OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens team that gathered Friday for its first offseason minicamp was strikingly different than the one that lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game last January.
Rex Ryan, Matt Stover, Bart Scott and Jason Brown were nowhere to be seen. There were rookies at several key positions and free-agent pickups such as cornerback Domonique Foxworth, quarterback John Beck and center Matt Birk trying to make themselves at home in a new environment.
After coming within one victory of playing in the Super Bowl during Harbaugh's first season as an NFL head coach, the Ravens refused to remain dormant during the offseason. They were active in the free-agent market, drafted six players and made Greg Mattison their new defensive coordinator after Ryan left to take the New York Jets' head-coaching job.
Now, it's time to see how some of the new pieces fit.
"I think even with the guys that have been here in the past, you see differences," Harbaugh said. "Individual players have improved, the scheme has improved. And then adding the new faces is exciting. It's fun to watch the draft picks and the guys we've signed. It all goes together."
"When you step back and look at it, it's more exciting. Now, you're two or three deep," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "We have so many pieces that are still here and so many pieces that weren't here last year being injured or whatever, and we're happy to have them back."
The minicamp provided top draft pick Michael Oher a chance to meet his new teammates and test his knowledge of the playbook on the field. Veteran Willie Anderson didn't practice because of a knee injury, so Oher received substantial playing time with the first team at right tackle.
"I think I did a good job, and I know I love being a Raven," Oher said. "I studied the plays real well and knew a majority of it. It was my first NFL practice, so I have to recognize things a little faster. But I think I did pretty well overall."
So did the rest of the rookies, according to Harbaugh.
"It would be a great story to say the rookies are trying to get the coach's eye," Harbaugh said. "They're just trying to swim right now. They're trying not to drown. We didn't have a lot of issues with rookies not being able to line up or bumping into each other. So it was a good day."
Free-agent wide receivers Jerry Porter, Kelley Washington and Tab Perry will participate in the three-day camp.
"It's a tryout," Harbaugh said.
Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs didn't attend the minicamp. As an unsigned franchise player, he's not required to be there.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press