The stands surrounding the practice fields at McDaniel College were filled with camouflage gear yesterday, as the Ravens held their annual military appreciation day.
Hundreds of service men and women were on hand to watch practice (over 600 of which battled the heat in their full camo), and they got a special treat at the end of the session, as players and coaches stuck around to sign autographs and interact with the military personnel.
Quarterback Joe Flacco took time to throw a football with one service member's young son and sign autographs for a number of injured veterans (at right).
And head coach John Harbaugh, who spent part of last summer traveling through the Persian Gulf as part of the NFL USO Coaches Tour, made a point to sign an autograph for every single solider who wanted one.
"It's just a real special day," Harbaugh said. "We're real proud of what all the personnel in the military, all across the country and overseas, have done for us. We just can't thank them enough for their service [and] for the sacrifice the families make.
"This is a very small token of our appreciation from the Ravens and all the Ravens fans."
Todd Heap did his part to entertain the military members during practice, making a handful of sparkling grabs.
During 11-on-11 drills, Heap used just his right hand to bring in a Flacco pass, pulling the ball into his body as he turned upfield. Later in the practice, during a red zone period, Heap leapt up in the back of the end zone and grabbed another pass from Flacco, snatching it away from cornerback Doug Dutch for the touchdown.
The tight end tried to celebrate the TD by tossing an alley-oop pass to running back Ray Rice, who has been practicing his dunks over the crossbar throughout camp.
The alley-oop attempt was unsuccessful, however. Rice couldn't quite control the ball and it fell to the turf.
I'm sure offensive tackle Joe Reitz got a smile out of watching someone else fail to dunk over the crossbar.
Back to Heap, the 10-year veteran has been through a number of ups and downs the last few years, but he has had a fantastic camp the last three-plus weeks. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron even said that this has been Heap's best offseason under this coaching staff.
What's been the difference this year?
"Healthy, he's been healthy," Cameron said. "He's only been banged up a little bit this training camp. This is the healthiest he's been since we've been here."