Cam Cameron walked off the practice field and made a right turn into the thicket of TV cameras, digital recorders and notepads awaiting him.
There have been times at these media sessions when the Ravens' offensive coordinator wore the look of a man who has just had a brick thrown through his car windshield.
But on this sunny August afternoon, he seemed relaxed and confident the day before the Ravens flew to St. Louis for their final preseason game against the Rams tonight.
“What’ya got?” he asked, smiling.
If this was a man under pressure, he sure didn’t look the part. It made you realize what a tough, gritty survivor Cameron is in a job so stressful and bottom-line-conscious it should come with an IV drip of Maalox.
Think of what the man has been through in the recent past.
The fans have howled about his play-calling. The media has ripped him for the offense not taking more shots downfield.
There’s been tension between him and Joe Flacco, which culminated in a couple of shouting matches on the sideline during games. And at times last year, the Ravens’ quarterback made no secret of the fact he thought the offense was being too timid.
But here was Cam Cameron in front of the TV cameras and tape recorders now, still going strong in his fifth season with the Ravens. And when someone asked if the heightened expectations for the offense this year put any more pressure on him, he nodded immediately.
“I hope so,” he said. “I really do. If you don’t thrive on that . . . You talk to the coaches that retire, you talk to the players that retire — that’s what they miss. That’s what you would miss. I get to actually do it. I’m not behind a microphone on TV talking about it.
“I love what I do, and what you love about this game is the pressure that comes with it as a coach and as a player. . . And for me, it’s what I’ve always dreamed of doing since I was 15 years old. I knew this is what I wanted to do, and after being around my step-father (Tom Harp, who coached at Indiana State), I knew what I was getting into. And for me, I’ve got the best job in the world.”
It’s a good thing Cameron welcomes the pressure, because there will be a lot of it this season — maybe more than at any other time since he’s been here.
There’s plenty of work to be done. The Ravens finished 15th in the league in offense last season. They finished 12th in points scored. That’s probably not good enough to get to the AFC Championship again, never mind the Super Bowl.
And the Super Bowl is still the Holy Grail. Walk the polished halls of the Under Armour Performance Center and you don’t see too many banners that say: “Just make the playoffs, baby.”
On the other hand, there are plenty of reasons to feel the offense will take a big step forward this season.
Flacco looked terrific in training camp, the best he’s ever looked. And he’s been great in the Ravens’ first three preseason games (43-of-60 passing for 433 yards and three touchdowns.)
Ray Rice is thrilled with that new monster contract and seems poised for another big year. Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones have all worked well together. If the Ravens ever get the offensive line straightened out, this could be a potent attack that gets past its problems in the end zone and puts points on the board.
There is also this: the no-huddle look seems to have energized the offense, especially Flacco.
After the Ravens went with a lot of no-huddle in their 48-17 beat-down of the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, Flacco went on and on to reporters about how much he liked the tempo, how it keeps the offense sharp, keeps the defense back on its heels, etc.
Honestly, I haven’t seen the guy so worked up since they introduced Burrito Night in the team cafeteria . And Cameron seems just as eager to see what Flacco and the no-huddle can do when the games count.
“Are you more excited about the offense than you were at this point last year?” someone asked him .
“I wouldn’t phrase it that way,” he said. “But I would say I’m excited about this offense and what we’re doing.
“. . . We know what the expectation is. We know what we’re capable of doing. And I’d like to think that the other night (against Jacksonville) was just a glimpse of what you’re going to see here heading through the season.”
Sounds like it could be a big year for the offense. A big year for Cam Cameron, too.
After all he’s been through, that would be nice to see.
Listen to Kevin Cowherd at 7:20 a.m. Tuesdays on 105.7 The Fan’s “The Norris and Davis Show.”