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The fun has already begun. Even before the regular season has started, offensive coordinator Rick Neuheisel has separated himself from the offense. Neuheisel has already stated that this is Brian Billick's offense and that Billick is calling the plays.

Neuheisel is a very smart man. He is very aware of the fact that the Ravens haven't had a very good offense since Billick became head coach in 1999, and despite some improvements last season, that basically remains unchanged. Neuheisel doesn't want to become the fall guy like former offensive coordinators Matt Cavanaugh and Jim Fassel. He's separating himself from this offense as if it had some incurable disease.

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In all honesty, who can blame him? Cavanaugh and Fassel both got tickets out of town.

Notes from the first day of mandatory minicamp:

  • I think the Ravens' Ray Lewis is one of the greatest, if not the best, middle linebacker to ever play the game. Because of his speed and mobility to run sideline to sideline, he changed the way middle linebackers played the game.

    But sometimes when he talks, it's hard to listen. Lewis said today that despite entering his 12th season, he is about to play his best ball. Apparently, that is some strong barbecue sauce he is brewing at his restaurant in Canton.

    Instead of making such ridiculous statements, why doesn't Lewis just simply say he is trying to remain one of the best in the game? We all see that his skills have diminished, and we admire his competitive spirit and his leadership abilities. He's still better than 80 to 90 percent of the linebackers in the league, but these statements make him look like another aging athlete who isn't ready to deal with reality.

  • Fourth-year receiver Devard Darling might be the best player in Ravens history when it comes to performing in various camps. So far this season, like in the past, Darling has been lighting it up in the various minicamps. I'll bet anybody $100 he'll look great in training camp, too, but then when it comes to the games, he disappears.

    Maybe this season will be his breakout year because the Ravens are looking for a fourth receiver. It would be nice if he made some catches when it really counts.

  • The Ravens shuffled around their offensive line on the first day of minicamp, but there won't be many surprises when the season starts. Adam Terry and Jonathan Ogden will be the tackles, Jason Brown and Ben Grubbs will be the guards and Mike Flynn will start at center. Look for Chris Chester to eventually replace Flynn early in the season.

  • Rookie receiver Yamon Figurs can fly, but he also drops a lot of passes. And somebody should tell him to stop catching punts with his body and use his hands.

  • I'm still waiting to see an offense that delivers more explosive plays. So far, it's been the same short passing offense that we've seen since 1999, with quarterback Steve McNair going mostly to his tight ends.

    It didn't work last year against the Colts. Maybe the Ravens ought to review the video of that game.

    -Mike Preston

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