The Ravens spent much of Thursday’s practice going through the motions. After two days of high-tempo work under sunny skies at this week’s mandatory minicamp, the team downshifted for its final two hours in Owings Mills, slowing to a walk-through pace at times.
Maybe that was coach John Harbaugh’s plan all along. After a couple of injury scares in “noncontact” conditions, though, who could blame him? In the day’s first 11-on-11 period, John Simpson, a contender for the Ravens’ vacant left guard position, had to leave after having his leg twisted awkwardly during a running play. He walked off gingerly, flexing his left knee, only to return to action after missing just one snap.
In the next 11-on-11 period, an even bigger name had hobbled off: Kyle Hamilton. The safety collided with wide receiver James Proche II downfield, away from the ball. Athletic trainers tended to Hamilton, examining his left leg and tending to his knee. Eventually, Hamilton returned, too, picking off a pass from quarterback Lamar Jackson in a red-zone drill near the end of practice.
As the Ravens walked off the field early Thursday afternoon, headed for their monthlong hiatus, not due to return until the start of training camp in late July, spirits were high. Nobody had their summer ruined by an injury. Everyone, it seemed, was looking forward to what was possible when the pads came on and the practices matter more.
“It’s been very productive,” Harbaugh said of minicamp. “Body, mind, spirit — guys have been doing a great job of trying to take care of themselves in every single kind of way, be the best player they can be, the best teammate they can be, and that’s what we try to strive for. So this is the end of this part of it, and then we’ll start the next part of it when the guys get back.”
The Ravens’ passing game will need some work, although what it needs most is its top-line wide receivers healthy. Rashod Bateman missed minicamp while recovering from a cortisone shot in his surgically repaired foot. Odell Beckham Jr., already limited in practice as he builds up his workload, was out Thursday with an illness. Zay Flowers has been bothered by a minor soft-tissue injury, according to Harbaugh.
Their limited availability, along with the ongoing construction of first-year coordinator Todd Monken’s offense, contributed to an up-and-down week for Ravens quarterbacks. After starting the 11-on-11 period with a red-zone touchdown to Flowers, running free on a corner route against cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, and a shorter touchdown throw to fullback/tight end Ben Mason, Jackson hit a bit of a rough patch.
He opened the next 11-on-11 period with three straight incompletions: the first because of a deflection at the line of scrimmage by defensive tackle Michael Pierce; the second because he couldn’t squeeze a third-and-medium throw to tight end Isaiah Likely, covered well by cornerback Marlon Humphrey; and the third because of an underthrown deep pass to wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, who had to turn into a defender to stop Ya-Sin from grabbing the interception.
Jackson’s accuracy stabilized in seven-on-seven red-zone work, but he followed a highlight-reel touchdown to tight end Charlie Kolar, who brought in a one-handed catch in the back of the end zone over inside linebacker Roquan Smith, with the interception that Hamilton stepped in front of.
Jackson said last month that he expects the Ravens to pass more this season under Monken, but Harbaugh clarified Thursday that the offense would do “whatever we need” to move the ball. Until the Ravens get healthy at wide receiver and up to speed in Monken’s system, any run-pass projections will be murky at best.
“We’re going to have a lot of bodies [at wide receiver] in here, all competitive guys fighting for either spots on the team or practice squad spots,” Harbaugh said. “So as long as our numbers stay high, it won’t be a problem. I do want to see all the starters out there in training camp. Obviously, we need that. They need to be out there, practicing, and when they’re not, that’s something you have to overcome. So hopefully, they’ll all be out there and be rolling the whole time.”
Rookie ‘in the mix’
Rookie Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu closed minicamp the same way he opened it: lining up at left guard with the first-team offensive line.
That was by design. Even with Simpson and Ben Cleveland considered the favorites to replace Ben Powers this offseason, the sixth-round pick has quickly established himself as a contender for the Ravens’ lone offensive line vacancy.
“He has done a great job and he’s in the mix right now, I’d say,” Harbaugh said. “You saw him with the first team — we wanted to get a look at him in there and see how it looked with him in there. One thing we always try to do, and I think this is a little bit rare, but we want to see what guys look like with the first group. You know, what does it look like? You can speculate all you want, but if they start doing a good job with the second group or the third group, and you feel like they’re up to it, I want to see how that fits. And it looked like it fit well.”
The 6-foot-5, 322-pound Aumavae-Laulu is old for a rookie, having turned 24 last month, but relatively new to the position. According to Pro Football Focus, he never played on the left side of the line in his three years at Oregon, and seldom played inside. Last season, Aumavae-Laulu lined up at right tackle for 878 snaps and at right guard for just 24.
After the Ravens drafted the Alaska native in April, director of player personnel Joe Hortiz said Aumavae-Laulu was flexible enough to play guard or tackle and noted his impressive power, mobility and temperament. Right guard Kevin Zeitler, who hadn’t played alongside Aumavae-Laulu until Tuesday, said he “can’t wait” to see how he develops in Baltimore.
“Great attitude,” Zeitler said. “He’s really open-minded. Nothing’s going to bug him. He’s very athletic, so I think the whole world’s right in front of him — all of the potential in the world.”
Running back J.K. Dobbins (undisclosed), fullback Patrick Ricard (hip), wide receivers Mike Thomas (shoulder) and Bateman (foot), defensive lineman Rayshad Nichols (undisclosed) and cornerback Damarion “Pepe” Williams (undisclosed) missed all of minicamp with injuries.
Left tackle Ronnie Stanley sat out practice Wednesday and Thursday after Harbaugh said he was stepped on. Inside linebacker Del’Shawn Phillips (undisclosed) also missed the last two days of minicamp. A minor knee injury sidelined outside linebacker Tyus Bowser on Thursday, according to Harbaugh.
Running back Gus Edwards and wide receiver Shemar Bridges were again limited to positional drills before working briefly with team athletic trainers.
- With speculation swirling around the Ravens’ next move in free agency — cornerback? outside linebacker? offensive skill player? — Harbaugh called the Ravens’ roster “good enough to go play with no changes.” But he added: “It’s never so good that it can’t be improved, you know? So if there’s an opportunity, I’m sure that — because that’s how [general manager] Eric [DeCosta] thinks — we’ll make the most of it.”
- Humphrey said he has a “very unique” relationship with owner Steve Bisciotti, DeCosta and Harbaugh, even sharing updates about his “love life” with them. On Thursday, he grinned as he recalled telling Bisciotti about the “special lady” in his life.
- Rookie cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly, who had a strong minicamp, had an interception after undercutting a pass over the middle from quarterback Tyler Huntley.