Tag Archive | "Bernard Pollard"

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Patriots

Posted on 22 January 2013 by Glenn Clark

Following every Baltimore Ravens game this season, Ryan Chell and I will take to the airwaves Tuesdays on “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net with a segment known as “The Five Plays That Determined The Game.”

It’s a simple concept. We’ll select five plays from each game that determined the outcome. These five plays will best represent why the Ravens won or lost each game.

This will be our final analysis of the previous game before switching gears towards the next game on the schedule.

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 28-13 win over the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in the AFC Championship Game…

(Note: not all pictures are always of actual play)

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Nate Solder called for holding, negating Danny Woodhead 4 yard run on 3rd & 2 (3rd quarter)

4. Stephen Gostkowski 25 yard field goal after Patriots called third timeout (2nd quarter)

3. Tom Brady pass intended for Wes Welker incomplete on 3rd & 8 from Baltimore 34 (3rd quarter)

2. Dannell Ellerbe intercepts Tom Brady pass intended for Aaron Hernandez, tipped by Pernell McPhee (4th quarter)

1. Arthur Jones recovers Stevan Ridley fumble forced by Bernard Pollard (4th quarter)

(Ryan’s Plays on Page 2…)

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Our Ravens/Patriots “Pats on the Ass”

Posted on 20 January 2013 by Glenn Clark

After every Baltimore Ravens victory, Ryan Chell and I take to the airwaves on “The Nasty Purple Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net to offer “Pats on the Ass” to players who have done something to deserve the honor.

We give pats to two defensive players, two offensive players and one “Wild Card”-either another offensive or defensive player, a Special Teams player or a coach. We offer a “Pat on Both Cheeks” to someone who stands out, our version of a “Player of the Game.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches each.

Here are our “Pats on the Ass” following the Ravens’ 28-13 win over the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in the AFC Championship Game to clinch a trip to Super Bowl XLVII…

Glenn Clark’s Pats…

5. Jim Caldwell

4. Pernell McPhee

3. Marshal Yanda

2. Bernard Pollard

1. Joe Flacco (Pat on Both Cheeks)

(Ryan’s Pats on Page 2…)

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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.

BALTIMORE
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)

CINCINNATI
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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Your Monday Reality Check: Ravens should absolutely play to win in Cincinnati

Posted on 24 December 2012 by Glenn Clark

I’m amazed by how many people I had to explain it to Sunday night. I honestly had to give up after a little while.

The stupidity of the statement “I’d rather the Baltimore Ravens be the four seed because the path looks easier to me” is unbelievable.

I was impressed by a number of things I saw from the Baltimore Ravens Sunday (weren’t we all?), but one that probably went unnoticed by many was how head coach John Harbaugh addressed the question of how the team would handle next week’s game.

“The thing we’re going to do for sure is we’re going to try to win the game” Harbaugh explained. “We’re also going to try to make sure we’re as healthy as we can be going into the playoffs so I think we’ll merge those two considerations.”

Bingo. The Baltimore Ravens absolutely MUST try to win their Week 17 date with the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.

By virtue of their 33-14 win over the New York Giants Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens clinched the AFC North title and a home playoff game. They are guaranteed to play on Wild Card weekend of the NFL Playoffs, but they are not yet locked into the four seed. The Ravens could still clinch the three seed in the AFC Playoffs with a win over the Bengals and a New England Patriots loss to the Miami Dolphins.

The difference in the third seed and fourth seed isn’t necessarily significant, but it has the potential to be. Getting the third seed could be the difference in whether the Ravens are able to host the AFC Championship Game.

It seems like an unlikely scenario, but it’s not impossible. Should the Ravens and Patriots end up as the third and fourth seeds but each win their first two playoff games, they would meet in the AFC title game. If the Pats are the three seed and the Ravens the four, the Pats would host the game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. I vaguely remember such a game happening there before.

But if the Ravens were to finish as the three seed and the Patriots the fourth seed, the game would then be played in the friendly confines of M&T Bank Stadium, the place where the Baltimore Ravens have won 15 of their last 17 games (including playoffs).

Which scenario would you prefer?

I got this question Sunday night. “This seems so unlikely. When was the last time something like this even happened?”

The person who asked was right. It IS an unlikely scenario. But if the Ravens are to return to the AFC Championship Game at all, they will HAVE to knock off one of the top two seeds. The Pats would then only need to win a game either in Houston or Denver, neither of which seems like an impossible scenario.

And if you’ll allow your memory to serve you right, you’ll be reminded that the Ravens were a second half collapse away from having this scenario play out in January 2011. The New York Jets stunned the Patriots in Foxborough, so had the Ravens avoided blowing a fourteen point halftime lead to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field, they would have hosted the AFC Championship Game as a five seed.

Some people argued to me “Glenn, I think the road is easier as a four seed because I’d rather play Indianapolis and Houston than Cincinnati and Denver.”

I have absolutely no idea why there is a sudden fear of the Cincinnati Bengals amongst Ravens fans. The difference between the Bengals and Colts is minimal at best. Bengals QB Andy Dalton has thrown for three touchdowns and five interceptions over the course of the last three weeks, is 0-3 in his career against the Ravens and thus far in his NFL career has not defeated a team that has clinched a postseason berth (although that could change next week if the Washington Redskins or New York Giants get in).

The Houston argument is more compelling. Despite the fact that the Ravens suffered a 43-13 shellacking earlier this season in Houston, it’s easy to understand why fans would believe that task more likely to be accomplished than a Ravens win in Denver. What’s forgotten in this scenario is that the Texans have not yet clinched the top seed in the AFC. They will need to do something they’ve never done in franchise history-win in Indianapolis-next Sunday in order to nail down the top spot, and RB Arian Foster’s availability could be an issue after he left Sunday’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings with an irregular heartbeat.

Should the Texans lose (as well as the Patriots) and the Broncos win, the Broncos would be the one seed and the Texans would be the two seed. Which scenario is better for the Ravens at that point?

The NFL did the Ravens no favors in scheduling, as their tilt with the Bengals will kick off at 1pm Sunday, while the Patriots won’t kick off until some three hours later. The Ravens will not have the benefit of knowing what the Patriots are doing to decide if there’s a point where they want to pull their starters.

Instead, they’ll simply have to channel former NFL coach Herm Edwards and “play to win the game.”

That doesn’t mean they should go crazy.

The Ravens are smart enough to know that the Patriots are unlikely to lose to the Dolphins and will most likely open the postseason by hosting the Colts in a playoff game for the second time in franchise history. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try.

As Harbaugh said, merging the two considerations is very plausible.

It would make total sense for the Ravens to consider giving oft-injured DT Haloti Ngata another week off (he rested for the team’s blowout win over the Oakland Raiders in November) and even LB Terrell Suggs (who has played the last two weeks after suffering a torn biceps tendon) the day off. Harbaugh also confirmed LB Ray Lewis wouldn’t be a consideration to return from Injured Reserve until the postseason. It wouldn’t be stunning to see S Bernard Pollard miss a third straight game either, and if WR Anquan Boldin’s shoulder is of significant concern it would be understandable to see him miss the finale as well.

But there is absolutely no reason for the Ravens to spend Sunday’s game with Tyrod Taylor handing the ball off to Anthony Allen all afternoon while Joe Flacco and Ray Rice watch in sweats. It’s one thing to be prudent. It’s quite another to just plain give up.

With something to play for still, there’s no reason the Ravens should do the latter. Judging by John Harbaugh’s comments, I’ll assume they won’t.

-G

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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 …

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

NEW YORK
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.

BALTIMORE
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)

NEW YORK
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.

BALTIMORE
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)

NEW YORK
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)
FULL PARTICIPATION: DT Chris Canty (neck)

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Ravens would be wise to stop focusing on big picture for now

Posted on 19 December 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens know they’re struggling at the wrong time of the season.

A three-game losing streak, an ever-growing list of injuries, and problems on both sides of the ball have caused the karma of a 9-2 start to disintegrate into a growing sense that they’re backing into the playoffs with two difficult games remaining and a 9-5 record. A change at the offensive coordinator position has created an even greater perception that the Ravens are a team in disarray.

But coach John Harbaugh’s message has been consistent over the last few weeks. And the words focusing on the big picture have been echoed throughout the Baltimore locker room.

“We’re going to do everything we can do and fight like crazy to become the team that we’re capable of becoming,” coach John Harbaugh said. “And we’re not that team yet. It’s a long season, but all of our goals and all of our dreams are squarely in front of us. And that’s what we’re shooting for.”

Even with the troubles surrounding the Ravens, the head coach is right. Contrary to the beliefs of many fans and media alike, Baltimore’s season isn’t over nor beyond repair. The Packers of 2010 and last year’s Giants are prime examples of that, even if the Ravens aren’t destined for the same championship track when 2012 is all said and done.

However, the focus cannot be on the accomplishment of making the playoffs for the fifth straight year or looking ahead to building on last season’s disappointment in Foxborough. Complacency can be a dangerous trap for a team that’s been so close to their ultimate goal of the Super Bowl in two of the last four seasons. To simply dwell on what could still happen in January while struggles in December are apparent comes across as dismissive or even cavalier if you discuss those goals too much.

Cautious optimism that injured players might return is acceptable, but viewing the return of Ray Lewis as the ultimate fix or holding optimism that Terrell Suggs can put forth a superman-like performance with a torn biceps doesn’t help the rest of the players on the roster. It only deflects the current problems and how to remedy them.

The Ravens also shouldn’t dwell on their poor play over the last three weeks. It’s true they fumbled the possibility of securing a first-round bye, but a division title and the ever-important home playoff game are only one victory away.

“There’s not really much you can do about the past,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “You have to just live in the present and move forward, and I think that’s what we’re trying to do.”

The present is Sunday’s meeting with the New York Giants, a team in worse position than the Ravens after losing four of their last six games to put their playoff hopes in serious jeopardy. For Baltimore, any discussions of the postseason or potentially resting starters in Week 17 or hoping to get injured starters back cloud what’s important for a team that should only be worrying about the now.

It’s about tabling the big picture and their biggest goals and dwelling on the simple task of winning one football game. Perhaps it’s channeling former head coach Brian Billick’s ban on using the word “playoffs” in the Ravens’ Super Bowl XXXV season or even borrowing a page from the 2012 Orioles after manager Buck Showalter trained his players to compartmentalize each game and series while the outside world wondered if they’d make their first trip to the playoffs in 15 years.

Injured safety Bernard Pollard didn’t seem interested in discussing the big picture or the Ravens’ ultimate goals before Wednesday’s practice. In his second year in Baltimore, Pollard has never been afraid to tell it like it is and his comments suggested the Ravens might be a little too comfortable with their current position.

“Everybody’s talking about [how] we’re in the playoffs,” Pollard said. “Who cares? The way we’ve played, who cares about the playoffs. With the way we’ve played, that’s going to carry over into the playoffs. And we don’t want that to happen. We have to come together.”

Even if the Giants are faced with a slimmer margin for error, the Ravens have to recapture that mentality where they feel as though there isn’t a next week or a second chance.

With so many factors working against them in recent weeks, they’d be well served in simplifying their approach by blocking out the past and the future. If not, the supremely-talented but inconsistent Giants will be ready to serve up the type of experience the Denver Broncos provided last week in embarrassing the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.

“If you think that team is going to come in and lay an egg, we have our hands full,” running back Ray Rice said. “This team won the Super Bowl last year. They have a lot at stake.”

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