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I just returned from the Ravens voluntary practice today, the last gathering before players report to training camp on July 30. I volunteered for the assignment, which seemed fitting. And I didn't throw any punches.

Nobody did. Not a single fight broke out. Must have been those eight gassers coach Brian Billick made his players run after yesterday's scuffles.

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Jamal Lewis was a no-show today. He wasn't taking any chances.

Also absent for various reasons: Jonathan Ogden, Ed Reed, Chris McAlister, Terrell Suggs and Trevor Pryce. Ray Lewis and Samari Rolle also didn't practice.

Maybe you've heard of them.

There was more energy today - the positive kind. I'm told yesterday was a bit "sleepy," except when guys were trying to take each other's heads off.

"We had a good 15 practices, a good couple weeks. The groundwork has been laid," Billick said.

"They've got to take hold the next five weeks. This is just a starting point for them. They've got a lot to do the next five weeks. That curve still has to be going up, both physically and mentally. It's a little tougher when you're away from one another to maintain that integrity, but this team knows what's in front of it."

Billick likes his team's balance, but he's always worried about depth and inexperience in some areas.

Receiver Mark Clayton is still walking with a slight limp because of a hamstring injury. And the other starting receiver, Derrick Mason, limped off the field during a two-minute drill that concluded the workout.

Kyle Boller twice tried to hit Mason in the right corner. Mason made the catch both times, though there were disputes over whether he got both feet inbounds.

"This ain't college," one defensive player yelled. "Two feet."

Mason insisted he made contact with the pylon on the first reception. He had bigger concerns after the second.

Earlier, Mason made an outstanding grab of a Boller throw with rookie cornerback Ronnie Prude all over him. On the next snap, Devard Darling beat Evan Oglesby badly on the opposite sideline.

Lewis and Mike Anderson still haven't been paired in the same backfield, in case you're wondering.

Steve McNair looks better each day, which makes sense as he gets more comfortable in his new surroundings. He's so fluid in everything he does, and one observer pointed out how the former Titan looks light on his feet for a guy who's taken such a beating over the years.

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McNair threaded a pass to Romby Bryant in a crowd of defenders. I'm still not sure how the ball got there. The man can still bring it.

"Everybody realizes he's a winner, a big-time winner," said linebacker Dan Cody.

Boller, meanwhile, has been pretty relaxed. Maybe it's not so bad collecting $1.6 million and not having all kinds of pressure heaped upon you.

One player who really stands out is rookie running back Cory Ross out of Nebraska. That happens when you're 5-6 and trying to make an NFL team.

In case you need your baseball fix, the Blue Jays have botched a pickoff, failed to turn a double play and misplayed a fly ball in the first four innings against the Orioles. And they lead, 1-0.

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