Ravens, Eagles find common ground in Philadelphia joint practices

PHILADELPHIA — Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco grew up about 20 minutes from here, and watched Eagles games as a kid. But even with his wife, three kids and his father in attendance for joint practices between the Ravens and Eagles Wednesda , Flacco wasn't overwhelmed by a wave of nostalgia.

"It is totally foreign as far as coming over here and playing football goes," Flacco said.


A trio of Ravens' coaches felt differently. This week's practices, which serve as a precursor to Saturday night's preseason game between the two teams at Lincoln Financial Field, is a homecoming for coach John Harbaugh, offensive line coach Juan Castillo and quarterbacks coach Marty Mornhinweg, who spent a combined 38 years as Eagles assistants, most of them under Andy Reid.

"Just being here brings back incredible memories and moments," said Harbaugh, who was an Eagles assistant from 1998 to 2007. "I think about Andy and I think about the teams that we had."


Castillo, who was fired by Reid during the 2012 season after 18 years as an Eagles' assistant, grew emotional when talking about being back.

"It hit home a little bit. Eighteen years in a place, it's tough," Castillo said. "Think about how many games we won here. I'm not sure but Coach Reid probably won more games here than anybody else did. We got to go to five NFC championships. Unfortunately, we only won one [but] we gave the Philadelphia fans a lot of fun."

The returns of the three coaches — along with Flacco practicing so close to home — were prominent topics after a business-like — and surprisingly uneventful — practice between the two teams at the NovaCare Complex, the Eagles' training facility.

Though brawls have marred joint practices between the Washington Redskins and Houston Texans and the Dallas Cowboys and St. Louis Rams, there were no tenuous moments between the Ravens and Eagles. One minor altercation broke out among backups — Ravens cornerback Asa Jackson played a role in it — but it was dispersed quickly by a number of players, including Eagles quarterback Tim Tebow.

There wasn't a whole lot of fraternization between the two teams although a few players and coaches chatted between drills. Executives from both teams exchanged greetings on the field and Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome watched the practice from a patio area with Ed Marynowitz, the Eagles' vice president of football operations.

Harbaugh and Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, who had planned the practice schedules via email in recent weeks, were on separate fields most of the day after having a lengthy conversation before the practice began. It was the second training camp in a row where the Ravens have done joint practices as they hosted the San Francisco 49ers – and John Harbaugh's brother, Jim – last summer.

"I thought we practiced really well, I felt like the Eagles practiced really well, also. It looked to me like two good football teams pretty evenly matched," Harbaugh said. "I liked the way our guys finished at the end. I thought we finished very strong. Health-wise, I was happy with the way we got out of it. I thought both teams took care of one another, especially once they got through the first couple of periods where they were kind of feeling each other out. It seemed like they kind of settled in.

"These two teams went at it. It was a hard, tough, physical practice. It was a very demanding practice. And these two teams were all about football from the beginning to end. That speaks to the players and it also speaks to the coaches."

While wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. made his disdain for joint practices known for a second straight day, several other Ravens felt that Wednesday's workout was beneficial. The Eagles showed Flacco and the Ravens' offense mostly man coverage and revealed a couple of different blitzes the Ravens wanted to work against.

The Ravens' defense, meanwhile, was forced to deal with Kelly's fast-paced and quick-hitting scheme.

"Different looks, different guys — it's definitely more competitive," said Ravens strong-side linebacker Elvis Dumervil. "We kind of practice against something that you're not accustomed to seeing. It has a game-like feel to it. It's a great deal to go against different guys for sure."

Several Ravens also enjoyed the fact that the practice was much shorter. Instead of a three-hour session, which has become the norm in this year's training camp, the two teams got after it for about two hours, occupying three different fields.


"We're not out here going as long, killing each other," Flacco said. "But it's definitely different to go against a different team and see some different looks. You just feel out what kind of tempo it's going to be."

Kelly is known for his warped-speed practices and earlier this week several Ravens expressed confidence that they'd be able to keep up given the fast pace of their own practices. However, that storyline never really materialized.

The Eagles employed a huddle — a Kelly rarity — during the early 11-on-11 sessions before picking up the pace.

"As far as the tempo of the practice, that was left to however [Kelly] wants to do it really," Harbaugh said. "So, we're open to whatever tempo that they want to do. I don't know what they did; I was on the offensive field. But we ran our tempo, and they can run their tempo however they want."

More than anyone, Harbaugh seemed to enjoy being back in Philadelphia. He held court for 15 minutes, telling stories about late Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson and reminiscing about the time he watched Old Veterans Stadium get demolished and noticed all these cats and rats running away from the dust trail.

But as pleased as he was about the first day, Harbaugh also exercised caution.

"We've still got two got days against them," Harbaugh said. "Let's withhold judgment. I feel good about today."

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