Tag Archive | "Baltimore Colts"

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Must – See TV

Posted on 13 October 2009 by Mark Suchy

ESPN continues its “30 at 30” series tonight with a film by Baltimore’s own Barry Levinson about the Colts’ move to Indy in 1984.  I highly recommend taping this for a number of reasons.  The first feature last week, “A King’s Ransom”, was an outstanding look back at the 1988 trade of Wayne Gretzky through the eyes and lens of filmmaker Peter Berg, a Canadian and a huge hockey fan.  As I watched it, I thought of being a Baltimore Colts fan and could relate far too well to what fans of the Edmonton Oilers went through.  Funny, isn’t it, that the second installment of this series is about the BALTIMORE Colts.

Levinson’s love of his hometown has been evident in his films for years.  Diner, of course, but also Avalon and the vastly underrated Tin Men all pay homage to our accents, quirks and idiosynchrocies as “BawlMer” natives.  I’m sure his account of the move will be alternately sad, uplifting and nostalgic.  And Lord knows we’re still a nostalgic bunch about the Colts, even 25 years later.

I’m taping it and saving it as a history lesson for my young sons, who have had to endure their father’s many stories about Bert Jones, The Sack Pack, Shake ‘N Bake Glenn Doughty and the AFC East Champions of the mid-70’s.  Those were my Colts.  But so were Johnny U. and the great teams of the 50’s and 60’s, who my father taught me about as a boy.  Even though I didn’t see them play, they were my Colts, and our collective football heritage.

Sports is all about lineage and history and a shared pride in our community.  I imagine Levinson’s piece tonight will make a perfect bookend for the other saved documentary I have from ESPN, The Greatest Game Ever Played.  It’s far too easy sometimes to hate on the WorldWide Leader, but when they get their collective energies together, they can produce some truly memorable television.

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25 years.  That’s how long it’s been since the Baltimore Orioles last produced a 20 game winner.  Amazing.  Especially for the franchise that set the gold standard for pitching excellence.  Watching this year’s baseball playoffs really makes me miss the game in October.  In Baltimore.  It seems like it almost never happened, it’s been that long.  But the game has a strong pull to it, especially in this weather, and I really do miss what it feels like to live and die with each pitch and each at-bat.

Oh well.  2011, right?

+++++

Damien Marley and Stephen Marley (yes, 2 of Bob’s sons) at the Recher Theatre in Towson tonight.  Only $20 a ticket!  Doors open at 7 p.m.  See you there!

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Steve Hauschka Or Graham Gano Could End Up Being The “Loneliest Guy In Baltimore”

Posted on 11 August 2009 by Rex Snider

By reading the title of this blog, you’re probably thinking that I’ve suggested whoever loses the competition between Steve Hauschka and Graham Gano, as the Ravens kicker, will be the loneliest guy in town.

Not a chance.

In fact, the guy who gets a visit from the Turk could end up being in an enviable position, or at least a more comfortable spot. Don’t get me wrong, I’m certain both kickers are trying mightily to be the CHOSEN ONE. It’s probably their sole respective purpose, in the near future.

Hey, it’s the lifeblood of a competitor.

But, be sure of this ….. the guy who wins the kicking competition will have some very BIG shoes to fill, even if Matt Stover only asks for a Size-9, when he orders new cleats. Ahh, Matt Stover – you remember him, right?

Ozzie Newsome, John Harbaugh and the remainder of the Ravens braintrust believed a change was needed as the team addressed its needs for the 2009 season, and beyond. Matt Stover was obviously not part of the plan.

I’ve never questioned the personnel strategies and decisions of Newsome, Harbaugh or anyone else with a “life tie” to professional football. These gentleman and their staff are dedicated to building a winning organization.

Their jobs and futures are dependant on it.

However, the prototypical Baltimore football fan is not as understanding, nor forgiving as me. As sure as the Hanover Street bridge is lined with chicken-necking crabbers, every summer day, rest assured “Joe Ravens Fan” does not see his opinion as anything lesser than Coach Harbaugh’s.

And, as soon as the new kicker misses his first 42 yard field goal – AND HE WILL – the supposed bar floor experts will bemoan the reality of someone other than Matt Stover kicking for the Ravens. Oh yeah, it’s coming.

Steve Hauschka or Graham Gano will be the Ravens kicker when the Kansas City Chiefs roll into town to celebrate the start of the NFL season. And, God help ‘em, because these fans won’t …..

We’re led to believe both guys are better suited than Matt Stover, when it comes to kicking duties. They have more range, which leads to longer field goal attempts and kickoffs. In fact, Hauschka covered these respective duties, in 2008.

While Stover was better than consistent from within 42 yards, a 4th down field position between the opponent’s 33 and 38 yard lines drew an uneasy and complicated situation for the Ravens coaching staff and faithful fans, alike. If the ball rested in this general area, 3 options existed …..

A) Give Stover a shot – while everyone holds their breath.
B) Give Hauschka a shot – while everyone holds their breath.
C) Punt

The typical fan hates to punt. And, I can imagine an offensive unit hates to punt, especially if they grind the ball nearly 50 yards and within plausible range of the uprights. And, it’s gotta be equally frustrating for EVERYONE to watch the respective opponent’s kicker knockin’ off 3-pointers, while the Ravens punt from the same spot.

Indeed, watching Jeff Reed, Phil Dawson, Rod Bironas and the kickers of other 2008 opponents kicking field goals from outside the 35 was frustrating, to say the least. Seeing these same teams covering the tasks of all field goals and kickoffs with one roster spot is an absolute disadvantage for the Ravens, as well, right?

Let’s be honest with each other, the Ravens needed to address their kicking situation. All 53 roster spots are coveted, crucial decisions. When a team carries a Matt Stover calibered kicker, the end result is an extra Offensive, Defensive or Special Teams player cannot suit up.

And, somewhere along the way, the decision to forgo a 48 yard field goal attempt will result in an eventual 2-point loss. Either way, eating two roster spots for overall kicking duties puts a team at a disadvantage.

However, there is one key factor to remember. It doesn’t equate into wins or overall success. But, this factor will greatly impact Steve Hauschka or Graham Gano.

The fans in this town LOVE MATT STOVER.

He is the last original Raven.

He lives here and calls Baltimore “home.”

He is an outstanding citizen and community activist.

Yep, the fans in this town really LOVE MATT STOVER.

So, when the winner of the Hauschka/Gano sweepstakes emerges and suits up in that season opener, he’ll have a lot of pressure on his shoulders ….. and foot. The Ravens will be certain to treat him with justifiable patience and in the best interest of molding a dependable NFL kicker.

But, the new kicker will miss. They all miss.

Any missed field goal attempts, on the HOME FIELD, will not be received warmly by the 68,915 Stover-loving maniacs. They might be understanding of a missed 50+ yarder. But, let anything less than 45 yards sail wide left or right, and the “boo birds” will come calling.

And, any subsequent misses will apply mounting fan pressure and criticism. It won’t be pretty.

If any failed field goal attempts figure into a close loss, even in an indirect way, Hauschka or Gano will hear about it. This includes the M&T seating bowl, message boards and the WNST airwaves ….. as well as every other sports talk station in town.

While professional athletes are “fair game” for criticism and hecklers, it can get overbearing. In Baltimore, I’m reminded of Kyle Boller and Glenn Davis. In a larger scope, the names of Kenny Rogers (New York), Scott Norwood (Buffalo) and Mitch Williams (Philadelphia) come to mind.

I hope the gentlemen vying for Matt Stover’s spot are ready for the fan ridicule and constant comparison to the predecessor, if their foot doesn’t measure as consistent as his. It can and will happen.

Perhaps, the blunt reality is BALTIMORE RAVENS football fans have been spoiled. That’s right, I said it. Since the NFL returned to this town, there has been little doubt about who would kick field goals. “In Matt, We Trust.”

Some Ravens fans are too young to remember how the faithful in this city handle a poor kicking resume’. I was 16 years old when the Colts relocated to Indianapolis. Yet, I can vividly recall fans disparaging Colts kickers in effigy, as they struggled with horrendous stats.

You want a prime example? Google “Tony Linhart.” Without searching out the respective numbers, I can tell you he failed ….. and failed a lot. He took a beating in the News American, The Sun and in every tavern and bar, in Anne Arundel County. I can only imagine his detractors, in Locust Point, Highlandtown and areas closer to Memorial Stadium.

Upon checking Tony Linhart’s stats, I found he converted 70% of field goal attempts, ONCE during his six years, in Baltimore. During this time, Linhart averaged slightly above a 50% conversion rate. Indeed, it was a difficult time for football fans in this town.

Matt Stover’s leg has proven to be a substantial lift to the accustomed success remembered by “Old School” Baltimore fans. And, trust me, they’re gonna remember just how good they’ve had it over the last 13 years.

Those who don’t really recall Baltimore’s football history will simply exert the frustration of a customer who enjoys the spoils of success. Some fans haven’t known a kicker other than Matt Stover. These same fans will not be very understanding of anything less than Stover’s overall impressive 85% conversion rate. That’s a far call from the days of Tony Linhart and Mike Wood, huh?

On September 12th, Steve Hauschka or Graham Gano will become the Baltimore Ravens kicker. This town hasn’t endured a “kicker dispute” in more than 30 years. But, if the new guy on the block fails to live up to the Stover-Standard, we just might see one.

The treatment Kyle Boller endured could end up looking like a mild case of hazing. Watch and see …..

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5 W’s and 1 H

Posted on 14 June 2009 by Luke Jones

The Orioles’ team-wide offensive drought has mercifully come to an end, as Orioles’ hitters accumulated 21 runs and 41 hits over the weekend in their series win over the Atlanta Braves.

As is often the case, the Orioles’ offense starts with Brian Roberts at the top of the order.  The second baseman went 6-for-10 over the weekend, driving in four runs, walking three times, and stealing two bases.

The offense will try to keep it going against the New York Mets who were trampled by the cross-town rival Yankees on Sunday, 15-0.  Luckily, the Orioles will not face Johan Santana, though the southpaw gave up nine earned runs in the series finale in the Bronx.

The series begins Tuesday with Jeremy Guthrie (4-6, 5.52 ERA) taking the ball against the Mets’ Mike Pelfrey (4-2, 4.68 ERA).

Here are the 5 W’s and 1 H for the week:

1. Who would have thought rookie Brad Bergesen would be the Orioles’ best starting pitcher when pitchers and catchers reported to Ft. Lauderdale in February?

In his last four starts, Bergesen is 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA and averaging eight innings per start.  The right-hander continues to throw a heavy sinker, keeping the infielders busy with ground balls.

Bergesen fields his position well and maintains his focus, something many young pitchers have failed to do in Baltimore over the last few years.  Even after being staked to an 11-0 lead after five innings on Sunday, Bergesen continued to show poise, going the distance for the victory.

Former Oriole and current MASN analyst Rick Dempsey has been praising the 23-year-old as a legitimate starter with star potential for several weeks, and he is certainly looking the part in June.  Before we pencil him in for a spot in the rotation beyond this season, he needs to produce when teams have seen him a few times.  Whether he can do that remains to be seen, but Bergesen is doing an outstanding job in an otherwise–at best–shaky starting rotation.

2. What is the reason for Matt Wieters getting so many days off?

Counting Monday, the rookie phenom will have received six of the last 12 days–not games–off.  You obviously can’t allow your starting catcher to go out there everyday, but after Wieters received the night off on Thursday, I fully expected him to be in the lineup on Sunday, especially with Bergesen on the hill and a day off on Monday.

While Bergesen pitched tremendously with Gregg Zaun behind the plate, Wieters is showing signs of breaking out, collecting multiple hits in three of his last four games.  The best prospect in baseball needs to be playing more, plain and simple.

3. Where will Shaquille O’Neal be playing his basketball next season?

Though only in preliminary discussions, the Cleveland Cavaliers have talked with the Phoenix Suns about the 37-year-old center.  The teams discussed a trade prior to the February trade deadline, but no deal was reached.  The Cavs have reportedly dangled Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic.

The Cavs will need to show LeBron James they’re serious about putting a better supporting cast around him.  The league MVP will be a free agent in the summer of 2010.

While Shaq would be a nice addition to the Cleveland frontcourt on paper, does he have enough left in the tank to provide big minutes to a championship team?

4. When will we ever see another .400 hitter in Major League Baseball, if ever?

For all of the talk over the last 15 years about steroids, expansion teams, juiced baseballs, and shrinking strike zones, no player has seriously challenged the .400 mark, outside of Tony Gwynn’s .394 average in the strike-shortened 1994 season.

Even the great Ichiro Suzuki’s career-best of .372 in 2004 is a far cry from the prestigious mark.  Of any player today, Ichiro would figure to have the best chance to do it with his superior bat control and plate discipline.

Twins catcher Joe Mauer is hitting .414 in 152 at bats this season, but it’s difficult to envision a catcher maintaining a .400 average, given the wear and tear of the long baseball season.

The legendary Ted Williams remains the last man to hit .400 in the big leagues, batting .406 in 1941.  It’s a phenomenal accomplishment that hasn’t been reached in almost 70 years.

5. Why is Felix Pie still with the Baltimore Orioles?  And, no, it has nothing to do with his 1-for-4 performance on Sunday, only filling in for Adam Jones who was a late scratch with a bruised shin.

Prior to Sunday’s start, the outfielder had only three plate appearances in the month of June.  While I’ve made my feelings pretty clear about Pie and his future in Baltimore, he needs to play more if he’s going to remain with the club.

One of Earl Weaver’s biggest strengths was his effective use of the bench.  I don’t care if it’s Felix Pie, Gary Roenicke, or Babe Ruth, you cannot expect a hitter to produce if he’s only getting two or three at bats every two weeks.

If Pie is not going to play, expose him to waivers.  If he clears, send him to Norfolk; if not, cut your losses and find a reserve outfielder in which manager Dave Trembley has more confidence.

Pie rotting away on the bench does nothing for the Orioles or the young outfielder.

6. How else could an uncapped year produce a harmful effect in the NFL?

Ask the retired players that paved the way for the league’s immense success in the 21st century.

NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith has revealed that benefits to retired players in need could be reduced in an uncapped system.  While the league claims it has no intention of reducing disability benefits, this figures to be a hot button issue as the two sides try to work out a new collective bargaining agreement prior to next spring.

With the highly publicized stories of poor benefits for retired players–including Baltimore Colts tight end and Hall of Famer John Mackey–over the last several years, it would seem the league and the union would not want to garner any more criticism after improving conditions for retired players under commissioner Roger Goodell’s tenure.

After the slashing of coaching pensions led to the retirement of Indianapolis offensive coordinator Tom Moore and offensive line coach Howard Mudd this offseason, the league and union need to tread carefully to protect the retired players.

Sports Illustrated’s Peter King did some great work covering these issues last week.

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Spend a moment in their shoes

Posted on 22 April 2009 by Luke Jones

As I watched Brad Bergesen jog in from the Orioles bullpen before the start of his major league debut on Tuesday night, I began to imagine what he was thinking and feeling at that very moment.

Was he remembering that time in the backyard when he thought about playing in the big leagues?

Did he ask himself if this was all a dream?

Most of us that avidly follow sports have imagined being in a similar position at some point in our lives.  We dreamed of making our major league debut, or throwing the game-winning touchdown pass with two minutes to go, or even sinking both free throws to force overtime.

Though 99.5 percent of us never see these dreams come to fruition–unless including little league, high school, or Saturday mornings at the YMCA–it’s still a blast wondering what it would be like to be that certain athlete at that certain time.  It would be astonishing just to walk–or run–a few moments in their shoes.

In this blog, you have the opportunity to choose any Baltimore-centered athlete from the past or present and enjoy a moment in his (or her) shoes.

Whom would you choose, and what moment would it be?  It has to be a sports-centered moment, so for those of you thinking about taking Terrell Suggs’ $10.2 million salary in 2009, no such luck.

I have included my personal top five “In Their Shoes” moments and an additional obscure moment.  Many of you are bound to share some of my five selections (you could probably name a couple right now), so I’m hoping my bonus choice will spark some ideas for the many forgotten or lesser-known Baltimore moments we’d love to relive.

5.  “Hot in Herre”

Anyone who has ever attended a game when the starting defense is introduced at M&T Bank Stadium knows exactly what I’m talking about.

The momentum builds as each member of the defense is announced, the volume climbing in anticipation of what’s to come.  The distinctive “Reeeed!” echoes through the edifice before an earsplitting eruption of noise follows–the mere image of No. 52 now appearing on the video board.

Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” sifts through the mayhem as Ray Lewis greets his audience and breaks into the customary dance that we’ve all tried to replicate in the privacy of our own homes–or in a local establishment after enjoying a few beverages.

Whether you love or hate the dance (a subject discussed ad nauseam throughout the years), there isn’t a single football fan in Baltimore that wouldn’t want to be Ray Lewis in those few moments when he is the center of the Baltimore football universe, and 70,000 screaming fans are going berserk for him.

What an intense rush it must be.

4. 2131

Major League Baseball had never faced the adversity it did following the strike that wiped out the 1994 World Series and delayed the start of the 1995 season.  The game needed a hero, and Maryland’s favorite son was the man for the job.

There was nothing flashy about the record–the guy simply went to work and did his absolute best every single day.  You’ll have a hard time finding a handful of role models that can match the high standards of Cal Ripken, Jr.

Yet, he was often criticized.  Detractors claimed he was hurting the team and continuing The Streak for selfish reasons.  However, Ripken kept on playing while becoming baseball’s greatest ambassador.

September 6, 1995 was a memorable night on so many levels–the numbers changing on the warehouse, the victory lap, the post-game festivities–but it was Ripken’s feat in the bottom of the fourth inning that epitomized everything the man, and The Streak, represented.

On a 3-0 pitch from Angels pitcher Shawn Boskie, Ripken launched one into the left-field seats, his third-straight game with a home run.  Not only was it a giant “Take that!” to all of his critics, but it was an act that reflected what he always intended to accomplish through The Streak–to simply play baseball and help his team win.

On the most historic night of your career, knowing it is going to take place on that particular night with all of the pressure, how special is it to hit a home run?  It’s one of the backyard scenarios we all envisioned at some point in our lives.  It’s the stuff of a corny movie, but it happened.

3.  The Skinny Kid from Baltimore

People continued to tell him that he couldn’t do it, but Juan Dixon just never bothered to listen.

Losing both parents to AIDS as a teenager, the underdog Dixon starred at Calvert Hall before being recruited by Gary Williams and the University of Maryland.  Critics balked, saying the skinny guard was too light for the Atlantic Coast Conference, but Dixon just kept on working.

After spending a redshirt season trying to gain bulk and improve his game, Dixon went on to become the Terps’ all-time scoring leader.

Dixon led the Maryland basketball program to heights it had never seen in 2001 and 2002, as he led the Terps to two Final Fours.  After losing to Duke in the national semifinals in 2001, Dixon would not be denied in his senior season.

Maryland led Indiana in the National Championship game, 64-52, with just a second left.  Dixon received the pass and fired the ball toward the top of the Georgia Dome roof celebrating the school’s first national championship.

With that heave, Maryland and Dixon overcame all of the trials and adversity to reach the pinnacle.  It was a great example of the underdog fulfilling his dream in spite of the many who said it couldn’t be done.  The emotions exhibited by Dixon and senior teammate Lonny Baxter in the moments following the game are unforgettable images in the minds of Maryland fans.

For everything the Maryland basketball program had endured since the death of Len Bias until that moment at the Georgia Dome, who wouldn’t have wanted to be in Dixon’s shoes at that special moment?

2.  King of the Football World Again

The Ravens had dominated the New York Giants for most of Super Bowl XXXV until Giants return man Ron Dixon took a kick 97 yards for a touchdown to narrow the Ravens’ 17-point lead to 10, late in the third quarter.

And that’s when Jermaine Lewis officially cemented Baltimore’s status as King of the Football World in January 2001.

The pint-sized Lewis took the ensuing kickoff and tiptoed 84 yards down the Ravens’ sideline to put any doubt to rest.  The Ravens were going to win the Super Bowl.

For the Colts fans who had suffered 12 years without a football team and the new generation of Baltimore fans that had grown up without those memorable Sunday afternoons in the fall, Lewis’ run symbolized the climb back to the top of the mountain that Baltimoreans had gazed upon for years.

Baltimore would still feel the pain of the Colts skipping town, but the Ravens made the city feel damn proud about itself again.

Lewis’ pointing to the heavens as he raced down the sidelines held special meaning as he honored the memory of his stillborn son–and showed the world that Baltimore football was back.

1.  #19

While Johnny Unitas made memories at Memorial Stadium long before my time, the legendary quarterback represented what Baltimore values most–hard work, modesty, and quiet confidence.

For the many touchdown passes and comeback victories he had, it’s one moment in the 1958 NFL Championship game at Yankee Stadium that stands above the rest.

It wasn’t the 349 passing yards or the 12 completions to Raymond Berry.  As daring as the 7-yard pass to Jim Mutscheller in overtime was, setting the Colts up at the 1, it still isn’t my moment.

On the next play, as Alan Ameche runs through that gaping hole into the end zone, giving the Colts the NFL Championship, the unassuming Unitas can be seen in the background–simply walking off the field.

No bravado.  No jumping up and down.

The definition of cool.

“Talk’s cheap.  Let’s go play.”

And after the game had ended and Baltimore and the entire world was at his feet, it was just another day’s work for Unitas, as he trudged off the field.

Bonus Pick

Many of you would probably choose a few of my moments as your own, so for the purpose of sparking discussion, I give you my lesser-known “In Their Shoes” bonus pick:

Before Adalius Thomas became a Pro Bowl outside linebacker, the 270-lb monster struck fear into the hearts of punt returners throughout the NFL, circa 2003.

A.D. was the biggest gunner in the league and could sprint down the field to blow up the opposition’s return, controlling the field position in the process.

How amazing would it be to be a mammoth of a man with great speed, sprinting down the field to crush the little return man?

Alas, I was a 170-lb defensive back with average speed in high school, but it would have been amazing to step into Thomas’ shoes during one of those punts.

***

I’d love to hear what your “In Their Shoes” moment would be and why.  I’m interested to see the unique choices people across different generations might have.

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Changing Colts’ History? 1975 NFL Draft

Posted on 16 April 2009 by Jerry Reinhardt

I feel like Cinderella, I’m late to the ball and I need to make a memorable entrance. Let’s hope like Cinderella, it’s not a more memorable because of the ‘dramatic exit.’  So here we go.

The 1983 trade of John Elway was not the first time the Colts traded away the #1 pick in the NFL draft. In 1975, the Colts had the #1 overall selection and traded it away to the Atlanta Falcons.  Did this trade change the Colts’ destiny? Was it the first of many mistakes that led to their eventual departure?  Hind sight is 20-20, but I feel the trading of this pick and the selection made, led to the downfall of the Baltimore Colts. The Colts drafted Ken Huff, 1974 all American and runner up for the Outland Trophy.  No one can say for sure what would have happened if we had kept the pick. But it’s nice to dream and think about what if we had kept the pick and drafted 1 of the 2 Hall of Famers we passed on.

Joe Thomas was controversial for his many trades and his treatment of the veterans. He is infamous for his trade of Johnny Unitas to the Chargers.   But it cannot be denied he restocked the Colts with young talent starting with his arrival in 1972. On defense he drafted players like Joe Ehrman, Mike Barnes, Bruce Laird, John Dutton, and Fred Cook. Eventually turning the defense into one of the NFL’s best.  He stocked the offense with talent also. He selected Bert Jones, Roger Carr, Robert Pratt, and Lydell Mitchell. With these players we won the AFC East for 3 consecutive year, 1975 – 77. But for all the talent he brought in we were never quite good enough to get to the Superbowl.   

The trade he made in 1975 is one that he shouldn’t have.  The Colts had a chance to draft the best player in the draft and didn’t.  We traded the first pick in the draft and a 6th round pick to Atlanta for OT George Kunz and the #3 pick in the 1st round.  The trade could have been made for two reasons. First, it was rumored that owner Robert Irsay didn’t want to pay the contract of the first overall selection in the NFL draft. Second, Thomas felt he was getting a good deal and he needed to rebuild the Offensive Line.  

If we had kept the pick we could have selected Randy White out of the University of Maryland. He was a 2-Time All American DE at MD. He had just been named ACC Player of the Year and was the winner of both the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award. Randy White could have helped the team as either a defensive end or tackle. In the 1975 playoff game with the Steelers we couldn’t stop the run, Franco Harris ran for 153 yards.  In 1976, both starting running backs were out with injuries and Terry Bradshaw threw 3 TD passes. In 1977, I believed we were finally ready to go to the Super Bowl. We just seemed to be a step late in making a big play or stop against Oakland. The Ghost to the Post may have never happened.  He would have pushed our defense over the top. We may have rivaled the famous Steel Curtain Defense and could have been talking about more Colts Superbowl victories.

As good as Rand White could have made the Colts, Walter Peyton would have been a better selection for us. The truly sad part is even after we traded away the #1 pick we still could have drafted him! Sweetness had just finished 4th in the Heisman voting, He averaged 6.1 yards per carry for his college career. He had just broken the NCAA scoring records for rushing TDs with 65. He was an All American in both 1973 & 74 also. [Stats from Wikipedia]. He was both stronger and faster than Lydell Mitchell.

Walter Peyton is still the greatest all around running back I’ve ever seen. He could do it all. As a rookie, he could have split time with Lydell in the backfield and returned kicks.  After that, we could have used Sweetness as the feature back and Lydell in a Lenny Moore type of role or traded him for offensive line help. Sweetness would have provided help in our playoff runs. He would have been a tough and fearless runner who wouldn’t have backed down from anyone. Who knows what he and Bert Jones could have done together. He would have been the player to keep the fans coming to the Memorial Stadium and maybe, just maybe kept the Colts from moving.

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Paying for it or getting it on your own

Posted on 22 February 2009 by caseywillett

When it comes to getting information on the former college players who will be eligible for the upcoming NFL Draft, some teams rely on the services of a company, while others like the Ravens, prefer to do the work on their own.

BLESTO is one of the services that provide information for teams when it comes to potential draftees. BLESTO is a scouting service founded in 1964. The name partly stands for the teams that originally used the service: Bears, Lions, Eagles and Steelers (BLES + Talent Organization). As of 2008, BLESTO’s services are used by the Bills, Lions, Jaguars, Dolphins, Vikings, Giants and Steelers.

The other company is called The National. The company was originally called the CEPO (Central Eastern Personnel Organization) and was a joint endeavor between the Baltimore Colts, Browns, Packers and St. Louis Cardinals at the time. After several name changes, The National is now used by the Cardinals, Falcons, Panthers, Bengals, Cowboys, Broncos, Packers, Texans, Chiefs, Saints, Jets, Eagles, Rams, Chargers, 49ers, Seahawks, Buccaneers and Titans.

What these services provide for a fee, are the collection of background information on players prior to their senior season and providing a league scouting grade on the players to the teams who subscribe to the particular company. In the fall, The National follows up on those players, and the service gives the subscribing clubs an updated grade with any additional information on the players.

This can be a cost-effective move, but some teams prefer to do all of that work on their own and not rely on someone else’s opinion. The Ravens are one of seven teams, including the Bears, Browns, Colts, Patriots, Raiders and Redskins, that let their scouts go out and do the same type of work and see the potential future players up close and personal.

Regardless of whether teams use a service or do the work on their own, the inexact science of scouting is big business for the clubs before it’s big business for the drafted players they select.

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2008 Ravens Top 20 Moments: Nos. 20-16

Posted on 20 January 2009 by Alex Thomas

Despite the loss to Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship game, the 2008 Ravens season was certainly one of the best sports experiences of my life. And in an effort to delay thinking about the dreadful upcoming baseball season, in my next few blogs I will be counting down my top 20 Ravens memories from 2008. It’s never too early to start looking back on such an exciting season.

20. Clayton Goes Crazy In Cincy – Mark Clayton snagged 5 balls for 164 yards, including a 70 yard one-handed touchdown catch on a bomb from Joe Flacco, as the Ravens pummeled the Cincinnati Bengals in The Jungle. Clayton also threw a touchdown pass to Derrick Mason on a wide receiver reverse option in the 34-3 route. I personally think that Mark Clayton has been a 1st round bust. He has a great performance every 5 or 6 games…but, in all fairness, when he has a great game, he blows the roof off the house. These are the typical makings of a #3 receiver (see also Steve Breaston in Arizona). I think he would be a great slot receiver along side Derrick Mason and ::insert name here::…TJ Houshmandzadeh? Steve Smith?

19. Rice Runs Wild – In a comeback win against the Cleveland Browns, Ray Rice showed us all why the Ravens drafted him in the second round. Rice rushed for 154 yards on 21 carries and also caught 3 passes from Joe Flacco, one of which converted a big 3rd and long play. He could possibly be the Ravens’ feature back in the future (doesn’t he remind you of Maurice Jones-Drew?), and he showcased his talents in week 9.

18. “Next Man Up” – One of the most impressive aspects about the 2008 Ravens season is how every man on this team was accountable for how they played as a group, no matter who was injured or who was on the field. Justin Bannan, Jim Leonhard, Fabian Washington, Marques Douglass, Joe Flacco, Chris Chester, and Frank Walker all stepped up to fill in for starters this season, as the Ravens were near the top of the league in players listed on IR. Granted, that’s not a stat that anyone should be proud of, but the Ravens persevered. The motto preached in the locker room all season was: “next man up.”

17. Flacco Ties The Game In Pittsburgh – In week 4 of the season, when the Ravens outplayed the Steelers in every facet of the game, they still found themselves down 20-13 in the fourth quarter on Monday Night Football with 9 minutes remaining. Against all odds, rookie Joe Flacco marched the Ravens 76 yards down the field, and ate up about 5 minutes of clock in the process, to tie the game and force overtime. With three key first down throws to Mason, garnished with some jaw-breaking runs by Le’Ron McClain, Flacco finally gave Baltimore a reason to believe in their quarterback. Ever since Bert Jones was last under center for the Colts, Baltimore has been desperately searching for a quarterback of this caliber. And despite the overtime loss, for the first time in Ravens history, a quarterback wearing a Ravens jersey had truly proven himself. This moment showed Ravens fans that this would be the first of many game-tying/game-winning drives orchestrated by #5.

16. Suggs Seals Win in Cleveland – In a game where a lot of the media were picking against the Ravens, Terrell Suggs sealed a come-from-behind Ravens victory by intercepting an errant Derek Anderson pass. The Ravens found themselves down 27-13 in the 3rd quarter, and despite the heroics of Browns’ star return man Josh Cribbs, a pass from Flacco to Mason tied the game at 27 early in the 4th quarter. After a Matt Stover field goal put the Ravens up by 3, Terrell Suggs picked off an attempted screen pass with 2:49 to go in the fourth quarter and took it to the house, giving the Ravens a 37-27 win over the Browns in The Dogpound.

Check back tomorrow for nos. 15-11.

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Notes About “The Greatest Game Ever Played”

Posted on 14 December 2008 by roblong

Let me begin by saying tonight, I saw more of that game than ever before. I’ve seen the final touchdown a million times, but no one has ever broken it down like that. ESPN did a great job and justice to the game. Their portrayal of the NFL Championship game could have only been outdone by the actual game. Even then, I’m not sure, because you wouldn’t have the perspective of players and even the game’s photographer.

For the game to be played on the Giants field makes it even more of a great feat for the Baltimore Colts. They went into the “lion’s den” and took care of business. Today, the championship site is predetermined, and never has one team playing on it’s home field. The closest was Superbowl XIX. That’s when the 49ers beat the Dolphins.

I really couldn’t make out the first down sticks. It looked as if it was some random white stick that was placed down, 10 yards from the original line of scrimmage. It didn’t look as if it was any chain or any other device, measuring off 10 yards. The stick was actually picked up several times when a runner ran towards it. I used my DVR device on my Comcast Cable to see if it was placed in the same spot, but I really couldn’t tell.

Johnny Unitas dropped back from the center straight up. He backed away. The only other quarterback I remember doing that was Dan Fouts of the San Diego Chargers. Most other quarterbacks drop back with their throwing arm farthest away from the line of scrimmage.

I expected to see Lenny Moore used more in the running game. He was used almost exclusively as a wide receiver. Most of the deep routes were thrown his way.

I don’t know how anyone knew how much time there was left in a game. The “Longine’s” clock looked like a regular clock. Did you have to count how many times the hand went around the clock? Did you know there was :30 seconds left because the clock went around 14 times already, and there was :30 left? I’m sure someone will explain that to me.

The game was played differently. The play selection looked like the plays we ran in high school. There were a lot of straight “dives” and slant routes. Of course, they made it look a lot better than high school kids, but it was just different than today. It didn’t seem as sophisticated. Square-ins and outs, slants, and “go” routes. I didn’t see a lot of “sweeps.” Most of the runs were between the tackles.

I was always told about “Rosey” Grier playing for the Los Angeles Rams. I didn’t know he played for the New York Giants. I looked him up and discovered he played the majority of his career in New York.

After ESPN went through all of this trouble to do this, I’m sure this will be released on DVD. If so, I hope they include the game, uncut, without the commentary. I’ve never seen it that way before. Would love to hear your comments on the show.

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ESPN DOES IT RIGHT

Posted on 14 December 2008 by KZ

This will be short and sweet….

Not everyone will be happy with tonights broadcast of “The Greatest Game Ever Played”, but ESPN did a nice job. You can nitpick if you wish and I am sure some people will, but the BALTIMORE COLTS were well resprestented as was the CITY of BALTIMORE! The were 3 Indies on the broadcast (Hey Silvia look what I did there) Coach Dungy, Adam Viniterie and Dwight Freeney. All three were respectful of the history of the game and of the NFL itself.

There were quotes you may not like…people you may not like, but overall a very nice 2 hour piece. I being 40 years old, learned a lot.

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Great Tight Ends

Posted on 15 November 2008 by Brian Billick

Tomorrow we may see a substantial achievement by one of the great tight ends to play this game. With one more TD reception Antonio Gates can get to 50 TD receptions in a career faster than any other tight end in NFL history. Not withstanding injury, Gates may well be on the way to the first of many feats to establish himself as one of the great tight ends of all time.

The year 1963 saw the beginning of a major shift in the NFL with the use of the tight end. The evolution of the tight end position has been constant since Mike Ditka changed the definition of the position as the 5th selection overall in the NFL Draft that year by the Chicago Bears when he caught 56 passes for 1076 yards and a still-record 12 TD’s by a tight end (tied by Todd Christensen twenty years later). Ditka, Baltimore’s John Mackey and St. Louis Cardinals Jackie Smith (all drafted in I963) began to shift the tight end position to one from primarily as a blocker to one who could be a major part of an offensive passing attack. All three would go on to have Hall of Fame careers.

These great players were followed by the likes of Charlie Sanders (Detroit) and Raymond Chester (Oakland) in 1968 and 1970, respectively. Dave Casper (Oakland) followed in 1974, our own Ozzie Newsome then came along in Cleveland in 1978, Kellen Winslow (San Diego) and Todd Christensen (Oakland) in 1979. Christensen was actually drafted as a running back by the Dallas Cowboys, moved on to the New York Giants before settling in Oakland and igniting his career as a tight end.

In the mid-1980’s Mark Bavaro (New York Giants) and Jay Novacek (Dallas) came along to prove invaluable parts of Super Bowl winning teams.

Shannon Sharpe started the 90’s off right with the Denver Broncos followed by Tony Gonzales (Kansas City Chiefs) in the later part of the decade.

Looking at this group one thing become readily apparent. If you want a great one you will probably have to use a high draft choice to do it. The chart below shows that you will probably have to expend a first day pick to get a TE of this caliber.

Mike Ditka

1963

Chi

1961, 1st round (5th overall) by Chicago

Kellen Winslow

1980

SD

1979, 1st Round (13th Pick) by San Diego Chargers

Tony Gonzales

1998

KC

1997, 1st Round (13th Pick) by Kansas City Chiefs

Ozzie Newsome

1979

Cle

1978, 1st Round (23rd Pick) by Cleveland Browns

Raymond Chester

1972

Oak

1970, 1st Round (24th Pick) by Oakland Raiders

John Mackey

1964

Bal

1963, 2nd round (19th pick) Baltimore

Dave Casper

1975

Oak

1974, 2nd Round (19th Pick) by Oakland Raiders

Todd Christensen

1980

Oak

1978, 2nd Round (28th Pick) by Dallas Cowboys

Charlie Sanders

1970

Det

1968, 3rd rond (74th pick) By Detroit

Shannon Sharpe

1991

Den

1990, 7th Round (27th Pick) by Denver Broncos

Jackie Smith

1965

StL

1963, 10th round (129 pick) St. Louis

Antonio Gates

2004

SD

2003, Not drafted

Obviously, Antonio Gates may end up as one of the great-undrafted free agent stories of all time. A basketball player at Kent State in Ohio, Gates, if he can stay healthy may break virtually every TE record.

Having said that it is hard to not recognize the accomplishments of Tony Gonzales: (those in RED are current Hall of Fame players. The only HOF missing from this list is John Mackey whose numbers don’t rate in the top ten).

RK

NAME

Year

Rec

Yds

Avg

Lg

TD

1

Tony Gonzales

12

870

10426

12.1

73t

71

2

Shannon Sharpe

14

815

10060

12.3

82t

62

3

Ozzie Newsome

13

662

7980

12.1

74

47

4

Kellen Winslow

9

541

6741

12.5

67t

45

5

Jackie Smith

16

480

7918

16.5

81

40

6

Todd Christensen

10

461

5872

12.7

50

41

7

Mike Ditka

12

427

5812

13.6

76t

43

8

Jay Novacek

11

422

4630

11

49

30

9

Dave Casper

11

378

5216

13.8

52t

52

10

Antonio Gates

6

378

4831

12.8

72t

49

Kellen Winslow is considered by many to be the best based on the numbers he generated even though he was a part of an offense with such great receivers as Charlie Joiner, Wes Chandler and John Jefferson. With all this talent outside, it is truly amazing that he was able to generate this much offense.

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