Super Bowl champ Ravens start anew with new cast
The first day of training camp for the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday was strange, not because of who was in attendance - but because of who wasn't.
Ray Lewis wasn't there. Neither was Ed Reed, or at least a half dozen other players who hoisted the Super Bowl trophy last February.
In their first full-scale practice since defeating the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl, the Ravens were without Lewis, who retired, and Reed, who signed as a free agent with Houston.
Also absent were Matt Birk, Bernard Pollard, Anquan Boldin, Vonta Leach, Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe - either by retirement, trade or as a departed free agent.
''Sure, it was different,'' coach John Harbaugh said. ''It's about change in a lot of ways, and there's a lot of change this year. It wasn't the same. But it's not expected. It is reality, and it's our reality to deal with. We're all excited about that, too.''
Running back Ray Rice was back, ready to begin his sixth NFL season. Instead of looking back at the good times with Lewis, Reed, and the Lombardi Trophy, Rice opted to peek ahead toward a new season.
''I'll be honest, myself, I'm going to let the Super Bowl go,'' he said. ''That pressure is something you're going to hear all year, and I don't want to harp on it. But what did feel good is getting out here with the guys. You talk about Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and the guys that we lost, we'll always carry them with us with that ring and that trophy.''
Many of last year's heroes are gone, but there are others to take their place. Marcus Spears, Chris Canty, Elvis Dumervil, Michael Huff and a brand new draft class participated in their first training camp workout with a franchise that has reached the playoffs in five straight seasons.
''The personalities are blending really well on defense,'' Harbaugh said, ''but you have to play together, you have practice together. That's what training camp is all about.''
Harbaugh insists this season isn't about defending the title. It's about working toward winning the next Super Bowl. Dumervil, who came up short with Denver last year, is buying into that philosophy.
''One good thing with this team of 2013 is we all have something to prove,'' Dumervil said. ''It's a totally different team. Whenever it's a totally different team, stakes are different, questions are asked, so you have to go out and prove yourself. That's the beauty of it.''
Since his arrival in 2003, Terrell Suggs has looked up to Lewis. Now it's up to Suggs and the perennially strong Ravens defense to carry on with him.
''His legacy is, he has left a standard here,'' Suggs said. ''Every man on our defense will be held accountable for playing to that standard.''
The process began Thursday.
''This is when you build a football team,'' Harbaugh said. ''If you don't build a strong foundation, you're not going to build a solid building. You can lose it before you ever get started, and we don't intend to do that.''
Left tackle Bryant McKinnie did not practice because he is ''just too heavy right now,'' according to Harbaugh.
''He needs to lose weight, and my guess is he lost quite a bit today,'' the coach said. ''He's in good shape. I can tell that he's worked hard, but I wasn't really comfortable putting him out there today at that weight.
Guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) and linebacker Jameel McClain (spine) are on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.