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Harbs’ Opening Night Address
Had the privilege to sit in on the Ravens’ first full-team meeting of training camp on Wednesday night, and I was excited to see what John Harbaugh’s message would be to the team. John is a dynamic and thoughtful speaker, and I’ve witnessed some dramatic presentations by the Ravens’ head coach, including pre- and post-games and opening-of-training-camp speeches.
Wednesday night’s opening was different. Simple, and, in my opinion, genius.
John often refers to history in his speeches, using the actions or words of some of the great heroes. He didn’t do that this time. I was looking for him to detail what we’ll have to do to contend for the Super Bowl. He didn’t do that either.
Go Inside Ravens’ First Team Meeting
Instead, he used a few words from three of our players.
Reading from an article, coach Harbaugh started: “‘Asked by reporters if he was happy to be back, [Ray] Rice simply said, ‘The smile says it all.’”
John continued reading: “Is it just being back, Ray? Or, is there something else you’re smiling about?” Harbs then looked over at Rice and said, referring to Ray’s new contract: “Congratulations. Well deserved.”
“Then [Bernard] Pollard has to chime in,” Harbaugh continued and began reading again: “‘The smiling faces are going to be gone shortly. But, this excitement for a short window is priceless. This is the year we expect to do great things. We’re right there. Everybody is talking about New Orleans (the site of the Super Bowl). Two teams are going to fight all the way – I think we are one of those teams.’”
Looking up from the article, John looked around the room and said: “I agree with that.”
Back to the article, Harbs said: “‘It’s time for us to get over the hump. We’ve got the pieces to do that.’ Ray Rice said that.” John looked up again: “Wouldn’t we all agree with that? To get over that hump, we have to get to the hump. That’s where our work will start.
“Here’s what Pernell McPhee said, ‘Game by game. You have to do that to get to the Super Bowl.’ Where’s Pernell sitting? I like everything you said.
“The last thing is, and this is what I love the best,” Harbaugh continued. “Pollard said, ‘Talking in the paper doesn’t win you games. When you step between the white lines, you got to do what’s right and play hard. That starts today.’”
Masterful. Using the words from his players, coach Harbaugh showed the map to the Super Bowl.
Rice said he was smiling about the start of training camp and that it’s time to get over the “hump” – take the next step.
Teammates have tremendous respect for Rice and the hard work he enthusiastically completes to be the best player he can be. Harbaugh quoting Rice hit home with the team.
But, through Pollard’s words, Harbs reminded the team that the smiles will be gone during the hard work of camp. And, that the Ravens will do the hard work that is “priceless” because “great things” will come.
And then John quoted the second-year defensive lineman, McPhee: “Game-by-game.” Perfect. You can’t win anything without first focusing on the game at hand.
Finally, using Pollard again, John was able to deliver the message that talk is cheap and that the team will do its talking on the field.”
Just a few minutes from Harbs, delivering important messages. But, using our players’ words to make his points.
Players listened and nodded. I was impressed.
Fans at Practice
We know and have talked publicly that not having training camp at McDaniel College hurts our connection with our fans, especially for those who don’t have the ability to buy tickets to our games. But, there’s no doubt that having camp at the Under Armour Performance Center, our everyday practice facility, is much more efficient and productive for preparation for the regular season – see last year’s regular-season, 35-7, opening-game victory over the playoff-bound Steelers.
Here’s an example of how practicing here helps us. With huge thunderstorms rumbling through the area on Monday, the first day the rookies, QBs and injured vets took the field, we had to finish practice in our indoor field. That’s something we couldn’t do at McDaniel College. For five of our 17 camp practices in 2011, we had to move inside because of storms.
That said, it was cool to have 200 fans at our first practice yesterday. That’s all we can handle at our Owings Mills facility. Despite the near 100 degree temperatures with the high humidity, the fans were enthused, responding to big plays and shouting out to players who were mere feet away from them.
It smelled, felt and sounded like camp. When fans almost sang the familiar “Reeeeed” at the start of practice as Ed jogged by, I thought to myself, “This is camp. We can start now.”
Don’t forget, we’re at M&T Bank Stadium next Saturday (Aug. 4) for a free, open practice, one of three sessions we will have available for all fans to attend during training camp