OTA Report: Ravens respond to anthem rule, Flacco and Jackson are good and a new defense
The sun is back and so are the Baltimore Ravens as they kicked off Organized Team Activities this week.
Media members got their first official look at the vets, newcomers and rookies all together on the football field. The buildup to Joe Flacco breaking his silence on first round pick Lamar Jackson was overshadowed Thursday following the NFL’s new rule prohibiting players from kneeling or showing disrespect during the national anthem.
Reporters asked all players who stepped up to the microphone about their reaction to the rule. Many of them said they were keeping their attention on the football field but cornerback Marlon Humphrey said he thinks the reaction to the recent demonstrations during the national anthem with the creation of the rule is a response that is "a little bit blown out of proportion."
"I don't know for sure, but I doubt any military or anyone that has a military background is waking up in the morning and singing the national anthem," said the second-year player out of Alabama. "And if it was that big of a deal, why isn't it broadcast every single day?"
Humphrey prefaced that statement by saying he respects the troops and those that fight for the country.
President Donald Trump has praised the new rule and even went so far as to say NFL players kneeling during the anthem “shouldn't be playing” and maybe “shouldn't be in the country."
Head coach John Harbaugh said he wants to focus on football but added that he “doesn’t stand in judgement” of different types of expression and that he is all for people expressing themselves to “make this country better and better and better” if it is done respectfully.
“Who am I to tell someone how to do it?” he told the media.
The supposed QB drama very much got it’s share of the day's attention. Flacco and Harbaugh said the hot takes flying on ESPN and throughout the Twittersphere about the alleged beef between the Super Bowl XLVII MVP and the Heisman Trophy winner are not a reality. Flacco declared that things between them are good and even took a good-natured dig at reporters over the whole incident.
“Who knows, Lamar might’ve hated me two weeks ago cause he was listening to you guys and he thought I hated him,” Flacco deadpanned.
“I never thought it was anything and I know it’s not anything,” Harbaugh added.
And last but not least, the team was able to talk some actual football and give everyone an update on the defense’s new look under Don “Wink” Martindale and the renovated offense full of new faces.
Defenders continued the trend of praising first-year defensive coordinator Martindale for a scheme they say gives them more freedom.
"Of course, the coaches are making the calls, but he's giving the players a chance to kind of be able to do different things," said Humphrey. "[That is] within the coverage and within the techniques and schemes."
Outside linebacker Matt Judon said the new defense lets them play faster and that he and his teammates are having fun.
"I was with Wink all last year and I love how he taught things and made it simpler," he told reporters.
The revamped offense is depending heavily on the play of new wide receivers Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead IV and John Brown. Harbaugh praised the performance of Sneade and Crabtree Thursday (Brown was absent due to a personal issue) but said the group's diversity is a strong point.
"[They are} three guys that know what they do well and you can count on them doing those things well," Harbaugh said.
Flacco spoke glowingly of Crabtree and seemed to indicate his former Super Bowl opponent will be his new number one receiver.
"Crabtree is the guy because he's got a little different way that he runs the routes," Flacco said. "He's really crafty with it."
Reporters will get a few more chances to watch Baltimore in the coming weeks before and during minicamp, after which comes the month-long break until training camp on July 14.