Saturday, August 7, 2010

A rocky summer doesn't lower expectations

For many Ravens fans, the start of training camp should come as a relief. This past offseason had reached a boiling point. Fans over-examined the smallest details in an article. It was getting ridiculous.

Remember Joe Flacco's interview where he said he wasn't sure how Marc Bulger would affect the team's chemistry? Fans took it as Flacco directly insulting Bulger, when Flacco was really just speaking about the solid chemistry that he had with back-up QB's John Beck and Troy Smith.

Remember Ed Reed's public ploys to get a new contract, even though he'd hinted at retirement last season and still says he is not close to being 100% healthy? A lot of his comments were strange, but overall it was just Reed posturing for a new deal.

Remember the on-going Jared Gaither saga all offseason? Gaither was on the trade market all offseason but will remain a Raven in 2010. Unfortunately, he does not have a good work ethic, but is still one of the best offensive lineman the team has.

Now that the team is back together at McDaniel College in Westminster, fans should breathe a sigh of relief. There is real football to discuss and not just dissecting a player's quotes.

That said, there are some troubling things hanging over the team right now.

Sergio Kindle, the team's first draft pick in the 2010 draft, suffered a fractured skull in a fall down two flights of steps just days before he was to sign a contract with the Ravens. It was as tragic as it was suspicious. Kindle has had a history of alcohol abuse and many linked his fall to being drunk, but no official report has come out saying how or why Kindle fell. Apparently, Kindle suffers from narcolepsy, and people have made the connection, blaming that for the fall. But we don't really know. And we may never truly know what caused the fall. All we as Ravens fans can do is hope for the best for Kindle's sake. Here is a man about to sign a multimillion-dollar contract and now his entire career is up in the air. Just tragic.

Then there is Reed, who did raise fans' eyebrows with his constant remarks in the media about the Ravens disrespecting him by not letting him review game film or giving him a new deal. Reed's comments are all over the place. He's talked about retirement, said he's not 100%, says the Ravens don't treat him as they should -- and yet he wants a new contract. I think Reed realizes his career is coming to an end and wants one last payday but he is going about it the wrong way. What he needs to do is focus on getting ready for the 2010 season, and let everything else take care of itself. Currently Reed's return is unknown. Rotoworld currently says he could miss the first six weeks of the season.

As a matter of fact, the entire secondary is pretty much up in the air at this point. A week ago, CB Dominique Foxworth suffered a torn ACL and will miss the entire season. Ladarius Webb is rehabbing a knee, and is on the PUP list for training camp and the earliest he could return is week 2 or 3. And Fabian Washington, who also suffered a knee injury last season, was just removed from the PUP list and is able to resume full football activity. Hopefully Washington will be able to remain healthy now that the secondary's depth has been slashed.

That still leaves promising guys like Dave Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura in the secondary, giving them a chance to step up along with a few late draft picks and undrafted free agents, but if the Ravens have a weakness heading into the season it's definitely in the secondary.

But, getting past all those issues, there is still reason for high expectations in Baltimore. Aside from the secondary, the Ravens are loaded with talent at every position. The offense, with WR Anquan Boldin, finally looks to be the strongest unit on the team, and the defense, with Ray Lewis still front and center, should remain strong.

What does it all mean? I think the Ravens are setting themselves up for a deep run into the playoffs, but anything can happen. The Ravens probably have their best team on paper, but as we have seen in the past, anything can happen on Sunday. And if the injuries continue to pile up, all bets are off.

But despite the setbacks the team has suffered this summer, nothing short of a disaster is going to lower expectations now. And for good reason.

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