Ravens hold first practice of training camp

OWINGS MILLS - Football season is officially under way.
Kind of.
The Ravens held their first practice of training camp Tuesday, albeit a practice that included just quarterbacks, rookies and veterans coming off of injuries.
"We're just getting started with the rookies," Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. "They have had a couple of really good days [including a walkthrough practice Monday]. They came in ready to go - very sharp for where we're at. Worked the kinks out a little bit [Monday] and they seem like they've even sharper today, so we'll keep building on that and try to have them ready for Thursday when the vets are here."
Veterans report to training camp today, and the team will hold its first full-team practice of camp Thursday.
Things will naturally heat up at that point.
The Ravens are the defending Super Bowl champions, but they're also a team in relative transition, especially defensively.
Quarterback Joe Flacco is back, now one of the highest paid players in NFL history and just months removed from one of the best postseason runs for any quarterback in league history.
Ray Rice, Torrey Smith and most of the Ravens' offense is back, too. So are star defensive players like Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata.
But this is Baltimore's first training camp without Ray Lewis. Ed Reed is also gone. So are seven other starters from last year's Super Bowl team, not even counting leading sacker Paul Kruger.
There has been so much talk about Baltimore avoiding the so-called "Super Bowl hangover," but the real story of training camp will be how the Ravens' new pieces come together and whether young players can step up to fill perceived areas of concerns like wide receiver, inside linebacker and center, among others.
"It's good to have been there," Harbaugh said, referring to the Super Bowl. "It's good to have experienced it. ... [But] by the same token, we've got a number of guys that haven't been there. We've got a lot of guys that are hungry because they haven't been there before, so we'll just see how that mix plays out.
"I think we were a good team [last year], I think we've been a good team, and I think our expectations for ourselves are to be a very good team again," Flacco said. "But I don't think we think about last year at all. Our team is different, just like it is every year.
"We've got a lot of guys that are hungry to get to where we were last year. We have a lot of guys that are hungry to get back to where we were last year. Every season is a new season and you kind of approach it in little different ways and ways you think you can get better."
As for Tuesday, the most newsworthy thing to come out of practice was top cornerback Lardarius Webb practicing just nine months after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, further confirmation that he's on pace to play when the Ravens open the regular season against the Denver Broncos.
As Harbaugh said, the practice was more just a continuation of Baltimore trying to get its rookies fully up to speed for Thursday's first-team practice.
"We're just continuing to get better and work on the small things," said rookie safety Matt Elam, the Ravens' top pick in this year's draft.
Come Thursday though, and even more so next week when the pads come on, things will heat up.