Began my annual NFL training camp tour over the weekend with a trip down I-95 to the Baltimore Ravens, who summer at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md., about 25 minutes northwest of Baltimore. I spent about 45 minutes with the Ravens' new head coach, ex-Eagle assistant John Harbaugh, for a story that will run in the Daily News Tuesday. Harbaugh's training camp bears little resemblence to the Club Med that previous coach Brian Billick ran. He's trying to turn around a 5-11 team, and it's not going to be easy. He's got an aging defense, no proven quarterback, a questionable offensive line and not a single wide receiver that is going to scare the bejesus out of opposing cornerbacks.
Harbaugh said his team doesn't need an overhaul, but it doesn't just need a lube and oil change either.
It's too soon to say who's going to be the team's season-opening quarterback, but it doesn't look like it's going to be first-round draft pick Joe Flacco. While Flacco said he thinks he's NFL-ready right now, the Ravens are taking a wait-and-see approach with the Audabon, N.J., native. Asked if Flacco is a project, Harbaugh told me: ``The jury's still out on that. That's the $30 million (the total amount of Flacco's contract) question. We like Troy (Smith) and we like Kyle (Boller). The quarterback pecking order in the first few days of camp was Smith, Boller and Flacco. ``As a coach, it's a good situation to be in,'' Harbaugh said. ``You can say we're unsettled at quarterback. OK. And we want to be settled at quarterback. But it's nice to let those guys compete. It's competition in its truest form.''
Harbaugh said his three biggest coaching influences have been his father, Jack, who was a college coach for 41 years, Eagles head coach Andy Reid and Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson.
On his father: ``My whole value system as far as what we're putting in place here, is what we (he and his brother Jim, who is the head coach at Stanford) grew up with. (Ravens owner) Steve Bisciotti would call it intuitive. Jim has this too. We have a real good feel for what we want a program to look like. Probably because we just were around them (good programs) our whole lives. What I've tried to do and what Jim has tried to do is, we know what we want it to look like because we've seen it our whole lives. Now, we just have to define what that is.''
On the influence of Reid: ``The way he treats players and coaches. He is professional in his job. The way he is able to control his emotions. He's one of the most competitive people I've ever met. But he's got that ability to keep an even keel. I didn't have that before I went to work for him. I learned that from him. And the way we set up an NFL program is basically Andy Reid's structure.''
On Johnson: ``He was a mentor. From a hands-on coaching standpoint, he's been my pro influence. He treats you with so much respect and teaches you so much. He doesn't hold back one thing. He's very generous with his knowledge. There aren't a lot of coaches like that. Some guys protect that knowledge like it's gold or something. He doesn't. He builds guys up. Steve Spagnuolo, Ron Rivera, Leslie Frazier, Maybe I'm in there somewhere. The you got the young guys on the staff now who are growing.''