Four preseason games over one month and one day is all that stands between the Ravens and the beginning of the 2012 season.
That all starts tonight at the Georgia Dome, where the Ravens face the Atlanta Hawks in their first game action of the year.
"It will be a standard first preseason game concept, so we'll be looking at anywhere from a certain set number of plays to about a quarter, maybe a quarter-plus for some of the starters," coach John Harbaugh told reporters Tuesday. "That's kind of what we're targeting, but not everybody is on exactly the same schedule. Some guys won't play at all. Some of the more senior veterans guys won't play at all by design."
Some of the main things to watch this preseason:
* How do quarterback Joe Flacco and the well-reviewed offense stack up to other teams?
* How will the kicking battle between incumbent Billy Cundiff and rookie Justin Tucker shake out?
* Perhaps above all, how will Paul Kruger, Courtney Upshaw and others handle injured linebacker Terrell Suggs' responsibilities?
Tonight might not be the best to get an idea about that last one, as Upshaw just returned from a sprained shoulder and Harbaugh said he might not play in the game because he missed more than a week.
So how much value is there in facing another team at this stage, getting at least a taste of what NFL game action is like?
"It's part of the training camp process," Harbaugh told reporters. "It's not a regular season game, so we don't treat it like that, but it's a big part of the training camp process. It's going to be really fun to get down there and see where we're at."
As for how the offense performs, Harbaugh said it's all about developing timing, especially considering the team has a new-look offensive line that needs to develop chemistry.
"It's all about timing and execution," he told reporters. "How crisp do we play? How do we execute under pressure? How do the guys take that execution from a practice environment and take it to a game environment against another team in a live-type situation? It's all about executing our offense."
Flacco said he's more excited about being back playing a game than seeing how the offense stacks up to an opposing defense.
"I don't really care to see how we stack up," he told reporters. "I feel pretty confident about our group, and like I said, I don't know how much of a test we're going to actually have. We'll find out how many plays we're going to play. Sometimes you only play a handful of plays. It doesn't really give you an accurate reading on what you're going to be like.
"So I'm definitely excited to get out there and play a football game. It's been a while, and it's what we love to do. So, I'm definitely excited about that, but as far as where we stack up, I think we're getting pretty good and making our way, and this game's not going to have anything to do with how we'll play the rest of the season."
Either way, Ravens football is here again.
Programming note: If you're in Ocean City, Md., tonight, you'd better hope you have Ch. 208 available on your Comcast digital cable box, or you'll be shut out of tonight's Ravens-Falcons exhibition opener. Because WMAR-TV does not exist on the Ocean City Comcast lineup - it's superseded by a Salisbury, Md., ABC affiliate - the game is only available on WBAL Plus, which can be found on Ch. 208. Normally, preseason games would be broadcast on WBAL-TV, but the game was punted to WMAR-TV because of NBC coverage of the London Olympics.