SPARTANBURG, S.C. — The Ravens’ second joint practice with the Carolina Panthers ended Thursday with a fifth interception by their offense, an ambulance on the field for tight end Mark Andrews, and one more walk under the South Carolina sun back to the team’s locker room.
But after a year of preseason football lost to the coronavirus pandemic, coach John Harbaugh was happy to have the two hours of work in, however it might have looked at times.
“It’s good, hard work,” he said afterward. “Always, when you go against another team, it’s just different — [the] players don’t know each other. There’s certainly a level of emotion that gets raised up. [The Panthers] are a real high-emotion, high-energy-type team, which is good. It was good for us to deal with. I’m glad we had a chance to do it. It should make us better, and we’ll move forward from here.”
Here’s a running summary of the morning practice, the Ravens’ last before Saturday’s preseason game against the Panthers in Charlotte, North Carolina.
8:15 a.m.: The first Raven on the field is wide receiver James Proche II, who’s catching passes with the help of two team staffers feeding the Jugs machine. A small crowd of spectators and reporters look on as Proche, one of the stars of Wednesday’s practice, puts his gloved hands in front of a machine that can simulate ball speeds up to 75 mph.
When center Bradley Bozeman steps in for Proche a few minutes later, only to see the ball whiz by, he’ll remark, “That [expletive] is fast.”
8:30: The Ravens line up for stretching on the near practice field. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley is back in pads after watching Wednesday’s practice in street clothes. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey, still recovering from a muscle strain, strolls onto the field wearing a bucket hat and shades.
8:40: The offense gathers on one half of the field for an installation period. As quarterback Lamar Jackson goes through the motions on drop-backs, he targets a wide receiver group missing almost all of its top options.
Rookie Rashod Bateman is absent, recovering from a groin surgery that will sideline the team’s top draft pick until at least September. Sammy Watkins isn’t here. Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, Miles Boykin and Deon Cain are in street clothes again. Even wide receiver Devin Duvernay has the day off; he’ll spend the early part of practice helping the wide receivers in drill work. At one point, cornerback Marcus Peters will step in to run a route and catch a pass during wide receiver drills.
8:45: The Ravens break for individual drills. Defensive end Calais Campbell, as is his custom, bellows a drawn-out, “Yes, sir!”
8:50: Right tackle Alejandro Villanueva, who’s in street clothes after an uneven practice Wednesday, talks with coach John Harbaugh as they watch the offensive line work out. “I always run my military terms by him,” Harbaugh had said a week earlier of Villanueva, who served three tours of duty in Afghanistan. “I used to talk to the guys with great confidence about my military terms, because I knew nobody knew anything. Now I have a guy that knows something, so I have to say to him, ‘This is right, right?’ "
9:00: The teams reunite for the morning’s first 11-on-11 period. On the near field, the opposing lines look a little too eager to hit someone; the left side of the Ravens’ offensive line is flagged for a false start on the period’s first play, and three plays later, the Panthers are penalized for a neutral-zone infraction.
9:04: Andrews picks up where he left off Wednesday, crossing over the middle of the field for an easy catch from Jackson. “He is so [expletive] good,” one onlooker says of Andrews.
Not to be outdone, Proche catches a pass up the seam a few plays later from backup quarterback Tyler Huntley.
9:06: The Ravens try to set up a screen with a play-action fake, but Huntley’s pass is batted back by one Carolina defensive lineman and intercepted by rookie defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon, who returns it for a would-be pick-six. That won’t be Huntley’s only bad bounce of the day — or Nixon’s only pick.
9:07: Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold’s not having much better luck in seven-on-seven action. On one drop-back, he triple-clutches the ball as he waits for a receiver to get open against the Ravens’ pass defense. He rolls out to his left and ends up throwing a pass to the sideline that ends up closer to inside linebacker Malik Harrison than any Carolina player.
9:10: The Ravens’ offensive line reunites with the Panthers’ pass rushers for one-on-one work. Guard Ben Bredeson wins his repetition against 2020 first-round pick Derrick Brown but loses handily against fellow defensive tackle Bravvion Roy, taken five rounds later, thanks to a slick swim move.
9:15: Left tackle Ronnie Stanley, having already taken part in the Ravens’ 11-on-11 period, wins his second straight one-on-one rep. After handling a speed rush from defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos, he stays in front of outside linebacker Haason Reddick, who takes a similar outside path.
9:17: A day after focusing on punt coverage, the Ravens and Panthers work on kickoffs during a special teams period. “Run!” Ravens special teams coordinator Chris Horton yells as kicker Justin Tucker blasts a ball downfield. Rookie safety Ar’Darius Washington, maybe the smallest player on the field, makes a Panthers blocker whiff and is among the first players to reach the 20-yard line.
9:24: Another 11-on-11 period is halted by an unlikely meeting of the minds: Stanley has his helmet stuck against Brown’s. After the headgear is disentangled, Stanley leaves the session holding his left hand. In his absence, the offensive line is called for two straight procedural penalties a few plays later.
9:25: Carolina’s offense starts to rack up chunk plays on the ground and through the air. On one drop-back, the Panthers seem to call for max protection, sending just two receivers downfield. But Ravens defensive back Nigel Warrior falls in coverage, and cornerback Chris Westry can’t keep up with rookie wide receiver Shi Smith on a crossing pattern. Smith makes an easy grab for a would-be catch-and-run score.
9:28: The Ravens’ second-string pass-blocking unit is having another one of those tough stretches. Carolina sends the house after Huntley and gets three free rushers, who scrambles for only a few yards to his left before the play is whistled dead. Jackson and the first-team offense soon come back on.
9:33: The Ravens’ defense starts to turn the tide back in its favor. Cornerback Tavon Young forces an incompletion on a lofted pass to tight end Ian Thomas (Digital Harbor) in the corner of the end zone. “Let’s go, Tay!” safety Chuck Clark yells.
Soon after, a mistake gets rookie tight end Tommy Tremble sent on a long jog to a “DBO” sign 100 yards away — “Don’t Beat Ourselves.”
9:38: Stanley rejoins the offensive line in street clothes but with no apparent bandaging on his hand or fingers. His day is done.
9:48: Tempers start to flare on the sidelines after a big collision during a kickoff drill. The Ravens’ loudest voices seem to belong to cornerback Marcus Peters, safety DeShon Elliott and defensive back-linebacker Anthony Levine Sr. Yelling back on the Carolina sideline is rookie cornerback Jaycee Horn.
9:51: After a bang-bang play near the goal line, Ravens outside linebacker Pernell McPhee plays peacemaker, helping tight end Colin Thompson to his feet before another scuffle can ensue.
That doesn’t stop the hard hitting, though, as inside linebacker Malik Harrison soon delivers a crunching tackle on a goal-line stop.
10:03: Jackson watches the Ravens’ offense, which is relying heavily on play-action and roll-outs, from behind the play next to close friend Marquise Brown, who’s holding a helmet in his left hand. Cain, standing next to Brown, has a towel over his head, a shield from the now-scorching sun.
“You’re just kind of down here in this bowl, and I think the humidity gets packed in here a little bit,” Harbaugh will say afterward. “So it’s good for us. We get hot weather in Maryland, too, but it’s just part of training camp. It seems like every year, you get days like this — it’s part of it.”
10:05: Huntley tries to throw a check-down pass to his left, and gets his second bad bounce. Another deflection, another interception by the 6-foot-3, 305-pound Nixon.
10:07: The interceptions start to pile up. Quarterback Kenji Bahar (Calvert Hall), who’s been used lightly in the joint practices, has a pass over the middle intercepted by a diving linebacker, Shaq Thompson.
10:12: Practice winds down with another trial run for Ravens kicker Jake Verity. The undrafted rookie hits seven straight field goals against a half-speed Panthers special teams unit before pushing a 45-yard attempt wide. He shakes his head coming off the field. Punter Sam Koch talks to Verity on the sideline, and special teams coach Randy Brown puts a hand on his shoulder.
10:19: Looking for wide receiver Jayon Moore, Jackson instead throws his first interception of the joint practices. Cornerback Donte Jackson breaks on a pass toward the left sideline, secures the ball and gets both feet in. The Panthers defense is feeling itself; just a few plays earlier, safety Sam Franklin had given Proche a Dikembe Mutombo-esque finger wag after a coverage sack on Jackson.
10:21: Andrews, his pads already off, starts to cramp up on the sideline. He tries to stretch but can’t get comfortable. He yells in pain. As he walks off the field, a Ravens fan jokingly yells toward Andrews, “It’d better be a cramp.” An ambulance will later be called for Andrews, who has to be treated for “pretty serious cramping,” according to Harbaugh.
10:25: Huntley throws the Ravens’ fifth and final interception, and his third, ending an already disappointing day for the offense on a down note. Carolina safety Kenny Robinson comes up with the pick after an apparent quarterback-receiver miscommunication. As tight end Tony Poljan circles back to Huntley, Huntley gestures toward Poljan, indicating that he’d expected him to run at a different angle on his route.
10:27: After just under two hours, the practice is over. Harbaugh shakes hands with several Panthers players, including former Ravens linebacker Josh Bynes and former Ravens cornerback Rashaan Melvin, then heads over to check on Andrews.
Preseason, Week 2
Saturday, 7 p.m.
TV: Chs. 11, 7
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