Live From Owings Mills: Ravens to Head Out Early in Preparation for Chargers

September 14, 2009 | Glenn Clark

4:42-One more note, as we just received the game notes for Sunday’s contest. Dick Enberg and Dan Fouts (a Hall of Fame Chargers QB) will have the call of the game for CBS. Kevin Kulger and Mark Malone will have the national radio call via Westwood One.

4:23-I think the most significant thing to come from John Harbaugh’s press conference was the news that the Ravens will be traveling to San Diego on Friday; a day earlier than usual.

This will present the always troublesome scenario that the Ravens could be distracted by spending the weekend in the shadow of the Pacific Ocean; so the team will have to be responsible for respecting their players like men while ALSO trying to keep them from getting themselves in trouble. Brian Billick always gave players just enough of a leash to hang themselves with. Chris McAlister was the only one who ever really took advantage of it. This will be John Harbaugh’s first trip to the opposite coast as a Head Coach, so it will be interesting to see how he handles discipline for his guys.

The Ravens will be off tomorrow, but will be back out here at 1 Winning Drive Wednesday. They will use tomorrow to watch film from tonight’s Raiders-Chargers game in order to prepare a gameplan. I will host a Q&A tomorrow for any Ravens related questions you might have after Week 1.

4:21 Earlier today it was announced that Ravens center Matt Birk would donate his brain for scientific research following his death. This will allow his brain to be studied regarding concussions and general brain injuries of football players. Here is the press release:

Matt Birk, Lofa Tatupu, Sean Morey First Active NFL Players to Donate

(BOSTON) – The Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CSTE) at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) announced today that three active National Football League Pro Bowl players have pledged to join the CSTE Brain Donation Registry. The players include: Matt Birk, Baltimore Ravens; Lofa Tatupu, Seattle Seahawks; and Sean Morey, Arizona Cardinals. These players have decided to donate their brain and spinal cord tissue to the CSTE upon death so that researchers can better understand the effects of trauma on the brain and spinal cord.

Brain trauma in sports is increasingly seen as a health crisis due to the discovery of a neurodegenerative disease called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in a number of recently deceased athletes. Over the past several years, CTE was found in ten deceased athletes including professional football players, boxers, a professional wrestler, and an 18 year-old high school athlete. Only one athlete tested for CTE during that time did not have the disease.

Robert Cantu, MD, a leading sports concussion expert and clinical professor of neurosurgery at BUSM said, “CTE is the only fully preventable cause of dementia.  By studying large numbers of athletes throughout their lives, as well as examining brain tissue through our expanding CSTE brain bank, we will be able to determine the specific risk factors for CTE and potentially develop effective treatments.  The research will foster education and allow meaningful guidelines to be implemented at all levels of athletic participation.”

The co-directors of the BUSM CSTE include Cantu, Chris Nowinski, Ann McKee, MD, and Robert Stern, PhD. They published research findings on CTE in athletes in the July issue of the Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology (2009, vol.68¸ pp. 709-735). McKee also recently presented these findings to the NFL Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee and NFL Players Association.

Birk, Tatupu, and Morey are the first active NFL players to join more than 150 former athletes, including 40 retired NFL players, in the CSTE Brain Donation Registry. Through enrolling in the C.O.N.T.A.C.T. research program (Consent to Offer Neural Tissue of Athletes with Concussive Trauma), these athletes will be interviewed annually by phone throughout their lives and, upon death, their brain tissue will be examined by the CSTE.  This prospective approach with allow the researchers to examine the relationship between clinical symptoms and pathology for the first time

Arizona Cardinals receiver and special teams player Sean Morey said, “As an active NFL player, I believe it is critical to support all the research being done to better understand the potential long term risks associated with brain injuries in the NFL and football at all levels.  One of the most profound actions I can take personally is to donate my brain to help ensure the safety and welfare of active, retired, and future athletes for decades to come.”

According to Baltimore Ravens star center Matt Birk, “The science is clear that CTE is a threat to the health and well-being of all contact sports athletes. I would like to do my part to raise awareness and help the research advance toward treatment and an eventual cure.” Birk, who is also making a financial contribution to the non-profit Sports Legacy Institute (SLI), went on to say, “I consider my financial donation to be an investment in my future, the future of my friends that have played football with me, and the future of all of those children playing the game today.”

CSTE’s research reveals that the need for concussion education for youth sports is more urgent than ever. In June, Oregon became the first state to mandate concussion education for youth sports coaches, passing “Max’s Law”, a bill requiring coaches to be trained annually to recognize concussion symptoms and provide appropriate medical treatment. On Tuesday, September 15 a similar bill will be heard by the Joint Committee on Public Health in the Massachusetts State Legislature. Senate bill 796, sponsored by Senator Steven Baddour, mandates a sports concussion safety program for coaches, trainers, and volunteers for schools in the Commonwealth.  CSTE’s Cantu and Nowinski will be testifying at Tuesday’s hearing.

Referring to today’s announcement by Birk, Tatupu, and Morey, SLI co-founder and president, Nowinski said, “These active NFL players have admirably ignored concerns held by many athletes that by participating in this research, they could be perceived as having a concussion history that could negatively affect their career and contract negotiations.”

CTE, originally referred to as “dementia pugilistica” because it was believed to only affect boxers, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease caused by repetitive trauma to the brain.  It is characterized by the build-up of a toxic protein called tau in the form of neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) and neuropil threads (NTs) throughout the brain.  The abnormal protein initially impairs the normal functioning of the brain and eventually kills brain cells.  Early on, CTE sufferers may display clinical symptoms such as memory impairment, emotional instability, erratic behavior, depression and problems with impulse control.  However, CTE eventually progresses to full-blown dementia.  Although similar to Alzheimer’s disease, CTE is an entirely distinct disease.

Matt Birk was voted into six Pro Bowls at center during his 11 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. A Harvard graduate, Birk signed with the Baltimore Ravens in 2009 and is expected to start at center this season.

Lofa Tatupu was voted into the Pro Bowl in his first three seasons in the NFL, one of only two Seattle Seahawks ever to earn the prestigious honor. The former USC star is entering his fifth season with the Seahawks as one of the top linebackers in football.

Sean Morey was recently voted into his first Pro Bowl in 2008 as a Special Teams Player with the Arizona Cardinals.  The Brown University honors graduate and Superbowl XL Champion is entering his tenth season in the NFL.  He is also a member of the NFL Players Association’s Player Safety and Welfare Committee.

The CSTE was created in 2008 as a collaborative venture between Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Sports Legacy Institute (SLI).  The mission of the CSTE is to conduct state-of-the-art research of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, including its neuropathology and pathogenesis, the clinical presentation and course, the genetics and other risk factors for CTE, and ways of preventing and treating this cause of dementia.

Sports Legacy Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation founded in 2007 to solve the sports concussion crisis. SLI is dedicated to education, prevention, treatment, and research on the effects of concussions and other brain injuries in athletes and the military. SLI partnered with Boston University School of Medicine to form the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy in 2008.

4:04-Todd Heap is now addressing the media. Here are the highlights.

-“The fans appreciated” big offensive production
-“We’ve got guys who are capable” of putting up big numbers offensively.
-“Any time an offense plays 90 plays…..they’re usually attacking.”
-“All the guys on the offense liked” no-huddle offense.
-“I’ve always had pretty high expectations of myself. When there’s a play to be made, I want to be the guy to make that play.”

3:45-John Harbaugh is meeting with the media right now. Here are the highlights.

-“I don’t know if it’s an advantage or a disadvantage” to get San Diego on a short week.
-Special teams issues “very identifiable, very easily corrected”
-“Across the board, there were so many good things” on offense, defense, and special teams in win over Chiefs.
-Rex Ryan “is doing just fine without us.”
-Michael Oher “played really well, but there’s a lot of things he can do better.”
-Zbikowski “should be fine, just a matter of his head clearing up.”
-Gooden “just a mild sprain”, having an MRI
-“Hopeful” about LJ Smith playing against Chargers
-“I’m really excited about the opportunity we had” to rally in the 4th quarter against Kansas City
-Ravens will travel to San Diego Friday to try to get accustomed to time change; will practice Saturday at San Diego State
-Justin Bannan said “you have to play every game like it’s a play to win the game.”
-Chargers “one of the premiere teams in the NFL.”
-“We like to play with a certain edge…..that’s how our guys play.” “you start calling our guys names, we’re not too impressed by that. They can keep saying these things all they want.” (All regarding comments from ESPN’s Cris Carter & Keyshawn Johnson that fired up Derrick Mason and company before Sunday’s game.)