Following a Super Bowl victory and a subsequent offseason of change, the Ravens are pretty much done until training camp after closing their three-day mandatory mini-camp Thursday afternoon.
For some teams, these activities are just a way to install some things, make some adjustments and have the team together on a semi-regular basis.
But they mean a bit more to this Ravens team after undergoing so much turnover in recent months, especially on defense where several established leaders departed.
“We’re accomplishing a lot of things out here,” coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s building a team. It’s all about all the things that go into building a team - the scheme, it’s the technique, it’s the situations, it’s the conditioning, it’s the tempo and the pace. It’s all the things that go into lining up and playing a game on Sunday.
“That’s what we’re preparing for. We’re preparing for our next game and we’re trying to build our team and we’re evaluating all along the way.”
The players saw that team-building taking place.
“It was definitely a good experience for all of us, for everybody to get a chance to compete and for everybody to be here,” left tackle Bryant McKinnie said. “It went pretty good.”
Aside from a rookie week in July, the Ravens break until reconvening in nearly six weeks when they report to training camp July 21. It will be the first time they’ll do so without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed in more than a decade.
Those two - along with Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger, Anquan Boldin, Matt Birk, Vonta Leach and others - have given way to the likes of Elvis Dumervil, Chris Canty, Michael Huff and Matt Elam.
With so much change, taking some time to build a team, as Harbaugh explained, is especially important at times like these to shorten the learning curve before training camp.
Harbaugh initially disputed that this year is different from any other, but acknowledged it could be.
“I think if you count the numbers, we’ve always been in situations where we’ve had to replace a lot of guys,” Harbaugh said. “It probably gets a little more attention because of who those guys are, but Todd Heap was a pretty big name and Derrick Mason and Cory Redding was a very valuable part. The list goes on.
“But when you’re talking about two first-ballot Hall of Famers, that does have an impact and it’s the first time we’ve had to deal with that.”
Both of the future Hall of Famers were lost on defense, where much of the offseason shakeup took place. Cornerback Corey Graham saw the unit progress during the mini-camp.
“I think it went well. The defense did really well. We started to come together,” Graham said. “OTAs, we started real slow. You see guys starting to pick it up, our defense and play a lot faster. So I think it went really well for not just me, but the whole defense.”