Unhappy with the hard artificial turf at Tulane University’s baseball field, the Baltimore Ravens finished practice Thursday on the grass field at the Saints’ facility instead.
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The San Francisco 49ers, their opponent in Sunday’s Super Bowl, already are training at the Saints’ complex in nearby Metairie.
The Ravens asked the league early Thursday if they could work out at the Saints’ facility. In order for both teams to practice at different times there, the Ravens agreed to dress at Tulane’s baseball facility and hold their 30-minute walk-through there.
Then the players and coaches boarded five buses for the 8-mile trip from Tulane to the Saints’ facility, not far from New Orleans International Airport. There, under heightened security, the Ravens completed their on-field work for the day with a 1-hour, 25-minute practice coach John Harbaugh called ”a very normal, late-season Thursday practice.”
All 53 players on the Ravens’ active roster practiced under sunny skies, and none of the players was limited.
”I think our players dealt with it great,” said Harbaugh, who walked off the field afterward with linebacker Ray Lewis. ”As Ray just said to me, `We work.’ That’s what we do. Our guys don’t flinch at things like this.”
Because Tulane has broken ground on a new football stadium, the AFC champions were forced to practice in the outfield of the baseball facility Wednesday.
”It’s a baseball field, it’s really tight, and when you stop and start, you feel it,” Lewis said. ”It’s especially tough for the older guys. I know the other players, on that hard surface, they feel it.
”I don’t think (the NFL) thought it would be a problem. The last thing you want is anything that makes your players ache. You want to do the opposite.”
As part of the preparation at Tulane, the baseball field was tested to measure the hardness of the surface. The readings were within the acceptable range for NFL fields, but the Ravens weren’t comfortable.
They also were working on a makeshift 80-yard field, although another area was available for the kickers.
And they had no indoor field to work on as the 49ers did. The Ravens practiced in wind gusts up to 24 mph on Wednesday.
Tulane has begun tearing down the regular practice field, where the new stadium will go. While Super Bowl planning has been under way for three years, Tulane’s construction timeline was uncertain as the school cleared bureaucratic hurdles until recently.
Both Super Bowl teams have worked out at the same venue before.
In 2004 in Houston, the Panthers and Patriots both used the Texans’ training facility.