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Mizzell, Skura, Matthews among final Ravens cuts to get to 53

Posted on 02 September 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens made their final subtractions to form their initial roster for the 2017 regular season without any major surprises.

Running back Taquan Mizzell, offensive lineman Matt Skura, and wide receivers Chris Matthews and Quincy Adeboyejo headlined a list of 14 cuts made to trim the preseason roster down to the 53-man limit. Baltimore also placed veteran cornerback Brandon Boykin on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury.

A trio of rookie free agents — cornerback Jaylen Hill, linebacker Bam Bradley, and defensive lineman and hybrid blocking fullback and tight end Patrick Ricard — made the team, meaning the Ravens have kept at least one undrafted rookie on their 53-man roster for the 14th consecutive season. Hill and Ricard turned heads with their performance even dating back to spring workouts while Bradley made plays on defensive and special teams during the preseason and benefited from a numbers standpoint after the season-ending knee injury suffered by veteran Albert McClellan.

Mizzell led the team in both rushing and receiving in the preseason, but general manager Ozzie Newsome elected to keep only three running backs. Fellow rookie free agent Ricky Ortiz was also waived, meaning the Ravens do not have a traditional fullback on the current roster. Both would appear to be reasonable candidates to be signed to the practice squad.

Skura had started all four preseason games at left guard, but the acquisitions of offensive linemen Tony Bergstrom and Luke Bowanko left him and former starting center Jeremy Zuttah on the outside looking in. The Ravens would likely be open to re-signing Skura to the practice squad for the second straight season.

Matthews had played a prominent role on special teams throughout the summer, but the Ravens elected to keep only five receivers on their roster with 2016 fourth-round pick Chris Moore receiving the nod. A rookie free agent from Mississippi, Adeboyejo turned heads with big plays early in training camp, but he dealt with a nagging knee issue as the summer continued and was unable to duplicate his success in preseason contests.

The Ravens also cut linebackers Boseko Lokombo and Donald Payne, tight end Ryan Malleck, cornerback Reggie Porter, guard Maurquice Shakir, and quarterback Josh Woodrum. A candidate for the practice squad, Woodrum earned attention for his performance in the second preseason game at Miami, but he did little to distinguish himself as a serious roster candidate in the final two exhibition contests.

Outside linebacker Brennen Beyer, cornerback Robertson Daniel, and offensive tackle Stephane Nembot were all waived with injury designations.

As expected, injured cornerback Maurice Canady was included in the initial 53-man roster, a move that makes the 2016 sixth-round pick eligible for the designation to return later in the season. He underwent knee surgery early in training camp and is out indefinitely.

With starter Joe Flacco returning to practice on Saturday, the Ravens have elected to enter a season with only two quarterbacks for the eighth consecutive season.

Below is a look at the initial 53-man roster:

Quarterbacks (2): Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett
Running backs (3): Terrance West, Danny Woodhead, Buck Allen
Wide receivers (5): Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Michael Campanaro, Chris Moore
Tight ends (4): Nick Boyle, Benjamin Watson, Maxx Williams, Vince Mayle
Offensive linemen (8): Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Ryan Jensen, James Hurst, Austin Howard, Jermaine Eluemunor, Tony Bergstrom, Luke Bowanko

Defensive linemen (8): Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Brent Urban, Bronson Kaufusi, Chris Wormley, Carl Davis, Willie Henry, Patrick Ricard
Inside linebackers (4): C.J. Mosley, Kamalei Correa, Patrick Onwuasor, Bam Bradley
Outside linebackers (5): Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser, Za’Darius Smith, Tim Williams
Cornerbacks (6): Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey, Jaylen Hill, Sheldon Price, Maurice Canady
Safeties (5): Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Lardarius Webb, Anthony Levine, Chuck Clark

Specialists (3): Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox

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Flacco finally returns to practice for Ravens

Posted on 02 September 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After more than a month of uncomfortable waiting, the Ravens finally welcomed franchise quarterback Joe Flacco back to the practice field on Saturday.

Missing all of training camp and the preseason with a back ailment, the 32-year-old was back on the field just eight days before Baltimore’s season opener in Cincinnati. Flacco was immediately working with the first-team offense and looked sharp throwing passes to receivers during the portion of the workout open to the media.

“It feels good to be back out here with the guys and be a part of everything again,” Flacco said in a statement released by the team. “Really, it’s been a weird situation the last few weeks, because it’s just something you have to wait out. You’re putting in all the hard work you can, but at the same time, it’s a waiting game. You definitely have to fight against not doing anything, but also keep your mind fresh.

“But for today, it was awesome being back on the field — just like it always is — and to be with my guys. I feel excited about the season we have coming up.”

Head coach John Harbaugh had confirmed earlier in the week that Flacco had begun throwing and other football-related activity in preparation for his imminent return to the practice field.

“Joe looked good. He practiced very well,” Harbaugh said. “Now, one of the next pieces is to see how he responds to that over the next few days.”

Flacco wasn’t the only offensive player to return to practice as former first-round wide receiver Breshad Perriman and veteran running back Danny Woodhead were present and working after extended absences due to injury. Harbaugh expressed optimism earlier this week that Perriman would soon return from a significant hamstring injury suffered on Aug. 1.

Baltimore did not announce any further roster cuts prior to Saturday afternoon’s practice, but quarterback Josh Woodrum, linebacker Brennen Beyer, offensive tackle Stephane Nembot, and cornerbacks Jaylen Hill, Sheldon Price (concussion), Robertson Daniel, Brandon Boykin, and Maurice Canady (knee) were all absent as the team practiced indoors.

The Ravens also announced during practice that they acquired center Luke Bowanko from Jacksonville for an undisclosed draft selection. The 2014 sixth-round pick started 14 games as a rookie, but he lost his starting job in 2015 and missed most of last season with a hip injury. He has played in only eight contests over the last two seasons.

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Alvarez, Sisco highlight Orioles’ first wave of September call-ups

Posted on 01 September 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — With September bringing the perk of an expanded roster, the Orioles have summoned an old friend and will provide the first major league taste to one of their top prospects.

Veteran slugger Pedro Alvarez and rookie catcher Chance Sisco headlined a list of promotions that also included outfielder Joey Rickard and right-handed relief pitchers Jimmy Yacabonis and Richard Rodriguez on Friday afternoon. Baltimore designated right-handers Tyler Wilson and Logan Verrett for assignment to make the necessary room on the 40-man roster.

Signed to a minor-league deal in March, Alvarez spent the entire season at Triple-A Norfolk and hit 26 home runs with a .737 on-base plus slugging percentage for the Tides. The 30-year-old spent 2016 in Baltimore and hit 22 homers with an .826 OPS, but his significant defensive limitations left him without a major league job this past offseason. He had been learning to play the outfield in the first half of the season at Norfolk, but the experiment was largely abandoned as he played first base in the second half.

Manager Buck Showalter confirmed that Sisco’s promotion is expected to be more of a learning experience rather than an audition, especially with incumbents Welington Castillo and Caleb Joseph playing so well. Ranked as Baltimore’s No. 1 prospect in Baseball American’s mid-season top 10 list, the 22-year-old hit .267 with seven homers, 23 doubles, and a .736 OPS at Norfolk this season and was invited to take part in the MLB All-Star Futures Game for the second straight year.

Sisco’s locker was placed next to Joseph’s, a deliberate move to help the highly-regarded talent better learn his trade from an above-average defensive catcher.

Rickard is back with the Orioles after a two-week stint at Norfolk that allowed the club to begin carrying Rule 5 outfielder Anthony Santander on the 25-man roster in mid-August. Yacabonis has also spent time with Baltimore this season, allowing five earned runs and walking six in 6 1/3 innings.

Rodriguez, 27, has yet to make his major league debut, but he posted a 2.42 ERA in 70 2/3 innings and recorded 10 saves for the Tides this season to earn the promotion.

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Zuttah, Reynolds, Taliaferro let go by Ravens in first wave of roster cuts

Posted on 01 September 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens began trimming their roster to the NFL-mandated 53-man limit Friday with few surprises among the cuts.

Veteran center Jeremy Zuttah, oft-injured running back Lorenzo Taliaferro, and wide receiver and former Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds were among the most notable names to be released as general manager Ozzie Newsome pared his active roster from 90 to 67 players. Baltimore must set its initial 53-man roster by Saturday’s 4 p.m. deadline.

Re-signed by the Ravens two weeks ago after being cut by San Francisco on Aug. 9, Zuttah did not beat out new starting center Ryan Jensen and became expendable with the Friday acquisition of interior lineman Tony Bergstrom from the Arizona Cardinals for a conditional 2018 seventh-round pick. This marks the second time in less than six months that Newsome has parted ways with Zuttah as the former starter had been traded to the 49ers in March.

The undersized Zuttah was not considered to be a great fit in new senior offensive assistant Greg Roman’s blocking schemes, but the Ravens decided to bring him back for another look after guards Alex Lewis and Nico Siragusa suffered season-ending injuries in training camp.

Taliaferro entered the summer atop the depth chart at the fullback position, but he never appeared comfortable at his new position and quickly fell behind undrafted free agent Ricky Ortiz and even rookie defensive lineman Patrick Ricard in the pecking order. The 2014 fourth-round pick showed promise as a rookie, but he had played in only 19 games over his first three NFL seasons because of injuries.

Despite many local fans rooting for him to succeed after a record-breaking collegiate career in Annapolis, Reynolds hasn’t progressed as quickly as the Ravens would have hoped after he spent his rookie season on the practice squad. The 2016 sixth-round pick did not record a reception in the preseason and fumbled a punt in Thursday’s preseason finale in New Orleans. It remains unclear whether the Ravens will look to re-sign him to their practice squad.

Other veterans cut on Friday included tight end Larry Donnell, running back Bobby Rainey, wide receiver Griff Whalen, quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, and cornerback Trevin Wade. The Ravens also waived offensive linemen De’Ondre Wesley, Jarell Broxton, Roubbens Joseph, Jarrod Pughsley, and Derrick Nelson, kicker Kenny Allen, long snapper Taybor Pepper, linebacker Randy Allen, wide receiver C.J. Board, and safety Otha Foster.

Lewis, Siragusa, running back Kenneth Dixon, wide receiver Tim White, cornerback Tavon Young, and linebacker Albert McClellan were all officially placed on season-ending injured reserve. Because they did not remain on the active roster through Saturday’s deadline, none of the aforementioned players are eligible to receive a designation to return later in the season.

It’s worth noting that the Ravens did not place cornerback Maurice Canady on IR yet as he remains a candidate to return later in the season from knee surgery. He would have to stay on the initial 53-man roster until Sunday to remain eligible.

Friday’s transactions leave the Ravens with 67 players on their roster, meaning they must make 14 more moves by the deadline.

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Predicting Ravens’ initial 53-man roster at end of 2017 preseason

Posted on 01 September 2017 by Luke Jones

With the 2017 preseason now over, the Ravens turn their attention toward the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 10.

First, it’s time to go on the record with the final projection of the Ravens’ 53-man roster to begin the regular season with head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome making their final decisions by 4 p.m. on Saturday. Of course, this will only be the initial 53-man squad as the Ravens will look to add other players who could be made available over the next few days.

Though the coaching staff and the front office are aware of the numbers at each position, trying to boldly pinpoint a specific number of receivers or linebackers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. Ultimately, the organization wants to keep the best 53 players with positional preference serving more as a tiebreaker than as a hard rule that results in keeping an inferior player. In filling out the back end of their roster, the Ravens look carefully at players’ special-teams abilities in addition to what they bring to their offensive or defensive positions.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players they are projected to keep at that given position.

QUARTERBACKS (2)
IN: Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett
OUT: Josh Woodrum, Thaddeus Lewis
Skinny: The fate of the 2017 campaign lies on the health of Flacco’s back, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Woodrum land on the practice squad as a No. 3 option.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (3)
IN: Terrance West, Buck Allen, Danny Woodhead
INJURED RESERVE: Kenneth Dixon
OUT: Taquan Mizzell, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Ricky Ortiz, Bobby Rainey
Skinny: Mizzell looks like a prime practice-squad candidate, and the Ravens could still seek an outside option for the fullback position in the coming days.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
IN: Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Michael Campanaro, Chris Moore, Chris Matthews
INJURED RESERVE: Tim White
OUT: Quincy Adeboyejo, Keenan Reynolds, Griff Whalen, C.J. Board
Skinny: Moore and Matthews make the roster because of their special-teams contributions, but neither did much to solidify a role in the passing game this preseason.

TIGHT ENDS (3)
IN: Nick Boyle, Benjamin Watson, Maxx Williams
OUT: Vince Mayle, Larry Donnell, Ryan Malleck
Skinny: The depth here is shaky at best, but it’s reasonable to think Mayle or Donnell could be re-signed in the not-too-distant future when other roster questions are addressed.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
IN: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Ryan Jensen, Austin Howard, James Hurst, Jermaine Eluemunor, Jeremy Zuttah, Matt Skura
INJURED RESERVE: Alex Lewis, Nico Siragusa
OUT: De’Ondre Wesley, Stephane Nembot, Jarell Broxton, David Nelson, Jarrod Pughsley, Roubbens Joseph, Maurquice Shakir
Skinny: This is not an impressive group on paper, so you’d hope Newsome can add another viable piece to the mix between now and the start of the season.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
IN: Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Brent Urban, Bronson Kaufusi, Carl Davis, Willie Henry, Chris Wormley, Patrick Ricard
OUT: None
Skinny: Keeping eight defensive lineman is unusual and likely not tenable, but there’s too much talent here to let someone go in favor of an inferior player at another position.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4)
IN: C.J. Mosley, Kamalei Correa, Patrick Onwuasor, Bam Bradley
INJURED RESERVE: Albert McClellan
OUT: Donald Payne, Brennen Beyer
Skinny: Bradley has a chance to help fill the special-teams void left by McClellan, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see a veteran inside linebacker added in the near future.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5)
IN: Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser, Za’Darius Smith, Tim Williams
OUT: Boseko Lokombo, Randy Allen
Skinny: Smith answered the challenge this summer to solidify his standing on the 53-man roster, but this talented young group behind Suggs must now show up when the lights come on for real.

CORNERBACKS (6)
IN: Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey, Jaylen Hill, Sheldon Price, Maurice Canady
PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Tavon Young
OUT: Robertson Daniel, Trevin Wade, Brandon Boykin, Reggie Porter
Skinny: The injured Canady needs to be on the initial 53-man roster to be eligible for the designation to return from injured reserve, but the outside corner depth is as good as it’s been in a long time.

SAFETIES (5)
IN: Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Lardarius Webb, Anthony Levine, Chuck Clark
OUT: Otha Foster
Skinny: With Webb and Levine both filling meaningful roles in the dime package to begin the season, Clark becomes more of a necessity for depth and will fill a large special-teams role.

SPECIALISTS (3)
IN: Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
OUT: Kenny Allen, Taybor Pepper
Skinny: This trio of specialists stays together for the sixth consecutive season, which is quite a rarity in today’s NFL.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 14-13 win over New Orleans

Posted on 01 September 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens concluding a 4-0 preseason with a 14-13 win over New Orleans, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Ryan Mallett playing in the exhibition finale can be taken as a good sign regarding Joe Flacco’s status, but it also reflects how disappointing his play was this summer that the coaching staff wanted to see him take more snaps after starting the first three preseason games.

2. Receiving his only extensive action of the preseason, Marlon Humphrey was strong in run support and showed the signs of why he’s a first-round talent. He was flagged twice, but that many live-game reps were valuable for the 21-year-old cornerback going into the regular season.

3. Chris Moore caught a 1-yard touchdown, but seeing him on the field in the fourth quarter of the final preseason game says a lot about his status. Even with Breshad Perriman missing a month, the second-year receiver did little to establish himself as a trustworthy option in the passing game.

4. It was a disappointing summer for the entire batch of young receivers behind veterans Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin. Yes, the quarterback play was poor, but this group got very little separation in routes, something Brian Billick observed repeatedly in Thursday’s telecast.

5. Carl Davis has been identified as a bubble player because of the depth on the defensive line, but he did everything he could to put that discussion to rest. His interception showed off his athleticism, and he was disruptive at the line of scrimmage.

6. Willie Henry also applied pressure in the pocket with three quarterback hits, but he committed his fifth penalty of the preseason. His talent makes him worthy of the 53-man roster, but that lack of discipline quickly lands you in the coaching staff’s doghouse.

7. With Albert McClellan suffering a season-ending knee injury last week, Bam Bradley had a great opportunity to state his case for a roster spot and responded with five defensive tackles and three special-teams stops. The Ravens could use a veteran inside backer for depth, but Bradley has impressed.

8. So many are rooting for Keenan Reynolds to play in the NFL, but his fumbled punt return was disappointing to see. Perhaps he’ll be invited back to the practice squad for another season, but I’m just not seeing it with the former Navy quarterback. I hope I’m wrong.

9. Tim Williams didn’t register a tackle or a sack, but you could again see how disruptive he can be as a pass rusher. His limitations as a special-teams player could hinder his game-day status to start the season, but the potential is there coming off the edge.

10. The top three are set, but the remaining short-term cornerback depth suddenly looks shaky with Sheldon Price sustaining a concussion Thursday and Jaylen Hill and Robertson Daniel apparently banged up as well. Brandon Boykin also missed the final three preseason games.

11. Bobby Rainey had a strong night running the football, but the veteran’s playing time throughout the summer doesn’t suggest he’s even on the bubble. At least he comes away with some solid tape for other teams to consider after cut-down day.

12. I had to chuckle when John Harbaugh started walking toward the center of the field after Saints kicker Wil Lutz missed a 59-yard field goal try and then realized there were still 13 seconds remaining. I can hardly blame the head coach for wanting fake football season to be over.

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Ravens-Saints preseason primer: Five bubble players to watch

Posted on 31 August 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have reached the final chapter of a difficult preseason.

Having already endured a number of season-ending injuries and the summer-long absence of quarterback Joe Flacco, Baltimore concludes its exhibition schedule against New Orleans on Thursday night. Since teams are no longer required to trim their roster from 90 players to 75 before the final preseason contest, very few notable players are expected to see action.

The rule change certainly won’t make for a better product in the eyes of most casual fans, but head coach John Harbaugh appreciates having the extra roster flexibility with the season opener now only 10 days away.

“There is no way you are going to play certain guys in this game,” Harbaugh said. “This gives us a chance to put a good game out there, for one thing, but it also gives guys a chance to play. Young guys who are fighting for a spot on this team still or on other teams, they get a chance to get out there and play more reps rather than be sitting home looking at the phone.”

The Ravens and New Orleans are meeting in the preseason for the fourth straight year and the fifth time overall with Baltimore having won all four of the previous contests. Under Harbaugh, the Ravens own a 27-12 record in preseason games.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

The Ravens are not required to release an injury report like they do for regular-season games, but I’ve offered my best guess on what the injury report would look like if one were to be released ahead of Thursday’s game.

Most of the players ruled out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will remain in question. Of course, this list does not consider the many starters and key reserves who will be held out of the final preseason game due to the coaching staff’s preference.

Again, this is not an official injury report released by the Ravens:

OUT: QB Joe Flacco (back), WR Breshad Perriman (hamstring), RB Danny Woodhead (hamstring), CB Maurice Canady (knee), RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), OL Nico Siragusa (knee), CB Tavon Young (knee), OL Alex Lewis (shoulder), LB Albert McClellan (knee), WR Tim White (thumb)
DOUBTFUL: OT Ronnie Stanley (undisclosed), CB Brandon Boykin (undisclosed), OT Stephane Nembot (undisclosed)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Marlon Humphrey (hamstring), WR Quincy Adeboyejo (knee), LB Donald Payne (undisclosed)

Five bubble players to watch Thursday night

RB Taquan Mizzell

The undrafted free agent from Virginia leads the Ravens in both rushing and receiving in the preseason to put himself on the radar. His skill as a receiver out of the backfield is intriguing with Danny Woodhead currently sidelined, and he fared well when given snaps against Buffalo’s starting defense last week. The 5-foot-10, 192-pound back shows some upside in a group not having much of it.

DT Carl Davis

The 2015 third-round pick has had a solid preseason, but there may not be enough roster space for him, 2016 fourth-round selection Willie Henry, and rookie free agent Patrick Ricard. The fact that the latter two are under team control for a longer period of time could work against Davis, but he showed early promise as a rookie before missing the entire 2016 season due to injury.

WR Chris Matthews

Nothing beyond Matthews’s 6-foot-5 frame stands out as it relates to being a wide receiver, but he’s been a mainstay on most special-teams units this summer and at least looks the part of a red-zone target, something the Ravens are lacking right now. Other young receivers have failed to distinguish themselves, leaving the door open for Matthews’ special-team prowess to break any ties.

CB Robertson Daniel

Signed to the practice squad last October, Daniel is someone the Ravens have liked enough to keep in the organization, but the depth at outside cornerback ahead of him is stout. His 6-foot-1, 205-pound frame has allowed him to take a few reps at safety, the kind of versatility that doesn’t hurt a player’s chances. He and Sheldon Price could be competing for one spot on the 53-man roster.

OT De’Ondre Wesley

The 6-foot-6, 331-pound specimen really hasn’t done much this summer, but left tackle Ronnie Stanley just returned from injury this week and reserve left tackle James Husrt may end up starting at left guard, presumably creating a need for another offensive tackle. The Ravens have to be disappointed that Wesley and Stephane Nembot haven’t stepped forward in their development, but finding tackle depth isn’t easy.

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Retired linebacker Zach Orr joins Ravens’ coaching, personnel staffs

Posted on 30 August 2017 by Luke Jones

Former Ravens linebacker Zach Orr has officially begun the first phase of his post-playing career.

The organization announced Wednesday that the 25-year-old will join the coaching and personnel staffs this season to prepare him for a potential career in either. Orr will shadow linebackers coach Wink Martindale and attend special-teams meetings during the season before shifting to the scouting and player evaluation side of the organization.

It’s a similar path to the one taken by Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome at the conclusion of his 13-year Hall of Fame career with the Cleveland Browns. Owner Art Modell gave Newsome the opportunity to gain experience in both coaching and personnel before he ultimately remained in the latter and becoming a two-time Super Bowl champion as a general manager.

“He’ll spend time learning about coaching at this level, and he’ll learn the ropes with our scouts,” Newsome told the team’s official website. “We look forward to working with him as he makes the transition from being an active player.”

Orr announced his retirement in January after doctors discovered a congenital spine condition that put him at greater risk for paralysis or death by playing football. He had announced hopes of a comeback in late June after receiving a favorable second opinion, but 17 teams would not clear him to play, leading him to reconfirm his retirement earlier this month.

The former undrafted free agent from North Texas visited the team facility in Owings Mills last week to discuss his new role with Newsome as well as to visit with former teammates and coaches.

“I sure would like to have him on board — scouting or coaching — whatever he wants to do if he wants to do it,” head coach John Harbaugh said earlier this month. “He has expressed an interest in doing that. Good for him. He has peace with the whole thing now I believe. He will get on with the rest of his very successful life.”

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Twelve thoughts on Dylan Bundy’s one-hit shutout

Posted on 30 August 2017 by Luke Jones

With Orioles starter Dylan Bundy pitching a one-hit shutout in a 4-0 win over Seattle, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. That was the kind of performance fans daydream about when their team selects a pitcher in the top five spots of the amateur draft. Whether we’re witnessing the start of something special or this was merely the pinnacle of a solid career, Tuesday’s outing was fun to watch.

2. All of his pitchers were working, but the slider was especially potent, fetching swings and misses on 10 of the 27 he threw. It’s been said before, but he’s tough to beat when he has that breaking pitch going.

3. It’s a bummer to think a chance at a no-hitter was lost on a bunt single by Kyle Seager, but he dropped that down facing a one-run deficit in the fourth inning and before anyone was thinking about any flirtation with history.

4. I was waiting for Buck Showalter to pop out of the dugout after Bundy hit Robinson Cano to lead off the ninth inning, but you had to be impressed with the way the young pitcher immediately went back to work.

5. His 95 game score is tied for the sixth best in club history, according to the Baseball Reference play index. That’s some impressive company over 64 seasons of Orioles baseball.

6. This was easily the best pitching performance by an Oriole since Erik Bedard’s two-hit shutout that included 15 strikeouts against Texas on July 7, 2007. I’ll give Bedard a slight edge since he didn’t walk a batter while Bundy walked two and hit one.

7. Bundy provided the club’s first complete-game shutout since Miguel Gonzalez pitched one in 2014 and its complete game since Ubaldo Jimenez’s last September. How much has the game changed over the years? Jim Palmer pitched 20 or more complete games in a season four times.

8. This was the third time in his last four starts he’s struck out 10 or more. According to ESPN, that’s more than the total for any Orioles pitcher over the last 10 years. Yes, that reflects the Orioles’ lack of high-quality pitching, but it’s still an impressive feat for Bundy.

9. After averaging an ordinary 6.9 strikeouts per nine innings over the first four months of the season, Bundy is striking out 11.3 per nine in August. Even with extra rest being an obvious factor, it’s encouraging for the future to see him missing more bats.

10. He became the second pitcher in Orioles history to record a one-hit shutout with 12 or more strikeouts. Mike Mussina was the first on Aug. 1, 2000 when Bundy was not quite 8 years old.

11. I understand concerns over a career-high 155 1/3 innings this season, but squabbling over the right-hander exceeding his career high in pitches by four to get the shutout just reeks of joylessness. That said, the Orioles need to continue massaging his workload the rest of the way.

12. Bundy was pitching with a heavy heart after his grandmother’s death last week. That outing sure was a special tribute to her.

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Flacco resumes football activity, but not yet practicing

Posted on 29 August 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco hasn’t yet returned to the practice field, but he has resumed football activity less than two weeks ahead of the 2017 season opener.

After missing all of training camp and the preseason with a back ailment that surfaced in July, the 32-year-old is taking meaningful steps to return to practice in the near future.

“I will say he has started to throw. He’s started to move around and do the football stuff in the last two days,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “So, he’s moving toward practice. It’s just when the docs clear him, which we don’t know that date when that’s going to happen right now. We believe it’s going to be real soon in time to prepare for Cincinnati, and then he’ll be out there.”

Details on Flacco have been scarce since the Ravens issued an Aug. 11 press release stating that he would not play in the preseason and the plan was for him to be ready for Week 1. Reporters have periodically seen the 10th-year quarterback around the team’s training facility, but he hasn’t been on the sideline during open practices or the first three preseason games.

After promising Saturday that Flacco would be back to play in the opener, Harbaugh said the Super Bowl XLVII Most Valuable Player has remained active while continuing to receive treatment for his back.

“It’s been different things. His rehab has been very much rehab-oriented,” Harbaugh said. “It hasn’t been football-oriented, so he’s been working on that. He’s worked really hard on it. I do believe he’s in good shape. I wouldn’t say football shape because he hasn’t played football, but he’s in really good shape as far as his conditioning, his cardiovascular, his strength, and those kinds of things. Those are things that we’ll just have to wait and see when he comes out to practice.”

How quickly he’ll be able to shake off the rust in time to play effectively against Cincinnati remains to be seen.

Harbaugh also said wide receiver Breshad Perriman is close to returning to practice. Having missed the last four weeks with a hamstring injury, the 2015 first-round pick was moving well at roughly three-quarters speed in an extensive on-field workout prior to Saturday’s preseason win over Buffalo.

“I’m optimistic that he’ll be practicing very soon and he’ll play against Cincinnati,” Harbaugh said. “I’m very optimistic, and that’s barring any kind of setback.”

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