Counting down the days of summer also means football is just around the corner, and Ravens fans can whet their appetites as early as Tuesday, when quarterbacks, rookies and selected veterans take the practice field at McDaniel College for a pair of sessions. The team's first full-squad practice that is open to the public is Friday. Here are a few ideas on what to do at Ravens training camp.


Where to catch practices

What's known as the upper fields is where the majority of practices will take place. Bleachers line one side of the field, and they are covered. Practices will occasionally relocate to Bair Stadium when it rains or when the team wants to give the grass at the upper fields a rest. Parking is free and available at Bair Stadium off Main Street and overflow lots on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The long and short

If you plan to attend the morning practices, be prepared for a lengthy glimpse. The morning sessions are generally about 2 1/2 hours with considerable time spent on positional drills, rushing exercises, seven-on-seven passing drills and full-team practices. The afternoon sessions can be shorter - somewhere in the neighborhood of two hours - but that is subject to change at the coaches' discretion.

Beat the heat

Stay hydrated with lots of water and juice, but leave the alcohol at home as those beverages are prohibited. Sunscreen, hats and lightweight clothing are also a necessity, especially at Bair Stadium, where there is little shelter from the sun.

It's good to be young

By joining the Ravens Rookies Kids Club and paying $25 for Ultimate Rookie Membership, kids ages 14 and younger get access to a VIP autograph area behind the end zone closest to the field house for post-session autographs. Go to baltimoreravens.com/Ravenstown/Ravens_Rookies.aspx for more information.

Ways to get an autograph

For those on the other side of 14, standing along the rail leading to the steps to the gymnasium is critical - as is being polite and courteous. Kevin Byrne, senior vice president of public and community relations, suggests wearing your favorite player's jersey and/or making signs to attract players. Public relations coordinator Patrick Gleason said bringing an item representing a player's college would also be appealing. But beginning Aug. 3, certain position players will be off-limits for autographs because of mandatory lifting sessions immediately after practices. That schedule will be released later.

Getting Harbaugh's signature

Coach John Harbaugh will have daily media obligations that could hamper his interaction with fans, but he still makes an effort to visit when he can. Gleason said anyone carrying memorabilia from Miami of Ohio, Harbaugh's alma mater, is bound to catch his attention.


Dining out

Options are plentiful for Ravens fans looking for a bite in Westminster. Some usual suspects include:

1. Baugher's (1236 Baugher Road, off Main Street and New Windsor Road) gets Byrne's vote for its "true hometown flavor and quality."

2. Johansson's (233 E. Main St.) has its own brewery and offers several home-crafted beers.

3. With practice set for so early in the day, the breakfasts at Plum Crazy Diner (15 Baltimore Blvd.) are plentiful and filling.

4. There's plenty of variety at Harry's Main Street Grille (65 W. Main St.), but the hot dogs are king at this mainstay.

5. For a little entertainment with your meal, there is the culinary wizardry of the chefs at Sakura Steakhouse (5 Westminster Shopping Center).

6. A steak buffet at Cactus Willie's (140 Village Shopping Center)? Sounds intriguing.

Afternoon and evening fair

7. Saturday was the start of the Carroll County Fair, which runs through Friday at the Carroll County Ag Center in Westminster. Take a few rides, catch a combine demo derby, and witness Wild West Night, which is new this year. Visit carrollcountyfair.com for more information. The Hampstead Fire Company Carnival runs Aug. 10-15 from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. at 1341 N. Main St. in Hampstead. Call 410-239-4280 for more information.

This little piggy went to the farmer's market ...

Located at the Agriculture Center in Westminster, the Carroll County Farmer's Market offers fresh produce and baked goods on Saturdays. On Aug. 8, the market will partake in a Peach Festival between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. and an Heirloom Tomato Festival the following Saturday. Go to carrollcountytourism.org/events/calendar.aspx or call 410- 848-7748 for more information.

Did you know?

The 35-foot-tall Hashawha Tower is a windmill that was donated to the Hashawha Bear Branch Nature Center in Westminster. There are 17 public fishing locations in and around Westminster and 10 loop bicycling tours covering more than 150 miles in Carroll County.

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