Tag Archive | "Bernard Pollard"

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Pollard, Ravens had concerns with hard turf at Tulane practice field

Posted on 31 January 2013 by WNST Staff


(on if he believes that the more physical team will win on Sunday) “I think so. I think with what we’re doing and with how we’re built, just with the characters that we have on both teams, that’s how it is. It’s going to be a war, and it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be fun for all of us. We’re at a moment right now where this experience is really a blessing for all of us. I know we can’t say it enough, we thank God for the position we’re in and I’m pretty sure they’re saying the same thing. But, on Sunday it’s going down.”


(on if he believes the team that delivers the first big hit will set the tone for the game) “You know what, it’s football. You’re going to have your ups and your downs all game long. It’s about who can outlast the other. It’s going to be so much fun. I just truly believe that the preparation this week, whoever prepares the best and whoever gets it done on Sunday, whoever is hitting on all cylinders, is going to win the game.”


(on if the game is going to be a ‘15-rounder’ as opposed to a quick knockout) “Yeah it’s going to be a long battle.  It’s the Super Bowl, and you don’t usually see many blowouts — not that often. It’s going to be fun.”


(on how the outdoor practice elements will affect the Ravens preparation and how it differs from the 49ers practicing indoors)  “No, it really doesn’t matter. We were running, we were cutting and we were getting our plays. It was beautiful; it actually cleared up. Tulane has been amazing. They’ve opened things up, and they’ve bent over backwards for us. We’re really appreciative. We had a great time. It’s the first time that I’ve ever seen a baseball diamond made of full turf. So that was a little awkward — for me at least. The preparation yesterday was outstanding; we’ve got to stack it again today.”


(on how he feels about the NFL possibly expanding the season to 18 games) “You’re dealing with some men who have never played football. Of course it’s a money making business. They’ve never played the game before. So obviously they can do some things and make some things happen if they want to, but it’s not their bodies that are taking a pounding and beating. Sixteen games are enough. I think all of us as players understand that we don’t want this thing to get any bigger. You go through things a lot in the 16 games, plus four preseason games, which is 20, and then you’ve got three or four playoff games. So you’re taking a pounding no matter what. Now you want to add onto that pounding—you talk about injuries now, it’s going to get worse.”


(on if the financial aspect of an 18-game schedule could persuade him to change his mind) “I really couldn’t care less about the money. We’re already going through it right now anyway. Like I said before, we as players know what we signed up for already, but at the same time, the whole expanded schedule would be very tough on our bodies. This is a physical game and a violent game already, and to expand it, to me and a lot of other players in this league, it doesn’t make any sense.”


(on if the Ravens can take anything from their 2011 game against the 49ers) “Last year’s game, that’s what it was – it was last year’s game on Thanksgiving. This team is more experienced. The coaches are seasoned, the players are seasoned, and to be honest with you, both teams were in the championship games last year and some things didn’t go our way and we lost. But you’re dealing with a team that’s trained, and they’re ready to go. They understand, and they’ve been in this position before. Right now we look at this situation, and we can’t look at the past and what we did against them last year. We have to understand that they’re ready to go. Like I said before, this is going to be a war and nobody has an advantage. I’m just being honest with you, nobody has an advantage. We’re going to go out there and we’re going to fight.”


(on O.J. Brigance) “O.J. has taught all of us not to take anything for granted. Just the little stuff that we complain about, whether it’s walking up the stairs, whether it’s having to come in early or whether it’s having to practice longer. You look at the little stuff that you complain about and O.J. has been fighting. He fights every day. I think for all of us, we’ve come to understand and appreciate the people that are in our lives. We’ve come to appreciate the things that are going on in our lives because in a split second it could be taken away from you. O.J. is the kind of guy who continues to show up at work every single day smiling, ready to go and always has a message. We’ve learned so much from him. I’ve been blessed to be around him and so are the other players. We’re so appreciative to be a part of this whole thing.”
(on how some of the setbacks and adversity have helped the Ravens grow as a team) “I think with anything that you go through, you always look at trials and tribulations to make you stronger. For us, we went through a lot of them. For players, period, you have to look at it as football is kind of like life that everybody else lives: you’re going to have your ups and downs and you’re going to have to put things behind you to make things work. You have to look at 53 men coming together — with 11 on offense, 11 on defense and 11 on special teams — to make one play happen and to continue to do that for 60 minutes.  The situations I think brought us closer together. Just the camaraderie with all of us has been a lot of fun. A lot of humbling experiences for the players and our coaches.  We were actually talking about this yesterday. One thing that I can do, I tip my hat to Coach (John) Harbaugh. He’s a great man and he’s a great coach. We’ve all been through it, we’ve seen it, we understand it and we’ve experienced it. Now it’s time to go make this thing happen on Sunday.”


(on if he was one of the members of the secondary who raised an issue about the turf during yesterday’s practice)  “I didn’t raise an issue. Coach Harbs (John Harbaugh) came to me about it and he asked me. It’s just kind of different as far as playing on that turf on the baseball diamond. Like we’ve said before, Tulane has been amazing, and they’ve bent over backwards for us. We can’t change what we’ve been doing. We had a great practice, don’t get me wrong, but at the same time, guys with knee problems, ankle problems and all the other stuff, after practice and after the fact you don’t want to have to deal with that for the rest of the week and then try to have to clear all of that out of your system to have to go play on Sunday.”


(on some of the things that guys were feeling after yesterday’s practice on the turf) “Well a lot of guys actually iced up last night, got in the cold tub and everything else. Just so you don’t get the swelling or the fluid in the knees from pounding on the hard turf. Like I said, we are so appreciative of what Tulane has done for us, but at the same time, we have to get on surfaces that can (help us) continue to be successful all week long and (help) our preparation to be able to go and play full speed on Sunday.”


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Pollard ready to hit Kaepernick when he gets opportunity

Posted on 30 January 2013 by WNST Staff


 (on the uniqueness of preparing for 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick) “You look at (Washington’s) Robert Griffin III, you look at Kaepernick and they’re very special talents.  They’re guys who can kill you with both their arm and their legs.  It goes back to being smart as a defense.  Everyone can’t try to do everyone else’s jobs.  If you do that, they’re going to find an opening.  We’ve had two weeks to prepare.  Anything that’s happened in the past doesn’t matter.  We just need to be sound and know what we’re doing.”


(on the legacy of Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome) “For us as football players, we always respect a guy who played the game, a guy who understands the game and a guy who was successful playing the game.  Then to have that guy come into the front office and run things is special.  Ozzie has done a great job.  He’s been successful in this organization and he continues to be successful.  He understands the players that he wants in his system.  He doesn’t necessarily want the best player in the draft.  Ozzie wants whoever is going to fit the system.  Ozzie and our scouting department have been great with that.”


(on playing for the Ravens) “This is as good as it gets.  I’ve been in two other organizations and it’s been great.  I started out in Kansas City with Lamar Hunt.  What a great man and one of the smartest dudes I’ve ever met in my life.  But Baltimore has been really freaking good to me.”


(on if the 49ers’ read-option offense is a fad) “You invest all of this money in a quarterback and you  put him out there on an island where when they start running, they’re no longer protected.  In the day and age that we’re playing in, they’re protected if they’re going to throw.  But if they are going to do all of this handing off and wanting to run, then they’re not protected.  You respect the talent that these guys (QB’s who run the read-option) have, but at the same time, they’re not built to take the hits.  You want to believe that their careers will last playing the read-option, but it’s not a reality.  But Colin Kaepernick is smart.  He knows when to get down, he knows when to get out.   The guy can run his tail off and he can throw the ball very well.  If we get the chance to hit him during the read-option stuff , we’ve got to take advantage of those shots.”


(on 49ers WR Randy Moss) “Randy is Randy.  That dude can stretch the field.  He has unbelievable hands.  He’s been successful his whole career.  Nobody doubts what he’s done.  Randy is an amazing talent.  He’s a veteran in that locker room who’s been there and who’s done that.  I’ve got nothing but respect for the man.”


(on people saying that with his style of play, he was born to be a Raven) “When you look at the style of defense that the Ravens have always played, and the players that they’ve had, you know it’s special.  When I got here, everybody embraced me.  So I thank God all the time for the position that I’m in to be around all of these characters.  These guys are unbelievable and we embrace each other and love each other.”


(on if he worries about being fined for hard hits with his style of play) “I don’t play thinking.  The way the league is trying to go, they want you to think about the hits and the shots and all of this other stuff.  It’s an offensive game and they’re trying to move it in a certain direction.  In Baltimore, we don’t roll that way.  We’re going to hit you.”


(on if he’d want his son to play football) “If my son wants to play when he gets older, we’ll have to let him test it out.  My son will be five tomorrow but I don’t want to groom him.   He sees Daddy play football all of the time. He’s very physical,  but I’d rather put a basketball or a golf club in his hands.   I’ve seen it, I’ve done it (football) and it’s tough, but it’s been good to my family.   At the same time, I don’t want to see my son go through the pain and all of the stuff that I’ve been through.  It would be very tough to watch my son go through it.”


(on if the recent Sports Illustrated report about Ray Lewis is a distraction) “We’re going to become tighter. We’ve been through this all year long.  We’re not going to worry about what somebody said.  We’re going to come together as a team.  We’re not going to allow anything to come in and mess up what we’ve got.  This is our time.  This is the Ravens’ time.  This is not anyone else’s time.  We’re going to enjoy it.  We’re not going to allow anyone else to come in and break us apart.”

(on teammate Haloti Ngata saying that Pollard is the team’s most high-maintenance player) “I’m not surprised.  My teammates tend to get upset with me because I carry my hand sanitizer, I carry my disinfectant wipes, my baby wipes. When you sneeze, I tell you to cover your mouth, and when you cough, I tell you to cover your mouth. If you pick your nose, I tell you not to touch me.  They don’t like that.  But that’s how I came up.  My Mom would yell at us if we drank out of someone else’s glass. It’s just one of those things where that’s how I grew up. That’s how my Mom raised and groomed us. But I’m starting to rub off on some of the guys.  Now you see some of them also with hand sanitizer in their pockets and everything else.  It’s like I’ve told my teammates.  We’ve got to be clean.  We’ve got to protect each other.  (joking) But some guys are disgusting – they ought to be ashamed on themselves.  The nastiest dudes on the team are Jah Reid, Arthur Jones and Terrell Suggs. I’m just teasing on those guys.”


(on the camaraderie of the team at the Super Bowl) “These are times that you can’t take away.  This is precious time.  This is why so many players love the locker room.  They love the atmosphere and the camaraderie with all of the guys.  It’s special and we enjoy it.”


(on 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick) “If he runs, you’ve got to hit him.  He’s basically a running back who can throw the ball very well.  He’s showing people that he’s capable of playing in this league.  He’s able to win.  I think he’s started nine games.  His play says a lot about him.”


(on the past fines he’s incurred from the NFL for hits) “I’ve paid my fair share.  But I’m not going to stop playing the way I play. We’re supposed to get a form back telling us who we donated money to (with our fines), but that hasn’t happened.”

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Faltering against 49ers offense no option for Ravens

Posted on 30 January 2013 by Luke Jones

NEW ORLEANS — After toppling two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks on their way to their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history, the Ravens defense now faces a different challenge entirely.

As unconventional as an offense comes in the NFL, the San Francisco 49ers reinvented themselves in the second half of the season, utilizing the pistol read-option attack behind second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick. A once-conservative offense that relied heavily on the shoulders of running back Frank Gore has now become a dynamic one, scoring a combined 73 points in playoff wins over Green Bay and Atlanta to give the 49ers their first Super Bowl berth in 18 years.

Whether the pistol formation is the latest flavor of the month or not is irrelevant as it pertains to Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday, but coach John Harbaugh sees lasting appeal in the possibilities the formation provides. The Ravens certainly aren’t treating it like a gimmick after falling to a similar attack that was run by the Washington Redskins in Week 14.

“You can run your whole offense on it. You aren’t limited to an option type attack out of it,” Harbaugh said. “Not just the entire run game but the entire pass game as well. The backs get position to protect. You can run all your drop back stuff, you can run power run game inside and outside, and you can run read option, triple option. So it’s just a very versatile-type offense and it forces you to defend a lot of different elements of the offensive attack.”

The Ravens struggled against the Redskins’ version of the pistol formation, which featured Robert Griffin III, a shiftier runner than the bigger Kaepernick who relies more on his impressive straight-line speed. In the 31-28 overtime loss on Dec. 9, the Ravens allowed 179 rushing yards on 35 carries but were playing without linebackers Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, and Dannell Ellerbe.

San Francisco’s preference for getting Kaepernick to the edge will provide a challenge to Lewis, who struggles when trying to play outside the tackles, but the 37-year-old’s cerebral presence should offer a boost in trying to accomplish what opposing defenses have failed to do against Kaepernick since he took over for former Alex Smith in the middle of the season.

“A lot of people who played against them just never communicated at all,” linebacker Ray Lewis said. “I believe that’s one of the advantages of what we have as a defense. We do a job of communicating real very well, whether you have the dive, whether you have the quarterback. It’s really hard to play that type of package as individuals. You have to play it as a group. The only way to slow it down is to play it as a group. Make sure before the ball is snapped, everybody is on the same page.”

A major key echoed by numerous defensive players has been patience in believing in individual assignments and carrying out jobs within the defense. Against Washington, the Ravens used unblocked defenders largely to attack the backfield, but staying under control and reacting to Kaepernick by forcing him to either hand off to the back or to keep the ball himself inside will be the wisest choice.

It’s a fine balance between being too aggressive and getting caught on your heels against a physical offensive line and talented running backs Gore and LaMichael James. The blocking angles and hand-offs from the pistol formation simply provide looks defenders aren’t familiar in dealing with on a weekly basis. Of course, an extra week of preparation will be beneficial to a Baltimore defense that was on the field extensively in its three playoff wins prior to Sunday’s Super Bowl.

“You can’t force it. You’ve got to be patient,” linebacker Albert McClellan said. “You can’t be too patient though, so you have to kind of be on the edge. You’ve just got to have good eyes. Do your job — don’t try to do somebody else’s job. Once you miss your assignment, that’s when the triple-option and the pistol pretty much take advantage of you. You do your job and everybody’s assigned a man, things will work out.”

Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will rely on rush linebacker Terrell Suggs and the combination of Courtney Upshaw, Paul Kruger, and Albert McClellan at the strongside linebacker position to maintain the edges, coaxing Kaepernick to settle for inside hand-offs to Gore and preventing the mobile quarterback from getting free into open space to utilize his great speed. The 49ers prefer to run behind left tackle Joe Staley when they aren’t rushing up the middle, which will put pressure on Suggs to make plays against the run like he did in the Denver game when he finished with 10 solo tackles.

Forcing Kaepernick to settle for the inside hand-off will put plenty of responsibility on the Baltimore defensive line, a unit that struggled much of the season due to injuries but has played well in the postseason. The Ravens contained a strong Denver running game and put pressure on Peyton Manning in the divisional round and hounded Tom Brady in the second half of the AFC Championship.

The combination of Ma’ake Kemoeatu and Terrence Cody at the nose tackle position will have a major chore in controlling the line of scrimmage and allowing Lewis and Ellerbe to clean up against Gore’s inside runs.

“Assignment football. Being where you are supposed to be without failure,” defensive line coach Clarence Brooks said. “Right gap, right responsibility on the run, right foot on the blocking schemes, disciplined pass-rushing lanes. Assignment football, being where you’re supposed to be and doing your job. If we do that, we’ll be fine.”

Even if the Ravens play their assignments to perfection, Kaepernick’s big-play ability may not be completely avoidable as he has proven to be a prolific passer, utilizing tight end Vernon Davis and wide receiver Michael Crabtree with great effectiveness. Still, the second-year signal-caller’s legs are the biggest concern after the Ravens were able to handle two top — but also one-dimensional — passers in their last two wins.

“You get through it and everybody knows what to do, and then all of a sudden, the guy pulls the ball and is gone,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “You can’t really replicate that in practice as much as you would like to. That’s always a concern.”

As confident as the Baltimore defense is, the unit is preparing for an unfamiliar look. The similarities are there with Washington’s offensive attack, but the 49ers have a dangerous set of receivers in the passing game and a quarterback reaching an unparalleled level of success with only a half-season of starts under his belt.

The San Francisco offense may not strike fear into opponents’ hearts in the same way the Patriots and Broncos did this season, but the sight of Kaepernick escaping to the outside, looking to run or throw is a scary proposition standing in the way of the Ravens’ second Super Bowl title.

“If he runs, you’ve got to hit him,” safety Bernard Pollard said. “He’s basically a running back who can throw the ball very well. He’s showing people that he’s capable of playing in this league. He’s able to win.”


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Pollard not backing off comments about future of football

Posted on 30 January 2013 by WNST Staff



(on the feeling of preparing for the Super Bowl) “I feel pretty good, you know, a chance to wake up in New Orleans and be able to experience something like (Media Day), this is a good problem to have. You know, we’re all blessed. We’re all so thankful to be able to participate in this week, so for me and my teammates, we’re kind of enjoying everything right now. We’re excited to get back to practice tomorrow, so it feels good.”


(on if it is important for him to deal with distractions this week) “I just think for us all. We’ve got to be pros, we’ve got to be pros. All this stuff, you can have fun after the game. Until then, enjoy the situation and soak it in a little bit, but I think for the most part, we’re here to win the game. We’re playing against a team that’s going to give us their best shot on the biggest stage. I think for all of us, we’ve got to be tuned in. Preparation this week has to be outstanding, and we’ve got to be ready to play on Sunday.”


(on his comments during Monday’s media session regarding the future of football) “I stand by what I said. For me, I play this game so I understand the game. For me, growing up, you know, to see where the game has gone from then to now, this is a very special game, you know. We’re talking about so many different things, you know. They’re talking about taking kickoffs (out) and just playing offense and defense. Well, when that happens, you have guys losing their jobs: punters, long snappers, kickers, so how is that fair to them? We can’t change something that’s been built, because this is a business. Well, then you want to say tone down on the hits, but guys are getting bigger, stronger, faster year-in and year-out, and it’s not the equipment. It’s really not the equipment at all, because it doesn’t matter if you put a bigger helmet on me, it’s still going to be the same contact, so you keep playing football, you’re going to have the injuries. Nobody is exempt from that; you’re going to have the injuries. Things are going to happen: you’re going to have your concussions, you’re going to have your broken bones, everything else, but I think for the most part, we as football players know what we signed up for, and everybody’s saying, ‘Well, we’ve got to come up with these rules to ensure the league.’ You’ve got to understand what’s going on when people come back and sue the league, you know, it was some kind of breakdown in the medical system. That’s why these guys are coming back and doing what they do, and for the most part, you know, the insurance and everything else, the insurance is not picking up everybody. I don’t know, I’m just speaking, but a lot of times, these guys are just coming in when things weren’t handled properly.”


(on whether he will let his son play football) “My whole stance right now, this is my outlay, I would let him play the game. For us as fathers and mothers, we want our kids to have better than what we had, so that comes down to us setting up things later on in life and kind of prepping them as they grow. If he’s going to want to play, then I would let him play. I don’t want him to, but I would let him play, so he’s starting to see that he can kick the ball and everything else. It’s just hard; my son’s 4 years old. He’s seeing now, he wants to throw the ball around, he wants to be tackled, he wants to do all those things, so I see that. I see it in him. That’s one of the things that’s kind of hard to watch, and we talk about it all the time, but you know, it sucks because um, I don’t ever want to see my son (get hurt), and I know concussions happen, but just to see him go through it, the daily grind and the aches and the pains of the body and young injuries, I don’t want to see my son go through that.”


(on trying to reduce injuries) “I think, you know, it’s a car accident every play. From the linemen, you know, dealing with the offensive linemen and defensive linemen, that process is physical, you know, taking on the lead block and having to tackle down the field, those helmets and pads are popping. You can’t take away the intensity, and that’s part (of it). You’ve got grown men, this is a grown man’s game, and it’s one of those things where you’re going to feel it after the game. I think the emotions and everything else are high during the game, but after the game, you know, the next day, that’s (when you feel it).”


(on what the defense needs to do to have success against San Francisco and a mobile quarterback) “That goes to our defense playing sound. We have to, you know, approach this game, everybody has to play their area and their A-game, especially dealing with a quarterback like this who can kill you with his arm and with his legs. We have to be sound, we have to play great ball, and we cannot have mental mistakes. We can’t, you know, because I think watching film on this offense, whether it’s with Frank Gore, whether it’s with (LaMichael) James, whether it’s with (Colin) Kaepernick, these guys can kill you, and their offensive line is blocking their tail off. So, we just have to be sound, and if they run, we’ve got to tackle them.






Super Bowl XLVII – Tuesday, January 29, 2013






(on the intensity of Baltimore’s defense) “I enjoy this game. Me and my teammates enjoy it, so we’re the Baltimore Ravens and we’re going to give you our best shot. We know, we understand we’re going to get everybody’s best shot, but I think for us, we play with a certain edge, and that’s something that everybody knows about Baltimore: the defense is going to play with an edge and that’s something that we continue to do.”


(on what football has meant to him besides financial gain) “Well, I think it’s one of those things where it teaches you discipline, it teaches you responsibility, because you’re not, it’s no longer about you. It’s about high school, college, however many guys are on the team, and it’s about all of them. You have to think about them before you want to make certain decisions, coaches that you come across in pee wee, metro, middle school, high school, college, you know it’s just about those relationships, and for me, it’s about me, you know, that I have to be more responsible. I have to be disciplined as a man, as a father and as a husband, you know, and I think so many people, the game of football, you get a small window to play this game. Life is so much bigger than this, and we as players and coaches and media, we make this game harder than what it is. It’s still a game. It really is. It’s still a game, you know. We are men, and life is so much greater than this.”


(on how Baltimore bounced back after its loss to Houston to make a run to the Super Bowl) “Well, I know (the loss) was hard for our team. As far as going through everything that we’ve gone through this year, with every individual man, we know when you step in the locker room, everybody has their own agenda, everybody has problems, and it comes to checking it at the door. We’ve gone through some things with players and everything else, but I think it’s coming together as a team and understanding that, you know, you’re going to lose some games, but you’ve got to come together as a team. If you want to go where we say we want to go, and that was New Orleans (for the Super Bowl), we have to pull together, you’ve got to put everything else behind you. You’ve got to get through it; we had injuries, we’ve got to get everybody back, and I think the loss to Houston, the three or four losses, you know, the streak we went on to (end the regular season). Like I’ve told so many people, some of our players, everyone, it wasn’t just getting to the Super Bowl, (it is) winning it.”


(on the way coach John Harbaugh handled comments from players) “I think that tells you a lot about Coach Harbaugh, you know, to stand there in front of 60-plus guys and listen to things and what we had to say. That wouldn’t have happened in a lot of other organizations, so for Coach Harbaugh to stand there and do that, it just said a lot about his character, and like I continue to say, it was a humbling experience for all of us. We all were humbled, and sometimes it takes you to be knocked down to be in the position that we’re in right now, and we got knocked down, but we came together and we’re sitting here today.”


(on how special it is for receiver Jacoby Jones to play in his hometown of New Orleans and if he had some of the food cooked by Jones’ mother) “That’s the first thing, you know, we’re blessed to have this experience, and to be in the hometown of one of our players, you know, ‘Momma Jones’ has been great, you know, she hooked us up, and that just tells you the love that she has for players, for her son. The food was amazing.”


(on trying to make this week as normal as any during the regular season) “It’s a good problem to have. You look at so many teams that would love to be where we’re at. It’s just going to be a blessing, and if we have to deal with this every year, I’m OK with that. This has been an experience for all of us. It really is, and we’re blessed to play in a Super Bowl game, but we have to, we can’t lose sight of (our goals from) just being here. We have to prepare, as far as practice. Our practice has to be great, and we have to get ready to win a game on Sunday. We can’t just be excited for being here.”


(on overcoming adversity) “It’s been crazy. It honestly has. It’s been crazy, battling injury, battling you know, individual problems, and I think we all had to eat some humble pie, and we ate it. It sucked, but we ate it, and that kind of put everything back into perspective for us all as a team, and we’re sitting here now.”

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Brady standing in way of Ravens’ redemption run to Super Bowl

Posted on 16 January 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens have made no secret about their satisfaction in seeing the New England Patriots once again on the same stage in which they fell painfully short last January.

With few believing they could reach their second straight AFC Championship game after being left for dead just a few weeks ago, the Ravens are embracing the opportunity but also know the truth about Sunday’s game in Foxborough. The game they’ve worked toward over the last 12 months only has one acceptable outcome in their eyes.

“Nothing matters unless we’re going to win in New England this weekend,” linebacker Ray Lewis said. “Then we’re back to the same position we were in last year.”

As compelling as their run has been to watch, the same man is once again standing in the way of their first Super Bowl appearance since the 2000 season. While the Ravens were finally able to topple Peyton Manning, future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady has goals of his own, mainly atoning for last year’s Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants. The most successful quarterback of this generation, the 35-year-old hasn’t won a championship since the 2004 season and has twice fallen in the Super Bowl since then.

Leading the top-ranked offense in the NFL in yards and points scored, Brady will try to do what Manning couldn’t do in Denver last Saturday. And the Baltimore defense will try to pick up where it left off in the divisional round when it held Denver’s explosive offense to just seven points in the second half after the Broncos returned a kickoff for a touchdown to begin the third quarter.

Even with every reason to be confident, the Ravens know that Brady will be waiting and ready after the Patriots scored 41 points against a tough Houston defense last week.

“He is a smart guy. We all know that is the reason he is probably a Hall of Fame quarterback,” cornerback Corey Graham said. “He is smart with the ball. He makes great decisions. He looks for matchups, and we have to just go out there and make plays.”

The Ravens’ multiple-look defense has given Brady difficulty over the years compared to most units as the Patriots were held to just 23 points in last year’s AFC Championship. The New England offense fared better in the Ravens’ 31-30 win in Week 3, but Brady acknowledges how difficult it is to play against a unit led by Lewis and free safety Ed Reed. In five career regular-season games against the Ravens, Brady has thrown five touchdowns and three interceptions and has posted an 83.3 passer rating, a modest mark for such a decorated quarterback. He has posted worse ratings against only four other teams over the course of his 13-year career.

His playoff loss to the Ravens on Jan. 10, 2010 was the worst performance of his postseason career as he threw three interceptions and lost a fumble in the 33-14 final.

Of course, the Baltimore defense hasn’t been the dominating unit this year that it was for more than a decade, but the Ravens were able to create pressure and force Manning into mistakes in the second half as the Denver quarterback turned the ball over three times in defeat. Instead of their simple “bend, but don’t break” performance, the defense made countless big plays in the second half to keep Joe Flacco and the Baltimore offense within striking distance.

“It’s not like you beat this team 50-0,” Brady said at a press conference on Wednesday. “It’s always a tight game, there’s tight coverage, there’s tight throws, there’s tough reads, because schematically they do quite a few things.”

The discussion last week centered around the countless chess matches between Lewis and Manning, but the Ravens’ battles against Brady have been just as compelling. New England won’t hesitate to use the no-huddle offense and quick snaps on occasion to catch the Ravens on their heels, especially after Baltimore played a total of 174 plays and 77:38 on defense over the last two weeks.

The Ravens take pride in disguising their schemes and changing up coverages, the latest example coming on Denver’s final offensive play when cornerback Corey Graham and Lewis flipped coverage on wide receiver Brandon Stokley and baited Manning into throwing a critical interception. However, New England will try to use similar tactics in hopes of creating a mismatch with its wide array of offensive weapons.

“They switch it up. When they make plays, they hurry up to the line, and they speed the game up on guys,” Graham said. “If you’re not ready, if you’re not prepared for it, it will catch you off guard. They have been catching a lot of guys off guard, a lot of guys not set up and prepared for the play.”

Even when the correct matchups are identified, defensive backs and linebackers must play disciplined as Brady will try to look off receivers and make defenders pay for the softer coverage they typically employ to prevent the big play. The Patriots also won’t hesitate to go against the grain such as when they sent backup Shane Vereen deep on a 33-yard touchdown out of the backfield against the Texans.

The Ravens’ best chance in slowing Brady is to make him uncomfortable in the pocket like they did to Manning in the second half in Denver, but even then, the task in the secondary is daunting against the likes of Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez in the short-to-intermediate portion of the field — an area in which the pass defense has been vulnerable all year. In many cases, the ball simply comes out too quickly to get to the veteran signal-caller when he employs three-step drops.

“We have to have great eyes. We can’t stare him down in the secondary,” safety Bernard Pollard said. “We have to be on our men. They have great receivers and running backs. We have to go out there and play our game.”

Unlike past seasons when playing the Patriots, the Ravens must also account for the New England running game as starter Stevan Ridley rushed for 1,263 yards this season. The offense is one-dimensional as it’s been in the past when you could simply count on Brady to throw it 50 times with an ineffective rush offense behind him.

The Ravens were clearly content in keeping plays in front of them against the Broncos, evident by using Reed and Pollard in two-deep coverage for much of the game, but it will be interesting to see what defensive coordinator Dean Pees dials up against New England. Brady attempted only 19 passes that traveled more than 30 yards in the air all season and lacks the deep threats that the Broncos possessed in both Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, but the Patriots are never afraid to change things up.

Baltimore is in store for another chess match, again playing one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game. And while the Ravens have been described as a team on a mission, there’s no arguing that the Patriots are motivated to not only get back to the Super Bowl but to finish the job after last year’s narrow loss.

Even though the Ravens beat the Patriots in the postseason three years ago and were one end-zone catch away from doing it again last season, they also know Brady is 5-1 in conference title games. As was the case last week, it won’t be easy to survive and advance for the underdog Ravens.

“That does not scare us,” Pollard said. “We’re going to go out, and we want to outhit you and outplay you and we want to go to the Super Bowl.”

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Why will this one be any different for Ravens against red-hot Denver?

Posted on 08 January 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens have heard the doubts since the first hours following their wild-card playoff win over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night.

The Broncos demolished them in a 34-17 final at M&T Bank Stadium less than four weeks ago, the worst home loss of the John Harbaugh era. The score really wasn’t even that close as Denver seemingly took its foot off the gas pedal after building a 31-3 lead midway through the third quarter.

Denver has a league-best 11-game winning streak and hasn’t lost a game since the Orioles were still playing postseason baseball in early October. Baltimore has been installed as a nine-point underdog by oddsmakers in Las Vegas.

How can the Ravens possibly expect a different result this time around as they travel to Sports Authority Field at Mile High on a short week to take on the mighty Broncos coming off a bye week?

The image of quarterback Joe Flacco throwing an interception returned 98 yards for a touchdown by cornerback Chris Harris right before halftime is just too much to shake, isn’t it?

“It doesn’t surprise me that nobody would really give us too much of a shot,” Flacco said. “They beat us up pretty good a couple weeks ago. I think you always have that little chip that you want to go out there and prove to people that you’re a good football team.”

The Ravens believe they are a better football team now than the one on display that day at M&T Bank Stadium as they were only six days removed from firing offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and promoting quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell. Five key starters were missing from the lineup due to injury. And what could have been a one-possession game going into halftime — with the Ravens set to receive the opening kickoff of the second half — was dramatically transformed into a 17-0 deficit that broke the spirit of what was an inspired defensive effort against Peyton Manning in the first half.

So, as the rest of the country focuses on the deficiencies that were on full display in that embarrassing loss, the Ravens instead look ahead at Saturday’s opportunity while acknowledging how one play can dramatically change the tone — and outcome — of a football game.

“Everybody has an opinion. Whatever that opinion is, let them have it,” said linebacker Ray Lewis, who reminded reporters that the 2000 Ravens were underdogs through much of their run to Super Bowl XXXV. “One thing about it, the game has to be played. No matter what anybody says or who they feel is going to win, you have to play the game on [Saturday]. That’s the way we feel — let the game play out. Because at the end of the day, some people are going to be right and some people are going to be wrong.”

There’s no way to sugarcoat that the Ravens are the clear underdog in this one as the Broncos have dominated on both sides of the ball — ranked fourth in total offense and second in total defense during the regular season — over the last three months to enter the postseason as the AFC’s No. 1 seed. The Denver defense is led by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, who formed the best pass-rushing duo in the league with a combined 29 1/2 sacks this season. The Broncos battered Flacco to the tune of three sacks and nine quarterback hits in that first meeting.

Manning has played at an MVP-caliber level in throwing for 4,695 yards and 37 touchdowns this season, and wide receiver Eric Decker torched the Ravens with 133 receiving yards in that Week 15 win. The Ravens haven’t beaten a Manning-led team in 11 years as the future Hall of Fame quarterback has gotten the best of them over and over.

But a Baltimore defense without Lewis, Dannell Ellerbe, and Bernard Pollard held the Broncos to 10 points in the first 29 minutes of play on Dec. 16, three coming after a Flacco fumble on the Ravens’ first drive to set up Denver at midfield. It was only after the backbreaking interception on a quick out intended for Anquan Boldin that an undermanned defense completely wilted in the second half.

Flacco and the rest of the offense know they must perform at a much higher level to give the Ravens any chance to pull off the upset in Denver. In Caldwell’s debut as offensive coordinator, Baltimore had a fumble, five three-and-outs, and an interception over its first seven drives.

Recently, the starting offense has looked much better in scoring 57 points in games against New York and Indianapolis that sandwiched the regular-season finale in Cincinnati that was a glorified preseason game. The Ravens also may have finally settled on their best offensive line this past Sunday with veteran Bryant McKinnie finally being inserted at left tackle with Michael Oher moving to the right side and rookie Kelechi Osemele shifting inside to left guard.


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Pollard, Boldin practice as Ravens prepare for regular-season finale

Posted on 26 December 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens began preparations for their regular-season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals with an improved attendance sheet for Wednesday’s practice.

Safety Bernard Pollard (ribs) and wide receiver Anquan Boldin were present and working during the portion of practice open to media. Boldin bruised his shoulder in the Ravens’ 33-14 win over the New York Giants this past Sunday while Pollard had been sidelined since re-injuring his ribs against the Washington Redskins on Dec. 9.

“Bernard went through the full practice, so he was a full participant in practice,” coach John Harbaugh said. “That was great to see. Obviously, going forward, he’s a big, big part of what we’re doing [and] a big part of our defense.”

Wide receiver Tandon Doss (ankle) and linebacker Albert McClellan also returned to the practice field after both missed Sunday’s game against the Giants. Both players were designated as limited participants.

The only players not practicing for the Ravens were right guard Marshal Yanda (ankle) and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who were both absent during the first 25 minutes of practice when media were able to watch. Yanda returned to action against the Giants after missing the Ravens’ Week 15 game against Denver due to a sprained ankle.

Ngata hadn’t been listed on the injury report since Week 12 when the Ravens traveled to San Diego. The Pro Bowl defensive lineman has dealt with knee and shoulder injuries for most of the season.

In his first practice since being placed back on the 53-man roster, linebacker Ray Lewis was listed as a full participant. He wasn’t required to be included in the injury report prior to Wednesday’s roster move.

Meanwhile, the Bengals are dealing with a banged-up secondary as cornerbacks Terence Newman, Adam Jones, and Jason Allen as well as safety Reggie Nelson all practiced on a limited basis.

DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DT Haloti Ngata (knee), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder/knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Anquan Boldin (shoulder), WR Tandon Doss (ankle), DE Arthur Jones (thigh), FB Vonta Leach (ankle), LB Albert McClellan (shoulder/thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Dannell Ellerbe (ankle), WR Jacoby Jones (ankle), LB Ray Lewis (triceps), DE Pernell McPhee (thigh), TE Dennis Pitta (knee), S Bernard Pollard (chest), S Ed Reed (shoulder), CB Jimmy Smith (abdomen), LB Terrell Suggs (biceps)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Jason Allen (hamstring), CB Adam Jones (hamstring), S Reggie Nelson (shoulder), CB Terence Newman (hamstring)
FULL PARTICIPATION: K Mike Nugent (right calf)

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Ravens-Giants: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 23 December 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens hope to bring an early Christmas present to Baltimore this year by way of their second straight AFC North championship with a win over the New York Giants on Sunday afternoon.

Of course, they’ve faced scenarios in each of the last three weeks in which they could have locked up a division title, but they’ve been unable to do it as they’ve lost three in a row and now face the prospects of likely needing to win one of their final two games to clinch. Otherwise, their once-excellent position with a 9-2 record could morph into settling for a wild card and a road playoff game in the first round of the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the 8-6 Giants need to win each of their last two games to give themselves an opportunity to defend their Super Bowl title in the postseason. New York has lost four of its last six and is a week removed from a 34-0 defeat in Atlanta, the first shutout suffered by the Giants since 1996.

After practicing on a limited basis on Thursday and Friday, right guard Marshal Yanda is active and will return to action after missing last week’s game against the Broncos. The Ravens must feel confident in his ability to hold up with the ankle as Bobbie Williams and Ramon Harewood are both inactive against the Giants.

Though we learned Saturday that linebacker Ray Lewis is not expected to return before the start of the playoffs, the Ravens will welcome the return of inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe after a three-game absence due to an ankle injury. However, linebacker Albert McClellan is listed as inactive after dealing with a hamstring injury he suffered against Denver.

Wide receiver Torrey Smith and running back Bernard Pierce are both active and obviously passed their baseline neurological tests to clear them for contact. There’s no reason to expect either player to be limited after sustaining concussions in Week 15.

As expected, strong safety Bernard Pollard will miss his second straight game as he continues to deal with a rib injury that was aggravated in the Ravens’ loss to Washington in Week 14.

Rookie outside linebacker Adrian Hamilton is active a day after being promoted to the 53-man roster to take injured linebacker Jameel McClain’s spot.

The Giants will be without standout defensive end Justin Tuck, who is inactive with a shoulder injury. Starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw is active and will play, however.

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

Baltimore leads the regular-season series, 2-1, and won the only postseason meeting between the teams, a 34-7 final in Super Bowl XXXV on Jan. 28, 2001.

The Ravens will wear their black jerseys and black pants while the Giants wear their white tops with gray pants.

Here are Sunday’s inactives …

WR Tandon Doss
S Bernard Pollard
LB Albert McClellan
G Bobbie Williams
OL Ramon Harewood
WR Deonte Thompson
DL Bryan Hall

DE Justin Tuck
WR Ramses Barden
S Kenny Phillips
S Tyler Sash
DE Adewale Ojomo
TE Travis Beckum
TE Adrien Robinson

Follow WNST on Twitter throughout the day as Drew Forrester, Nestor Aparicio, and I bring live updates and analysis from M&T Bank Stadium throughout the day.

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Pollard doubtful; Yanda, Ellerbe, T. Smith questionable for Giants game

Posted on 21 December 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It’s appearing more likely the Ravens will be without strong safety Bernard Pollard for a second straight game after he missed his third practice of the week on Friday.

Pollard was listed as doubtful on the final injury report of the week. He aggravated a chest injury in the Ravens’ 31-28 overtime loss to the Washington Redskins two weeks ago and hasn’t practiced since then. The seventh-year defensive back originally suffered a rib injury against Philadelphia and has managed the injury through most of the season.

The Ravens ruled seven players questionable against the New York Giants, including guard Marshal Yanda, wide receivers Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss, linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Albert McClellan, fullback Vonta Leach, and running back Vonta Leach.

Yanda (ankle) was practicing once again on Friday, improving his chances to play against the Giants after he sat out last week’s game with a sprained ankle. Smith also practiced on a limited basis for the second straight day but hadn’t been cleared for contact as of Friday afternoon because he hadn’t taken his baseline neurological test. However, two days of limited practice are a good indication the team is confident that he will be cleared.

Coach John Harbaugh said he was “encouraged” by their progress but gave no indication how good he felt over their chances of playing against New York prior to Friday’s injury report being released.

Doss (ankle) and Pierce (concussion) were missing from practice for the third straight day, making it likely they will each miss Sunday’s game against the New York Giants. Both players watched practice on Thursday but were not on the field during the portion of practice open for media viewing on Friday. Along with Smith, Pierce hadn’t taken his baseline test as of Friday afternoon.

On a more encouraging note, tight end Ed Dickson was listed as probable and appears poised to make his return to action after missing the last three games with a hyperextended knee. He was a full participant during Friday’s practice.

Leach also returned to the practice field on a limited basis after sitting out Thursday with a sore ankle.

Ellerbe declared himself a game-time decision after practicing on a limited basis all week. He has missed the Ravens’ last three games after suffering the ankle injury against the San Diego Chargers on Nov. 25.

“I feel like my ankle’s getting better,” said Ellerbe, who admitted he’s still not 100 percent. “I’m hopeful, I’ve got faith that I’ll be healed enough to play and help out the team. I’ve been able to test it a little bit more, but I still have to be smart with it.”

Linebackers Ray Lewis (triceps) and Terrell Suggs (biceps) were also present and working during Friday’s practice. The Ravens aren’t required to list Lewis on the injury report since he is not on the 53-man roster, but they must activate him by 4 p.m. on Saturday for him to be eligible to make his return against the Giants. Linebacker Jameel McClain (spinal cord contusion) has yet to be placed on season-ending injured reserve as it appears the Ravens are holding that roster spot for Lewis’ potential activation.

“Coming along, coming along,” Harbaugh said. “Yes, he is coming along.”

If they decide not to activate the 37-year-old for Sunday’s game against the Giants, the Ravens would likely promote rookie linebacker Nigel Carr from the practice squad to the 53-man roster.

Suggs was listed as probable on the final injury report.

Meanwhile, the Giants listed center David Baas, running back Ahmad Bradshaw, guard Chris Snee, and defensive end Justin Tuck as questionable.

Tuck was the only New York player not to participate in Friday’s practice.

OUT: LB Jameel McClain (neck)
DOUBTFUL: S Bernard Pollard (chest)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Tandon Doss (ankle), LB Dannell Ellerbe (ankle), FB Vonta Leach (ankle), LB Albert McClellan (thigh/shoulder), RB Bernard Pierce (head), WR Torrey Smith (head), G Marshal Yanda (ankle)
PROBABLE: TE Ed Dickson (knee), S James Ihedigbo (neck), DT Arthur Jones (shoulder), DE Pernell McPhee (thigh), S Ed Reed (shoulder), CB Jimmy Smith (abdomen), LB Terrell Suggs (biceps), WR Deonte Thompson (thigh), WR LaQuan Williams (thigh)

QUESTIONABLE: C David Baas (hip/shoulder), TE Travis Beckum (knee), RB Ahmad Bradshaw (knee/foot), S Kenny Phillips (knee), S Tyler Sash (hamstring), G Chris Snee (hip), DE Justin Tuck (shoulder)
PROBABLE: CB Prince Amukamara (hamstring), DT Chris Canty (neck), WR Hakeem Nicks (knee), WR Rueben Randle (back)

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Yanda, T. Smith return to practice on limited basis Thursday

Posted on 20 December 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Desperately trying to get healthier for Sunday’s meeting against the New York Giants, the Ravens saw the return of right guard Marshal Yanda and wide receiver Torrey Smith to Thursday’s practice.

Both worked on a limited basis after neither worked on Wednesday. Yanda was practicing for the first time since suffering a sprained ankle in the 31-28 overtime loss to the Washington Redskins on Dec. 9. Smith sustained a concussion in Sunday’s loss to Denver, but he hadn’t been cleared for contact as of the end of Thursday’s practice.

While it’s no guarantee given the severity of the ankle sprain, Yanda returning to practice this early in the week has to be considered a very good sign in predicting his availability for Sunday’s game when you consider his past injury history and reputation for having a high threshold for pain.

Yanda declined to talk about his ankle but said he “did OK” during Thursday’s workout.

Safety Bernard Pollard (chest), wide receiver Tandon Doss (ankle), running back Bernard Pierce (concussion), and linebacker Jameel McClain (neck) weren’t practicing. McClain hasn’t been placed on injured reserve yet, but his season is over, according to head coach John Harbaugh. Doss and Pierce were present at practice but did not appear to be participating during the opening portion.

The starting strong safety remains a major question mark as he continues to deal with a rib injury that was re-aggravated against the Washington Redskins in Week 14.

Fullback Vonta Leach did not participate after he practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday. He has been dealing with an ankle injury that forced him to miss two days of practice last week before he played against the Broncos. He told reporters following Thursday’s practice that he will be ready to go on Sunday.

“I’ll be able to go Sunday,” Leach said. “That’s not a question.”

Tight end Ed Dickson (knee), linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (ankle), safety James Ihedigbo (neck), defensive lineman Arthur Jones (shoulder), and linebacker Albert McClellan (shoulder/thigh) were all working as limited participants for a second straight day.

Linebackers Terrell Suggs (biceps) and Ray Lewis (triceps) were both present and working after neither player was listed on Wednesday’s injury report. Lewis isn’t required to be included since he isn’t currently part of the 53-man roster while Suggs was added as a full participant on Thursday. His Wednesday exclusion was a peculiar occurrence after the Ravens were fined $20,000 earlier this season for not including Ed Reed on the injury report.

For New York, wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (knee) returned to practice on a limited basis while four other starters missed practice for a second straight day.

DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Tandon Doss (ankle), LB Jameel McClain (neck), RB Bernard Pierce (head), S Bernard Pollard (chest), FB Vonta Leach (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Torrey Smith (head), G Marshal Yanda (ankle), TE Ed Dickson (knee), LB Dannell Ellerbe (ankle), S James Ihedigbo (neck), DT Arthur Jones (shoulder), LB Albert McClellan (thigh/shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: DE Pernell McPhee (thigh), S Ed Reed (shoulder), CB Jimmy Smith (abdomen), WR Deonte Thompson (thigh), WR LaQuan Williams (thigh), LB Terrell Suggs (biceps)

DID NOT PARTICIPATE: C David Baas (hip/shoulder), RB Ahmad Bradshaw (knee/foot), G Chris Snee (hip), DE Justin Tuck (shoulder)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Hakeem Nicks (knee), CB Prince Amukamara (hamstring), S Kenny Phillips (knee), S Tyler Sash (hamstring)

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