Over the past four months, the Ravens have certainly enjoyed the spoils of victory.
They have hosted parties and attended parades in their honor. They have made appearances on "Live with Kelly and Michael", "Dancing with the Stars" and the "Late Show with David Letterman." They shook hands with President Barack Obama.
But late last week, even before he and his players attended the opulent ring ceremony that capped the post-Super Bowl XLVII offseason celebration, coach John Harbaugh made it clear that his team had already moved on.
"We are focused on our season going forward," Harbaugh said. "Our eyes are already on the next horizon. They have been. They have been that way for months."
The Ravens' title defense won't officially begin until Sept. 5 in Denver against the Broncos, but the group that will attempt to become the first team since the New England Patriots a decade ago to repeat as Super Bowl champs will essentially be all together on the field or the first time this week at the Under Armour Performance Center.
The three-day minicamp, which gets under way today, is mandatory for the 90 players on the Ravens' roster. It will represent the team's final on-field workouts until the first full-team practice of training camp July 25.
"You're building team chemistry," tight end Ed Dickson said. "The same team isn't going to win every year, and we've got a lot of new pieces, especially on defense but a little bit on offense. It's just getting the guys together, that chemistry together and going through the playbook. That camaraderie with the guys, you miss that in the offseason because everybody is doing their own thing. But coming together this spring, this is the stuff that gets us through to winning championships."
Since beating the San Francisco 49ers, 34-31, in New Orleans, the Ravens have undergone an unprecedented roster overhaul. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no reigning Super Bowl champion had lost more than five starters before the following season. The Ravens already have lost eight players who started Feb. 3 against the 49ers, including six on defense, and are slated to lose a ninth as the team plans either to release or trade fullback Vonta Leach.
However, there is far less drama surrounding the Ravens than there was at this time last year, when there were questions about Terrell Suggs' torn Achilles tendon, Ray Rice's and Joe Flacco's contracts, and the futures of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.
Suggs is now healthy. Rice and Flacco both have the lucrative long-term commitments they had been seeking. Lewis is retired and Reed is now a member of the Houston Texans. Last June's issues have been replaced by questions about what young wide receiver will step up, how will all the new faces on defense mesh and whether the Ravens will be able to avoid a Super Bowl hangover.
"We have a sense of urgency every single day," Harbaugh said. "That's our mindset here. Our guys have a 100percent, full-throttle sense of urgency every day. You need to."
Per the collective bargaining agreement, tackling, pass rushing and "live" blocking are prohibited during the mandatory workouts. Players are allowed to wear helmets, but not pads.
Still, this week's minicamp will enable Harbaugh and his staff to gauge what kind of shape certain players are in. It will allow some of the younger players to show how much of the playbook they have grasped and it will give guys that figure to be on the roster bubble an opportunity to get repetitions and open some eyes.
On offense, the young wide receivers — a group that includes Tandon Doss, Deonte Thompson, David Reed and LaQuan Williams (Maryland) — hope to show the organization's top decisions makers that they don't need to acquire a veteran to make up for the trade of Anquan Boldin. On defense, newcomers like linebacker Elvis Dumervil and safeties Michael Huff and rookie Matt Elam want to continue to get acclimated with their new teammates.
"It's huge," Huff said when asked about the importance of this week. "It'll be the first time we're all here, and for Suggs and all of our guys here to be around each other and just kind of learn each other. I definitely think this is a great defense, and I think hopefully we'll be better than last year."
Baltimore Sun reporter Matt Vensel contributed to this article.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun