Ravens coach Brian Billick set the tone for training camp with an opening message that spoke of redemption and forging a new identity.
If only everyone was there to hear it.
Unable to hammer out a deal, first-round draft pick Mark Clayton was the Ravens' lone no-show at yesterday's reporting deadline for camp. It's become an irritable tradition for the Ravens, who are dealing with an absentee for the fourth straight year.
"Hopefully, he'll get in quickly," Billick said. "With a quick, short camp, this is like the summer school class where you condense eight weeks into four. If you miss one of these workouts, you're going to miss a lot."
Based on the recent track record of Clayton's representation, there is a strong likelihood that the former Oklahoma receiver will be at the Ravens' first practice this morning.
His St. Louis-based agents, Ben Dogra and Jim Steiner, have had two other first-round picks (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Carnell Williams and the New Orleans Saints' Jammal Brown) sign, and both agreed to terms within hours of their team's first workout.
Clayton, who visited the Ravens' practice complex last week, is in town and could be on the field as soon as a contract is complete.
"There is always a sense of urgency," Steiner said. "But we know and they know a deal can be struck at anytime."
Of the last 13 picks in the first round, Clayton is one of four who remain unsigned.
The market value for Clayton was likely set when cornerback Fabian Washington, who was selected one pick later at No. 23, signed a five-year, $7.8 million contract (including $5.3 million in guaranteed bonuses). Using the league's unofficial slotting system, Clayton should earn just slightly more than Washington.
Asked if Washington's deal had set the parameters for Clayton, Billick said: "You would certainly think so, wouldn't you? I'll bet the contract we agree on is eventually, whether it's tomorrow, the next day or a week from now, it's pretty much the contract we could agree on today."
As for the rest of the players who arrived at McDaniel College, they got their physicals, room assignments and a theme.
The keynote of Billick's address to his players was earning the expectations placed upon them.
"This could be very well the best football team since I've been here, which says we think we're a capable, Super Bowl-caliber team," Billick said. "But our focus has to be: We did not make the playoffs last year. We don't have the right to talk in those terms.
"So we have some work to do. We have to establish ourselves as a legitimate playoff team before we can think of ourselves in any other capacity."
The other layer of Billick's message was "A New Beginning," which was written on each of the playbooks handed out yesterday.
It's a different attitude on offense with the arrivals of coordinator Jim Fassel and receiver Derrick Mason. It's a different era on defense with the switch to the 46 scheme under coordinator Rex Ryan.
"This team needs to move forward very aggressively," Billick said. "We're proud of our legacy here, but this team is going to have a new identity, different than [any] team we've had. This is a new group of guys that is going in a new direction. Part of that means you put away what happened before, but you hope to learn from the mistakes that you made."
NOTES: The Ravens reached a four-year deal with linebacker Dan Cody, a second-round pick, and a three-year deal with center Jason Brown, a fourth-round selection. "I'm doing a bunch of new things I haven't done before, so it's important to be here from the beginning," said Cody, who is converting from a college defensive end. ...
Tight end Todd Heap (shoulder and ankle) and running back Musa Smith (leg) were placed on the physically-unable-to-perform list, according to Billick. ...
The timetable remains the same for running back Jamal Lewis, who is scheduled to be released from an Atlanta halfway house tomorrow and is expected to suit up for team drills on Aug. 8. ...
Like last year's camp, Billick will allow his veteran players to go home at night (starting Wednesday) and not have to sleep at the team hotel. ... Billick said center Mike Flynn (back) and left guard Edwin Mulitalo could be limited early this week.
Site: McDaniel College, Westminster
Today: Practice 8:45 a.m. to 11 a.m., and 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Tomorrow: Practice 8:45 a.m. to 11:10 a.m., and (special teams) 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.