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Ravens news, notes and opinions: Thoughts about Joe Flacco, conditioning tests and free agents

Philadelphia Eagles second-year quarterback Carson Wentz had his new-look receiving corps join him for a couple of days of workouts in Fargo, N.D.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton had shoulder surgery in May, but he and Panthers running backs, receivers and tight ends were at Under Armour headquarters in Baltimore last week, getting work in together.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was putting receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola through the paces earlier this month in Montana.

Meanwhile, there’s been no indication Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco got together with his pass catchers during the period between the end of mandatory minicamp and the start of training camp. If he did, Ravens players certainly made sure the sessions weren’t leaked to the media.

Look, I’m the first one to say this is a tired and overblown storyline. If Flacco struggles this year, it won’t be because he didn’t spent parts of three or four days at some high school or college field in early July throwing to Jeremy Maclin, Breshad Perriman and Mike Wallace, although such sessions certainly have their benefits.

But you can bet it will be brought up anytime Flacco falters in 2017 whether that’s fair or not. Flacco couldn’t care less about such criticism, mind you. If he did, he would have organized these sessions long ago even if the purpose was to just to shut people up.

Nothing to fret over

An accomplished veteran failing the Ravens’ conditioning test before the start of training camp has become an annual rite of the summer. It happened with Haloti Ngata, Jacoby Jones, Lardarius Webb and Wallace.

Rookie fifth-round pick Jermaine Eluemunor was placed on the nonfootball injury list last week because he was unable to immediately pass the test. He passed it the next day.

As embarrassing as it might be for a veteran to fail, Wallace proved last year that it’s not a big deal. He passed the test on his next try and didn’t miss any practice time. When he caught a long touchdown pass in a Week 1 victory over the Buffalo Bills, nobody remembered or cared that he failed a conditioning test a month and a half earlier.

It’s probably worth keeping Wallace in mind when/if another Ravens veteran isn’t able to pass the test and reporters, like me, make a headline out of it.

Just a reminder: Being placed on the physically unable to perform list at this time of year just means that player isn’t ready to practice. It’s not a death knell for the regular season.

Players have come off the PUP list and returned to practice on the second or third day of camp. In other words, it’s way too early to get worked up about such a move. I get that there’s some skepticism involving Michael Campanaro (toe) given his injury history, but nothing has been decided or lost in his case. Now, if Campanaro or another player is still on PUP in mid-to-late August, the concern is understandable.

Nearing decisions?

A couple of free agents often connected to the Ravens this offseason could be close to finding new homes. According to ESPN, wide receiver Anquan Boldin will visit the Bills on Monday. I could be completely wrong on this, but my gut feeling was that the ship sailed on a Boldin reunion when the Ravens signed Maclin. Again, though, that’s just my unconfirmed opinion.

Tight end Gary Barnidge is scheduled to visit the Jacksonville Jaguars on Tuesday. The Ravens haven’t shown much interest in Barnidge, but Darren Waller’s recent suspension left open the possibility.

Zachary Orr and his agent, Robert Sheets, remain mum about the status of the former Raven’s comeback attempt. It was just over a month ago that Orr, who retired in January because of a congenital neck/spine condition, said he planned to play in 2017.

Visits to the Detroit Lions, Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets immediately followed. Orr and Sheets discussed the unusual situation in interviews, but on July 2 both said on their Twitter accounts that they would no longer comment. And they haven’t, the three weeks of silence leading to speculation about Orr’s pending decision.

There’s a lot about this situation that I haven’t understood, so I’m not going to begin to speculate about where things stand. But you’d think there would be some movement relatively soon if Orr is going to play in 2017.

Roster questions

If converted tailback Lorenzo Taliaferro wins the fullback job over undrafted rookie Ricky Ortiz, that hypothetically would allow the Ravens to carry just three backs — Terrance West, Danny Woodhead and Taliaferro — until Kenneth Dixon comes back from suspension in Week 5. That’s not ideal, but it beats the alternative of losing a young player at another position who the Ravens believe can be an immediate contributor.

I’m not dismissing the roster chances of Buck Allen, who had a promising rookie season before falling down the depth chart last year. Allen has plenty of support within the organization and a summer return to his rookie form, minus the fumbling woes, should be enough to secure the No. 3 running back job.

Taliaferro not only has to beat out Ortiz while mastering blocking responsibilities and a new position, but he also needs to stay healthy. That’s been hard for him to do in his young career. So all this is a tad premature, but it could become an option if things play out in a certain way during the preseason.

It’s extremely unusual to see the Ravens with only eight defensive linemen on their roster heading into training camp, and one of them, undrafted rookie free agent Patrick Ricard, is already on the PUP list.

The Ravens, who love stockpiling young defensive linemen and use a pretty deep rotation up front, had 10 on their roster at this time last year. They are one or two summer injuries away from being extremely thin along the defensive front.

Waller’s status

Why didn’t the Ravens just release tight end Darren Waller after he was again suspended in June, this time for an entire season? They still might, but the NFL generally frowns on teams dropping players after suspensions for substance abuse.

Once players become part of the drug program, the league wants teams to help offenders deal with their dependency problems rather than turning their back on them. The other thing is Waller ultimately won’t take up salary cap space or a roster spot.

Why not see whether the year away from football allows Waller, who is talented yet mistake-prone, to turn his life around and move beyond the drug trouble that also dogged him in college? Watson and Crockett Gillmore are free agents after the 2017 season. If Waller is reinstated, he could end up being a key piece next year.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jeffzrebiecsun

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