OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the Ravens returning to the practice field to begin preparations for the Arizona Cardinals on Wednesday, many were interested to learn if there would be any fallout from an unthinkable 12-7 loss in Jacksonville on Monday night.
Running back Ray Rice received only eight carries and 13 touches as the Ravens were held to just 146 total yards and an embarrassing 16 in the first half. Linebacker Terrell Suggs sparked controversy following the game for questioning offensive coordinator Cam Cameron for not getting the ball in the star running back’s hands more often.
Two days later, Rice made it clear he always wants the ball in order to help the offense, but expressed his desire to move past the disappointing loss.
“I definitely expect to be more involved,” Rice said. “My involvement with this offense hasn’t changed since the beginning of the season. I don’t want Cam and them to feel like they’ve got to force me the ball. I’m not that kind of guy. My carries come when the whole offense has success. I look forward to having that success.”
Suggs has drawn criticism for publicly questioning the coaching staff, but coach John Harbaugh agreed with the Pro Bowl defensive player’s comments when asked about it during his Tuesday press conference. While not backing down from his post-game comments, Suggs clarified his thoughts and shared the universal vision shared by all within the organization.
“There’s no big deal about it,” Suggs said. “We know we’re a great team. Like I said, we’re a great team when those guys are getting the ball. That’s what I meant. We’ve got to take our hats off to Jacksonville. They played a physical game and won the game, but we can’t give them any help. That’s what I meant about it.”
The most common theme expressed by those involved with the offensive side of the football has been execution, an area where Rice simply wants to have a bigger say reflecting in the number of times he’s able to touch the ball.
While the Ravens running back was ready to shift his focus to the Cardinals, he reiterated how important it was to learn from an abysmal experience in Jacksonville.
“We’re not to ignore the fact it happened,” Rice said. “We didn’t execute. It’s the same thing I’ve been talking about all the time. We didn’t execute. It’s us as the whole offense. I don’t want to make it seem like I’m begging for carries. At the same time, I do know when we’re getting first downs I touch the ball. We’ll get that as the week goes.”
Safety Bernard Pollard said he has yet to receive a fine from the NFL for his penalized hit of Jaguars running back Deji Karim on the opening drive of the third quarter, which extended the Jacksonville drive and led to a field goal to make it a 9-0 deficit for the Ravens.
While Pollard made it clear he’s against malicious hits the head and understands the league’s intent to make the sport safer, he shared the same frustration expressed by countless defensive players around the NFL, who are contemplating where exactly they’re allowed to hit an offensive player.
“This is a sport that’s violent, so you can’t say, ‘Well, go get in a car crash, but be careful,’” Pollard said. “You can’t do that, so we all know and understand this is a car wreck every single play with guys. We know and understand how to take care of our bodies as far as what’s a violent shot and then what’s an unnecessary violent shot.”
Pollard suggested that the increasing number of penalties and fines for hits directed toward the chest — where he appeared to hit Karim with his shoulder — will lead to more hits directed at opponents’ knees, which will lead to even more injuries.
Linebacker Ray Lewis, who said he got a good look at the Pollard hit from his vantage point on the field, stated officials need to be held responsible for the calls they make and suggested the NFL consider using instant replay to review questionable hits.
“I just think every man needs to be held accountable for whatever call they make,” Lewis said. “If you review so many other plays, review that one, too. That’s so big in that game. And every man makes a mistake.”
Regardless of the impact the penalty had on the third-quarter drive, Pollard does not intend to change his hard-hitting, aggressive style of play, even if it means he’ll receive penalties in the future.
“Football is football,” Pollard said. “If you ask me to go do it again this Sunday, I’m doing the same thing, so they’re going to either keep flagging us or they’re going to have to do something about this rule.”
Sunday will mark the return of former Ravens tight end Todd Heap, who spent the first 10 years of his career in Baltimore before being cut in a salary cap move prior to the start of training camp. Always popular in Baltimore, Heap will undoubtedly receive a warm reception from the 71,000 gathered at M&T Bank Stadium as he steps foot on the field as a member of the Arizona Cardinals.
Joe Flacco expressed how critical Heap’s veteran presence was in his first three years, as the tight end was a reliable target inside the red zone and on third-down situations for the young quarterback.
“Anytime you have veteran guys around that you can get along with, and they trust you out there on the field, it makes things easier for a young quarterback,” Flacco said. “And Todd was one of those guys. He was a veteran guy who’s been around, played a lot of good football in his career and was able to trust in me when I was out there.”
While many former teammates will greet him prior to the game, the warm sentiment changes at kickoff.
“The love is always going to be there off the field,” said Lewis, who was teammates with Heap for 10 years. “Of course, once you put on a different-colored jersey, here we go again. If the ball comes his way and it just happens I’m there, I might tap him on his shoulder a little bit.”
It’s still undetermined whether Heap will actually be able to play after being sidelined for the last two games with a hamstring injury. The 11-year veteran was a limited participant for Arizona’s practice on Wednesday as the team will monitor his progress during the week.
“He’s real close,” Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said in a conference call with the Baltimore media, “but we have to make sure as this week progresses he can handle it — opening up and blocking and those things that we’re going to ask him to do. We’ve got to make sure his hamstring is in a position where he can do that.”
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