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Dickson, Ellerbe, Graham, J. Jones sit out Wednesday’s practice

Posted on 28 November 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With a chance to clinch the AFC North division title against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, the Ravens hit the practice field on Wednesday with four key players missing from action.

Tight end Ed Dickson, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, cornerback Corey Graham, and wide receiver Jacoby Jones did not practice in the first full workout of the week while five other players practiced on a limited basis.

Dickson and Ellerbe are considered to be the biggest concerns in terms of their availability for Sunday’s game as the starting tight end is dealing with a knee injury while the inside linebacker suffered an ankle injury in the 16-13 win over the San Diego Chargers. Coach John Harbaugh said Monday he expected each player to be very limited in practices this week with the thought that they would both have a chance to play against the Steelers.

“I feel pretty good,” Dickson said prior to missing Wednesday’s practice. “I’m as far along as I can be on a Wednesday, and I want to continue to rehab it and get ready.”

Graham was listed as missing Wednesday’s practice with an illness while Jones rested the sore ankle that was re-aggravated during Sunday’s win.

Cornerback Chris Johnson, defensive end Pernell McPhee, and safeties Bernard Pollard and Ed Reed were all limited participants.

Harbaugh confirmed that linebacker Ray Lewis was in the building rehabbing on Wednesday, which is something he’d done away from the facility prior to this point, but did not practice. The 37-year-old linebacker is eligible to return to the practice field on Thursday, but the Baltimore coach gave no indication when he would begin working with the rest of the team.

“We’ll just play it day by day as far as whether he practices or not,” Harbaugh said. “He is not imminent to return to play or anything like that, so to me it’s really a non-story. He’ll go out there when he’s ready to practice when the elbow holds up, and when that happens, we’ll let you know.”

For Pittsburgh, quarterback Ben Roethlisbeger practiced on a limited basis as most media reports are giving him no more than a 50 percent chance of playing against the Ravens on Sunday. Head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday the plan is to prepare as if backup Charlie Batch will start this week while Roethlisberger tests out his injured right shoulder in practices.

Linebacker LaMarr Woodley was absent from Wednesday’s practice and is considered doubtful after sustaining an ankle injury in the Steelers loss in Cleveland.

The Steelers received good news, however, with the returns of wide receiver Antonio Brown and safety Troy Polamalu, who are both expected to play in Baltimore if they don’t suffer any setbacks.

BALTIMORE
OUT: CB Jimmy Smith (abs)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Ed Dickson (knee), LB Dannell Ellerbe (ankle, knee, finger), CB Corey Graham (illness), WR Jacoby Jones (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Chris Johnson (thigh), DE Pernell McPhee (thigh), S Bernard Pollard (chest), S Ed Reed (shoulder), WR Torrey Smith (thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Anquan Boldin (knee), DT Terrence Cody (elbow), TE Dennis Pitta (neck), LB Terrell Suggs (ankle)

PITTSBURGH
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: T Mike Adams (ankle), T Willie Colon (knee), QB Byron Leftwich (ribs), T Max Starks (back), LB LaMarr Woodley (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Jerricho Cotchery (ribs), QB Ben Roethlishberger (right shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Antonio Brown (ankle), S Troy Polamalu (calf)

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Harbaugh thinks Lewis will return before end of regular season

Posted on 26 November 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With plenty of buzz stemming from a Yahoo! Sports report saying Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis could make his return as early as Week 15, John Harbaugh was obviously going to receive questions about the injured star on Monday.

As you’d expect, the Ravens coach made no definitive statements to confirm or deny Mike Silver’s report, but Harbaugh did offer his strongest opinion yet on a potential return by the 37-year-old linebacker, who sustained a torn right triceps against the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 14. The previous sentiment had been optimism that Lewis might return if the Ravens were to make a deep postseason run in January, but Harbaugh was asked whether he thought the 13-time Pro Bowl defensive player would be back before the end of the regular season.

“I think he will. That’s a best guess,” Harbaugh said. “He’s working hard to do that. We’ll see.”

Lewis is eligible to return to the practice field this week after spending the last six weeks on injured reserve with the designation to return. Under the rules of the new IR exemption, a player can begin practicing six weeks after being placed on IR and would be eligible to return to game action two weeks after that.

Harbaugh wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Lewis practicing this week, but he also didn’t provide much clarity in how far along the linebacker is in the rehabilitation process. Lewis made his return to the team’s Owings Mills facility on Nov. 9 and has been on the sideline at each of the Ravens’ last three games.

If Lewis is planning to get back on the field this week, the Ravens aren’t offering any kind of a warning at this point.

“We’ll know then. We’ll have to test [the arm] and see if it can hold up,” Harbaugh said. “I really don’t know where it’s at right now. Ray’s been in rehab mode, so he hasn’t been here from a football standpoint in terms of us seeing any of that yet. Just talking to Ray, it sounds like things have gone well. There have been no setbacks, so there’s a possibility.”

Fan response to Lewis’ potential return has been surprisingly mixed as some have pointed to the impressive play of Dannell Ellerbe and the overall improvement of the Baltimore defense without Lewis in recent weeks.

When asked whether the Ravens would be wise to show more patience before Lewis’ potential return, Harbaugh dismissed any notion or hint that they might be better off if he waited longer before trying to play.

“I think it’d be great to get Ray Lewis back,” Harbaugh said. “All of our guys would welcome Ray back with open arms if and when that happens. In the meantime, Ray is part of our defense just like Terrell Suggs is part of our defense. The whole thing is coming together — hopefully — better every week, and we could stumble at any time in this league. But adding a great player into the mix is only going to make us better.”

Dickson, Ellerbe “have a chance” to play against Pittsburgh

Harbaugh painted an uncertain picture for the chances of tight end Ed Dickson and Ellerbe returning to action against Pittsburgh after leaving Sunday’s game with injuries.

Dickson injured his knee in the second quarter against San Diego and didn’t return, leaving an expanded role to fellow tight end Dennis Pitta. Despite having a disappointing season as a receiver, Dickson is regarded as the better blocker as Pitta struggled on several occasions against the Chargers.

“Ed has a bruised knee — a sprained knee,” Harbaugh said. “It’s nothing major in terms of ligament damage or anything like that. He’ll have a chance to get back this week. It just depends on how it goes and how well it heals.”

Ellerbe also left Sunday’s game in the second quarter with a foot injury and was replaced by the combination of former practice-squad member Josh Bynes and veteran special-teams standout Brendon Ayanbadejo.

The latter performed well in Ellerbe’s absence, recording four tackles and a pass defense in the 16-13 overtime win.

“Dannell Ellerbe has kind of a foot-ankle thing,” Harbaugh said. “He’s got a little swelling in there. He’ll have a chance to get back this week too, and we’ll just have to see how it goes. The practice for those two guys will be very limited this week, and we’ll try to get them to the game on Sunday.”

After missing his fourth straight game on Sunday, defensive end Pernell McPhee is expected to practice once again this week as he continues to recuperate from knee and thigh injuries. The second-year defensive lineman hasn’t played since the Houston game on Oct. 21.

Starting in McPhee’s place, third-year lineman Arthur Jones registered the first two sacks of his NFL career against the Chargers and finished the game with five tackles.

“He should be at practice this week, and we’ll be hopeful that he can play,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll have to see.”

D. Reed activated from PUP list

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Ravens musings for Week 10

Posted on 06 November 2012 by Luke Jones

It’s difficult to recall a 6-2 start ever coming under more scrutiny than that of the 2012 Ravens, with major concerns existing on each side of the football and many doubting their ability to even make the playoffs despite being in excellent mathematical position in the AFC.

This marks the third straight year Baltimore has started 6-2, but the climate of this campaign has been much more uncomfortable as Sunday’s 25-15 win over Cleveland marked only their second margin of victory exceeding a single possession. In their first six wins last season, four had come by multiple scores as the Ravens looked the part of one of the best teams in the NFL.

Aside from expectations that were at opposite ends of the spectrum at the start of their respective seasons, the Ravens and Orioles share stunningly similar qualities in showing an ability to win close games and seemingly outperforming the eyeball tests suggesting they’re not as good as their records indicate. In the same way that many pointed to the Orioles’ run differential proving they were little more than a .500 baseball team that ran into plenty of luck, the Ravens’ plus-23 point differential would put them between four and five wins using similar metrics.

Regardless of how the second half of the season unfolds for the Ravens, this calendar year has brought an interesting case study of fan psychology with locals struggling to embrace an Orioles team playing over their heads all season and bracing for an inevitable collapse that never did happen. In comparison, many of these same fans have failed to enjoy the Ravens’ 6-2 start and are insisting the prosperity won’t continue against a beefier schedule over the final two months of the regular season. Others have even gone as far as suggesting the Ravens have underachieved, though it’s difficult to be much better than a 6-2 record when remembering the personnel losses this offseason and the injuries sustained on the defensive side of the football.

In an NFL season consumed with convoluted mediocrity as only a few teams have distinguished themselves as appearing to be very good at this point, it’s important to remember how little we actually know about the entire league and who the real contenders will be by season’s end. Few would have envisioned the New York Giants of a year ago or the Green Bay Packers of 2010 as Super Bowl champions at the midway points of those seasons.

What’s not to say the Ravens’ formula for offensive success at home doesn’t suddenly appear for road games later this season or that the defense can’t make some improvement with healthier versions of Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata in the fold? Or, will reality set in during the second half of the season, sending the Ravens crashing back to earth?

The truth is none of us really know what to make of this year’s Ravens, but it’s a much more enviable position to be 6-2 while coaches and players try to figure it all out.

> One of the central themes of the first half of the Ravens’ season has been the failure of young defensive players to fill the void left behind by free-agent departures and injured players, but fourth-year linebacker Dannell Ellerbe has been the exception to the rule while emerging as one of the best players on the Baltimore defense.

That doesn’t speak highly for the rest of a unit ranked 26th in yards allowed, 28th in run defense, and 15th in points surrendered per game, but Ellerbe deserves credit in not only being the Ravens’ best linebacker in pass coverage but also providing some juice to a listless pass rush as he leads the team with 3 1/2 sacks. Always thought of as an effective “thumper” while playing the run, Ellerbe has been a capable blitzer and recorded three quarterback hits and a sack against Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden on Sunday.

Some were surprised the Ravens offered Ellerbe a second-round tender when he was a restricted free agent this offseason, but the former rookie free agent from Georgia has more than earned his $1.92 million salary to this point. Fellow inside linebacker Jameel McClain received a three-year contract this offseason, but Ellerbe has had the better season and might be finding himself as part of the team’s long-term plans if he can remain healthy and effective.

Coach John Harbaugh has pointed to the young linebacker’s heightened level of professionalism after it was no secret that Ellerbe wasn’t always in the best physical shape in past seasons and had a reputation of lacking passion for the game. Another key for Ellerbe has been his ability to stay healthy as he missed seven games last season while dealing with hamstring and groin injuries.

Ellerbe’s 49 tackles rank third on the team and are already a new career high, but he is a sure bet to lead the unit in that category by season’s end as he’s topped the Ravens defense in tackles in each of the last two games.

> As I wrote on Monday, Ngata’s play over the last two games must be a concern for a defense already struggling to control the line of scrimmage. It’s clear that knee and shoulder injuries are hindering his ability to take on blockers and make plays, and you have to wonder if the Ravens missed an opportunity to provide a useful period of extended rest for the All-Pro defensive tackle by not sitting him out against Houston in Week 7.

Perhaps the extra week of rest coupled with the Week 8 bye would have done the trick, but now the Ravens are staring at two critical matchups with the Pittsburgh Steelers over the next four weeks without knowing how effective the three-time Pro Bowl selection will be moving forward. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees is desperately looking for others to emerge as viable options up front, so you can understand the Ravens’ hesitation in sitting down Ngata right now, but they must also weigh the long-term implications of continuing to play him at substantially less than 100 percent.

Considering the Oakland Raiders are banged up at the running back position — starter Darren McFadden and backup Mike Goodson are both dealing with high ankle sprains — and will likely lean heavily on Carson Palmer and the passing attack, it might be worth considering resting the big defensive tackle in hopes that he can look more like his normal self when the Ravens travel to Pittsburgh next week. But as Harbaugh said Monday, the Ravens are trying to win every game and this season has proven none are guaranteed victories.

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Birk, J. Smith, three others return to practice Saturday

Posted on 11 August 2012 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 5:40 p.m.)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Returning to the practice field after their 31-17 win in the preseason opener over Atlanta, the Ravens saw five players return to action but were also dealing with several news absences from injuries sustained against the Falcons.

Center Matt Birk (back), cornerback Jimmy Smith (back), defensive end Arthur Jones (hip), running back Bernard Pierce (hamstring), and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe all returned to practice on Saturday as the Ravens begin a new week of practice leading into their first preseason home game against Detroit on Friday.

Birk hadn’t practiced since July 28 after dealing with back spasms.

“It’s good to get those guys back,” coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s very important. Those guys were out here practicing, and we need to have those guys.”

Despite the good news of several key players returning, the Ravens also faced the fallout from Thursday’s game as tight end Ed Dickson (sprained right shoulder), defensive lineman Ryan McBean (broken left ankle), wide receivers Torrey Smith (sprained ankle) and Logan Payne (hip), and cornerbacks Asa Jackson (hamstring) and Chykie Brown (hamstring) did not practice.

All aforementioned players were injured against the Falcons, with McBean’s injury potentially sidelining him for the rest of the season. Dickson — who came out to watch practice in street clothes with his right arm in a sling — is expected to miss a few weeks but will be ready in time for the Ravens’ season opener on Sept. 10. Smith’s injury is not considered to be serious.

Harbaugh would not disclose any updates on the severity of McBean’s fracture or confirm whether it would be a season-ending injury.

“It’s already been reported, so there’s no reason for me to comment any further,” Harbaugh said. “You guys already got what you need.”

Others not practicing included linebackers Josh Bynes (back) and Darryl Blackstock (groin), and wide receivers Tandon Doss (hamstring) and Patrick Williams (leg). Wide receiver David Reed (knee) and offensive lineman Jah Reid (calf) remain on the active physically unable to perform list while linebacker Terrell Suggs continues to rehab his surgically-repaired Achilles tendon while on the non-football injury list.

Rookie linebacker Courtney Upshaw (shoulder) was practicing again after sitting out Thursday’s game. He practiced for the first time since July 28 on Tuesday but was held out of the game due to a lack of practice reps.

 

 

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Ravens training camp mailbag

Posted on 05 August 2012 by Luke Jones

Two weeks into training camp, I’ve decided to clean out the inbox and answer your Ravens questions to this point. I plan to make this a Sunday feature during the remainder of the preseason, so send your first name/location and questions to luke@wnst.net to be included next week.

Here’s the first edition of the training camp mailbag:

How does undrafted rookie linebacker Nigel Carr look to you and could he be the next Bart Scott and Jameel McClain? — John in Towson

I hesitate to draw conclusions before I see rookies compete in an actual preseason game, but Carr’s physicality and athleticism are impressive as an undrafted free agent from Alabama State. Carr has definitely caught the attention of the coaching staff after John Harbaugh said the 6-foot-2, 247-pound linebacker “runs around and hits everything he sees” on the practice field. Considering how much Baltimore linebackers have struggled against the pass in recent years, Carr’s ability to drop in coverage — albeit against second and third-team offenses — hasn’t gone unnoticed, either.

His troubled past, which included five felony charges that led to his dismissal from the Florida State football team two years ago, caused many teams to shy away from the linebacker this spring, but the Ravens have provided Carr an opportunity that he’s taken advantage of to this point. For what it’s worth, Carr is listed fourth at the Mike linebacker position on the team’s depth chart released late last week.

It’s way too premature to suggest Carr will be the next diamond in the rough for the Ravens at the linebacker position or that he will even make the 53-man roster, but a strong preseason will definitely put him in the conversation for a spot. As is the case with any young player, how Carr fares on special teams will factor heavily in his chances to make the team.

Considering the Ravens have made little — or no — real improvement with the offensive line to give Joe Flacco and Co. time, how much do you see the play-calling changing to compensate for that? — Scott in New Zealand

Until we actually know what the offensive line will look like in early September, this question remains difficult to answer, but I don’t expect offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to dramatically change his approach to play-calling. The key will be how much more efficient the Ravens can be in the passing game and in short-yardage situations.

Assuming Bryant McKinnie regains his job at left tackle and Michael Oher moves back to the right side, the question will be how effective the Ravens can be running the ball to the left behind McKinnie and new left guard Bobbie Williams. Baltimore struggled to run effectively to that side last season when Ben Grubbs was sidelined and veteran Andre Gurode filled in at left guard, and McKinnie was never regarded to be an exceptional run blocker even in the prime of his career.

The Ravens will attempt to go vertical often as they did last season, but they hope to be more effective with a more experienced Torrey Smith and the addition of speedy veteran Jacoby Jones. However, the offensive line must give Flacco enough time for these vertical plays to develop.

Regardless of how the line looks, the Baltimore offense will still thrive with the contributions of Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice and the use of tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta. Improving their efficiency in the down-field passing game will be the biggest challenge in this offense taking it to the next level.

Among the injured Ravens players to miss extensive time at the start of camp, who is hurting himself the most? — Justin in Cockeysville

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Ravens officially name DeCosta Assistant GM

Posted on 17 May 2012 by WNST Staff

The Baltimore Ravens announced several promotions within their personnel department on Thursday: Eric DeCosta has been named Assistant General Manager, Joe Douglas has been elevated to National Scout, and David Blackburn has been tabbed an Area Scout.

DeCosta, 41, who has served as the Ravens’ Director of Player Personnel the past three years, joined the franchise in an entry-level position in 1996. He moved his way up through the personnel ranks, first as an Area Scout, then as Director of College Scouting, and was subsequently promoted to Director of Player Personnel in 2009.

DeCosta works closely with Executive Vice President/General Manager Ozzie Newsome to oversee both the college and pro scouting departments. During his tenure as the scouting director, the Ravens drafted Pro Bowlers OLB Terrell Suggs (’03), DT Haloti Ngata (’06), G Ben Grubbs (’07), G Marshal Yanda (’07), FB Le’Ron McClain (’07) and RB Ray Rice (’08).

“When we extended Eric’s contract earlier this year, we changed his title to Assistant GM,” Newsome said. “As Eric continues to grow in the personnel department, he is becoming a vital part of the decision-making process.”

Entering his 13th season with the Ravens, Douglas, 35, has served as the team’s Area Scout Southeast since 2009. From 2003-07, he evaluated players in the Northeast, and in 2008, scouted the entire East Coast. Douglas played a key role in scouting and evaluating first-round pick QB Joe Flacco – the Ravens’ all-time leading passer – and Rice, the two-time Pro Bowler.

Additionally, Douglas has organized and coordinated the team’s post-draft rookie free agent signing process, which over the past several seasons has produced standout players such as LB Jameel McClain, LB Dannell Ellerbe and WR LaQuan Williams.

“Joe is so deserving of his promotion to national scout,” DeCosta stated. “He’s a top evaluator and communicator, and he’s been loyal to the Ravens over the years. In his expanded role, he’ll be scouting players across the country, which only makes us better. We are very excited for Joe.”

Blackburn, 29, joined the Ravens as a Player Personnel Assistant in 2007 after serving one year as a graduate assistant at Butler University coaching cornerbacks. He has spent the past five seasons working with Baltimore’s scouting staff in a number of roles, including preparing advance scouting reports of upcoming opponents, analyzing free agent prospects for pro personnel, scouting draftable collegiate players at multiple schools and helping coordinate in-season free agent workouts/visits.

In his new position as an Area Scout, the 2004 graduate of DePauw University will scout prospects at schools in the Northwest, Southwest and Midwest regions.

“We are looking forward to working with David in his new role as an Area Scout,” Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz said. “He has done a great job the past five years working in both our pro and college departments, and he has received a well-earned promotion. David has a strong understanding of the type of player and person we look for in a ‘Raven.’ We’re confident he’ll give us another good set of eyes and ears to continue identifying the prospects we value.”

The Ravens also announced that Mark Azevedo has assumed the title of Area Scout Southeast, formerly held by Douglas. Azevedo, 30, was named an Area Scout in 2010, focusing the majority of his attention on schools in the Southeast, Southwest and Midwest regions. He originally joined the Ravens as a Player Personnel Assistant in 2005 and will now shift his primary responsibilities to the Southeast.

Additionally, Kenny Sanders, who spent the past two seasons interning in the team’s scouting department, has been hired as a Player Personnel Assistant. A 2004 graduate of Gettysburg College, he was a three-year letterman while playing defensive back. A Baltimore native, Sanders, 30, prepped at the McDonogh School.

Ravens “20/20 Club” Graduates: Current Personnel Staff
DeCosta, Hortiz, Douglas, Azevedo and Blackburn are all current graduates of the Ravens’ “20/20 Club,” which includes members of the team’s personnel staff who started with the organization as young personnel assistants and grew into evaluators with more input. The term “20/20” refers to hiring 20-year-olds for $20,000. According to Newsome, however, “The guys actually started when they were a little older than 20 and for more than $20,000, but that’s what we call them.”

Name                        Joined Ravens       Current Title
George Kokinis (Cle.)      1991                 Senior Personnel Assistant
Eric DeCosta                    1996                 Assistant General Manager
Joe Hortiz                        1998                 Director of College Scouting
Chad Alexander              1999                 Assistant Director of Pro Personnel
Joe Douglas                     2000                 National Scout
Mark Azevedo                2005                 Area Scout Southeast
David Blackburn             2007                 Area Scout

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Ravens linebacker Ellerbe to report to facility on Tuesday

Posted on 16 April 2012 by Luke Jones

Though fellow restricted free agent Cary Williams is not expected to report for the Ravens’ offseason training program for a few more weeks, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe will not waste any time in signing his second-round tender.

The 26-year-old linebacker told WNST.net he will report to the team’s Owings Mills facility on Tuesday and sign his second-round tender, which is worth $1.92 million for the 2012 season.

Ellerbe is projected to be the Ravens’ top reserve at the inside linebacker position and was offered the second-round tender amount before starting inside linebacker Jameel McClain re-signed with Baltimore. The former Georgia product missed seven games in an injury-plagued 2011 season.

Williams is not expected to report for offseason workouts until at least early May as his representation tries to work out a long-term contract with the Ravens.

 

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Ravens ink five exclusive rights free agents as offseason workouts begin

Posted on 16 April 2012 by Luke Jones

In what was nothing more than a formality, the Ravens announced they have signed five exclusive rights free agents as they opened the doors to their Owings Mills facility for offseason workouts on Monday.

Long snapper Morgan Cox, cornerback Danny Gorrer, linebackers Sergio Kindle and Josh Bynes, and offensive lineman Justin Boren signed contracts as players began reporting for voluntary workouts.

Exclusive rights players have two or fewer accrued seasons in the NFL and do not have any negotiating rights.

Quarterback Joe Flacco also reported to the team’s facility on Monday as the Ravens continue to discuss a long-term contract with his agent Joe Linta. As expected, running back Ray Rice did not report for offseason workouts on Monday and remains nowhere close to a long-term agreement.

Tight end Kris Wilson, center Andre Gurode, and linebacker Edgar Jones are the only remaining unrestricted free agents from last year’s team who remain on the open market. Cornerback Cary Williams and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe have yet to sign the second-round tenders the Ravens extended to them as restricted free agents.

Williams is not expected to sign his tender for a few more weeks, and the Ravens remain in long-term contraction negotiations with the starting defensive back.

In other news from Sunday, the Jacksonville Jaguars have reached an agreement with former Ravens wide receiver Lee Evans on a one-year contract. In an injury-plagued lone season in Baltimore, Evans made just four receptions after the Ravens traded a fourth-round pick to the Buffalo Bills last August.

 

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Ravens appear to be bracing for potential Rice holdout

Posted on 04 April 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A day after Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice said he outplayed his rookie contract, general manager Ozzie Newsome was asked about his franchise player’s statement at the Ravens’ pre-draft luncheon in Owings Mills on Wednesday.

And there was no disagreement.

“That was a rookie contract, so yes,” Newsome said. “I’d like to think that every player with the Ravens that we draft hopefully outplays their first contract.”

By placing the franchise tag on Rice in early March, the Ravens prohibited him from becoming an unrestricted free agent and ensured he would remain in Baltimore for the 2012 season.

Reports indicate Rice does not plan to report for the start of the team’s offseason workout program in less than two weeks and may hold out during minicamp without a new deal in place. Rice would not face any disciplinary action should he decide to skip organized team activities or the preseason.

The slow pace of negotiations and Rice’s comments make it easy to conclude the Ravens are preparing for a holdout from their most dynamic offensive player.

“That’s something we talk about when we put the tag on him,” Newsome said. “What are the consequences and what are the unknown consequences that could happen? Up until a guy actually signs his franchise tender, he’s not under contract and we’re not allowed to ask him to come to our mandatory minicamp. We understand those things. … We’ve experienced that before.

“We’ll be prepared, and I think Steve [Bisciotti] made a great statement that I read. Whenever Ray shows up, he’ll be ready to play. There’s no doubt in our mind.”

With running backs Marshawn Lynch and Arian Foster signing long-term extensions with their respective teams earlier this offseason, there was optimism that the parameters for a new Rice contract were falling into place. However, it appears Rice and agent Todd France are still looking for dollars more closely resembling the lucrative deals signed by Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson and Tennessee’s Chris Johnson over the last two years.

The Ravens and Rice have a July 15 deadline to reach an agreement on a long-term deal before the running back is required to play for the $7.7 million franchise tender for the 2012 season. A new contract would not only lock up the two-time Pro Bowl back for the foreseeable future, but it would likely create $2-$3 million of salary cap room — something the Ravens could use this offseason.

“We’re happy with the progress that we’re making with negotiations,” Newsome said. “To say that from where he was to where we’ve put the franchise tag on him, that’s a significant increase.”

Newsome not biting on Reed

In what’s become virtually an annual occurrence, Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed raised a few eyebrows recently with some cryptic comments regarding his future and a continued desire for a new contract.

Talking out of both sides of his mouth, Reed has expressed the possibility of playing another four to five years at one point while also failing to make a definitive statement that he will return in 2012. It’s all just par for the course with the future Hall of Fame free safety.

“I have not had a conversation with Ed since our last game to be honest,” Newsome said. “As of right now, whoever we play in that first game this year, I anticipate Ed Reed being our starting free safety. That’s as much information as I have at this point.”

The 33-year-old Reed has one year remaining on his current contract and carries a $7.2 million base salary this season.

Cornerback contracts in works?

The Ravens are in negotiations with cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams in hopes of reaching long-term extensions with each, according to Newsome. Both players are restricted free agents, with Webb having received the first-round tender and Williams getting the second-round tender in March.

There has been plenty of talk that teams could pursue Webb — and would be willing to part with a first-round pick to sign him — but no signs point to the Ravens being in danger of losing the fourth-year cornerback.

“We are involved in negotiations with both,” Newsome said. “What the status is, I don’t know. I haven’t seen [vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty] today. I only saw him once, but our restricted guys are guys that we would like to extend to longer-term deals.”

Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe is also a restricted free agent and was given the second-round tender as well.

 Ravens fine with Flacco’s proclamation

Unsurprisingly, the first question leading off the pre-draft press conference related to quarterback Joe Flacco’s comments to WNST.net earlier this week in which he stated his opinion that he’s the best quarterback in the NFL.

Newsome repeated the general sentiment that many have expressed in defending the quarterback for simply sharing the confidence he has in himself. However, the Baltimore general manager was quick to point out how Flacco will need to back up his words with his preparation and play on the field.

“I don’t think any player, any coach, any [general manager] does not think that they are the best at what they do,” Newsome said. “And, for Joe to say that, I think it’s a common thing. The aspect of it that I think we also look at that if you make a statement like that, then you also have to prepare yourself to be the best. I’m sure that Joe is also doing that.”

Listen to Part 1 and Part 2 of the pre-draft press conference in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault.

 

 

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Ravens linebacker Ellerbe still trying to carve out regular spot on Ravens defense

Posted on 28 March 2012 by Luke Jones

With future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis inching closer to the end of his career, the subject of the Ravens finding his eventual replacement is nothing new.

One of the most recent names to be discussed this offseason was Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict. However, character issues, a subpar junior season, and poor workout numbers have caused his draft stock to plummet from a potential first-round pick to a prospect some teams may remove from their boards entirely.

It’s a position similar to what current Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe faced three years ago. After being a second-team all-SEC selection as a junior at Georgia, a knee injury in his senior season and off-the-field questions dramatically changed Ellerbe’s draft fate.

“It went from starting out [projected to go in the] first round and getting hurt [as a senior],” Ellerbe said on AM 1570 WNST on Tuesday. “[I was] going into the draft having to work my way back up.”

Signed by the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2009, Ellerbe made the 53-man roster and eventually grabbed the starting inside linebacker job next to Lewis by the end of his rookie year. Replacing an injured Tavares Gooden, Ellerbe started the final three games of the regular season and two playoff games. He finished his rookie campaign with 41 tackles and a critical interception in the regular-season finale that helped clinch a playoff spot.

His future appeared bright as it looked like the hard-hitting linebacker was realizing the potential scouts saw prior to his senior season in college.

But instead of building on his rookie success, Ellerbe showed up to his second training camp out of shape and lost his starting job to Jameel McClain. To make matters worse, an embarrassing showboating incident on an interception return for a touchdown in a preseason game in St. Louis carved out an even bigger spot in coach John Harbaugh’s doghouse.

Ellerbe has been trying to climb back up the ladder ever since as a backup. Injuries limited Ellerbe to nine games last season as he dealt with several ailments, including a sprained foot that left him on crutches following the AFC Championship game in New England.

His ability to play the run effectively has never been questioned, but, much like McClain, his pass coverage remains underwhelming.

Now entering his fourth season, the 26-year-old is looking to establish himself in Baltimore for the long haul.

“I still haven’t felt that yet,” Ellerbe said. “I still work year to year, and I’m still pushing myself every day. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that way. I just want to go out there and do my business and show that I belong in the league.”

Entering free agency with the threat of losing McClain, the Ravens placed the second-round tender on Ellerbe, who was a restricted free agent. He appeared to be in line as the favorite to start next to Lewis before a slow market for inside linebackers allowed the Ravens to re-sign McClain to a three-year deal last week.

The turn of events appears to have left Ellerbe in a familiar position as the primary backup and fighting to simply get on the field. With inside linebacker still a position the Ravens are likely to target in the draft, the end result of that final weekend in April could dramatically change Ellerbe’s fate in Baltimore.

Drafting an inside linebacker in the first few rounds would not only threaten Ellerbe’s standing on the depth chart, but it could push him off the roster entirely. With Ellerbe scheduled to make $1.92 million this season, the addition of a rookie inside linebacker could prompt general manager Ozzie Newsome to consider withdrawing the second-round tender to clear some cap room to address other needs — and make Ellerbe a free agent.

No matter how the offseason plays out, the 2012 season will be a big one for Ellerbe in trying to carve out a more prominent role for the future — in Baltimore or somewhere else. Planning to begin training with Lewis in a few weeks, Ellerbe would still like to realize that potential with the team that took a chance on him after watching his once-promising draft stock disintegrate.

“I love the fans and just love the atmosphere in Baltimore,” Ellerbe said. “So I’m definitely ready to get back and ink my deal. At the end of the day, it’s a business.  I understand that, but I love the Ravens. I would love to end my career in Baltimore.”

To hear Dannell Ellerbe’s entire conversation with WNST.net’s Thyrl Nelson, click HERE.

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