Monday, October 18, 2004

Starting Fresh

By Adam H. Beasley, NFL.com

Brian Billick called it a new season.

But for Edwin Mulitalo, it was the difference between sardines and caviar.

“It’s like going from the Holiday Inn to the Ritz,” the Ravens’ starting left guard said after Sunday afternoon’s practice, their first in more than a week. “This is what it’s all about. It’s like you have brand new shoes. You don’t want to mess them up, but you definitely have to break them in and make them feel comfortable.

”While every first practice after a bye brings a little extra jolt of adrenaline, nothing in the team’s nine-year history has been like this. The Ravens moved into their brand new, 200,000 square-foot training facility this past week, and Sunday, practiced for the first time on their recently-planted outdoor fields.

Players toured their new home Saturday afternoon, and following a short meeting, nearly a dozen Ravens camped out in their lounge, playing pool and watching college football.

Owner Steve Bisciotti wanted the $31 million building to be a place where players wanted to work and play, and they were back in their rec room before Sunday morning meetings.

Cornerback Chris McAlister and wide receiver Clarence Moore shot pool, while safety Chad Williams hung out by the team’s personalized pinball machine.

The newness of the Ravens’ surroundings created renewed excitement about the season in general, Billick said after the team’s hour-long practice Sunday.

“This all feels new, so it does feel like a new season,” Billick said. “Obviously, there’s some familiarity. We’ve already gotten over that. It’s not like we’re literally having to start over, but the energy, in the sense that it’s a new season, that’s a good thing.”

For Travis Taylor and Mike Flynn, returning to the practice field Sunday meant that their seasons could start in earnest. Flynn, the Ravens’ center, has missed the entire season thus far due to a broken clavicle, while Taylor has been held out since the season opener with a groin injury.

However, both players practiced Sunday and are expected to play when the Ravens host Buffalo next week.

“I’m definitely ready,” said Taylor, who worked some with the scout team last week, but is preparing as if he will play this week. “We haven’t talked about [my role].

It’s like Brian says. We can never have too many good receivers. I’m not worried about that. When I get my chance to go back out there and play, that’s what I’m going to do.”It’s been a long road back for Flynn, who injured his shoulder during a blocking drill in training camp. After weeks of rehabilitation, he was back on the field on Sunday.

The same could not be said for tight end Todd Heap, the Pro Bowler who has missed three games due to a sprained ankle. Heap worked out separately Sunday, but Billick would not rule him out for the Bills game.

“Our plan is to run him through, as we did today, and to see how he comes out on Wednesday,” Billick said. “Todd’s the one that I’m least optimistic about, but I don’t know that yet. We’ll have to see what Wednesday shows.”