he did and I can help my game.”

For Ngata, there is no added pressure to step up and fill Lewis’ leadership role.

“We’ve got Sizzle (Terrell Suggs). We’ve got a lot of leaders everywhere,” Ngata said. “Michael Huff, Elvis Dumervil, Chris Canty, Marcus Spears… guys that have been in the league for a while. It doesn’t fall on one person. You have leadership throughout the whole defense.”

On the offensive side of the ball the biggest change came following the trade of Anquan Boldin.

Now the newly anointed number one receiver, Smith does not feel that Boldin’s departure has forced him to change his approach to the game.

“It’s no different for me,” Smith said. “I tell people all the time I’m a receiver for the Baltimore Ravens. My job description doesn’t change. The biggest thing is guys respect me in a different way and it’s weird because we’re all like the same age. I know I have a little bit different role in terms of being a leader in our room and trying to do things the right way but it’s no different than anything I was doing before. I was trying to lead by example and do the right things.”