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The Sports Daily > Ravens Football Machine
It’s Joe Flacco’s team now…

Ryan Mink of Ravens.com summed it up as well as anybody could right now—

This is Joe Flacco's Baltimore Ravens…

 

 

 

 

 


Organized Team Activities (OTAs) start Tuesday for the Ravens, the next step in preparation for the 2013 season.

Thus far, the players have participated in very limited “football school” sessions. Now OTAs will turn things up a notch.

While OTAs are still voluntary, they often draw more veteran players.

They are still not full padded practices, but players do wear helmets. Contact is allowed, but not full tackling. Players still cannot compete against each other in 1-on-1 battles, such as a cornerback versus a wide receiver. Practices can run for two hours.

Here are five storylines to watch during OTAs:

Joe Flacco's time

The Ravens’ franchise quarterback was at the Under Armour Performance Center last week and said in April that he plans to be on hand for offseason workouts. He came to OTAs last year.

It would be his first time with his teammates without the Ravens’ old guard, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, on the roster. So it’s Flacco’s first real chance to take a tight grip on this team. Knowing Flacco, not much will change in his demeanor. But it will be interesting to see how other players act around the reigning Super Bowl MVP.

It’s also a key time for Flacco to gel with some of his young receivers (Tandon Doss, LaQuan Williams, David Reed, Deonte Thompson, Aaron Mellette, Tommy Streeter) in the hopes of finding someone to step up in place of departed Anquan Boldin.

Rookies practice with vets

The rookies already got a taste of what practicing with the veterans is like last week during football school. But those practices aren’t quite as intense as OTAs, and don’t often include as many veterans. One of the intriguing pairings will be rookie fullback Kyle Juszczyk and veteran Vonta Leach, who could be battling for the same position.

Which wide receiver emerges?

All of the competitors in the wide receiver competition should be present considering they were on hand for voluntary football school. Doss, Williams, Reed, Thompson, Mellette, and Streeter are looking to show something and start to pull away for the third receiver spot behind Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones. Every practice will be important for them to make an impression, especially while they’re all healthy and able.

Center battles takes center stage

One of the more interesting battles this offseason will be the one for starting center. Second-year player Gino Gradkowski was written in earlier this season, but the trade for A.Q. Shipley adds competition. Shipley said coaches will give him a chance to earn the starting gig. Both players are gritty, hard workers who will put it all on the line.

Back to work, shaking off any hangover

The storyline for every Super Bowl winner is whether they will have a hangover into next season. Ravens players have consistently said they don’t expect that with this team under workmanlike Head Coach John Harbaugh. Reporters will get a look at this team’s demeanor.

I like the challenge and the tension in this year's Ravens camp. It's fun to observe the pressure on winning teams. I don't know why—  but I appreciate the angst about the absolute improbability of repeating as league champions. It makes for dramatic entertainment value… and it affects every single player on the roster.