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Pain plaguing Ravens offense starts with running game

Posted on 24 September 2013 by Luke Jones

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To see the Ravens offense struggle through the first three weeks of the 2013 season isn’t surprising — or at least it shouldn’t have been.

There’s no underselling the losses of tight end Dennis Pitta and wide receiver Anquan Boldin — the pillars on which quarterback Joe Flacco relied last season — and how they would impact the passing game in the early stages of the season. Growing pains were expected as Flacco is still developing chemistry with every pass-catching target not named Torrey Smith, but the Ravens figured they could rely on their running game more heavily, especially in the early stages of the season.

But the results haven’t been there. In fact, the Ravens have one of the worst running games in the NFL through the first three weeks of the season in averaging just 2.6 yards per carry, ranking 31st in the league and only ahead of 0-3 Jacksonville. With Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice, highly-regarded backup Bernard Pierce, and Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach in tow, there’s simply no excuse for the overall lack of production.

“It’s going to be important, and we have the people to do it,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We’ve got some big, strong, tough offensive lineman, and we have really good backs. Our fullback [Vonta Leach] is the best blocking fullback in the league. The run game is something that has to happen for us.”

But it hasn’t and there have been a number of factors working against the Ravens through the early stages of the season. It would be unfair to overlook the fronts the Ravens have played as Denver, Cleveland, and Houston all rank in the top 5 in rushing yards per attempt surrendered. Expecting Baltimore to be gashing opponents in the running game would be unreasonable, but it still doesn’t excuse such an ineffective ground attack.

The absence of reliable targets in the passing game has prompted opposing defense to often play an extra defender in the box, creating problems when it comes to the simple number of blockers against defenders. Whether attempting to run to set up the pass or to throw to open up the running game, the Ravens have been spinning their wheels more often than not with an offense ranking 30th in total yards and 20th in passing yards. It’s the old chicken-or-the-egg question in which the Ravens are trying to figure out whether their passing game can breathe life into the running game or vice versa.

The Ravens are working with a new center in second-year lineman Gino Gradkowski, who replaced the retired Matt Birk and is responsible for making the calls for blocking assignments at the line of scrimmage. Besides the void in leadership, the Ravens have also been challenged up the middle by beefier defensive linemen against the undersized Gradkowski.

And Baltimore is even dealing with a new voice on the coaching staff as run-game coordinator Juan Castillo is running the show for the offensive line and the implementation of his inside zone blocking schemes appears to be a mixed bag at best thus far.

But the Ravens’ problems in the running game run deeper than the aforementioned variables as even reliable run blockers such as Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda and right tackle Michael Oher have struggled more than you’d typically expect so far.

“We do feel like we understand it and we’re working on it,” Harbaugh said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that it can be corrected. We’re not getting the production from the run game that we should, but we also feel like we’re on our way to getting that done. We just have to do it; you just have to go out there and get it done.”

A look back at the Ravens’ performance in the running game against Houston makes it difficult to pinpoint one specific problem above the rest. All five starting linemen missed assignments at different points, Pierce missed several running lanes, the Texans stacked eight men in the box on occasion, and backside pursuit was even a problem as defenders dragged down ball carriers from behind on a few occasions. Whether it was running to the strong side or the weak side of the line, it didn’t seem to matter as Pierce’s run off right tackle for 25 yards to end the third quarter was the only real bright spot for the ground attack.

Again, the Ravens have played talented defenses this season, but the sum of their talented parts hasn’t added up to even marginal success in most cases. Even in the fourth quarter when many credited the Ravens for wearing down Houston, they managed only 28 yards on 13 carries and needed to rely on Flacco’s arm for third-down conversions.

“One guy here, one miss there, one bad target in another place, each time that’s what holds you back,” Harbaugh said. “Their safeties do a great job of tackling, so they limit you from the big runs. Our run game is not where it needs to be. We’re going to go to work on that — we have been working on it. We’ll continue to do so, and we need to make that important. One thing we’ve seen that, philosophically, we’re going to stick with it.”

Of all the factors working against the Ravens in the running game, perhaps the most surprising has been the play of the left side of the offensive line. While veteran left tackle Bryant McKinnie has never been known as a strong run blocker, left guard Kelechi Osemele has looked nothing like the blocker we saw in last year’s postseason when many thought he had the potential to be a Pro Bowl lineman.

Harbaugh wasn’t willing to place blame on any one player or unit in explaining the running game struggles Monday, but it’s apparent the offensive line hasn’t been on the same page. And even when it has been, running backs haven’t made the proper zone reads.

“All of our guys are going to point the finger right back at themselves,” Harbaugh said. “That’s the kind of guys we have. I would characterize it more of being in sync, more in terms of working together more efficiently – combination blocks going to the right guy with the right technique at the right time. Those things – it’s not just a matter of just one-on-one knocking somebody off the ball. That’s not the way it works. It’s way more complicated than that up front.

“There’s a precision to the run game, too. It’s something that we don’t quite have ironed out yet against good fronts, and we’ve got to get there. That’s what we’re working on.”

Whether it’s a matter of still adjusting to Castillo or simply getting used to Gradkowski over the veteran Birk, the Ravens must improve with their ground attack to alleviate the pressure on Flacco and an undermanned passing game. On paper, the personnel is simply too good to be so unproductive — even against talented front sevens.

The real gauge for how severe the run problems are will come on Sunday when the Ravens travel to Buffalo to take on a Bills defense that’s surrendering 4.3 yards per carry and 155 yards per game on the ground. Even if Rice misses his second straight game with a left hip flexor strain, there’s no excuse for the Ravens not to make substantial progress with their running game against an underwhelming opponent.

To their credit, the Ravens haven’t abandoned their commitment to run — their 88 rushing attempts rank 10th in the league — but that only goes so far when you’re gaining minimal yardage on first and second down and putting Flacco and the passing game in difficult third-down situations. They know it needs to be an important part of their identity in 2013, but the production on the field hasn’t backed that up.

“It’s something that we think is important,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to be able to run the ball here. It is a part of our DNA, and it is part of who we are as a football team.”

And it’s a side of the Ravens they need to start showing if their offense is to make strides as the season progresses.

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Harbaugh disappointed with Ravens’ involvement in party bus incident

Posted on 23 September 2013 by Luke Jones

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens coach John Harbaugh confirmed that wide receiver Jacoby Jones did not sustain any serious injury in an altercation involving a party bus early Monday morning, but that doesn’t mean the coach was happy either.

After reportedly being struck in the head with a bottle when a fight broke out during left tackle Bryant McKinnie’s birthday celebration in Washington, D.C., Jones was back at the team’s Owings Mills facility as he continues to rehab the MCL sprain he suffered in the season opener on Sept. 5.

“As far as him, he’s fine,” Harbaugh said. “He went through everything today that he was supposed to go through. He didn’t miss anything.”

The Ravens coach, however, expressed disappointment over the incident as several other players are believed to have attended the birthday celebration. Harbaugh was unaware of any further investigation being done on the incident after no arrests were made early Monday morning, but he wasn’t pleased to see the organization painted in a negative light upon learning of the incident that morning.

Harbaugh said he spoke to the individual players involved as well as the entire team about the altercation.

“I’m not very impressed, personally, with the report,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not something we want to be known for. I’d like to think it’s not something those guys would want to be known for. It’s nothing to be proud of, so it’s kind of disappointing in that sense.”

For the time being, it appears that no disciplinary action will be taken against Jones, McKinnie, or any other players involved in the incident, but Harbaugh used the altercation as a teachable moment in reminding players about the potential dangers of being in a public setting late at night.

Harbaugh mentioned the familiar advice given to many young people by their parents.

“Of course we’re going to have conversations and we’ve had conversations about that and other things,” said Harbaugh, referencing the motto of nothing good ever happening after midnight. “We’ll probably keep that between us and address that with the team. What do you want to be known for? Do you want to be known as a football player or do you want to be known for that? I don’t think that’s anything to be proud of.”

 Rice, Canty “in the ballpark” to return this week

Harbaugh expressed optimism that running back Ray Rice and defensive end Chris Canty could return for Sunday’s game in Buffalo after both were sidelined for Week 3.

Rice continues to work his way back to full strength after suffering a left hip flexor strain while Canty is dealing with a groin injury. The Ravens will see how each progresses over the course of the week, but Harbaugh wouldn’t describe how much of a chance each would have to play against the Bills.

“I don’t know about the ‘good’ or ‘great’ or whatever, but [Rice] was close this week to a degree,” Harbaugh said. “So was Chris. With those muscle [strains], you never know for sure, but they were in the ballpark this week and we think that will really put them in the ballpark coming up.”

Meanwhile, reserve nose tackle Terrence Cody is likely out for Week 4 after suffering a left knee sprain in the first quarter of Sunday’s win over the Houston Texans.

The good news is the Ravens could get rookie defensive tackle Brandon Williams back this week after he practiced on a limited basis for the first time since suffering a toe injury in the preseason finale on Aug. 29.

“I think it’d be a stretch to expect [Cody] back this week,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to try, but more likely it will be after this week coming up.”

Standing pat at running back for now

With Rice sidelined and third-string running back Shaun Draughn suffering a high ankle sprain in Sunday’s win, the Ravens could be in the market for another running back depending on how the week goes.

Rookie Jonas Gray is currently on the practice squad and the Ravens could always bring back third-year veteran Anthony Allen, who was with the team this preseason and is very familiar with the offensive system after two seasons with the organization.

“I think right now we’re in a wait-and-see mode,” Harbaugh said. “There’s no imminent move as far as a running back goes because we feel those guys’ injuries are something we can deal with. We’re always looking for a good player, too.”


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Big week for charity, giveaways, Ravens shows, bus trips and Hooters girls at WNST!

Posted on 27 August 2013 by WNST Staff

It’s a jam packed week here at WNST, with more chances for you to hang out, mingle, win prizes and meet players than perhaps we’ve ever slammed into a single week before.


Glenn Clark from “The Reality Check” continues his “Grab a Bud” happy hour series at Hooters in Towson courtesy of Budweiser. Glenn will be rooting the Orioles on against the Red Sox, showing some major support for Towson against UConn and keeping tabs on the Ravens as they visit the Rams. If you stop by Hooters, not only will there be Hooters girls, but you can take advantage of some of their brand new menu additions, including “The Southwestern.”

The WNST.net staff got a taste of this beauty last week. It’s glorious. Everyone who attends Thursday night will be registered to win tickets to see Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson from NBC’s “Parks and Recreation”, who made a hilarious appearance on “The Reality Check” last week that’s worth listening to if you missed it) Sept. 4 or Kenny Loggins Sept. 15 at The Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric. Glenn will be giving away tickets on site, so anyone who stops by between 7pm and 8pm will be registered. There will be other great giveaways as well, and rumor has it there are girls at Hooters. Just a rumor.


As the Grand Prix of Baltimore gets underway downtown (we encourage you to get your tickets now!), WNST has two incredible events lined up. First, we’ll kick off our 2013 Ravens player show series with Super Bowl XLVII champion left tackle Bryant McKinnie at Adams Jeep in Aberdeen. The show gets underway at 7pm. We’ve had a ton of fun with the man known as “Mt. McKinnie” over the years. Sometimes he even gets into song.

If you want pictures and autographs with Bryant Friday night, make sure you go right now to get your ticket. The autograph ticket will cost you just a $15 donation to Living Classrooms Foundation. (ALL proceeds go to the Living Classrooms Foundation.) Get your tickets now, there are a ton of rowdy Ravens fans in Harford County that will be out in full force.

Later Friday night, Glenn Clark and Nestor Aparicio will wander down Route 40 to Exscape Nightclub for a huge orange celebration. Between 8:30 and 10:30, we’ll be rooting on the Birds as they battle the Yankees with a FREE taco bar and $5 Orange Crush Machados. As if that wasn’t enough, every single person who stops by to see us between 8:30 and 10:30 will walk away with a very awesome “Crush Davis” t-shirt courtesy of The Zone Superstore. See a look at the back of the shirt below. Another rumor? There are also girls at Exscape Night Club.


Our tradition of taking Baltimore Orioles fans on the road continues, as our Orange Roadtrip to The Bronx to see the Birds battle the Yanks departs White Marsh at 7am. It’s a tremendous chance for you to root on the O’s in an ALDS rematch against a team they’re fighting with again this year for a postseason spot. The trip is just $119 per person and includes the ride up and back, ticket, beer/soda/breakfast/snacks. With an afternoon start, the bus should return at a very reasonable time.

Here’s trip down memory lane to our first ever trip to the new Yankee Stadium…

Keep all of this in mind as you prepare for your Labor Day weekend. It’s going to be a ton of fun throughout Charm City (and beyond) for the WNST crew. Look forward to seeing you around!

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 27 August 2013 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: Pro Wrestling-WWE Live Show (Sunday 5pm Verizon Center); WNBA: Washington Mystics @ Atlanta Dream (Wednesday 7pm from Atlanta live on NBA TV); USA Hockey Training Camp Public Day (Tuesday 7am Kettler Capitals IcePlex)

10. Live/Kelly Bell Band (Saturday 2pm/6pm Baltimore Grand Prix); Luke Bryan (Wednesday 5:30pm Merriweather Post Pavilion); Maze feat. Frankie Beverly (Saturday 7pm Verizon Center); John Mayer (Saturday 7:30pm Jiffy Lube Live); Lyle Lovett and His Large Band (Thursday 8pm Wolf Trap); Anthony Hamilton (Wednesday & Thursday 8pm Howard Theatre), Salt-N-Pepa (Saturday 8pm Howard Theatre); Three Dog Night (Wednesday & Friday 7:30pm Birchmere); Fall Out Boy (Thursday 7:30pm Maryland State Fair), Three Days Grace (Sunday 7:30pm Maryland State Fair); Franz Ferdinand “Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Actions” available in stores/on iTunes (Tuesday)

Hyperbole be damned. Live is one of the most consistently fantastic bands of the last 25 years. It’s a shame things couldn’t stay together.

The Kelly Bell Band…or as you know them…David Modell and I’s favorite band…

I know what John Mayer is now. I also know that there was a time I half enjoyed him.

I have probably enjoyed WAY more Fall Out Boy songs in my life than I’d ever like to admit.

9. Maryland State Fair (Tuesday-Monday Timonium Fairgrounds); Maryland Renaissance Festival (Saturday-Monday RenFest Fairgrounds); Finesse Mitchell (Thursday-Saturday Baltimore Comedy Factory); Jake Johannsen (Wednesday-Sunday DC Improv);  The Great Gatsby” and “Pain & Gain” available on Blu-Ray/DVD (Tuesday)”

I’ll make an appearance in Timonium this week. When I do, there will be a peach sundae involved.

And yeah, maybe a red velvet funnel cake.

Don’t judge.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Pitta done for season with dislocated hip

Posted on 27 July 2013 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS – The Baltimore Ravens suffered a major blow during practice Saturday.

“Dennis (Pitta) has a dislocated hip” head coach John Harbaugh announced following practice. “We’ll have to take a look at that and see exactly what it is. It’s a serious injury. He’s going to be out for awhile, he will not be in the Denver game (Week 1). We’ll just have to play it from there to see how long it goes.”

ESPN reported Saturday night that Pitta, who was transported to a local hospital and underwent surgery immediately, is expected to miss the entire season.

The injury occurred after the tight end collided with S James Ihedigbo on a pass play in the back of the end zone. Saturday’s practice was the first padded practice of this year’s Training Camp.

The injury is a major blow for the Baltimore Ravens, who traded WR Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers in the offseason. Pitta had been hoped to build on his 2012 season (61 catches, 669 yards, seven touchdowns) to help replace Boldin.

Ed Dickson, Billy Bajema and rookie Matt Furstenburg all saw snaps with the first team offense after Pitta’s departure. Free agent TE Visanthe Shiancoe (Morgan State) visited the Ravens’ facility earlier in the week but did not sign. Rookie FB Kyle Juszczek could also be asked to help out in the process, especially if the Ravens were to re-sign current free agent FB Vonta Leach as the Newark Star-Ledger reported Thursday night they are expected to do.

Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell suggested the Ravens would continue their “next man up” mentality.

“Somebody’s going to have to step up and we do have some capable guys. All across the flanks we do have some weapons. We’re just going to have to have some guys make some plays for us.”

Dickson-a fellow fourth year tight end-moves to the top of the tight end depth chart in Pitta’s absence. Dickson told WNST.net “it’s on me to go out there and build chemistry with (QB) Joe (Flacco) and to do the things that I do to the best of my ability.”

Dickson also told WNST.net he sent Pitta a text after practice saying “Keep your head up…the injury’s not going to hold you down. We need you. Praying for you…I’m holding down the fort for you.”

Dickson’s 2012 numbers were disappointing as he fought through injuries. The tight end played in just 13 games and caught 21 balls for 225 yards without a touchdown grab. “Ed has been playing and performing extremely well” Caldwell said. “He’s had a good camp thus far. He’s moving well, he’s catching the ball for us, he has a lot of big play potential. Ed is a very capable guy. We’re going to have to have some other guys step up as well.

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, a dislocated hip usually takes upwards of 2-3 months for recovery and rehabilitation.

Making matters worse for the Ravens is their lack of depth at receiver as well. Without Boldin, only Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones have more than even 123 career receiving yards. Doss has those 123, David Reed 66, Deonte Thompson 51, LaQuan Williams 46. Neither Tommy Streeter nor rookie Aaron Mellette has ever played in a NFL game.

YANDA REMAINS OUT: Despite being removed from the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list Friday, OL Marshal Yanda (shoulder) was not present Saturday, but is expected to return shortly. S Anthony Levine (shoulder) was on the practice for a second straight day after being removed from the PUP list. LB Jameel McClain (back) remains on the PUP list and did not practice Saturday.

OT Bryant McKinnie (conditioning) left practice early Friday as coach John Harbaugh had concerns for how he’d hold up in the heat, he was back on the practice field Saturday afternoon. OL Kelechi Osemele (hamstring) and Ryan Jensen (leg) were not present for Saturday’s practice. WR LaQuan Williams (arm) and Marlon Brown (knee) were not present as well.

DL Kapron Lewis-Moore (knee) remains on the non-football injury list and is not expected to practice during Training Camp.

OTHER PRACTICE NOTES: S Omar Brown appears to have switched jersey numbers, going from number 38 to number 31.

K Justin Tucker stood out during Saturday’s practice, including makes from 60 yards and 65 yards out. After the make from 65, Tucker let out an exclamation of “Come on!”

LB Terrell Suggs had the quote of the day. After making a tackle on a goal line stop against the first team offense, Suggs yelled out “Where the f*ck is Vonta Leach when you need him?”

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Early Injuries Shuffle the Ravens Offensive Line in Camp

Posted on 26 July 2013 by WNST Staff

Day 2 of Ravens Training Camp held some big storylines, especially concerning the Offensive Line. The team’s Super Bowl run in 2012 was predicated on the blocking emergence of a unit that was shuffled all season long. With Bryant McKinnie reinserted into that core, Baltimore seemed to find the best fit for its five lineman; as Kelechi Osemele moved to Guard and Michael Oher transitioned back to RT.

The team already had concerns at Center, with the retirement of Matt Birk, but it was expected Gino Gradkowski would be handed the starting job. Though, with the acquisition of former Colt, A.Q. Shipley, the competition seems to be in full swing. Both split time throughout drills on Friday, yet Shipley was in place with the first team for most of the 11-on-11 portion of practice. Shipley also saw some time next to Gradkowski, filling in at Guard. You can hear Gradkowski’s thoughts on the competition here, in a interview with Glenn Clark, on the Reality Check, after Friday’s practice.

The key concern for the next couple weeks will be the health of both starting Guards, Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele. Yanda was placed on the PUP list, but passed his physical on Friday, making a return in the upcoming days likely. On the other side, Osemele was held out of Thursday’s 2nd practice and was a no-show on Friday, with concerns of a hamstring injury.

In the place of the those two standouts, were several combinations of players varying in experience. Jah Reid took the most snaps at LG (Osemele’s position) with the first team, while RG was a mixed bag of former practice squad players and rookies. Ryan Jensen, a 6th round pick out of Colorado State-Pueblo, initially spent time with the first team, until he was shook up with a leg “tweak,” during running game drills. As mentioned before, A.Q. Shipley filled in at one point, but Ramon Harewood covered the position, while Shipley played Center. Jack Cornell and Antoine McClain also rotated in that spot at points during practice.

It may not be an actual injury, but there still has to be concern at the LT position as well. Though Bryant McKinnie was cleared to practice on Friday, after being sat down Thursday for “conditioning issues,” he did not see much time on the field. He was involved in all position drills, but was held out in most the team exercises (7-on-7, 11-on-11, Two Minute). Rookie fifth round pick, Ricky Wagner (from Wisconsin), settled in with the first team, while McKinnie was on the sidelines. He performed admirably against Elvis Dumervil, but did struggle against the former Defensive Player of the Year, Terrell Suggs.

The key acquisition for the line may be having Offensive Assistant, Juan Castillo, around for an entire season. He not only brought an intensity to practice, but was pulling players aside between plays. Castillo was recognized as one of the best Offensive Line coaches in the league, while in Philadelphia (before his failed experiment calling defensive plays), where he utilized big men in the trenches to control the defensive front 7. He has plenty of size on this roster to play with and can be a real asset in developing some of the younger players on the team.

By the end of practice, the first team Offensive Line looked as follows: LT-Wagner, LG-Reid, C-Shipley, RG-Harewood, RT-Oher. That is vastly different than last season’s Super Bowl winners and the expectation for the starters, come Week 1.

Side Notes:

The defensive rookie class of Matt Elam, Arthur Brown and Brandon Williams all worked with the second team, even though there is high expectations for that trio.

Chykie Brown worked in with the first team, essentially holding down Lardarius Webb’s spot until he is ready to participate in practice.

Torrey Smith had to leave the field at one point, during 7-on-7 drills, with an apparent lower leg/ankle/foot injury. He did have a noticeable limp for the rest of practice, but continued to participate, until the end.

The defensive line showed some versatility, during Two-Minute drills, where OLB Courtney Upshaw and DE Pernell McPhee lined up inside at the DT spots; Dumervil and Suggs held down the DE positions, in that alignment.

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McKinnie returns to practice, Osemele sits out Friday

Posted on 26 July 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

The first-day drama surrounding left tackle Bryant McKinnie has appeared to resolve itself to some degree for the Ravens.

According to WNST.net colleague Brett Dickinson, the veteran offensive lineman returned to the practice field on the second day of full-squad workouts after being held out Thursday by coach John Harbaugh, who told reporters McKinnie was “too heavy” to practice. The 33-year-old was believed to be carrying 10 pounds more than the team preferred, but the overall sense in Owings Mills was that McKinnie would be able to shed the weight quickly.

McKinnie’s return was good news because starting left guard Kelechi Osemele sat out Friday’s practice as he tweaked his hamstring a day earlier. The second-year lineman was playing in McKinnie’s place at left tackle before he was stretched out on the sideline and was seen with an ice pack on the back of his right leg while watching the second half of the workout. The injury was not believed to be serious and his absence on Friday was likely precautionary.

Other players missing from Friday’s practice included wide receiver Marlon Brown, cornerback Asa Jackson, linebacker Jameel McClain (neck), and right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder). McClain and Yanda remain on the active physically unable to perform list.

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McKinnie held out of first practice due to weight concerns

Posted on 25 July 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A little more than a month after stating his goal of being the best left tackle in the NFL this season, Bryant McKinnie was nowhere to be found on the practice field as the Ravens’ held their first full-squad workout of the summer on Thursday.

Unlike last year, McKinnie was present at the team’s Owings Mills facility for the first full day of camp, but the veteran wasn’t cleared to practice due to concerns over his weight. Coach John Harbaugh said it was his decision to keep McKinnie off the field, but the offensive lineman was not placed on the non-injured football list like teammate Jacoby Jones after the wide receiver failed the conditioning test earlier in the week.

“Bryant’s just too heavy right now,” Harbaugh said. “He needs to lose weight. My guess is he lost quite a bit today. He’s in good shape and he [has] good cardiovascular fitness and you can tell he’s worked hard, but I wasn’t real comfortable putting him out there today at that weight.

“We’ll figure it out in the next 24 hours, the next 48 hours what we want to do and the best way to deal with it, but he’ll be out there.”

The overall sense from the Ravens was this being more of a precautionary move despite disappointment in McKinnie’s weight. Entering his third season in Baltmore, he is roughly carrying 10 extra pounds of water weight, but his overall conditioning is not as concerning as last year when he reported late to training camp after informing the Ravens he hurt his back after falling outside his Florida home days before training camp.

McKinnie does not have to take the conditioning test due to his exceptional attendance for the Ravens’ offseason conditioning program. The expectation is that he could be back on the field within the next few days if he’s able to shed the weight quickly.

Harbaugh praised McKinnie throughout the spring for his dedication to working out after the Ravens re-signed the 32-year-old to a two-year contract worth a maximum of $7 million. Needless to say, the left tackle’s absence from practice wasn’t the way Harbaugh or McKinnie wanted to begin the summer.

“We’re both disappointed,” Harbaugh said. “I’m not sure who’s more disappointed — Bryant or I — because he was pretty darn disappointed, but I was feeling pretty disappointed myself. We had a long talk about it. It’s not that effort wasn’t put in. It’s an issue, but we’re going to get it fixed together.”

Starting left guard Kelechi Osemele slid over to left tackle in McKinnie’s absence while Jah Reid lined up at left guard with the starting offensive line. Unlike last summer when he moved to left tackle in McKinnie’s absence at the start of camp, veteran tackle Michael Oher remained on the right side.

Of course, last summer’s tumultuous start led to McKinnie losing his starting job for the entire regular season before he was placed back with the first unit at the start of the playoffs. He started all four playoff games and was considered a significant reason why the Ravens went on to win their second Super Bowl title.

Webb aiming to be great in return from ACL injury

Top cornerback Lardarius Webb was present and working on a limited basis during the first day of full-team practice in Owings Mills, but the fifth-year defensive back is looking to do more than just recover from the second ACL surgery of his brief NFL career.

“I want to be great,” Webb said. “I don’t want to just be good. I want to be more than that, so I’m working my butt off just to get back on the field.”

He signed a six-year, $50 million contract in April 2012 but saw his season end when he injured his left knee on Oct. 14 in a win over the Dallas Cowboys. Regarded as one of the up-and-coming cornerbacks in the league prior to the injury, Webb has every intention of picking up where he left off.

Before he can reach loftier goals, the Ravens will bring Webb along slowly at the start of camp, but Harbaugh confirmed the 27-year-old is on track to play in the Sept. 5 season opener and very well could see game action even sooner.

“It’s reasonable that he would be playing against Denver with the state of ACL surgery in recovery,” Harbaugh said. “That’s definitely our target. I think he has a very good chance to get back and play in the preseason at some point in time, but it’s not the most important thing. But it would be helpful.”

Veteran linebacker “better than advertised”


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McKinnie setting lofty goals after much different minicamp than last year

Posted on 13 June 2013 by Luke Jones

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Last year’s mandatory minicamp in Owings Mills was only the beginning of a trying season for Ravens left tackle Bryant McKinnie as he was held out of practices due to conditioning reasons.

The Ravens weren’t happy and the problems multiplied from there as McKinnie reported late to training camp after explaining he suffered a fall outside his Florida home in late July, injuring his back in the process. He wouldn’t regain his standing within the organization for quite some time as coach John Harbaugh replaced him at left tackle with Michael Oher. McKinnie was then nearly cut before the start of the season before agent Michael George and general manager Ozzie Newsome worked out a compromise for a reduced salary that kept him in Baltimore.

McKinnie didn’t start a single regular-season game at left tackle, but it all began to change after a December conversation with Harbaugh in which the two cleared the air over their respective expectations. McKinnie’s practice performance improved over the final few weeks of the regular season and he was eventually inserted in the starting lineup for the start of the postseason.

The rest was history as McKinnie’s exceptional play not only protected quarterback Joe Flacco’s blindside but reshuffled an offensive line that was dominant throughout the Ravens’ run to a Super Bowl title. McKinnie carried that momentum into the offseason with an eventual return on a two-year contract and a healthy and productive spring participating in organized team activities and the mandatory minicamp without any limitations.

“This time last year, I didn’t even participate, so yeah, I definitely feel a lot better in minicamp,” said McKinnie, who admitted how difficult most of last season was for the 33-year-old lineman. “You just have a lot going on mentally, but right now, I’m more focused so I can have a good year and be the best left tackle in the league.”

It’s a lofty goal for a player most expected to be long gone this offseason as the Ravens would look to the draft and potential free-agent options for a long-term solution at left tackle. A late draft position and limited cap space made that a difficult proposition as the Ravens completed draft weekend with left guard Kelechi Osemele projected to be their starting left tackle.

Meanwhile, McKinnie began receiving interest from the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers, taking free-agent visits and receiving offers from both teams before the Ravens jumped back into the picture. All along, McKinnie had remained in touch with Harbaugh, Oher, and new run-game coordinator Juan Castillo as he faced an uncertain future entering his 12th NFL season.

And after looking like he’d be one of the least likely of the Ravens’ many unrestricted free agents to return, he became the only one of significance to stay put in an offseason filled with changes.

“I always wanted to give the Ravens an option to match whatever other teams offered,” McKinnie said. “So I would tell my agent to check back to see what the Ravens have going on and we’ll decide from there.”

Less than a week after the draft, McKinnie agreed to a two-year deal with a reported base value of $6.3 million and $2 million in guaranteed money.

However, Harbaugh laid out the challenge that he was looking forward to seeing McKinnie come to work during offseason workouts as well as OTAs now that it was certain he’d be returning for a third season. The Baltimore coach provided positive reviews Thursday when asked whether his veteran tackle had lived up to his end of the bargain.

“He moved really well in this camp,” Harbaugh said. “As well as he moved at the end of the year last year when he started practicing so well and playing so well. He looks healthy, and he will continue to work on his conditioning. That’s always for all of us, that’s always a year-round, life-round proposition. He seems to be very committed. I love the way he’s playing and his effort.”

The addition of Castillo to the coaching staff has received plenty of praise from players and fellow coaches as the former Philadelphia Eagles assistant will not only oversee the running game but work with offensive line coach Andy Moeller to instruct an offensive line returning four of its five starters from last year’s postseason.

Castillo’s offseason communication isn’t the only way in which McKinnie has been impressed.

“He focuses on our technique, and that’s something that I kind of get away from sometimes,” McKinnie said. “Right now is a great time for us to work on our technique and me in pass protection – sitting straight back. Juan’s been a great help.”

McKinnie said Thursday he feels like he’s 26 and is out to prove that he is capable of performing at a high level for more than just the four-game stretch that helped the Ravens win their second world championship.

The 2002 first-round pick wants to prove he’s the best in the NFL at his position. And he knows exactly what it will take to go about proving it.

“When people turn on film, they’ll just see that I’m dominating,” McKinnie said. “I just feel that I’m going to do better than everybody else this year.”

Whether that lofty goal is realistic or not remains to be seen, but the Ravens will eagerly take the kind of play they saw last January and February from their starting left tackle.


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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 11 June 2013 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: WNBA-Indiana Fever @ Washington Mystics (Sunday 2pm from Verizon Center live on Monumental Network); MLL: Denver Outlaws @ Chesapeake Bayhawks (Saturday 6:30pm from Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium live on CBS Sports Network); Boxing: Bryant Jennings vs. Andrey Fedosov (Friday 8pm from Bethlehem, PA live on NBC Sports Network), Arash Usmanee vs. Art Hovhannisyan (Friday 10pm from South Orange, NJ live on ESPN2), Mikey Garcia vs. Juan Manuel Lopez (Saturday 10:45pm from Dallas live on HBO)

10. Sting (Wednesday 8pm Pier Six Pavilion), Darius Rucker (Saturday 7pm Pier Six Pavilion); Of Monsters And Men (Tuesday 5:30pm Merriweather Post Pavilion), The xx/Grizzly Bear (Sunday 6pm Merriweather Post Pavilion), Alice Cooper/Marilyn Manson (Monday 5:30pm Merriweather Post Pavilion); The Go-Go’s/The Psychaelic Furs (Thursday 8pm Wolf Trap); The Dan Band (Friday 8pm Power Plant Live); Cold War Kids (Tuesday 8pm Rams Head Live); Cris Jacobs Band (Friday 8pm 8×10 Club), Rebirth Brass Band (Sunday 8pm 8×10 Club); The Zombies (Monday 8pm Rams Head on Stage); Aaron Lewis (Tuesday 8pm Fillmore Silver Spring), Hanson (Saturday 8pm Fillmore Silver Spring); Animal Collective (Tuesday & Wednesday 7pm 9:30 Club); Kings of the Mic feat. LL Cool J, DJ Z-Trip, Ice Cube, Public Enemy, De La Soul (Wednesday 8pm Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric); The Olms (Wednesday 6pm U Street Music Hall); David Byrne & St. Vincent (Thursday 8pm Meyerhoff Symphony Hall); Mac McAnally (Friday 9pm State Theatre); KC & The Sunshine Band (APG Federal Credit Union Arena); Mike Doughty (Thursday 8pm Sixth & I Historic Synagogue); Black Sabbath “13”, Jason Isbell “Southeastern”The Lonely Island “The Wack Album”, Goo Goo Dolls “Magnetic” and Jimmy Eat World “Damage” available in stores/on iTunes (Tuesday)

I’ve posted this video of Darius Rucker doing “Wagon Wheel” with Old Crow Medicine Show before, but just to remind everyone that I’m a Rucker guy-I’m posting it again. It’s the type of thing that doesn’t suck.

For not being remotely American, there’s quite a nice amount of Americana about Of Monsters And Men…

You may remember Rebirth Brass Band from their performance at the Howlin’ Wolf as part of WNST.net’s massive purple parties in New Orleans. I vividly remember the weekend as “The Greatest Weekend of My Life”…

Everything Kevin Van Valkenburg says is more important than everything I say. Kevin Van Valkenburg wants you to listen to Jason Isbell. For what it’s worth, so do I.

9. Bill Cosby (Saturday 8pm Wolf Trap); Frank Caliendo (Thursday-Sunday DC Improv); George Wallace (Saturday 8pm Lincoln Theatre); Jay Pharoah (Friday-Sunday Baltimore Comedy Factory); Oz The Great And Powerful” and “House of Cards Season One” available on Blu-Ray/DVD (Tuesday); This Is The End (Wednesday) and “Man of Steel (Friday) out in theaters

You know Bill Cosby and I are close personal friends, right? Because we are. Almost as close as Caliendo and I…

Also, I would like to see “This Is The End”. It’s a comedy that might actually be funny. In 2013. Just cancel the awards shows.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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