The walls of Ravens coach John Harbaugh's office are decorated by framed slogans he cites frequently in speeches to his team. His phone and computer contain dozens of other motivational quotes that he passed along to his players during their weeks apart this offseason.
But on the eve of training camp, the best description of the mindset of Harbaugh and the roster that he leads sits near his left shoulder. Inscribed on his Ravens' pullover are the words "Humble and Hungry."
"I sense a highly motivated team," Harbaugh said last month. "It's time to put your money where your mouth is, in a sense. Let's go to work, let's do something about it. That's my mindset and that's how we're going to approach it."
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Over the past six months, Harbaugh has stoically moved on from the least successful year of his head-coaching career. He overhauled his coaching staff, executed a review of the organization's ways and while privately fuming, he served as a public supporter to several of his troubled players.
Five Ravens have been arrested this offseason, including most recently cornerback Jimmy Smith for failure to obey a lawful order of a police officer during an incident in Towson on July 12. Harbaugh did not address the incident with Smith, but has spoken publicly about the embarrassing period for a franchise one year removed from winning a Super Bowl.
"When your family member has a problem, you do not unilaterally abandon them," said Harbaugh, who has been especially vocal in backing Ray Rice following the running back's indictment for aggravated assault on his then-fiancee. "That's not what you should do. That to me is pretty obvious."
The Ravens will have their first full-team training camp practice on Thursday, a tumultuous offseason giving way to stories about rookies, roster competitions and personal and organizational redemption. Since the Ravens walked out of Paul Brown Stadium seven months ago, their streak of five consecutive playoff appearances ending with a Week 17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the organization and its resolute head coach have once again embraced change.
Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak was hired as part of the biggest coaching staff turnover in Harbaugh's tenure. Accomplished veterans, like wide receiver Steve Smith and tight end Owen Daniels, were brought in to aid an offense that was mistake-prone and punchless last season. Looking to become an elite unit again, the defense added several new faces, including linebacker C.J. Mosley, the team's first-round draft pick.
"Even when we won the Super Bowl a year ago, [John's] evaluations centered on getting better," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "Not making the playoffs hurt us all. John didn't complain about it. His attitude right away was 'How do we get better and make sure this doesn't happen again?'"
That was the same message that Harbaugh delivered to his father, Jack, in their first phone call following the Ravens' season-ending loss to the Bengals.
"He goes on that philosophy of you don't whine, you don't point fingers, you dig in and get back to work," Jack Harbaugh said. "I can't say his attitude this offseason was any different than any of the other years he's been in Baltimore."
Since Harbaugh was hired in 2008, the Ravens have more wins (71) than every team except the New England Patriots. They are tied for a league-best five playoff berths during that span, and their nine postseason victories are four more than anybody else's. However, long before the frustrating 2013 campaign ended, the franchise's top decision-makers concluded that drastic improvements were needed.
An organization whose identity was built on physical football couldn't run the ball or protect the quarterback. A defense that had long been one of the envies of the league was allowing too many big plays. Nobody was more miffed than Harbaugh, a hard-nosed coach whose very idea of winning football is based on limiting mistakes and physically dominating the man in front of you.
"We didn't veer from that style by design," Harbaugh said. "We veered from that by necessity. We just weren't that team last year and you can't be something that you are not. We've just got to make sure we're capable of doing it this year. That's what we've always wanted to be and we're not going to change — a tough, rough, disciplined football team."
Older and wiser
As he readies for the start of his seventh training camp with the Ravens, Harbaugh admits that his head-coaching tenure has gone by "like a blur."
He doesn't look much different than he did in his introductory news conference in January 2008, when he was the surprising choice to succeed the fired Brian Billick. Now 51 years old, Harbaugh is a little leaner than he was back then and he has a few more grays in his closely-cropped hair. But those around him see a difference in how he carries himself and communicates with his players.
"Shoot, I've been here the whole time he's been here, from the time where he came in and tried to force his way, probably in some ways being more of a hard [nose] and stuff like that, " quarterback Joe Flacco said. "He's still like that, but you can see the comfort level, the way he takes input from players, the way he's done some studies on all the ways to get us healthy and the best ways to do this and that. He's been able to put his thumbprint on it because he's comfortable and confident in what he's doing."
Harbaugh doesn't do much reflecting — at least not publicly — but it's not hard to see that things have come a long way since the 2008 season in which he engaged in a daily struggle for control of the locker room.
"You can definitely see the growth from him, coming in and being a strict, rigid guy who was straight to the point and [becoming] so relaxed, so calm, so cool, so wise," said New York Giants middle linebacker Jameel McClain, who was let go by the Ravens in February. "I have the ultimate respect for him."