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Ravens' grueling conditioning test continues on despite virtual setup

Ravens' grueling conditioning test continues on despite virtual setup

Just because NFL teams are currently holding virtual workouts and training sessions amid the coronavirus pandemic doesn't mean that the requirements will be any less vigorous and intense. The Baltimore Ravens are surely aware of that now as the roster battles with what has become a notoriously challenging conditioning test.

As ESPN's Jamison Hensley details, a virtual experience is not stopping John Harbaugh and company from putting his players through a challenging task to make sure they are ready for the 2020 NFL season. Here is how Hensley describes what the conditioning consists of:

"Players must run a total of 900 yards in six legs. Each set consists of 25 yards out and back three times. They must finish that heat of 150 yards under a designated time -- 32 seconds for the offensive and defensive linemen, 29 seconds for the tight ends and linebackers and 27 seconds for the wide receivers, running backs and defensive backs. If you go over that time in any of the six legs, you flunk the test and have to take it over."

Just reading the requirements is tiring. From players who have taken the test in the past, the actual physical part has lived up to the hype. Former Ravens cornerback Fabian Washington told Hensley that it felt as if his legs were "running in mud." Washington admitted that he didn't think too much of the test going in, but was immediately shocked by just how challenging it is.

He's not alone, as plenty of players have shared in the exhaustion. Hensley noted that Earl Thomas, who took it for the first time in 2019, felt as if he was going to throw up. As fast as Lamar Jackson is, the test was just as challenging

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For those who don't pass, it just means continuing to take it over until success is achieved because until you do so, you don't take snaps on the field. Orlando Brown Jr., Mike Wallace and Haloti Ngata are among the group that has failed over the years. Jacoby Jones had to take it multiple times in 2013 and compared it to taking placement tests for college.

"I took it just about how like I took the ACT,” Jones said. "Eventually I passed.”

Whether they pass on the first try or not, there's one thing every Ravens player can agree on: it's extremely challenging. Former Baltimore running back Justin Forsett could really only describe it in one way.

"It is pure death," Forsett said. "It is the hardest conditioning test I had throughout my time in the NFL."

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The test has become a staple in Baltimore during Harbaugh's tenor, but even the head coach himself doesn't really know how it came to be. It wasn't passed down from anyone, and no evil genius conspired to make it as challenging as it was.

Realistically, Harbaugh was following suit with other conditioning tests and added what he felt was necessary to have his players ready for the grind of an NFL season.

"There’s a baseline element to it of conditioning, a strength element to it,” Harbaugh said. "There’s also a coverage during a series when you have to go six or seven seconds hard. You get a little time off, and you’re right back at it going hard again in a 100 percent, explosive kind of a way.”

100 percent is what Harbaugh is looking for out of his players all season long. In order to get there, they'll have to prove they can handle that from day one. 

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Ravens DT Brandon Williams doesn't see how opposing offenses can attack their defense

Ravens DT Brandon Williams doesn't see how opposing offenses can attack their defense

Ravens defensive tackle Brandon Williams looks a bit different entering the 2020 season. He’s also got some teammates that look different, too. 

The Ravens added defensive tackles Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe to the front line, meaning Williams will kick inside to nosetackle this season. He’s changed his body composition as a result, and has shaved off some fat and added more muscle.

“I’ve got to eat the greens, eat the vegetables, the broccoli and whatnot,” Williams said Friday on a Zoom call with reporters. “But, then just working on my body composition, just working on being more — not lighter — but more toned so I can play that nose and keep running the way I do. Those two additions, Wolfe and Calais, I’ve got the twin towers right next to me — those two giants. I don’t see how offenses can come at us, man.”

In order to slim down a little bit the 31-year-old ate with a more watchful eye, as he knew his body would respond accordingly during the season.

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“I’m trying to get my slim-sexy going on — you know what I’m saying?” Williams quipped. “You know, the older you get, the harder it is to get that weight off you, the harder it is to move. You have to think about the joints and all the double-teams you’re taking up and all that stuff. So, when you come in a little bit lighter, it just relieves all that pain a lot of that — I guess — nagging stuff you have to worry about early on.”

Williams had 34 tackles last season and one sack, but is hopeful his move back to the nosetackle spot after the additions of Campbell, Wolfe and draft choices Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington will create a defensive line capable of wreaking havoc on opposing offenses. 

“Those two dudes are good, and I like what I’ve got,” Williams said. “I like my team. I like the way they look, and the new guys are coming up great. We’ve got a lot of things going for us on the D-line and I’m excited to see it.”

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A very good day for NFL tight ends George Kittle and Travis Kelce

A very good day for NFL tight ends George Kittle and Travis Kelce

It’s been a good day for tight ends in the NFL.

To start the day George Kittle became the highest-paid tight end in the league. Shortly after, Travis Kelce signed an extension keeping him in Kansas City for an additional four years. Now it’s hard to talk about NFL tight ends and not mention either Kittle or Kelce’s name as two of the best in the league. It was only fitting that the two get paid on the exact same day.  

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Kittle and the San Francisco 49ers reached an agreement on a five-year, $75 million contract extension. Kittle deserves every penny of that deal as he’s racked up 2,945 receiving yards, the most by any tight end in NFL history after three seasons. He’s a do-it-all tight end who has great hands, blocks like a guard, and is a huge asset to the locker room.  

Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs and Travis Kelce agreed to a four-year, $57.25 million extension. Kelce is a huge part of the Chiefs offense and his stats show that he’s one of the best in the league. He’s the only tight end to ever record four straight 1,000 yard seasons and he’s the fastest tight end ever to 425 career catches and 5,500 receiving yards.  

Kittle and Kelce have set the bar high with their play on the field, but they have now also set the bar for the price tag at their position that comes along with it. 

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