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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 11 July 2011 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: Boxing-Diego Magdaleno vs. Alejandro Perez (Friday 11:05pm from Las Vegas live on Showtime), Friday Night Fights-Pawel Wolak vs. Delvin Rodriguez (Friday 9pm from New York live on ESPN2); WNBA: Washington Mystics @ Seattle Storm (Tuesday 3pm from Seattle live on NBA TV), Washington Mystics @ Los Angeles Sparks (Sunday 8:30pm from LA live on NBA TV); Arena Football-AFL Pittsburgh Power @ Cleveland Gladiators (Friday 8pm from Cleveland live on NFL Network); Canadian Football League: Saskatchewan Roughriders @ Hamilton Tiger-Cats (Saturday 4pm from Hamilton, ONT live on NFL Network), British Columbia Lions @ Edmonton Eskimos (Saturday 7pm from Edmonton live on NFL Network), Calgary Stampeders @ Winnipeg Blue Bombers (Thursday 8pm from Winnipeg live on ESPN3.com), Toronto Argonauts @ Montreal Alouettes (Saturday 7:30pm from Montreal live on ESPN3.com); Tennis: WTT New York Sportimes @ Washington Kastles (Tuesday 7pm from Kastles Stadium live on Comcast SportsNet), Springfield Lasers @ Washington Kastles (Thursday 7pm from Kastles Stadium live on Comcast SportsNet/Tennis Channel), St. Louis Aces @ Washington Kastles (Friday 7pm Kastles Stadium), Sacramento Capitals @ Washington Kastles (Monday 7pm Kastles Stadium)

10. Pat Benatar/Neil Giraldo/Dennis DeYoung (Friday 6pm Pier Six Pavilion), Peter Frampton (Sunday 5:30pm Pier Six Pavilion); Miranda Lambert (Friday 6:30pm Merriweather Post Pavilion); Lil’ Wayne (Saturday 7pm Jiffy Lube Live); Huey Lewis & The News (Wednesday 8pm Wolf Trap); Mr. Greengenes (Friday 7pm Power Plant Live); Soundgarden (Tuesday 7:30pm Patriot Center); Jonny Lang (Thursday 7pm Rams Head Live), Taking Back Sunday (Saturday 6pm Rams Head Live); Jimi Haha (Saturday 8pm Recher Theatre); Tim Meadows (Friday 6:30pm & 9:30pm Rams Head On Stage), Cracker (Sunday 8pm Rams Head On Stage); Interpol (Wednesday 7pm 9:30 Club), Stephen Marley (Thursday 7pm 9:30 Club), Marc Broussard (Friday 8pm 9:30 Club); Edwin McCain (Thursday 7:30pm Birchmere); k.d. lang (Thursday 8pm Meyerhoff Symphony Hall); A Perfect Circle (Sunday 8pm D.A.R. Constitution Hall); Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2 out in theaters (Friday)

I certainly wouldn’t pay to do it, but there’s at least a chance I’ll sit across the Pier Friday night for Dennis DeYoung. Do you have any idea how many times I’ve watched Styx: Behind The Music?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJJcR1r7u2A&feature=fvst[/youtube]

I was sitting around cracking crabs Sunday when a Lil’ Wayne tune came on Pandora. I was reminded of how much Mr. Weezy can make things…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHZtMNbrmWE[/youtube]

I’m HONESTLY debating getting in the car Tuesday night, driving the two hours or so to Fairfax (might be more like 3 given traffic) and taking in the iconic pipes of Chris Cornell. Dude is an icon…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0_zzCLLRvE[/youtube]

If you’ve never heard Jimi Haha outside of Jimmie’s Chicken Shack, I’d imagine you’d be quite pleasantly surprised…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5i05XEAN9Lg[/youtube]

9. Poker-World Series of Poker (Thursday & Friday 3pm 7pm 11pm live on ESPN3.com 11pm live on ESPN2, Saturday 3:30pm live on ESPN2/ESPN3.com, Sunday 12am 3pm 10pm live on ESPN3.com 12am 10pm live on ESPN2, Monday 7pm live on ESPN2/ESPN3.com. All poker from Las Vegas)

Remember when ESPN attempted to convince us that everyone in the world would be watching/playing/caring about/paying attention to poker a few years ago?

Umm….how’d that work out?

Despite the fact that no one seems to care anymore, they’re going to provide their lengthiest/most in-depth coverage of the event ever this year. That’s good news, as I was struggling to answer the question “what am I going to not watch on TV this week?” with something besides NASCAR or golf.

Want me to watch? Try “World Series of Strip Poker” with Lais Ribeiro (thanks Guyism). I won’t guarantee I’ll watch, but I’m much more likely…

lais

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Colts Hall of Fame TE John Mackey Passes Away at 69

Posted on 07 July 2011 by WNST Staff

NFL Players Association (NFLPA) Executive Director DeMaurice Smith confirmed Thursday morning via Twitter that former Baltimore Colts TE John Mackey had passed away overnight. Mackey was 69.

Mackey was selected in the 2nd round of the 1963 NFL Draft by the Colts out of Syracuse. He remained in Charm City until 1972, when he finished his career playing one season with the San Diego Chargers.

During his time in Baltimore, Mackey was a five time Pro Bowl selection (1963, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968) and three time All-Pro (1966, 1967, 1968).

He was a member of the Colts team that defeated the Dallas Cowboys 16-13 in Super Bowl V. In the game, he was involved in one of the more memorable plays in Super Bowl history, catching a twice deflected Johnny Unitas pass and scampering 75 yards for the Colts’ only TD of the game.

The Queens, NY native finished his career with 331 catches for 5,236 yards and 38 TD’s. He added 17 postseason catches for 296 yards and 2 TD’s. His career was sadly cut short due to leg and knee injuries.

Mackey was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992, becoming just the 2nd pure tight end to be elected (Mike Ditka). In 2010, the NFL Network listed Mackey 42nd on their list of the Top 100 players in league history, the highest ranking of a Tight End on the list.

In the later years of his life, Mackey endured a very public battle with dementia. In a 2007 interview with the Baltimore Sun, wife Sylvia Mackey (who was taking care of Mackey in the later years of his life) said Mackey asked her “Who’s that wearing my number?” when watching Marvin Harrison of the Indianapolis Colts on television. (Harrison wore #88 in Indy, the same number Mackey wore in Baltimore.)

In response to his health battles, the league and NFLPA  created the “88 Plan”, providing retired players with up to $88,000 per year for medical and custodial care resulting from dementia, including Alzheimer’s. Mackey served as NFLPA President from 1969-1973, he was succeeded by former Colts teammate Bill Curry.

As more details are available regarding Mackey’s passing, we will make them available via AM1570 WNST and WNST.net. Also stay tuned to AM1570 Thursday, as we will chat with folks who knew Mackey well.

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Can We All Agree That We Just Don’t Give A Crap About Anything Vinny Cerrato Says?

Posted on 01 June 2011 by Glenn Clark

This one will earn me a dirty look or two in the future.

Then again, it might also earn me a place in the heart of Washington Redskins fans who have been pissed off ever since I (rightly) stated that John Riggins shouldn’t be filming commercials at M&T Bank Stadium.

(Of course, these are the same fans that tell me they simply don’t care about the Baltimore Ravens but then lustily booed Head Coach John Harbaugh when he was shown on screen at Verizon Center before a Washington Capitals playoff game. Losers. But this isn’t about them. I’ll move on.)

No, this is about another brilliant move by CBS Radio Baltimore at 105.7 The Fan. And before you say “Glenn, why would you bother to write about what they’re doing on another radio station?”, let me point out that this is about much more than that.

Frankly, I’ve never actually heard former Skins executive Vinny Cerrato on the air at 105.7. I am aware that he is currently co-hosting a nightly football show on the station, but like EVERY OTHER SPORTS FAN IN CHARM CITY, if I’m in the car at night in Baltimore I’m either listening to the Orioles game or my Ipod. WBAL and Steve Jobs can thank me for the respective plugs later.

A minor controversy was started in Charm City when Cerrato told Baltimore Sun writer Ken Murray the following about the fact that Ravens 1st round pick CB Jimmy Smith did not attend last week’s voluntary player workouts at Towson University.

“That’s a red flag. He should have been here.”

As I said all week on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST, the criticism was absolutely baseless. The workouts were offense intensive, with QB Joe Flacco, RB Ray Rice and WR’s Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin using the time to get to know their new teammates and introducing them to the team’s offensive playbook. There were no Offensive Linemen in attendance and the defensive players in attendance were mostly locally-based, including Maryland native CB’s Domonique Foxworth and Josh Wilson.

Jimmy Smith is based out of California, making it at least slightly inconvenient to get to Baltimore. Rookie DE Pernell McPhee (the team’s 5th round pick out of Mississippi State) told the National Football Post he was not even invited to the workouts at Unitas Stadium. While Smith has not been made available for comment about the faux controversy, none of his teammates seemed to be upset about the fact that he wasn’t present.

In fact, fellow rookie Torrey Smith (the former Maryland WR who is also represented by Drew Rosenhaus) took to Twitter after getting word of Cerrato’s comments to say the following…

“folks need to leave Jimmy alone for not coming to workouts this week..It was mainly offensive players…he didn’t miss a thing”

Agreed.

I said two more things last week about this stupid fake controversy. One is that if there was a player who MAY have deserved criticism, it was FB Le’Ron McClain. Should this dispute between the National Football League and NFLPA result in the 2011 season being played under 2010 rules, McClain would not reach free agency and would be back in Baltimore. Given that he’s spent a lot of time in Charm City this offseason, it puzzled me that he wasn’t able to attend.

The other point I offered about the situation was that by exonerating Jimmy Smith for not being in attendance at Towson, I wasn’t trying to suggest that he might not be a bad guy. He certainly has a bad track record, and hasn’t gone out of his way publicly to rebuild his image in Baltimore since his initial press conference. In fact, I think Harbaugh made the most telling statement when he told Drew Forrester in a recent interview on AM1570 WNST, “It’s worth the risk. A lot of people had him off the board and I understand why. He’s gonna have to make wise choices.”

Jimmy Smith MIGHT be a bad guy. But he’s certainly not a bad guy because he didn’t attend the workouts last week. That really couldn’t have been more irrelevant.

This really isn’t about Jimmy Smith either though.

This is about Cerrato-who pointlessly generated traction with his meaningless comments. Comments that some of us in attendance last Tuesday at Unitas Stadium told him were baseless. Comments that Ravens LB Jameel McClain dismissed when Cerrato asked him about Smith’s absence that day.

And comments that absolutely no one in Baltimore should care about…at all. Ever.

Cerrato’s presence in Baltimore is ridiculous to begin with. As they’ve so often done before, CBS Radio has shown how little they understand about this sports market. Cerrato has absolutely no background in Baltimore and is best known for the decade plus he spent working for Dan Snyder in DC, an organization fans in Baltimore have absolutely no respect for.

What’s worse is the utter lack of success Cerrato had during his time with the Skins. The organization reached the playoffs just three times during his tenure, winning the NFC East only one-his first year (1999). They never finished with more than ten wins and were the subject of significant criticism for their failure to draft and develop talented players (three times the team had no first round pick, other picks included QB Patrick Ramsey and WR Rod Gardner) and their insistence on signing overpaid and/or aging veterans (Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders and a $100 million deal for Albert Haynesworth come to mind).

Cerrato was especially disliked by Washington fans because of the perception that his employment was based on a willingness to simply play the part for Snyder as the team failed miserably on and off the field. This was well documented in a 2005 column by the Washington Post’s Mike Wise, where Cerrato acknowledged the frustration of the fanbase. ”People say I do nothing, that I only keep my job because I’m the owner’s friend” he told the columnist. “I do have a national championship ring and a Super Bowl ring, you know.”

Cerrato was accurate, as Wise pointed out at the time. He was the recruiting coordinator on Lou Holtz’s 1988 Championship staff at Notre Dame, and he was the Director of College Scouting for the San Francisco 49ers when they won Super Bowl XXIX.

That was 1994. His resume since that time is particularly unimpressive.

It’s all the more reason why Cerrato’s hiring by the folks at CBS here in Baltimore is questionable at best. Baltimore sports fans have absolutely no connection to Cerrato whatsoever, and his resume doesn’t demand for fans to respect his opinions about their beloved franchise.

Perhaps none of us should have been surprised when Sun columnist Kevin Van Valkenburg said the following about Cerrato Monday night via Twitter…

“On radio, Vinny Cerrato keeps calling Haloti Ngata: “Nuh-gah-ta.” Hard to believe the Skins weren’t better with this details man in charge.”

Lord.

It isn’t Vinny Cerrato’s fault that the folks at CBS don’t understand why he shouldn’t be on the air in Baltimore. Their Vice President of Programming (Dave LaBrozzi) is one of the biggest Pittsburgh Steelers fans I have ever met in my life. He couldn’t know what Baltimore Ravens fans want to hear because he’s…well…the exact opposite of a Baltimore Ravens fan.

An admitted Washington Redskins fan called Drew and I last week and made a very legitimate point. Should Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome retire this offseason and choose to do local market radio in Washington, it wouldn’t be hard for Redskins fans to accept him. He had a Hall of Fame career as a Tight End for the Cleveland Browns and has had arguably another Hall of Fame career as an executive.

Cerrato was a forgettable QB/WR for Iowa State and a miserable executive for a team most folks in Baltimore have a particular disdain for.

There’s no acceptable reason for anyone in this town to care about anything Cerrato thinks or says.

I’m sorry Vinny. You seemed like a nice guy when we met. I bet you’d be really good working for ESPN’s Scouts Inc. or the Sporting News War Room or an outlet like that.

But for the role of a sports talk show host who is expected to give “expert” opinions about the Baltimore Ravens is concerned, you’re simply misplaced. As your fellow CBS employee Ian Eagle would say, “It’s not a low blow. It’s just a fact.”

I know some folks who I’ll eventually have to see in Owings Mills (or Westminster or wherever something football-related happens next) won’t like this. I’m sorry. A lot of you who understand this market know I’m right. Some of you have already told me that.

And someone will probably call me hypocritical for writing 1400+ words about a subject I’m suggesting no one should care about. Perhaps they’re right. I’ll promise to never spend another sentence writing about the subject again. Probably.

But otherwise I’ll assume we’re in agreement. Moving forward, no one cares about anything Cerrato says.

Right?

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

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Lack of Reverence For Preakness in Baltimore Appalling

Posted on 20 May 2011 by Glenn Clark

The Preakness Stakes will never mean to Baltimore what the Kentucky Derby means to Louisville.

I will start my thoughts by offering an acceptance of that fact.

I couldn’t honestly say I understood the difference between the two Triple Crown races until attending my first “Run For The Roses” in 2010. It’s a different world. It truly cannot be replicated in Charm City.

Perhaps veteran horse racing columnist Jerry Izenberg of the Newark Star-Ledger said it best in 2010…

“Here in Crab Cake City, there is one thing that all of them — infielder, grandstander and the jacket-and-tie set, that actually know the words to “Maryland, My Maryland” — have in common. They all know how to treat a horse race like, well, a horse race.

Greater Baltimore is too big and too honest, and its people work too hard and wear out too many blue collars for it to be otherwise. It understands exactly what this race is. It is a break in the calendar when the Orioles will not be the lead story. It is an event that the town respects but does not worship.”

It’s hard to argue his point.

In fact, year after year the romanticism and celebration of the “Run for the Black-Eyed Susans” appears to be lessened throughout the city.

It’s not just because patrons were barred from bringing their own alcohol into the infield, either.

The fact is that it is safe to question at this point whether or not Baltimore truly even “respects” the Preakness, more or less reveres the city’s most significant event.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrN1NyHEiis[/youtube]

According to the Baltimore Sun, the 2010 Preakness spending generated roughly $1.3 million in 2010 in state and local taxes. The event was as significant if not more to area businesses including hotels, restaurants, bars, taxi and limo services, entertainment venues and grocery/convenience stores.

What can’t be measured beyond that is the value brought to the area by the exposure that comes with Preakness. NBC and VERSUS will combine to dedicate nearly eight hours of coverage this weekend from Old Hilltop, while HRTV and ESPN have also reported and broadcast from the track this week as well.

The Maryland Jockey Club said over 1,000 media members were credentialed for this year’s event, generating coverage in newspapers and on websites throughout the country and the world.

There is simply no arguing the significance of Baltimore’s biggest annual event.

While an argument could be made that a Baltimore Ravens playoff game could provide nearly as much exposure for the city, it would be difficult to picture a NFL game reaching the vast demographic group that the Preakness is able to touch.

Baltimore’s most significant annual moment happens just off Northern Parkway on the third Saturday of May.

As Bob Ehrlich told Drew Forrester this week in an interview on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST, “For me, (the Preakness) was a wonderful day. It’s the best day of the year to be governor.”

Or as Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told Rex Snider in an interview on “The Afternoon Drive” also on AM1570 WNST, “It really gives us a chance to showcase the city in a big way.”

It is hard to imagine a resident of our fair city not understanding how significant Preakness Saturday is annually.

Imagine my frustration when I was asked this question by a friend (and lifelong Baltimore resident) recently:

Everyone is getting together at Riverwatch for dinner Saturday because Tuesday is my birthday. You’ll be there, right?

After allowing the bewildered look to finally disappear from my face, I had my own question for my friend:

You’re aware they didn’t cancel the Preakness this year, right?

Even more troubling at the same time was my realization that the Baltimore Orioles were not only playing at home, but they were playing at 4:05pm.

Given that the average Major League Baseball game lasts two hours and fifty-one minutes (according to MLB.com in 2010) and the post time for the 136th running of the Preakness Stakes is 6:19pm-a conflict exists.

A source from the Maryland Jockey Club (who asked not to be identified) told me that the MJC reached out to the O’s after learning of the scheduling conflict, but the club deferred to Major League Baseball. Emails sent to the Orioles and MLB requesting further comment were not returned.

To be fair, the Orioles have to play on the third Saturday of May. But in the last 10 years, the Orioles have not played a game that directly conflicted with the Preakness despite playing seven times at home on Preakness Saturday.

It seems stunning that the Birds (and Major League Baseball) would allow a game to go off at the same time as the city’s signature event instead of altering the time of the game. The Boston Red Sox play an 11am game annually at Fenway Park as part of the city’s “Patriots Day” celebration. The Orioles could start at a similar time on Preakness Saturday to make way for Preakness, or could start later in the evening (around 8pm) to allow fans to attend both events.

In fact, they could even label the game as “the official post-Preakness party” and offer ticket discounts to attendees of the Preakness should they work in concert with the Jockey Club.

It would be the type of arrangement that could perhaps encourage out of town enthusiasts to “make a day of it” in Baltimore, seeing the sights of one of America’s classic sporting events and also viewing breathtaking Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

It’s a shame the city hasn’t worked with both parties to encourage such a partnership.

But the lack of reverence towards the Preakness in Baltimore is more appalling than even a baseball game.

Many Baltimoreans have simply told me in recent weeks that they feel no connection with the event despite understanding the overall significance of the event.

The reality is that some Baltimoreans are simply more interested in other events.

The problem with that attitude is that Baltimore doesn’t have anything else this significant. There is no PGA Tour stop. There is no LPGA, ATP, WTA Tour stop either.

The NBA & NHL Playoffs are irrelevant in Baltimore unless a fan chooses to root for a team from out of town. The NCAA Tournament might include a team from Baltimore, but the days of Tim Duncan and company playing March Madness games on the floor of what is now known as the 1st Mariner Arena have long passed.

The UFC has never staged a major Mixed Martial Arts event in Baltimore. There hasn’t been a significant prize fight in Baltimore in my lifetime. NASCAR has never come to town, and while the IndyCar series will hold the inaugural “Baltimore Grand Prix” in Baltimore this Labor Day weekend, the event has exactly enough significance that it was not picked up by the series’ network partner (ABC).

The Baltimore Ravens have never played more than nine meaningful home games in a season. The Baltimore Orioles haven’t played a significant home game after Opening Day since 1997.

In Baltimore, we have the Preakness and not much else.

But there’s no reason for that to be so depressing.

It would certainly bode well for the event if the sport of horse racing could make a “comeback” in Charm City. Pimlico has been outdated about as long as the Arena has, and it doesn’t serve well to generate excitement. The fact that racing only happens at the track for about a month out of the year hurts too.

No one has to be a horse racing fan to support Preakness, however.

The majority of the 100,000 or so fans that pack the track Saturday will likely not know the names of more than a few horses running in the actual race and even fewer could quickly answer “Lookin At Lucky” if asked who won last year’s event.

That being said, the folks who attend the event are at least expecting a good time-whether they’re watching Train on the infield or screaming at ponies from the grandstand.

There’s nothing wrong with being a Baltimorean and not attending the Preakness. The dirty secret in Louisville is that more locals actually attend Kentucky Oaks day on Friday than the actual Derby. (Which is aided by the closure of schools, government and many offices in general). The simple idea is that the city should somehow partake in the event in general-or at least feel more positive than negative energy in association with the event.

At the very least, everyone in Baltimore should ABSOLUTELY know that the third Saturday of May is Preakness Saturday.

It’s a shame that isn’t currently true.

-G

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A Final Week of Private Workouts As Draft Season Nears Culmination

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A Final Week of Private Workouts As Draft Season Nears Culmination

Posted on 23 April 2011 by Glenn Clark

We’re less than a week away from the kickoff of the NFL Draft (Thursday night-8pm-ESPN & NFL Network), but we’ve already seen the end of Private workout season, as the Ravens hosted their final private workouts this week.

Now GM Ozzie Newsome, Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta, Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz, Head Coach John Harbaugh, Owner Steve Bisciotti, Team President Dick Cass, VP of Football Administation Pat Moriarty and the entire scouting staff will be involved in the process before the team makes their first pick.

Before I continue, I remind you of the players we have already profiled during Draft season.

QB-Ricky Dobbs (Navy), Pat Devlin (Delaware), Colin Kaepernick (Nevada), Josh Portis (California-Pennsylvania), Taylor Potts (Texas Tech), Christian Ponder (Florida State), Tyrod Taylor (Virginia Tech), Jake Locker (Washington), Greg McElroy (Alabama), Andy Dalton (TCU), Jeremiah Masoli (Ole Miss), Ricky Stanzi (Iowa), Jerrod Johnson (Texas A&M)
FB
-Anthony Sherman (Connecticut), Owen Marecic (Stanford), Shaun Chapas (Georgia)
RB
-Evan Royster (Penn State), Da’Rel Scott (Maryland), DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma), Damien Berry (Miami), Kendall Hunter (Oklahoma State), Roy Helu Jr. (Nebraska), Alex Green (Hawaii), Shane Vereen (Cal), Jordan Todman (UConn), Dion Lewis (Pitt), Jacquizz Rodgers (Oregon State), Mark Ingram (Alabama), Ryan Williams (Virginia Tech), Mikel Leshoure (Illinois), Darren Evans (Virginia Tech), Stevan Ridley (LSU)
WR
-Lester Jean (Florida Atlantic), Terrence Toliver (LSU), Leonard Hankerson (Miami), Austin Pettis (Boise State), Denarius Moore (Tennessee), Owen Spencer (North Carolina State), Jock Sanders (West Virginia), Titus Young (Boise State), Vincent Brown (San Diego State), Ryan Whalen (Stanford), Torrey Smith (Maryland), Randall Cobb (Kentucky), Jon Baldwin (Pittsburgh), Greg Salas (Hawaii), Cecil Shorts III (Mount Union), Jerrel Jernigan (Troy), Niles Paul (Nebraska), Dane Sanzenbacher (Ohio State)
TE-Will Yeatman (Maryland)
OT
-Matthew O’Donnell (Queens University Canada), Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin), Nate Solder (Colorado), Anthony Costanzo (Boston College), Joseph Barksdale (LSU), Derek Sherrod (Mississippi State), DeMarcus Love (Arkansas), James Brewer (Indiana)
G-Danny Watkins (Baylor), Will Rackley (Lehigh)
C-Zane Taylor (Utah), Kris O’Dowd (Southern Cal), Rodney Hudson (Florida State), Brandon Fusco (Slippery Rock)
DE
-Justin Trattou (Florida), Allen Bailey (Miami), Eddie Jones (Texas), Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue), Brooks Reed (Arizona), Cliff Matthews (South Carolina), JJ Watt (Wisconsin), Cameron Heyward (Ohio State), Dontay Moch (Nevada), D’Aundre Reed (Arizona), Aldon Smith (Missouri), Adrian Clayborn (Iowa), Sam Acho (Texas), Ryan Winterswyk (Boise State), Christian Ballard (Iowa), Ricky Elmore (Arizona)
DT-Muhammad Wilkerson (Temple)
LB
-Mark Herzlich (Boston College), Casey Matthews (Oregon), Adrian Moten (Maryland), Nate Irving (NC State), Colin McCarthy (Miami), Martez Wilson (Illinois), Kelvin Sheppard (Louisiana State), Alex Wujciak (Maryland), Akeem Dent (Georgia), Justin Houston (Georgia)
S
-Jermale Hines (Ohio State), Jaiquawn Jarrett (Temple), Maurice Rolle (Louisiana-Lafayette), Rahim Moore (UCLA), Ahmad Black (Florida), Will Hill (Florida)
CB-Anthony Gaitor (Florida International), Aaron Williams (Texas), Jalil Brown (Colorado), Jimmy Smith (Colorado), DeMarcus Van Dyke (Miami), Brandon Harris (Miami), Ras-I Dowling (Virginia), Richard Sherman (Stanford), Brandon Burton (Utah), Curtis Marsh (Utah State), Chris Culliver (South Carolina), Buster Skrine (Chattanooga)

If you missed any of those profiles, you can check them out in the archives here at WNST.net.

Part 1-A look at players who participated in the East West Shrine Game in Orlando, Florida
Part 2-A look at players who participated in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama
Part 3-A look at players who participated in the NFLPA Game (former Texas vs. The Nation Game) in San Antonio, Texas
Parts 456-Previews of players ahead of the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis
Part 7-A look back at players who made in impact at the National Football League Scouting Combine at LucasOil Stadium in Indy
Parts 8, 9 & 10-A look at players who participated in early Pro Timing Days
Part 11-Players the Ravens have shown direct interest in

The Baltimore Ravens (obviously) made no personnel changes this week, so my team needs remain the same…

1. Defensive End
2. Offensive Tackle
3. Wide Receiver
4. Cornerback
5. Fullback
6. Inside Linebacker
7. Safety
8. Center
9. Running Back
10. Quarterback

Here are ten more prospects-all of whom have been shown special attention by the Ravens during Draft season. (Reported by WNST.net, National Football Post, Carroll County Times, Baltimore Sun, Pro Football Weekly or others.)

Thanks to CBSSports.com/NFLDraftScout.com, NFLDraftBible.com, WNST.net (The AP), ESPN.com, NFL.com, Wikipedia, YouTube and various official athletic websites for helping to put together the profiles.

DT Corey Liuget (Illinois)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlprPUyKL8M[/youtube]

It might have surprised some to see that Liuget had visited Owings Mills for a meeting with the Ravens. The team has PLENTY of depth on the D-Line (with the exception of rush end). Behind Haloti Ngata, Kelly Gregg and Cory Redding, the team has the likes of Brandon McKinney, Terrence Cody, Arthur Jones, Lamar Divens and Kelly Talavou to play the position.

Liuget remains an intriguing prospect. He’s an outstanding gap filler at 6’2″, 298; and even managed eight sacks during his career with the Fighting Illini-five of those coming in 2010.

Liuget is expected to come off the board as early as the mid-teens in the first round. Should he fall, the Ravens would find themselves with a difficult decision-as it would be hard to imagine they have many players higher on their board than a player with Liuget’s ability.

Liuget has been a steady riser during Draft season. The Ravens have to be impressed by the fact that he’s capable of playing in both the three and the five technique-and his Pro Day workout in Champaign was reportedly quite impressive.

He might not seem to fight an immediate need-but he simply can’t be ruled out as the Ravens’ first round choice.

CB Justin Rogers (Richmond)

justinrogers

If you’ve been following my Draft updates, you should be well aware of the Ravens’ issues at Cornerback.

Josh Wilson, Chris Carr and Fabian Washington are slated to become unrestricted free agents. Cary Williams is an exclusive rights free agent. Domonique Foxworth missed the entire 2010 season due to a torn ACL.

The team is going to have to address the defensive secondary SOMEHOW during the offseason-by retaining their own players or adding new ones (or more likely a combination of both).

Rogers recently visited 1 Winning Drive, giving the Ravens a chance to take a better look at the CAA prospect. His size (5’11″, 180 pounds) is not exceptional, but his 4.40 Pro Day 40 time certainly is.

His Spiders career was certainly exceptional as well, as he finished his four seasons with 12 interceptions (three of which were returned for touchdowns.) He showed himself plenty capable of being a matchup corner-albeit against FCS competition.

He’s not going to come off the board until Saturday. Most pundits believe the team will have picked a corner before then-but it doesn’t rule out the possibility that the team could still add Rogers.

LB Akeem Ayers (UCLA)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J36hhdBm9QU[/youtube]

The Ravens certainly aren’t the only team that has shown interest in Ayers, as half the league (or more) has hosted the former Bruins backer. But it doesn’t change the fact that the interest in Ayers from General Manager Ozzie Newsome and the team is genuine.

That being said, Ayers isn’t a perfect fit for Chuck Pagano’s defense. While he’s shown an ability to get after quarterbacks (11 sacks during his career in Los Angeles), he can’t be fairly expected to be a true “rush backer.”

Of course, the Ravens already have one of those players in LB Terrell Suggs, so they’re really only in need of a complement to T-Sizzle.

Ayers is a more complete standup backer, as he added 6 interceptions (two returned for touchdowns) to his numbers at UCLA. He has mammoth size (6’3″, 254 pounds) and pretty good speed to boot (4.69 40 at his Pro Day).

As the Ravens look to address their rush early in the draft, they’ll have to decide on whether they’re looking for more of a down lineman or a stand-up backer. My guess is that they’re looking for more of a hybrid-as it will allow them to keep LB Jarret Johnson on the field significantly-but slide a rusher back in obvious passing situations.

Ayers likely won’t stick around until the team’s 2nd round choice (at 58). The team will probably have to pull the trigger at 26 or miss out.

(Ayers joined Rex Snider on “The Afternoon Drive” on AM1570 WNST Thursday, that chat can be heard in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net.)

G/C Stefen Wisniewski (Penn State)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPMkroHBPqM[/youtube]

If selected by the Ravens, Wisniewski would not be the first Wisniewski to play Pro Football in Charm City.

His father (Leo Wisniewski) was selected by the Baltimore Colts in the second round of the 1982 NFL Draft. His family tree is rooted in NFL tradition, as his uncle (Steve Wisniewski) was an eight time Pro Bowl guard for the LA/Oakland Raiders and still an assistant O-Line coach for the team.

Clearly football is in his blood.

The Ravens could be well served to add the 6’3″, 313 pound interior lineman to their O-Line. Wisniewski played more Guard in Happy Valley, but many teams believe he will be a Center at the NFL level.

The Ravens have flux at both positions, as G Marshal Yanda is a restricted free agent-but could be asked to return to OT should unrestricted free agent Jared Gaither depart. While C Matt Birk decided to return this season, he is widely expected to be playing in his final NFL season. G/C Chris Chester is also a restricted free agent, but isn’t widely viewed as a “Center of the future” type.

Wisniewski is likely to be a Friday night pick. It would be easy to imagine new Offensive Line coach Andy Moeller rooting to add a player with the bloodlines of a Wisniewski.

DE Robert Quinn (North Carolina)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqJrjwjf55c[/youtube]

The word “interesting” doesn’t even begin to describe Quinn as a NFL Draft prospect.

Quinn is likely better known for his off the field history coming into his pro career than he is for his on field ability. He was suspended for the 2010 season after the NCAA determined he had lied to investigators about receiving improper travel accommodations and jewelry.

When asked how the scandal could affect Quinn (and former UNC teammates Marvin Austin & Greg Little) at the Ravens’ annual Pre-Draft Luncheon, Newsome pointed out the Ravens had an advantage because Pagano was the DC in Chapel Hill back in 2007.

Quinn is widely believed to be a Top 10 talent in this year’s draft class-but the off field trouble has left in doubt where he will end up being selected. That’s where the Ravens come in. Should he continue to fall, the team would have the opportunity to select him at 26th or even consider moving up a few spots to get him.

Quinn has the physique of the type of rush end the Ravens are interested in adding to their defense. He’s 6’4″, 265 pounds and has really good speed (4.59 40 at his Pro Day). In two seasons with the Tar Heels, he tallied 13 sacks-11 of which came in 2009.

As well as addressing the off field trouble, the Ravens have to determine whether or not the year off will also hurt Quinn on the field.

If he slides, it will be awfully difficult decision on whether or not the team should take the chance.

LB Jonathan Cornell (Mississippi)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCO9L3kFDrg[/youtube]

Despite the fact that only a few players in the history of the NFL have even been worthy of being mentioned in the same SENTENCE as future Hall of Fame LB Ray Lewis, the words “heir apparent to Ray Lewis” tend to get thrown around frequently during Draft season.

It ultimately is never fair to any Inside Linebacker the Ravens select, which Tavares Gooden has found out in recent years.

Gooden, Dannell Ellerbe and Jameel McClain have failed to nail down the WILL LB spot next to the perennial Pro Bowler, and Jason Phillips hasn’t been able to work his way on the field regularly. We also know Lewis won’t be around forever…even if it feels like he might be.

At 6’1″, 236 pounds; some scouts are going to label Cornell as “undersized.” Of course, some of those same scouts said the same thing about that former Miami Hurricanes LB in 1996. Cornell certainly showed an ability to make tackles, finishing his Rebels career with 215 tackles and eight sacks. His 4.76 forty time at his Pro Day in Oxford had to be considered at least a bit disappointing.

There’s no guarantee that Cornell gets drafted at all. Ellerbe and McClain both made the team’s roster out of Training Camp after not being selected. The Ravens will be a bit more hamstrung in the late rounds of this year’s Draft, as they will be unable to sign undrafted free agents until the NFL’s labor dispute is resolved.

With that in mind, Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta and company will know that it might be more necessary than ever to not risk exposing a player like Cornell to a prolonged post-Draft free agency period.

DE Jabaal Sheard (Pitt)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUXMVmDwvmA[/youtube]

Sometimes a team finds red flags in a player that concern them as they make a decision in whether or not they should be drafted.

Other times a team finds positive attributes that make the decision to draft the player a true slam dunk.

In the case of Sheard…well…there’s…both? From the Carroll County Times…

“He was arrested last summer for felony aggravated assault and resisting arrest after an altercation in a bar where he threw a man through a glass door. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, was ordered to apologize and pay medical bills. He was suspended from the team for two weeks as well as internal discipline.

He was awarded a medal for bravery years ago for helping an elderly woman escape from a burning home.”

When not getting arrested or helping elderly women from their homes, Sheard has been a hell of a pass rusher for the Panthers. He’s tallied 19 sacks over the last three seasons, and is viewed as a player who could stand up or put his hand in the dirt at the next level.

Sheard is a beast of a man, measuring in at 6’3″, 264 pounds and clocking in with a 4.68 forty time at the Combine. Scouts have been impressed with his bull rush abilities and the way he handled double teams when teammate Greg Romeus got hurt in 2010.

The Ravens are expected to address DE/OLB early in the Draft. Sheard is unlikely to stick around until the 58th pick and might not be a stretch at all should he come off the board at 26.

WR Greg Little (North Carolina)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHwr7WlO77E[/youtube]

So remember all of those things I said about Quinn? Let’s repeat them for Little.

It’s hard to imagine how the year off will affect him, but we do not it took away an opportunity for him to prove himself as a superior pass-catcher.

Little played just a season and a half at receiver after starting his ACC career at Running Back. He finished his UNC career with 1,774 yards of total offense and 12 combined touchdowns. But the only numbers scouts can really use in considering his potential NFL ability are his 62 catches for 724 yards and five TD’s in 2009.

Ironically, Little has good size (6’3″, 231 pounds) but only decent speed (4.51 forty at the Combine). Unfortunately, he’s never really established himself as an outside or over the top receiver, so teams are hard pressed to determine whether or not he’ll be able to be much more than a slot option.

The Ravens probably have receivers like Little on the roster already. He’s similar to Anquan Boldin, certainly thicker than Derrick Mason. The team will have tough decisions to make with unrestricted free agents T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Donte’ Stallworth, but neither are really expected back in Charm City next season.

The team is more likely to think big and fast when it comes to receiver upgrades, as they desperately need to stretch the field vertically and extend the field horizontally. The team could use more than one receiver in their upgrade process, which could be where Little fits the picture.

If the team doesn’t go receiver early in the Draft, they could certainly consider grabbing Little on Friday night and trying to use free agency (which should be coming…eventually) to add a superior playmaker to their corps.

G/C Mike Pouncey (Florida)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=klPDvs5vvAM[/youtube]

One AFC scout said this to me about the predicament the Ravens could find themselves in when it comes to Pouncey at 26.

“Well…they’d have to take him…they couldn’t afford the risk of him joining his brother in Pittsburgh.”

Clearly that doesn’t ACTUALLY mean the Ravens would have to select Pouncey at 26, but it is a tough decision they’d face. The Ravens have struggled to get consistent pressure on Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger over the years, which has allowed for Pittsburgh to dominate the AFC North. Every decision they make this offseason must be made knowing the road to the Super Bowl will go directly through the Steel City.

Should Mike Pouncey join his brother Maurkice Pouncey, the Steelers’ O-Line would clearly become that much stronger. It would also make the Ravens’ road to Super Bowl XLVI even more difficult.

That being said, the Ravens’ interest in Pouncey isn’t solely based on keeping him out of Pittsburgh. Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron would be well served to add a player of Pouncey’s size (6’5″, 303) and ability to his O-Line. Pouncey is more likely to begin his career at guard than center; and the Ravens could ultimately shift Yanda to tackle should Gaither depart and stick with Pouncey at RG. The move would also give them a potential “center of the future” should Birk retire following the season.

Most scouts believe Pouncey isn’t quite as NFL ready as his brother was, but it’s hard too many rookies being as NFL ready as his brother was. Few scouts doubt the fact that Pouncey is an outstanding talent however, which is why he could go off at the board at 26 or earlier.

Head Coach John Harbaugh spent real time with Pouncey at the NFL Combine. The other head coach Pouncey said he spent real time with in Indy?

Mike Tomlin…of course.

K Kemar Scarlett (Morgan State)

kemarscarlett

Scarlett gained attention in recent weeks after a lengthy ESPN.com profile and an appearance with Thyrl Nelson on “The Mobtown Sports Beat” on AM1570 WNST recently. (That interview can be heard in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net.)

The Ravens visited Scarlett’s Pro Day over on Hillen Road, but make no mistake-they’re very happy with their own kicker (Billy Cundiff) and they have no interest in Scarlett or any other kicker available in this year’s Draft. It’s certainly a refreshing change for Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg after the last two offseasons.

That being said, Scarlett had a nice career for the Bears; connecting on 27 of 34 field goal attempts, including two 47 yard boots during his senior season.

Scarlett will have an opportunity to play football professionally…it just isn’t going to start with him hearing his name called in the NFL Draft.

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

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Private Workouts Now in Focus with Draft Season Speeding Towards Conclusion

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Private Workouts Now in Focus with Draft Season Speeding Towards Conclusion

Posted on 14 April 2011 by Glenn Clark

Like Florence & The Machine said, “The Pro Days are over.”

Well maybe those weren’t the exact lyrics from Florence Welch and company, but the statement remains true.

Draft season has officially shifted from Pro Days to private visits and workouts.

Before I continue, I remind you of the players we have already profiled during Draft season.

QB-Ricky Dobbs (Navy), Pat Devlin (Delaware), Colin Kaepernick (Nevada), Josh Portis (California-Pennsylvania), Taylor Potts (Texas Tech), Christian Ponder (Florida State), Tyrod Taylor (Virginia Tech), Jake Locker (Washington), Greg McElroy (Alabama), Andy Dalton (TCU), Jeremiah Masoli (Ole Miss), Ricky Stanzi (Iowa), Jerrod Johnson (Texas A&M)
FB
-Anthony Sherman (Connecticut), Owen Marecic (Stanford), Shaun Chapas (Georgia)
RB
-Evan Royster (Penn State), Da’Rel Scott (Maryland), DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma), Damien Berry (Miami), Kendall Hunter (Oklahoma State), Roy Helu Jr. (Nebraska), Alex Green (Hawaii), Shane Vereen (Cal), Jordan Todman (UConn), Dion Lewis (Pitt), Jacquizz Rodgers (Oregon State), Mark Ingram (Alabama), Ryan Williams (Virginia Tech), Mikel Leshoure (Illinois), Darren Evans (Virginia Tech)
WR
-Lester Jean (Florida Atlantic), Terrence Toliver (LSU), Leonard Hankerson (Miami), Austin Pettis (Boise State), Denarius Moore (Tennessee), Owen Spencer (North Carolina State), Jock Sanders (West Virginia), Titus Young (Boise State), Vincent Brown (San Diego State), Ryan Whalen (Stanford), Torrey Smith (Maryland), Randall Cobb (Kentucky), Jon Baldwin (Pittsburgh), Greg Salas (Hawaii), Cecil Shorts III (Mount Union), Jerrel Jernigan (Troy), Niles Paul (Nebraska), Dane Sanzenbacher (Ohio State)
TE-Will Yeatman (Maryland)
OT
-Matthew O’Donnell (Queens University Canada), Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin), Nate Solder (Colorado), Anthony Costanzo (Boston College), Joseph Barksdale (LSU), Derek Sherrod (Mississippi State), DeMarcus Love (Arkansas)
G-Danny Watkins (Baylor)
C-Zane Taylor (Utah), Kris O’Dowd (Southern Cal), Rodney Hudson (Florida State), Brandon Fusco (Slippery Rock)
DE
-Justin Trattou (Florida), Allen Bailey (Miami), Eddie Jones (Texas), Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue), Brooks Reed (Arizona), Cliff Matthews (South Carolina), JJ Watt (Wisconsin), Cameron Heyward (Ohio State), Dontay Moch (Nevada), D’Aundre Reed (Arizona), Aldon Smith (Missouri), Adrian Clayborn (Iowa), Sam Acho (Texas), Ryan Winterswyk (Boise State)
DT-Muhammad Wilkerson (Temple)
LB
-Mark Herzlich (Boston College), Casey Matthews (Oregon), Adrian Moten (Maryland), Nate Irving (NC State), Colin McCarthy (Miami), Martez Wilson (Illinois), Kelvin Sheppard (Louisiana State), Alex Wujciak (Maryland), Akeem Dent (Georgia)
S
-Jermale Hines (Ohio State), Jaiquawn Jarrett (Temple), Maurice Rolle (Louisiana-Lafayette), Rahim Moore (UCLA), Ahmad Black (Florida)
CB-Anthony Gaitor (Florida International), Aaron Williams (Texas), Jalil Brown (Colorado), Jimmy Smith (Colorado), DeMarcus Van Dyke (Miami), Brandon Harris (Miami), Ras-I Dowling (Virginia), Richard Sherman (Stanford), Brandon Burton (Utah)

If you missed any of those profiles, you can check them out in the archives here at WNST.net.

Part 1-A look at players who participated in the East West Shrine Game in Orlando, Florida
Part 2-A look at players who participated in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama
Part 3-A look at players who participated in the NFLPA Game (former Texas vs. The Nation Game) in San Antonio, Texas
Parts 456-Previews of players ahead of the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis
Part 7-A look back at players who made in impact at the National Football League Scouting Combine at LucasOil Stadium in Indy
Parts 8, 9 & 10-A look at players who participated in early Pro Timing Days

The Baltimore Ravens (obviously) made no personnel changes this week, so my team needs remain the same…

1. Defensive End
2. Offensive Tackle
3. Wide Receiver
4. Cornerback
5. Fullback
6. Inside Linebacker
7. Safety
8. Center
9. Running Back
10. Quarterback

Here are ten more prospects-all of whom have been shown special attention by the Ravens during Draft season. (Reported by WNST.net, National Football Post, Carroll County Times, Baltimore Sun, Pro Football Weekly or others.)

Thanks to CBSSports.com/NFLDraftScout.com, NFLDraftBible.com, WNST.net (The AP), ESPN.com, NFL.com, Wikipedia, YouTube and various official athletic websites for helping to put together the profiles.

DE Christian Ballard (Iowa)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhgvSsE5tLI[/youtube]

Ballard is one of a number of Defensive Ends that has wandered over to Owings Mills during Draft season.

The Ravens are clearly in need of a rush end, and have looked at a number of players who could fit the role. Ballard (6’4″, 283 pounds) managed to tally eight combined sacks over his junior and senior campaigns with the Hawkeyes despite playing part of that time on the interior of the line.

Ballard has shown good speed during Draft season, trimming his 40 time from 4.75 at the Combine to 4.70 at his Pro Day in Iowa City. He’s not a first round pick, but he is a player the Ravens could consider as early as the second round.

They may have addressed rush end before that. Ballard’s teammate Adrian Clayborn, Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward and a number of other players are all higher on the board. The Ravens have a GLARING need at the position. If they don’t address it in the first, don’t be surprised if they address it with Ballard.

OT James Brewer (Indiana)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5X01sxTrZZY[/youtube]

We don’t know for sure whether or not the Ravens have hosted Brewer at 1 Winning Drive, but we do know that the team paid special interest to Brewer’s Pro Day in Bloomington.

The Ravens have an issue along their O-Line. OT Jared Gaither is an unrestricted free agent and there are just a few question marks surrounding him. OT Michael Oher may or may not have a future at LT. G/T Marshal Yanda probably needs to return to being a Guard only.

The team will have to make some decisions.

Brewer (6’6″, 323 pounds) could help in that decision making process. He’s not a first round talent, but he looks like someone who is going to be able to play fairly early on if selected late Friday or early Saturday.

There is a SMALL issue with Brewer…he’s from Indianapolis. If he roots for the Colts, that could be trouble.

But otherwise, he has to be a legitimate option to help new O-Line coach Andy Moeller.

RB Stevan Ridley (LSU)

stevan

Unlike Ravens RB Ray Rice, Ridley’s game is much about power than speed (his 4.65 40 time at the Combine was better than either of his runs at his Pro Day in Baton Rouge). That could be a recipe to get him to Charm City, as the team may well lose both RB Willis McGahee (expected to be released) and FB Le’Ron McClain (Unrestricted Free Agent) this offseason.

Ridley might not be massive, but he packs 225 pounds in a 5’11″ frame. He has the look of a third down/red zone weapon at the next level, which is part of what the Ravens will be looking for in their backfield this offseason.

Ridley had just one big season with the Tigers before declaring for the Draft a year early. After rushing for just 272 yards and four TD’s combined between his freshman and sophomore seasons, he exploded for 1,147 yards and 15 TD’s as a junior. Clearly part of the reason for leaving early was to save some “tread” on his tires.

The Ravens paid special attention to Ridley at the Combine, where they learned more about why he was voted a team captain as a junior. He’s not a Thursday night pick and probably not a Friday night pick either. As the Draft wares into Saturday, he’ll look more and more appealing to the Ravens-who need to give Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron a change of pace option in the backfield.

CB Curtis Marsh (Utah State)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-DwCYgqHWk[/youtube]

Just to recap the Ravens’ CB situation this offseason-Chris Carr, Josh Wilson and Fabian Washington are all unrestricted free agents; Cary Williams is an exclusive rights free agent and Domonique Foxworth is coming off an ACL injury that cost him the entire 2010 season. Lardarius Webb is the only corner that saw the field last season that remains fully under contract.

Clearly new Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano will need SOMETHING in his defensive backfield, be it returning players or newcomers.

Marsh is an intriguing option who has already visited General Manager Ozzie Newsome and company in Owings Mills. He was very much under the radar screen playing for the Aggies, but his 6’1″, 197 pound size and 4.42 speed have been undeniable during Draft season.

Marsh initially garnered attention for his matchup abilities against Boise State receivers Austin Pettis and Titus Young. He received a Senior Bowl invite but missed the week due to a hamstring injury.

Marsh could come off the board as early as Friday night. If the Ravens don’t select a cornerback in Round 1, he could be a legitimate option after that point.

DE Ricky Elmore (Arizona)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtE9qFonW7s[/youtube]

The Ravens have shown equal interest in Elmore and fellow former ‘Zona DE Brooks Reed, as both have shown an ability to get after Pac 10 quarterbacks.

Elmore tallied 21 combined sacks between his junior and senior seasons, finishing his Wildcats career with 25 sacks overall. During Draft season he’s been training with Clay Matthews Sr. (whose son is a pretty good pass rusher himself) in an attempt to even further improve his ability to get after QB’s.

Elmore is a physical beast, measuring in at 6’5″, 255 pounds. He’s not blazing fast (4.88 40 at the Combine), but he’s deceptively quick for his size.

As I mentioned with Ballard, the Ravens have to be desperate for rush help on the edge. If they select an end Thursday (or early Friday), they’ll likely want him to be someone who also has the ability to stand up in a 3-4 defense.

If they don’t go DE early, Elmore could be a better option later into the Draft (likely Saturday). Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz and company will have to determine how quickly Elmore could make an impact.

S Will Hill (Florida)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQK0xhpkE4Y&feature=fvst[/youtube]

Hill’s size (6’1″, 202 pounds) and decent speed (4.64 40) as well as his overall football ability (four interceptions over three seasons in Gainesville) should make him a solid Free Safety prospect.

Yet despite the Ravens showing interest in Hill at the Combine, he’s viewed as a borderline possibility to get picked anywhere in the Draft.

Hill’s issues are more off the field than they are on the field. He had some problems with his Twitter account-as well documented by the website “Every Day Should Be Saturday.”

Hill later claimed his Twitter account was hacked, but the damage was certainly done-and Hill didn’t exactly win everyone over with his comments about the incident at the Combine.

There are clear question marks off the field, which are clouding the ability he could have on the field. The Ravens appear to be in the safety market this offseason, as SS Dawan Landry is an unrestricted free agent and FS Ed Reed is…well…not getting any younger or healthier. Reserves Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura give them options to plug in, but they’ll certainly look for depth.

Should the Ravens not select a safety at all early in the Draft, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that they could take a chance on a player like Hill late in the Draft. After taking risks on DT Terrence Cody and LB Sergio Kindle early in the Draft last season, they might not be as quick to take a chance on a player with a red flag in this year’s Draft.

CB Chris Culliver (South Carolina)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jFfXPtIMlk[/youtube]

As I mentioned with Marsh, the Ravens have secondary issues this offseason. They’ll need to address them SOMEHOW, and Culliver could be part of that.

Culliver is a 6’0″, 199 pound corner who tallied four sacks and three interceptions during his Gamecocks career. (All three picks came in 2008.) He’s coming off a torn pec that caused him to miss the final six games of his 2010 campaign.

Of all of the corners on the Ravens’ active roster in 2010, only Williams (6’1″) is as big as Culliver. None have the blazing speed (4.36 40 at the Combine…which he stood on instead of running at his Pro Day in Columbia) that Culliver has.

Culliver paid a visit to Owings Mills during Draft season to meet with Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta and company. They likely wanted to see how fluid he was in coverage, as he played just one season at corner in the SEC after converting from safety.

The other nice option with Culliver is his potential involvement in the return game. Culliver finished his SC career with a school record 2,476 return yards. The Ravens got solid production from Webb and WR David Reed/RB Jalen Parmele in the PR and KR roles respectively last season, but they certainly didn’t do so much that they have to be considered locks to return in the roles. Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg wouldn’t be disappointed to add another return man if the Ravens were to use a late Friday or early Saturday selection on Culliver.

G Will Rackley (Lehigh)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IaXM8yMXOHM[/youtube]

The Ravens have certainly had no trouble using a pick in the top half of the Draft on interior linemen before.

G Ben Grubbs (1st round), C/G Chris Chester (2nd round), G/T Marshal Yanda (3rd round) and St. Louis Rams C Jason Brown (4th round) have all been players the Ravens have selected early, and they’ve received mostly good results from the selections.

The Ravens don’t appear to have a glaring need amongst their interior linemen, but there are certainly issues to be addressed.

While Head Coach John Harbaugh would like to return Yanda to Guard, he’s an restricted free agent that could depart in the offseason. Even if he stays, the Ravens could be faced with a need to have him stay at RT should the team not re-sign Gaither or not Draft/Sign a better option at the position. After getting a second round tender, Chester (also a restricted free agent) is expected to return, but the team would prefer to have him play a utility role along the line instead of being penciled in at RG.

Rackley could be the type of player who could step in and play RG immediately. The 6’3″, 309 pound lineman turned a number of heads during East West Shrine Game week, showing he was quite capable of playing against big time opposition despite his FCS background.

Rackley was a four year starter for the Mountain Hawks, dominating Patriot League opposition. Clearly the AFC North (and the likes of DT’s like the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Casey Hampton) will offer more significant opposition. Rackley is expected to be a Friday night pick, which could certainly be a legitimate place for the Ravens to jump up and grab him.

CB Buster Skrine (Chattanooga)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2jksB_vrsM[/youtube]

Similar to Curtis Marsh, Skrine is going to be looking to overcome a lower level of competition to make a name for himself as a National Football League corner. But Skrine (who played in the Southern Conference) has many more questions about competition to overcome than Marsh-who played his ball in the WAC.

Skrine (5’10″, 186 pounds) has great speed (4.37 40 at the Combine-but rumored to have actually been as fast as 4.29) and finished his Mocs career with five interceptions.

The Ravens both attended Skrine’s Pro Day and hosted him in Owings Mills in March.

The biggest question surrounding Skrine is whether or not he can play press coverage against NFL receivers, many of whom will have a slight to significant height advantage.

If the Ravens feel like he could be, it would make him a solid option late Friday or early Saturday.

LB Justin Houston (Georgia)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kR0L2RVId90[/youtube]

Houston appears to be a true standup OLB instead of a down DE, which could help as the Ravens try to find pass rush help.

At 6’3″, 270 pounds; Houston was considered “undersized” to play along the D-Line for the Bulldogs, so he was moved to the outside. He responded to the move by producing 10 sacks in 2010; finishing his career in Athens with 19 sacks total.

Houston’s size and solid speed (he trimmed his 40 time down to 4.57 at his Pro Day) make him a borderline first round pick. The Ravens are obviously in the market for pass rush help (more specifically someone to team with LB Terrell Suggs), and they have hosted Houston in Owings Mills during Draft season.

The only obvious red flag with Houston is a 2009 suspension by UGA coach Mark Richt for an unspecified violation of team rules.

While the team seems unlikely to trade out of the 26th spot this year, Houston could be the type of available player that would make them feel like they could. Should Houston be available in the 30-40 range, the Ravens would likely feel as though they got #26 value after trading back.

-G

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Trip to Arizona Reminds Me 2011 Orioles Just Need to Win

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Trip to Arizona Reminds Me 2011 Orioles Just Need to Win

Posted on 30 March 2011 by Glenn Clark

When Nestor Aparicio told me Wednesday would be the day I would scribe my Baltimore Orioles preview piece, I chuckled a bit. I’m sure he had no idea of the symbolism involved.

If you listen to “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST (and you certainly should), you probably know that Wednesday marks the first time I’ve taken a vacation since returning to the Charm City airwaves in 2008.

I’m headed to Phoenix, which is where I lived and worked for two years after leaving CBS Radio here in Baltimore.

Just before departing CBS for the Valley of the Sun, I heard that Nasty was organizing an event called “Free The Birds”. I will admit now that upon hearing of the event, my thoughts (in my head and on-air) were along the lines of “what a blowhard.”

It wasn’t until I got to Arizona that I truly understood what Nestor was doing.

My only full season of MLB coverage in Arizona came in 2007. I was there for the end of the 2006 season and half of the 2008 season-but ’07 was my only full year of covering baseball-specifically the Arizona Diamondbacks.

It you’ll remember, 2007 was the year the D-Backs went on an improbable run to the NL West crown and a trip to the NLCS (where they would ultimately be dismissed by the Colorado Rockies).

The 2007 Diamondbacks were a special group. They were a young team (CF Chris Young, RF Justin Upton, SS Stephen Drew, 1B Conor Jackson and 3B Mark Reynolds were all at the beginning of their careers) with a few “journeymen” type veterans (1B Tony Clark, 2B Orlando Hudson and LF Eric Byrnes) sprinkled in.

Their pitching staff (led by stars Brandon Webb and Randy Johnson) was clearly what carried them to October, but even that group included some journeymen, as Doug Davis and Livan Hernandez held down rotation spots.

They were a fun team that found success from Opening Day until the postseason, and it made the entire summer in Phoenix sort of magical.

Every game in every series at Chase Field (and away from Chase Field) mattered. Every game had a story line. Every game had underlying drama.

Every game was discussed by sports fans the next day on radio, around water coolers and on social media accounts (MySpace was the most popular at the time) throughout the state.

chasefield

As someone who wasn’t from Phoenix (and who actually went to Chase Field for three games in June looking like the above and below pictures), I had no emotional ties to the D-Backs. Yet as the season continued, I found myself more and more emotionally invested as the city where I resided came down with a case of Diamondbacks fever.

os

I even found myself in a public fight with Diamondbacks President/CEO Derrick Hall before NLDS Game 1 against the Chicago Cubs-arguing with him that the team shouldn’t play “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” during the 7th Inning Stretch because it would give too much encouragement to the Cubs fans in attendance.

I REALLY didn’t care in my heart whether or not the Diamondbacks won the series. My team (the O’s) had just polished off their 10th consecutive losing season. Yet for some reason, the magic of the Diamondbacks’ accomplishment had touched even a dyed-in-the-wool Birds fan like myself.

It was then…in October of 2007…that I finally understood what Nestor (and company) were trying to say.

I hadn’t experienced that type of feeling as an Orioles fan in a decade.

I haven’t experienced it since then of course either.

The last time a meaningful game was played in Baltimore was in October of 1997, when Tony Fernandez crushed both Armando Benitez and the dreams of every 14 year old kid at Perry Hall High School like myself.

I at least got to see a meaningful game as a high school freshman. We’re now approaching a time where area kids will enter high school having not been alive for a single meaningful baseball game.

It’s real.

After seeing the Diamondbacks’ magical run and the way even a transient city like Phoenix was carried away by a season of baseball-I knew that “Free The Birds” was about the desire to finally see the city of Baltimore again experience the same thing.

And we all know just how much the city of Baltimore really needs to experience something like that.

That brings us to the 2011 Baltimore Orioles.

What’s happened with this franchise since 1997 isn’t the fault of President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail, Manager Buck Showalter, DH Vladimir Guerrero or any other player, coach or front office member…with one glaring exception-but we’ll leave Peter Angelos alone this time.

Just because the past 13 seasons aren’t the fault of the overwhelming majority of the principles involved in 2011 season doesn’t mean that the issues surrounding the past 13 seasons can suddenly be ignored.

Whether they like it or not, the 2011 Baltimore Orioles carry the burden of the failures of recent teams.

Just as the 2010 Baltimore Orioles did…and the 2009 Baltimore Orioles did…and the 2012 Baltimore Orioles will if this team doesn’t succeed.

The team (and most notably CF Adam Jones, who recently made some colorful comments to the Baltimore Sun) will be reminded of that when they report to Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Friday, April 22nd to open a six game homestand against the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

It will be a somewhat painful reminder that what happened between 1998-2010 is still very much an issue to fans in Baltimore today.

The 2011 Baltimore Orioles will have to accept the desperation of a fanbase deprived of a winner for 13 cities every time they step on a baseball diamond.

We’ll find out over the next six months whether or not they can handle the responsibility.

The early returns have been questionable. Jones has popped off about the fanbase, Showalter took time in an interview to worry about the money Red Sox GM Theo Epstein is spending and how Yankees SS Derek Jeter stands at the plate.

The Orioles (and Orioles fans) cannot afford to waste their time this season worrying about anything other than winning baseball games.

They’re fighting a battle that won’t be easy. While most pundits agree this team is better than they have been in recent years-few believe they will be better than the Yankees, Red Sox or even the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East. Few believe that meaningful games will return to OPACY after the All-Star Game this season.

The Orioles will look to do their best to prove those pundits wrong, and it won’t be easy.

In the meantime, they’ll have to try to win back an entire city. There will always be a group of hardcore fans that will support a team emotionally and economically no matter what the results are-but this team will look to re-establish a broader level of support beyond that group.

To do so-the only thing they can concern themselves with is winning.

In fact, the Orioles would be wise to channel Al Davis and consider a “Just Win, Baby” mentality for 2011.

If they do so-Jones won’t have to worry about who is in the stands when the Yanks come back to town this August. Showalter won’t have to worry about how much money any other team in Major League Baseball spends.

The 2011 Baltimore Orioles just need to worry about winning.

Nothing else.

If they can win even enough to have their name on the Wild Card race list when the Yanks visit this August-the feeling at those games will be even more special than what I experienced at playoff games in Phoenix in 2007.

-G

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Zbikowski Wins Again in Atlantic City

Posted on 27 March 2011 by WNST Staff

Here’s a recap of Baltimore Ravens Safety Tom Zbikowski’s third professional fight courtesy of NewsCore…

Baltimore Ravens safety Tom Zbikowski remained undefeated in his young boxing career Saturday, beating Caleb Grummet by a unanimous decision in Atlantic City, the Baltimore Sun reported.
Zbikowski moved to 3-0 with the win, landing uppercuts in the third round to bloody Grummet’s nose, and another that stunned the former cagefighter with 1:37 left in the bout.

It marked the first time Zbikowski did not win via a first-round knockout.

“I’m very, very critical of myself. Obviously, you want knockouts. Overall experience is what you need. You’re not always going to get knockouts,” he said.

Zbikowski, 25, said Friday that he planned to keep boxing in 2012.

“Without a doubt — if I can get that worked out — that’s my perfect world,” said Zbikowski.

Whether he can continue boxing and play in the NFL will depend on his next football contract. The former Notre Dame star is currently a restricted free agent, and has not signed while the league remains in a lockout.

He will become an unrestricted free agent in 2012, meaning his next contract would need to allow him to continue his boxing career in the offseason.

Zbikowski has boxed since the age of 10 and compiled an amateur record of 75-15. He won his first professional fight at Madison Square Garden in June 2006.

He is next scheduled to fight on April 23 at the Indian Casino outside of Dallas, the Sun reported citing an official with Top Rank Boxing.

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Wednesday 3-Pointer: Buck Growing on O’s Like a Nice Goatee, NCAA Brackets Busted Already & Give VCU a Re-Do

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Wednesday 3-Pointer: Buck Growing on O’s Like a Nice Goatee, NCAA Brackets Busted Already & Give VCU a Re-Do

Posted on 09 March 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Wednesday 3-Pointer

 

 #1 – Buck’s Orioles Growing on Me Like a Well Kept Beard

 

Regardless of the logistics and profitability (or lack thereof) in televising spring training baseball games, it would seem that a team that owns a network should be able to do such things, and while I’m aware that it’s not a practice carried on throughout Major League Baseball, I’m also aware that the league only began televising their own draft last year, so just because they aren’t doing it now doesn’t mean that there is no market for it or profit/benefit in it. At this time of year as our thoughts turn to warm weather and baseball, it would be nice to turn our TVs there too.

 

I’m not sure whether the decision not to televise comes down to it actually costing the team or just not providing enough profit to justify it. In either case, I’d have to imagine that if televising spring training (home) games served no other purpose they’d at least do a better job at generating fan interest than those silly in-house commercials that they produce and run all season long trying to convince folks who are already watching the games to watch games. To that end I’d presume they could justify it as pseudo-advertising if nothing else.

 

Needless to say I was happy to get a chance to lay eyes on the team first hand in their game against the Yankees on Monday, and although I love a pitchers’ duel as much as any baseball purist, no runs scored on either side was a bit disappointing. The game itself served as a reminder, perhaps (counter) to my initial point that in spring training there are too many individual agendas at play (pitchers working specific pitches, batters not subscribing to particular game situations) to make for interesting or at least competitive games.

 

The highlight of the night for me though (narrowly beating out Reynolds laser the other way) was the in game interview with Buck Showalter. At one point, when asked to opine on the notable upgrades to Ed Smith Stadium he said something to the effect of “another excuse eliminated”. For long suffering Orioles fans, this is music to our ears.

 

What it says to me is that Buck is aware that the team has a perception problem that will linger for as long as they continue to buy into it themselves. It was a nice insight (a nugget if you will) into Showalter’s approach in trying to change the clubhouse culture. Reports by the Baltimore Sun indicating that Showalter had gotten the club to loosen its stance on the facial hair policy is another excuse eliminated I think. While it seems like a small thing, if the team has a perception problem and knows it, then there’s no reason to add to their challenges with frivolous policies. It may seem like a small thing, but much like the hair on the chin’s of Derrek Lee and Vlad Guerrero, Showalter is growing on me, and lots of other fans too I’d imagine.

 

 

 

#2 – Brackets Already Busted

 

If you haven’t yet fully come to assess the potential effects of the expansion of the NCAA Tournament field to 68 teams, you’d better get a hold of it by Sunday night, as it’s going to impact your bracket pools this time in ways that the addition of the 65th team never did.

 

The first four play-in games to be played on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week in Dayton Ohio will not be made up of the worst 8 teams in the field as I think most people still suspect. Instead the 4 lowest division winners (seeds 65-68) will be pitted against each other in Dayton with the winners of those games advancing to the 16-line in the tourney and being destroyed by #1 seeds. As with the 64 vs. 65 game in years past, this can be seen as a foregone conclusion and may not even merit picking, a policy that most pools have seemingly adopted.

 

The other two games in Dayton though will feature the 34th – 37th at large teams and matching them up against each other. The winners of those games will be inserted into the field presumably on the 11th or 12th lines depending on actual seeding. That means match-ups on the 6 vs. 11 and the infamous 5 vs. 12 lines in the first round have just gotten a lot tougher to pick.

 

Will pools adopt a system where the play in winners are considered wildcards and can be advanced as such or will all of your pools have to be in before Tuesday night? How much harder does it become to pick a 12-seed to upset a 5 if you have a 50/50 shot at determining who that 12-seed will even be? You can bet that folks you know who always pick at least one 12-seed in the first round will now be compelled to do that in the regions where play-ins determine the 16-seeds and the 12-seeds are predetermined.

 

I think I’m most interested to see if the NCAA will play the 4 lowest overall seeds all on Tuesday and the other (more interesting) games on Wednesday. Since a 16-seed has still yet to beat a #1, that would at least give everyone an extra day to get those brackets in. While the NCAA can’t and won’t publicly condone gambling, there’s no doubt that they owe a lot of the popularity of their event to the popularity of the pools that accompany it. It will be interesting to see if they play the lower seeds first and at least (in some way) acknowledge what they’re doing to bracket players everywhere who I am afraid aren’t yet ready for this.

 

 

 

#3 – Do Over for VCU

 

I got to talk to Tim Gardner from USA Today on Monday’s show (available in the Buy-A-Toyota.com Audio Vault) ahead of the CAA championship and the prospects therein, he indicated to me that both George Mason and Old Dominion had done enough for the committee regardless of the outcome of the title game to get themselves into the field of 68. He went on to say that if VCU won the game the CAA would likely see its first ever 3-team bid into the tourney.

 

VCU didn’t win, but they made a valiant effort. In the end the result was 70-65 Old Dominion with the Monarchs sewing up the CAA’s automatic bid and likely leaving VCU home for the dance. The end however isn’t what everyone seems to be talking about. The game started with a peculiar VCU turnover, they quickly got the ball back and buried a three-pointer. After forcing another quick turnover VCU guard Ed Nixon slipped on his way in for a lay-up, leading to a turnover and a three-pointer at the other end. Play was then stopped due to the excessive slipping going on under VCU’s basket, and a barrage of towel wielding employees went about wiping what was described by the game’s announcers as a film off of the floor at that end. The announcers blamed it on the fog machine used for pre-game intros and blamed the conference for not testing it as they were on a neutral floor for a conference title game.

 

It turns out that it wasn’t the fog machine. Yahoo sports reported that the film on the floor was actually baby powder, left there from Old Dominion’s mascot “Big Blue’s” attempt at a pre-game LeBron James impersonation. Although the score was 3-3 at the time of the stoppage, and could have played out in a number of conceivable ways from there out, the two turnovers and resultant 3-pointer the other way possibly as a direct result of the floor issues could have cost the Rams as much as 9 points (lost and given up) to that stage of the game…on account of the ODU mascot.

 

With 3 extra berths available in the field this year, VCU deserves one; it’s the right thing to do. Who are they going to rob one from the 5th place SEC, ACC or PAC-10 finisher? Put them in the field in Dayton with a shot at the 12 spot if they advance. That would make me feel a little better about the mess they’re already projecting to make of the brackets this season. And VCU’s resume isn’t terrible; they beat UCLA early and an underrated Wofford team in December. They’re 2-1 against a strong George Mason squad and 1-2 after Monday’s loss against Old Dominion. Give them a redo, and get the mascots and cheerleaders away from the court, before they really cost someone a game.

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Tuesday 3-Pointer: McGahee’s End Lets Ravens Spend, Is LT Last of the H.O.F. RBs? & Melo-Dramatic Ending

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Tuesday 3-Pointer: McGahee’s End Lets Ravens Spend, Is LT Last of the H.O.F. RBs? & Melo-Dramatic Ending

Posted on 22 February 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Tuesday 3-Pointer

#1 – McGahee’s End Could Help Ravens Spend

This is one crazy NFL off-season already, and with fans forced to face up the reality of the impending labor strife, it seems that any opportunity to turn their collective focus toward anything moderately on-field related will have NFL fans jumping in with both feet. For evidence of that look no further than the apparent stir caused among Ravens fans yesterday based on the speculation by the Sun’s Mike Preston that the Ravens are likely to release Willis McGahee.

The reaction was a much bigger surprise after all than the realization regarding McGahee itself should have been. McGahee’s original deal with the Ravens, was reported to be a 7-year deal structured to be 3 years, meaning that by the end of the third season McGahee’s salary cap number would likely be preclusive to the team’s ability to keep him around beyond that time. The fact that Willis was a Raven at all in 2010 should have been a moderate surprise in the first place, and is likely at least somewhat attributable to the absence of a salary cap last season. Add to that the Ravens apparent wait and see approach, indicating that no players were likely to be released before the expiration of the league’s collective bargaining agreement in March, and it’s apparent that fans are dying for something…anything unrelated to labor negotiations to talk about.

Given the recent trends at the running back position league-wide, and the apparent wear and tear that has been exacted on Ray Rice of late, it’s easy to envision the Ravens looking to get younger at running back for 2011. What’s more, the failure of a number of recent highly drafted running back prospects, and success of almost as many undrafted free agents in recent seasons could lead to a bounty of running back talent in the late rounds of this year’s NFL draft and beyond. Say what you want about Ozzie’s recent draft record, but his success at finding running backs has been consistent throughout his tenure with the Ravens.

The league, in recent seasons, has shown a willingness to use running backs for all they’re worth while they’re young and relatively cheap, seemingly exhausting most of their talent before having to commit to big, long-term paydays. In the modern salary cap environment (presumably coming back in 2011) facilitating a position like running back “on the cheap” might free teams up to spend outlandish money for the types of talent that’s tougher to come by through free agency.

While I can’t envision the Ravens looking to break the bank and salary cap on a player like Nnamdi Asomugha, it’s reasonable to think that they could afford to if they were sure they could cover the running back position credibly with 3 low paid options. They might look elsewhere in the system too, to places like tight end and/or safety, places where they’ve always been able to find inexpensive, late round talent, at positions that are propped up to a degree by the system, and places where they’re reasonably certain that they could maintain strength in that system without committing a ton of money to the effort. If Joe Flacco matures and becomes a reliable top-10 in the league quarterback instead of a top-5 QB, that too could mean a savings of $5-$8 million per season, in this NFL, where corners and rush ends have seemingly been recognized as the most valuable defensive commodities, spending through free agency might be the only way outside of finishing 2-14 of coming by these types of players.

#2 – LT - Last of the Hall of Fame Running Backs?

Speaking of the plight of Willis McGahee, or the plight of the modern running back in general for that matter, it seems that we may be moving quickly toward the end of the Hall of Fame running back era.

There are 28 players in the Pro-Football Hall of Fame listed as modern era halfbacks (more than any other position but offensive and defensive line) with Marshall Faulk on his way in 2011. There are another handful of hopefuls who are retired and waiting hopefully on the call for induction, and there’s LaDanian Tomlinson. After that, it might be quite a while before we see another halfback able to put together the type of career that merits induction into the NFL’s hallowed hall.

In this modern landscape of multi-headed backfields, and where running backs are being employed more and more in short, over the middle passing options that wide receivers used to build their reputations on, the league seems to be chewing up and spitting out running backs at a record pace. While guys like Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson might be well on their way, at this point they’ve done little more (or arguably less) than Terrell Davis, who is still waiting on a call from the hall, and unlikely to get it in the minds of most or Jamal Lewis for that matter.

I’d encourage you to enjoy LT while you still have the chance, it may be a long time before you see another hall of fame running back.

#3 – Melo-Dramatic Ending

At long last, and after countless speculation, offers, counter-offers, and innuendo, the Knicks and Nuggets have finally agreed to a deal that will deliver Melo to his stated destination of choice in New York. There he’ll join forces with Amar’e Stoudemire to form their own “little big 2“, with arguably nothing else to speak of.

In getting the deal done, and thanks to the pressure provided by the Nets, the Knicks parted company with Timofey Mozgov, Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari, along with a bevy of draft picks (only 1 first rounder), and some cash to boot. The Nets, for their trouble are reportedly set to get Mozgov and one of the Nuggets’ other new acquisitions for a pair of first round picks that were central to those two teams’ own Carmelo talks. The Knicks will also reportedly send Eddy Curry and Anthony Randolph to Minnesota for Corey Brewer.

That leaves the Knicks with 2/3 of their own big 3 in the making in Anthony and Stoudemire, along with uber-second round pick Landry Fields, Brewer and Chauncey Billups if he reports for duty with the Knicks in the backcourt, but next to nothing in support of Amar’e up front. Rony Turiaf remains from the Knicks original roster and he’ll be supported, lightly, by Renaldo Balkman and Shelden Williams (also acquired in the Anthony deal).

The Knicks were a nice early story, and will ultimately benefit from the attraction that is Anthony and Stoudemire, but for this season at least, they look to have taken a pretty significant step backward. Felton could be viewed as found money by the Knicks, but was one of the most effective (and seemingly quickest) point guards through the first half of the season in Dantoni’s system. Gallinari was having a disappointing season, but was a legitimate threat from the outside with a developing post game, and Mozgov is a reasonably skilled 7-footer with a pretty legitimate upside; he’ll be a welcome addition in New Jersey. But since New York had no real stake in the Eastern Conference this season anyway, it may be one step backward with the intent of taking two big steps forward with two franchise forwards in tow.

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