Tag Archive | "FedEx Field"

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9/11 showed us how sports can unify

Posted on 11 September 2010 by Domenic Vadala

On September 11, 2001, I was a college student at George Mason University. After sports, my passion in life is history and civics; that autumn I took a course on the American Presidency which was held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 – 10:15 AM. I had another class at 10:30, so as I got out of class that Tuesday and was walking to the next one, someone walking in front of me got a call on his cell phone. The guy said, “…oh they hit the Pentagon too?!” I looked at the guy walking next to me with a dazzed look; he said, “…that didn’t sound good.” Someone walking behind us over heard the conversation and told me what had happened while I had been in class…

We all remember the events of those times, and if you’re anything like me you can probably recall small little details about that day as well. I remember going home from school because God forbid something else should happen, I didn’t want to be in my dorm away from my family. I remember hearing on a traffic report that there was a broken down vehicle on the side of the road on a highway at some point that day. That brought a smile to my face because at the very least that was some sort of normal occurance on a day that was in no other way business as usual. When I got home from college I immediately took out my Dad’s flag pole and American flag and put it up in the front yard at half staff. When my Dad came home from work and we started watching all of the coverage on CNN, I was flashed back to another similar moment in my own history. While the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger wasn’t a tragedy on the level of 9/11, it was a major event in American history and in my life. To this day, I vividly remember watching (with my Dad) President Reagan speak to us from the Oval Office, just as President Bush did that night.

As we all remember, the sports world literally stopped for about a week after 9/11. To me, there’s no greater personification of the role that sports play in our lives in this country than the events of September 16, 2001. For the first time since the 1987 players strike, there was no NFL football on a Sunday afternoon (at that time of year). Along with the NFL, baseball grinded to a halt on the heels of this horrible tragedy. I remember seeing an interview with Mark McGuire regarding whether they should or shouldn’t play. His comment was that all sports should absolutely take pause because athletes are just that: athletes. Not military personnel, police, firemen, etc. Those are the real heros of our society, not home run kings or quarterbacks. Not the camden heros that we see at Oriole Park, but those that fight to protect our right to call those people heros.

So some of you might be wondering when I’m going to tie this in with the Orioles or Ravens. There are some things that supercede even my love of sports, or sports’ place in our society. September 11th is one of them. The NY Giants had played the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football the night before the attacks; I remember thinking that perhaps a lot of people in the World Trade Center had been late to work after having been up late for the game (thus lowering the potential death toll). However as soon as we realized that America was under attack, even the most ardent sports fan wasn’t even thinking about that game, or about the fact that Cal Ripken Jr. was retiring in a few weeks’ time. One of the ripple effects of the September 11th attacks was that baseball rescheduled a whole week’s worth of games, tacking on a week to the regular season. This allowed Cal Ripken’s last game to be played at Oriole Park at Camden Yards (the O’s had previously been slated to finish on the road in NY). While it was nice to see him finish his career in the city of Baltimore, I think we all would have traded that moment for our country to not have been attacked (including Cal).

However when sports returned, we saw it as a unifying force as opposed to a divider. When the NY Giants came to FedEx Field to play the Washington Redskins, I found myself shaking hands with a few NY fans that made the trip, and asking them how things were going in their neck of the woods. They did the same with the Redskin fans, as both cities were attacked. The following spring when the Yankees came to Oriole Park, that same scene replayed itself. I hate seeing my beloved Oriole Park at Camden Yards overrun with Yankee or Red Sox fans. However next time we experience that perhaps we should remember that our military is in the line of fire to protect ours and their rights to come to the ballpark. That Yankee fan bleeds just as red, white, and blue as you or I, and that Boston fan probably loves his country the same as we do. Effectively, we’re all on the same home team.

…for the record, on that September 11, 2001 our class on the American Presidency covered the special war powers of the President. I remember the professor saying that nobody had ever seen them used in our lifetimes. How ironic things can be sometimes. With all of that said, my deepest appreciation and thanks goes out to the thousands and millions of military personnel, policemen, firemen, etc. that protect the O so beautiful and spacious skies of our beloved United States of America. Be you liberal or conservative, black or white, northerner or southerner, Oriole fan or otherwise, you live and breathe the amber waves of grain of the United States of America. You wave the star-spangled stripes of Old Glory as the banner of your homeland while singing a song that was written in Baltimore Harbor as it’s national anthem. With all of this said, may God rest the souls of the deceased of 9/11 in peace, may he provide comfort to the survivors, watch over our military, and may he always continue to bless our America.

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Ravens beat Skins 23-3

Posted on 22 August 2010 by Domenic Vadala

More importantly than the final score, the Ravens left FedEx Field in Landover, MD fairly healthy. According to John Harbaugh, wideout Demetrius Williams rolled an ankle in the second quarter, but that shouldn’ limit him in practice this week. Ultimately the Ravens beat the Washington Redskins 23-3 in a game that was probably more noted for how it dragged on in the second half than anything else. Although the Ravens won the game, it’s preseason…this game left much to be desired on the part of the Ravens. They put three fumbles on the ground in the first half; the coaching staff might want to spend some time on hanging onto the ball this week in practice. However, quarterback Joe Flacco completed 9-16 pass attemps although he only had 72 yards. I thought the Redskins were the team that used the West Coast offense?!

Defensively the Skins were able to complete some big plays on the Ravens’ defense. Coming out of last season the secondary was a big question mark, and with Dominique Foxworth out for the year that continues to be the case. On the Redskins’ opening drive of the game Donovan McNabb was able to complete a 45-yard home run ball downfield to Anthony Anderson, who ran under the slightly underthrown pass to make an amazing catch. The play saw the Ravens getting caught in a cover-two defense, which they might not want to continue playing if that’s going to be the result. One thing that was fairly impressive was the Ravens’ red zone defense, which tightened to hold the Redskins to a field goal. McNabb also hooked up with tight end Chris Cooley as well as wide receiver Santana Moss on numerous occasions throughout the first half to move the chains on Redskin drives. However the Redskin offensive line, which looked fairly good last week against Buffalo, seemed to wilt under the pressure of the Ravens’ defense. McNabb found himself getting knocked around on several occasions; right before halftime they even caused a rushed McNabb to commit an intentional grounding penalty. Overall, the Redskins put up three points in the game, which means that the defense played well.

One thing that we do have to keep in mind is that it’s preseason. Admittedly I’m a firm believer in the preseason system in the NFL, as I think these games all serve a huge purpose. There are certainl aspects of any sport which cannot be mastered in practice, such as timing with receivers if you’re a quarterback, or running a route through a defensive secondary. So when I hear people talk about shortening the preseason, first off I tell them that they’re going to see two or three weeks of bad football in the newly elongated regular season. However that would also mean that coaches would have less time to evaluate their players in games. Traditionally the fourth week has always been the game where the starters play very sparingly, givng coaches the chance to see the reserves for most of the game. That wouldn’t be the case if there were only two preseason games. That aside, odds are that had this been a regular season game the play calls would have been different at various stages of the game, so who knows what the final score would have been. When players and coaches get ready for a game, their main goal is always to win (preseason or regular season). However I think that John Harbaugh’s probably happier with the fact that they came out of the game with just a few nicks than he is with the final score.

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Ravens-Redskins Notebook: Nakamura runs wild, 3rd down woes on D

Posted on 21 August 2010 by Luke Jones

LANDOVER, Md. — Even those crazy enough to gamble on preseason games would not have envisioned who the Ravens’ leading rusher would be against the Redskins in a 23-3 victory on Saturday night.

No, it wasn’t Ray Rice or Willis McGahee. Not even fourth-string back Curtis Steele racked up the most rushing yards against the Washington defense.

A backup safety?

Haruki Nakamura ran 51 yards on a fake punt play in the second quarter to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Willis McGahee to put the Ravens ahead for good at 10-3. The third-year safety showed nifty moves on the play, faking out linebacker H.B. Blades and receiver Brandon Banks on separate occasions to set up the Ravens’ first touchdown.

“Anytime you can give a team a spark, you don’t want to give credit to yourself; you’ve got to give credit to the whole entire group,” Nakamura said. “Without guys blocking, I probably would have got smashed in the backfield or been a loss. As a special teams group, that’s the type of things we’re trying to do this year.”

Nakamura said he had not had a long run of that nature since his high school days and had not touched the ball since college.

“You had to like the call [special teams coordinator] Jerry Rosburg sent in on the fake punt,” coach John Harbaugh said. “The Redskins looked like they had it figured out a little before the snap, but [Nakamura] handled it and made the play.”

Cornerback comeback

Fabian Washington had not seen live-game action since Nov. 22 against the Indianapolis Colts when the cornerback tore his ACL, ending his 2009 season and leading to a difficult offseason of rehab.

The 27-year-old sat out the preseason opener but was on the field against the Redskins, making a tackle and breaking up a pass attempt in the first quarter before being replaced by Cary Williams.

“I feel great,” said Washington, who admitted he still isn’t 100 percent recovered. “My knee held up. Mentally, I feel great.”

With Lardarius Webb still on the Physically Unable to Perform list and Chris Carr continuing to recover from a strained hamstring, Washington’s performance was good news for an otherwise shaky Baltimore secondary that allowed 206 passing yards in the first half.

“They got a couple of third downs and one deep ball, but we didn’t give up any points,” safety Dawan Landry said. “As long as you’re not giving up points, we are going to win.”

Third down doldrums

The Redskins marched 73 yards on 13 plays on the opening drive of the game, but their success on third down was even more concerning in regards to the Ravens defense.

Washington was successful on its first three third-down conversions, gaining 73 total yards to move the chains before the Ravens finally stopped the Redskins on third down from the 7-yard line to force a Graham Gano field goal. The big play was a Donovan McNabb 45-yard completion to Anthony Armstrong, moving the ball inside the 10 before the Ravens defense finally buckled down.

The Redskins went 1-for-9 on third down following their successful opening drive.

“We have to get better [on third down], and we did improve in the second quarter,” Harbaugh said. “Also, give some credit to [McNabb]. He has seen it all, and he did a really good job of buying extra time.”

Bubble breakout

The second preseason game is often the biggest opportunity for bubble players to improve their standing for the 53-man roster, and linebacker Jason Phillips and receiver David Reed seized the opportunity on Saturday night.

Phillips made tackles on back-to-back plays with the second being a sack and forced fumble of Redskins backup Rex Grossman, which was recovered by the second-year linebacker late in the third quarter.

Lost in the shuffle behind Ray Lewis, Jameel McClain, Tavares Gooden, and Dannell Ellerbe in the inside linebacker hierarchy, Phillips—who spent last season on Injured Reserve due to a knee injury—is fighting to be noticed on special teams, but creating more turnovers will grab defensive coordinator Greg Mattison’s attention very quickly.

The rookie receiver Reed appeared to put a miserable training camp behind him with a masterful performance on one second-half scoring drive. He caught four passes for 38 yards, all coming on a 95-yard drive capped off by a 3-yard touchdown run by Jalen Parmele.

A standout performer during the OTA schedule, Reed struggled to catch the football consistently in four weeks of training camp but showed confidence reining in passes from backup Marc Bulger. Currently in a battle with Demetrius Williams for the fifth receiver spot, Reed may have closed the gap between the two with his strong showing.

“I’m very happy,” Reed said. “It was great to help the team out any way I can, and it was unbelievable. It was a great game.”

Happy and healthy

More satisfying than the 23-3 victory was the apparent escape from Landover without any significant injuries.

Harbaugh said Williams sustained “a little bit of a turned ankle” but was not aware of any other issues following the game.

The Ravens had 11 inactive players on Saturday night, including offensive tackle Jared Gaither, cornerback Marcus Paschal, defensive back K.J. Gerard, guard David Hale, offensive tackle Oniel Cousins, offensive linemen Daniel Sanders and Stefan Rodgers, and the four players currently on the active PUP list (Webb, safety Ed Reed, linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, and running back Matt Lawrence).

Carr was active and suited up to play but sat out to rest his left hamstring. The starting corner started against the Panthers but tweaked his hamstring on the third series, forcing him to miss several more practices. He was a full participant only in Thursday’s practice after being limited the entire week.

“They just wanted to be extra cautious, just because of what happened last week,” Carr said. “It was just a precautionary measure. I’m very eager to get back out there.”

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JOIN US NOW!!! Ravens-Redskins Purple Haze chat…enter here!

Posted on 21 August 2010 by Luke Jones

LANDOVER, Md. — Training camp may be over, but the Ravens hope to improve their preseason mark to 2-0 when they travel to FedEx Field to take on the hated Washington Redskins on Saturday night. Despite only being a preseason game, there’s always a little more spice when the team from D.C. is involved.

Glenn Clark and I are live from Landover to bring you all pre- and post-game coverage at WNST.net, and we’ll have the Purple Haze chat underway at 7:00 p.m. Join us to talk about tonight’s game as a plethora of WNST.net personalities will be checking in as well. It’s the newest and best way to enjoy the game other than actually being at the stadium yourself!

If you haven’t done it already, remember to sign up for the WNST Text Service to receive all breaking news including injury updates prior to tonight’s game. It’s our best feature at WNST.net, and it’s free!

Stay right here for updates (time-stamped below) leading up to the start of the Purple Haze chat at 7:00 p.m.!

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6:30 p.m. — Despite not being listed as inactive, cornerback Lardarius Webb remains on the PUP list and will not play this evening. It was simply an oversight.

6:20 p.m. — The Redskins only have two players on the inactive list: wide receivers Malcolm Kelly and Mike Furrey (who was placed on Injured Reserve earlier this week).

Larry Johnson will get the start at running back ahead of Clinton Portis for the Redskins.

6:10 p.m. — If you’re on the WNST Text Service, you’ve already received the Ravens inactives for tonight’s game, which include Oniel Cousins, K.J. Gerard, Marcus Paschal, David Hale, Daniel Sanders, Stefan Rodgers, and the four players on the active PUP (Lardarius Webb, Ed Reed, Matt Lawrence, and Brendon Ayanbadejo).

Tony Moll will start at right tackle in place of Jared Gaither and Oniel Cousins. Of course, Tom Zbikowski will start at free safety in place of Ed Reed.

5:57 p.m. — Mark Clayton just did some work on the field but wasn’t suited up to play. The receiver has battled a sore ankle this week and missed practice on Thursday.

We’ll learn the inactives shortly.

5:47 p.m. — Chris Carr is not suited up as he does some running on the field. No official word whether he’s playing or not.

If Carr cannot go, Travis Fisher would presumably start in his place opposite Fabian Washington in the starting defense.

5:35 p.m. — The Redskins will wear white jerseys with burgundy pants while the Ravens will sport their purple jerseys with white pants tonight at FedEx Field.

Lardarius Webb is doing some conditioning work on the field. With John Harbaugh saying he was “very close” to coming off the physically unable to perform list, it will be interesting to see if the second-year cornerback is back on the practice field in Owings Mills this week.

5:00 p.m. — Tonight’s game marks the sixth time the Ravens and Redskins have met in the preseason, with Baltimore holding a 3-2 advantage in the series. The Ravens bested Washington 24-10 in the 2009 preseason.

Of course, the Ravens have also dominated when it actually matters with a 3-1 all-time record against the Redskins in the regular season. Their most recent meeting was a dominating 24-10 victory for the Ravens in a nationally-televised Sunday night affair on Dec. 7, 2008.

Both teams won their preseason openers, with the Ravens beating the Carolina Panthers, 17-12, and the Redskins scoring 41 points in a victory over the hapless Buffalo Bills.

4:50 p.m. — Glenn Clark and I have arrived in the FedEd Field press box and have been seated at the corner of the end zone.

Upon arriving, Glenn sais to me, “You know what’s great about this place? … Nothing.”

What a funny guy. He truly loves D.C. or Landover or Raljon or whatever they’re calling this place these days.

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Ravens and ‘Skins & O’s and Nats

Posted on 18 August 2010 by Domenic Vadala

I’m sorry, but when I hear the term the “Battle of the Beltway,” I immediately think of the O’s and Nats. However I suppose that the football version is really the same thing in that it’s Baltimore against Washington. While the Ravens and Redskins matchup is something that has happened since 1996, the Nationals and Orioles play six times a year and share a network in MASN. So personally I think that’s a bigger rivalry so to speak, although tell that to Baltimore fans that haven’t forgotten that Jack Kent Cooke tried to block Baltimore from getting a team for quite awhile. (At one point his plan was to build what we now know as FedEx Field in Laurel, which would have effectively ended Baltimore’s quest for the NFL.) That also sounds familiar in that Peter Angelos tried to block Washington from getting baseball for the same reason, which ultimately resulted in him owning the TV rights to the Nationals through MASN.

I suppose my point to all sides of this is that people shouldn’t forget that the real villains at hand will always be Robert Irsay and Bob Short. Those are the guys that hijacked the rich tradition of the Baltimore Colts and Washington Senators and took it with them to other places. For what it’s worth, it’s been my experience (being in and around both cities) that Irsay is probably loathed more in Baltimore than Short is in Washington (today). After each team left it’s respective city, the remaining team tried to suck in the fans in the other city as their own. And if you think about it, that was probably a smart business decision. There were litte subtleties such as the Redskins being televised in the Baltimore market on a frequent basis, and the Orioles taking BALTIMORE off of their road jerseys until just recently. The fact was that if Baltimore fans wanted to see a live football game, their best option was to head down to RFK, and if DC fans wanted to see a live baseball game they would make the drive up to Memorial Stadium and eventually Camden Yards. There’s no doubt that Angelos and Cooke tried to keep their respective sports out of the other city. But as an entrepeneur, wouldn’t you try to protect what yourself from losing people that you deem your customers? With that said I do understand the wrath of Ravens and Nationals fans. However I suppose that my point is what’s done is done. Justifiably, both cities now have both sports.

So will any of that angst be in the air on Saturday night when the Ravens travel to FedEx Field? Perhaps, however I would hope that fans of both teams will be coming out to see how their team looks against good competition in preseason game two, and leave it at that. Both teams are 1-0 in preseason…whoopdie do! The Skins looked impressive against a team in the Buffalo Bills who might be lucky to win a game this season based upon how they played. The Ravens looked a bit vanilla against the Panthers, however the game was played in a torrential rain (not to mention that the two teams will face each other in week three of te regula season, so odds are the coaches didn’t want to show anything). I would expect the starters on both sides to play well into the second quarter on Saturday night, giving both fan bases the opprotunity to see more of what they’ll hope to see come September. However odds are it’ll still be third and fourth stringers that’ll decide who actually wins the game, so neither side should claim bragging rights. One way or the other, these two teams aren’t rivals other than the fact that they play so close. The Ravens should worry about the Steelers and Browns, while the Skins take care of the Cowboys and Eagles. The Ravens will still carry their weight in their division, and the Redskins look much improved over last year…let’s be happy that we have two local NFL teams headed in the right direction.

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Live from Westminster: Gaither to miss 2-3 more weeks with back ‘tear’

Posted on 14 August 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. — What originally started as an innocent case of back cramps has transformed into a long-term concern for offensive tackle Jared Gaither and the Ravens.

Gaither will miss another two to three weeks with what’s being described as a “small tear” in his back, according to coach John Harbaugh. The tear continues to cause the spasms Gaither has experienced since July 30 when he was carted off the field during the first afternoon practice for veteran players.

“He’s got something in his back,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a very small tear. I don’t know the medical term for it. It’s not a serious thing, but it’s going to keep him out a couple weeks until it settles down.”

After briefly returning to practice for four days after missing the first weekend of workouts in Westminster, Gaither has not practiced since August 5 and missed the team’s preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday.

Gaither has now seen at least two back specialists, including one in California who made the diagnosis earlier this week.

“[Gaither’s] going to have to work as hard as he can,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll have to try to work it out. I wouldn’t hold my breath for two weeks, three weeks through camp here and we’ll see where we’re at at that point.”

Third-year tackle Oniel Cousins has played in Gaither’s place on the right side with the first offense and started against the Panthers on Thursday.

Stay right here for updates (time-stamped below) and check out the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from John Harbaugh, Mark Clayton, and Haruki Nakamura.

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8:25 p.m. — In addition to Gaither, others missing from practice included cornerbacks Chris Carr and Marcus Paschal, center Matt Birk, and offensive lineman Daniel Sanders, who had his left arm in a sling during practice.

Offensive tackle Tony Moll (concussion) and defensive back K.J. Gerard (hamstring) returned to practice. Cornerback Fabian Washington (knee) was a full participant in Saturday’s practice after sitting out Thursday’s game as a precautionary measure.

There was no change to the active physically unable to perform list, which includes safety Ed Reed (hip), cornerback Lardarius Webb (knee), running back Matt Lawrence (knee), and linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (quadriceps).

7:40 p.m. — With John Harbaugh canceling both practices on Sunday, it’s no shock the players were taken aback, given the head coach’s workmanlike, no-nonsense reputation. The team will be back on the practice field on Monday at 8:45 a.m. and will have a special teams workout at 2:00 p.m.

“They were a little bit surprised,” said Harbaugh, drawing laughs from reporters. “They didn’t say much, they didn’t really respond. I think they were looking for the catch, they were waiting for the ‘but.’

“The truth is I don’t think it’s a reward, it’s where we’re at right now. It’s a reward, I guess, in the sense that they’ve earned it. We’ve worked really hard throughout training camp—coaches and players—and I think the best thing for us is a little recovery time. We pack a lot of work in every single practice. I like where we’re at right now as a football team, and, really, the best thing for us is to give them a chance to get a jump-start on their legs.”

Sunday’s cancellation leaves only four days of training camp practices before the Ravens break camp on Friday, a day before their second preseason game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field on Saturday night.

“Just grateful for [the time off],” said receiver Mark Clayton, who admitted many players thought the coach was joking when he gave the news. “I know we’ll take advantage of it, rest up, and come out Monday and give it everything we’ve got.”

7:35 p.m. — Despite missing a 50-yard field goal against the Panthers on Thursday night, veteran Shayne Graham rebounded on Saturday afternoon by connecting on all five attempts, including one from the same distance he missed in the preseason opener.

Billy Cundiff missed wide left from 50 yards but connected on his other five tries during the afternoon practice.

John Harbaugh still sees the competition as being wide open despite some recent struggles from Graham, including his miss against the Panthers.

“It’s too early to say. They’ve both done well. I think [Graham’s] kick in the game was a tough one. He wants to make that kick, but it was a tough kick.”

7:25 p.m. — As for the afternoon practice itself, it was a sloppy day for the passing offense as numerous receivers dropped passes, something we haven’t seen very often in an otherwise crisp training camp for the revamped passing game.

Fullback Le’Ron McClain and receivers Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason dropped passes on three of four plays at one point during 11-on-11 drills. One defender shouted, “More carries, not more catches!” after McClain dropped a short pass out of the backfield, a jab at the fullback’s comedic campaign to receive more carries in the Baltimore offense this season.

It was, however, an impressive afternoon for rookie tight end Dennis Pitta who made two impressive catches during 11-on-11 work. Pitta caught a Marc Bulger pass over safety Dawan Landry in the back of the end zone and later made a diving, juggling catch to earn cheers from the Westminster crowd.

Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe lined up on the inside with the starting defense, perhaps signifying a change in the depth chart after the preseason opener.

Jameel McClain received the start next to Ray Lewis on Thursday and had been the starter through the first couple weeks of camp but was out of position and missed tackles on several occasions against the Panthers.

McClain worked at outside linebacker with the second defense for most of the afternoon practice. The other contender for the starting inside linebacker position, Tavares Gooden, was not very active during the team portion of practice.

7:05 p.m. — The other big news of the day was the Ravens parting ways with veteran long snapper Matt Katula. The Ravens re-signed cornerback Brad Jones, who was with the team during the OTA schedule, and waived Katula, leaving rookie Morgan Cox as the only long snapper on the 80-man camp roster. Cox handled all long-snapping against Carolina in the preseason opener on Thursday.

“We wanted to see [Cox] in a game situation,” Harbaugh said. “He’s been doing a real good job throughout the offseason and throughout training camp, but you never want to make a move until you know [he can do it] in a game. He did a nice job, and we feel comfortable he can be our snapper, so we’ll go with the younger guy.”

Harbaugh said Katula’s issue with elbow tendinitis last season did not factor in the decision and the veteran was healthy. Katula had been the Ravens’ long snapper since 2005 when he unseated veteran incumbent Joe Maese during training camp.

That’s life in the NFL as a long snapper.

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