AFC North: Baltimore Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens have gone to the Arena League to add more depth to their secondary.

The Ravens signed defensive back Marrio Norman and waived wide receiver Gerrard Sheppard.

Norman, who turns 28 next month, played the past two seasons for the Cleveland Gladiators and Georgia Force. At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, Norman played both safety and cornerback in college while at Coastal Carolina.

He had tried out for the Ravens earlier this year but wasn't signed. The Ravens have grown thin at cornerback since Aaron Ross suffered a season-ending Achilles injury and Lardarius Webb has missed more time than expected with a back injury.

Sheppard, who played at nearby Towson in college, spent last season on the Ravens' practice squad.
One of the last things that Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees wants to see is deep passes completed against his players. So what happens in the first week of training camp?

Joe Flacco rediscovers his touch on downfield throws against the Ravens defense. Reducing big plays was a priority for the Ravens defense entering camp, and it's become a major point of emphasis since watching passes sail over the heads of defenders.

"Look, Joe's a hell of a quarterback," Pees said. "We've got a hell of a group of receivers. We're going to see a hell of a group of receivers all year. It's going to happen. They're going to throw some comebacks on you. They're going to throw some balls underneath. What we can't do is give up balls over the top. I'm a little disappointed in the first few days. We've got to do better than that."

To put in perspective how much big passing plays hurt the Ravens, their defense ranked in the bottom three in the league in completion percentage, completions and touchdowns allowed on throws that traveled in the air for at least 40 yards.

The Ravens watched quarterbacks complete over half of those 40 yard-plus passes -- 53.8 percent, to be exact -- on their secondary. They gave up seven completions on such throws (only the New York Jets and Detroit Lions allowed more), including four that went for touchdowns (which tied the Jets for most in the NFL).

"The one thing everybody's disappointed in is the big plays," secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "The one thing about having the responsibility of being in the secondary, whether you're coaching or playing in it, is ultimately on a pass play that is deep, it falls on those guys. We take it personally. We talked about it this morning, as a matter of fact -- the pride of not giving up deep pass completions, even out here in practice. We don't want to do that. I told the guys we don't care if it's a walk-through, a jog-through or full speed -- you don't want to allow it."

The Ravens' secondary has changed since last season. They didn't re-sign safety James Ihedigbo and currently have Darian Stewart penciled in as the replacement. Corey Graham, the No. 3 cornerback last season, is also gone, and there's a battle between Chykie Brown, Asa Jackson and Dominique Franks to fill that spot.

Despite the changes, the returning players say communication and continuity won't be a problem.

"Honestly, I think the chemistry with our back end already is better than it was last year in training camp with the new guys, to me," cornerback Jimmy Smith said. "We understand each other, we talk, and [Spagnuolo] does a great job in meetings. He takes time in meetings to make sure everybody gets what we're doing, and everybody can work off each other. That makes all of our defensive players, our DBs at least, communicate a lot better and be more focused on details and the right technique more than on your talent, or how fast you are.”

Giving up big plays has been a bad trend for the Ravens defense. Some might assume the biggest problem was not bringing back Ed Reed after the Super Bowl season. But the Ravens actually gave up more passes over 40 yards (nine) in 2012 than they did last season.

The Ravens will get tested early. Their season opening opponent is Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, who led the NFL last season with seven completions on throws that traveled at least 40 yards in the air.

How will the Ravens cut down on the big plays? By using their eyes better.

"If you're in man coverage, your eyes are on your man until he's running down the sideline, then you can turn and look for the ball. If you're playing zone, you've got to read your quarterback and feel the guy in your vision," Pees said. "We're not making mental mistakes. When we get beat deep, generally it's your eyes."

Ravens Camp Report: Day 5

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Baltimore Ravens training camp:

  • Wide receiver Torrey Smith made the catch of camp, when he pulled in a high Joe Flacco throw with one hand. For most of camp, Steve Smith had stolen the spotlight from Torrey Smith. But Torrey Smith showed off his athleticism with that catch during the red zone drill.
  • Safety Matt Elam became the first to intercept Flacco in this year's camp. He nearly paid a price for it, though. Owner Steve Bisciotti playfully drove his golf cart onto the field and nearly hit Elam to stop him from reaching the end zone on the return.
  • Running back Justin Forsett has an impressive burst. If you didn't know it, he put it on display when he caught a short slant and beat four defenders to score a touchdown. Forsett is a smallish back who is competing with rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro for the No. 3 running back spot.
  • Cornerback Chykie Brown struggled mightily in the first week of camp. After sitting out yesterday with a tweaked hamstring, he came back and broke up two passes. The extra rest may have helped him refocus mentally. His biggest mistake of the night was a defensive holding penalty.
  • A little more than 28,000 fans attended the Ravens' practice at M&T Bank Stadium on Monday night. It was the team's first workout at the stadium in this year's camp.
  • Ray Lewis made an appearance at the stadium and revealed what his statue may look like during an on-field interview. He said the statue, which will be placed in the same plaza as Johnny Unitas, will feature him doing his signature dance. It will be unveiled at some point this year.
  • Schedule: The Ravens have their first day off on Tuesday. They return to practice Wednesday at 1 p.m.
  • Injury wire: Brown (tweaked hamstring) returned after missing one day of practice. ... CB Lardarius Webb (back) missed his third practice. ... DE Chris Canty (family issue) was the only other starter who didn't practice. ... Will Rackley (head) and OT Parker Graham (groin) also didn't practice. ... NT Terrence Cody (hip) is on the physically unable to perform list.
BALTIMORE -- Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has received a negative backlash from national media and fans since his altercation with then-fiancée Janay Palmer in February.

But, in his home stadium, Rice apparently remains one of the most popular players on the team.

On two separate instances, fans gave loud cheers when Rice was shown on the big screen at M&T Bank Stadium, where the Ravens held their first open practice of training camp.

The first time was when Rice had a playful race with a small child along the sidelines. By the time Rice reached the end, which was a few feet from the stands, many fans gave him a standing ovation.

A few minutes later, Rice was again shown on the large video board. When fans cheered him, Rice tapped his chest.

There were many fans wearing Rice's No. 27 jersey, including several children.

Rice was suspended two games by the NFL on Thursday, and he didn't appeal the decision. He will miss the season opener against the AFC North defending champion Cincinnati Bengals and a Thursday night game against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers.

“It is disappointing that I will not be with my teammates for the first two games of the season, but that’s my fault," Rice said in a statement released by the team on Thursday. "As I said earlier, I failed in many ways. But, Janay and I have learned from this. We have become better as a couple and as parents. I am better because of everything we have experienced since that night. The counseling has helped tremendously.

“My goal is to earn back the trust of the people, especially the children, I let down because of this incident. I am a role model and I take that responsibility seriously. My actions going forward will show that.”

Rice is scheduled to speak to reporters on Thursday.
Joe Flacco continues to be the face of bad contracts for quarterbacks, and it's just wrong to continue this narrative.

When Grantland named the starter for the Baltimore Ravens its choice at quarterback on the All-Bad Contracts Team, it was another instance of forgetting the deals signed by Tony Romo and Jay Cutler since. If Flacco's contract is the worst, how would you describe the bigger contracts given to two quarterbacks who haven't accomplished as much as Flacco?

In terms of guaranteed money, Romo ($55 million) and Cutler ($54 million) top Flacco's $51 million. And, to put this in perspective, the Ravens rewarded Flacco with his big deal after he was the Super Bowl's Most Valuable Player. Romo and Cutler were given this type of money after failing to lead their teams to the playoffs.

Flacco's 62 regular-season wins are the most by a starting quarterback in his first six seasons in NFL history. Before you say he was the beneficiary of playing on great teams, 35 of those wins came when Flacco produced a passer rating of at least 95.

In comparison, since Flacco entered the league in 2008, Cutler has 47 wins and Romo has 44. In Cutler's eight seasons, he has finished with a winning record as a starter three times.

Where Flacco separates himself is in the playoffs. While many remember Flacco's Montana-like Super Bowl run two years ago, he has been a hot quarterback in the postseason beyond that.

In his past three playoff seasons (2010-2012), Flacco has a 6-2 record with a 105 passer rating. He has averaged 251 passing yards per game with 18 touchdowns and two interceptions. He also came within a Lee Evans dropped pass from leading the Ravens to back-to-back Super Bowl appearances.

This overshadows the likes of Romo and Cutler. Romo has a career 1-3 record in the playoffs, and Cutler is 1-1 in the postseason.

This isn't to suggest that Flacco's contract is a good one. He would be the first to acknowledge he didn't live up to the six-year, $120.6 million deal last season, when he threw the second-most interceptions in the league.

But his contract isn't as gaudy as it was 17 months ago, when he became the NFL's highest-paid player. Flacco now ranks seventh in the league in guaranteed money.

Still, the perception remains that Flacco's contract is the worst in NFL history. The fact is, worse deals have been given to quarterbacks over the past year.
Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice did not appeal his two-game suspension from the NFL, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

This move was not a surprise considering Rice received a lighter punishment than expected. Rice, who was suspended Thursday, had three days to appeal the decision.

Rice will miss the season opener against the AFC North defending champion Cincinnati Bengals and a Thursday night game against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers. He can participate in training camp and all the preseason games. Rice, though, won't be able to practice with the team from Aug. 30 to Sept. 11.

Bernard Pierce, the team's top backup running back, said he is ready to fill in for Rice.

Rice's suspension stems from an altercation with then-fiancée Janay Palmer at an Atlantic City hotel in February. He also was fined an additional regular-season game check.

"It is disappointing that I will not be with my teammates for the first two games of the season, but that's my fault," Rice said in a statement released by the Ravens last week. "As I said earlier, I failed in many ways. But, Janay and I have learned from this. We have become better as a couple and as parents. I am better because of everything we have experienced since that night. The counseling has helped tremendously.

"My goal is to earn back the trust of the people, especially the children, I let (them) down because of this incident," Rice said. "I am a role model and I take that responsibility seriously. My actions going forward will show that."

Rice is scheduled to address the media on Thursday.
Examining the Baltimore Ravens' roster:

Quarterbacks (3)

Flacco is the Ravens' starter for the seventh straight season, and Taylor will be the backup for the fourth year in a row. They've taken a majority of the reps in the first week of training camp. Wenning, a rookie sixth-round pick, is making a slow transition into the Ravens' offense. Let's keep him on the roster for now. But he's definitely on the bubble at this point.

Running backs (4)

Rice, Pierce and Juszczyk are locks to make the team. Taliaferro is a near certainty as well, based on the fact that he's a fourth-round pick. Rice has been suspended for the first two games of the season, which allows the Ravens to carry Forsett.

Receivers (5)

Torrey Smith, Steve Smith, Brown and Jones are going to make the roster, although Brown has struggled all offseason and for the first week of camp. The tough question is whether the Ravens will carry five or six receivers, because Butler, Michael Campanaro, Deonte Thompson and LaQuan Williams could all be competing for one spot. Butler, an undrafted rookie out of Tennessee-Martin, was the most impressive player from this group in the offseason workouts. Campanaro, a seventh-round pick, has shown off his quickness in training camp. If there is no room for him on the roster, Campanaro could be placed on injured reserve at the end of the preseason and get essentially redshirted.

Tight ends (3)

No major decisions at this position. The Ravens' top three tight ends are guaranteed to make the team, barring injury. Pitta, though, is clearly the No. 1 tight end. Daniels hasn't been sharp early in training camp. Phillip Supernaw, who was added after an offseason tryout, has a history with offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak in Houston and has an outside shot to earn a spot because this is an offense that uses a lot of tight ends.

Offensive linemen (9)

Monroe, Osemele, Zuttah and Yanda are the guaranteed starters, and Wagner has been solid as the new starting right tackle. During offseason workouts, Gradkowski was the top backup at center while Shipley and Jensen have been the second-team guards. Jah Reid makes his way on the 53-man projected roster after coming to camp in the best shape of his career. He's the top backup at tackle now. John Urschel, a rookie fifth-round pick, would go on the practice squad if he doesn't make the team.

Defensive linemen (7)

Ngata, Canty and Williams have been the starters to begin training camp. Jernigan and Urban, two rookie draft picks, have impressed coaches early in camp. Tyson earned more playing time after showing flashes last season, and Lewis-Moore has generated buzz this offseason. This would leave out Terrence Cody, a second-round pick in 2010 who is currently on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.


There won't be much change here because the Ravens return every linebacker from last season's team. The only addition is Mosley, the No. 17 overall pick in this year's draft. Because the Ravens aren't expected to keep 10 linebackers, the biggest decision is whether to keep Bynes or Albert McClellan, who has made the team the past three seasons.

Cornerbacks (5)

After the starting duo of Smith and Webb, there is a major dropoff. The Ravens took a hit when veteran Aaron Ross tore his Achilles while taking the conditioning test for camp. The other veteran backup, Dominique Franks, has yet to pass the conditioning test. That leaves Chykie Brown, who has struggled, and Asa Jackson battling for the No. 3 spot. There's a good chance that the Ravens will sign a veteran who is released at the end of the preseason. For now, the last spot will go to an undrafted rookie. Olatoye edges out Tremain Jacobs.

Safeties (5)

Elam and Stewart have been the starters to open training camp. Miles and Levine have been getting the most reps with the second team. Brooks, a rookie third-round pick, has been a mild disappointment because many expected him to compete for a starting job. He still makes the team because of his upside. The Ravens can keep Hill on the suspended list. He isn't eligible to play in the regular season until the middle of October, when the Ravens would have to make a decision on him.

Specialists (3)

There is no drama on special teams. Tucker, Koch and Cox team up for the third straight season.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Bernard Pierce learned how much attention is paid to an NFL starting running back after looking on Twitter following Saturday's practice.

It was reported that Pierce had walked off the field with a team doctor 30 minutes before practice ended, causing social media in Baltimore to explode. Pierce's Twitter account was overrun with comments such as "You suck" and "You're soft." Pierce, who left early because of effects from the heat, said he couldn't believe the response and blocked several critical fans.

His injury status, weight and play during training camp has been put under the microscope. He's no longer the backup running back. With Ray Rice suspended for two games, the Ravens are looking for Pierce to carry the load in the running game.

"I just want to show that I'm dependable and I can be counted on," said Pierce, who has one career start. "I just need a chance."

The biggest question is Pierce's durability, which is why not finishing practice Saturday became the news of the day. In his two-year career, he's been on the injury report for 10 weeks for back, ankle, knee, thigh and toe issues.

What often gets forgotten is Pierce has never missed a game. He played with a right shoulder injury last year that needed surgery after the season.

"It was pretty painful," he said. "That's what we've signed up for. You have to play through it."

Even though Pierce was limited throughout offseason workouts because of the shoulder surgery, he has been full speed all during training camp. He came out of Saturday's contact practice with no setbacks.

"My mindset coming out for the first day of camp is that I can't think about it," Pierce said. "When you start to think about, you start playing outside your game. So, it was just full go for me. The first time I had an inside run, it was head on into the pile. You can't think about it at all."

Pierce has been the most impressive running back through the first week of camp, and it's the result of hard work this offseason. After the shoulder surgery, Pierce's weight had increased to an "embarrassingly" 248 pounds. Now, he's down to 222 pounds.

The weight loss is most evident in Pierce's elusiveness in between the tackles. He can make better lateral cuts because he doesn't feel the weight as much on his knees.

"He has seized the opportunity," coach John Harbaugh said. "He's gotten himself prepared for this challenge in front him. He understands he's got a test in front of him. This is it right now."

The Ravens are not only trying to rebound from the worst rushing season in their history but they're learning a new running scheme. Under new coordinator Gary Kubiak, running backs are expected to show patience with the zone blocking before making one cut and head upfield.

This change is not much of a transition for Pierce. He ran in a similar system while at Temple.

"It's just trying to get the hang of it one more time again," he said.

Pierce, a third-round pick in 2012, played a key role in the Ravens' Super Bowl run as a rookie. Like many on the Ravens' offense last year, he didn't live up to heightened expectations.

He struggled mightily last season and wasn't decisive in hitting the line. He had 44 more carries than his rookie season but finished with 96 fewer yards. His yards per carry average dropped from 4.9 in 2012 to 2.9 in 2013.

"It definitely is motivating and also was humbling coming from the year before," Pierce said. "I think everybody's intentions this year is to climb back up the chart and show everybody that we can get this run game started and we're still the Ravens from 2012."
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Now that the Baltimore Ravens know they will be without Ray Rice for two games, they have to figure out who will be replacing him at running back when they face the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Rice is coming off the worst season of his career, averaging 3.1 yards per carry last season. But he clearly remains the team's best running back.

The Ravens' top choice to fill in for Rice is Bernard Pierce. A year ago, he appeared to be on the verge of a breakout season after being a key factor in the Ravens' Super Bowl run. Then, just like Rice last season, Pierce struggled mightily, averaging 2.9 yards per carry -- second worst in the NFL among qualifying running backs.

Pierce, who was limited all offseason after having shoulder surgery, looked to be in good shape as the Ravens opened training camp this week. Still, Pierce has one career start in the NFL.

“I’m very confident in Bernard. I've always liked Bernard," coach John Harbaugh said. "He's a heck of a player. He’s worked very hard, he’s 217 pounds, [and] he's in the best shape of his life. He looked good out here the last couple of days. We'll know more by Tuesday once we get the pads on and seeing him move with the pads on and how the shoulder holds up -- that'll be important."

There are other question marks in the backfield after the Ravens were unable to lure the likes of Chris Johnson and LeGarrette Blount in free agency.

The Ravens' biggest free-agent addition at running back was Justin Forsett. He's been impressive in offseason practices with his elusiveness and burst. The Ravens consider him underrated, and he's the only back who has a familiarity with Gary Kubiak's offense. But there are concerns about the durability of Forsett, a smallish back who had a grand total of six carries last season for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The other options for Baltimore is rookie fourth-round pick Lorenzo Taliaferro. Unlike Forsett, Taliaferro is a big, power back. The challenge for Taliaferro is adjusting to the NFL after playing for Coastal Carolina.

"I have a lot of confidence in all of our guys," Harbaugh said.

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- There has been sweeping criticism since news broke Thursday that Baltimore running back Ray Rice was suspended for two games after he allegedly knocked his then-fiancée unconscious this offseason.

Two games? That amounts to losing Rice to a tweaked hamstring.

But the sole argument shouldn't be that the NFL was too easy on Rice. It's also a fact the league hasn't been harsher on domestic violence issues in the past.

Rice's punishment only falls in line with the league's disappointing track record on this issue.

[+] EnlargeRice
Rob Carr/Getty Images"My goal is to earn back the trust of the people, especially the children, I let down because of this incident," Ray Rice said in a statement.
There's a precedent for first-time offenders like Rice. Many first-time offenders don't get a suspension of any kind, and many get suspended for less than a month if they are disciplined. In the past three years, only 12 players received more than four-game suspensions, and all violated league policy multiple times.

What worked in Rice's favor is Janay Palmer standing by his side in court, at his debacle of a news conference in May and at his face-to-face meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Palmer even married Rice a day after he was indicted by a grand jury in March on third-degree aggravated assault.

This isn't being an apologist for Rice. Goodell simply followed form.

"I believe that you are sincere in your desire to learn from this matter and move forward toward a healthy relationship and successful career," Goodell said in a letter to Rice.

Goodell certainly could have delivered a stronger message with Rice and made an example out of him for the rest of the league's players. But if Goodell had suspended Rice for eight games or the entire season, it would be difficult to see that punishment sticking.

Rice would have undoubtedly appealed a harsher suspension because no first-time offender of domestic violence has ever received such a punishment. He could cite two former Ravens, Fabian Washington and Cary Williams, who were suspended a combined three games after being charged with domestic violence. Rice could point to the discipline handed out to wide receiver Brandon Marshall in 2008, when the Denver Broncos wide receiver was suspended only three games (later reduced to one) after multiple domestic disputes.

Rice's punishment goes beyond the suspension and fine. It includes the tarnishing of his reputation. For six years, he had worked hard to build his character in the locker room and the community, becoming the spokesman for the area's anti-bullying campaign.

Now, Rice will be forever linked to domestic violence. Opposing fans won't let him forget about it whenever he walks into another team's stadium. Even fans in Baltimore will have trouble looking at Rice without thinking about that TMZ video in which he dragged Janay out of the elevator.

"As I said earlier, I failed in many ways," Rice said in a statement. “My goal is to earn back the trust of the people, especially the children, I let down because of this incident. I am a role model and I take that responsibility seriously. My actions going forward will show that.”

Domestic violence isn't isolated to the Ravens or Rice. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune database, 21 of 32 teams last year had a player on their roster who had a domestic or sexual violence charge on their record.

Perhaps until the league changes its sorry track record on this issue, it will continue to be a widespread problem in the league.

Ravens Camp Report: Day 1

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- A daily look at what happened at Baltimore Ravens training camp:

  • Wide receiver Steve Smith put on a show in his first training camp practice with the Ravens. He started by faking out cornerback Lardarius Webb to get open for an out route and then beat Chykie Brown and Webb again on deep passes. The Ravens expected Smith to raise the intensity level of practice when they signed him as a free agent. He certainly didn't disappoint.
  • Quarterback Joe Flacco didn't have the smoothest of days. The Ravens are hoping he gets to the point where the ball is out of his hands on the fifth step of his dropback. He held on to the ball too long and he wasn't sharp on passes. Flacco even had a screen pass knocked down by Haloti Ngata. This shouldn't be a shock. It took Flacco some time to get his rhythm in this new offense in the offseason.
  • Coach John Harbaugh raved about how his players are in such good shape, and that's true for the most part. The biggest concern is outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw. This isn't a new concern because he has struggled with his weight in the past. Upshaw looked even bigger since he practiced at last month's minicamp. The challenge for Upshaw is eating healthy. There were times Thursday when he was taking a knee between reps to catch his breath.
  • Arthur Brown, a second-round pick from a year ago, was running with the starters at inside linebacker, alongside Daryl Smith. The favorite, though, remains first-round pick C.J. Mosley, who was working with the first team at the end of last month's minicamp. Mosley has been the most impressive rookie in this year's draft class.
  • In terms of the offensive line, the right tackle battle looks like it's between Rick Wagner and Jah Reid. Ryan Jensen worked at tackle during the offseason, but that experiment appears to be over. Reid, who missed most of the spring workouts with a calf injury, practiced with the second team at right tackle.
  • Schedule: The Ravens' practice on Friday begins at 10 a.m. Their first contact practice is Saturday. Coach John Harbaugh, secondary/assistant head coach Steve Spagnuolo and cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb will speak to the media following practice.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- If the Ravens want to improve the efficiency of their passing game, quarterback Joe Flacco has to build a rapport with new wide receiver Steve Smith.

So, as Baltimore Ravens training camp opens Thursday, Smith was asked where the chemistry stands with Flacco.

"Do you want me to lie to you or tell you the truth?," Smith asked.

When the reporter said the truth, Smith said, "Honestly, for me, I’ve been catching passes for quarterbacks for a lot of years, and I’ve been running routes for a lot of years. If you throw me the ball, there’s no chemistry. You throw me the ball [and if] it’s catchable, I’m going to snag it. That’s what practice is going to be there for. Practice is there to make mistakes, to understand what I need to do and how Joe operates. Then, my job at the end of the day is to make him look good.”

Where Smith needs to make Flacco look good is on the intermediate routes.

Since 2011, Smith has caught 99 passes of at least 15 yards, which is the third-most in the NFL over that span. Last season, the Ravens had 77 completions of at least 15 yards, which was the seventh-fewest in the league.

Flacco said he's been most impressed with Smith's ability to catch the ball.

"He catches everything with his hands, and he does a great job doing it," Flacco said. "He is strong to the ball, even though he’s not very high in stature. He is just strong to the ball and his hands are really, really good.”

Steve Smith's effectiveness in the intermediate routes should compliment Torrey Smith's ability to catch passes deep downfield.

When asked what type of combination he makes with Torrey Smith, Steve Smith said, "I think you can call us, ‘The Law Firm: Smith, Smith & Associates.’”

Did Steve Smith just come up with that nickname?

“I’m pretty quick-witted, so I did actually come up with that."
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The biggest challenge for many rookies is adjusting to the speed of the NFL. Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, on the other hand, believes he can speed up his game in training camp.

That's why the Baltimore Ravens' first-round pick has circled Saturday on his schedule. It's the first day of full-contact practices in this year's camp.

[+] EnlargeRavens' C.J. Mosley
AP PhotoRavens first-round pick C.J. Mosley believes that he will be able to play faster in training camp.
“One thing that I always had going into wherever I played at was just me being fast to the ball and making plays in the passing game or running sideline-to-sideline making tackles," Mosley said. "One of the good things when I get in pads, I don’t have to be as slow as I’ve been just in shoulder pads, or just in our shells where you can’t really go as fast or fit up on blockers, things like that. So when we get pads on, it’ll kind of just be free football. You have to execute your plays; at the end of the day you have to be athletic and make your plays. So I feel like when we get in pads, I’ll be able to do that.”

Mosley is coming off an impressive offseason. He has shown good instincts, leaping ability and a strong grasp of the defense.

This is why he was running with the starters in the final practices of the offseason last month. Ravens coach John Harbaugh, though, isn't ready to hand over the starting job to Mosley just yet.

"He’s in a fight now for playing time, and he has a lot to learn," Harbaugh said. "He’s just beginning, so we’ll see where it goes. It’s going to be fun to see. [After] the first week we’ll know a lot more about these guys."

The Ravens already know about Mosley's pedigree. It led them to selecting him with the 17th overall pick in this year's draft.

Mosley won the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker in 2013 and was the SEC defensive player of the year. He finished as Alabama's leading tackler for a second consecutive season.

"He is a natural, man," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "He looks like he covers ground out there really well. It’ll be interesting, once we get the pads on, to see some of the running backs and [Mosley] and some of our other guys go toe to toe a little bit."

The inside linebacker spot beside Daryl Smith became open this offseason when Jameel McClain, a four-year starter, wasn't re-signed and Rolando McClain flopped in his workout with the Ravens. Mosley will have to hold off Arthur Brown, a second-round pick from a year ago, to become only the third rookie draft pick since 2007 (safety Matt Elam and linebacker Courtney Upshaw were the others) to start a majority of the games.

"The competition is going to start as soon as we get our pads on," Mosley said. "So, I’m just ready to get in pads and show these coaches that they picked me for a reason.”
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is beginning his seventh NFL training camp with a new playbook, a new veteran receiver and two new starters on the offensive line.

What he doesn't want to hear is excuses, and what he doesn't want to see is repeated mistakes.

In a span of a year, Flacco went from being the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player to the quarterback of the NFL's 29th-ranked offense, which was the team's worst offensive ranking in nine years.

[+] EnlargeJoe Flacco
AP Photo/Duane Burleson"I don't care if its' a new offense or not. I expect to come out there and be precise and operate at a high level," Joe Flacco said.
Flacco is putting the pressure on the Ravens to not only grasp Gary Kubiak's new offense but run it effectively and efficiently.

"I don't care if its' a new offense or not. I expect to come out there and be precise and operate at a high level," Flacco said two days before the Ravens' official start of training camp. "This is where it counts. We've got a couple of weeks and we're going to be playing real games. We have to execute at a high level in order to win those because they're going to come down to little things like that. That's why we can't expect and make little mistakes."

Flacco and his teammates had 13 offseason practices to learn the new system, and the offense has been installed three different times. Now, the Ravens have 16 days until their first preseason game and 47 days until the regular-season opener against the AFC North defending champion Cincinnati Bengals.

A lack of productivity with the Ravens offense hurt the team's chances of a seventh straight trip to the playoffs. In the Ravens' eight losses, they averaged 17.7 points and scored 20 or fewer points seven times.

This led to an offseason of change on the offensive side of the ball. The Ravens hired Kubiak as their offensive coordinator, signed wide receiver Steve Smith in free agency and added center Jeremy Zuttah and right tackle Ricky Wagner to the starting lineup.

"Yeah, we're still going to make mistakes but they have to be corrected quickly and you can't keep making them again and again," Flacco said. "You have to come out here right after that, and that mistake should be gone. I think we can expect a pretty high level of pace and I think we can expect a pretty high level of precision being that we've done it for a couple of months. That's what I'm going to expect."

Flacco said learning a new offense for the first time in his NFL career is "fun" and "exciting." When driving over to the Ravens' facility, he and Tyrod Taylor were jokingly reciting the cadence to make sure they remembered how to say it.

"I think we've passed the test," Flacco said with a smile.

Flacco acknowledged that the toughest part about adjusting to a new offense is wiping out everything that had become second nature in the old offense. He believes he has the athleticism to run bootlegs and can make all the throws required in the new system. The mental part, especially absorbing the terminology, remains the biggest hurdle.

Like Flacco said, there is little time to waste. And there's not an easy game for the offense in the first month of the season.

The first four defenses the Ravens face this season all ranked in the top half of the NFL: Cincinnati Bengals (No. 3), Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 13), Cleveland Browns (No. 9) and Carolina Panthers (No. 2).

That's why confidence is going to be key, Flacco said.

"If I show everybody else that they should execute at a high level and they will execute at a high level, I think we'll get that confidence to go out there on Sundays and kind of play with a little bit of swagger," Flacco said. "I think that's what it's going to take."