Tag Archive | "brandon marshall"

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Blog & Tackle: Tweeting the Ravens in 140 characters

Posted on 01 August 2009 by Chris Pika

The newest way to follow the Ravens at camp is through Twitter (including WNST’s own coverage). A few national media have been through in the first two days of camp, so this is how they tweeted the Ravens in 140 characters or less (including info on Derrick Mason’s unretirement on Saturday afternoon).

If you know about Twitter, follow the station at www.twitter.com/WNST and you can also follow Blog & Tackle at www.twitter.com/BlogAndTackle.

With that, here are the 140-character tweets over the last two days:

www.twitter.com/YahooSportsNFL (Yahoo’s Charles Robinson):

Shocked to hear Ed Reed say he almost retired before last two seasons because of nerve damage issues. Watch him while you still can, folks. … Ravens LB Ray Lewis is down 15-20 pounds from last season. Lighter and faster, but you wonder if it’s going to diminish some of the wallop. … Thoughts after the first Ravens practice: First and foremost, tackle-needy teams are going to regret passing on Michael Oher. Very skilled. … As usual, the Ravens D is way ahead of the O early in camp. Secondary looks sharp. Passing offense misses Derrick Mason right now. … Ray Rice looks like he’ll be the lead guy in the backfield. Players say he’s reading holes faster and using more wiggle on second level. … Ravens still have a committee backfield, so Ray Rice likely won’t be seeing 20 carries regularly unless he’s hot. … Word is Willis McGahee has done a 180 mentally. Showed up with a very positive attitude, working hard, seems to truly be enjoying himself. … Ray Lewis looks trimmer, but players think the 15-20 pound loss is exaggerating. Guys say more like 8-10, but that he is definitely faster. … Hard to say yet how loss of Rex Ryan and Bart Scott will impact the D. May be seen in play-calling more than anything else. … The feeling on Derrick Mason seems to be that it’s not done yet. But it varies. Some are extremely optimistic of a return. Some not. … More about Derrick Mason…prevailing feeling among players seems to be that it’s not money. Staff front office seems to think it is money. .. Brandon Marshall absolutely won’t be traded to Ravens. Extending Marshall would mean surrendering Haloti Ngata down the line. NOT happening.

www.twitter.com/Adam_Schefter (ESPN’s Adam Schefter)

Hunch is that, before regular season starts, Derrick Mason will be back playing receiver for Ravens. … Dont look for Ravens to make move on veteran WR anytime soon, if at all. Not their style. … Terrell Suggs T-shirt today: “You bet your sweet ass I hate Pittsburgh.” … Proof Ravens need receivers: only 9 on roster, and 5 are undrafted free agents. … Actually was meeting w/ John Harbaugh yesterday when he excused himself to talk to Mason. Harbaugh was gone 10 minutes. 10 productive mins. … In regards to $ questions on Mason – 0.00 percent chance Baltimore gave him any more money. Not happening.

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I still trust in Ozzie, but that trust is waning a little bit

Posted on 30 July 2009 by Marco Romanell

 For years every time Ozzie Newsome has made a decision that some fans questioned;Ozzie supporters uttered the statement “ in Ozzie we trust”. I can not knock Ozzie Newsome’s track record, but his lack of ability or desire to bring in a big time wide receiver has my trust waning just a little bit.

Coming into the off-season many fans believe that the Ravens were just one big time play-maker away from being a perennial Super Bowl contender for many years. Many fans were clamoring for the Ravens to address the wide receiver position via the draft or free agency and many “experts” predicted them to draft a receiver in the first round. Seven rounds and two days later the Ravens only drafted one pass catcher, Devon Drew a tight end, leaving many fans puzzled but other still uttering “ in Ozzie we trust”.

In his tenure with the Ravens Ozzie Newsome only drafted two receivers in the first round in Travis “ hands of stone” Taylor and Mark Clayton. Taylor is with a doubt a bust; however the verdict is still out on Clayton. I wanted the Ravens to bring in Hakeem Nicks but ultimately supported Ozzie in his decision. I even went as far as giving the Ravens draft a “B” grade.

I assumed that the Ravens were happy with their receiving corps which at that time consisted of Mason, Clayton, Williams and Smith. Two months later, Mason is taken out of that equation, leaving Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams as the team’s top two receivers; not exactly a tandem that strikes fear in opposing secondaries. While it is likely the Mason returns, the Ravens have replaced him by singing Drew Bennett( who then retired), Biren Ealy( 1 career catch) and Jayson Foster who stands at 5’8” and has no career NFL receptions. While these two are likely to end up on the practice squad, one injury to a player on the roster will lead to them getting called up. Are these the “weapons” Joe Flacco should have around him? I think not.

Now before I get criticized by potential readers, I want to make it known that I do understand football. I know you can win without play- makers and I know that Ravens have been successful with a run oriented offense. All that being said, I think the organization would have won at least one other Super Bowl had they brought in some offensive play-makers. Having a top 5 defense every year is fine, but having an offense that ranks in the bottom 10 of the league, makes it that much harder to win. The Ravens defense will still be good, but let’s face it, they are aging. It is time for the identity of this franchise to start moving towards the offensive side of the ball and that needs to start.

Last season, the Ravens and Steelers were virtual mirror images of each other, with both teams possessing talented, hard hitting defenses. Ultimately, the difference why the Steelers beat the Ravens three times was the ability of Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward to get open for Ben Roethlisberger, particularly when he was scrambling. Holmes then went on to win MVP of the Super Bowl showing how important he really was to his team.

Every time the name of a receiver like Randy Moss, Anquan Boldin or Brandon Marshall gets mentioned, people are quick to dismiss them by asking “ how many rings do they have?” Everyone who is an Ozzie supporter is quick to say that one player does not make the difference in winning a Super Bowl and I agree to an extent. However, the Giants and Steelers would not have won the last two Super Bowl’s without Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes.

One of the criticisms of bringing in a receiver like Marshall, Boldin or Buress is that they come with a lot of baggage. The Ravens are one of the class organizations in all of professional sports and do not like to deal with players that have a lot of “character” issues. I totally understand and support the stance of the front office on this subject, but outside of three receivers I just mentioned there are no other options out there. Biren Ealy, Jayson Foster and Kelly Washington may be better “character” guys but are they going to draw double teams and get open for Joe Flacco? I think not.

I am aware of the pros and cons of bringing in a talented but volatile receiver, but at this point I think it is worth a shot for the Ravens. The Ravens were five minutes from the Super Bowl last year but,Joe Flacco lacked the weapons to get the team over the hump. Even when Flacco got great protection in the AFC Championship game- which was often- aerial shots showed the receivers in ability to get open against what is at best a mediocre Steelers secondary. Add a Brandon Marshall, Plaxico Burress or Anquan Boldin and the pass game is not only helped but so is the run game because the Steelers have to fear the pass.

Football is a team sport, and I get that. Every one could spout off as many stats as they want and list as many teams as they want that have won a Super Bowl without a big time play maker ,but it won’t change my opinion. I hear people saying the offense will be fine and that Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams will step up, but what happens if they don’t?

Suddenly, you have a franchise quarterback with an aging tight end and two mediocre receivers to throw to. Having a great line and three good running backs is all well and good but if you can’t get teams to respect the pass then they will eat up your running game. Normally I give Ozzie Newsome the benefit of the doubt give his track record, but in this case he dropped the ball.

Fans can continue to look at things through purple colored glasses and cheer when Joe Flacco hits Biren Ealy with a long pass in training camp but this does not mean that things will be alright.

I still trust in Ozzie, but that trust is waning. I will have no problem eating crow if Clayton, Williams, Washington,Smith, Ealy and Foster prove me wrong, but I don’t think they will. When the Ravens take the field against the Patriots on October 4th and Randy Moss is having a monster game, just remember we could have brought in a receiver of his ability but chose not to.

So when you say “ man I wish we had a guy like that” just remember the events of this off-season and the team’s inability to bring in a play-maker.

Do you still trust in Ozzie? If you do, you are more optimistic then me; I just hope you have the last laugh.

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Training Camp Preview: Five Burning Questions

Posted on 26 July 2009 by Luke Jones

With the eve of training camp upon us, the Baltimore Ravens—and their fans—have extremely high expectations entering 2009 after coming ever so close to the Super Bowl last season, falling to the rival Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship.

As with any offseason, the Ravens have undergone a number of changes to the roster and coaching staff.  These changes leave behind questions that must be addressed if the Ravens are to build upon last season’s 11-5 record.

Here are five burning questions to ponder as rookies, quarterbacks, and select veterans report to McDaniel College on Monday with the rest of the roster arriving on Wednesday.

1.  Will Derrick Mason show up in Westminster?

It’s been almost two weeks since Mason announced his retirement, and the Ravens are still trying to figure it all out.  Most believe the “retirement” is driven by money, as Mason made it clear he was seeking a new deal earlier in the offseason.  His contract will expire following the season.

The tragic murder of former teammate Steve McNair has also impacted the 35-year-old receiver and further complicates what would otherwise be viewed as a disguised holdout.

Mason is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and may not have been physically ready for the start of training camp anyway.  He wore a red jersey (non-contact) throughout OTAs.  If he does change his mind about retirement, his delayed return could actually be a positive for the health of his shoulder.

If Mason follows through with the retirement, the Ravens will have a difficult time replacing the 80 catches and 1,037 yards he supplied to the passing game.  Mark Clayton would figure to step into Mason’s role as the primary possession receiver with Demetrius Williams stepping into the other starting spot.

To bolster the receiving group, the Ravens signed veteran Drew Bennett on Friday.  The 6-5 wideout will compete with second-year player Marcus Smith and Kelley Washington for the third and fourth spots.

Regardless of how the rest of the receivers play, the coaching staff will not rest easy unless Mason jogs onto the field at McDaniel.

2.  Who will be the successor to Matt Stover?

The Ravens enter uncharted waters this summer with the prospect of not knowing who their kicker will be in Week 1 for the first time in the history of the franchise.

Stover is undoubtedly one of the better kickers in the history of the NFL (462 career field goals), but his declining range and inability to get distance on his kickoffs forced the Ravens to look elsewhere this offseason.

The battle between last season’s kickoff specialist Steve Hauschka and rookie Graham Gano will be one of the most competitive—and important—of the summer.  Hauschka shows more consistency, but the organization loves Gano’s leg strength.  Gano, the 2008 Lou Groza Award winner in college football, made a 60-yard field goal during OTAs.

Ravens fans have been spoiled with the consistency of Stover over the last 13 seasons.  An ineffective kicker can quickly ruin a team’s season, so the organization could turn back to Stover if Hauschka and Gano can’t do the job.

3.  Can Tavares Gooden fill the shoes of former Pro Bowl linebacker Bart Scott?

With Scott now playing for Rex Ryan in New York, the Ravens turn to Gooden to take his spot next to Ray Lewis at inside linebacker.  The third-round pick from last season spent most of 2008 on injured reserve with a hip injury.

Gooden looked good in OTAs, showing great speed and strength and is excited to play next to fellow Hurricane and idol Lewis.  Lewis will count on Gooden to take on blockers with the same ability as Scott, allowing the 34-year-old linebacker to pursue the ball carrier without being blocked.

The biggest concern with Gooden is his health.  In addition to last season’s hip injury, he battled concussion and shoulder issues at the University of Miami.  If Gooden gets hurt, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison will look to Jameel McClain, veteran Brendon Ayanbadejo, or rookie Jason Phillips to fill the other inside linebacker spot.

4.  How will Willis McGahee respond to being demoted behind Ray Rice at the start of training camp?

McGahee has said all of the right things regarding the running back situation, but it will be interesting to see what kind of shape he’s in when reporting to camp this week.  After admitting he didn’t show up to training camp in optimum condition last season, McGahee battled knee, eye, and ankle injuries in his most disappointing season as a pro.

Despite the surprising story of Le’Ron McClain and the play of Rice in 2008, this offense would benefit immensely from a McGahee closely resembling the one that rushed for 1,207 yards in 2007.  Knowing he would likely be cut following another disappointing season, McGahee will need to show an urgency in playing for a job next season, whether it’s with Baltimore or another NFL team.

With the coaching staff insisting that McClain will primarily play fullback this season, the opportunities will be there for both Rice and McGahee to receive plenty of carries.

It’s no secret that the coaching staff would like to see Rice emerge as the every-down back, but McGahee’s combination of size and speed—when healthy—will make it impossible to keep him off the field.

5.  Will Joe Flacco take the next step after a successful rookie campaign?

Though everyone is focusing on the wide receiver position, the biggest factor in determining how far the Baltimore offense to go is Flacco.

The young quarterback surprised everyone after being thrown into the starting spot last season, leading the Ravens to their second conference championship appearance.

Despite getting off to a tough start,—one touchdown and seven interceptions in his first five games—Flacco rebounded to post an 80.3 quarterback rating.  In his final 11 games, Flacco threw for 13 touchdowns and only five interceptions as he became more comfortable in Cam Cameron’s offense.

With an entire offseason and training camp to prepare as the starting quarterback, Flacco should have the confidence to offset the adjustments opposing defenses will make in 2009.  With the coaching staff planning to use the tight ends more frequently in the passing game, Flacco will need to improve his ability to throw to the middle of the field.

There’s no question that the wide receiver position will affect Flacco’s development, but the young quarterback can also reciprocate in the development of young receivers such as Clayton and Smith.  Though many will continue to beg for a big-play receiver such as Brandon Marshall or Anquan Boldin, Flacco will have more influence over the passing game than any outside receiver could bring.

If Flacco takes a leap toward becoming an elite quarterback in the NFL, the Ravens become a dangerous Super Bowl contender.

*****

Don’t forget that WNST.net is your source for Ravens training camp coverage.  We’ll be bringing live reports, audio, video, blogs, and Twitter updates throughout the summer at McDaniel College.

You can find me on Facebook or drop me an email at luke@wnst.net.

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Just Some Thoughts On Brett Favre, Brandon Marshall, Derrick Mason, Cal Ripken, Ray Lewis and Anita Marks ….

Posted on 24 July 2009 by Rex Snider

I’m gearing up for vacation, which means I need to vent. Such expressions are always a mixture of positive and negative reactions. However, I honestly try to express my feelings in a productively-spirited way.

Over the next few minutes, I’m gonna do my best not to bore you, while dishing on Brett Favre, Brandon Marshall, Cal Ripken, Derrick Mason, Ray Lewis and Anita Marks. Be prepared, it’s probably my longest blog, ever. But, the intent is to feel “ready for vacation” when I’m done writing.

You ready ??? Here we go …..

Are you tired of the Brett Favre saga? When will it end? Seriously, I’ve always liked Favre and thought he was the kinda guy to build a team around. But, I’m not so certain, any longer. At this point, Brett Favre’s motives and maneuvers have become an annual event of distraction.

The sportsworld (especially the folks at ESPN) waits with baited breath, like a giddy teenage girl during prom season, simply hoping Brett graces us with another season of lazered touchdown passes and record breaking interception totals.

The problem?

Well, these moods and conflicted feelings affect other people. God knows Ted Thompson, Aaron Rogers and numerous cheeseheads have gulped their share of Pepto-Bismol, over the past few years. It’s not fair and it’s even cruel.

You’re gonna hear the following statement A LOT, during the entirety of this blog. Brett Favre’s situation is evidence of just how powerful “comfort” can be. Brett is able to change course more times than the Andrea Gail, because he has the luxury of comfort, if he makes the wrong decision.

But, other people don’t have this luxury …..

The same applies to Brandon Marshall. He’s a guy who hasn’t experienced discomfort – or enough of it to change his ways. We know the deal – Brandon fights with women. Whether he’s routinely the aggressor or not, he has the propensity to find conflict when his personal life collides with the opposite sex, in his domicile.

This is a problem. And, it’s a serious problem, in my backyard, if Brandon Marshall makes the permanent 1693-mile journey to Baltimore. Hey, it’s America and he can live where he wants – but, I’m not obligated to root for him – regardless of affiliation.

The truth is Brandon Marshall is a guy who gets in trouble WAY TOO MUCH for my liking. And, I’m not a guy who calls athletes role models. But, I do expect them to be good citizens. This includes keeping your nosepickers off girls.

For those who are about to allege “women can be crazy” or “women are just as capable of assault,” you’re absolutely right. And, if a guy doesn’t get away from a girl with whom he fights, he’s too comfortable with the situation. Uh huh, there’s that word, again.

And, I don’t wanna hear “the heart wants what it wants.” This is what psycho-stalkers use as a moral compass. Brandon Marshall has a history of domestic violence. OJ Simpson and Steve McNair are painful reminders of the seriousness of this issue.

I don’t care about touchdowns. I’m just saying NO to Brandon Marshall, in a Baltimore Ravens uniform.

This leads me directly into Cal Ripken. Why? It’s simple, he does things the right way. He always has …..

A few weeks ago, I contacted John Maroon (Cal’s PR Rep) and inquired about Cal’s availability for the WNST/Harbor Hospital Fundraiser. To my disappointment, John advised Cal would not participate during the weekend event. The initial reaction left me stunned.

This is Cal Ripken. He’s the definition of a good guy, right?

Well, John elaborated and explained that Cal reserves his weekends for family. This is an unconditional commitment. After all, he spent 20 years of weekends away from his family.

Rex Snider – the WNST guy, was very disappointed.

However, Rex Snider – the husband and father, was pretty impressed, and reminded of how to do IT. In fact, I keep a similar routine. I survived a career of shift-work, which consisted of oddball hours and sacrificed weekends and evenings, shagging calls and investigations.

Since retiring, I always reserve Saturday nights for my wife. And, I don’t partake in anything that requires a commitment of evenings or weekends away from family. They’ve paid enough. And, as John Maroon reminded me, you can’t get that time back.

Indeed, Cal and I are comfortable …..

Thanks, Cal. I was reminded of a promise to my girls and never even spoke with you about it. Then, again, maybe I should be thanking John Maroon.

Family is paramount. And, for this reason, I’m obliged to think Derrick Mason might want the same things desired by Cal Ripken, and myself. Who could blame him? He’s certainly been a good steward and amassed impressive career credentials.

Yet, amid Derrick’s success, there is the legitimacy of a sudden retirement announcement, nearly two weeks ago. There have been some assertions Derrick Mason’s announced retirement is tied to financial strife. I hope not.

There have also been suggestions indicating the abrupt ending might be related to Steve McNair’s death. If so, it’s simply another example of the relentless power of comfort.

Yeah, I said it.

The sad truth is many grieving people don’t have the luxury of walking away from their career, because a loved one dies. In fact, many widowed family and friends are forced to pick up the pace and produce more – in the absence of the departed.

Far be it from me to point out Derrick Mason’s obligations. That’s between him and his wife. However, if his retirement really is tied to the McNair tragedy, I think the Ravens and their stakeholders are entitled to hear it, and not through some obscure website.

As I’ve already indicated, there are spouses who’ve lost each other and parents who’ve lost children, in the same time span revolving around the death of Steve McNair. Many of those people are back at work. I’m not suggesting they’re OVER IT. You never get OVER IT.

But, we pick ourselves up and go back to work, while providing for a household. It’s the sobering reality of life and it doesn’t really slow down when the bills are due. The grieving live with the pain and typically work through it, as well.

In truth, if Derrick Mason no longer plays football, because of an aspect regarding Steve McNair’s death, I truly hope the decision brings him solace. But, I’ll contend he’s reached that point of comfort, which allows him to do it.

Rewind the calendar a decade. I don’t know that Derrick Mason would have the financial security (or power of comfort) to walk away, as a result of his friend’s death. I think it’s a fair consideration. And I truly hope he finds peace.

I’m a pretty devout guy and Derrick, along with anyone who has suffered loss, is in my thoughts.

Speaking of spirituality, I’ll admit I’m intrigued by Ray Lewis and a few others who’ve described their reliance on faith and prayer. I’ve researched Ray’s past, as it relates to a fateful night, in Atlanta. In fact, I’ve done a good bit of reading.

What I’ve concluded may surprise some people. Yet, I think many others will share my views.

For all the rumors and innuendo, I honestly believe Ray was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’m not excusing his dishonesty with investigators or initial reluctance to cooperate with law enforcement. But, some truly reckless allegations have superceded the facts.

Ray Lewis is not a murderer. In fact, I think he’s nothing more than a guy, who at 25 years old, got scared and made some poor personal decisions, in the wake of a very tragic incident. He’s human.

There is no need to recount the Ray Lewis trial. But, a striking factor for me has been Ray’s squeaky clean criminal record in the wake of Atlanta, 2000. My experience has taught me bad guys usually find their way back on the wrong side of the legal system.

They are what they are …..

I think Ray Lewis has paid an awfully high price for being a bystander and witness to a horrendous incident. His character and reputation are forever tarnished. I hope he finds that comfort many of us enjoy.

I’m pulling for him. And, I understand he’s changed quite a bit. Money is supposedly a driving force behind his intentions. He seems honest about it – even if his ambitions sometimes whiff of selfish. At least he’s not pretending.

I don’t know if Ray is comfortable. But, when he speaks, he sounds at peace. And that’s half the battle.

Wouldn’t you know it, my blog has transcended into speaking !!!! You know this is where we’ll find Ms. Anita Marks. And, no, I’m not about to be sexist or abrasive, in any way.

Let me start this part by saying one of the things I really respect about Nestor is his direct approach when it comes to discussing people who work for competitors. I’ve never really understood the charades and roundabout way of referencing other media personalities.

I think Nestor and those like him are doing it right. And, I think Tom Davis and others who won’t go further than saying “those down the dial” are irresponsible. Now, I’m not saying it’s fun or prudent to disparage someone. That’s not my intent.

I’m simply trying to be honest, and if I feel a media personality is being less than forthright or shepherding a degree of integrity, I’m usually inspired to challenge them.

That said, I’ll admit that my time is occasionally spent listening to the competition. Believe me, if you want, or don’t. But, I think a guy in my shoes, with such cache’ of inexperience, can learn from everyone. I can absorb what to do, as well as what not to do.

I have an opinion of every on-air sports personality in this town. In fact, if a talk show host doesn’t listen to the competition, how will they know their respective strengths and weaknesses? So, I listen.

And, so I must seize the final part of this blog to take serious issue with Anita Marks. Hey, I’m just being honest ……

Some folks think it’s beyond the scope of sports to talk about sex appeal, while ridiculing or admonishing the physical characteristics of others. And, I’m not wading into the sordid humor of the Howard Stern-types.

But, Anita has been promoted from a sexual perspective, by her employers at CBS Radio. They have peddled the product, based on beauty. I think she’s an extremely attractive lady and I like her courage to say what she feels.

But, she has a responsibility to fairness and objectivity.

Shortly after the NBA Championship, I heard Anita Marks criticize Tiger Woods, regarding his off-the-course demeanor. Specifically, she lambasted Tiger’s failure (in her mind) to champion the cause of African Americans.

In her words, Tiger has done little to support and further the social standing of his race. Perhaps, Anita feels this disconnect is calculated. I’d like to ask her about it. In essence, she’s referenced Tiger’s reluctance to promote issues regarding the cultural influences and advancement of African Americans.

Fair enough.

But, I think Anita Marks has the same responsibility.

She is a personality. When she walks into a crowded stadium, people know who she is. I’ve seen it. She has an impact on people.

And, she has a voice.

So, where am I going with this?

Well, Anita has become the ambassador of “All Things Brandon Marshall.” She loves herself some Brandon Marshall !!!! And, she’s very vocal in her personal endorsement and plea for the embattled receiver to join the Ravens. According to her, he REALLY wants to be here.

Good for him. And, as I indicated earlier in this blog, the answer should be NO. While I’m sure Anita knows her sports, I dread the thought of what her decision would’ve been when faced with the choice of Jonathon Ogden and Lawrence Phillips, in the 1996 NFL Draft.
Yet, I’m looking for something deeper from Anita Marks.

In fact, I’m hoping she’ll seize this invitation to champion the cause of women, in Baltimore. For every victim of domestic violence, which includes physical and emotional trauma, I’m looking to Anita to represent her gender and those who’ve been victimized in this town.

Record numbers of abused women are being admitted into hospitals, daily. The reality of domestic violence, is indeed, more important than catching touchdowns. The cases of OJ Simpson and Robert Blake are not limited to Hollywood. It’s very real – just ask Nicole Brown’s family.

I’ve witnessed the hell of domestic violence. And, I’ve arrested my share of offenders, including men and women. Issues regarding domestic violence will be front and center for police officers, in Baltimore, tonight and every other night.

So, why is Anita Marks vehemently lobbying to bring a man which such known problems to this city? Brandon Marshall has a propensity to having police called to his home. In fact, police officers were dispatched to Marshall’s residence ELEVEN TIMES, during a two year stretch, from 2006 – 2008.

I’m sure the Baltimore County and/or Baltimore City Police Departments are tingling with joy at the prospect of possibly policing Brandon Marshall’s neighborhood. Maybe, they can erect a sub-station in his driveway.

But, seriously, doesn’t Anita Marks owe the women of Baltimore a little more representation? She has a voice. Yet, her attraction seems to be to the “player.” Who’s gonna babysit him off the field?

Would Anita date someone who fights with women? Does Anita think repeated incidents of such conduct simply amount to mistakes? I’d like to know her position, socially …..

We all know Anita Marks is from Florida. I’m always glad to welcome new neighbors. But, many of us have invested a LIFETIME in this city, and we have daughters. For all I know, Anita will be back in Florida, someday. But, Baltimore, is my home and I’ll choose to lobby for better citizens on our sports teams.

This is Anita’s chance to be the “Tiger Woods” of women’s rights. Not a very comfortable spot, huh? It is what it is …..

And, I’m ready for vacation.

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Let the wide receiver speculation begin

Posted on 13 July 2009 by Luke Jones

The surprising news of Derrick Mason’s retirement—even if it’s a negotiating ploy—has sent shockwaves through the city of Baltimore, especially for the large portion of Ravens fans that had already been clamoring for an impact receiver during the offseason.

While many are making the comparison to Steve McNair’s abrupt retirement in April 2008, the Ravens had more time to prepare in that situation.  If Mason goes through with his intentions to retire, the Ravens will have to treat it similarly to how they dealt with Jamal Lewis’ season-ending knee injury in the early stages of training camp in 2001.

Denver Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall and Arizona Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin will undoubtedly come up as potential replacements for Mason, but it’s highly unlikely we’ll see either player reining in passes from Joe Flacco.

Neither the Broncos or Cardinals are in the business of doing the Ravens any favors, so unless you’re willing to surrender multiple first-day picks, forget either one.  With Mason’s retirement, these teams will view the Ravens as being backed into a corner, so the asking price would be even higher.

The other obstacle continues to be the salary cap.  Mason’s retirement would save $3 million in space, but this still only leaves around $5 million in cap room.  Given the fact that both Marshall and Boldin would demand a new contract with any trade, the cap space is not there.

The Ravens have until 4 p.m. on Wednesday to reach a new deal with linebacker Terrell Suggs before he would be forced to play under the $10.2 million franchise tender.  With general manager Ozzie Newsome reportedly on vacation, it’s doubtful a deal is completed.  Without a new contract for Suggs, the Ravens’ options at the wide receiver position will not include Boldin or Marshall.

If the Ravens really want to take a gamble, there’s always Plaxico Burress, but with his pending legal issues, he could easily be suspended for a large portion of the season. Much like Marshall, he doesn’t fit the Ravens’ profile and emphasis on character.

The other options are limited.  If any current free agent receivers were thought to be impact players in 2009, they wouldn’t still be looking for a team in mid-July.

Here is a list of potential candidates.  Each player’s 2008 team and stats are included.

1.  Marty Booker (age 32) – 14 catches, 211 yards, 2 TD in Chicago
**Booker has over 500 career receptions, but a return to the Bears last season did not revitalize his game.

2.  D.J. Hackett (age 28) – 13 catches, 181 yards in Carolina
**Hackett was invited to work out with the Ravens during OTAs but tried out with Houston instead.

3.  Marvin Harrison (age 37) – 60 catches, 636 yards, 5 TD in Indianapolis
**Harrison would figure to bring similar tools to the table as Mason, but does the future Hall of Famer have anything in the tank?

4.  Matt Jones (age 26) – 65 catches, 761 yards, 2 TD in Jacksonville
**Very questionable character issues with the former first-round pick would probably kill any interest on the Ravens’ part.

5.  Ashley Lelie (age 29) – 11 catches, 197 yards, 2 TD in Oakland
**The promise he displayed in Denver seems like a long time ago.

6.  Jerry Porter (age 31) – 11 catches, 181 yards in Jacksonville
**Porter tried out during OTAs and showed inconsistent hands and was sluggish.

7.  Amani Toomer (age 35 at the beginning of the season) – 48 catches, 580 yards, 4 TD with the New York Giants
**Given the Giants’ issues at the wide receiver position, wouldn’t Toomer be back in New York if he had anything left?

8.  Reggie Williams (age 26) – 37 catches, 364 yards, 3 TD in Jacksonville
**The 2004 first-round pick never lived up to his vast potential in Jacksonville.

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5 W’s and 1 H

Posted on 22 June 2009 by Luke Jones

The Orioles certainly didn’t show the Phillies any “Brotherly Love” by completing a three-game sweep this weekend.

I attended the first two games of the series on Friday and Saturday night and had a great time.  Citizens Bank Park may lack the charm of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, but the wide-open concourse is an excellent feature for those wanting to grab a snack or cold beverage without missing a pitch.

It was a pleasure meeting many of the rabid Orioles fans on the WNST/Miller Lite Bus Trip, and it was even better high-fiving and celebrating the closing moments of Saturday night’s comeback win with them!

Here are the 5 W’s and 1 H for the week:

1.  Who will be the best player not named Blake Griffin to come out of this year’s NBA Draft?

The 2009 NBA Draft takes place on Thursday night, and the Los Angeles Clippers have already committed to taking power forward Blake Griffin (Oklahoma), the surest thing in this year’s draft class, with the No. 1 pick.

After Griffin, there is plenty of talent but many question marks.  From Connecticut’s Hasheem Thabeet to international point guard Ricky Rubio to Davidson’s Stephen Curry, there is potential, but none are regarded as a sure thing.  Some NBA executives are calling this one of the worst drafts in recent memory.

If I had to choose a rookie from this class other than Griffin, I’d take a chance on Curry.  His heroic run in the 2008 NCAA tournament put him on the map, and he followed it up by leading the nation in scoring last season (28.6 points per game).

Though Curry lacks the ideal size (6-3) and athleticism for the NBA, his strong pedigree—he’s the son of former NBA player Dell Curry—and fundamentals will allow him to become a successful pro.  He won’t become an All-Star, but Curry will be a solid addition to an NBA team.

2.  What was the best Orioles game you ever attended?

Saturday night’s win has to be one of the top five or six Orioles games I’ve ever attended.  Yes, that’s pretty sad, but when you consider I was two weeks old when the Orioles last won the World Series, you can probably begin to understand.

My choice for the best game I’ve attended was a 7-5, 10-inning victory over the New York Yankees on June 3, 1997.  The Orioles were in the midst of their wire-to-wire run for the American League East title, and Rafael Palmeiro hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th inning to put the Orioles ahead by 8.5 games in the division.

Walking out of the ballpark while gloating among the Yankees fans was a great feeling—and is nearly a forgotten one 12 years later.

3.  Where is the best starting rotation in the Orioles’ organization?

Though the starting pitching in Baltimore has improved, I am still eagerly looking at the rotation in Triple-A Norfolk.  The Tides currently have four of the top pitching prospects in the organization with Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta, David Hernandez, and Troy Patton.

While it’s doubtful that all four will crack the starting rotation by season’s end, I wouldn’t be surprised to see these four, along with Brad Bergesen, making up the starting rotation by this time next season.  Obviously, there’s no guarantee—and it’s quite unlikely—they’ll all become successful big league starters, but it’s clear the Orioles have come a long way from the days of counting on one prospect like Rocky Coppinger or Matt Riley to save the rotation.

We’ve heard quite a bit about these names over the last two years, so it’s exciting to see them at the Triple-A level and on the verge of making the jump to the big leagues.

4.  When was the last time the Orioles earned an interleague sweep on the road?

Before this weekend’s sweep of the Phillies, the Orioles last completed an interleague road sweep against the Atlanta Braves in June 1999.

The Orioles completed the three-game set by beating the Braves, 22-1, on a nationally televised Sunday night game.  This was Cal Ripken’s famous six-hit game that earned several standing ovations from the Turner Field crowd over the course of the night.

Mike Mussina earned the win over Atlanta’s John Smoltz, capping off one of the few highlights of the 1999 season.

5.  Why did Dave Trembley allow Danys Baez to pitch to Ryan Howard in the seventh inning on Saturday night?

I certainly was celebrating the exciting comeback win on Saturday night, but it didn’t excuse Trembley’s terrible decision to pitch to Howard with a base open and two outs in the seventh inning.  Yes, walking Howard would have put the go-ahead run in scoring position, but the pitcher’s spot was on deck, and the Phillies sent Carlos Ruiz to the plate after Howard’s three-run shot.  Howard is hitting .299 against right-handed pitching, so the matchup against Baez wasn’t favorable in that regard either.

Just a hunch, but I’d take my chances facing Ruiz with the bases loaded instead of Howard.

I was sitting with Nestor Aparicio and my friend Mike—two of the most knowledgeable baseball fans I know—and all three of us immediately said it was the wrong move.  A few moments later, Howard confirmed our fears.

Saturday’s win was a great example of a team bailing out its manager.  The decisions to allow Gregg Zaun and Oscar Salazar to hit in the ninth inning worked out, but they did not cancel out the decision to pitch to one of the best power hitters in the game—whether he had the flu or not.

I hope Trembley personally thanked Brian Roberts for saving his bacon.  Regardless of the big win, it was the wrong decision.

6.  How likely are the Ravens to make a serious play for Brandon Marshall?

Not very.

John Harbaugh, Ozzie Newsome, and the Ravens are very serious about avoiding players with questionable character, and Marshall—regardless of his immense talent—fits that description.  When you also consider the team would have to surrender high draft picks and doesn’t have the salary cap room to afford the $7-9 million per year Marshall is seeking, it really becomes an easy decision.

Marshall’s dispute with the Denver Broncos is different from quarterback Jay Cutler’s, because it is not based on a conflict with new head coach Josh McDaniels; it simply comes down to wanting more money.

The Pro Bowl receiver is scheduled to become a free agent after the season, but an uncapped year in 2010 would change his status dramatically.  Since an uncapped system would change the number of years before free agency from four to six, Marshall would remain under the Broncos’ control for two more years—as a restricted free agent—and would not become an unrestricted free agent until after the 2011 season.  The Broncos hold all of the leverage in this situation, so Marshall desperately wants a new deal before that happens.

When you consider all of these factors, I would be surprised to see Marshall in Baltimore—or anywhere else other than Denver—this September.

*****

I hope all of the fathers out there had a great Father’s Day.  This is a tough day for me after losing my dad in 2004, but I have numerous great memories—many centering around the Ravens, Orioles, and Terps—to cherish.

He deserves more credit than anyone for cultivating my passion for Baltimore sports.  I’m sure he would have loved this weekend in Philadelphia.

Have a great Monday.

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Marshall Law: Acquiring Brandon Marshall is the right move for the Ravens

Posted on 16 June 2009 by Marco Romanell

Reports out of Denver are  saying that disgruntled Wide Receiver Brandon Marshall is following in the footsteps of former quarterback Jay Cutler and seeking a trade from the Broncos.

Mike Florio, of Profootballtalk.com reported today on the Comcast Morning Show that the Ravens are interested in acquiring the play making wide out.

The Ravens have a history of not dealing with players who have off the field problems which is precisely what Marshall is. In both 2007 and 2008 Marshall was arrested for domestic battery while in March of this season he was involved in a domestic dispute with his fiancee and was again arrested.

Despite all of his off the field issues Marshall is an absolute beast at the Wide Out position and would provide the Ravens with the big play threat their offense so desperately needs.

Last year in 15 games, Marshall recorded 104 catches for 1,265 yards and six touchdowns leading to his first Pro Bowl selection. In 2007, Marshall has two less catches and 60 more yards but most importantly led the NFL in YAC(Yards after catch/contact) with 510 yards. The YAC yards and his ability to run over potential tacklers is what makes Marshall and intriguing option for the Ravens.

Derrick Mason, who has been the Ravens best receiver since his arrival in Baltimore, is considered  to be a possession receiver who lacks the ability to stretch the field. Brandon Marshall would be a perfect complement to Mason and would give the Ravens one of the most formidable receiving combos in the NFL.

One thing prohibiting the Ravens from bringing in Marshall(similar to the Anquan Boldin situation), is the probability that the Broncos will request at least a first round draft pick in return for Marshall and then Marshall will want a new contract at season’s end. The Ravens still must negotiate with Terrell Suggs, and will have to pay Albert Haynesworth like money, in what could be an uncapped year after this  year, to keep Haloti Ngata a Raven.

Teams can maneuver around the cap in many ways, so if the Ravens really want Marshall, I think they can find a way to sign him and remain under the cap. The main issue is Ozzie Newsome’s reluctance to trade draft picks in order to acquire a player.

I think Marshall- who is four years younger then Boldin- is worth a first round draft pick and more and the Ravens should seriously consider acquiring him.

With the losses and aging on defense, the Ravens defense will be good, but not the “elite” defense of past teams, which is why they need to shift their focus to the offensive side of the ball. Upgrading the offense can compensate for whatever stuggles the defense may have. Marshall would make the Ravens a legitimate offensive power and would take a lot of pressure off the defense to hold to teams to less than 17 points to win.

Obviously there are pros and cons to bringing in a player like Marshall, but I am under the mindset that Joe Flacco needs weapons and the identity of this franchise should shift to the offensive side of the ball. The salary cap can be maneuvered around by back loading contracts or giving bigger signing bonuses so I am not overly concerned with that issue.

Marshall is a cancer off the field but I believe the Ravens organization and locker room is strong enough to keep him in check and prohibit him from being a problem.

Hopefully when the Ravens take the field at M&T Bank Stadium on September 13th to battle the Chiefs, Brandon Marshall is lined up in a Ravens uniform opposite of Derrick Mason.

That would make Ravens fans and Joe Flacco extremely happy and could end with a February trip to Miami.

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Notes from Ravens Rookie Camp

Posted on 16 June 2009 by Luke Jones

The Ravens’ newcomers have a final opportunity this week to get acclimated to the NFL before reporting to McDaniel College for training camp on July 27.

The offseason OTA schedule concludes this week with a rookie camp, allowing coaches to work more closely with the team’s six draft picks and numerous rookie free agents vying for a regular season roster spot. 

“It’s obviously a different atmosphere and tempo because the vets aren’t here,” coach John Harbaugh said.  “It’s a little slow.  We take a little more time between reps.  I don’t want to say it was more teaching, because there is a lot of teaching when the [veterans] are here, too.  But it was a little more fundamentally-oriented, a little simpler with the calls, but they did a good job.”

The rumors circulating about Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall were a hot topic at the training facility in Owings Mills.  The disgruntled receiver wants to be traded, and the receiver position is an area of concern with Derrick Mason (shoulder), Mark Clayton (foot), and Demetrius Williams (ankle) all slowed by injuries this offseason.

Earlier in the offseason, the Ravens explored a trade for Arizona wide receiver Anquan Boldin, but the Cardinals’ reported asking price of a first- and third-round pick and Boldin’s demands for a new contract proved too steep.

Marshall’s contract expires after this season, so a new deal would be needed.  The Pro Bowl receiver has grabbed 206 receptions in the last two seasons.

We’re interested in anybody that can help our team,” Harbaugh said.  “You know [Marshall] plays for the Broncos, and he’s under contract. So he’s not a guy that we’re considering or concerned with right now. We’ll just have to see what happens.”

His off-the-field issues are also a concern, including a pending misdemeanor battery charge.  Marshall has had several run-ins with the law since beginning his NFL career in 2006. 

“[A player’s] background matters,” Harbaugh said.  “We want to bring guys in here that are what we consider ‘Ravens.’ Any player that we bring in here, we’ve got to be convinced that he’s a man of integrity, a high-character guy and that our players can respect him in the locker room. That’s going to be true whether it’s in a draft or free agency or any guys we choose to re-sign. We look at that real hard because we think those are the type of people that you win with, and we’re never going to compromise on that.”

– Veteran tight ends Todd Heap and L.J. Smith have been slowed by injuries during OTAs, leaving plenty of reps for rookie Davon Drew.

The fifth-round pick, who signed a three-year contract last week, will most likely contribute on special teams but has impressed coaches with his route-running ability.  He credits Heap and Smith in helping him adjust to the NFL.

“Definitely when you’re just standing around those guys–veterans that have been doing it–that’s something that makes you want to be just like them,” Drew said.  “I look up to those guys.  Anytime I have a question or something, they help me out and sometimes when I don’t even ask them things, they just come up and give me tips or pointers.  I’m appreciative of the situation I’m in.”

– Former Maryland Terp and rookie receiver Isaiah Williams faces an uphill battle making the regular season roster, but he jumped at the chance to become a Baltimore Raven. 

Despite having discussions with other teams including the Washington Redskins, New York Giants, and San Diego Chargers, the undrafted rookie signed with the Ravens only 20 minutes after the April draft ended. 

“I just felt this was the best place for me,” Williams said.  “It’s close to where I went to school, so it’s something I’m used to and real familiar with.  I love it.”

The 6-3 receiver has good speed but never lived up to lofty expectations at College Park, catching 64 passes for 902 yards and five touchdowns in his Maryland career. 

Williams has been slowed with a hamstring injury this week.

 – Be sure to join WNST tonight at The Barn at 7:00 p.m. to meet many of the Ravens rookies including Michael Oher, Paul Kruger, Lardarius Webb, and others.  It will be a great time getting to know the rookies and enjoying $1.75 Miller Lite.

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