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Stay or leave: Forecasting the fate of Ravens’ free agents

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Stay or leave: Forecasting the fate of Ravens’ free agents

Posted on 08 March 2012 by Luke Jones

With free agency set to begin on Tuesday afternoon at 4 p.m., it’s time to predict who remains and who departs among the Ravens’ 12 unrestricted free agents, four restricted free agents, and seven exclusive rights free agents.

As of Thursday afternoon, the 2012 salary cap had yet to be set, but most reports indicate it will remain right around the $120 million used for the 2011 season. The Ravens are projected to have somewhere between $11 and $12 million in cap space, depending on what the final cap number will be.

Franchise tag

RB Ray Rice: STAYS
Skinny: The Ravens have until July 15 to reach a long-term agreement with Rice or he will play for the $7.7 million salary mandated by the franchise tag for running backs.

Unrestricted free agents

G Ben Grubbs: LEAVES
Skinny: General manager Ozzie Newsome expressed optimism at the NFL Combine, but the Ravens won’t engage in a bidding war when Grubbs hits the open market. 

C Matt Birk: STAYS
Skinny: The Ravens will meet with Birk’s agent Joe Linta next week and could sign the veteran to a cap-friendly, short-term deal to finish his career in Baltimore. 

LB Jarret Johnson: LEAVES
Skinny: Despite little depth at outside linebacker, the Ravens appear ready to move on and won’t be able to afford Johnson in a thin market for linebackers. 

LB Jameel McClain: LEAVES
Skinny: Assuming the Ravens do not strike a deal for Grubbs, some of that money could be allocated to retain McClain, but other teams historically throw too much money at Baltimore linebackers in the open market. 

DE Cory Redding: STAYS
Skinny: Though third-year defensive lineman Arthur Jones could step into the starting lineup, Redding might have more value to the Ravens than other potential suitors at this stage in his career. 

LB Brendon Ayanbadejo: STAYS
Skinny: With the lack of depth at inside linebacker and Ayanbadejo’s ability in pass coverage, the Ravens will hold onto the 35-year-old at a lower rate than the four-year contract he signed with the team in 2008. 

S Tom Zbikowski: LEAVES
Skinny: After four years serving primarily as a backup, the former Notre Dame product is looking for an opportunity to start elsewhere and doesn’t bring enough to the table as a special teams player to warrant overpaying. 

S Haruki Nakamura: STAYS
Skinny: In the same position as Zbikowski, Nakamura’s versatility as a defensive back as well as his special teams prowess will force the Ravens to pony up a little extra to keep him in Baltimore. 

OL Andre Gurode: LEAVES
Skinny: With the Ravens looking to select an interior lineman or two in April’s draft, the five-time Pro Bowl center will continue his career elsewhere. 

DT Brandon McKinney: STAYS
Skinny: A solid member of the defensive line rotation, McKinney won’t figure to draw a ton of interest on the open market, and the Ravens want to maintain their depth up front. 

TE Kris Wilson: LEAVES
Skinny: Adding a veteran tight end was a shrewd move after Todd Heap’s release last season, but Wilson’s spot will be assumed by a younger, cheaper option. 

LB Edgar Jones: LEAVES
Skinny: Injuries opened the door for Jones’ return last season, but he wouldn’t figure to fit into the team’s plans for the 2012 season. 

Restricted free agents

(The Ravens can offer a first-round, second-round, or low tender to any of these players, giving them the right to match any offer from an opposing team or to receive that team’s draft pick that matches the designation. The low tender awards a draft pick equal to the round in which the player was originally drafted.)

CB Lardarius Webb: STAYS
Skinny: Webb will receive the first-round tender worth roughly $2.75 million as the Ravens will explore a long-term agreement with the fourth-year cornerback. 

CB Cary Williams: STAYS
Skinny: A report indicated the Ravens will offer Williams a first-round tender, but the second-round designation (an estimated $1.9 million) saves money and would still deter teams from trying to pry away the biggest surprise of the 2011 season.

LB Dannell Ellerbe: STAYS
Skinny: The Ravens could roll the dice and offer the low tender ($1.25 million) to the inconsistent linebacker, but that would mean they wouldn’t receive a pick (Ellerbe was an undrafted free agent) if they declined to match a potential offer sheet.

RB Matt Lawrence: LEAVES
Skinny: Even with little depth at running back behind Ray Rice, there’s no way to justify even offering the low tender to the oft-injured running back entering his fourth season.

Exclusive rights free agents

(These are players with two or fewer accrued seasons and own no negotiating rights.)

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Ranking the Ravens’ biggest defensive needs

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Ranking the Ravens’ biggest defensive needs

Posted on 15 February 2012 by Luke Jones

With free agency set to begin on March 13 and the draft to follow in late April, the Ravens continue to evaluate their needs in all three phases of the game.

After evaluating the biggest offensive needs on Monday, I offer my thoughts on the defensive side of the football by ranking the biggest positions of need entering the offseason.

1. Outside linebacker

For a team as rich as any at the linebacker position over the last 15 years, it’s unusual to see the Ravens with such glaring needs within the unit. Veteran Jarret Johnson is an unrestricted free agent and will be 31 by the start of the 2012 season, suggesting he would be a necessary casualty when addressing a list of 13 unrestricted free agents.

However, there isn’t a single option on the roster with which the Ravens would feel comfortable as a starting strongside linebacker. Paul Kruger shows ability as a pass rusher but has not shown the necessary ability in pass coverage or run defense to consider him an option as a three-down player at this point.

After appearing in only two games this past season, former second-round pick Sergio Kindle is probably more likely to be cut than to find himself in the starting lineup next season. The former Texas product has struggled to learn the Baltimore defense and still feels effects of a fractured skull suffered just days before what would have been his first training camp in 2010, but the 24-year-old will benefit from a full offseason at the team’s Owings Mills facility. Along the same lines as Kindle, Michael McAdoo — who spent the 2011 season on injured reserve — is an intriguing name to monitor but shouldn’t be in the discussion for a starting position at this point.

With that in mind, the Ravens might be more inclined to re-sign Johnson than many would think. Much like they did with Ray Lewis in the winter of 2009, the Ravens will allow the veteran linebacker to explore his value in the open market and see if they can come to an agreement that makes sense for both sides. Of course, new Indianapolis head coach and former Ravens defense coordinator Chuck Pagano could try to overpay for Johnson to bring a Baltimore flavor to the Colts defense. One factor working against the Ravens is a relatively-thin market for outside linebackers, which would not only drive up the price for Johnson but also mean they’d still have to pay handsomely for a replacement.

The Ravens would love to find a young outside backer who can play the run as effectively as Johnson while showing more ability in pass coverage. They could look to a draft prospect such as North Carolina’s Zach Brown, Oklahoma’s Ronnell Lewis, or Utah State’s Bobby Wagner in the early rounds, but the Ravens have rarely shown enough confidence in rookies to step into a starting job at the linebacker position.

The dream scenario would be to find an outside linebacker with enough pass-rushing ability to alleviate attention from Terrell Suggs on the opposite side, but Kruger did an adequate job in getting after the quarterback in passing situations.

2. Inside linebacker

The talk has only grown louder regarding the need to find the heir apparent to future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, but the Ravens first need to figure out who will be playing next to him in 2012.

Jameel McClain is an unrestricted free agent and while the Ravens have to be pleased with his development after signing him as a rookie free agent in 2008, the 26-year-old will likely command more money than Baltimore is willing to pay to retain his services. This would leave Dannell Ellerbe, Albert McClellan, and Josh Bynes as potential replacements. Ellerbe is an restricted free agent while the latter two are exclusive rights players, meaning all three are very likely to return.

Veteran Brendon Ayanbadejo is also a free agent, meaning the Ravens could be in danger of losing arguably their best linebacker in terms of pass coverage.

Ellerbe has shown impressive potential in limited doses, but his work ethic has come into question on a number of occasions to draw the ire of coach John Harbaugh. The Ravens might be content with plugging Ellerbe into the other inside linebacker spot for now, but he’s far from a safe bet to be an answer beyond the 2012 season.

The Ravens face a difficult proposition in how to handle Lewis, who still plays the run effectively but is a liability in pass coverage. The prudent answer would be to limit the veteran to action on first and second down, but explaining that to one of the greatest linebackers in NFL history is easier said than done. You also need to have a viable replacement before you tell the defensive leader he comes off the field in passing situations.

While there has been plenty of talk over the last year or two to find Lewis’ eventual replacement, this year’s draft appears to be a critical time to find an up-and-coming inside linebacker. The Ravens have been linked to both Dont’a Hightower of Alabama and Vontaze Burfict of Arizona State in various mock drafts. The problem is Hightower may be off the board by the time the 29th pick rolls around and Burfict’s character has come into question with a reputation for delivering cheap shots and reportedly sucker-punching a teammate in practice last August.

3. Safety*

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Sizing up the Ravens’ 2012 free-agent class

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Sizing up the Ravens’ 2012 free-agent class

Posted on 26 January 2012 by Luke Jones

In the aftermath of the Ravens’ 23-20 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC championship on Sunday, the finality of the season coming to an abrupt end was accompanied by the all-too-familiar feeling knowing that same team will never be together again.

The reality of the NFL’s offseason brings substantial change to all 32 teams — some more than others — and forces players to say goodbye to others for the final time as teammates.

“It’s tough to really think about that,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “You know it’s going to happen, but you don’t know which guys it’s going to be, so it’s tough to be in our shoes and go through that. You finally just take it for what it is, and before you know it, you hope you had a good relationship with everybody on the team and said as much as you could say to that guy. We hope we can bring as many people back as we can.”

While other moves will be made — cornerbacks Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr and wide receiver Lee Evans are the strongest candidates to be cut despite being under contract for the 2012 season — the Ravens have 13 unrestricted free agents, four restricted free agents, and four exclusive-rights free agents entering the offseason. I’ve included the entire list with a brief thought on each player’s potential future in Baltimore.

Two dates to keep in mind as the offseason begins are the March 5 deadline to designate a franchise player and the start of free agency on March 13 at 4:00 p.m.

Unrestricted free agents

RB Ray Rice
2011 stats: 16 starts, 2,068 yards from scrimmage, 15 touchdowns
Skinny: Rice isn’t going anywhere as the Ravens will either use their franchise tag on the Pro Bowl back or sign him to a long-term deal, though the latter would certainly create more cap space for 2012.

G Ben Grubbs
2011 stats: 10 starts, first Pro Bowl selection
Skinny: The Ravens clearly would like to bring the left guard back, but with Marshal Yanda receiving a sizable deal a few months ago, can the organization afford to invest so much money in the guard position?

C Matt Birk
2011 stats: 16 starts
Skinny: After 14 seasons in the league, Birk may decide to retire, but the Ravens could elect to go with the slightly-younger Andre Gurode or look to the draft for the center position.

LB Jarret Johnson
2011 stats: 16 starts, 56 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks
Skinny: With Johnson on the wrong side of 30, it might be time to part ways with the veteran linebacker, but the Ravens lack a logical replacement on the current roster with the disappointing development of 2010 second-round pick Sergio Kindle and the limitations of pass rusher Paul Kruger.

LB Jameel McClain
2011 stats: 16 starts, 81 tackles, one sack, one interception
Skinny: The former undrafted free agent credits Ray Lewis for his growth, so you have to wonder if McClain becomes the next Baltimore linebacker to receive an inflated contract elsewhere.

DE Cory Redding
2011 stats: 15 games (11 starts), 43 tackles, 4 1/2 sacks
Skinny: Before an ankle injury slowed Redding over the final month of 2011, he was having his best season in years, but the Ravens could elect to go with younger — and cheaper — defensive lineman Arthur Jones at this position.

LB Brendon Ayanbadejo
2011 stats: 16 games, 27 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks, nine special teams tackles
Skinny: The 35-year-old intends to play in 2012 and expects to be back with the Ravens, but the nickel linebacker may not be on the same page as Baltimore in terms of a contract to make his return feasible.

S Tom Zbikowski
2011 stats: 14 games (four starts), 16 tackles, one sack
Skinny: Largely a forgotten man after Bernard Pollard wrestled away the strong safety job early in the season, it appears Zbikowski will likely try to find a new home where he can start.

S Haruki Nakamura
2011 stats: 15 games, three tackles, nine special-teams tackles
Skinny: In a similar position to Zbikowski, the Ravens will likely make a harder push to keep Nakamura due to his exceptional ability as as special teams player.

OL Andre Gurode
2011 stats: 13 games (five starts)
Skinny: Signed as an insurance policy behind Matt Birk, the 10-year veteran wound up being needed at left guard for an injured Grubbs and could be the short-term replacement at center next season.

DT Brandon McKinney
2011 stats: 12 games, 14 tackles
Skinny: A regular part of the rotation along the defensive line, it’s hard to envision teams beating down McKinney’s door, but the Ravens may try to go younger and cheaper than the six-year veteran.

TE Kris Wilson
2011 stats: 15 games, four special teams tackles
Skinny: His touchdown catch in the divisional round was his claim to fame, but the veteran’s competent special teams ability may not be enough to keep him in Baltimore next season.

LB Edgar Jones
2011 stats: nine games, three special teams tackles
Skinny: Though he was active all nine games after being signed in early November, there’s a reason why Jones was unemployed when the Ravens were looking for special-teams depth.

Restricted free agents
(The Ravens can offer a tender attached to a draft pick and then have the right to match any offer from an opposing team and would receive that team’s draft pick if they choose not to match it.)

CB Lardarius Webb
2011 stats: 16 games (15 starts), 68 tackles, five interceptions, sack
Skinny: With another season like he had in 2011, Webb will be looking for a large payday and deservedly so.

CB Cary Williams
2011 stats: 16 starts, 77 tackles, two forced fumbles
Skinny: Easily the most pleasant surprise on the Baltimore defense, Williams will battle 2011 first-round pick Jimmy Smith for a starting corner job in training camp.

LB Dannell Ellerbe
2011 stats: nine games (three starts), 17 tackles
Skinny: The third-year linebacker always leaves you wanting more but could find himself in position to compete for a starting role depending on how the Ravens address the inside linebacker position this offseason.

RB Matt Lawrence
2011 stats: Did not play (injured reserve)
Skinny: Though a competent special-teams player when he’s been healthy in his three-year career, you have to think the Ravens are ready to cut ties with the injury-plagued back.

Exclusive-rights free agents
(These are players with two or fewer accrued seasons and own no negotiating rights.)

LS Morgan Cox
2011 stats: 16 games
Skinny: There’s no reason to think the Ravens are displeased with Cox’s performance as the long snapper.

CB Danny Gorrer
2011 stats: 11 games, three tackles, four pass breakups
Skinny: Considering he was pushing Chris Carr for the No. 4 corner spot by season’s end and was strong on special teams, Gorrer should have no reason to think the Ravens won’t bring him back.

LB Sergio Kindle
2011 stats: two games
Skinny: The Ravens will bring Kindle back, but he’ll need to make major strides in the offseason and training camp to make the 53-man roster again.

LB Albert McClellan
2011 stats: 16 games (one start), seven tackles, 12 special teams tackles
Skinny: He drew a start for the injured Ray Lewis on Thanksgiving night and is one of the best special teams players on the team, making his return a certainty.

 

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Ravens’ Pagano to become next head coach of Colts

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Ravens’ Pagano to become next head coach of Colts

Posted on 25 January 2012 by Luke Jones

In what’s easily been the most frustrating week in the history of the franchise, the Ravens will now need to look for a new defensive coordinator as Chuck Pagano has been hired as the next head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

Leading the Ravens to the No. 3 overall defensive ranking in his first season as coordinator, Pagano interviewed with Indianapolis on Tuesday before being offered the job on Wednesday. The 51-year-old spent three seasons as the Baltimore secondary coach before being promoted to replace former defensive coordinator Greg Mattison last offseason.

“It’s difficult to leave the Ravens but I couldn’t pass up on this great opportunity,” Pagano said to the Ravens’ official website. “I’m just thrilled and so excited.”

Pagano was extremely popular with his defensive players and brought a more aggressive play-calling style than Mattison, helping the Ravens improve from a franchise-low 27 sacks in 2010 to an AFC-best 48 this season.

“He just had an inkling for [making the right calls],” linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo told AM 1570 WNST on Wednesday afternoon. “More than anything, he wasn’t going to rely on just going vanilla and saying, ‘Oh, we’re going to beat everybody just going vanilla.’ That’s what coach Mattison liked to do.”

The Ravens sent four defensive starters to the Pro Bowl this year, including linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, and free safety Ed Reed.

Pagano will be introduced to the Indianapolis media in a press conference on Thursday afternoon. The Colts fired general manager Bill Polian and head coach Jim Caldwell following a disastrous 2-14 season without quarterback Peyton Manning.

“We are so happy for Chuck, [his wife] Tina and their daughters,” coach John Harbaugh said in an official statement. “We are proud of him. Like me, Chuck grew up in the game and loves it. We will miss him and thank him for all he did for the Ravens.”

The 51-year-old will likely usher in a new era with Indianapolis primed to take Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the first overall pick in April’s draft. Ayanbadejo said the Colts will immediately take to Pagano’s infectious personality.

“He was one of those guys [where] it was like he was out on the field of battle with you and you’d never want to let him down, because he’s such a good guy,” Ayanbadejo said. “He’s also a family guy and a great person. You really felt like you knew him, and more than anything, you just didn’t want to let him down.”

Pagano had previous stints as a defensive assistant with the Cleveland Browns and the Oakland Raiders and also coached at several colleges, including most recently at the University of North Carolina before being hired by Harbaugh in 2008.

The Ravens will also wonder what impact Pagano’s departure might have on their list of defensive players with expiring contracts. Linebackers Jarret Johnson, Jameel McClain, and Ayanbadejo, defensive end Cory Redding, safeties Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura, and defensive tackle Brandon McKinney are all set to become unrestricted free agents and could now view Indianapolis as a viable alternative to the Ravens, who will not have a great deal of salary cap space.

After former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan was hired as the head coach of the New York Jets in 2009, linebacker Bart Scott and safety Jim Leonhard joined him in the Big Apple as free-agent signings.

Baltimore will now have its fourth defensive coordinator in five years after Rex Ryan, Mattison, and Pagano all held the job under Harbaugh. The most logical in-house candidate to fill the role would be linebackers coach Dean Pees, who was the defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots from 2006 to 2009 before moving on to Baltimore.

“I don’t think you’ll see any letdown if Dean Pees takes over,” said Ayanbadejo, who described Pees’ relationship with players as one based more on respect than the emotional Pagano. “You might even see a better defense if Dean Pees takes over because he likes things done a certain way, and he’s really particular about the way he does things.”

Pagano becomes the fourth defensive coordinator in the history of the franchise to depart for a head coaching position elsewhere, joining Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan, and Ryan.

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Your Monday Reality Check-Cameron Future Only Part of Postseason Agenda

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Your Monday Reality Check-Cameron Future Only Part of Postseason Agenda

Posted on 23 January 2012 by Glenn Clark

I’ve had the opportunity to make a number of radio appearances throughout the country during the last few weeks while the Baltimore Ravens marched along in the National Football League playoffs.

In virtually every conversation, I was asked a question about how the outcome of the next game could alter the future of Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron in Charm City.

It always felt a little strange to be asked about Cam Cameron. Usually I only hear Cam Cameron’s name when a listener/caller screams at me about him. It’s never in the form of a question.

After the Ravens’ 23-20 loss to the New England Patriots Sunday in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium, it didn’t take 30 minutes for the screaming to start again. It was a bit odd considering there was really no way Cameron could be blamed for the loss in Foxborough.

The reality is that as the team’s offseason officially got underway, Cameron sits at the forefront. His future can only be labeled as “to be determined”, as his contract expires with the end of the season.

Head coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens’ coaching staff are headed to Mobile, AL this week for scouting at the annual Senior Bowl. It would seem as though the team wouldn’t want the situation with Cameron to linger far into the offseason, especially if they ultimately decide not to retain Cameron after four playoff trips in four seasons and have to find a new coordinator without a likely replacement on staff.

(That’s not an endorsement for either decision. It’s just a fact. I’m actually indifferent towards the situation, as I believe any coordinator in 2012 would need more offensive talent to work with.)

The next pressing situation remains on offense. The team’s Most Valuable Player in 2012 (RB Ray Rice) becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) at a time where NFL teams have been particularly unwilling to invest in long term deals for running backs. Also hitting unrestricted free agency is LG Ben Grubbs, who has never reached a Pro Bowl but has certainly played at a Pro Bowl level. (Monday update: Grubbs will in fact be making his first trip to Hawaii this season as a replacement for Patriots G Logan Mankins.)

There is a likelihood that the Franchise tag will come into play with one of the above players, as it did with DT Haloti Ngata last season before a long-term deal was reached.

DE Cory Redding, LB’s Jarret Johnson & Jameel McClain and S’s Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura highlight other Ravens who become Unrestricted Free Agents. LB Brendon Ayanbadejo (who has publicly stated he would like to play another season) is also on the UFA list, as are OL Andre Gurode, TE Kris Wilson, DT Brandon McKinney and LB Edgar Jones.

(CB’s Cary Williams & Lardarius Webb as well as LB Dannell Ellerbe are restricted free agents, all are expected to return.)

Also on the list of Unrestricted Free Agents is C Matt Birk, who denied a CBS report earlier this month that he had already decided to retire at the end of the season. With no “center of the future” clearly on the roster, it may behoove the team to bring the big man from Harvard back for one more season if he’s interested.

While we await Birk’s decision about his future, future Hall of Fame LB Ray Lewis told reporters in New England he intends to return to Baltimore for a 17th season. S Ed Reed’s future isn’t quite as defined, as he did not speak to reporters after suffering his second AFC title game defeat. Nagging back and neck issues appeared to affect Reed’s play at the end of the season, but he came with big plays in both playoff games.

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Yanda doubtful for Bengals game despite practicing Friday

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Yanda doubtful for Bengals game despite practicing Friday

Posted on 30 December 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The optimism created with the return to the practice field of Marshal Yanda Friday quickly dissipated when the Ravens listed the Pro Bowl guard as doubtful for this weekend’s clash with the Cincinnati Bengals.

After working on a limited basis in the week’s final practice, Yanda told reporters he was feeling better, but the lineman wasn’t ready to disclose his chances of suiting up against the Bengals. If Yanda is unable to go, either veteran Andre Gurode or rookie Jah Reid would start at the right guard position.

“We’ve got 48 hours yet, but we’ll see what happens,” Yanda said. “I felt OK out there today, so we’ll see what happens come Sunday. Still don’t know yet.”

Yanda took a knee to the ribcage during last week’s win over Cleveland and was the victim of a leg whip a few plays later, causing a thigh contusion.

“The ribs are tough because they obviously hurt like hell on Sunday, and I really couldn’t breathe well,” Yanda said. “My breathing’s getting better, but I still feel them. I’m still dealing with them right now, so we’ll see.”

The most surprising news from Friday was the return of wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the practice field only eight days after undergoing surgery on a partially-torn meniscus in his knee. The 31-year-old worked on a limited basis on Friday and was upgraded to “doubtful” on the injury report, though he is still not expected to play.

Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe is doubtful as he continues to deal with concussion-like symptoms.

“I would say the guys are progressing,” said coach John Harbaugh, who did not disclose any new information on injuries. “Obviously, we had some guys get out here and do a little bit of work. Anquan was out here earlier. Marshal got out here early and did some things. We’ll have to see how that progresses. These guys had some pretty serious things. We’ll just have to see.”

Cornerback Cary Williams, defensive end Cory Redding, and kicker Billy Cundiff are all questionable to play against the Bengals after practicing on a limited basis all week. Williams had yet to be cleared for contact as of early Friday afternoon; however, the Ravens remain optimistic that he will be available in a secondary that will try to slow rookie phenom A.J. Green.

“Cary’s actually done very well,” Harbaugh said. “Cary’s been limited participation. He looks pretty good right now. He has not been cleared as of yet. It is a concussion.”

The Ravens have not made a decision regarding who will handle kicking duties on Sunday. Cundiff practiced on a limited basis all week long and says he is feeling much better than any other time he’s tried to come back to play over the last three weeks. However, Baltimore could elect to go with Shayne Graham an extra week to ensure Cundiff’s calf is as close to 100 percent as possible for the postseason.

Graham was successful on both field goal attempts he had against Cleveland on Christmas Eve.

“I guess at this point it’s all up to whether how he feels and what their decision is,” Graham said. “I’m not really sure exactly where. I plan on being ready if asked. I’m sure he wants to get back in. I’m sure they’ll figure it out. It’s not in my control anymore, so if I do get to play, I look forward to it. If he plays, I hope he’s rested enough. I hope he does well. You guys literally know as much as I do.”

BALTIMORE
DOUBTFUL: WR Anquan Boldin (knee), LB Dannell Ellerbe (head), G Marshal Yanda (chest)
QUESTIONABLE: K Billy Cundiff (left calf), DE Cory Redding (ankle), CB Cary Williams (head)

CINCINNATI
DOUBTFUL: S Taylor Mays (hamstring), LB Dontay Moch (illness)
QUESTIONABLE: DE Carlos Dunlap (hamstring)
PROBABLE: T Anthony Collins (non-injury related), S Chris Crocker (knee), CB Brandon Ghee (toe), WR AJ Green (shoulder), DE Frostee Rucker (neck), T Andrew Whitworth (knee)

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Yanda returns to work in Ravens’ final practice of week

Posted on 30 December 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — As the Ravens made final preparations to play one of the most important regular-season games in franchise history, they received an encouraging sign with the return of Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda to the practice field on Friday.

Yanda sustained rib and thigh contusions in the 20-14 win over Cleveland on Christmas Eve and had been sidelined all week, missing practices on Wednesday and Thursday. The fifth-year lineman did not appear to be taking part in much activity during the open portion of practice, but Friday workouts are typically lighter ones anyway.

Safety Bernard Pollard also returned to practice a day after being out of action with an illness, joining defensive lineman Arthur Jones as Ravens players dealing with sickness this week.

And though he’s been ruled out for Sunday’s game in Cincinnati, wide receiver Anquan Boldin (knee) was on the field, playing catch and doing some light running only eight days after undergoing surgery to repair a partially-torn meniscus. At the day of the procedure, coach John Harbaugh offered a two-week prognosis for Boldin’s recovery time, so to see him on the field during practice on Friday was very encouraging.

A bye week would be even more helpful for the veteran receiver, however.

Cornerback Cary Williams (concussion), defensive end Cory Redding (ankle), and kicker Billy Cundiff (left calf) were all practicing for the third straight day. All three worked on a limited basis on Wednesday and Thursday and are considered likely candidates — with Cundiff likely being the biggest question mark — to play on Sunday.

Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe was not present during the portion of practice open to the media. He has missed the entire week of practice while still feeling the effects of a concussion suffered last Saturday.

Referee Tony Corrente and his crew will officiate Sunday’s game between the Ravens and Bengals in Cincinnati. Corrente has been undergoing cancer treatment, but he called last Saturday’s game between the Redskins and Vikings.

Sunday’s forecast in Cincinnati calls for a temperature right around 50 degrees with a 40 percent chance of precipitation at Paul Brown Stadium.

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Ravens without Yanda for Thursday’s practice

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Ravens without Yanda for Thursday’s practice

Posted on 29 December 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The prospects for right guard Marshal Yanda being available against the Cincinnati Bengals are growing dimmer as the Ravens’ Pro Bowl offensive lineman missed his second straight day of practice on Thursday.

Yanda is dealing with rib and chest contusions that forced him to miss the second half of the Ravens’ 20-14 win over Cleveland on Saturday. The fifth-year guard was named to his first Pro Bowl on Tuesday and has graded out with a “winning performance or better” in every game this season, according to the Baltimore coaching staff.

Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe was also missing from practice for the second straight day as he continues to deal with a concussion suffered against the Browns.

Safety Bernard Pollard was a new addition to the injury report as he missed practice with an illness. In contrast, defensive tackle Arthur Jones returned to work as a full participant a day after dealing with a stomach bug. Pollard’s absence might suggest the bug is moving through the locker room, so the Ravens will need to keep their fingers crossed over the next few days.

Billy Cundiff practiced on a limited basis for the second straight day, an encouraging sign that the Pro Bowl kicker may return to action in Cincinnati. Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said fill-in kicker Shayne Graham’s experience kicking at Paul Brown Stadium after seven years with the Bengals would not factor into the decision of who kicks on Sunday, instead declaring the decision will be based on Cundiff’s health.

“He’s had two good practices,” Rosburg said. “We’ll see what the trainers say [Friday].”

Cornerback Cary Williams and defensive end Cory Redding were limited participants for the second straight day as both appear on track to play against the Bengals. There have been conflicting reports whether Williams has been cleared for contact, but the Ravens are confident that he will pass his concussion test in time to play on Sunday.

BALTIMORE
OUT: WR Anquan Boldin (knee)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Dannell Ellerbe (head), S Bernard Pollard (illness) , G Marshal Yanda (chest)
LIMITED: K Billy Cundiff (left calf), DE Cory Redding (ankle), CB Cary Williams (head)
FULL: DT Arthur Jones (illness)

CINCINNATI
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DE Carlos Dunlap (hamstring), S Taylor Mays (hamstring), LB Dontay Moch (illness)
LIMITED: WR AJ Green (shoulder), DE Frostee Rucker (neck), T Andrew Whitworth (knee), S Chris Crocker (knee)

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Cundiff back at practice, hoping to return on Sunday

Posted on 28 December 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Though veteran Shayne Graham would love the opportunity to kick against his old team in Cincinnati, Billy Cundiff returned to practice on Wednesday in hopes of making his return against the Bengals in the regular-season finale.

Cundiff had not practiced since Dec. 7 and was limited in games against Indianapolis and San Diego before fully resting his injured left calf last week. The 2010 Pro Bowl kicker now appears confident in wanting to get back on the field.

“It’s come a long way,” Cundiff said. “Obviously, I needed the rest. I couldn’t even make it through the game, so now this is just a matter of trying to progress it and see if I can make it through practice. If we can do that, then hopefully we’ll be able to play on Sunday.”

Right guard Marshal Yanda, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, and defensive tackle Arthur Jones did not participate in Wednesday’s practice. Speculation persists about the severity of the rib and thigh contusions that forced Yanda out of Saturday’s game. Ellerbe is still waiting to be cleared to play after suffering a concussion against Cleveland.

Defensive end Cory Redding and cornerback Cary Williams returned to practice on a limited basis on Wednesday. Williams has been cleared for practice after being concussed on Christmas Eve.

Unsurprisingly, wide receiver Anquan Boldin has already been ruled out after undergoing knee surgery last Thursday.

For Cincinnati, wide receiver A.J. Green and defensive end Carlos Dunlap both practiced on a limited basis. The rookie Green has been dealing with a shoulder injury, but Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said he was “doing fine” in his teleconference with the Baltimore media.

BALTIMORE
OUT: WR Anquan Boldin (knee)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Dannell Ellerbe (head), DT Arthur Jones (illness), G Marshal Yanda (chest)
LIMITED: K Billy Cundiff (left calf), DE Cory Redding (ankle), CB Cary Williams (head)

CINCINNATI
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: S Chris Crocker (knee), S Taylor Mays (hamstring), LB Dontay Moch (illness)
LIMITED: DE Carlos Dunlap (hamstring), WR AJ Green (shoulder), DE Frostee Rucker (neck), T Andrew Whitworth (knee)

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Yanda missing from practice while three injured Ravens return to work

Posted on 28 December 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Preparing for arguably the most important regular-season game in the history of the franchise, the Ravens returned to the practice field with several ailing players at their disposal.

Right guard Marshal Yanda (rib and thigh contusions) was not one of them as the Pro Bowl lineman was absent from the portion of practice open to the media, joining linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (concussion), defensive lineman Arthur Jones (undisclosed), and wide receiver Anquan Boldin (knee surgery) as absentees.

With Boldin already expected to miss Sunday’s game in Cincinnati, Yanda’s injury is the most concerning as the Ravens are faced with the possibility of using veteran Andre Gurode or rookie Jah Reid at right guard, which is neither player’s primary position. Gurode did play right guard early in his career with the Dallas Cowboys but earned five trips to the Pro Bowl at the center position.

Meanwhile, cornerback Cary Williams has been cleared for contact and return to the practice field after sustaining a concussion in last Saturday’s win, a positive development considering how equipped the Cincinnati Bengals are at the wide receiver position with A.J. Green and Jerome Simpson.

Defensive end Cory Redding (ankle) and kicker Billy Cundiff (left call) also returned to the practice field after both were sidelined in the 20-14 win over the Cleveland Browns on Christmas Eve. Redding emphatically told reporters prior to Wednesday’s practice that he plans to play on Sunday — the veteran made a similar statement last week — while Cundiff revealed he would try kicking in Wednesday’s practice.

“I want to get out there as soon as I possibly can,” Cundiff said. “That’s probably what led to more of the problems is that I played when I probably shouldn’t have. But hindsight’s 20/20. Right now, I’m going to [practice] today, see how it responds, and then base all of our judgments off of that. Instead of trying to add in some forecast of what it might be, let’s just kind of go off and see how it responds.”

Veteran Shayne Graham made both of his field goal attempts against the Browns, connecting from 48 and 43 yards, while taking Cundiff’s place.

Baltimore coach John Harbaugh provided no new updates on injuries prior to Wednesday’s workout, simply saying everyone is “progressing” and receiving treatment for their various ailments.

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