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Ravens couldn’t be further from “paradise” right now

Posted on 22 November 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Upon being inducted into the Ring of Honor at halftime on Sunday, former Ravens safety Ed Reed ended his brief speech by belting out the refrain from “Two Tickets to Paradise,” conjuring memories from the franchise’s victory in Super Bowl XLVII.

The Ravens couldn’t be further from that paradise almost 34 months later after losing Joe Flacco — the MVP 0n that memorable night in New Orleans — to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on the final drive of the 16-13 win over St. Louis. Of course, Baltimore’s 2015 playoff hopes were all but officially gone long before Flacco and 2014 Pro Bowl running back Justin Forsett suffered season-ending injuries on Sunday, but losing your franchise quarterback to a serious injury rocks an organization from top to bottom.

The season from hell continues.

“I’m probably still in shock a little bit,” said Flacco, who started the Ravens’ last 137 games counting the playoffs and will now miss the first action of his eight-year career. “You play football and you play as long as I have and you play as hard as we do out there, then stuff like this happens. You have to just stand tall and be tough about it.

“That’s all you can do.”

At 3-7 and now preparing for the final six games with veteran backup Matt Schaub at the helm, the Ravens will play out the string with eyes pointing squarely toward the future and an unsettling offseason. In addition to improving a roster lacking game-changing talent on both sides of the ball, general manager Ozzie Newsome will need to renegotiate Flacco’s contract that carries a $28.55 million salary cap figure in 2016 while not knowing for sure if the veteran signal-caller will be ready for the start of next season.

Until Flacco is healthy and back under center, the Ravens won’t be able to help but feel there’s a black cloud hanging over their heads.

In the meantime, the Ravens and their fans will receive a glimpse of life without their franchise quarterback. Troy Smith was the last quarterback not named Flacco to start a regular-season game for the Ravens when Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden was playing in his final game and Brian Billick was coaching his last contest on Dec. 30, 2007.

Jettisoned by Houston and Oakland in the last two years, Schaub will now be asked to compete without the Ravens’ top two receivers (Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman), top two running backs (Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro), and starting center (Jeremy Zuttah) entering training camp. Frankly, it’s a near-impossible situation for a 34-year-old many feared had already reached the end of the road as an NFL quarterback before signing a one-year deal to back up the durable Flacco.

The Ravens may be fortunate to win another game the rest of the way, which would at least help their position in the 2016 draft after the most disappointing season in franchise history. From that perspective, the ugly win over the Rams on Sunday felt more like a loss, especially after learning of Flacco’s injury minutes after Justin Tucker’s game-winning 47-yard field goal.

Anyone watching the Ravens play in 2015 knows the problems run deeper than a slew of injuries to impact players such as six-time Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs, tight end Dennis Pitta, Smith, and now Flacco and Forsett, but it’s difficult to recall too many NFL teams suffering such a number of injuries to high-impact players in recent memory. At least an already-poor record numbs the disappointment of losing Flacco compared to if the Ravens had been 7-3 and just seen their Super Bowl aspirations crushed on Sunday like Arizona experienced losing Carson Palmer to a torn ACL last November.

But you still can’t help but feel like the Ravens are snakebitten.

“I guess when it rains it pours,” outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. “We’ve been dealing with it all year, from Suggs to Steve. It’s tough. … Nobody feels sorry for us. We’ve got to make sure we come out and prepare hard.”

What’s next?

Many wondered how the Ravens would respond to last week’s gut-wrenching loss to Jacksonville and if they would continue to compete in the way they have all season with one-possession outcomes in every game. Baltimore flirted with the wheels completely falling off the cart for much of Sunday’s game with more than 100 yards in penalties in the first half and scoring just three points through three quarters.

Receiving plenty of help from the sloppy Rams, the Ravens managed to pull out their third victory of the season by making fewer mistakes than their opponent in the end. But without Flacco — or Forsett — for the rest of the season on top of their many other injuries, when will enough finally become enough physically, mentally, and emotionally?

“It’s tremendously disappointing for those [injured] guys,” said John Harbaugh, who will coach his first game without Flacco under center next Monday night in Cleveland. “We’ll be fine as a football team. We’ll bounce back — that’s what you do. Matt Schaub can play quarterback, and he’s going to come in [and] he’s going to play very well.”

If only it were that simple, but what else can the Ravens coach really say at this point?

The Ravens were reminded on Sunday that it wasn’t that long ago that they reached paradise in raising the second Vince Lombardi Trophy in franchise history.

But less than three years later, that memory feels a universe away.

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Osemele listed as questionable with knee injury

Posted on 20 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Facing one of the most talented defensive fronts in the NFL, the Ravens officially listed starting left guard Kelechi Osemele as questionable to play against St. Louis on Sunday.

Battling through a knee injury that kept him out of Wednesday’s practice, Osemele was a full participant on Thursday — leading most to believe his game status was not in jeopardy — before once again failing to participate in the final workout of the week. The fourth-year guard played every offensive snap of the Week 10 loss to Jacksonville, but he would likely be replaced by 2013 sixth-round pick Ryan Jensen if he would not be able to go against the Rams.

Rookie tight end Nick Boyle was listed as doubtful as he continues to wear a walking boot on his left foot. The recently-signed Chase Ford could serve as the Ravens’ third tight end on game day behind starter Crockett Gillmore and rookie Maxx Williams.

Linebacker Elvis Dumervil (knee) is probable to play after practicing fully on Thursday and Friday.

Second-year defensive end Brent Urban completed his second full week of practice, but head coach John Harbaugh did not make it clear whether he was a candidate to be activated from injured reserve with the designation to return ahead of Sunday’s game with the Rams. Urban began a 21-day practice window on Nov. 9 and would need to be moved to the 53-man roster by 4 p.m. on Saturday in order to play in Week 11.

“He has practiced well. We haven’t seen any ill effects from the biceps [injury] at all,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll see where that goes next week. I think next week is when we have to determine it, but I’m pretty optimistic that he can help us right now. Ozzie [Newsome] and I haven’t talked about it in any kind of detail yet, but I feel very positive about Brent’s progress.”

Meanwhile, St. Louis listed starting right tackle and Linganore High product Rob Haventstein as doubtful to play with a calf injury. Standout defensive ends Chris Long (knee) and Robert Quinn (hip) were designated as questionable.

Baltimore made two practice squad additions on Friday, signing cornerback Jumal Rolle and offensive lineman Blaine Clausell and cutting safety Nick Perry and offensive lineman Marcel Jones. Harbaugh said the Ravens still “have plans” for Perry in the future.

Second-year offensive lineman John Urschel is set to make his first career start at center on Sunday after Jeremy Zuttah (pectoral) was placed on IR earlier this week. The former fifth-round pick will face a challenging interior front that includes 2014 Defensive Rookie of the Year Aaron Donald.

“John looked fine,” Harbaugh said. “He has been practicing there from Day 1, so it’s not new for us to have him in there. It’ll be fun to watch him play and see how he does. We believe he’s ready. He has a good task in there against the two good defensive tackles that they play with, and we’re expecting him to play well.”

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Tony Corrente.

According to Weather.com, the forecast for Sunday’s game calls for partly cloudy skies and temperatures only reaching the high 40s. Wind could also be a factor with potential gusts exceeding 20 miles per hour, which could presumably pose a challenge to an opponent accustomed to playing in a dome.

“They’re probably happy; they’re running the ball,” said Harbaugh, referring to the Rams’ fifth-ranked rush offense. “I don’t think it’s going to make a bit of difference — the weather — or anything like that.”

Below is the final injury report of the week:

DOUBTFUL: TE Nick Boyle (foot)
QUESTIONABLE: G Kelechi Osemele (knee)
PROBABLE: LB Elvis Dumervil (knee), DE Chris Canty (non-injury), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury)

DOUBTFUL: T Rob Havenstein (calf)
QUESTIONABLE: TE Justice Cunningham (finger), DE Chris Long (knee), DE Robert Quinn (hip)
PROBABLE: C Tim Barnes (concussion)

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Rookie tight end Boyle only real injury concern for Ravens

Posted on 19 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Rookie tight end Nick Boyle was the only player missing from Thursday’s practice due to health reasons as the Ravens moved closer to their Week 11 meeting with St. Louis.

The fifth-round pick continues to wear a walking boot on his left foot after missing his second straight practice. Baltimore signed tight end Chase Ford off the Minnesota practice squad earlier this week, which would appear to indicate that Boyle is in danger of missing his first game of the season.

Baltimore welcomed left guard Kelechi Osemele and outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil back to practice after both sat out with knee ailments on Wednesday. Osemele and Dumervil were both listed as full participants, leaving little doubt about their availability for Sunday’s game.

Linebacker Daryl Smith and defensive end Chris Canty both received veteran days off as they regularly do on Thursdays.

For St. Louis, two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Quinn was again listed as a non-participant with a hip issue while starting right tackle Rob Havenstein continues to deal with a calf injury. The Rams did not practice on Thursday, meaning their injury report was only an estimation if they had.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Nick Boyle (foot), DE Chris Canty (non-injury), LB Elvis Dumervil (non-injury)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Elvis Dumervil (knee), G Kelechi Osemele (knee)

DID NOT PARTICIPATE: OT Rob Havenstein (calf), DE Robert Quinn (hip)
FULL PARTICIPATION: C Tim Barnes (concussion), DE Chris Long (knee)

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Dumervil, Osmele, Boyle absent from Wednesday’s practice

Posted on 18 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Making preparations for Sunday’s meeting with the St. Louis Rams, the Ravens were without a starter on each side of the ball during Wednesday’s practice.

Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil and left guard Kelechi Osemele were both absent from the workout with respective knee ailments. Neither player appeared to be limited in the Week 10 loss to Jacksonville as Dumervil played 58 of 74 defensive snaps while Osemele did not miss a single offensive snap.

Speaking to reporters after Wednesday’s practice, Dumervil downplayed the significance of his absence.

Rookie tight end Nick Boyle’s absence from Wednesday’s practice appeared more serious as he was wearing a walking boot on his left foot in the locker room. The Ravens signed tight end Chase Ford to the 53-man roster on Tuesday, perhaps an indication that Boyle is in danger of missing some action.

As expected, John Urschel worked as the starting center during the portion of practice open to media after veteran Jeremy Zuttah was placed on injured reserve earlier in the day. The second-year lineman expressed confidence in his shotgun snaps after he had difficulty when filling in for Zuttah against San Diego in Week 8.

Urschel says he’s received pointers from long snapper Morgan Cox in addition to spending extra time working with offensive line coach Juan Castillo.

“It’s something I work on every day, shotgun snapping,” Urschel said. “I work to get better at it. I am improving. We’ve changed my mechanics some. I’ve gotten some help from Morgan; he’s been helping me with that. That is what he does, so he’s a good person to talk to.”

The Rams were without starting right tackle Rob Havenstein (calf) and starting defensive end Robert Quinn (hip) during Wednesday’s practice.

Below is the first full injury report of the week:

DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Nick Boyle (foot), LB Elvis Dumervil (knee), G Kelechi Osemele (knee)

DID NOT PARTICIPATE: OT Rob Havenstein (calf), DE Robert Quinn (hip)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: C Tim Barnes (concussion)

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NFL admits officiating error at end of Ravens’ loss to Jacksonville

Posted on 16 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The NFL admitted Monday to a late officiating error that allowed Jacksonville to kick the game-winning field goal in a 22-20 win over the Ravens on Sunday.

John Harbaugh said it was “pretty obvious” that the Jaguars offensive line wasn’t set as quarterback Blake Bortles snapped the ball with one second remaining and outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil pulled him to the ground by the face mask, eliciting a 15-yard penalty and an untimed play that resulted in Jason Myers’ 53-yard field goal with no time remaining. The NFL issued a statement acknowledging that a false start should have been called, which would have resulted in the play being blown dead and a 10-second run-off to officially end the game.

“The correct call in this case would have been to penalize the offense for a false start because all 11 players were not set, and whistle to stop the play,” league spokesman Michael Signora said. “The ensuing 10-second runoff should have ended the game.”

Of course, the Ravens had 59 minutes, 59 seconds of action to play better and not allow the game to come down to an officiating mistake, but that’s what happens when you’re 2-7 and in the midst of the most disappointing season in franchise history. A high number of calls — many of them important — are missed throughout the course of 60-minute contests every week, with some benefiting and others hurting any given team.

Officiating in the NFL is a problem, but that’s nothing new and won’t change Sunday’s result.

Any number of plays from the final few minutes could have changed the final outcome, ranging from Sam Koch not punting the ball into the end zone for the first time all season to Kendrick Lewis successfully coming away with the game-clinching interception just a couple plays before the final one. Even after the officials missed the false start, Dumervil would be the first to tell you he cannot commit a facemask penalty in such a critical spot, which may have been the only scenario in which the Jaguars could have still won since most players on both teams had already given up on the play.

However you want to slice it, shoddy officiating at the end of the game still doesn’t excuse the Ravens for not playing well against a bad team at home with an extra week to prepare.

“There’s nothing we can do about it now,” Harbaugh said. “It’s unfortunate. It’s disappointing. It’s gut-wrenching. It’s just the way it goes.

“But in the end, we have to overcome all that stuff. I don’t care about officiating. I don’t care about weather. I don’t care about field conditions. I don’t care about our opponent. That’s the way our guys look at it. It does not matter.”

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In last stand, Ravens fail to change losing tune

Posted on 15 November 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Sunday represented the last stand for the 2015 Ravens.

After their win over San Diego two weeks ago, players and coaches talked about making a second-half run to climb back into an underwhelming AFC wild-card race. Coming off their bye, the Ravens had an extra week to make mid-season adjustments and to prepare for a 2-6 opponent that hadn’t won a road game in nearly two years.

Their most optimistic fans believed there was at least a small chance for the Ravens to turn around their season starting with a win over the lowly Jaguars. But that dream vanished with Elvis Dumervil’s face mask penalty with no time remaining, setting up Jason Myers’ 53-yard field goal to hand the Ravens a stunning 22-20 defeat.

Head coach John Harbaugh called it “as tough a loss as you’re ever going to see” as Baltimore fell to 2-7, but it was just the latest crushing defeat in the most disappointing season in franchise history. The Ravens are just bad enough to find new ways to lose close games on a weekly basis.

“I felt like we lost the game way before that,” said wide receiver Kamar Aiken, citing the Ravens’ slew of other mistakes and his own dropped passes. “It should have never gotten to that point.”

Dumervil’s penalty was just the last of several miscues over the final four minutes of the game after Jacksonville punted the ball back to the Ravens with 3:57 remaining.

The first play of that drive was a Joe Flacco pass to Kyle Juszczyk that resulted in six yards before the fullback ran out of bounds — stopping the clock. After then moving the ball to the Jacksonville 43, the Ravens elected to take a timeout on fourth-and-5 instead of letting the play clock expire and taking a five-yard penalty for a delay of game.

Arguably the best punter in the NFL this season, Sam Koch punted the ball into the end zone for his first touchback of the season, giving the Jaguars the ball at the 20 instead of inside their 10 with 1:06 left and no timeouts remaining.

The decision seemed inconsequential at the time, but how crucial did that extra second and field position turn out to be for the Jaguars?

On second-and-15 from the Jacksonville 40, Ravens safety Kendrick Lewis dropped what would have been the game-clinching interception. That missed chance came just two plays before Dumervil’s critical mistake on a play in which virtually everyone on the field had stopped playing except for Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles and the Pro Bowl outside linebacker.

But the Ravens had other failed chances and errors — including four second-half turnovers — that put them in position for the final bizarre play to matter. There may have been some new post-bye wrinkles with more three-tight sets on offense and new personnel groups on defense — the previously-missing 2013 second-round pick Arthur Brown even played — but the same mistakes came at critical times as the Ravens committed nine penalties for 121 yards.

It used to be that the Ravens had to play poorly and a team like Jacksonville would need to be nearly perfect to have a real chance to win in Baltimore, but let’s not pretend that the Jaguars were a juggernaut with their collection of dropped passes, a 26-yard field goal miss, and questionable play-calling throughout the day.

Sunday was 60 minutes of mediocre football played between two bad teams, with the Ravens blinking hardest at the end.

“We’re just not the type of team that’s finding ways to win right now,” said Flacco, who committed three turnovers in the third quarter despite three touchdown passes on the day. “We’re not good enough to [win] football games at the end. You can look at how crazy it is no matter what. We have chances to close those games out. We’re just leaving room for stuff like this to happen.”

You can keep pointing to closes losses and dwelling on misfortune.

Instead of turning a corner after their bye week and making a statement that the second half of 2015 would be a different story, the Ravens played the same losing tune in the end. And it wiped out what faint hope might have remained in their lost season.

M&T Bank Stadium used to be a place where the Ravens were almost invincible, but they’re now 1-3 at home with losses to Cleveland and Jacksonville, perennial doormats of the AFC. There’s just no explanation for it other than being a bad team, even if the Ravens and their fans might feel like the football gods were conspiring against them on that final play.

“We are not catching those breaks,” cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “It’s a flag here, dropped picks, and [missed] opportunities, and we’re not coming up with them.

“It’s not the universe; it’s us.”

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Ravens-49ers: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 18 October 2015 by Luke Jones

With their pride already wounded after a 1-4 start to 2015, the Ravens’ bodies may feel even worse as five players were officially ruled out or doubtful and five starters were listed as questionable prior to their Week 6 game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Baltimore received good news on Sunday afternoon, however, with wide receiver Steve Smith (back), running back Justin Forsett (ankle), outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (groin), guard Marshal Yanda (ankle), and tight end Crockett Gillmore (calf) all being listed as active. How much each will be able to play remains to be seen as Forsett and Dumervil only returned to practice on Friday while Smith is returning to live-game action a little over two weeks after suffering multiple microfractures in his lower back.

Even with Forsett active, rookie Buck Allen would still figure to receive an increased workload, especially in wake of second-year running back Lorenzo Taliaferro being placed on injured reserve earlier in the week. Rookie free agent Terrence Magee was promoted from the practice squad on Saturday and will serve as the No. 3 running back while the recently-claimed Raheem Mostert was deactivated for Sunday’s game.

With five of their seven deactivated players dealing with injuries — including starting cornerback Lardarius Webb — the Ravens may have pushed the issue a little more with several of their banged-up starters who are less than 100 percent. Newly-signed cornerback Shareece Wright could see extensive playing time with Webb absent, Will Davis gone for the season, and nickel back Terrence Brooks (thumb) also out for Sunday’s game.

Meanwhile, the 49ers officially deactivated veteran running back Reggie Bush with a calf injury, but No. 1 option Carlos Hyde (foot) was active for Sunday’s game. As expected, tight end Vernon Davis (knee) was also active and will make his return to the field after a two-game absence.

John Parry will be the referee for Sunday’s game at Levi’s Stadium.

The Ravens will be wearing white jerseys and white pants while San Francisco dons its red tops with gold pants.

According to Weather.com, the forecast for San Clara, Calif. calls for mostly cloudy skies and temperatures in the high 60s with winds up to 14 miles per hour on Sunday afternoon.

Sunday marks the fifth regular-season meeting between the Ravens and the 49ers with Baltimore owning the 3-1 edge, which, of course, does not include the 34-31 victory in Super Bowl XLVII. The Ravens are also seeking their seventh straight win against NFC opponents.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

WR Darren Waller
WR Breshad Perriman
CB Lardarius Webb
S Terrence Brooks
RB Raheem Mostert
C Ryan Jensen
DL Chris Canty

WR Bruce Ellington
RB Reggie Bush
LB Gerald Hodges
G Brandon Thomas
OL Ian Silberman
NT Mike Purcell
LB Corey Lemonier

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Ravens list five starters as questionable for Sunday

Posted on 16 October 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Working out for the final time before traveling to California for Sunday’s meeting with the San Francisco 49ers, the Ravens saw three Pro Bowl players return to practice before listing five total starters as questionable.

Running back Justin Forsett (ankle), right guard Marshal Yanda (ankle), and outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (groin) were all listed as questionable after returning to practice on Friday. Forsett and Dumervil left Sunday’s loss to Cleveland with their respective ailments while Yanda has appeared on the injury report with an ankle issue for the last two weeks.

Head coach John Harbaugh suggested that Forsett and Dumervil would be game-time decisions against the 49ers.

“I feel good. I feel a lot better than I did earlier in the week,” Forsett said. “It’s been progressing every day. As far as Sunday, it’s still a work in progress. Hopefully, we get some more progress in the ankle coming up before that day.

Wide receiver Steve Smith (back) and tight end Crockett Gillmore (calf) were listed as questionable after practicing for the third consecutive day, which would make one think the two are likely return to action in some form against the 49ers. However, Smith did not present an optimistic outlook regarding his Week 6 status a little over two weeks after suffering multiple microfractures in his back.

“To be honest, my expectancy of playing is very low,” Smith said after Friday’s practice. “I went out there Wednesday, it was alright. Thursday, tried to open up a little bit [and] couldn’t open up too much. I didn’t really go too much today, so I’m just trying to be smart. I’m not really sure what I’m really going to do.

“How I feel today, it doesn’t look like I can go as much as I would like to. I’m just trying to look at the long-term health.”

Five players were missing from Friday’s practice as cornerback Lardarius Webb (hamstring), safety Terrence Brooks (thumb), wide receivers Darren Waller (concussion) and Breshad Perriman (knee), and defensive end Chris Canty (calf) were absent. Webb was listed as doubtful while the other four were officially ruled out for Sunday’s game.

Of course, the Ravens are not only trying to fix their 25th-ranked pass defense, but they will be facing former teammates and talented 49ers receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith. Familiarity helps in preparing to match up, but that doesn’t make the challenge much easier for a group that’s struggled to stop anybody this season.

“You go up against Anquan, you’re in for a battle,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “He’s going to be physical. He’s going to be tough. He’s going to play hard. And if that ball is anywhere in his vicinity, he’s going to catch it. I still remember all those catches on the sideline at the Super Bowl that he probably shouldn’t have made.

“And Torrey can take the top off of anybody’s defense. We know what those guys are. We’re looking forward to it.”

John Parry will be the referee for Sunday’s game at Levi’s Stadium.

According to Weather.com, the forecast calls for mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70s with winds 10 to 20 miles per hour in Santa Clara, Calif. on Sunday afternoon.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

OUT: S Terrence Brooks (thumb), DE Chris Canty (calf), WR Breshad Perriman (knee), WR Darren Waller (concussion)
DOUBTFUL: CB Lardarius Webb (thigh)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Elvis Dumervil (thigh), RB Justin Forsett (ankle), TE Crockett Gillmore (calf), WR Chris Givens (ankle), WR Steve Smith (back), G Marshal Yanda (ankle)
PROBABLE: LB Daryl Smith (non-injury)

DOUBTFUL: RB Reggie Bush (calf)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Ahmad Brooks (shoulder), TE Vernon Davis (knee), WR Bruce Ellington (calf), LB Eli Harold (knee), RB Carlos Hyde (foot), G Brandon Thomas (ankle)
PROBABLE: G Alex Boone (shoulder), LB Navarro Bowman (NIR), TE Vance McDonald (chest), OT Joe Staley (knee)

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S. Smith, Gillmore return while nine other Ravens absent on Wednesday

Posted on 14 October 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Wednesday’s practice brought some good news and more bad news for the Ravens as they continued preparations for a trip to San Francisco this weekend.

Wide receiver Steve Smith (back) and tight end Crockett Gillmore (calf) returned to practice on a limited basis, but nine others were absent as the Ravens try to climb out of a 1-4 hole to begin the 2015 season. Linebacker Elvis Dumervil (groin), running back Justin Forsett (ankle), guard Marshal Yanda (ankle), cornerback Lardarius Webb (hamstring), defensive end Chris Canty (calf), safety Terrence Brooks (thumb), and wide receivers Breshad Perriman (knee), Darren Waller (concussion), and Chris Givens (ankle) were not present for Wednesday’s workout.

Smith was on the field and running routes less than two weeks after suffering microfractures in his back in the Week 4 win over Pittsburgh. The 36-year-old missed Sunday’s game against Cleveland, but the Ravens have remained hopeful that he can return as early as this week against the 49ers.

Gillmore’s return to practice was anticipated after he was moving around well in a pre-game workout on Sunday. The second-year tight end missed the last two games after injuring his calf in the first half of the Week 3 loss to Cincinnati.

Dumervil injured his groin in the first half of Sunday’s loss to Browns and did not return to the game. The Ravens’ decision to release veteran Jason Babin on Tuesday was viewed by some as a positive sign regarding Dumervil’s status, but his absence was not an encouraging sign to support that.

Turning 30 on Wednesday, Forsett injured his ankle on the final drive of regulation on Sunday and was unavailable in overtime. Head coach John Harbaugh said Monday that the veteran back is not dealing with a high ankle sprain, leaving the door open for him to possibly play against the 49ers. Backup running back Lorenzo Taliaferro was placed on injured reserve with a foot injury on Wednesday, further depleting depth at the position.

Needless to say, the Ravens are very thin at running back, wide receiver, and outside linebacker at the moment as injuries have told a major part of the 2015 story so far. Current practice-squad running back Terrence Magee and outside linebacker Brennen Beyer are names to remember as potential candidates to be promoted to the 53-man roster later in the week.

The newly-signed Shareece Wright and the newly-promoted Asa Jackson and Charles James were all taking part in Wednesday’s practice as part of a revamped secondary. Wright will wear No. 35, Jackson No. 27, and James No. 32 as the Ravens try to improve the league’s 25th-ranked pass defense.

Meanwhile, the 49ers were without five starters during Wednesday’s practice as starting running back Carlos Hyde (foot) and left tackle Joe Staley (knee) were among the absentees.

Below is Wednesday’s injury report:

DID NOT PARTICIPATE: S Terrence Brooks (thumb), DE Chris Canty (calf), LB Elvis Dumervil (thigh), RB Justin Forsett (ankle), WR Chris Givens (ankle), WR Breshad Perriman (knee), WR Darren Waller (concussion), CB Lardarius Webb (thigh), G Marshal Yanda (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Crockett Gillmore (calf), WR Steve Smith (back)

DID NOT PARTICIPATE: G Alex Boone (shoulder), LB Navarro Bowman (non-injury), LB Ahmad Brooks (non-injury, shoulder), RB Reggie Bush (calf), RB Carlos Hyde (foot), T Joe Staley (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Vernon Davis (knee), TE Vance McDonald (chest)

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Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, left, and defensive coordinator Dean Pees look on during an NFL football practice at the team's practice facility in Owings Mills, Md., Wednesday, June 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

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Harbaugh not considering any coaching changes

Posted on 12 October 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the Ravens off to the first 1-4 start in franchise history, many fans are clamoring for changes in a season that began with high expectations.

Despite a slew of injuries to key players, fourth-year defensive coordinator Dean Pees has drawn much of the coaching criticism, but Harbaugh made his intentions clear Monday when asked whether he was considering any staff changes at this time.

“No, no way. No, our coaches are doing a good job,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve just got to collectively find a way to finish games and get the job done. We’ve got tough challenges that we’re facing, but we’ve got just the men for the job right here.”

After giving up 33 points and 505 total yards while allowing Cleveland quarterback Josh McCown to throw for 457 yards — the third-highest total allowed in franchise history — in Sunday’s overtime loss, the Ravens now rank 24th in points allowed per game (27.4) and 25th in pass defense (278.2 yards through the air per contest). McCown’s performance was the highest passing yardage total in the long history of the Browns.

In addition to already being without linebacker Terrell Suggs (Achilles) and defensive end Chris Canty (calf) prior to Sunday’s game, the Ravens lost linebacker Elvis Dumervil (groin) and cornerbacks Will Davis (torn ACL), Lardarius Webb (hamstring), and Kyle Arrington (concussion testing) over the course of the game.

Even with those substantial personnel losses, the Ravens allowing 24 points to Cleveland in a 25-minute span — the Browns had scored 24 in an entire game against Baltimore just once in the previous 12 meetings — is unacceptable to the standards of the organization and fans alike. But Harbaugh believes the answers still lie with the coaches and players already in the building as their four losses have come by a combined 17 points.

“We definitely believe in what we’re doing,” said Harbaugh, who also stated that he’s challenging his coaches to come up with new ideas. “We definitely have confidence in the players that we have and in the coaches that we have and in the schemes that we’re running.

“But you also look for ways to improve and get better, so we’re looking at schemes. We’re looking at things we can teach a little bit differently — the way we’re playing a technique on the defensive line or the way we’re playing a technique in the back end. More importantly, we want to play the things right all the time.”

Poor technique, poor tackling, costly penalties, and miscommunication have all plagued the defense so far in 2015. The Ravens also rank 31st out of 32 teams in third-down defense with opponents moving the chains a staggering 49.4 percent of the time.

Known as the Ravens’ biggest game-changing unit for the better part of two decades, the defense has squandered fourth-quarter leaders in three of four losses this season. It’s the kind of futility that should have everyone on alert — coaches and players.

Harbaugh knows the Ravens need to improve all the way around, but figuring out how is the challenge.

“We don’t need to play harder; we need to play better,” Harbaugh said. “We don’t need to coach harder; we need to coach better. We’ve got to find a way to make the difference. It’s making plays. It’s calling plays that give guys a chance to make plays in critical situations to get you over the hump.”

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