OWINGS MILLS, MD. — When the NFL announced its punishment for Baltimore’s CBA violation Thursday afternoon, the Ravens were practicing. As news of the forfeiture of three OTA sessions and the six-figure fines levied against the club and its coach, John Harbaugh, bounced around the league, the team was having fun and shouting with the young kids in attendance. But when Harbaugh gathered the group to tell them about the league’s decision, the players were silent.
The league started investigating the Ravens last week for their use of full pads during rookie minicamp, and announced its ruling Thursday, marking the second time in six years that Baltimore has faced punishment for violating off-season rules. The team also lost a week of workouts in 2010 after players complained about late meetings and long post-practice sessions on the field.
“There’s not one player or one coach in this room that should worry about it for one second,” Harbaugh said on Thursday. “You shouldn't have any anxiety about it because it's on me. It was my decision. It was my effort, and that’s the situation that we are in. We’ll adjust and adapt and we’ll still become the best football team we can be.”
Harbaugh, who previously criticized the league’s off-season rules as “un-American,” did not appear particularly upset by the decision.
“Maybe the rest would be good for us,” he said. “Maybe the good Lord is looking down and giving us what we need right now.” He was still smiling after practice while talking to team president Richard Cass and Senior VP of public relations Kevin Byrne.
Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome didn’t seem gutted either, as the GM couldn’t help but chuckle when a staff member said, “I guess I’ll see you a week from next Monday?” as they walked off the field.
Seventeen players were already not attending the team’s voluntary session, including wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. and linebacker Terrell Suggs. Joe Flacco was there, but on the sidelines as he continues to recover from knee surgery. He is aiming to return before training camp.
Harbaugh took time Thursday afternoon to explain how the violation occurred.
“The CBA—the way it’s written, word for word, we’ve read it all,” Harbaugh said. “There are side letters and there are amendments to side letters. There are the handbook and things that are added to the handbook regularly that come out in memos, and there are things that you look at it where you say, ‘You know what, I think we have an opportunity here to gain some ground with our rookies.’ It wasn’t the case, it was wrong. I read it the wrong way, and it's on me.”
A team official told The Baltimore Sun that the team believed the rules regarding pads applied differently to OTAs and rookie minicamp.
Leave it to one of the team’s water guys to keep the optimism flowing, repeating Harbaugh’s sentiment while towing a Gatorade cooler off the field: “this might be the best thing for us!”
Other News and Notes
• Newly signed safety Eric Weddle was hard to miss during Thursday’s practice. With veterans like Suggs and Elvis Dumervil absent, Weddle took over as the defense’s emotional leader despite just joining the organization in March. He celebrated with Kendrick Lewis after causing a false start and went in for a leaping hug after Lewis deflected a pass intended for Dennis Pitta. The San Diego expat is also growing his beard back out, at Lardarius Webb's suggestion. "If that's who you was, grow the beard," Webb told him. "He's being himself and we are loving it. It was a great move (signing him)." Harbaugh appears to feel similarly. When asked what his favorite thing about the new Raven was, Harbaugh's first response was "It would be things. It would be multiple things."
• Harbaugh has also been impressed by third-year defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan. When Jernigan came over for his press conference, his coach stopped the 302-pounder to marvel at his new physique and compliment him on how he's looked on the field. Jernigan, who has switched his number to 99 in honor of Warren Sapp, said he's gone back to running stairs at his high school to prepare for the season. When he feels like stopping, he reminds himself about the team's 5–11 record last year. "It's not acceptable," he said. "5–11 is my main focus. That's what I'm thinking about everyday.”
• Pitta, who has not played since September, 2014 due to multiple injuries to his right hip, said he is back to running like he used to, adding that he is entering this season with the same expectations he had when he was fully healthy. "I'm encouraged by how I feel and how I'm moving, and I'm excited to hopefully get back to playing the level that I was." Pitta also said he has been helping Flacco with his rehab process, "because I've got a little experience in it."
• The Ravens are also hoping to get a healthy Breshad Perriman on the field for the first time in his career, after the former UCF receiver missed his rookie campaign with knee issues. "I feel like a kid in a candy store," Perriman said. " I went through a lot last year and it made me a better player and a better person." He flashed his speed during Thursday's 11 on 11 drills, and created issues for the defense across from fellow speedster Mike Wallace. But without Flacco in the fold, the Baltimore offense, led by Ryan Mallet and Josh Johnson, did not connect on any bombs.