As the Ravens wrapped up their OTA workout on Thursday, coach John Harbaugh noted that for this time of year, the team appeared to be in "very great shape."
Perhaps the most encouraging sign of all was the status of offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele, whose 2013 season was cut short by back surgery.
Osemele has been progressing steadily since the November surgery to repair a herniated disk. He was working out by late December but eased back into his weightlifting regimen to avoid a setback.
Harbaugh said that watching practice on Wednesday, Osemele "jumped out at me. K.O. was really practicing fast, sprinting back to the huddle or back to the line when he was done after every single play, almost making a point to condition himself during practice. He's in really exceptional condition."
A healthy Osemele would be a major step forward for the offensive line, which would not only gain strength but flexibility; he is a proven NFL starter at both left guard and right tackle. Many coaches and scouts think Osemele is a solid tackle but has Pro Bowl potential at guard, and that's where the Ravens would like to play him this season. But if Rick Wagner and others fail to seize the job at right tackle, the Ravens have Osemele as a fallback option. He started the entire regular season at right tackle as a rookie in 2012.
Osemele moved over to left guard to begin last season, but was slowed by a back injury. Osemele left the Miami game early in the first quarter, and he played two more games before being shut down for the season.
The loss of Osemele was probably more significant than originally thought, and the Ravens line struggled throughout the season.
The Ravens offense has a new look this year under new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, but at the heart of any successful offense is solid line play up front. A healthy Osemele figures to be an important piece of that.