Elvis Dumervil had handled the role with the same grace and sense of duty he'd displayed on the field, where a season-ending injury to fellow linebacker Terrell Suggs had forced him into an unexpected and ultimately counterproductive workload.
But the 2015 season, in which the Ravens went 5-11 thanks in part to unprecedented injuries, forced many of the rookies into positions larger than what the team had planned and diminished their returns on the field. That leaves the hope for the future of those rookies hinging on them absorbing what they learned about being professionals and improving on what they realized were their shortcomings.
Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, general manager Ozzie Newsome, team president Dick Cass and coach John Harbaugh answered dozens of questions from the local media Thursday about the past, present and future of the team. Here's a sampling of what was asked and answered, and some help making sure nothing was lost in translation.
There were no ultimatums or idle threats. If I didn't know better, I'd think the Ravens were headed off to a wild-card playoff game instead of spending the day putting out such positive spin. I wouldn't make many major changes either, not with a general manager and coach who have been to the playoffs in six of the past eight years. But this group can't have another season like this, or there will be a shake-up.
Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti used Thursday's "State of the Ravens" address to preach about the importance of staying the course. Speaking just four days after the conclusion of a bitterly disappointing 5-11 season, Bisciotti, seated alongside team president Dick Cass, general manager Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh, dismissed talk of significant changes following one of the worst years in franchise history.
Days after a teammate referred to how dispirited Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs is on his way back from a torn Achilles, general manager-executive vice president Ozzie Newsome said the team was ¿looking forward to getting him back in here.¿
When owner Steve Bisciotti last spoke publicly about the state of his team, the Ravens were about seven weeks removed from the conclusion of a 10-6 season and a berth in the AFC divisional playoffs. Bisciotti graded the 2014 Ravens' performance as an "A," saying that the only thing preventing him from adding a plus to the grade was falling short of the Super Bowl. The owner's tone will probably be far different Thursday afternoon at the "State of the Ravens" address.
The Ravens are again looking up at the Bengals and Steelers in the standings, and the gap between the three franchises is wider than it has been in several seasons. When the Ravens (4-10) face the Steelers and Bengals over the final two weeks of the regular season, they'll be playing out the string while their division foes are priming themselves for potential playoff runs.
A state of the Ravens news conference has never been so highly anticipated. It's time to hear from owner Steve Bisciotti and general manager Ozzie Newsome, and what Bisciotti thought about this season and how he plans to rectify the problems.
The Ravens haven't played a good, complete game yet in 2015. A lot of people will point to the high number of injuries as the main reason for the 3-7 record, but that's just a convenient excuse. This team has to address a lot of internal problems in the future.
The Ravens have added some eventual Hall of Fame players like Rod Woodson and Shannon Sharpe over their 20-year history in Baltimore, but their most important free agent acquisition arrived on March 27, 2000. That was the day the NFL announced Steve Bisciotti had purchased a 49 percent stake in the franchise.
As the Ravens start their camp, they do so with a desire to build a smoother path through the playoffs by winning a division title to earn at least one home playoff game. Their bigger goal is earning home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with the top record in the AFC.
This year, the Ravens aren't at the center of the ugly storm caused by offseason arrests and the national debate over the punishment of a star performer. That circus has moved to New England Patriots training camp.
Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti issued an emphatic denial of a report alleging that he attempted to exert pressure on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to uphold New England Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady's four-game suspension.
The sad fact that free time has not been the Ravens' friend is well-documented. But the message has been sent from owner Steve Bisciotti, general manager Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh that the Ravens have reached the end of their patience with the kind of off-field idiocy that has badly scarred the image of the franchise.
Until April 30, the first round of the 2015 NFL draft, The Baltimore Sun will examine the Ravens¿ depth at each position, the potential of them adding to that spot early in the draft and some of the players who they could target.
Before the NFL turns over the league¿s calendar each year, top Ravens officials join owner Steve Bisciotti in Florida for a comprehensive look at the upcoming season and the one that will follow it, taking into account roster construction, salary cap issues and free agency.
It is important to know the outcome of the NFL's investigation because it might involve draft picks. If the league is heavy handed, maybe they will fine the team and take a way a top draft pick or two from New England, which has nine overall selections.
During a conference call with Ravens' season ticket and personal seat license holders Wednesday night, Bisciotti said he would be excited if the team came out of the April 30 first round with a third pass-rushing threat, joining Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil.
As Torrey Smith spoke Friday two days after his foray into free agency ended with him signing a five-year, $40 million deal with the San Francisco 49ers, there was still a tinge of disappointment, maybe even a little sadness, evident in his voice. But there was not even the slightest hint of regret.
Annually lacking the salary cap space to make major outside additions and content to reward their own players while building through the draft, the Ravens traditionally stay quiet through the first couple days of free agency when money changes hands at an eye-popping rate.
I think most of these end-of-season news conferences are pretty worthless, especially since the season ended more than six weeks ago. But there was one thing that owner Steve Bisciotti said that should be a major goal for the Ravens in 2015.