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Camp allows Ravens to move forward

7/20/2014

The Baltimore Ravens can officially turn the page on their most disappointing season and offseason under coach John Harbaugh this week, when they open their 19th training camp.

With 48 days until their season opener, the Ravens have little time to dwell on the embarrassment of five arrests this offseason, which easily led the NFL, or the sting of not making the playoffs for the first time since 2007, although that clearly strikes a nerve.

Asked at the end of last month's minicamp whether the Ravens can bounce back from an 8-8 season, a visibly ticked off Harbaugh said, “Keep hammering that. Just keep hammering that. It's good for us to hear it. It's motivating.”

Harbaugh will still have to address the off-the-field issues again this week, and the Ravens will eventually learn the NFL's discipline for running back Ray Rice (the best bet is a suspension of two to four games because he's a first-time offender).

While these are hot topics, what is going to make or break the Ravens' season is their improvement throughout training camp.

Quarterback Joe Flacco and teammates are adapting to Gary Kubiak's new offense. This means learning his style of zone blocking in the running game and getting comfortable with the bootlegs and shorter throws that define Kubiak's passing attack.

The defense lost three starters from a year ago, but there are questions on this side of the ball, too. The Ravens have to sort out the battles in the secondary, where the jobs at free safety (Darian Stewart is the frontrunner) and nickelback (Chykie Brown, Asa Jackson, Aaron Ross and Dominique Franks are competing for the spot) remain up in the air.

The Ravens return from a four-week break this week to begin camp at team headquarters. Quarterbacks, rookies and injured veteran players will take part in a practice on Tuesday. The rest of the players report Wednesday, and the Ravens will hold their first full-team practice of camp on Thursday morning.

There are three public workouts for fans. M&T Bank Stadium will host two of them, with a post-practice fireworks event on July 28 and a combined practice with the San Francisco 49ers on Aug. 8. The Ravens will also practice at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis on Aug. 4.

If the Ravens are making strides in training camp by that point, no one will be talking about their mistakes from the previous year.