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Nasty shares a smile with Art Modell 1998

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Chapter 10: The sad loss of a great work of Art

Posted on 21 January 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

 

“It’s a son talking to a father, that’s the way I looked at it. It’s hard talking about someone who loved you that much. It’s not as easy as you think it is. Everything I said in his ear came from my heart and I loved him dearly,”

— Ray Lewis (September 2012)

 

 

THE PAINTING HANGS OVER THE majestic fireplace at The Castle in Owings Mills and exudes the warmth of the man himself. Arthur Bertrand Modell. Founder. Baltimore Ravens.

Like several others in this purple tale of civic sports personalities who are more worthy of a book than a chapter, one could write tomes outlining the full color and complexity of the life and times of Arthur B. Modell. After nearly a lifetime of working the football business on the banks of Lake Erie beginning in March 1961 in his adopted homeland of Cleveland, the native New Yorker brought his beloved Browns franchise to Baltimore in November 1995 amidst national scorn. He was forever reviled in Ohio and beloved in Maryland. The economic reasons for the move are well documented. And Modell was clear that there were no other motives except for self-preservation, abandoning a decrepit stadium un-affectionately known as “The Mistake On The Lake” that was built in 1930. Coming to the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in an attempt to finally win a Super Bowl and create equity and a trust fund for his family in the only business he owned or cared about during his life was his only motivation.

Or as he once famously said regarding Baltimore, “I didn’t come here for the crab cakes!”

Five years later, on a team with four Hall of Famers, the Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV and forever changed the Baltimore sports landscape. The Ravens went from being a carpet-bagged sports franchise to a civic institution.

The unique part of the Ravens, being such a young franchise, is the amazing institutional memory that exists within a relatively new building and a teenage organization that has become the model for the NFL. Modell understood football’s value to a local community. He understood the allure of sports, and he recognized the partnership that a franchise needed to have with all elements of the fan base – men and women, children, and adults, rich and poor, black and white, blue collar and white collar, Jew, Gentile and non-believers. Art believed that a sports team could galvanize all parts of a community in a way that no other entity could muster.

And who would know more than Modell? He truly was one of a handful of pioneers who helped build the National Football League from a third-rate sport on the fringe of society in the early 1960s into the centerpiece of the American sports landscape during his 42 years of ownership.

Modell will be remembered for owning a football team in Cleveland and moving it to Baltimore, but he lived a very full life before he even arrived in Ohio as a well-heeled New York ad man who gave up his East Coast life and moved to the friendly heart of the Midwest. There, he sold football and lived football like his contemporaries Pete Rozelle, Al Davis, Lamar Hunt, and the other forefathers of modern football

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Join our 25th Anniversary Legendary Roadtrip to Canton for Ray Lewis induction ceremony in August

Posted on 17 January 2018 by WNST Trips

WNST proudly presents our 25th Anniversary Legendary Purple Roadtrip to Canton, Ohio and the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the Ray Lewis Induction.

We’ve known this trip was coming for No. 52 for a long time and we’re heartened that so many folks have reached to us to go along for the ride.

One of our favorite WNST trips was a unique long weekend trip back in 1998 to Cleveland and Detroit for baseball games and museum tours. So, in the spirit of that and knowing that many folks want to experience more than just the Saturday night Ray Lewis speech under the Ohio stars – but that will certainly be the highlight and the destination – we’re arranging a few packages in the hopes that one catches your eye and you’ll support WNST and join us this summer for a memorable sojourn with friends!

We will be offering a few upgrades on the pricing of the seating for the Saturday night event but all of our packages currently include an “upper admission” to the stadium for the Ray Lewis and Pro Football Hall of Fame Induction Saturday night. All of our packages also include a Sunday trip through Pittsburgh to see the Pirates-Cardinals game at PNC Park. It’s a lovely stadium and it’ll break up the trip home.

There is a serious expectation that the Baltimore Ravens will be playing in the Thursday Night Kickoff Game in Canton once Ray Lewis gets the nod on Saturday, February 3rd. So, the first (and pricier) package includes a longer trip and a ticket to that game. Clearly, we can refund folks the difference in the shorter packages if the Ravens aren’t in the Thursday game or add you for Thursday if you decide you want to see the game.

Also, it’s our expectation is that a lot of folks won’t want to take the extra day off of work and the expense of a preseason game but we want to make sure we offer all options. The expectation is that the Friday-Sunday PLAN B trip will be our most popular. But we expect to run buses on all three days because the demand has been very high and it’s hard to get rooms in Northern Ohio that weekend.

Our prices are – by FAR – the best in the marketplace for the trip. We’ve taken over 20,000 Baltimore sports fans on trips over the past 25 years. We’d love to have you with us this summer in Canton as Ray Lewis gives a speech for the ages and probably does one more Squirrel Dance.

 

ALL PACKAGES ARE CURRENTLY DISCOUNTED $50 PER PERSON!!!

PRICES WILL GO UP ON MONDAY, FEBRUARY 5TH!!!!

PLEASE BUY EARLY AND SAVE SO WE CAN PLAN!!!!

 

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PACKAGE A

(This assumes the Ravens are playing in the Thursday Night Preseason Kickoff Game.)

Itinerary:

We will depart from White Marsh Park N Ride at 7am with a pickup at the I-70 Security West Park N Ride at 7:30am and arrive at the Cleveland Doubletree around 1pm. Bus will depart for Pro Football Hall of Fame at 4pm for Ravens game.

On Friday, bus will depart at 9am for Pro Football Hall of Fame visit and return to Cleveland Doubletree at 4pm. We will attend Cleveland Indians-Oakland Athletics game at Progressive Field on Friday night at 7pm.

On Saturday, we will have an optional bus to the Canton Hall of Fame parade at 6:30am that will return at 10am. Our group will tour the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame (next door to our hotel) from 10am-1pm. Buses depart for Ray Lewis induction at 3pm. Induction ceremony at Canton stadium is 7pm. We expect Ray to be the last on the podium and speak sometime around 11pm. We will return to Cleveland Doubletree after the induction.

On Sunday, our buses will depart at 10am for Pittsburgh PNC Park where we’ll see the Pittsburgh Pirates host the St. Louis Cardinals. Game is 1:35 p.m. and we’ll bus back to Baltimore after the game or 4:30pm and expect to arrive home by 9pm Sunday night.

What’s included:

Roundtrip Charter Bus transportation courtesy of Gunther Charters

Beer, soda, water and snacks on the bus with Ray Lewis/old Ravens videos for the ride

Three nights at downtown Cleveland Doubletree (chocolate chip cookies included!)

Upper game ticket for Ravens-TBD Preseason game

Pro Football Hall of Fame admission on Friday

Athletics-Indians baseball game on Friday

Rock And Roll Hall of Fame admission on Saturday

Ray Lewis induction ceremony upper deck seat Saturday night

Cardinals-Pirates baseball game on Sunday

Pricing (per person):

SINGLE: $1,000

DOUBLE (two in a room): $852

TRIPLE (three in a room): $752

QUAD (four in a room): $700

 

How many in your room?

 

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PACKAGE B

(I’m assuming this will be our most popular package)

Itinerary:

We will depart from White Marsh Park N Ride on Friday, August 3rd at 6am with a pickup at the I-70 Security West Park N Ride at 6:30am and arrive at the Pro Football Hall of Fame around 11am where we’ll visit for a few hours and then depart for the downtown Cleveland Doubletree at 4pm. We will attend Cleveland Indians-Oakland Athletics game at Progressive Field on Friday night at 7pm.

On Saturday, we will have an optional bus to the Canton Hall of Fame parade at 6:30am that will return at 10am. Our group will tour the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame (next door to our hotel) from 10am-1pm. Buses depart for Ray Lewis induction at 3pm. Induction ceremony at Canton stadium is 7pm. We expect Ray to be the last on the podium and speak sometime around 11pm. We will return to Cleveland Doubletree after the induction.

On Sunday, our buses will depart at 10am for Pittsburgh PNC Park where we’ll see the Pittsburgh Pirates host the St. Louis Cardinals. Game is 1:35 p.m. and we’ll bus back to Baltimore after the game or 4:30pm and expect to arrive home by 9pm Sunday night.

What’s included:

Roundtrip Charter Bus transportation courtesy of Gunther Charters

Beer, soda, water and snacks on the bus with Ray Lewis and old Ravens videos for the ride

Two nights at Cleveland Doubletree (chocolate chip cookies included!)

Pro Football Hall of Fame admission on Friday

Athletics-Indians baseball game on Friday

Rock And Roll Hall of Fame admission on Saturday

Ray Lewis induction ceremony upper deck seat Saturday night

Cardinals-Pirates baseball game in Pittsburgh on Sunday

 

Pricing (per person):

SINGLE: $752

DOUBLE (two in a room): $652

TRIPLE (three in a room): $600

QUAD (four in a room): $552

 

How many in your room?

 

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PACKAGE C

(You don’t want to take a day off of work or break the bank but you want to see Ray Lewis in Canton and have some fun with our group)

Itinerary:

We will depart Saturday, August 4 from White Marsh Park N Ride at 7am with a pickup at the I-70 Security West Park N Ride at 7:30am and arrive at our Youngstown hotel to freshen up before the Induction ceremony at Canton stadium is 7pm. We expect Ray to be the last on the podium and speak sometime around 11pm. We will return to Youngstown after the induction.

On Sunday, our buses will depart from Youngstown at 10am for Pittsburgh PNC Park where we’ll see the Pittsburgh Pirates host the St. Louis Cardinals. Game is 1:35 p.m. and we’ll bus back to Baltimore after the game or 4:30pm and expect to arrive home by 9pm Sunday night.

What’s included:

Roundtrip Charter Bus transportation courtesy of Gunther Charters

Beer, soda, water and snacks on the bus with Ray Lewis and old Ravens videos for the ride

One night in Youngstown, Ohio hotel after the ceremony

Ray Lewis induction ceremony upper deck seat Saturday night

Cardinals-Pirates baseball game on Sunday

 

Pricing (per person):

SINGLE: $425

DOUBLE (two in a room): $375

TRIPLE (three in a room): $350

QUAD (four in a room): $325

 

How many in your room?

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Chapter 3: The Wizard of Oz and The Process

Posted on 14 January 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

 

“In a highly-charged, competitive business, I tend to want answers right away, and Ozzie has to sleep on it. I have learned that Ozzie’s insistence that we talk about it tomorrow has been beneficial to both John [Harbaugh] and myself. I like his skill set, and I think it works in our favor that he does tend to like to think things over, and we usually come up with better decisions because of it.”

– Steve Bisciotti (January 2012)

 

 

 

THERE’S AN ALMOST MYSTICAL WAY Ozzie Newsome has about him, and it’s apparent when you talk to his peers, colleagues, and anyone who has ever worked closely with him. You always get the same picture of a dedicated, happy football savant.

Ozzie Newsome doesn’t talk much publicly, but when he does just about everyone in the Baltimore Ravens organization listens. And in some cases, he says nothing at all and simply allows his decisions and the 17 years of success to speak for itself on game days and at the end of more playoff runs.

Newsome doesn’t hold court with anyone in the media, shuns virtually all of the public spotlight that comes with running the Ravens as the team’s only-ever general manager, and quietly sits in his office and does his job. Chances are he’s watching film right now. He evaluates talent. He evaluates situations. He puts together a strategy for every scenario and every aspect of the Ravens personnel puzzle that makes it to the field on Sundays.

He works in the shadows as the most humble Hall of Fame football player in the room. He doesn’t intimidate. He doesn’t raise his voice. His wisdom is Yoda-like throughout the NFL. No one outside of owner Steve Bisciotti knows his contract situation and it hasn’t been reported in years although every time a major job opens at the University of Alabama his name is whispered. In every other NFL city, the general manager’s contract reads like sands running through an hourglass, but not for Newsome and the Ravens.

A popular phrase in the Ravens building is “Ozzie transcends us all” and that doesn’t mean he’s “General Manager for Life” – but his post is among the most secure in professional sports as he approaches his third decade as the only man who has ever made a draft pick for the Baltimore Ravens.

Draft the right guys. Get the right coaches. Chase and sign the right free agents: right player, right price. Define a path and a strategy. And always follow “The Process,” a term Newsome has used repeatedly when describing the way his organization prepares for the NFL’s draft each April.

Perhaps it’s hard to believe that Newsome’s first draft choice in Baltimore on April 19, 1996 – the selection of left tackle Jonathan Ogden as the No. 4 overall selection from UCLA – was roundly booed by the fans at the Ravens’ inaugural draft party in downtown Baltimore. The crowd wanted troubled Nebraska running back Lawrence Phillips. So did Ravens owner Art Modell. Newsome said “the process” indicated that Ogden was the right choice, and he always stays true to the draft board set up by his organization and scouts. Newsome will be rewarded for the courage of his convictions from 1996 once again in the summer of 2013 as “J.O.” will be enshrined in Canton alongside Newsome in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

And Newsome’s second-ever draft pick for the Ravens less than three hours later? An undersized kid from the University of Miami by the name of Ray Lewis, another selection whose bronze bust will reside in the same room in Canton in 2018.

So what is the brilliance of Newsome and the key to his staying power while other franchises hire and fire at the top of their decision-making tree?

“Let’s start with the fact that he’s the best listener I’ve ever seen — not just in the NFL, but anywhere in life,” former head coach Brian Billick said about his football counterpart for nine years in Baltimore. “He has the patience of Job. And most importantly, he’s completely egoless. He doesn’t care about who gets the credit as long as the right decision is made.”

Traditionally, in most NFL organizations, the head of personnel would be hopping on planes, trains and automobiles, constantly on the road in the fall going to scout college players for the April draft. But that’s not the system in Baltimore. Newsome remains glued to Owings Mills for the balance of the regular season so he can constantly evaluate his own talent in the organization.

“Whenever I had to make a move on the 53-man roster or explain why we were using someone on the game day 46 (roster), I’d never have to explain it to Ozzie because he watched everything that happened all week,” Billick said. “In the beginning, I thought he was checking up on me, but then I came to realize I wouldn’t want it any other way. We were both seeing the same things all week, and it made both of our jobs easier.”

Instead, while he’s in Baltimore and continuing to evaluate his own players in purple, Newsome trusts his scouting corps to scour the nation with an eye for talent and unending amount of research, reports and evaluations long before the Senior Bowl or any of the combines and individual workouts at season’s end.

It’s the fire of the competition that fuels Newsome. He loves football. He loves watching players play. He loves the strategy of how to assemble a football team. And after 17 years of doing it what he calls “The Ravens Way,” he’s not about to change.

The brilliance and difference between Newsome and other scouts and personnel evaluators is that he has no inferiority complex and nothing to

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 27-10 win over Cleveland

Posted on 18 December 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens moving a step closer to securing a postseason berth in a 27-10 win over Cleveland, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The defense took advantage of rookie DeShone Kizer and the NFL’s most turnover-prone offense by forcing four turnovers that led to 14 points. Much of the damage hasn’t come against the stiffest competition, but a league-best 33 takeaways is impressive. Two years ago, the Ravens had only 14.

2. The offense didn’t light up the scoreboard like the previous two weeks, but still moving the ball despite the running game being a non-factor through the first three quarters is an encouraging sign. The Ravens were able to finish with 63 rushing yards on 11 carries in the final period.

3. This wasn’t the first time Matthew Judon was arguably the top player for the defense. He totaled a sack, two other tackles for a loss, and two more quarterback hits. His versatile play in all phases has been one of the most encouraging big-picture developments of the season.

4. Remember how completely helpless the passing game looked without Jeremy Maclin in two games earlier this season? He played only five snaps because of a left knee injury, but Joe Flacco still threw for a season-high 288 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.

5. A major reason for that was Mike Wallace, who caught six passes for 89 yards with four of those going for first downs. Since the bye, Wallace is averaging 76.2 receiving yards per contest and 16.6 yards per catch. That equates to a 1,200-yard season over 16 games.

6. Terrell Suggs finished with an ordinary two tackles if you only looked at the standard box score, but he was consistently putting heat on Kizer and was credited with nine hurries by Pro Football Focus. He played a significant part in several good things that happened for the defense.

7. A read-option keeper for Flacco shouldn’t be called unless it’s the fourth quarter of a playoff game, but that play and the draw for a touchdown reflect the greater confidence in the quarterback’s health. Flacco also has a 94.5 passer rating with five touchdown passes over the last three games.

8. C.J. Mosley rebounded from a poor outing in Pittsburgh as he batted down a couple passes, was stronger in pass coverage, and delivered the crushing hit on the Duke Johnson fumble. Sending Mosley after the quarterback a few times was a needed changeup after his recent struggles in coverage.

9. John Harbaugh was wise to mostly keep Alex Collins out of harm’s way in the second half as he was visibly laboring several times. As tough and physical as Collins is, we sometimes forget he’s only 210 pounds, which is much lighter than many of the league’s bruising-style backs.

10. For the second straight year, the Ravens surrendered Isaiah Crowell’s longest run from scrimmage for the season. The run defense has mostly been terrific since late October, but allowing a 96-yard touchdown drive exclusively via the ground in the second quarter was mystifying.

11. I didn’t like Marty Mornhinweg’s outside run call on fourth-and-goal from the 1, but credit Cleveland defensive end Carl Nassib for blowing up an attempted double team from Matt Skura and Austin Howard. He was more disruptive than top overall pick Myles Garrett throughout the day.

12. I understand reluctance to embrace the 2017 Ravens because of the early-season inconsistency, but some of the fear expressed about the Browns this week was over the top. Their horrendous minus-25 turnover difference says it all while Baltimore leads the NFL at plus-17. Taking care of the football really matters.

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Ravens use effective road formula to stay in playoff position

Posted on 17 December 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens beating 0-14 Cleveland was never going to bring any earth-shattering developments beyond the possibility of a serious injury to a key player.

Only an unthinkable loss jeopardizing their playoff chances would have spawned a major headline.

The Browns again showed Sunday why they’re the worst team in the NFL, but Baltimore did what was necessary to remain in the driver’s seat for an AFC wild-card spot with two games remaining. In the 27-10 victory, the Ravens forced four turnovers, played superb special teams, and turned in another solid offensive performance to continue that encouraging late-season trend.

Despite some angst from fans reluctant to embrace a team with just one win against opponents currently holding a winning record, Baltimore didn’t come close to becoming the first team to lose to the hapless Browns, after all. And two home wins against opponents with a combined 8-20 record will result in the first trip to the playoffs since 2014.

Rebounding from last week’s awful performance in Pittsburgh, the Ravens defense intercepted two passes and forced and recovered two fumbles to take the NFL lead from Jacksonville with 33 total takeaways. Questions understandably will persist about this unit’s performance against better offenses and better quarterbacks, but forcing turnovers on the road will be a key part of the formula for any potential run in January. Baltimore had a whopping 15 takeaways in its four road wins this season.

Nearly as important as those turnovers was the offense’s ability to protect the football on the road yet again. The Ravens committed no turnovers Sunday and had no more than one in six of their eight away games this season. Baltimore also has just one giveaway over the current three-game offensive surge.

It’s no secret that Joe Flacco and the passing game have been more aggressive — and productive — in recent weeks, but that change in mindset does little good if accompanied by carelessness with the football. Flacco threw for a season-high 288 yards against the Browns and has now been intercepted only once over the last four games.

An offense scoring points is paramount, but taking care of the ball gives you a chance, especially when lacking an abundance of playmakers.

Sunday also offered a reminder of how brilliant punter Sam Koch has been this season — and for a long time — as he dropped three punts inside the 5-yard line and two on back-to-back drives in the third quarter. That field position led to Za’Darius Smith’s strip-sack of DeShone Kizer and Brandon Williams’ recovery for a touchdown that gave the Ravens a 24-10 lead that wouldn’t be challenged again.

Punting is an underappreciated skill because of its direct association with offensive failure, but Koch has been an incredible asset for a team that’s so frequently depended on field position and the success of its defense this season. The 12th-year veteran may never be viewed as the biggest reason for any single victory, but the cumulative value he brings over the course of 16 games shouldn’t be dismissed.

The victory over the Browns netted the Ravens a 4-4 road record for the season, and that’s nothing to take for granted if you’ve been paying attention the last few years. John Harbaugh’s best teams were never particularly great away from M&T Bank Stadium, but a .500 away mark has often served as a benchmark for a postseason berth.

Bad road losses have contributed to the Ravens missing the playoffs in recent years, but they’ve managed to avoid those this year. In 2013, upset defeats at Buffalo and Cleveland contributed to a 2-6 road record and an 8-8 finish. Last year, it was an ugly loss to an eventual 5-11 New York Jets team in October that contributed to the Ravens having no margin for error while facing a brutal December schedule.

Say what you want about a team lacking a signature win against a projected playoff team, but the Ravens have only one bad loss — the Week 6 tilt against Chicago — on their résumé. Since mid-October, they’ve beaten the teams they were supposed to beat.

And that’s all they have to do at home these final two weeks, thanks to another clean road performance on Sunday.

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Ravens-Browns: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 17 December 2017 by Luke Jones

It was 10 years ago Saturday that the Ravens lost to an 0-13 team, an embarrassing defeat that led to the dismissal of longtime head coach Brian Billick a few weeks later.

Baltimore hopes history will not repeat against the winless Cleveland Browns on Sunday, but the difference this time around is John Harbaugh’s team having much more to play for than that 2007 team that was in the midst of a nine-game winning streak and merely playing out the string. These Ravens are almost guaranteed a trip to the playoffs if they win their final three games against teams with a combined 8-32 record entering the weekend, so there should be no excuse for a letdown.

As expected, wide receiver Mike Wallace (ankle) is active and will start despite missing two days of practice this week. Wallace turned his right ankle in the first quarter of last Sunday’s loss to Pittsburgh, but he was able to return for the next series and played the rest of the game.

Third-year wide receiver Breshad Perriman is also active for just the second time in five games since the bye week. With both Wallace and Chris Moore (hip) less than 100 percent, the 2015 first-round pick will likely serve as an insurance policy more than anything else on Sunday.

Rookie outside linebacker Tim Williams is a healthy scratch after being active for the last four games. The third-round pick from Alabama struggled last week and was put on skates as Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell scored his 11-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith is active and returns to the defensive rotation after sitting out last week’s game with a shoulder injury.

Browns cornerback Jamar Taylor will play after being listed as questionable on the final injury report. The starting defensive back missed practices all week with a foot injury, but he is expected to start opposite Jason McCourty.

Sunday’s referee is Clete Blakeman.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Cleveland calls for mostly cloudy skies and temperatures reaching the high 30s with winds five to 10 miles per hour and only a 20 percent chance of precipitation.

The Ravens are wearing purple jerseys with black pants while the Browns don white tops with white pants for their final home game of the 2017 season.

Sunday marks the 38th all-time meeting between these AFC North teams with Baltimore enjoying an incredible 28-9 advantage dating back to 1999. The Ravens are 17-2 against Cleveland in the John Harbaugh era, but the last four games at FirstEnergy Stadium have resulted in one-score finals.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
RB Terrance West
CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste
LB Tim Williams
OL Jermaine Eluemunor
OL Maurquice Shakir
DE Bronson Kaufusi
DE Chris Wormley

CLEVELAND
QB Cody Kessler
CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun
S Justin Currie
OL Marcus Martin
OL Geoff Gray
WR Matt Hazel
TE Matt Lengel

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Ravens-Browns: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 16 December 2017 by Luke Jones

The task is clear for the Ravens after last Sunday’s heartbreaking loss in Pittsburgh.

Three wins will very likely assure them of their first trip to the playoffs since 2014. Anything less leaves them at the mercy of how other AFC playoff contenders such as Buffalo, Tennessee, Kansas City, and Los Angeles will fare. Their focus must remain on beating a Cleveland team desperate for its first win, but the Ravens will naturally be taking a peek at the out-of-town scoreboard on Sunday.

“I always look. It is always interesting to see what the scores are,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “I’m sure we’ll be interested in that, but really, it doesn’t matter. We need to win. We need to win. We don’t need to be [dealing with] any tiebreakers or anything like that. We just need to win.”

Regardless of what other teams do, there are no excuses for the Ravens the rest of the way with such a reasonable schedule. Losing to the winless Browns, the Luck-less Colts, or the listless Bengals could send shock waves through the organization after Steve Bisciotti exercised much patience the previous two offseasons. Blowing a fourth-quarter lead at Heinz Field for the second straight year didn’t sit well with the owner last week, so you can only imagine how he’d react if the Ravens were to drop the ball at any point before the ball drops on New Year’s Eve.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens meet Cleveland for the 38th time in the all-time series and hold a 28-9 advantage after their 24-10 win at M&T Bank Stadium in Week 2. Despite the overall perception, the last four contests played at FirstEnergy Stadium have been decided by one possession.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. Browns rookie edge rusher Myles Garrett will collect 1 1/2 sacks in the first of many encounters with Ronnie Stanley. The first overall pick of this year’s draft has missed five games due to injuries, but he has five sacks and has consistently caused problems in the pocket. Meanwhile, Stanley has had a solid season, but the 2016 first-round pick hasn’t yet taken his game to the next level from his encouraging rookie campaign. This is a matchup that will be worth watching over the next few years, but you’d expect Ravens tight ends to help out by chipping the talented 272-pound defensive end on Sunday.

2. Alex Collins will eclipse 75 rushing yards while finding the end zone for the fifth straight game. The Browns have allowed an NFL-best 3.3 yards per carry and will present a tough challenge for a running game that’s been terrific over the last two weeks. Collins continues to pick up plenty of yardage after contact and will need to do that once again against a tough front. Joe Flacco and the passing game has been much better recently, but much of that stems from play-action calls and Collins will have plenty of opportunities to control the tempo of the game, especially with a lead.

3. Marlon Humphrey will match up with Josh Gordon and allow a touchdown reception in an otherwise strong performance. Much has been made about Dean Pees’ play-calling in the Pittsburgh game, but the biggest takeaway was Brandon Carr struggling much more in coverage than the coaching staff anticipated. The Ravens have rarely even used Jimmy Smith to travel with a specific wide receiver over the years, but Humphrey could earn that very assignment against the supremely-talented Gordon, who’s shown little rust in his first action in three years. This will be a fun matchup to watch.

4. Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer will commit two turnovers in Baltimore territory. According to ESPN, the rookie is the NFL’s lowest-rated passer inside the red zone, the main reason why his team is 26th in red-zone offense. Cleveland has also had predictable problems with pass protection since left tackle Joe Thomas was lost for the season, so that should open the door for Terrell Suggs to put heat on Kizer and force him into rushing throws. A plus-13 turnover difference has left the 7-6 Ravens in the playoff race while a league-worst minus-21 turnover ratio largely explains why the Browns are 0-13.

5. The Ravens will overcome a lethargic start to prevail in a 23-13 final. A slow beginning wouldn’t be a shock after an emotionally-draining loss to the Steelers while the Browns should be energized and motivated playing in their last home game. Cleveland would like nothing more than to put Baltimore’s playoff hopes in jeopardy, but there’s a reason why this team hasn’t won a game all season and the Ravens have won three of their last four and have been better on the road than in recent campaigns. It won’t be the kind of win that will improve the eyeball test for Harbaugh’s team, but a steady performance is all that’s needed for the first of three wins to help wrap up a postseason berth.

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Ravens list seven players as questionable for Cleveland game

Posted on 15 December 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens have designated seven players as questionable to play against Cleveland, but none are expected to be held out for health-related reasons on Sunday.

As he vowed the previous day, wide receiver Mike Wallace (right ankle) returned to practice Friday and will play against the Browns. The speedy veteran turned his ankle in the first quarter of last Sunday’s loss at Pittsburgh, but he was able to return for Baltimore’s next offensive series and finished the game without any further incident.

Wide receiver Chris Moore left last week’s game with a hip injury, but he was able to practice fully for most of the week. Cornerback Maurice Canady (knee) was limited in workouts throughout the week, but his status is not considered to be in real question.

“I think we’re ready to go. It’s important,” said head coach John Harbaugh about his team’s health entering Week 15. “It’s no time to be worried about that kind of stuff. It’s December football; everyone is where they’re at physically. Nobody is going to be 100-percent — nobody.”

Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith was practicing fully by the end of the week and is set to make his return after sitting out last week’s game with a shoulder injury.

The Browns are hurting in the secondary as cornerback CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun (knee) was listed as doubtful while starting cornerback Jamar Taylor (foot) and reserve corner Darius Hillary (knee) are questionable.

According to Weather.com, Sunday’s forecast in Cleveland calls for cloudy skies and temperatures in the high 30s with a 20 percent chance of rain and winds 10 to 15 miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
QUESTIONABLE: CB Maurice Canady (knee), OL Jermaine Eluemunor (shoulder), C Ryan Jensen (ankle), QB Ryan Mallett (illness), WR Chris Moore (hip), LB Za’Darius Smith (shoulder), WR Mike Wallace (ankle)

CLEVELAND
DOUBTFUL: CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Matt Hazel (hamstring), CB Darius Hillary (knee), CB Jamar Taylor (foot)

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Wallace eliminates any doubt about status for Cleveland game

Posted on 14 December 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Before reporters could even ask him the question in the Ravens locker room on Thursday, wide receiver Mike Wallace made it clear that he expects to play against Cleveland.

Absent from two straight workouts with a minor right ankle sprain sustained in the first quarter of last week’s loss to Pittsburgh, Wallace said he will practice Friday and downplayed any possibility of him not being able to play against the Browns. The speedy wideout missed only one series against the Steelers before returning early in the second quarter.

“I don’t think anybody’s at 100 percent, but I’ll be at about 99.9,” said Wallace as he laughed. “I’m going to be good; we’re going to be alright. Tape it up and go to work like Kobe [Bryant] at the end of the day. No matter what it’s going to be, we’re going to be out there. Come Sunday when we run out of the tunnel, I’m going to be out there.”

Wallace has caught 17 passes for 292 yards and a touchdown in four games since the Week 10 bye.

Center Ryan Jensen (ankle), wide receiver Chris Moore (hip), and outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith (shoulder) were upgraded to full participation, leaving the Ravens with very little drama from a health standpoint entering Week 15. Cornerback Maurice Canady (knee) was the only player to practice on a limited basis on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Browns were without three cornerbacks during their Thursday practice as starter Jamar Taylor (foot) and reserves Briean Boddy-Calhoun (knee) and Darius Hillary (knee) sat out. Defensive tackle Danny Shelton (chest/ribs) was a limited participant for the second straight day.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Mike Wallace (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Maurice Canady (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: OL Jermaine Eluemunor (shoulder), C Ryan Jensen (ankle), WR Chris Moore (hip), LB Za’Darius Smith (shoulder)

CLEVELAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun (knee), CB Darius Hillary (knee), CB Jamar Taylor (foot)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RT Shon Coleman (shoulder/thumb), WR Matt Hazel (hamstring), TE David Njoku (foot/wrist), S Jabrill Peppers (knee), DT Danny Shelton (chest/ribs), C JC Tretter (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Josh Keyes (wrist)

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Ravens wide receiver Wallace sits out Wednesday’s practice

Posted on 13 December 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Several Ravens players are still feeling the effects from the physical battle in Pittsburgh while shifting their attention toward the Week 15 trip to Cleveland.

Wide receiver Mike Wallace was the only player on the 53-man roster to miss Wednesday’s indoor practice, but four others were limited participants during the workout. Wallace turned his right ankle in the first quarter of Sunday’s game, but he returned on the next drive after having it taped and finished with three catches for 72 yards.

Wallace was not in the locker room to talk with reporters after practice, but he was on the field for the team’s walk-through earlier in the day.

Cornerback Maurice Canady (knee), center Ryan Jensen (ankle), and wide receiver Chris Moore (hip) were all listed as limited. Moore left Sunday’s game with the injury in the second half, but his presence at practice this early in the week bodes well for his availability. The 2016 fourth-round pick is steadily emerging as an offensive contributor, catching a 30-yard touchdown pass and finishing with three receptions for a career-high 48 yards against the Steelers.

“He really made some plays,” head coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “Chris came up, obviously, with a touchdown pass, which was big. The sideline catch — the diving catch — was big. He’s coming on. That’s exciting for us, and hopefully he’s out there next Sunday.”

Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith (shoulder) returned to practice as a limited participant after missing Sunday’s game against the Steelers.

Meanwhile, the winless Browns were without cornerbacks Jamar Taylor (foot) and Briean Boddy-Calhoun (knee) for a walk-through practice. Defensive tackle Danny Shelton (chest/ribs) and rookie safety Jabrill Peppers (knee) were estimated as limited participants.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Mike Wallace (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Maurice Canady (knee), C Ryan Jensen (ankle), WR Chris Moore (hip), LB Za’Darius Smith (shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: OL Jermaine Eluemunor (shoulder)

CLEVELAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun (knee), CB Jamar Taylor (foot)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RT Shon Coleman (shoulder/thumb), WR Matt Hazel (hamstring), TE David Njoku (foot/wrist), S Jabrill Peppers (knee), DT Danny Shelton (chest/ribs), C JC Tretter (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Josh Keyes (wrist)

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