As he begins his sixth training camp as coach of the Ravens, John Harbaugh sees change everywhere around the Under Armour Performance Center. There are a couple of new members of his coaching staff, a revamped roster and a shiny new trophy at the team facility.
Harbaugh's focus, however, is not on what happened last year or even during an offseason where the Ravens rebuilt their defense and signed their quarterback to the biggest contract the organization has ever given out. It's not even on the Denver Broncos, the Ravens' opponent in their regular-season opener Sept. 5. Harbaugh isn't looking past Thursday's first full-squad practice of training camp.
In between workouts Monday for quarterbacks, rookies and players coming off injuries, Harbaugh sat down with The Sun and addressed a number of issues, including life without long-time standouts Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, the challenge of trying to repeat and his relationship with his brother following Super Bowl XLVII.
What excites you most about this year's team?
I like how competitive our camp is going to be. Every coach likes competition. The offense vs. defense competition is going to be strong — the O- and D-lines. There is competition within every position and there will also be competition against their counterpart on the other side of the ball. Competition is what brings out your best.
Around the building, have you sensed how excited everybody is to get training camp started?
I think everyone is really champing at the bit to start. I think everybody is looking forward to it. We have a unique challenge. We have the most unique challenge in football. There's only one Super Bowl champion who has an opportunity to build from that, so to speak, for that next year. That's a unique honor that was earned by last year's team that this year's team gets to embark upon and everybody is excited about it.
Do you feel pretty good at where your team is at health-wise coming into training camp?
We're in good position that way. I think the main thing is we'd like to try and avoid setbacks with the guys that are coming off a few things. Then, you just do your best to stay healthy. The biggest thing about staying healthy in camp, besides the fluke injuries, is that guys come back in great shape. And it appears at this point that we're doing that. That's a good thing.
What does it do for your message when a team leader like Terrell Suggs reports in really good shape?
Terrell Suggs, obviously, has been and will be more of a leader than he has ever been before. He might be the hungriest player at the same time. That's what a leader does and that's what we expect from all of our players.
Do you feel good about where Haloti Ngata is at?
Yeah, Haloti came in in great shape. He's looking great. He blew away the conditioning test. He's ready to go.
I know you speak regularly with owner Steve Bisciotti, general manager Ozzie Newsome and you're very much a part of formulating the plan for this organization. But was there a time this offseason when you were seemingly losing key guys every day, where you said, 'What's going on here?'
Nope, not for one second. As you said, I was a part of it and part of the decision-making process on that. I knew exactly what we were doing. The only thing I was surprised about was how unclear it kind of seemed to everybody else what we were doing.
Is it weird at all not to have Ray Lewis and Ed Reed around because they've been such fixtures in this building over the years?
Yeah, [but] I understand it. Those guys mean so much to the organization, to the city, to the fan base, to all of us. That's perfectly understandable and natural. That's the way it should be. But I think it has less impact on us as a football team than it does to those other things.
You've said all along that the 2013 Ravens are a new team and you guys are not defending a championship but trying to win a Super Bowl of your own. Is that a hard mindset to cultivate when these guys are going to be asked every day about the Super Bowl hangover and trying to repeat?
You just said it. The only reason it's hard because people associated with the team can't block it out. I would say to the media, 'Just get over it.' Life moves quickly. I think all of us are capable of doing more than one thing at once. It's not like we have to forget the Super Bowl in order to move onto the next season. We're capable of being proud of the accomplishment and moving on to the next thing. It's not an either/or proposition. It seems like a pretty simple concept.
So there are no plans to address players about the challenge of repeating and avoiding the Super Bowl hangover?