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From Barbados to Baltimore: Meet Ramon Harewood

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From Barbados to Baltimore: Meet Ramon Harewood

Ramon Harewoodran out of the tunnel at M&T Bank Stadium Monday night, through the smokeand the pre-game fireworks, and soaked in the roars of more than 70,000 fans ashe was announced as the Ravens starting left guard in his first NFLregular-season game. It was a momentHarewood described as "phenomenal" and "amazing. Whatever word you want to use, it was that."
The same could besaid for Harewood's journey to the NFL, one of the more improbable career pathsin NFL history. Harewood, anative of Barbados, never even played football until he enrolled at MorehouseCollege in Atlanta, where coaches literally had to show him how to put on theequipment. Raised by an aunt after his mother died, Harewood played on juniornational teams in rugby, track and volleyball, and also played cricket inBarbados, an island nation in the Lesser Antilles about six times smaller thanRhode Island. Football? What'sthat?He ultimatelyfound out after a chance meeting at a college fair in Barbados with MichaelGrant, a track coach from Atlanta who would later coach football at Morehouse.Harewood, a standout student, first enrolled at the University of West Indiesto study engineering, but then transferred to Morehouse after earning anacademic scholarship and decided to give football a shot.
"He had topretty much learn everything," said Brian Braswell, the offensive linecoach at Morehouse. "I mean everything. We started with the rules of thegame. Then stretching, how to put on pads, fundamentals, things like that. "But he'ssuch a smart kid, once you tell him something once, he gets it."Current Morehousehead coach Rich Freeman, who came to the Atlanta school when Harewood was asophomore -- after being Jacoby Jones' special teams coach at Lane College --said he took one look at Harewood, and the way he moved, and said, "Thisguy can play in the NFL."
Freeman movedHarewood from the defensive line to the offensive side, and by his junior year,Harewood had blossomed into an all-conference lineman. By his senior year,scouts were flocking to Morehouse -- Martin Luther King Jr.'s alma mater -- tosee this athletic project with quick feet who was as big as a house and strongenough to lift one. The Ravens madeHarewood, 6-foot-6 and 340 pounds, their sixth-round pick in the 2010 draft, butHarewood's NFL career screeched to a halt before it started. He spent not onebut two entire seasons on injured reserve, first for surgery on both knees in2010, and then with an ankle injury last season.
Harewood saidthat one of the hardest things through that time was watching every otherplayer the Ravens drafted in 2010 -- Sergio Kindle, Terrence Cody, Ed Dickson,Dennis Pitta, David Reed and Arthur Jones -- play for the Ravens, while he wasstuck on the sideline. But, he said,"I was raised in my heritage to never say never. Just keep fighting, andthat's all I did."
"It's not inmy mentality to (quit)," he added. "My mom died when I was 10, andshe would always tell me, 'Never let anyone tell you what you can and cannotdo."Finally healthythis summer, Harewood landed a spot on the Ravens' 53-man roster, a spot thatseemingly wasn't secure until the final cuts were announced.
"We thoughtreally highly of Ramon, coach John Harbaugh said after the Week 1 win. Wejust thought he looked like a player."Hes a bigguy with long arms who can bend and get leverage on defensive tackles,"Harbaugh added, "and hes done a good job with it.
But amid a lot ofspeculation over the makeup of the starting offensive line, Harewood's name wasrarely mentioned, and even then it was primarily at tackle rather than guard.
Yet when thestarters stormed out of the tunnel on Monday night, there was Harewood, theonly Barbados native ever to play in the NFL, beating the odds, and later, theBengals."He hasunspeakable drive," Freeman said. "He's such a quiet person that youmay not know it, but you will ultimately see the results from it."

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Baltimore Ravens 2018 Training Camp preview

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Baltimore Ravens 2018 Training Camp preview

The Ravens’ 2018 season is one of the most anticipated seasons in the last decade. 

From the coaching staff to the quarterback, the future of the franchise will be determined over 16 weeks. The work, however, beings now. 

The Ravens’ first training camp practice kicks off Thursday and there is a lot to keep a close eye on. Let's take a look at the many talking points of the 2018 preseason.

The Great Quarterback Debate:

Unless you’ve been in hiding since the NFL Draft, you know what all the hoopla is about. Joe Flacco remains the Ravens’ starter, but the competition at QB1 just got a little more interesting. The addition of Lamar Jackson has hopefully ignited a fire under Flacco and Jackson will get a year to learn under the 11-year veteran. If the season starts to go south early on, Jackson could come in as their starter and begin his role as the team’s next franchise quarterback. 

A lot could happen at the quarterback position over the next year, but one thing that is certain is all eyes will be on Lamar Jackson when he hits the field at training camp. You can't deny your intrigue. The Heisman winner had success both in the air and on the ground over his three years at Louisville, racking up record-breaking numbers. How the Ravens utilize Jackson will be interesting. Coach Harbaugh has already stated he will be active on game days and that they're experimenting with having Jackson and Flacco on the field at the same time. 

Oh, and then there's Robert Griffin III. We think you might know who he is.

The Ravens signed him to a one-year deal back at the beginning of April, but now with the addition of Lamar Jackson, another big training camp question arises. Do the Ravens keep a third QB on their active roster or do they send him on his way? RGIII has mentioned he's looking forward to mentoring the fellow Heisman Trophy winner in his first year in the league, but how much of that he'll get to do remains unseen.

A New Core Of Offensive Weapons: 

Flacco's declining numbers cannot be placed entirely on his shoulders. His options at wide receiver and tight end have been limited, but Ozzie Newsome – in his last year as general manager – made sure that would no longer be an issue.

Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead and John 'Smokey' Brown became Ravens in free agency and Breshad Perriman will fight for his final chance with the team after they declined the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. There is also 2018 draft picks Jaleel Scott and Jordan Lasley and undrafted free agents Jaelon Acklin and Andrew Levrone. Veteran Chris Moore and Quincy Adeboyejo will also be competing. Flacco mentioned during OTAs that he would be rounding up his receivers outside of practice to build chemistry. Come Thursday, we will see if the sparks have begun to fly.

The tight end depth chart will be looking very different for the Ravens as well this season. There was, of course, the additions of Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews – a pair of Top 100 picks – in the draft and undrafted free agent Nick Keizer. Veterans Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams are returning, but who will be their starter Week 1 will be interesting to watch. Boyle was on the field for 66 percent of the Ravens' offensive snaps in 2017, but injuries have hindered both Boyle and Williams. Williams missed 12 games in 2016 with a knee tear and five games in 2017 with an ankle sprain. Where he sits on the depth chart will rely heavily on how healthy he remains during an extended training camp. 

Critical Year for the Coaching Staff:

The 2018 season is the most critical one of John Harbaugh's 10-year tenure. As you've read many times this offseason, the Ravens haven't seen the postseason since 2015. And if that trend continues into the 2018 season, big changes to the offensive playcallers should be imminent. 

At his annual State of the Ravens press conference in February, owner Steve Bisciotti was questioned as to why no coaching changes – from head coach to offensive coordinator – were made after the Ravens' offense clearly had trouble getting things going all season long.

"I’m not going to give a ‘playoff or bust’ edict to you all, or to my coach," Bisciotti said.

"He’s under as much pressure, probably, than he’s ever been in his life, and I expect him to keep his chin up and take his positivity and his talents and make the most of this season. I may as well replace him now if I’m going to tell him, ‘Make the playoffs or you’re out of town next year.’ That’s just not the way to run a business.”

That mindset is understandable. Bisciotti noted Flacco has been through four offensive coordinators in five years and was comfortable with OC Marty Mornhinweg. Harbaugh's contract was extended through 2019, but if the season doesn't pan out as expected, the offensive could have a very different look in 2019. 

A Fast and Furious Defense:

Linebackers coach, Don 'Wink' Martindale was promoted to defensive coordinator after Dean Pees' departure. Harbaugh hired within the organization to keep the defensive vision cohesive, but Martindale is bringing something different to the table. 

"He's just putting his personal fix on our defense and expanding it, giving the guys confidence to play fast," safety Eric Weddle said in a recent interview. "The idea is to do what's best for the defense, not what's best the individual."

It appears this year's defense will rely heavily on the instincts of its star players like Pro Bowlers Weddle, Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley. The defense has never had an issue being dominate, but you may be seeing a more creative defense come game days with players given the freedom to make decisions in real time. How well it works will be exciting to see. 

Other Notes: 

The Ravens placed six players, G Marshal Yanda, TE Vince Mayle, DE Brent Urban, CB Jaylen Hill, LB Bam Bradley and WR Quincy Adeboyejo on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list to begin training camp. Yanda missed 14 games last season after suffering a season-ending ankle injury. Placing him on the PUP list to begin training camp is most likely out of precaution. He did not participate in any offseason workouts. 

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Lamar Jackson, Ravens rookies report to training camp

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USA TODAY Sports

Lamar Jackson, Ravens rookies report to training camp

Football is back in session for the Ravens.

Their rookies are set to report to the Ravens' training facility in Owings Mills, Md Wednesday. Veterans report next Wednesday, the 18th.

The team is reporting to training camp a bit earlier than most NFL teams. Due to Ray Lewis being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Aug. 4 in Canton, Oh, the Ravens will face the Chicago Bears in the annual Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 2. Teams participating are eligible to begin training camp earlier.

This rookie class is already generating national attention. While the Ravens stand by Joe Flacco as their QB1, first-round pick Lamar Jackson could cause a shakeup at some point during the season. And when it comes to much-needed offensive help, tight ends Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews could begin to provide relief. 

Third-round pick Orlando Brown Jr. begins his journey with the Ravens in a more sentimental fashion. His father, Orlando "Zeus" Brown, also played tackle for the Ravens from 1996-98 and then again from 2003-05. Brown passed away in 2011. 

Stay with NBC Sports Washington throughout the next several weeks as we keep a close eye on the Ravens' preseason. 

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