The 2015 season was one of the toughest seasons in the 20-year history of the Baltimore Ravens. They had high expectations going into the season, but ended up with a 5-11 record. One of the recurring factors for them was the injury bug.
Terrell Suggs went down in the first game of the year and was lost for the season. Steve Smith Sr. and Joe Flacco both suffered season ending injuries as well. While no injury is 100 percent preventable, the Ravens have taken steps to change their off-season conditioning and recovery program.
Bob Rogucki, the director of Strength & Conditioning joined forces with Steve Saunders who will now be the director of Performance & Recovery. The two developed a player-by-player program to improve upon the team’s ability to sustain a high performance level over a longer time period.
“Every day, we get together and go over plans for every player, depending on what injuries they may have, or what weak areas they may show they have,” Rogucki said. “We have some different things we’re doing, assessing players, hopefully finding out weak areas of the body before we begin the program and then address them at that point in time.”
One of the biggest changes is the running program. Saunders said they are working on speed and power as well the lactic system. That is important when it comes to allowing the body to produce energy.
“We’re really focused two days a week on speed and power, so we’re working that stored energy system. What happens with those is, when you’re working speed, you have to let the body recover fully,” Saunders said. “So, if we do a 50-yard or 100-yard sprint [and] turn around and do another one in 30 seconds, you didn’t let the athlete fully recover to go full speed.
We’re really working the lactic system on Tuesday and Thursday. It’s going to be smart running. We’re going to start with certain rest intervals and work intervals, and we’re going to work our way up from there as the season gets closer.”
The players have noticed a more intense theme being developed from the very beginning of mini-camp. Kamar Aiken is looking to build upon a career year last season. He welcomes the increased competition.
“There’s a lot of competition. They started from day one with the competition. It’s a lot more competitive, and just guys getting after it,” Aikin said. “They are keeping a chart on who’s coming across first, and who’s coming across last, so guys are paying attention to that and it’s getting a little more competitive every day.”
Aiken said he loves to compete and believes the competition in drills will translate to the field.
Jimmy Smith was not able to fully take part in the offseason program last year because he was recovering from a Lis Franc injury. He has noticed a significant difference in the off-season program as well.
“A lot of people are shocked just by how intense it is. Before we kind of eased into it, and this year coach [John] Harbaugh wanted us to start at the top, so there was no easing into it,” Smith said. “The intensity is definitely ramped up. It’s a lot more burst, quick-type exercises, like sprinting, 60-yard dashes, that type of thing. I think it’s going to be good for our explosion.”
The Ravens certainly do not want to experience a repeat of last season. Baltimore is a franchise that is used to winning, especially under John Harbaugh. From the looks of the off-season program so far, the team is certainly working to reestablish their competitive identity.