Ravens' backfield putting a priority on interceptions
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) The Baltimore Ravens' defensive backs are focused on doing much more this season than merely preventing receivers from catching the ball.
Interceptions, a rare commodity last year, have become a priority.
''We need to create turnovers,'' coach John Harbaugh said. ''We need to be a defense across the board that people fear in the sense that if you throw the ball out there, there's a good chance it's going to come back the other way. You have to have that from your back end.''
Baltimore ranked 25th in interceptions last year, collecting fewer than half the total of league-leader San Francisco. Of the Ravens' 11 picks, 350-pound tackle Haloti Ngata and rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley tied for the team lead with two apiece.
That just won't do this season. There's no understating the emphasis the Ravens have put on getting interceptions from their backs during this training camp.
''That's No. 1 now,'' cornerback Lardarius Webb said Thursday. ''If we can do it in practice, it will turn over to the games. We try to emphasize, let's try and get three or four picks every day and make it a habit.''
Dropping a potential interception in practice is a punishable offense.
''You're leaving that money on the field,'' safety Kendrick Lewis said. ''Those are money balls. That's what we call them. So you drop one, you owe us 10 push-ups because that's money you left out there on the grass.''
Cornerback Jimmy Smith has knocked away plenty of passes during his four-year career, including two in Baltimore's 34-31 win over the 49ers in the Super Bowl. But Smith has only five career interceptions, and this season he intends to add significantly to that total.
''Obviously, we have to get picks. That's huge,'' Smith said. ''That's what you want. That's the good stuff. That's draining a 3 from half court in somebody's face.''
Smith and Webb played together in only three games last season. Webb missed the first five games with a back injury and Smith sat out the final eight with a foot injury that required surgery. They're both healthy now, eager to work in tandem to frustrate opposing quarterbacks and jack up the Ravens' meager 2014 interception total.
The 5-foot-10 Webb figures he's the one to be tested most often, simply because he's 3 inches shorter than Smith and has played in all 16 games just once during his six-year career.
''I had a couple of down years, so if they're smart they should come to me first,'' Webb said. ''Come on. I'll definitely be ready this year for anything they have.''
Webb has 11 career interceptions, including a team-high five in 2011. He missed training camp last year, but this summer he's made his presence felt.
''I remember last offseason he wasn't quite back to being himself,'' Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said. ''This year he seems like he's back. He's confident, he's healthy. I'm excited for him because he's a really good player.''
Webb, Smith, Lewis, Will Hill, Asa Jackson and the rest of the defensive backs hope the ball-hawking skills they're honing this summer will be put on display in the postseason.
''What you do in training camp now carries over to December and January,'' Harbaugh said. ''You try to build your team for the whole season, for the long haul. That's why we practice the way we do.''
Notes: OT John Urschel and rookie G Robert Myers left a very physical practice after a head-on collision and were to be examined for concussions. ... Rookie TE Maxx Williams got poked in the eye. ... WRs Breshad Perriman (knee) and Marlon Brown (back) missed practice. There is no timetable for their return. ... OL Kelechi Osemele did not practice because of a foot injury. ''I decided because of the nature of the practice to keep him out of it,'' Harbaugh said.
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