The Baltimore Ravens held a voluntary offseason practice Wednesday without six starters, which sets off the annual uproar over the players' commitment to the team.
At this point, the no-shows are no big deal. Outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, defensive end Chris Canty, guard Marshal Yanda and inside linebacker Daryl Smith all know what they're doing on the field and they know their roles. Even though some of these players -- Suggs, Ngata and Canty -- are coming off disappointing seasons, they're really not going to benefit much from running drills in their shorts.
The criticism becomes legitimate in two weeks if these players report to mandatory minicamp in poor shape. That's when you can make the argument that they should've been training at team headquarters instead of their hometowns. Ngata and Suggs have never been considered workout warriors, so it does bear watching.
Beyond that, it's more drama than substance. Let's rewind to 2012 when the Ravens held offseason workouts without linebacker Ray Lewis, safety Ed Reed, running back Ray Rice (given franchise tag), center Matt Birk, Suggs and Ngata. Reed even skipped the Ravens' mandatory minicamp.
How did that affect the Ravens' season? They won the Super Bowl.
If the Ravens and the rest of the NFL teams had their way, there would be perfect attendance at every practice. The Ravens want first-round pick C.J. Mosley to absorb as much knowledge from Smith as he can, and they want second-round pick Timmy Jernigan to pick up some tips from Ngata.
Instead of bashing the players who aren't here, everyone should be applauding those who are working every day at the Ravens' facility. Despite entering his 14th season, wide receiver Steve Smith is on the field running routes because he's catching passes from a new quarterback in a new offense. Offensive tackle Eugene Monroe is here learning the new blocking scheme even though he's been playing since 2009 and just signed a five-year, $37.5 million deal earlier this year. And Joe Flacco has been here for every practice even though some feel he could've put more work in this offseason.
In the big picture, this is a minor story. When you look at an offseason that has included four players being arrested, not having a half-dozen starters at a practice in June is the least of the team's worries.