Ravens launch training camp eyeing return trip to playoffs
OWINS MILLS, Md. — On the first day of yet another training camp for 15-year veteran Steve Smith, going through the motions was not an option.
So when a long pass looked to be well out of his reach, Smith dived and made a spectacular grab, securing the ball to his chest before crashing to the ground.
That's the mindset the Ravens brought Thursday to coach John Harbaugh's eight training camp.
"We're here to be good, we're here to get in the playoffs and we're here to win championships," guard Marshal Yanda said. "That's the bar. Everybody that comes in here, even as a young player, you understand that we're going to playoffs and we're going to do good things. That's what's expected."
The ever-enthusiastic Harbaugh wore a huge smile after the three-hour session.
"We had a lot of fun," he said. "It was good for us. It's a good start. We love football. We love to be back at it."
One year earlier, the Ravens had to deal with the pending suspension of running back Ray Rice for domestic abuse — a situation that ultimately worsened when a video surfaced in early September showing him striking his then-fiancee in an elevator.
There are no such distractions at this camp. The focus for the Ravens is to go farther than last year, when they lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in the second round of the postseason.
"The sky is the limit for us," said Justin Forsett, who ran for 1,266 yards after ascending to the starting running back slot in 2014. "We know we have the pieces. Now we just got to put in the work and go out there and do our job."
The first day was not without incident. Top draft pick Breshad Perriman, who's in the running to replace the departed Torrey Smith as the main deep threat for quarterback Joe Flacco, fell on his knee during drills.
"It's not serious. It's all sound," said Harbaugh, adding the wide receiver could return as soon as Friday or on Saturday when the team will practice in pads for the first time.
Projected starting cornerback Lardarius Webb didn't pass the endurance test, although that is not expected to be a lingering issue.
Although the Ravens lost Smith, tight end Owen Daniels and defensive fixtures Haloti Ngata and Pernell McPhee during the offseason, this team appears to have enough talent to give Harbaugh his seventh playoff team in Baltimore.
"They do a great job bringing good guys in and building the team to get better and better," Yanda said. "It seems like it happened this year again. We should be a good football team."
The 35-31 loss to New England still stings, mainly because Baltimore twice blew a 14-point lead. But it's time to move on.
"It always hurts losing a playoff game, but the way we lost was very disappointing," linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. "When you're so close and the team goes on to win the championship, it just shows how close you were. But that's history. It's 2015 and we're excited for this year."
This summer, the Ravens won't have to deal with questions about Rice and suspensions. It's all about football.
"I know we had a distraction last year," Flacco said, "but we did a good job of putting that behind us."