Cramps, absences highlight first training camp practice

I've never been far enough away from home to experience legitimate jet lag before, but man, it's real, and it's rough.

I crashed at 8:30 p.m. last night after getting back to Baltimore around 7 a.m. yesterday morning and spending the afternoon out in the sun at Ravens' headquarters, so I didn't get a chance to give you your full complement of news from the team's first day of training camp.

Instead, I will do so now.

First off, expect first-round pick Jimmy Smith to sign his contract today. The Colorado cornerback, who is currently the only rookie yet to agree to terms, tweeted late last night that today will be the day he officially inks his deal.

Once the deal is done, Smith will then be able to join his fellow 2011 draft picks and the Ravens' 26 undrafted rookies on the field at practice.

While Thursday was officially the first training camp practice of the year, it didn't feel like it, partly because of the location (Owings Mills as compared to the usual Westminster training camp digs), and partly because a large number of players weren't on the field.

Restricted free agents and exclusive rights free agents weren't allowed to participate because their deals don't kick in until the new league year starts Aug. 4, so a group that included Tom Zbikowski, Haruki Nakamura, Tavares Gooden, Jameel McClain, Dannell Ellerbe, Oniel Cousins, Morgan Cox, Marcus Smith and others, were not able to take part in practice.

"We're short a bunch of guys because of these crazy rules that say your unrestricted free agents can't practice," head coach John Harbaugh said. "I don't really get it. But, I guess there is some kind of rule on that, so we will get those guys out here as soon as possible."

At one point during practice, Smith actually started walking down toward the field, but GM Ozzie Newsome saw the wide receiver and quickly ushered him back inside. Smith then watched the rest of practice through a window of the Ravens' gym, as if he was a child who had gotten put in timeout and couldn't play with his friends.

Other notable veterans that were not taking part in drills yesterday include safety Ed Reed (who is expected to join the team within the next couple days), offensive guard Marshal Yanda, linebacker Terrell Suggs and offensive guard Ben Grubbs.

A number of players experienced cramps during yesterday's muggy afternoon session, including rookie wide receivers Torrey Smith (who left the field with trainers but later returned) and Tandon Doss, and rookie running back Anthony Allen.

Fullback Jason McKie was carted off the field at the end of practice. His injury was not immediately known.

Harbaugh said that a couple of players will start camp on the physically unable to perform list, which will allow them time to fully recover from injuries. Guys who are possibilities for PUP are Grubbs (offseason ankle surgery), wide receiver David Reed (wrist) and offensive tackle Ramon Harewood (surgeries on both knees).

The Ravens don't expect any of those guys to miss much time.

Overall, Harbaugh said he was happy with the conditioning level of his players yesterday, during what was a three-hour practice session. That's the way the Ravens will run training camp sessions this year under the rules of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which put limits on two-a-days, but Harbaugh said he actually prefers having practices structured that way.

While Harbaugh was pleased with the effort he saw from his players, he knows they will have to play catch-up after missing months worth of organized team activities and minicamps during the lockout.

"There's not even a question," Harbaugh said. "There's value in those OTAs. It's mental, it's learning the offense, it's technique and just being in football shape. Guys talk about it all the time. If you haven't played, it's really hard to understand what that is. It's just, you can't replicate it unless you're out there at football practice, and that's what we'll do.

"But that happens fast. Two or three days of this, four days of this, then we will get through practice in a real strong way, and then we'll really take off."

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