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Ravens send WR Reed to Indianapolis for backup RB Carter

Posted on 21 August 2013 by Luke Jones

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In a move that was more of a reflection of two players struggling to make their respective rosters, the Ravens traded fourth-year wide receiver David Reed to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for running back Delone Carter on Wednesday.

Though a capable special-teams player with ability in the return game, Reed had failed to establish himself as any kind of a realistic option in the Baltimore passing game and hadn’t been among a number of wide receivers taking reps with the first-team offense in recent days. This offseason, Reed signed a two-year, $1.86 million contract that included a $500,000 signing bonus, meaning the Ravens will carry $250,000 in dead money in each of the next two years after Reed’s departure.

In three seasons with the Ravens, the 2010 fifth-round selection made five catches for 66 yards and had two rushing attempts for 31 yards. The highlight of his career in Baltimore was a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Houston Texans in his rookie season, but ball-security issues caused him to lose his returner job in 2011 before he tore his ACL later that season.

The 5-foot-9, 232-pound Carter was listed as the fourth running back on Indianapolis’ current depth chart following the Colts’ decision to sign veteran Ahmad Bradshaw earlier this summer and was in danger of not making the 53-man roster despite being drafted in the fourth round out of Syracuse in the 2011 draft. After carrying the ball 101 times for 377 yards and two touchdowns in his rookie year, Carter gained just 122 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries last season while Vick Ballard and Donald Brown handled the workload in Indianapolis.

With Bernard Pierce recently dealing with a knee injury suffered in the preseason opener, Carter might prove to be an upgrade over third-string options Anthony Allen, Bobby Rainey, and Damien Berry should he prove to be a capable special-teams player. However, it isn’t a foregone conclusion that he ultimately makes the 53-man roster.

Looking at the big picture, the Ravens don’t really save any substantial salary cap space, so this trade was much more about two teams swapping players who now find themselves with better opportunities to make their new rosters. Colts head coach Chuck Pagano’s familiarity with Reed and Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell’s previous relationship with Carter in Indianapolis certainly appeared to be catalysts in making the deal.

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Ravens take training camp on road to Annapolis

Posted on 04 August 2013 by Luke Jones

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — After a successful first trip to Annapolis last year, the Ravens once again took training camp on the road Sunday in a public practice at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

The Ravens drew more than 20,000 fans to Annapolis last year for one of three public practices to offset the discontinuation of training camp in Westminster. Once again, Baltimore will hold practices at M&T Bank Stadium as well as Stevenson University this summer in an effort to give fans an opportunity to see them practice.

The organization did not have an official attendance figure after Sunday’s practice, but a team official described the crowd  as “comparable” to last year’s turnout.

Baltimore is now two weeks into camp and still a few days away from its preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, making Sunday a golden opportunity to break up the monotony of daily practices at the team’s training facility in Owings Mills. It also provided a stadium setting for rookie players getting ready for their first live-game action on Thursday.

“The great thing about it is that you get in a situation like this where you’re in a stadium,” Harbaugh said. “It’s amazing how guys’ brains seem to shut down the first time they get into a new environment. So, you go down to Tampa and you go on the road in a game, and it’s hard for them, so they start making little mistakes. I think this will be a stepping-stone towards that.”

Safety James Ihedigbo (neck) and wide receiver David Reed (groin) were new absentees on Sunday, joining Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder), linebacker Jameel McClain (neck), offensive lineman Ryan Jensen (foot), and defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore as non-participants. According to the Ravens’ official Twitter account on Friday, Ihedigbo was shaken up on the final play of practice in Owings Mills, but the injury wasn’t believed to be serious.

Both Harbaugh and Ihedigbo confirmed the strong safety is dealing with a minor neck injury. Ihedigbo was listed as the starter on the team’s first depth chart released last week as he continues to compete with first-round pick Matt Elam, who took the reps with the first-team defense on Sunday.

“We’re just giving James a rest on the neck,” Harbaugh said. “He kind of got tweaked a little bit – [there’s] a little strain in there. It’s from the special teams drills. He goes pretty hard in there, so more than anything, I want to back him off a little bit.”

Tight end Ed Dickson practiced on Sunday but left the field early in the session after tweaking his hamstring. The injury forced veteran Visanthe Shiancoe into extensive action with the starting offense.

Harbaugh eased concerns about Dickson’s status after practice as the Ravens are already dealing with the season-ending hip injury suffered by starting tight end Dennis Pitta.

“His hamstring grabbed a little bit, so we pulled him out for precautionary reasons,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll take a look at it tomorrow and see how it looks and see where we’re at.”

Offensive lineman Ramon Harewood returned to the practice field for the first time in over a week Sunday after receiving an injection to alleviate swelling in his knee.

Fans greeted players with loud cheers and enthusiasm as they took the field shortly after 5 p.m., with Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco receiving the loudest reaction.

Tucker comes up short by his long standards

Kicker Justin Tucker had no problem converting a series of kicks from under 50 yards Sunday, but the Ravens once again tested the limits of his remarkable range.

After missing a 58-yard attempt wide to the left, Tucker came up just short on kicks from 63, 65, and 68 yards. The second-year kicker hit the crossbar on a 63-yarder, which is the distance equaling the NFL record.

“It was fun,” said Harbaugh, who’s teased his kicker whenever he’s missed from record-setting distances this summer. “It was great to see him out here in front of the crowd and get the long field goals. I’m always disappointed when he misses those 69-yarders, you know?”

McKinnie sounds off on weight issue

Left tackle Bryant McKinnie appeared to be growing tired of the questions about his weight on Sunday after he missed the first full-squad workout two weeks ago for being roughly 10 pounds overweight.

The 33-year-old has taken part in every workout since, but he is still trying to reach his target weight of 346 pounds that was prescribed by the teae. McKinnie said Sunday that he hasn’t played at that weight since 2002 but is moving closer to it.

“It’s not an issue,” McKinnie said. “I’m not like a big, huge guy. I’m not fat or sloppy. People will see me and they’re like, ‘Oh, you lost a lot of weight.’ Actually, I didn’t. It’s just every time I’m overweight — whether it’s five or 10 pounds — people assume I’ve just ballooned up.”

Odds & ends

Flacco and wide receiver Torrey Smith appeared to be picking on third-year cornerback Chykie Brown as they connected for two touchdowns against him during 11-on-11 drills. The pair completed a score on a comeback route on which Brown lost his footing and later connected on a touchdown strike on a quick inside slant in the red zone. … Rookie wide receiver Aaron Mellette caught a long touchdown from backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor as the seventh-round pick beat cornerback Asa Jackson to catch a pretty pass. … Wide receiver Jacoby Jones had the most impressive route of the day, burning Jimmy Smith badly on a double move that caused the third-year defensive back to fall down during a 1-on-1 drill. … Rookie cornerback Moe Lee intercepted a Tyrod Taylor pass in a team drill, showing a quick break on the ball to continue his impressive camp despite an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster. … Owner Steve Bisciotti and general manager Ozzie Newsome were present after attending Jonathan Ogden’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio on Saturday night. As practice was concluding, Bisciotti heeded the cries of young fans to show off his Super Bowl ring, pretending to toss the ring into the stands before walking over and offering the children a closer look at the gaudy piece of jewelry.

 

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Flacco unwavering despite changes all around him

Posted on 22 May 2013 by Luke Jones

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Joe Flacco has the Super Bowl ring — or at least he officially will in a couple weeks.

The Ravens quarterback has the lucrative $120.6 million contract and the long-term security it provides.

And he has a heightened level of respect, even if some of his biggest critics now want to see him replicate some semblance of his record-setting playoff run in the regular season.

But an offseason full of changes brings more questions for the franchise quarterback. The retirement of Ray Lewis and the free-agent departure of Ed Reed have left a gigantic leadership void that many expect the 28-year-old to fill as he enters his sixth season. The exits of center Matt Birk and wide receiver Anquan Boldin suddenly makes Flacco one of the elder statesmen on the offensive side of the football.

Ask anyone in the Baltimore locker room whether Flacco is treating this offseason or his style of leadership any differently and you’ll receive a similar response. The Super Bowl XLVII MVP was already the kind of leader teammates respect, even if it lacks Lewis’ camera-friendly fire or Reed’s outspoken nature.

“Joe has done a great job throughout his career in his own way,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Nothing is going to change Joe. Joe is going to be who he is. I don’t think a change in the roster is going to change Joe [and] who he is. A change in the contract isn’t going to change Joe. Joe is Joe, and that’s what you love about him.”

Flacco is also experiencing his first full offseason with offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell. While many have wondered what the former Indianapolis head coach can do with the offensive system with ample time to plan after being thrown to the fire last December, Flacco downplayed any notion that the Ravens will look dramatically different on offense in 2013.

Of course, the start of the regular season is still more than three months away, so much could happen, both from schematics and personnel standpoints. The Ravens will hope the dramatic breakthroughs made in December that carried over into their postseason run to a Super Bowl title were only scratching the surface in terms of production under Caldwell.

“We may have changed a couple things here and there, but for the most part, it’s the same,” Flacco said. “He’ll probably add some of his concepts in just because he’s the guy that is driving things for the most part now. So, we’ll have new wrinkles in there, but for the most part, it’s pretty similar.”

Perhaps the biggest change we’ll see between now and the start of the season is at the wide receiver position as the Ravens continue to adjust to life without Boldin as their most reliable receiver. To this point, general manager Ozzie Newsome hasn’t added a veteran receiver with a track record to supplement the outside threats that Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones provide.

Instead of looking at a scrap heap of free-agent receivers headlined by the productive but baggage-heavy Brandon Lloyd, the Ravens appear content with evaluating a cast of young receivers that includes Tandon Doss, Deonte Thompson, and David Reed. All three saw time working with Smith and the starting offense during Wednesday’s practice as Jones was absent on the heels of his third-place finish in ABC’s Dancing with the Stars.

Asked if outsiders have made too much of the Ravens’ need to add an established wideout to the mix, Flacco sees potential in the homegrown players who have received few opportunities to this point in their respective careers. The three young receivers who’ve been sharing time with the first unit this week have combined for 17 receptions and just 35 targets.

With tight end Dennis Pitta expected to work more from the slot, the Ravens don’t need any of the young options to match Boldin’s impressive production, but they do need at least one to become a viable target. And much of that development will fall on a veteran quarterback entering the prime years of his career. For years, it was veteran pass catchers such as Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, and Boldin nurturing Flacco’s development, but the Ravens believe Flacco can now do the same for younger receivers.

“I like the idea of having guys that we’ve had, we’ve drafted here, or we’ve picked up here and grooming them and getting those guys to become great wide receivers,” Flacco said. “They definitely have the talent to do it; I think we just need to get them some [game-time] reps and their confidence can take off.

“One of the biggest things about Anquan is that he knew he was the man. So, when he went out there, he didn’t care what happened. He was the man. You don’t realize how much that helps out your play and your team’s play. And when these young guys can get to the point where they’re out there and their attitude is that, they have all the ability in the world, and I feel very confident with those guys.”

None of the Ravens’ many youthful options are a sure thing. Doss has drawn the strongest comparisons to Boldin because of his crisp routes and strong hands shown in practices, but those skills haven’t transferred to game action in limited opportunities and he’s struggled to stay healthy. Thompson shows breakaway speed, but the biggest knock on him at the University of Florida was his inconsistent hands. Reed faces questions about both his durability and his hands.

Perhaps a receiver from a second tier of players that includes LaQuan Williams, Tommy Streeter, and Aaron Mellette will turn heads over the next few weeks and push their way into the conversation.

And there remains a very real possibility that the Ravens make that veteran addition through a trade or by simply waiting until cuts are made over the course of the preseason.

None of these uncertainties seem to faze Flacco, who views change as part of life in the NFL. He simply takes the lessons learned from the veterans before him and passes them along to newcomers. The Ravens hope the confidence Flacco holds in his own ability will hopefully rub off on an unproven group of players in which he sees much promise.

His style hasn’t changed, but his success speaks for itself in terms of how he’s viewed as a leader in the locker room and on the field. It’s a major reason why the Ravens aren’t nearly as concerned about the veteran leadership lost this offseason as everyone else seems to be.

“We’ve always had a locker room where everybody kind of shares roles,” Flacco said. “You have so many guys that are very responsible and know how to go to work, and I think that’s why we’ve been able to continuously have success even though our team has changed a lot. It’s because all of those guys that have been there before us really show us how to do it and then everybody just kind of takes that lead.

“And I think that’s where we are. I think that’s where I am.”

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Ellerbe, D. Reed sit out final practice in Owings Mills

Posted on 26 January 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Conducting their final practice of the season at their Owings Mills facility before departing for New Orleans on Monday, the Ravens were without two players as linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and wide receiver David Reed rested on Saturday morning.

Ellerbe has missed three practices this week as he takes advantage of the extra time between the conference championship and Super Bowl XLVII. The fourth-year linebacker acknowledged on Friday the ankle needed rest and he would have tried to push through the discomfort if the game were being played this weekend in New Orleans.

Tight end Dennis Pitta (thigh) returned to the practice field on Saturday after sitting out Friday’s workout. He played catch with quarterback Joe Flacco during the open portion of practice and appeared to be fine.

Reed is dealing with a hamstring issue that forced him out of the Ravens’ divisional playoff game against Denver but was listed as a full participant in Friday’s practice before sitting out a day later.

The Ravens issued a final injury report of the week on Friday, even though the Super Bowl will not be played until Feb. 3 and they’ll release a new set of injury reports next week. As a result, coach John Harbaugh didn’t appear to put much stock in the “final” report for this week by listing 19 players as questionable for a game that won’t take place on Sunday.

Baltimore departs for New Orleans on Monday afternoon and will conduct practices next week that will be open to just one pool reporter. The San Francisco 49ers will follow the same protocol, per NFL rules.

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Pierce, Ellerbe, Leach questionable for AFC title game

Posted on 18 January 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Finishing preparations for their second consecutive AFC Championship appearance, the Ravens listed three key players as questionable for Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots.

Running back Bernard Pierce, fullback Vonta Leach, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, and David Reed were all listed as questionable after participating in Friday’s practice on a limited basis. Pierce had missed Thursday’s practice, but the rookie reiterated on Friday that he would play on Sunday despite dealing with a right knee injury for the last few weeks.

Rookie cornerback Asa Jackson was the only player not to participate in Friday’s workout and was ruled out with a hamstring injury. The Ravens listed 16 players as probable.

Coach John Harbaugh painted a positive picture from a health standpoint as the Ravens try to even the score in conference championship games against the Patriots. There is little concern about the availability of any of the players listed as questionable for Sunday’s game, though Ellerbe was downgraded to a limited participant in Friday’s workout after being full-go on Wednesday and Thursday.

“We look good,” Harbaugh said. “We are very similar to what we have been the last few weeks. I don’t think there will be any surprises — barring any surprises. We should be in good shape injury-wise.”

The Patriots listed five players as probable for Sunday’s game, including defensive end Chandler Jones and running back Danny Woodhead. Jones was a full participant in the Patriots’ Friday practice after previously being limited all week.

Expressing quiet confidence throughout the week despite being deemed a clear underdog as they were against the Denver Broncos in the divisional round, the Ravens are a confident group traveling to Foxborough.

“We had a really great practice and had a good week of preparation,” Harbaugh said. “Obviously, a team of this caliber in this kind of situation will get everybody’s attention. This game has had our full attention, and we are excited to go play on Sunday.”

BALTIMORE
OUT: CB Asa Jackson (thigh)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Dannell Ellerbe (ankle/back), FB Vonta Leach (knee/ankle), RB Bernard Pierce (knee), WR David Reed (thigh)
PROBABLE: RB Anthony Allen (head), WR Anquan Boldin (shoulder), CB Chykie Brown (shoulder), DT Terrence Cody (ankle), G Gino Gradkowski (head), DT Arthur Jones (thigh/knee), LB Ray Lewis (triceps), LB Albert McClellan (shoulder), DE Pernell McPhee (thigh), DT Haloti Ngata (knee), S Bernard Pollard (chest), S Ed Reed (shoulder), CB Jimmy Smith (abdominal), WR Torrey Smith (back), LB Terrell Suggs (achilles/bicep), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)

NEW ENGLAND
OUT: TE Rob Gronkowski (IR – forearm)
PROBABLE: CB Marquice Cole (finger), DE Chandler Jones (ankle), OL Nick McDonald (shoulder), DE Trevor Scott (knee), RB Danny Woodhead (thumb)

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Backup running back Pierce sits out Thursday’s practice

Posted on 17 January 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The uncertain status of running back Bernard Pierce took another dip as the rookie did not take part in Thursday’s practice as the Ravens continued preparations for the New England Patriots in Sunday’s AFC Championship.

A day after practicing on a limited basis, Pierce was again sidelined as he continues to deal with a sore right knee. The 2012 third-round pick told reporters on Wednesday that he will be ready to play in Sunday’s game.

Cornerback Asa Jackson (thigh) was the only other Ravens player not to participate in Thursday’s workout.

Fullback Vonta Leach (knee/ankle) and wide receiver David Reed (thigh) each practiced on a limited basis. The Pro Bowl fullback was a full participant on Wednesday, but he’s dealt with a sore ankle since the early portion of December and has periodically missed practices or been limited to rest over the last several weeks.

Running back Anthony Allen and offensive lineman Gino Gradkowski were upgraded to full participation and were no longer wearing red-contact jerseys during Thursday’s practice, an indication that each had passed a baseline neurological test required to clear a player for contact. Both worked on a limited basis a day earlier.

Meanwhile, New England only had one player missing from the practice field as tight end Rob Gronkowski will not play this week due to a forearm injury that officially landed him on injured reserve on Thursday. Rookie defensive end Chandler Jones was the only Patriots player to work on a limited basis as four others, including running back Danny Woodhead, were upgraded to full participation.

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB Bernard Pierce (knee), CB Asa Jackson (thigh)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: FB Vonta Leach (knee/ankle), WR David Reed (thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: RB Anthony Allen (head), G Gino Gradkowski (head), WR Anquan Boldin (shoulder), CB Chykie Brown (shoulder), DT Terrence Cody (ankle), LB Dannell Ellerbe (ankle/back), DT Arthur Jones (thigh/knee), LB Ray Lewis (triceps), LB Albert McClellan (shoulder), DE Pernell McPhee (thigh), DT Haloti Ngata (knee), S Bernard Pollard (chest), S Ed Reed (shoulder), CB Jimmy Smith (abdominal), WR Torrey Smith (back), LB Terrell Suggs (achilles/bicep), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)

NEW ENGLAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Rob Gronkowski (forearm)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: DE Chandler Jones (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: CB Marquice Cole (finger), OL Nick McDonald (shoulder), DE Trevor Scott (knee), RB Danny Woodhead (thumb)

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Pierce practices on limited basis, vows to play on Sunday

Posted on 16 January 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Held to just 14 rushing yards on five carries before leaving the game with a knee injury, Ravens backup running back Bernard Pierce vowed to be ready to play against New England in Sunday’s AFC Championship.

The rookie practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday as it appears he’ll be on track to spell Ray Rice when needed against the Patriots. Pierce rushed for a game-high 103 yards in the wild-card playoff victory over Indianapolis and had averaged just below 6.3 yards per carry in the five games leading into Saturday’s divisional round.

“I’m feeling good,” said Pierce, who twice confirmed he would play on Sunday. “A lot of people have questioned about the whole playoff thing and the AFC Championship, so I’m just taking advice, sitting back, and just learning.”

Running back Anthony Allen and offensive lineman Gino Gradkowski both practiced on a limited basis in red non-contact jerseys as each player was listed with a head injury on Wednesday’s injury report. Wide receiver David Reed was also limited with a thigh injury that dates back to last week.

Cornerback Asa Jackson (thigh) was the only player on the 53-man roster not to take part in Wednesday’s workout in some capacity.

Players were very loose during the open portion of practice as Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs sang the songs “Juicy” by The Notorious B.I.G. and “Lose Yourself” by Eminem respectively. Bernard Pollard and Jacoby Jones tossed a boomerang back and forth during the early portion of practice.

However, the most bizarre scene of the day in Owings Mills was wide receiver David Reed sporting a Lee Evans No. 83 jersey during practice. I’m still not sure what to make of that one or why the garment was still in the building in Owings Mills.

For New England, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (non-injured related) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (forearm) did not participate in Wednesday’s practice. Gronkowski is expected to miss the remainder of the postseason after re-injuring the forearm on which he underwent surgery earlier in the season.

Defensive end Chandler Jones (ankle) and running back Danny Woodhead (thumb) were among the Patriots’ limited participants on Wednesday. Jones, the younger brother of Ravens defensive end Arthur Jones, had his ankle rolled in the Patriots’ 41-28 win over Houston in the divisional round.

“He’s doing a good job not telling me anything,” said Arthur Jones about his younger brother. “He’s not telling me anything, but I think he is going to be out there. He’s a hard worker. I know he’s getting treatment on it hard.”

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Asa Jackson (thigh)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Anthony Allen (head), G Gino Gradkowski (head), RB Bernard Pierce (knee), WR David Reed (thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Anquan Boldin (shoulder), CB Chykie Brown (shoulder), DT Terrence Cody (ankle), LB Dannell Ellerbe (ankle/back), DT Arthur Jones (thigh/knee), FB Vonta Leach (knee/ankle), LB Ray Lewis (triceps), LB Albert McClellan (shoulder), DE Pernell McPhee (thigh), DT Haloti Ngata (knee), S Bernard Pollard (chest), S Ed Reed (shoulder), CB Jimmy Smith (abdominal), WR Torrey Smith (back), LB Terrell Suggs (achilles/bicep), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)

NEW ENGLAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Alfonzo Dennard (non-injury), TE Rob Gronkowski (forearm)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Marquice Cole (finger), DE Chandler Jones (ankle), OL Nick McDonald (shoulder), DE Trevor Scott (knee), RB Danny Woodhead (thumb)

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Ravens preparing to face returning foe Polamalu

Posted on 29 November 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens will enter Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers having not lost a contest at M&T Bank Stadium in 727 days, possessing the longest active home winning streak in the NFL with 15 straight regular-season victories.

But ask anyone with ties to the organization and they’ll tell you the streak should be even longer, as it was the Steelers who last beat the Ravens in Baltimore on Dec. 5, 2010. A run of 23 wins in 24 tries at home is still an incredible feat in the parity-driven NFL, but the efforts of Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu helped prevent the Ravens from holding a flawless home record for well over three years.

As the 31-year-old defensive back prepares to make his long-awaited return from a calf injury on Sunday, the image of his sack-and-strip of quarterback Joe Flacco with just over three minutes remaining to set up the game-winning touchdown for the Steelers two years ago will undoubtedly be on the Ravens’ minds. Instead of collecting a couple first downs to run out the clock and collect a 10-6 victory, Baltimore fell victim once again to a big play by Polamalu and lost hold of the 2010 AFC North title and a first-round bye in the process.

“Everybody watching TV at home, everybody in the stadium, you all know you see 43 at the line, four-minute offense, he’s coming,” said linebacker Terrell Suggs in the moments following that 13-10 loss. “It was just like, I hope we have a plan. It just didn’t feel good when I saw that hair at the line.”

Two years later, the circumstances are dramatically different as the Ravens enjoy a three-game lead in the division and can eliminate the Steelers from AFC North contention and put their playoff hopes in serious peril with a win. Polamalu hasn’t played since Oct. 7 and has appeared in only two games this season while the Pittsburgh defense has still managed to remain first in the league in yards allowed.

But with a healthy Polamalu on the field, the Ravens know they face a unique challenge in addition to the already-stout defense that held them to no offensive touchdowns and just 200 total yards despite a 13-10 win at Heinz Field two weeks ago. Dropping into coverage or lining up to blitz at the line of scrimmage, Polamalu must be identified by Flacco and the Baltimore offense on every play.

“With Troy, you have to be aware of him at all times,” coach John Harbaugh said. “They’ve done a great job of playing defense back there without Troy. So, you add a guy like that in the mix, obviously, what a factor that can be.”

With it looking more unlikely that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will play on Sunday, it’s difficult to imagine many scenarios in which the Pittsburgh offense can provide enough punch with third-string quarterback Charlie Batch in line to receive the start. The Ravens offense must be smart with the football despite their preference for playing aggressively at home, and that’s where Polamalu’s return could be a factor.

Much like Ravens safety Ed Reed, health concerns have taken a toll on Polamalu’s play-making ability, but his presence on the field alone gives Flacco a significant headache he didn’t face two weeks ago when he struggled to make plays against Pittsburgh’s top-ranked secondary. Protecting the football will be paramount, and it was a failure to identify Polamalu late in the game two years ago that netted the Ravens their only loss at M&T Bank Stadium since Nov. 22, 2009.

“He just has a good knack for the game of football,” Flacco said. “He usually can figure out where the ball is going. He just has a feel for the game. While you try to combat that and account for him, there is always a certain amount that you really can’t account for what he is going to do. You just have to go out there, play your game, and take care of him by playing sound, fundamental football.”

Pees with good problem on hands

With linebacker Ray Lewis’ anticipated return before the end of the regular season, the questions have already been raised over how the Ravens should handle his workload with fourth-year player Dannell Ellerbe playing so well in the starting lineup.

A few have taken the extreme position that the Baltimore defense is better off without the 37-year-old, but most would at least agree it’s worth discussing the possibility of Lewis not playing every snap with the thought of keeping him fresh and hiding his suspect coverage in obvious passing situations. It’s not an easy discussion to have should coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome decide on that course of action, but now might be the time to do it with Lewis making a quicker-than-expected recovery from a torn triceps.

It’s too early to speculate how the Ravens will act with Lewis not yet practicing, but it’s a good dilemma to have with Ellerbe and fellow inside linebacker Jameel McClain doing an admirable job filling in for the middle of the defense. The reality is they’d like to have all three on the field as much as possible to enhance their strengths and compensate for potential shortcomings.

“I’d rather have that problem than to try to figure out who the heck is going to be playing because we have a bunch of injuries, which we’ve had to do,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “It’s always a good thing for a coach. It may not be a good thing for the players, but it’s always a good thing for the coaches.”

The better question might be whether the Ravens elect to keep Ellerbe at the “Will” linebacker spot over McClain, who has filled in at Lewis’ “Mike” backer position in the veteran’s absence. Ellerbe is stronger in pass coverage and has had the better overall season, but McClain has raised his level of play in recent weeks as well.

In the mean time, Pees appreciates having Lewis back at the team’s Owings Mills facility this week as he continues to rehab his right arm before returning to the practice field in the not-too-distant future.

“I’ve told you guys before that going in and coaching him and watching him in the meetings sit back there and take notes like a rookie, that’s why he is who he is,” Pees sad. “Really for the younger guys, but really for us older guys — to me — he’s a perfect pro.”

Jones continues to receive accolades

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Still no target date for Suggs’ potential return

Posted on 27 August 2012 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 6:05 p.m.)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Needing to pare down their roster to 75 players by Monday’s 4 p.m. deadline, the Ravens have done so without waiving any more players.

As expected, linebacker Terrell Suggs (Achilles tendon) and wide receiver David Reed (knee) have been placed on the reserve physically unable to perform list. The designation allows the Ravens to remove each player from their active roster but sidelines them through the first six weeks of the regular season.

Suggs underwent surgery in early May for a partially-torn Achilles tendon suffered in late April. The third-year return specialist Reed suffered a torn ACL last December and is still working his way back to full strength.

After Week 6, Suggs and Reed have a three-week window to begin practicing. At any point during that time frame, the Ravens may activate either player. However, at the end of the period, the Ravens must activate them, waive them, or place them on season-ending injured reserve.

The Ravens hope the 2011 AP Defenisve Player of the Year will be able to return to action as he continues to rehab from surgery. Suggs has vowed he will return to the field this season, but the question of when that might happen remains a mystery.

“We don’t know. It’s still early,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I’d say he’s doing really well. From everything I’ve been told, he’s doing very well. So, that’s where we’re at. It’s too far off to say a date really.”

Assuming Suggs would take the full three weeks, the Ravens would be forced to place him on the 53-man roster in the week leading up to their Nov. 11 game against the Oakland Raiders — even if he’s not ready to play by that point — or he would be placed on IR, ending his season.

The Ravens also announced they have played four players on injured reserve, ending their season. Defensive lineman Ryan McBean (broken ankle) and safety Emanuel Cook (broken lower leg) were already known to have been lost for the season, but linebackers Stevie Baggs and Darryl Blackstock were also placed on IR.

The organization could eventually come to an injury settlement for the two linebackers, which would allow them to catch on somewhere else if and when their injuries heal.

The Ravens announced Sunday they had terminated the contract of kicker Billy Cundiff and waived tight end Davon Drew, wide receivers Devin Goda and Patrick Wiliams, offensive lineman Addison Lawrence, center Cecil Newton, cornerback Jordan Maybin, long snapper Patrick Scales, and quarterback Chester Stewart.

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NFLPA rejects rule changes to IR, trade deadline

Posted on 23 August 2012 by Luke Jones

Two of the most notable rule changes passed by the NFL earlier this offseason will not go into effect for the 2012 season after all.

The NFL Players Association did not approve changes to the injured reserve list and the trade deadline, meaning there will not be an injured-player exemption or a later deadline for making trades for at least another season.

The IR rule change passed in May would have provided teams with the opportunity to place one player on injured reserve — thus saving a spot on the 53-man roster — with the option of activating that player for the second half of the season. Under current league rules, any player placed on IR is lost for the season.

Owners had also voted to move the trade deadline back two weeks from the end of the sixth week of the regular season to the Tuesday of Week 8 at 4 p.m. ET.

According to the rules of the collective bargaining agreement, the NFLPA had to approve both rule changes for them to take effect.

According to a FOXSports.com report, the new rules were linked to alterations to in-season practice rules, which led to the union voting against them.

The news doesn’t really impact the Ravens for this season as injured linebacker Terrell Suggs is eligible to begin the season on the reserve non-football injury list, which would sideline him for the first six weeks of the season while allowing the team to replace him on the 53-man roster. After Week 6 of the regular season, Suggs will have a three-week window to begin practicing before the Ravens must then determine whether to place him on the 53-man roster or keep him on the list, which would then end his season.

The same conditions apply to wide receiver and return specialist David Reed, who remains on the active physically unable to perform list as he continues to rehab the surgically-repaired ACL in his left knee.

If approved by the NFLPA, the IR exemption could have applied to defensive lineman Ryan McBean if the prognosis for his fractured ankle would have suggested a potential return midway through the season. Of course, McBean underwent ankle surgery and will miss the rest of the season.

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