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Ravens’ John Harbaugh responds to players’ decision to skip in-person voluntary workouts: ‘When they get here, we’ll be coaching them’

Sports columnist Mike Preston and Ravens beat writer Jonas Shaffer discuss Ravens free agency and possible picks in the 2021 draft.

Days after Ravens players announced through the NFL Players Association that they were joining a list of teams whose players are skipping in-person, voluntary workouts this offseason, coach John Harbaugh said he and his staff would work with whoever shows up to the team’s facility but reiterated his belief in the importance of the sessions.

When asked in March about the prospects of another offseason of virtual organized team activities, Harbaugh said it would be a “colossal mistake.”

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“I’ve been on record saying that already. It’s football practice. It’s a team game,” he said Monday during the team’s predraft news conference. “It’s the ultimate team game. Since I’ve been in the league, in terms of the controversy about the whole thing, it’s been voluntary. We coach every guy that wants to be here. … I’m looking forward to it. When they get here, we’ll be coaching them.”

Players have cited the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the league’s success with virtual programs last offseason as their reasoning for passing on this year’s in-person sessions.

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In a statement shared by the NFLPA, the league’s players union, the Ravens on Saturday announced: “Our team leaders have discussed with each other, with our teammates and with the NFLPA, and in solidarity with the other members of our union across the league, we have decided to exercise our [collective bargaining agreement] right not to attend in-person voluntary offseason workouts.”

Monday marked the first day of offseason programs and the NFL sent a memo to all 32 teams saying the first four weeks of the voluntary session will be virtual before transitioning to in-person work at team facilities. Harbaugh, speaking from the Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills, said players, including “non-rehab guys,” have been at the facility for the first day of organized team activities.

“We’re coaches. We coach. That’s what we’re preparing to do,” Harbaugh said. “We love our players and we love to teach. We work together with any player, every player that chooses to be here to help in every way we can individually, collectively, as a team, [to] help them build their games and achieve their goals, their dreams as football players.”

No update on possible Orlando Brown Jr. trade

With the NFL draft less than two weeks away, one of the biggest dominoes of the Ravens’ offseason has yet to fall and there is no indication it will soon.

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When asked Monday about the potential for a trade involving offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. leading up to or on draft day, general manager Eric DeCosta was tight-lipped on any impending transaction.

“I really can’t answer that question,” he said. “I’m not going to talk about any ongoing discussions with Orlando or whatever that might be. There’s always a lot of moving parts in an offseason. We’re just getting ready for the draft and we’re basically just approaching this as, ‘How can we build the best possible team to play in September?’”

After Brown publicly announced his desire to exclusively play left tackle going forward, the Ravens reportedly granted Brown and his representatives permission to find a trade partner but any discussions have yet to materialize. Trading the 24-year-old would create an immediate void on the right side of the offensive line for a team that is also expected to target the interior positions in the draft.

DeCosta also declined to comment on an NFL Network report that free agent offensive lineman and former Pittsburgh Steeler Alejandro Villanueva was set to visit the team this week. He added that any prospective trade involving Brown would not impact the team’s attempt to target a tackle in the draft.

“We’ve talked about the importance of the offensive line,” DeCosta said. “That’s a constant. You play the type of football that we play, offensive line is always going to be a priority for us. And so we want to build the best offensive line we can in the short term, in the long term, looking out, making sure that we have adequate depth at every single spot.

“It doesn’t change our thinking very much. If there’s a really good player there, we’re going to pick him. That’s going to give us the best chance to win, it’s going to help our offense succeed and it’s going to make us a tough team to play against.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Jonas Shaffer and The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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