Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco will spend the next month working out and keeping his right arm in shape through regular throwing sessions with friends, teammates and anybody else capable of catching a tight spiral.
He said the downtime before training camp is always an important period, but he's especially looking forward to it this year after the strides he's made in learning Gary Kubiak's new offense during team workouts and minicamps the past several weeks.
"I think we've had a great couple of weeks," Flacco said after the final of three mandatory team practices. "I think we've gotten better and better each week. I think the guys have done a great job of studying, coming out to the field prepared and allowing us to get a lot of work done. I think we looked pretty good."
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After finishing last season ranked 29th in total yards per game, the Ravens' revamped offense figured to be a prominent storyline throughout training camp. Team officials have acknowledged several times that the offense will be a work in progress, but Flacco joined wide receiver Jacoby Jones this week in raving about the steps the group has already taken.
"I feel great," Flacco said. "Throughout the course of the last couple of weeks, I've been able to get really, really comfortable and kind of just get back there, go through my reads and have a lot of fun. I think we look good."
The defense was well ahead of the offense early on in the organized team activities, but the gap appeared to narrow this week. Flacco's throws hit the ground or landed in the hands of the defense less and less as the week moved on. In Thursday's workout, Flacco hit wide receiver Steve Smith and Jones for long touchdown passes.
"At this stage, Joe is playing very well," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I would love to see him against another defense today. If we were allowed to scrimmage somebody … we'd know more, but he looks good."
Back end of roster evolving
The Ravens have signed several players who had successful minicamp tryouts, a group that includes veteran cornerbacks Aaron Ross and Dominique Franks, inside linebacker Austin Spitler and outside linebacker/defensive end Nick DiMarco, according to NFL sources.
The deals are expected to become official Friday, at which time the Ravens will need to cut a few players to get their roster back down to the required 90. Ross, Franks and DiMarco have confirmed their signings on Twitter.
Ross and Franks are the headliners of the group and were brought in to add depth to one of the team’s thinnest positions and to provide competition for Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson at the No. 3 cornerback job.
Ross, 31, who was limited to just four games last year because of a back injury, had 11 interceptions over seven NFL seasons and a pair of Super Bowl championships with the New York Giants. Ravens secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo was his defensive coordinator when he started his NFL career.
Franks, 26, had 30 tackles, three interceptions and nine passes defended over four seasons with the Atlanta Falcons.
Spitler, 27 and a seventh-round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins in 2010, has 31 career tackles over four NFL seasons. DiMarco is an undrafted free agent rookie who played his college ball at William Penn (Iowa).
Training out west in 2015?
The San Francisco 49ers will stay in the Baltimore area for several days after their Aug. 7 preseason matchup against the Ravens to participate in joint practices with the team that beat them in Super Bowl XLVII. John Harbaugh said his team will return the favor, possibly as early as next year.
"We will go back to San Francisco at some point in time — probably next year," Harbaugh said. "We're looking forward to it."
The Ravens have never participated in joint practices with any team, although they did have scrimmages with the Washington Redskins in past training camps. John and his brother, Jim Harbaugh, the coach of the 49ers, discussed the idea and decided to go ahead with it this year.
After the Aug. 7 game at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens and 49ers will have a light workout at the downtown stadium the following day. The two teams will then move to the Ravens' training facility in Owings Mills for three straight days of joint practices before the 49ers head back west.
"I think it will be great to have the Niners in here," John Harbaugh said. "We want to go against the best. We're going to … get after it and become a better football team."