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Ravens list one player worse than probable for season finale

Posted on 01 January 2016 by Luke Jones

Concluding an injury-plagued 2015 season against Cincinnati on Sunday, the Ravens enter Week 17 with only one player worse than probable on their final injury report.

After missing each of the last two games with an ankle injury, special-teams standout Albert McClellan was listed as questionable to play against the Bengals. The fifth-year linebacker returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday and Friday.

The only other Baltimore player listed on the injury report for a health-related reason was fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who is probable and missed Wednesday’s workout with an illness before participating fully the rest of the week.

The Bengals had already ruled out quarterback Andy Dalton (thumb) at the beginning of the week, but current starter AJ McCarron (left wrist) was designated as probable on Friday. Wide receiver Marvin Jones (hamstring) and tight end Tyler Eifert (concussion) are also probable to play as Cincinnati still hopes to earn a first-round bye on Sunday.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Carl Cheffers.

According to Weather.com, the forecast in Cincinnati calls for partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the mid-30s and winds up to eight miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
QUESTIONABLE: LB Albert McClellan (ankle)
PROBABLE: LB Elvis Dumervil (non-injury), FB Kyle Juszczyk (illness), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury)

CINCINNATI
OUT: QB Andy Dalton (right thumb), TE Ryan Hewitt (knee/illness)
PROBABLE: DE Carlos Dunlap (hamstring), TE Tyler Eifert (concussion), S George Iloka (groin), WR Marvin Jones (hamstring), QB AJ McCarron (left wrist)

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Ravens finally finding health on current 53-man roster

Posted on 31 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It would be silly to say the Ravens are truly healthy with 20 players currently on injured reserve, but they did finally reach a first for the 2015 season on Thursday.

Continuing preparations for the season finale against Cincinnati, the Ravens did not have a single player miss practice for an injury-related for the first time all season. Linebacker Daryl Smith received his regular veteran day off on Thursday, but all other members of the current 53-man roster were present and working.

Linebacker Albert McClellan (ankle) returned to practice for the first time in over two weeks while fullback Kyle Juszczyk was a full participant after dealing with an illness on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Bengals are in good shape beyond the extended absence of starting quarterback Andy Dalton (thumb). Quarterback AJ McCarron (left wrist) and tight end Tyler Eifert (concussion) were full participants on Thursday, but wide receiver Marvin Jones (hamstring) and defensive end Carlos Dunlap (hamstring) were again limited for the second straight day.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Daryl Smith (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB Albert McClellan (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Elvis Dumervil (non-injury), FB Kyle Juszczyk (illness)

CINCINNATI
OUT: QB Andy Dalton (right thumb)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB A.J. Hawk (non-injury), RB Ryan Hewitt (knee/illness)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: DE Carlos Dunlap (hamstring), S George Iloka (groin), WR Marvin Jones (hamstring)
FULL PARTICIPATION: TE Tyler Eifert (concussion), QB AJ McCarron (left wrist)

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Yanda named 2015 Ravens MVP by local media

Posted on 30 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Rarely is an offensive lineman ever discussed as an NFL team’s most valuable player, but the 2015 season has been anything but typical for the Ravens.

With 20 players currently on injured reserve and suffering their first losing season of the John Harbaugh era, the Ravens have leaned on the offensive leadership of five-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda, who was voted team MVP by local media on Wednesday. In his ninth season, Yanda is the first offensive lineman to receive the annual award introduced in 2003.

“[It’s just] the attitude of offensive linemen, just the daily grind of the guy that doesn’t get the recognition, which that’s fine with me,” Yanda said. “I’ve always been the guy that I’m happy to be out there and playing in the NFL and being able to compete with the best in the world. I’m happy with being out there and to say that I can stand out there with those men.

“It’s neat to be recognized, but it’s one of those things where I’ve always been happy and relished the opportunity to play in the NFL.”

Signed to a four-year extension through 2019 earlier this season and named to his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl last week, Yanda has been graded by Pro Football Focus as the top guard in the NFL and has been viewed by many as the best at his position for a few years now. He is just one of six players in the 20-year history of the Ravens to be named to five Pro Bowls as members of the organization.

Durability has been considered one of Yanda’s biggest strengths as he’s missed only two games since missing much of the 2008 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. The 2007 third-round pick out of Iowa has also played right tackle on more than one occasion in his career including last year’s postseason.

“I feel like football is a sport where it’s not if you get hurt, but when,” Yanda said. “You’re going to get hurt no matter what in this business. It’s part of having to play through injuries, because your team needs you and because they need production out of you. You owe it to the guy next to you. I owe it to Joe [Flacco] to be out there and do my job to keep him clean.”

The local media also voted cornerback Jimmy Smith as the winner of the Good Guy Award, an honor bestowed upon a Ravens player who has been particularly helpful in granting interviews and being accessible to reporters.

Below are past winners with the MVP listed first and the Good Guy Award winner second:

2003: Jamal Lewis, Gary Baxter
2004: Ed Reed, Anthony Weaver
2005: Adalius Thomas, Jamal Lewis
2006: Steve McNair, Bart Scott
2007: Willis McGahee, Derrick Mason
2008: Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs
2009: Ray Rice, Jarret Johnson
2010: Haloti Ngata, Chris Carr
2011: Ray Rice, Bernard Pollard
2012: Ray Rice, Arthur Jones
2013: Justin Tucker, Joe Flacco
2014: Justin Forsett, Torrey Smith

Flacco remains on track for training camp

Head coach John Harbaugh reiterated Wednesday that he expects Flacco to be ready for training camp as he continues to rehab his surgically-repaired left knee.

A CBS Sports report recently said that Flacco is already riding a stationary bike, and the 30-year-old has been seen walking around the Ravens’ training facility with minimal use of crutches after undergoing surgery earlier this month. The Super Bowl XLVII MVP had never missed a game in his NFL career prior to tearing his ACL in a win over St. Louis on Nov. 22.

“I guess you never say never, but everything I’ve been told is he’s going to be ready for training camp — 100 percent ready to go,” Harbaugh said. “The key with all these injuries is that they get the most out of every day, but there’s never a setback. If you don’t have a setback, then it should be fine.”

More than steak

After having a 101-yard interception return for a touchdown wiped away due to Courtney Upshaw’s offside penalty, Smith quipped after Sunday’s win over Pittsburgh that he expected a steak dinner to make up for it.

Now, the fifth-year cornerback expects more from his teammate.

“After I re-watched the play, I think I needed more,” said Smith as he smiled. “That type of play is the play that every corner always dreams of. That’s the first time that’s ever happened for me. Even in practice, that’s never happened. I don’t know what I want. Maybe some new rims for my car — I don’t know.”

Wednesday’s injury report

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Elvis Dumervil (non-injury), FB Kyle Juszczyk (illness), LB Albert McClellan (ankle)

CINCINNATI
OUT: QB Andy Dalton (right thumb)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB Ryan Hewitt (knee/illness)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: DE Carlos Dunlap (hamstring), S George Iloka (groin), WR Marvin Jones (hamstring), QB AJ McCarron (left wrist)
FULL PARTICIPATION: TE Tyler Eifert (concussion)

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Ravens promote cornerback, place Marlon Brown on IR

Posted on 29 December 2015 by Luke Jones

Entering the final week of a difficult 2015 season, the Ravens officially have more players on injured reserve than in any other season of the John Harbaugh era.

Wide receiver Marlon Brown was placed on season-ending IR on Tuesday afternoon as Baltimore now has 20 players on that list, which doesn’t include tight end Dennis Pitta on the reserve physically unable to perform list. Harbaugh said Monday that Brown would not return for Week 17 after missing the previous five games with a back injury.

The Ravens had 19 players on IR last season and in 2008, Harbaugh’s first year as head coach.

Baltimore promoted former Indianapolis cornerback Sheldon Price from the practice squad to take Brown’s roster spot. At 6-foot-2 and 198 pounds, the UCLA product has intriguing size for the position and was active for two games with the Colts earlier this season.

Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Bengals are expecting quarterback A.J. McCarron to start Sunday’s game against the Ravens. McCarron injured his left wrist in Monday’s overtime loss to Denver, but multiple reports indicate that he’ll be able to start the regular-season finale as Bengals starter Andy Dalton continues to recover from a fractured thumb.

The Ravens’ bizarre season at the quarterback position would have received an additional wrinkle on Sunday if the news had been worse about McCarron. Keith Wenning is the Bengals’ current backup quarterback and was Baltimore’s sixth-round pick in the 2014 draft.

Wenning was released in May after the Ravens signed veteran Matt Schaub to back up starter Joe Flacco.

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Ravens thoughts on winning vs. draft pick, 2016 opponents, more

Posted on 29 December 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens took great satisfaction in sweeping the Pittsburgh Steelers and putting their playoff hopes in serious danger, but the 20-17 win didn’t do any favors to Baltimore’s 2016 draft positioning.

Entering Week 16 holding the third overall pick in the first round of next year’s draft, the Ravens dropped all the way to eighth after pulling off one of the biggest upsets in franchise history. And it only added more fuel to the ongoing debate over whether it’s better for the Ravens to win now or to lose with an eye toward April.

To be clear once again, this isn’t a question of whether the Ravens themselves should be trying to win. The sheer number of injuries they’ve suffered has already cut John Harbaugh’s team off at the knees in the second half of the season, but many players and coaches are still fighting for their jobs and their efforts were rewarded on Sunday by completing the third season sweep of Pittsburgh in team history.

This also isn’t about the pointless debate of what it means to be a “true” fan, a concept that sounds elitist and is impossible to define. It’s perfectly acceptable to root for the instant gratification that the Ravens experienced against the Steelers on Sunday or to be thinking about the future of your favorite team and wanting a larger talent pool from which general manager Ozzie Newsome can choose in every round of this spring’s draft.

Ultimately, fans want to see their team win every Sunday and also win championships, right?

Harbaugh as well as some media and fans have spoken about the value of finishing the season on a high note, but that’s difficult to quantify when you’re considering the patchwork roster currently playing and how many of those players will either be gone or will have diminished roles next season. Winning these final two games would provide a short-term emotional boost, but that doesn’t equate to success in 2016 without some marked upgrades to the roster.

What isn’t as difficult to quantify, however, is how many draft prospects will be unavailable to the Ravens over the course of a seven-round draft should they finish 6-10 as opposed to 5-11 or 4-12. And that’s where the win over Pittsburgh followed by a potential upset at Cincinnati would leave fans with a hollow feeling in the offseason.

Even with potential wins over the Steelers and the Bengals to wrap the season, Baltimore will still be sitting at home watching the playoffs like the rest of us next week.

Good players can be found in every round of the draft if your talent evaluation is sound and you have some luck along the way. You can whiff picking at any spot in the draft, but you are improving the chances of landing better players the earlier you select.

It’s true that a better draft pick won’t guarantee that the Ravens land a future Pro Bowl player, but you won’t convince me that winning games when you’re playing out the string is all that valuable to the future, either. This is the equivalent of September baseball for a losing club, something Orioles manager Buck Showalter always warns can fool you when evaluating players.

The reality lies somewhere in between. It’s perfectly acceptable to be happy with a win over the Steelers, but you can also choose not to be distraught if the Ravens lose to the Bengals to wrap up the season. And I won’t accuse you of not being a “true” fan no matter what.

Brown done?

It was two years ago Tuesday when wide receiver Marlon Brown caught his seventh touchdown of his rookie season in a season-ending loss at Cincinnati.

Despite the Ravens missing the playoffs at 8-8 a year after winning the Super Bowl, the rookie free agent out of Georgia was one of the bright spots of 2013 and caught 49 passes for 524 yards. Since then, however, Brown has made just 38 receptions for 367 yards and no touchdowns in 24 games.

“Marlon is one of my favorite guys, and he works really hard at it, has a great attitude and, to my eyes, is very talented,” Harbaugh said. “But it just hasn’t worked in the last two years like we all expected after his rookie year, especially how Marlon expected to continue to improve. It’s going to be a really important offseason for him, and it’s going to be a critical season for him when he comes back.”

Brown’s back injury that cost him the final six games of 2015 doesn’t mask the disappointing of his last two seasons. And with the 6-foot-5 wideout scheduled to become a restricted free agent this winter, you wonder if he’s played his final game with the Ravens.

It’s remarkable to think that Brown was catching touchdowns for the Ravens two years ago while Kamar Aiken was on the practice squad and to see how different their careers have gone since then.

2016 opponents

Having clinched third place in the AFC North on Sunday, the Ravens officially learned their full slate of opponents for the 2016 season. The schedule itself is typically released in late April.

Below is a look at those opponents:

HOME: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Miami, Philadelphia, Washington, Oakland
AWAY: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, New England, New York Jets, Dallas, New York Giants, Jacksonville

It’s too soon to know what the Ravens or any of these opponents will look like from a talent standpoint  — only five of their 13 opponents in 2016 enter Week 17 with a winning record — but the travel schedule will lighten considerably with just one game (Dallas) played outside the Eastern time zone. After the Ravens played four games out west in the first seven weeks of the 2015 season, that should be a pleasant change as they try to bounce back from the first losing season of the Harbaugh era.

Good shape at guard

It remains to be seen what the Ravens will do at left tackle moving forward, but the last couple weeks make you think that the interior offensive line will be in good shape without Kelechi Osemele.

The organization has long been confident in John Urschel’s ability to play guard, but 2013 sixth-round pick Ryan Jensen has improved substantially over the last couple weeks and earned high marks for his blocking against Pittsburgh on Sunday. With starting center Jeremy Zuttah under contract for next season, the Ravens could elect to have Urschel and Jensen compete for the starting left guard spot in training camp.

Even if Osemele is re-signed, he won’t be playing left guard, but the Ravens should feel confident about their options to replace him.

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George Vogel on the Bengals 7-0 start

Posted on 02 November 2015 by WNST Staff

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Jimmy Smith trying to shake off disappointing start to 2015

Posted on 29 September 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Asked how he shakes off one of the most difficult games of his NFL career, Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith demonstrated by literally shaking his arms and shoulders while smiling.

Even when dealing with an 0-3 start, it’s important to have a sense of humor — and a short memory — when competing in an NFL secondary. That’s not to say that Smith didn’t take his poor performance hard on Sunday, declining to speak to the media after giving up the game-winning touchdown pass to four-time Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green in the 28-24 loss to Cincinnati.

“I took the loss as a loss,” said Smith, who apologized Monday for being “too emotional” to talk after the defeat. “It wasn’t so much that I was just so down on myself, it was just a loss. I didn’t play as well as I wanted to, so all of that affected it.”

Signed in the offseason to a four-year, $41 million contract extension through 2019, Smith appeared ready to pick up where he left off last season, returning a Peyton Manning interception for the Ravens’ only touchdown in a 19-13 season-opening loss to Denver. However, the 27-year-old cornerback has struggled since then, allowing a long touchdown to Amari Cooper in the Week 2 loss at Oakland before being torched by Green in Week 3.

In three games, Smith has been thrown at 28 times and has allowed 18 receptions for 275 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions, according to Pro Football Focus. It’s a stark contrast from a year ago when the 2011 first-round pick was targeted just 39 times in eight games and allowed 20 receptions for 163 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception. A Lisfranc injury that required season-ending surgery last November short-circuited a Pro Bowl-caliber campaign and forced Smith to spend much of the offseason rehabbing, but he was mostly a full participant in training camp and played in two preseason games.

The early-season woes have led many to wonder if his left foot is still an issue 11 months after the injury. A problem to the foot area can be debilitating at a position requiring backpedaling and such frequent changes in direction, but Smith wouldn’t comment on the possibility of any lingering effects.

“People come back from injuries; they play,” said Smith, who’s missed 17 games due to injuries in his young career. “Until this season is over, I’ll never talk about my foot.”

Identified as one of the leaders of a defense trying to fill the void of the injured Terrell Suggs, Smith said he isn’t lacking confidence despite allowing Green to make seven catches for 126 yards and a touchdown when they were matched on Sunday. He cited his preparation and film study as the biggest reasons why his recent play won’t shake his confidence moving forward.

Of course, the proof lies on the field where he’s appeared hesitant to engage in press coverage such as when he was beaten badly by Cooper on the 2015 first-round pick’s touchdown in Week 2. His early third-quarter interception of Andy Dalton on Sunday was a flash of what he’s capable of doing, but Smith hasn’t carried the same swagger on the field that he did a year ago when he had appeared to finally arrive as one of the best cornerbacks in the AFC.

The struggles have been across the board in the secondary as the Ravens currently rank 29th in pass defense. Miscommunication, technique flaws, and poor tackling have plagued Baltimore in each of the last two weeks, but Smith views these issues as correctable with better preparation as well as “effort and will” to bring down ball-carriers.

“There are times when we’re playing at a high level; it’s just we’ve got to be way more consistent,” Smith said. “Even though they’re huge plays, it’s a minor technique that we’re missing or that we’re not completing. So, it’s not even the calls; it’s things we have to fix and clean up, and we’ll get that done.”

Trying to rebound from the first 0-3 start in team history to save their season, the Ravens need Smith playing at his highest level in order to do so. Other than the passing combination of quarterback Joe Flacco and wide receiver Steve Smith, there may not be a more important player to the Ravens’ success than Smith when he’s playing at his best.

For what it’s worth, teammates and coaches haven’t lost faith in him despite the last two weeks.

“Jimmy is one of our best corners,” linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. “He’s one of the good players on our team — great guy, great teammate. Some days you give up plays; some days you make plays. That’s just the National Football League, and I wouldn’t want to take any other corner but him.”

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Coley Harvey says Bengals are team to beat in AFC North

Posted on 28 September 2015 by WNST Staff

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Geoff Hobson “Andy Dalton proving to be better than people think”

Posted on 28 September 2015 by WNST Staff

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So this is what 0 – 3 feels like

Posted on 28 September 2015 by Dennis Koulatsos

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The Baltimore Ravens suffered another tough loss yesterday, this one at their 20th home opener and at the hands of the division leading Cincinnati Bengals.  They have now lost by 6, 4, and 6 points.  Lots of blame to go around, whether it’s coaching, penalties, miscommunication, dropped passes and interceptions, etc.  The optimists will say that this team could easily have been 3 – 0, but that’s not what the standings say this morning.  To paraphrase Bill Parcells, the Ravens are what their record says they are.

As my son and I left the stadium, as fans we felt the weight of a winless season thus far.  Of course we all know by now that in their 20 year history, this organization has never started a season 0 – 3.  It certainly is not a good feeling, but it is in times like these organizations find out what they really have when faced with adversity.  Just as a high tide raises all ships, a low tide lowers them.  A low tide exposes the most seaworthy vessels – and the best captains.

Coach John Harbaugh has experienced a ton of success during his tenure here in Baltimore, capped off with a Super Bowl victory in 2012.  Unless something dramatic happens, my best guess is that he is staring down a 6 – 10 season.  His mettle is being tested and will continue to be as the losses pile up.

In the general media there’s been much talk about the injuries, play calling, discipline, penalties, etc. What’s been missed is that not only have the Ravens lost some great players in the last couple of years, but also some great coordinators and assistant coaches.  The two that immediately stand out are Gary Kubiak and Teryl Austin.

Kubiak’s effect on the running game and QB Joe Flacco were apparent throughout last year’s campaign.  His run first philosophy and effective game planning/calling contributed much to the Ravens’ success.  Plus by all accounts he had a terrific relationship with Joe Flacco.  Through the first 3 games, things have been dramatically different with Marc Trestman at the helm as offensive coordinator.

Austin – who is now currently the defensive coordinator with the Detroit Lions – was an outstanding defensive backs coach during his tenure here in Baltimore.  In fact, he did some of his best work in 2013 by holding together a patchwork secondary, on an injury depleted team that went 8-8 and came within one quarter and 4 Andy Dalton interceptions of going to the playoffs.  Austin has excellent communication skills, and is a very technically sound coach.

Head coaches always get too much credit when teams win and way too much blame when they lose. Make no mistake about it – they’re only as good as their coordinators and assistant coaches.  In the NFL, every team has a salary cap to deal with, unlike baseball where you can virtually buy a championship.  That’s where coaching in the NFL – more often than not – is the difference maker.

This will be a great learning experience for John Harbaugh.  I’m of the opinion that he is a good – not a great – coach.  However, he does have a chance to be great.  This will be a season where he can assess himself, his coordinators and his assistants.  He’s on his way to hearing the Ravens’ name called early in the 2016 NFL draft, and that’s a good thing in terms of the overall well being of the franchise, as they need to restock the cupboard with better talent.

The Ravens need some high draft picks and based on their start are on their way to getting some.  Prior to yesterday’s game I marveled at the talent that was on the Bengals’ roster.  That talent didn’t get there because the Bengals have been great over space and time.  They’ve been a mediocre team on a more often than not mediocre organization.  In fact, I can argue that – based on talent alone – the Bengals should have absolutely blown out the Ravens in yesterday’s game.  Marvin Lewis and staff did all they could to keep the Ravens in the game.

The Bengals have been able to accumulate a number of high draft picks through the years, and from top to bottom have a Super Bowl caliber roster.  Andy Dalton is not a prime time QB, and that is the primary reason that he – along with coach Marvin Lewis – is still looking for his first playoff win.  The Bengals should have been up 21-0 on the Ravens at the half yesterday, and should have never let them come within barking distance of beating them.

There’s no doubt in my mind that GM Ozzie Newsome will keep his usually keen eye on the roster this year, and make the necessary adjustments to improve the team in the off-season.  Until then, we’ll see how this team deals with adversity.  Can they overcome it? Will they get better as the season progresses? Will they fight ’til the end, or will they at some point “tap out.”

I don’t see the later happening, as I do expect coach Harbaugh to get this team – given it’s limitations – to overachieve.  They haven’t been blown out.  They’ve fought hard for 3 games.  Their games – although they haven’t had the outcome we’re all looking for – have been entertaining.

Bottom line is that we are not going to the playoffs every year.  For various reasons, there has to be an adjustment – historically speaking – in an organization’s timeline.  I’m an optimist by nature but I am also a realist.  I’d love to see this team fight, scrap and get into the playoffs, but history tells us that they have a less than a 3% chance of doing so.  The odds aren’t favorable.

But the odds are very much favorable that this is a temporary blimp in this great organization’s history, and it will not take them long – no longer than this season – to figure it out and bounce right back.  In Steve Bisciotti, Ozzie Newsome, and John Harbaugh ……. I trust.

I will end with my personal message to the Ravens.  A very wise man once told me that in life, there are are going to be peaks and valleys.  No one is immune to them; we all go through them, and so do organizations.  The key is that when you’re in a valley, fight like hell to get out of it.  Don’t get conditioned to it, and don’t accept it.  Minimize the time you spend in the valley.  And as the Ravens fight song bellows…..FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!

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