By Matt Vensel
The Baltimore Sun
9:17 PM EDT, August 12, 2012
An announced crowd of 20,335 attended the open training camp practice at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. That was 11 more fans in attendance than last Saturday night’s practice at M&T Bank Stadium. Afterward, Ravens coach John Harbaugh called holding an open practice in Annapolis a "grand slam."
“This is a beautiful stadium. It’s a beautiful town,” he said. “It’s just great to be here. It’s a lot of fun.”
Harbaugh said owner Steve Bisciotti, who grew up and went to high school in nearby Severna Park, first broached the idea of hosting an open training camp practice in Annapolis "as long as a year ago."
The atmosphere Sunday had a game-day feel with the marching band pumping out tunes, Ravens cheerleaders welcoming in fans, and stadium concession stands whipping up cotton candy and funnel cakes. Fans cheered whenever the offense made a big play and roared even louder when it was time for players to sign autographs after the practice ended.
"It was pretty cool. There were a lot of people here,” quarterback Joe Flacco said later as he and his teammates scrambled to get out of their gear and onto one of the team’s charter buses. “The whole bottom section looked pretty filled up. It was a lot of fun.”
Asked if the Ravens were trying to expand their reach and attract more fans from Southern Maryland and the D.C. area -- something Harbaugh has talked openly about in the past -- Harbaugh downplayed the question.
“We’re in a small area, a tight area. There’s enough people to support all the teams,” Harbaugh said. “You talk about football, baseball, the four teams. You can talk about the [Washington] Wizards and the [Washington Capitals], who I love watching. I’d like to see all the fans in Washington and Southern Maryland and Northern Virginia, let us be your AFC team. Then you can be our NFC team. Except I’m always going to try to be with the [Philadelphia] Eagles myself. We can be fans of more than one team. It’s a great sports area, and the Ravens are a big part of that.”
The Ravens return to their Owings Mills training facility Monday.
The Ravens’ third and final open practice of training camp will take place next Sunday at Stevenson University, but the team has already distributed all of its free tickets for the practice through an open raffle.
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