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Ravens issue detailed written response to ESPN report

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Ravens issue detailed written response to ESPN report

Posted on 22 September 2014 by WNST Staff

MESSAGE TO THE FANS FROM THE BALTIMORE RAVENS

We at the Ravens have promised to be open, candid and transparent with our fans, sponsors, ticket holders, and the general public.

This past Friday, ESPN.com’s “Outside the Lines” feature ran a story entitled, Rice case: purposeful misdirection by the team, scant investigation by NFL.

Later that day, we released this statement: “The ESPN.com ‘Outside the Lines’ article contains numerous errors, inaccuracies, false assumptions and, perhaps, misunderstandings. The Ravens will address all of these next week in Baltimore after our trip to Cleveland for Sunday’s game against the Browns.”

What follows is our response. Many statements and allegations from the article are attributed to unnamed “sources” and people “close to” the Ravens. In our determination to maintain transparency, our responses are provided by those directly involved, and each is named.

1. From the article: (the reporters) found a pattern of misinformation and misdirection employed by the Ravens and the NFL since that February night.

Steve Bisciotti (Ravens Owner): “As I stated in our letter to you on September 9, we did not do all we should have done, and no amount of explanation can remedy that. But there has been no misdirection or misinformation by the Ravens. We have stated what we knew and what we thought throughout – from the original report of the incident, to the release of the first videotape, to the release of the second videotape, which revealed a much harsher reality. As we said in our response to ESPN’s questions on Friday, it was our understanding based on Ray’s account that in the course of a physical altercation between the two of them he slapped Janay with an open hand, and that she hit her head against the elevator rail or wall as she fell to the ground.”

2. From the article: But sources both affiliated and unaffiliated with the team tell “Outside the Lines” a different story: The Ravens’ head of security, (Darren) Sanders, heard a detailed description of the inside-elevator scene within hours and shared it with Ravens officials in Baltimore.

Darren Sanders (Director of Security): “I did not receive an account of what happened in the elevator “within hours” of the incident. Within a couple of days, I asked the casino and the Atlantic City Police Department for a copy of any videotape of the incident. They said they could not release a copy of the videotape to me. Some days later—I believe it was on February 25—I spoke to an Atlantic City police official again, asking again whether I could get a copy of the tape or, if not, whether I could come to his New Jersey office and view it. He said I could not, but he did offer to view the tape and describe what he saw. (As I understand it, he was describing a raw video, not the “cleaned up,” “smoothed . . . out” version that appeared on TMZ.) He said that Ray and Janay both appeared to be intoxicated, and that they were involved in a heated argument that began outside the elevator and continued inside. As he described it, Janay appeared to initiate the altercation, but they both spit at and struck each other, resulting in Janay falling and hitting her head against the wall railing. The officer could not tell from the video whether Ray slapped or punched her, but Ray told me very clearly that he did not punch her. It was not clear from the officer’s account whether it was being intoxicated, being hit, or hitting her head against the railing that caused Janay’s apparent unconsciousness.”

3. From the article: …asked by the Sun whether the video matched what Rice had told them months earlier, Newsome conceded that it had. “You know, Ray had given a story to John [Harbaugh] and I,” Newsome said. “And what we saw on the video was what Ray said. Ray didn’t lie to me. He didn’t lie to me.”

Ozzie Newsome, (Ravens GM): “When I met with Ray to discuss the incident, I asked him one question: “Did you hit her?” He responded: “Yes”. Ray and I didn’t discuss details beyond that, because in my mind if he hit her, no matter the circumstances or explanation, he needed to own the situation. I immediately focused on Ray taking responsibility and making amends. I later said Ray didn’t lie to me because he told me he hit her, and that is what the video later showed—although the video was much more violent than what I had pictured.”

4. From the article: …the images (on the first videotape) horrified Ravens coach John Harbaugh, according to four sources inside and outside the organization. The Super Bowl-winning coach urged his bosses to release Rice immediately, especially if the team had evidence Rice had thrown a punch…

But Harbaugh’s recommendation to cut the six-year veteran running back was quickly rejected by Ravens management: owner Bisciotti, team president Cass and GM Newsome.

John Harbaugh (Ravens coach): “I did not recommend cutting Ray Rice from the team after seeing the first videotape. I was very disturbed by that tape, and I told people that the facts should determine the consequences. When I saw the second videotape, I immediately felt that we needed to release Ray.”

Ozzie Newsome: “Neither John nor anyone else ever recommended cutting Ray Rice before we saw the second videotape on September 8.”

5. From the article: “He motioned it to me,” (Kyle) Jakobe (trainer and friend of Ray Rice) said, making a closed fist and bringing it across his body. “He was like ‘Hey, this is what happened.’”

John Harbaugh: “Ray Rice never told me that he punched her. In June, when I spoke to ESPN The Magazine, it was still my understanding that Ray had not punched her and was acting defensively.”

Darren Sanders: “Ray told me he slapped her. He denied punching her.”

6. From the article: “Ravens executives — in particular owner Steve Bisciotti, president Dick Cass and general manager Ozzie Newsome — began extensive public and private campaigns pushing for leniency for Rice on several fronts: from the judicial system in Atlantic County, where Rice faced assault charges, to commissioner Goodell, who ultimately would decide the number of games Rice would be suspended…”

Dick Cass: “That statement is not true. In February, Darren Sanders made contact with the police and the prosecutor in an effort to obtain a copy of the video. Apart from Darren’s efforts, no one from the Ravens ever spoke or communicated with a prosecutor, a judge or anyone else employed by the judicial system in New Jersey regarding Ray Rice, with one exception. At the request of Ray’s defense lawyer, Ozzie, John and I sent a letter addressed to the Clerk’s office in support of Ray’s application for pretrial intervention. The letter was largely devoted to describing Ray’s extensive efforts in the community. According to the article, our letter was one of 30 such letters.”

7. From the article: Michael J. Diamondstein, (Rice’s attorney), who in early April had obtained a copy of the inside-elevator video and told Cass: “It’s f—ing horrible.” Cass did not request a copy of the video from Diamondstein but instead began urging Rice’s legal team to get Rice accepted into a pretrial intervention program after being told some of the program’s benefits. Among them: It would keep the inside-elevator video from becoming public.

Later in the article: Diamondstein began a series of conversations with Cass, a lawyer as well as the Ravens team president, about strategy on how to resolve Rice’s criminal case as quickly, and as quietly, as possible, team sources and other sources say.

Dick Cass: “I believe Ray’s criminal defense attorney mentioned the video to me in late May around the time that the court granted Ray’s application for pretrial intervention. I don’t recall his precise words, but he did say the video looked terrible. I did not ask Ray’s attorney for a copy of the video. I assumed the video would be terrible, because it would show a man striking a woman. But I also thought the video would show a physical altercation where Ray was defending himself with an open hand. My view about the video was also influenced by the fact that the prosecutor and the judge agreed to the ultimate dismissal of all charges against Ray after seeing the video. We had decided several months before to leave fact finding to the court system and the League. As we have said, that was a mistake, and I regret it.”

“I did not urge Ray’s defense attorney to follow any particular course of action. I told his attorney that he should do what he felt was in the best interest of his client. I had never even heard of ‘pretrial intervention’ until Ray’s attorney explained it to me. So yes, I agreed with him that pretrial intervention was in Ray’s best interest. Who wouldn’t? It meant the ultimate dismissal of all criminal claims without a trial and the risk of a guilty verdict. Of course, I did not want a criminal trial because of all the adverse publicity associated with a celebrity trial. But I did not think that pretrial intervention would prevent the video from becoming public. I assumed that would eventually occur in any event.”

8. From the article: Goodell gave Rice — the corporate face of the Baltimore franchise — a light punishment as a favor to his good friend Bisciotti. Four sources said Ravens executives, including Bisciotti, Cass and Newsome, urged Goodell and other league executives to give Rice no more than a two-game suspension, and that’s what Goodell did on July 24.

Steve Bisciotti: “I did not ask Roger Goodell to give Ray Rice no more than a two-game suspension. I did not make any request for a ‘favor’ or any particular outcome. I know and like Roger Goodell, but it is inaccurate to call us ‘good friends.’ The two of us have spent very little time together – as I recall, one round of golf and one dinner several years ago.”

Dick Cass: “I did not urge Roger Goodell or any other League official to take any particular action.”

Ozzie Newsome: “I never asked Mr. Goodell or anyone else at the NFL to do anything for Ray or for the Ravens.”

9. From the article: An avid golfer with a 10 handicap, Bisciotti played 27 holes on March 18 and another 27 holes on March 19 at Augusta National Golf Club, where he is not a member. Goodell, who is also an avid golfer, became an Augusta member in 2013. Goodell and Bisciotti have become good friends, and talk of golf is a lubricant of their friendship, several sources say.”

Steve Bisciotti: “I did not see or talk to Roger Goodell the entire time I was in Augusta.”

10. From the article: The Ray Rice case had become more serious. He now faced a potential prison sentence of three to five years. And yet, according to public statements made by Bisciotti and other team officials, the team decided at that point to stop seeking to obtain or even view a copy of the inside-elevator video.

Dick Cass: “We decided that we would await the outcome of the criminal case and the NFL disciplinary hearing and to leave the fact-finding to others. We should not have done that.”

11. From the article: Goodell presided over Rice’s disciplinary meeting. Ray and Janay Rice were accompanied by Newsome and Cass as well as by two NFLPA representatives. Goodell was joined by Adolpho Birch, the NFL’s senior vice president of labor policy, and NFL general counsel Jeff Pash. Several former executives and lawyers who represent players and coaches before the league said a player or coach facing discipline is rarely accompanied by the team GM and the team president in a hearing before Goodell and league officials. A league source insists it has happened numerous times before, but he did not provide examples.

Dick Cass: “We did accompany Ray and have accompanied other players in the past. We believe that our actions are not uncommon around the league. The article notes, for example, that one of the owners of the Steelers accompanied Ben Roethlisberger when he met with the Commissioner.”

12. From the article: “One source who spoke to Cass said he heard at least two weeks before Goodell announced the penalty that Rice would receive only a two-game penalty.”

Dick Cass: “That is not true. Neither I nor anyone at the Ravens knew what the penalty would be until the Commissioner sent his letter to Ray on July 23. I did believe that a two-game suspension was one of the likely outcomes, because as far as I knew that was the maximum penalty that had been imposed in a case similar to Ray’s.”

13. From the article: When the second TMZ video was released early the next morning…That afternoon, the Ravens terminated Rice’s contract….An hour after the Ravens released Rice, the NFL announced that Rice was suspended indefinitely.

Steve Bisciotti: “Yes, after seeing the second videotape, we took the pre-emptive step, ahead of the league, to do what we thought we had to do.”

Ozzie Newsome: “I had to tell Ray, and it was one of the hardest phone calls I have ever made.”

14. From the article: (After the Ravens released a letter to their season ticket-holders and sponsors explaining the steps they had taken…) Minutes later, Rice’s phone buzzed. He could scarcely believe what he was looking at– back-to-back text messages from Bisciotti. Rice read them aloud so everyone in the room could hear them:

Hey Ray, just want to let you know, we loved you as a player, it was great having you here. Hopefully all these things are going to die down. I wish the best for you and Janay.

When you’re done with football, I’d like you to know you have a job waiting for you with the Ravens helping young guys getting acclimated to the league.

Steve Bisciotti: “I did have an exchange of text messages with Ray, which he initiated. I felt awful about what had happened. I believed he was, at heart, a good person, that he was capable of redemption, and I wanted to tell him I would be supportive of him. Here are the texts, not as told to someone and then misquoted in the article, but verbatim”:

Monday September 8, 7:44 pm

Ray: I understand the decision but I am thankful for what you have done for me and my family. Me and my wife will continue to work on us and being better but I just wanted to say thank you for giving me a chance

Steve: I’m sorry we had to do this. I still love you and believe that you will be a great husband and father If you ever need to talk just call

Tuesday September 9, 10:27 pm

Steve: I just spent two hours talking to Ozzie. It was all about you. We love you and we will always figure out a way to keep you in our lives. When you are done with football I will hire you to help me raise Great young men. I still love you!!!

Ray: I know it’s a rough time for all of us I love all of you and that will never change for life!

Steve: I will help you make it a great life indeed. I give you my WORD

Ray: That means the world to me and my family we greatly appreciate you and thank you.

15. From the article: A few days later, after thinking about it more, Rice told friends he believed Bisciotti was suggesting that, as long as he kept quiet and stuck to the story that he had misled team officials and Goodell about what had happened in the elevator, the Ravens would take care of him down the road. He felt incredibly insulted.

Steve Bisciotti: “I cannot believe that Ray ever thought I was suggesting he keep quiet, when he got the texts or later on. They were not an insult. To the contrary, I think he knew these were messages from the heart, as were his responses to me. I wear my heart on my sleeve. Everyone knows that, including Ray.”

As always, we endeavor to keep you, the public and the fans, fully informed, and we promise to continue to do so. We may all wish this incident to be put behind us, to concentrate on how we can learn from it and apply the lessons to a more aware and sensitive society, but as it continues to warrant attention, we will address it with the utmost candor and openness. We hope to live up to the support you have given us.

Stephen J. Bisciotti,

on behalf of the Baltimore Ravens organization

September 22, 2014

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Cruz receives 2014 Most Valuable Oriole award

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Cruz receives 2014 Most Valuable Oriole award

Posted on 21 September 2014 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Orioles announced Sunday that NELSON CRUZ has been voted winner of the 2014 Louis M. Hatter Most Valuable Oriole Award by members of the local media who cover the team on a regular basis. He was recognized for his accomplishments in an on-field ceremony prior to Sunday’s regular season home finale against the Boston Red Sox.

Cruz enters play today leading the major leagues with 39 home runs, and he has surpassed the 100-RBI mark for the first time in his career in 2014. His 39 homers are the second-most by a first-year Oriole in club history, trailing only FRANK ROBINSON’s 49 in 1966. Cruz also became the sixth different Oriole to record a season of 35 or more home runs and 30 or more doubles, joining CHRIS DAVIS (2013), ALBERT BELLE (1999), RAFAEL PALMEIRO (1995, ’96 and ’98), BRADY ANDERSON (1996) and Robinson (1966).

Cruz made the American League All-Star Team for the third time in his career, earning his first fan-elected start as the Designated Hitter with over three million votes. Coming into play today, he has already set single-season career-highs in plate appearances (649), hits (157), home runs (39), RBI (105), walks (55), extra-base hits (72), and total bases (308). Cruz was also recognized with two American League Player of the Week Award honors: September 7 and June 2.

The Most Valuable Oriole Award is named in honor of the late LOU HATTER, a former sportswriter for the Baltimore Sun who covered the Orioles for 27 years. Balloting for the Most Valuable Oriole Award is conducted with voting on a 5-3-1 basis. ADAM JONES also received first place votes and finished second. ZACH BRITTON finished third and WEI-YIN CHEN, J.J. HARDY, NICK MARKAKIS, DARREN O’DAY, STEVE PEARCE, and CHRIS TILLMAN also received votes.

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Old and new give Ravens exactly what they need in Cleveland

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Old and new give Ravens exactly what they need in Cleveland

Posted on 21 September 2014 by Luke Jones

There was plenty to be concerned about throughout the Ravens’ narrow 23-21 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

The disheartening hip injury to tight end Dennis Pitta, the immense struggles of the pass defense, and the early inconsistency of wide receivers Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones are points of concern as the Ravens turn their attention toward next Sunday’s meeting with the Carolina Panthers. But the continued dependability of veteran Steve Smith and the emergence of two young offensive players — rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro and second-year fullback Kyle Juszczyk — helped Baltimore improve to 2-1 in their stretch of three consecutive AFC North games to begin the 2014 season.

Despite turning 35 and coming off two straight seasons in which his yards per catch average declined from the previous year with the Carolina Panthers, the veteran Smith has been better than advertised in his first three games with the Ravens as he caught five passes for 101 yards on Sunday. No play was bigger than his 32-yard catch on a slant-and-go route to beat Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden on the final drive of the game to set the Ravens up on the 13-yard line, leading to Justin Tucker’s game-winning 32-yard field goal moments later.

It was just the latest example of the 14-year wideout laughing in the face of Father Time and the critics who doubted how much of an impact he would bring to the Ravens’ passing game. While Joe Flacco threw a deep ball that clanked off the hands of Jones to start the fourth quarter and connected on just two of eight targets to Torrey Smith throughout the day, the quarterback looked in no other direction but Steve Smith’s on the final drive of the game when the Ravens were staring at a 1-2 start with under two minutes to go.

And with Pitta possibly done for the season after suffering a second dislocation to his right hip in the last 14 months, Flacco will need the veteran Smith to continue being a dependable target on third down and in crunch time. Through his first three games, Steve Smith has caught 18 passes for 290 yards and a touchdown and has collected at least 71 receiving yards in each contest, a benchmark he didn’t reach once in his final season with Carolina.

Of course, Steve Smith wasn’t alone in the offensive heroics Sunday as Juszczyck and Taliaferro emerged as key contributors with the former entering the day having never caught a pass in the NFL and the fourth-round rookie tailback never registering a carry. Both made their names known against the Browns on Sunday.

Juszczyk caught a 9-yard touchdown pass midway through the second quarter and finished with three receptions for 54 yards. His presence as a receiver in the flat will be even more critical now to complement tight end Owen Daniels with Pitta’s status in doubt.

Receiving his first opportunity to carry the ball with Bernard Pierce out with a thigh injury, Taliaferro took full advantage of a shaky Cleveland run defense to pick up 91 yards on 18 carries, showing impressive speed and physicality that reminded many Ravens fans of Jamal Lewis on Sunday. Of course, plenty of credit needs to go to the offensive line as veteran Justin Forsett also averaged 5.7 yards per carry, but you do wonder if Taliaferro has already begun wrestling away the starting job from Pierce, who missed his first NFL game in three seasons Sunday but has dealt with nagging injuries throughout his career.

The rookie was decisive and aggressive when carrying the ball in contrast to what we’ve seen from Pierce, who has often looked unsure of himself running in a zone-blocking system the last two seasons.

Sunday’s win was far from perfect as the Ravens face plenty of questions both on and off the field, but a 2-1 start is nothing to be unhappy about as the offense is receiving contributions from younger players as well as the big-play ability of Steve Smith.

The disappointing loss of Pitta won’t be easy to overcome, but the Ravens offense continued to move in the right direction on Sunday thanks to the old — just don’t tell that to Steve Smith — and new.

 

 

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Pitta carted off field with dislocated right hip in Cleveland

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Pitta carted off field with dislocated right hip in Cleveland

Posted on 21 September 2014 by Luke Jones

Less than 14 months after enduring a devastating injury to his right hip, Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta suffered a dislocation to the same hip in the first half of Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns.

After catching a short pass from quarterback Joe Flacco late in the second quarter and attempting to turn upfield, Pitta twisted awkwardly and went down without being hit. Medical personnel immediately called for a cart to take Pitta off the field as teammates and coaches looked on with grave concern.

“I don’t know how serious that is,” head coach John Harbaugh said immediately after the Ravens’ 23-21 victory. “I haven’t heard. He told me on the field that it wasn’t as bad as before. I don’t know what that means.

“Just going to be praying and hoping for the best there. We’ll get more information, but that’s just so, so disappointing.”

Pitta was taken to a local hospital for further examination. The fifth-year tight end is feared to be lost for the season, but further testing will determine if he suffered a fracture in addition to the dislocation.

The injury occurred to the same hip Pitta dislocated and fractured on July 27, 2013. The 2010 fourth-round pick was able to return for the final four games of last season, but this latest injury is extremely concerning coming so soon after the first hip injury.

Pitta has caught 16 passes for 125 yards this season. Confident that Pitta had recovered fully from his first hip injury, the Ravens signed Pitta to a five-year, $32 million contract that included $16 million guaranteed this offseason.

“It’s not easy,” said quarterback Joe Flacco about the starting tight end’s injury. “Dennis is a good friend, he’s a good teammate, and he’s a hell of a player. It’s tough to see that happen.”

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Ravens-Browns: Inactives and pre-game notes

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Ravens-Browns: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 21 September 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens will attempt to go 2-1 in finishing their AFC North run to begin the season against the Cleveland Browns Sunday, but they’ll have to do it without a key cog in their offense.

Running back Bernard Pierce (thigh) was ruled inactive and will miss the first game of his NFL career. The third-year back was added to the injury report as a limited participant on Thursday before participating fully and being listed as questionable on Friday.

The Ravens promoted rookie running back Fitz Toussaint from the practice squad and cut wide receiver Deonte Thompson on Saturday, a clear indication that Pierce’s status was in doubt. Veteran Justin Forsett is expected to start in Pierce’s place, and he will be spelled by two rookies — fourth-round pick Lorenzo Taliaferro and the undrafted free agent Toussaint — who have yet to record a carry in the NFL.

The good news is that cornerback Lardarius Webb will make his long-awaited 2014 season debut after missing the entire preseason and the first two regular-season games while recovering from a back injury suffered on July 25. The sixth-year defensive back practiced fully over the last three weeks, but the Ravens wanted to be careful that his back did not flare up again.

As expected, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan is inactive as he continues to recover from a knee injury. He was listed as doubtful on the final injury report of the week. This means the Ravens could lean on recently-claimed defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi to play some reps in the rotation as he is active for Sunday’s game.

Rookie third-round safety Terrence Brooks is inactive for the first time this year and 2013 second-round linebacker Arthur Brown is a healthy scratch for the third straight week, developments that aren’t exactly ringing endorsements for the last two draft classes.

Meanwhile, the Browns will have the services of tight end Jordan Cameron (shoulder) and linebacker Barkevious Mingo (shoulder), who are both active after being listed as questionable on the final injury report. Cleveland’s starting running back Ben Tate (knee) is out once again, paving the way for Towson product Terrance West to make another start.

The Ravens will be wearing purple jerseys with white pants while the Browns don white jerseys and white pants at home.

According to Weather.com, the forecast in Cleveland calls for temperatures right around 70 degrees with winds up to 18 miles per hour and partly cloudy skies.

The Ravens are 22-8 in the all-time series against the Browns, which includes a 10-5 mark in Cleveland. Under head coach John Harbaugh, Baltimore is 11-1 against the Browns but lost the most recent meeting between these teams at FirstEnergy Stadium last November.

Here are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
RB Bernard Pierce
WR Michael Campanaro
OT Jah Reid
G John Urschel
DT Timmy Jernigan
LB Arthur Brown
S Terrence Brooks

CLEVELAND
WR LaRon Byrd
CB Pierre Desir
NT Ishmaa’ily Kitchen
LB Eric Martin
DB Robert Nelson
TE Gerell Robinson
RB Ben Tate

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Ravens promote running back Toussaint, cut wide receiver Thompson

Posted on 20 September 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens made a roster move less than 24 hours before their Sunday meeting with the Cleveland Browns by cutting wide receiver Deonte Thompson and promoting running back Fitz Toussaint from the practice squad.

The move likely stems from starting running back Bernard Pierce being listed as questionable with a thigh injury on the final injury report of the week. Pierce was added to the injury report Thursday after practicing on a limited basis, but the third-year back was a full participant on Friday, an encouraging sign for his status.

Should Pierce be limited or unable to play against Cleveland, the Ravens would be looking at veteran Justin Forsett, 2014 fourth-round pick Lorenzo Taliaferro, and the rookie free agent Toussaint as their backfield options. Forsett has led the Ravens in rushing through the first two weeks of the season, gaining 126 yards on 19 carries for a 6.6 yards per attempt average.

Thompson made the 53-man roster as the Ravens kept seven wide receivers to start the season, but he was inactive in each of the first two games after scoring three touchdowns in the preseason. Toussaint turned heads with a strong performance in the preseason finale last month and gained 123 yards on 21 carries over the summer.

Toussaint was elevated from the practice squad to the 53-man roster the day before the season opener against Cincinnati but was inactive for the game. He was then cut a day later as the Ravens claimed defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi off waivers from the Bengals.

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Ravens-Browns: Five predictions for Sunday

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Ravens-Browns: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 20 September 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens will attempt to go 2-1 against the AFC North to begin the 2014 season, but the Cleveland Browns stand in their way while feeling good about themselves following last week’s surprising win over the New Orleans Saints.

While Baltimore has benefited from extra rest after a Thursday night win over rival Pittsburgh in Week 2, Cleveland has used a strong running game led by Towson product Terrance West while committing no turnovers through the first two weeks of the season. The Browns’ summer quarterback controversy between veteran Brian Hoyer and rookie Johnny Manziel has also subsided with the former off to an efficient start in his return from a season-ending knee injury last season.

Sunday marks the 31st all-time meeting between these AFC North rivals with the Ravens enjoying a 22-8 advantage and a 10-5 edge at FirstEnergy Stadium. Baltimore is 11-1 against the Browns since 2008 with last year’s 24-18 loss in Cleveland the first defeat over that stretch.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to win their sixth game in seven tries in Cleveland in the John Harbaugh era …

1. Torrey Smith finally gets his 2014 season going, making six catches for 95 yards and a long touchdown reception. Aside from a long touchdown to Steve Smith on a broken play in the season opener, quarterback Joe Flacco hasn’t taken many deep shots, but that could change on Sunday with the Browns looking to clean up their run defense and fully aware of Gary Kubiak’s use of Steve Smith and the tight ends in the short-to-intermediate passing game. Torrey Smith has been held to just four catches for 60 yards in his first two games, but that will change on Sunday as he catches a 40-plus-yard touchdown to beat Cleveland cornerback Buster Skrine in the first half.

2. The Browns running game picks up 130 yards on the ground to win the time of possession battle. The Ravens defense was very physical against Pittsburgh, but it’s difficult to determine how much of that was about playing their biggest rival in a prime-time game and handling an inferior offensive line. Cleveland has averaged an impressive 5.1 yards per carry and won’t match that impressive clip, but West and fellow rookie Isaiah Crowell will grind out tough yards to keep the Baltimore defense on the field too long. A key matchup will be Pro Bowl center Alex Mack going up against second-year nose tackle Brandon Williams, and the Browns will have the edge there to find some running room inside.

3. Terrell Suggs collects his first sack of the year in a difficult battle against Browns tackle Joe Thomas. The six-time Pro Bowl linebacker has more career sacks (15) against Cleveland than any opponent, but only seven have come since 2007 when the Browns drafted the seven-time Pro Bowl selection Thomas. Even though the Ravens insist Suggs has played very well and Pro Football Focus has graded Suggs as the team’s best defensive player through two weeks, the 12-year pass rusher has collected only one sack in his last 10 games dating back to last season and hasn’t been making high-impact plays since the first half of 2013. Suggs and fellow rusher Elvis Dumervil need to put heat on Hoyer, and Suggs will break through for his first sack since Week 16 of last year.

4. Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins beats a rusty Lardarius Webb for a touchdown catch from the slot. With Webb listed as probable on the final injury report, it appears the Ravens will have their full secondary at their disposal for the first time since the beginning of training camp. However, it remains to be seen how much rust the sixth-year corner will need to shake off even after practicing fully for the last three weeks. Meanwhile, the Browns are without suspended wide receiver Josh Gordon, but the shifty Hawkins has been very effective out of the slot where he has lined up more than half of the time, leading the team with 14 catches for 157 yards. He’ll catch his first touchdown on a quick out route as Webb misses the tackle on the play.

5. A fourth-quarter touchdown run by West is the difference as the Ravens’ road struggles from last season carry over to Sunday in a 20-17 loss to Cleveland. It’s easy to be encouraged by what Baltimore did playing at home last Thursday night, but the Ravens have almost always played well at home even in some of their worst seasons. A 2-6 road record in 2013 is difficult to forget, particularly because it was the Ravens defense that struggled in allowing 26.4 points per game on the road compared to 17.6 points surrendered per home contest. A typical, ugly game between the Browns and Ravens will play out once again, but the Cleveland defense bounces back from its poor start to the season while the Baltimore defense is worn down by the running game in the final quarter.

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Ravens issue statement in response to ESPN.com report

Posted on 19 September 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens issued the following statement in response to the ESPN.com report about their handling of the Ray Rice investigation released on Friday:

The ESPN.com “Outside the Lines” article contains numerous errors, inaccuracies, false assumptions and, perhaps, misunderstandings. The Ravens will address all of these next week in Baltimore after our trip to Cleveland for Sunday’s game against the Browns.

You can read an abridged version of the ESPN.com report HERE and the entire article HERE.

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Report: Ravens immediately learned graphic details of Rice incident

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Report: Ravens immediately learned graphic details of Rice incident

Posted on 19 September 2014 by Luke Jones

On the same day in which a Ray Rice jersey exchange was held and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell showed remorse without divulging any specifics in an afternoon press conference, a report attempted to shed light on the Ravens’ mishandling and potential coverup of the running back’s domestic violence incident.

According to an ESPN report, Ravens director of security Darren Sanders spoke to an Atlantic City police officer who’d watched the now-infamous video hours after the February incident and learned the explicit details of what transpired between Rice and then-fiancée Janay Palmer. Sanders then relayed that information to team officials, but it remains unclear whom he spoke with directly.

Upon the TMZ release of the first video just four days after the incident, head coach John Harbaugh and senior personnel assistant George Kokinis reportedly recommended that the organization release Rice, but team owner Steve Bisciotti, general manager Ozzie Newsome, and team president Dick Cass rejected the suggestion, instead choosing to stand by the troubled running back. After offensive lineman Jah Reid became the third Ravens player arrested in the offseason, Harbaugh again approached team officials about releasing Rice, Reid, and wide receiver Deonte Thompson — the other player arrested in the offseason at that point — but was rejected again, according to ESPN.

The Ravens denied these allegations in a statement included in the ESPN piece saying, “John Harbaugh did not want to release Ray Rice until he saw the second video on September 8 for the first time. The video changed everything for all of us.”

Harbaugh was the only member of the Ravens’ brass to meet with reporters on the day Rice’s contract was terminated.

The report does not indicate that the Ravens ever had a copy of the video showing what happened inside the elevator, but Cass spoke to Rice’s attorney, Michael Diamondstein, in early April after the defense team had acquired a copy of the elevator security video from the Revel Casino via subpoena. ESPN reports that Rice’s lawyer told Cass that what was on the video was “f—ing horrible” and it was apparent that “Ray knocked her the f— out.”

Cass reportedly never asked Diamondstein for a copy of the video — the NFL didn’t either — and instead continued to urge Rice’s defense team to gain acceptance for their client into a pretrial intervention program that would not only eliminate the possibility of prison time but prevent the elevator video from ever being made public.

ESPN cited four sources indicating that Ravens officials — including Bisciotti, Cass, and Newsome — continued to push for only a two-game suspension from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in disciplining their star running back. The report also indicated that the organization believed Goodell had viewed the video, imploring Rice to tell the entire truth when he met with the commissioner in June.

Upon releasing Rice when the second video was released by TMZ on Sept. 8, Bisciotti sent Rice a text message stating the following:

Hey Ray, just want to let you know, we loved you as a player, it was great having you here. Hopefully all these things are going to die down. I wish the best for you and Janay.

When you’re done with football, I’d like you to know you have a job waiting for you with the Ravens helping young guys getting acclimated to the league.

In an interview with The Sun last week, Newsome maintained that Rice had told the truth about what was on the graphic video throughout the process while Cass and Bisciotti have indicated in interviews that his story didn’t necessarily align with what they saw on the video for the first time on the morning of Sept. 8.

In a press conference held earlier in the day in New York, Goodell reiterated that he mishandled the Rice case with the initial two-game suspension handed down on July 25.

“I got it wrong in the handling of the Ray Rice matter, and I’m sorry for that,” Goodell said. “The same mistakes can never be repeated.”

 

 

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Ravens list Webb probable, Pierce questionable against Browns on Sunday

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Ravens list Webb probable, Pierce questionable against Browns on Sunday

Posted on 19 September 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens have listed Lardarius Webb as probable for Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns, which paints an encouraging picture for the starting cornerback to make his 2014 debut this weekend.

Webb has practiced fully for three straight weeks after missing all of training camp while dealing with a back injury. He was deemed inactive in Weeks 1 and 2 after being listed as questionable on the final injury report for each of those games.

Starting running back Bernard Pierce is listed as questionable after being added to Thursday’s injury report with a thigh injury. The third-year back practiced on a limited basis on Thursday before being upgraded to full participation on Friday.

Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (knee) is doubtful after missing practice all week and is reportedly recovering from a meniscus injury that could keep hiim sidelined for a couple weeks.

Quarterback Joe Flacco (stomach bug), cornerback Asa Jackson (concussion), and left tackle Eugene Monroe (knee) are also listed as probable for Sunday’s game.

Meanwhile, the Browns have ruled out running back Ben Tate (knee) as expected and designated standout tight end Jordan Cameron (shoulder) and outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo (shoulder) as questionable.

Here’s the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
DOUBTFUL: DT Timmy Jernigan (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: RB Bernard Pierce (thigh)
PROBABLE: QB Joe Flacco (illness), CB Asa Jackson (concussion), T Eugene Monroe (knee), CB Lardarius Webb (back)

CLEVELAND
OUT: RB Ben Tate (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: TE Jordan Cameron (shoulder), LB Barkevious Mingo (shoulder)
PROBABLE: WR Travis Benjamin (knee), DL Desmond Bryant (wrist), DL John Hughes (hamstring), P Spencer Lanning (shoulder), OL Paul McQuistan (ankle), CB Buster Skrine (thumb)

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