Practices Scaled Back for Playoffs

Contrary to a report, the Ravens lightened their practice load towards the end of the year.

Posted by Mike Duffy on Monday, February 7th, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Categories: Mike Duffy

Recently, there was a Baltimore newspaper report about the Ravens’ length of practices and indicated players weren’t given enough time to rest leading up to their playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
But in fact, Head Coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens purposely lightened their practice load as the year wore on.  The Ravens were fresh enough to win the last four regular-season games and advance to the Divisional Round.
“I am here for every practice, year-round, and John informs me about the structure of practices, including length and repetitions,” said General Manager Ozzie Newsome, a Hall of Fame tight end, former coach and one of the most-respected GMs in the NFL.  “I know practices were shorter, not only the week of the Steelers playoff game, but the weeks before, through our successful run to the postseason in December.
“The coaches made sure the players were ready to play at their best by gameday.”
After being reached by, several players agreed with Newsome’s assessment.
“I can’t speak for my teammates, but I can speak for myself,” said cornerback Chris Carr.  “I think practices were scaled back from a week before the playoffs. In the playoffs, it was pretty much mental reps.  It had nothing to do with why we lost. I just think it was the mistakes we made. I didn’t feel tired. Nobody out there was complaining that they were tired.
“I think the practices were definitely scaled back in our favor.  It was beneficial, not a hindrance.”
Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata thought the main difference in the practices – during which repetitions were reduced – was a focus on mentally preparing.
“They really didn’t want us to hit much, so it wasn’t really physical.  We got a lot of mental work done,” Ngata said.  “The coaches didn’t want to have much contact, and it was pretty much the same, just not as physical as earlier in the year.”
The Ravens cut the practices in November and December short, as there were times when the media rushed onto the field for interviews after an early ending.
In truth, the Ravens’ practices were the shortest of the season during Pittsburgh week.  The team had been progressively shortening practices through the season, especially in December and January, when it won five games in a row.
As such, the Ravens became one of only three teams to make the postseason in the past three seasons, implementing a similar practice philosophy each year.
Ngata attributes much of that success to how the Ravens set their training schedule throughout the entire year.
“If you take the sport seriously, you’re going to have to have a great offseason, knowing that your team is going to make it into January,” Ngata said.  “If you sell yourself short and do your workouts any other way, your body is going to break down earlier. I think our coaches do a great job of keeping our strength and conditioning up, and that’s why we do make it into January most of the time.”

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