The Ravens have long considered their training and practice methods to be cutting edge, but they've made recent changes on both fronts this offseason that they hope will help the organization stay ahead of the curve.
Those changes are highlighted by the hiring of Steve Saunders as a "performance coach." Saunders, a personal trainer who has worked with numerous professional football and baseball players including former Ravens tight end Todd Heap, will represent the "third leg" of the team's training and conditioning program, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Thursday.
"We'll weave that into what we do – different types of training, different types of conditioning," Harbaugh said. "We have changed our running program. We've built on what we've done in the past. We believe in running and working hard, but we've built more into it, different types of running and different types of movements that will help us. We want balance, we want flexibility. We want to try and keep guys as healthy as we possibly can and then you keep your fingers crossed. We need to do our part and that's a big emphasis this year."
The changes come after a season in which the Ravens had 20 players on injured reserve, a record for the Harbaugh era. During the 2014 season, the Ravens sent 19 players to IR.
"We've looked at it over the years but this year, we really studied it," Harbaugh said. "We do what we do in football and a lot of the stuff that we do is because we've always done it. Other things we do is because we believe in it and it's good science. Some of it, you just know, you need to be strong. It's a different sport than soccer, basketball and baseball. There are things that are about playing football specifically. Yet, all these other sports, scientifically, they're kind of ahead of us, especially if you look at what they're doing in Europe, in the NBA, even in baseball in terms of the way they train. Sports science is important. I think we've taken it to a new level this year."