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New G Williams, Ravens brought together by familiarity

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New G Williams, Ravens brought together by familiarity

Posted on 29 July 2012 by Ryan Chell

The Ravens have made it a habit over the years to grab veteran offensive lineman late in free agency or training camp to not only bring experience, but to also have that key backup in case an injury should occur to solidify that same offensive line.

Last year, it was Andre Gurode, who started several games for the injured Ben Grubbs. In 2008, it was Willie Anderson who saw action at right tackle.

This season, with the team reeling from the loss of Grubbs at the left guard position to free agency-as well as Gurode’s dismissal, the Ravens felt like they needed to keep up with that tradition.

And they did just that at the beginning of June, signing former Bengals and Eagles guard Bobbie Williams to a two-year contract.

Williams is adjusting to the atmosphere in Owings Mills, but he’s confident that he’ll fit right in with training camp the first opportunity to do so.

“I’m just taking it all in,” Williams said after practice Saturday. “I’ve been rolling for a week. I came in when the young guys came in, and it was good that I did that so I could get that advantage and get things going. We’re just hitting all cylinders now.”

Williams had spent the last eight seasons with the Bengals, and the 35-year old has started 130 games in his 12-year NFL career.

The Ravens certainly felt like they made the right decision by bringing in a stable and dependable Williams in with the early shuffling of their offensive line in camp.

When he was signed on June 8th, Williams was at first expected to battle for the left guard position with Ravens 2nd round pick Kelechi Osemele and second-year man Jah Reid.

However, both started off training camp with back and calf injuries respectively, and Williams was told to line up and clear the way for newly-paid running back Ray Rice.

Coach Harbaugh earlier in the week said that Williams has already made them forget about Ben Grubbs, and Harbaugh attributed that to his tremendous work ethic.

Those were strong words according to Williams.

“I’m just appreciative that they respect me on that level. I don’t plan on letting anyone down, including myself, and the good Lord.”

Williams said that when he came in, he was told that a spot wasn’t going to be given to him. And despite it looking that way, he still wants to prove himself to Coach John Harbaugh and the coaching staff.

“I came in with the attitude to work-period. And it ain’t going to leave. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but it ain’t going to leave till February…let’s just put it that way.”

Williams remembers Coach Harbaugh from Harbaugh’s time as a special teams coach with the Eagles-who drafted Williams in the 2nd round of 2000 NFL Draft-and said that he has always been “a player’s coach.”

And the way Williams talks about offensive line Coach Andy Moeller-you would think they have been around each other for a lifetime-not two months.

“I’m used to the coaching staff and the guys around me. It’s a great group and I’m not just saying that.” And Coach Moeller man-I think the world of him. He’s a real teacher of the game. I truly respect him and his knowledge of the game. And that’s very key.”

He may have that familiarity with his coaches, but many are certain that the Ravens brought Williams in given his time with their AFC North rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals.

That kind of insight into an opposing locker room’s scheme could do wonders for a defensive coordinator, and the fact that he knows the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers blitz packages from seeing them 4 times a year the past eight seasons, that can only be added bonus.

“That might have played a little part of it knowing the division,” Williams laughed.”

But Williams said it could also be the exact opposite. The Ravens knew who he was from having to get past him to sack Carson Palmer or Andy Dalton for nearly a decade, and they wanted that kind of “lunch pail” attitude on their line.

To “Play like a Raven”, as the theme points out.

“I also know what kind of team this is, Williams said. “I know that the Baltimore Ravens are a tough, blue collar, hard-working team and they felt I could contribute to that and that I have some of those same qualities. They said, ‘Hey, we know this guy can play here’.”

And with a newly-paid running back in Ray Rice in the backfield and with an offense that lives and dies by his yardage, Williams says he’s the perfect guy to clear those holes for Rice.

“It’s what I’ve always been known to do. I’ve always been that hard-nosed, dependable guy that will get down and dirty and likes contact. I like to be physical. I like to get my hands on people.”

He said all it takes for him to get to that level is getting comfortable with the guys lining up next to him at left tackle and center.

“I’ve got to get familiar with my center. And then my left tackle. I’ve been leaning heavily on Matt Birk and Michael Oher. I sit next to Marshal Yanda in meetings and I’ve asked him some things.”

But obviously, with left tackle Bryant McKinnie not in camp so far-but yet announcing he would report Monday for his first practice-he may have to start all over again with that level of comfort with those playing next to him.

But Williams says that’s no problem at all. McKinnie’s addition to this offensive line finally-much like his own signing by the Ravens-only improves their chances of success.

“Whatever we have, we’re working with that and we’re doing a pretty good job. If another piece is added like I was added, it makes us even better.”

And even if things remain as they are, Williams is still confident that this team can do some special things this season. It’s one of the reasons he signed with the Ravens in the first place.

“That’s just the nature of the game. You learn the ropes and you learn to make do with what you had. You learn to make that work. And you go out there and solidify that.”

And the chance to win a ring? Any way I can help with that, I’m there.”

Thanks to Bobbie Williams for chatting with me after practice today! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Live from Owings Mills: McKinnie to Report Monday

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Live from Owings Mills: McKinnie to Report Monday

Posted on 28 July 2012 by Ryan Chell

Owings Mills-The drama concerning Ravens LT Bryant McKinnie continued Saturday, as McKinnie was again absent from team workouts in the team’s first full-pads practice at the Under Armour Performance Center.

However, there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel as McKinnie told WNST Saturday night that he will be reporting to practice Monday and will end his holdout from training camp.

“All is good,” McKinnie told WNST in a text message. I had a little accident a few days ago. I’ll explain later.”

McKinnie, who joined the Ravens last season, had yet to report to Owings Mills after being required to arrive to the area on Wednesday. This marks the third day of practice that he will miss, and under the new collective bargaining-agreement rules, he is subject to more fines by the team for his absence.

As reported by Yahoo! Sports, McKinnie had already been fined 30,000 for not showing up for practice, and would have been subject to continued fines of that amount per day that he is not in uniform.

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron shrugged off McKinnie’s absence, saying that the first few days of training camp never have a set offensive line in place.

“You just let these things play out,” Cameron said. “The season’s not starting tomorrow.”

But would Cameron love to have a player of McKinnie’s caliber in camp learning with his teammates? Absolutely.

“”[He] filled an unbelievable role for us last year, and was a big part in giving us an opportunity to win.”

If he were to miss the first preseason game, he would be subject to a missed game-check of 188,000 dollars.

Webb returns to Practice

Corner back Lardarius Webb returned to the field Saturday after missing Friday’s session. He was excused by head coach John Harbaugh due to a personal matter. He was actively participating in practice, fielding punts in the opening special teams of practice.

Not present were DT Haloti Ngata (hamstring), tackle Ramon Harewood (ankle), LB Terrell Suggs (Achilles surgery), DE Pernell McPhee (knee), KR David Reed (ACL Surgery), C/G Justin Boren (undisclosed), and T Jah Red (calf).

Defensive coordinator Dean Pees was not worried about his regulars missing training camp practice, as he described the scenario of giving some of the younger guys like Arthur Jones and rookie DeAngelo Tyson opportunities to learn the playbook and execute on the field.

“”Even if Pernell was back, I don’t think it would affect his number of reps. We’re getting a lot of players in,” Pees said.

Reid was spotted in street clothes near the practice field, and during the special teams portion of the practice, CB Jimmy Smith did leave the field with an undisclosed injury.

He walked off the field under his own power, and it appears to be a recurrent cramping issue as Smith battled the same issue Friday at practice.

Practice Highlights

New Ravens CB Corey Graham was the star of Saturday’s practice-most likely getting some opportunities at both the nickel and corner spot with Jimmy Smith’s departure from practice.

He grabbed two interceptions off the Ravens QBs, including a pick-six off  Joe Flacco in which he ran past the Ravens quarterback as he chased him down the field holding the ball out.

His second interception came on a fade route from backup Tyrod Taylor intended for WR Jacoby Jones.

As the ball sailed past Jones, Graham came down with a one-handed grab and got quite the cheer from the few Ravens fans nearby.

Graham, a Pro-Bowl special teams ace with the Chicago Bears, may just fit in with this Ravens defense much like Brendon Ayanbadejo earned more playing time, says defensive coordinator Dean Pees.

“One of the things about Corey is his versatility,” Pees said. “We played him at the corner and the nickel spot, and I’ve also taught him to learn the backup safety. You never know how things are going to go down the road, how many make the cuts, and who’s going to be here. You’ve always got to have those guys who can be flexible.”

Another guy who Pees said makes his job easier is Albert McClellan, who can line up a defensive end, outside linebacker, and had some inside reps last season.

McClellan is another Ravens defender who had an interception-this time grabbing a ball bobbled by Jones, and he returned the pick to the house-earning himself a water break through several of that session’s drills.

Pees was also asked about his linebackers post-practice, especially guys like 2nd round picks Sergio Kindle and Courtney Upshaw who are going to be tasked with filling the void left by Terrell Suggs as he rehabs his injured Achilles tendon.

“I think Sergio’s made a lot of progress,” Pees said of Kindle, who is fighting back from a head injury sustained after a fall his rookie season. “Basically he’s had a lot of time off, and that’s tough…with an injury.”

“He really had a heck of a practice yesterday, and I’ll have to watch the film. I think he’s come a long way here in the last few weeks.”

Despite Upshaw suffering a right shoulder stinger after sustaining a hit from RB Bernard Pierce, he did not leave the practice field.

“He plays like an Alabama kid,” Pees noted. “He comes ready to play. He’s a football player. He’s going to play hard. He learns well in the classroom.”

Hear from Cam Cameron, Dean Pees, and Jerry Rosburg in the BuyaToyota.com Audio Vault at WNST.net!

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McKinnie “issue” casts even darker cloud over offensive line

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McKinnie “issue” casts even darker cloud over offensive line

Posted on 26 July 2012 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 9:20 a.m.)

At first glance, the absence of Bryant McKinnie from the Ravens’ first full-squad practice on Thursday was concerning but hardly surprising.

The left tackle was held out of the team’s mandatory minicamp last month due to conditioning reasons, leaving many to wonder if the 32-year-old would be able to get down to 345 pounds by the start of training camp as the Ravens requested. McKinnie said he weighed 354 pounds in mid-June and vowed to silence his doubters when training camp began.

Instead, his status in Baltimore is up in the air with no clear timetable for a resolution.

Though a team official indicated earlier in the day that McKinnie had failed the required conditioning test, coach John Harbaugh revealed information that presented an even higher level of concern for the state of the offensive line entering training camp. The 11-year veteran not only failed to practice on Thursday, but he hasn’t even reported to the team’s facility in Owings Mills, creating even bigger questions for an aging offensive line already trying to replace Pro Bowl left guard Ben Grubbs.

“He contacted us through a representative,” Harbaugh said. “He is dealing with an issue right now. I don’t really want to speak for him on that. Just let him speak for himself on that when the time comes.”

McKinnie has been placed on the reserve-did not report list, which opens a spot on the 90-man preseason roster but puts the 6-foot-8, 354-pound tackle’s future in doubt.

While most assume the absence is tied solely to the veteran lineman’s weight and conditioning, Harbaugh’s word choice makes you wonder if there are other factors at work with whatever “issue” McKinnie has that’s keeping him away from the training facility in Owings Mills.

When the Ravens signed him last August, they knew they were welcoming a talented tackle with plenty of baggage stemming from nine up-and-down years with the Minnesota Vikings that ended when he was jettisoned at the start of last year’s training camp. However, McKinnie was a model citizen in his first season with the Ravens and was paid a $500,000 roster bonus in March.

His financial problems became public knowledge earlier this offseason as he’s reportedly dealing with a $4.5 million lawsuit stemming from a loan he took out during last year’s lockout. McKinnie was reportedly sued for failing to repay the amount and is slated to make a $3.2 million base salary — after reaching a $1.2 million salary escalator last season — in the final year of his contract with the Ravens.

A regular Twitter user – with updates often tracking his activity late at night — McKinnie hasn’t posted anything on his account since July 22.

Attempts to reach McKinnie for comment have been unsuccessful.

When he’s expected back in Owings Mills is anyone’s guess, including that of his head coach.

“In all honesty, I really don’t know,” said Harbaugh when asked about a timetable for McKinnie’s return. “We should know more here soon.”

McKinnie’s absence puts the offensive line in an even more uncomfortable position as right tackle Michael Oher will now shift back to the left side, where he started full-time with mixed reviews in 2010. Many have wondered whether Oher has the ability to play at a high level on the left side, but the Ravens have no choice but to move the 2009 first-round pick back to his natural position for now.

“We’ve always believed Michael Oher is a left tackle here,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to put the five best linemen out there, and last year, to do that, Michael was a right tackle. I am very comfortable with Michael at left tackle. Until further notice, he is the left tackle.”

Where that leaves the Ravens at right tackle is a far less desirable question to answer.

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No changes to PUP list as veterans report to Owings Mills facility

Posted on 25 July 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — As notable veterans such as Ed Reed, Ray Rice, and Anquan Boldin reported to the Ravens’ training facility on Wednesday morning, Baltimore conducted its final practice consisting only of quarterbacks, rookies, and select veterans coming off injuries.

Players didn’t wear helmets in what amounted to little more than a walk-through that lasted less than two hours. Only two linebackers — rookies Courtney Upshaw and Nigel Carr — were required to report early, meaning other players such as defensive tackle Bryan Hall had to fill in at linebacker during the 11-on-11 team portion.

There were no changes in attendance to what media saw on Tuesday as defensive end Pernell McPhee (knee surgery), offensive linemen Kelechi Osemele (back spasms) and Jah Reid (calf strain), and wide receiver David Reed (ACL surgery) did not participate in practice. All four players remain on the active physically unable to perform list.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs (Achilles tendon surgery) remains on the non-football injury list as he continues to rehab his injury.

Reid watched practice while searing a sleeve on his right calf, as coach John Harbaugh revealed Tuesday that the second-year lineman suffered a setback in rehabbing the calf after he was injured on the final day of mandatory minicamp.

McPhee worked on conditioning and ran pretty smoothly as he continues to recover from arthroscopic knee surgery that sidelined him for most of organized team activities this spring.

With the Wednesday morning signing of veteran linebacker Ricky Brown, the Ravens now have 88 players on their preseason roster. They are allowed to have a maximum of 90, but any players on the non-football injury list or the PUP list count against the 90-man limit.

Fresh off signing a new five-year contract last week, Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice is scheduled to meet with media at 5 p.m. while future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis will talk with reporters at 6 p.m.

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Ravens adding another veteran to left guard mix?

Posted on 24 July 2012 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens set to hold their first training camp practice for rookies, quarterbacks, and injured veterans on Tuesday, they may be adding another veteran to their highly-contested left guard competition.

Former Bengals and Browns guard Eric Steinbach will work out for the Ravens on Tuesday as first reported by CBS Sports. The Ravens opened a spot on their training camp roster Monday by releasing guard Howard Barbieri.

The 32-year-old Steinbach missed the entire 2011 season after undergoing back surgery and was due to make $6 million this season before he was released by Cleveland in March. While questions remain about his health at this stage in his career, Steinbach played in all but three games over his first eight years in the NFL with Cincinnati and Cleveland before last season’s back injury.

“Eric’s a great player,” said Ravens right guard Marshal Yanda about his fellow Iowa alum. “If he’s healthy, you never know. We’ll see what happens.”

If Steinbach’s workout goes well, he could join veteran Bobbie Williams and younger offensive linemen Kelechi Osemele and Jah Reid in a competition for the left guard position. The Ravens lost Pro Bowl guard Ben Grubbs in free agency and were unable to sign Philadelphia free-agent guard Evan Mathis earlier this offseason.

Upon signing a two-year contract in early June, Williams became the favorite to start on the Ravens’ aging offensive line, but a healthy Steinbach would certainly add another viable option to the mix. Steinbach has reportedly garnered interested from other teams besides the Ravens.

A second-round selection of Cincinnati in the 2003 draft, Steinbach signed a seven-year, $49.5 million contract with the Browns prior to the 2007 season. He was named a Pro Bowl alternate for the 2007 season.

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