As the Ravens ran out of the tunnel on a gorgeous Saturday night at M&T Bank Stadium, it had all the makings of a preseason game.
The large roster took longer than normal to completely spill onto the field, players waved to the stands as crowd noise roared as the players ran onto the field.
All that was missing was everything else.
The crowd noise the players heard was artificial. There wasn’t anyone in the stands, with the exception of a dozen or so reporters and a handful of team employees as the waves from players to no one were done in a joking tone. The public address announcer was there, all trying to simulate a real-game experience as best they could. In 2020, that’s all that’s possible.
“It was really good circumstantially to get in the stadium, work in a semi-realistic type of an environment for the game,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I think every time you change environments, it’s a challenge for execution. And that sure showed up today, but we fought through it, and I think it’s a step in the direction toward playing the game. Now, we’ve got to lock in and get better, and we have plenty to work on.”
The Ravens set up the scrimmage as best they could to be like a true preseason game.
All of the players drove to the game separately, dressed in full uniform, went through a full pregame warmup routine and ran out of the tunnel as if there were thousands of fans cheering them on. The scrimmage was set up similarly too, as the Ravens put four quarters on the scoreboard and ran the clock during drives.
The offense “won” 27-22, but it was clear the defense got the better of the NFL’s best offense from a year ago.
Lamar Jackson went 14-for-25 with two touchdowns — one on a 40-yard pass to Marquise “Hollywood” Brown — and another in an end-of-game drill at the end of the night.
The only injury news was from defensive tackle Justin Madubuike and wideout De’Andre White, who left the field and didn’t return to the scrimmage. Otherwise, the Ravens are healthy headed toward Week 1.
“I feel good about where we’re at,” running back Mark Ingram said. “And we have guys who have the right intent, guys who are willing to play hard, guys who want to be great. And, honestly, I think today was very needed for us — just to be able to see that we’re not all the way ready. We still have strides to go to be the team that we want to be. Pre-snap penalties, being able just to execute our assignments, execute our plays.”
Jackson’s lone interception came by safety Nigel Warrior, who as an undrafted rookie, is certainly making a case to be part of the team’s original 53-man roster.
The Ravens' next practice, after an off day Sunday, will be Monday at the team's practice facility in Owings Mills. They'll switch to regular season mode after that, now fully acclimating to the regular season schedule.
The Ravens open the season on Sept. 13, at M&T Bank Stadium, against the Cleveland Browns. Without any preseason games, the next time the entire team will be at their home stadium together will be when it counts.
“We don’t have preseason games to work out the operational, execution details — understanding those kinds of things — and we need to be really good at it in order to make sure we play good football,” Harbaugh said. “So, the guys are urgent, and they want to get those things right.”