Having signed all their draft picks except first-rounder Matt Elam, having shored up their biggest perceived weakness with the signing of linebacker Daryl Smith and with very little salary cap room to do much else, it's hard to imagine the Ravens being too active over the next five weeks before the start of training camp. However, something clearly has to be worked out with the status of Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach. As my colleague Aaron Wilson reported last week, the Ravens, who took Leach's potential successor, Kyle Juszczyk, in the fourth round of April's draft, are expected to craft a proposal to adjust his contract, which carries a $4.33 million salary cap hit for the coming season. Leach sounds like he is prepared for the situation, telling reporters last week that, "When the situation comes, I think we'll take care of it." The Ravens clearly love Leach as a player and as a leader. Without knowing how Juszczyk will handle lead-blocking duties in his rookie season, they believe that Leach, probably the best lead blocker in the game, has an important place on the team. However, they also could use a little more cap flexibility and Leach's contract may be the most realistic place to get it. It sounds like the situation could come to a head shortly. Like Anquan Boldin, Leach is a proud guy and I'd imagine trying to convince him to take a pay cut is going to be a tough sell for Ozzie Newsome and company. But it behooves both sides to work something out.
It will be interesting to see how linebacker Terrell Suggs looks when he gets on the field at the start of tomorrow's mandatory minicamp but seeing him last week, he appears to be in great shape. Suggs is noticeably thinner than last year when his preparation for the season was wrecked by a torn Achilles. The key question is whether Suggs' explosiveness will return, and that's not a given for players coming off Achilles' injuries. Suggs, though, certainly took care of the first part this offseason by working out and losing weight. As for defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, he looked pretty much the same to me as he did last year, but we should get a better idea on him this week as well. Ngata didn't do a whole lot in last week's organized team activity as he's still recovering from the knee injury that he suffered in the Super Bowl.
In advance of tomorrow's start of the minicamp, here's a list of players who will probably join Ngata as either limited or nonparticipants: wide receiver Marlon Brown (knee), guard Antoine McClain (foot), nose tackle Terrence Cody (hip), defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore (knee), linebackers Arthur Brown (hernia), Albert McClellan (shoulder) and Jameel McClain (spine) and cornerback Lardarius Webb (knee). The good news for the Ravens is none of their regulars appear in jeopardy of missing significant time in training camp, at least not at this point.
One guy I didn't include on the above list is defensive end/linebacker Pernell McPhee who had groin surgery in February. When I spoke to McPhee a couple of weeks after the surgery, he was still in a good deal of pain and he cast some doubt about whether he'd be ready to take part in all the offseason workouts. However, to McPhee's credit, he was a fixture at the OTAs and he was out on the field moving around pretty well. With the addition of Elvis Dumervil, Chris Canty and Marcus Spears, McPhee has sort of become the forgotten man. That's primarily because he had just 1 ½ sacks and 21 tackles last year in 12 games. But he never was healthy, first because of knee injuries and then the groin. When he was healthy his rookie season, he was second on the team with six sacks. If McPhee remains healthy and settles in a defined role – the Ravens are talking about using him as an outside linebacker and situational pass rusher – I still think he can be a pretty effective player.
All the players who didn't attend either the day at the White House or the ring ceremony last week obviously had their reasons and who am I to judge? But I do give Ed Reed a lot of credit for taking part in both. Reed played 11 seasons with the Ravens and was every bit as instrumental to the success of the team's vaunted defense during that span as the retired Ray Lewis. But when he hit free agency following the Super Bowl, the Ravens didn't exactly beat down Reed's door to re-sign him, allowing the safety to agree to terms with the Houston Texans in March. Reed is a proud man and he did a ton for the organization and the Baltimore community. It would have been easy for him to be bitter and perhaps he is a little, but that wasn't evident last week when he was around his former teammates and smiling ear-to-ear. At the ring ceremony, Reed witnessed former teammates Michael McCrary, Matt Stover, Jamal Lewis, Peter Boulware and Jonathan Ogden get Super Bowl rings and owner Steve Bisciotti pledge to give the team's Ring of Honor members rings going forward. It would be fitting and appropriate for Reed to have that same relationship with the organization after he retires and last week was a good step toward that.
It's always amusing to see high-profile and highly paid athletes in awe in the presence of another person, but that was clearly – and refreshingly – the case last week when the players toured the White House last week and met President Barack Obama. However, the most memorable moment of the team's visit came long after the players had shaken Obama's hand and headed toward the buses. Before exiting the South Lawn and walking around the Rose Garden, Obama stopped to speak with O.J. Brigance, the Ravens' senior advisor to player development who continues to inspire everyone in the organization as he fights ALS. Obama said a few words to Brigance and then leaned in to read Brigance's response on the computer that the former player uses to communicate. It was touching, as was the fact that Brigance
probably got the Ravens' biggest ovation of the day when Obama mentioned him in his speech.