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Training camp preview: defense

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Training camp preview: defense

The Ravens are opening training camp in Owings Mills this week, with the quarterbacks and rookies hitting the practice field Tuesday and the first full-squad workout scheduled for Thursday.

Although much of the lineup is set, theres still a lot on the line, a lot to be determined. Here are five issues to monitor on the defensive side:

Are Paul Kruger and Courtney Upshaw ready to start?

After Terrell Suggs injury and Jarret Johnsons departure, all eyes are on the teams new outside linebackers, who will need to set the edge of the run defense and get to opposing passers. Kruger, entering his fourth year, has never started, but the Ravens liked what they saw from him in 2011. And they believe Upshaw is a plug-and-play rookie. Its time to find out.

Who starts opposite Lardarius Webb?

Cary Williams is back after holding down the job in 2011, but he is coming off hip surgery that knocked him out of the teams offseason program. Meanwhile, 2011 first-round Jimmy Smith is poised to take a step forward in his second year. Their training camp battle is a bit misleading as both will see extensive playing time. But one will start.

Is it Art Jones or Pernell McPhee in the interior?

Another training camp battle, this one between former fifth-round draft picks, with the winner to replace departed veteran Cory Redding. Again, both will see extensive playing time. Jones has re-sculpted his body since turning pro and is adept at stopping the run. McPhee was a revelation as a rookie pass rusher in 2011.

How about those body changes?

Ray Lewis has slimmed down for his 17th season to give himself a chance to be more effective (and on the field) in passing situations. Haloti Ngata has bulked up because he felt he was pushed around toward the end of last season. With Suggs out, the Ravens are going need both to play well.

Is Ed Reed therehappyhealthy?

After a somewhat tumultuous offseason, all signs indicate that the safety will report on time and play out the last year of his contract in 2012. The big question now is whether he is healthy, ready and able to play better in 2012 after intercepting just three passes and struggling with his tackling at times in 2011.

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Fellow dance student of Ravens' Alex Collins fatally shot in Florida school shooting

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USA Today Sports

Fellow dance student of Ravens' Alex Collins fatally shot in Florida school shooting

On Wednesday, February 14, a horrific school shooting claimed the lives of 17 innocent people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. 

The tragic event impacted people far and wide, and hit especially close to home for Ravens running back Alex Collins.

The former Arkansas star was born in Plantation, Fla., a suburb of Fort Lauderdale and went to high school just 15 miles south of Douglas High School. 

In the offseason, Collins took Irish dancing lessons to improve his footwork, and following the act of terror, the Ravens' tailback learned that one of his dance partners had been killed in the mass shooting.

17-year-old Cara Loughran attended The Drake school of Irish Dance with Collins in addition to two other Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and was fatally shot by the gunman on Wednesday afternoon. 

Collins took to his Twitter account to issue this heartfelt message.

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“The school shooting yesterday hit home,” Collins wrote.

“We received confirmation a few hours ago we lost one of the girls, Cara Loughran. Two other girls saw and experienced unspeakable tragedy. My heart goes out to these girls, all their families and their teacher Chrissy.”

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Baltimore Ravens to take on Chicago Bears in Hall of Fame game

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USA Today Sports

Baltimore Ravens to take on Chicago Bears in Hall of Fame game

BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears will launch the NFL's 99th season by playing in the annual Hall of Fame game on Aug. 2.

The Ravens' first appearance in the Hall of Fame game, which launches the league's 2018 Enshrinement Week. Former Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis is among the inductees, along with former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.

Lewis, who played 17 seasons with the Ravens, and Urlacher, who played all of his 13 seasons with Chicago, both were elected on the first ballot.

Lewis joins Jonathan Ogden as the only Ravens in the Hall of Fame. Both were selected by Baltimore in the first round of the 1996 draft.

The other members of the Class of 2018 include Bobby Beathard, Robert Brazile, Brian Dawkins, Jerry Kramer, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens. All will be inducted on Saturday, Aug. 4.

This will be the record-tying fifth time that the Bears will play in the Hall of Fame game. They won the previous four, most recently 27-24 over Miami in 2005.

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