After last week’s three-day mandatory minicamp, Ravens players and coaches have gone their separate ways.
I’m sure the coaches have carved out some downtime for themselves -- their idea of downtime is watching tape next to a swimming pool instead of in a dark, dusty office -- but the players won’t have to be back in Baltimore for more than a month. Ideally, they will be making tan lines instead of headlines during that time.
Still, after embarking for their summer vacations, the Ravens have to be pleased with how the spring went.
After winning the Super Bowl in February, they quickly experienced turbulence. Ray Lewis and Matt Birk retired. Anquan Boldin and Bernard Pollard were sent packing. Free agents such as Ed Reed, Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe signed elsewhere. Their depth chart soon had more holes than a mesh tanktop.
But the Ravens eventually brought in replacements, signing Elvis Dumervil, Chris Canty and Michael Huff to reconfigure their defense. They also appeared to have a strong draft, selecting 10 rookies.
When organized team activities began last month, the Ravens probably had to set out a sizable chunk of time for name games and other ice breakers so everyone could put names with new faces.
Once they got on the field together, though, they had to have liked what they saw.
It’s too early to draw concrete conclusions -- after all, players weren’t even wearing pads -- but the defense is younger, faster and more athletic. The Ravens have nice depth in the secondary and on the defensive line, and Dumervil teamed with a slimmed-down Terrell Suggs to give the Ravens a frightful pass-rushing duo.
The offense looked very sharp during the three OTAs opened to the media, with few balls thrown by Joe Flacco hitting the turf. Chalk that one up to roster continuity on that side of the ball. And while the defense got the better of the offense during minicamp, Flacco believes the offense is ahead of the curve right now.
That’s not to say there aren’t concerns punctuated with question marks, though. The Ravens still have an unsettled situation at inside linebacker. They say they don’t plan to sign a veteran receiver, but that position is up in the air, too. Players such as Lardarius Webb, Haloti Ngata and Jameel McClain are working their way back from injuries and still might not be at 100 percent when training camp opens.
But after a tumultuous start to the offseason, the Ravens have a lot to feel good about today while sipping their umbrella drinks.
Sure, this is a time for optimism for every NFL team -- even ones in Cleveland, Buffalo and Arizona. But the Ravens are relatively healthy heading into training camp. Their starting quarterback is under contract for the next five years. And the distractions should be minimal when they report back to Baltimore.
Oh, and that Super Bowl victory is still fresh in their minds.
After a productive past 12 months, the Ravens should savor these next few weeks before getting back to business in late July.