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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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No Rest for the Wizard

Posted on 19 February 2013 by Thyrl Nelson

Obviously when setting the tone for the Ravens’ off-season, everything takes a back seat to resolving the Joe Flacco contract situation. The importance thereof is only magnified by the realization that there are so many questions still to be answered, so many decisions still to be made; but until the Ravens know for sure what their quarterback’s financial future may hold, everything else is essentially on hold. That however doesn’t diminish the fact that there are important decisions outside the QB position to be made before the Ravens begin their title defense and prepare for the 2013 campaign.

Conceding that the importance of Flacco’s deal is paramount to everything else, here are the next 5 major points of consideration for the Ravens to deal with this off-season in order to have hopes of a 6th straight post-season trip.


#1 – Suring Up the Left Tackle Situation


If Flacco was the biggest difference maker for the Ravens in the playoffs, then further investigation is merited in determining what helped him turn his season, and his reputation, around. For my money, it began with the offensive line. After a season in the proverbial “dog house” Bryant McKinnie was finally given a chance to show and prove, and from there the offense never seemed to look back.


In the lead up to the Broncos game, no one seemed to have any concerns about the Denver secondary. Hindsight might suggest that to have been a result of the constant quarterback pressure the Broncos were able to count on from Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil. Without that pressure however, the Ravens found and readily exploited cracks in the Broncos secondary that no one seemed to know were there in the first place.


McKinnie and the Ravens began this season on unceremonious terms, and pretty much kept things that way until the end. Having proven his value, albeit over a 4-game stretch, there’s still no real assurance that the Ravens will or should trust McKinneie enough to agree to terms on a multi-year deal. On the other side of that coin, there’s no good reason to think McKinnie will feel any special brand of loyalty to the Ravens when others come calling on the open market.


What’s undeniable about the whole episode is that by replacing Michael Oher with McKinnie at LT, the Ravens were able to move Oher to his natural RT position where he represented an improvement over Kelechi Osemele. Osemele then moved to the LG position that the Ravens struggled to find an answer for all season too. This three-fold improvement made the Ravens line exponentially better; and no matter how they address LT going forward, any “solution” involving moving Oher and Osemele back to the positions they played for the majority of 2012 has to be considered multiple steps backward.


#2 – Replacing Jim Caldwell


Continuing with the theme of what was different for the Ravens offense at the end, the departure of Cam Cameron and the elevation of Jim Caldwell to the offensive coordinator position would seem to be the other major factor. The performance of Caldwell’s offense has been celebrated widely within the fan base, and certainly hasn’t been lost on the league at large either.


In an off-season where everyone seems dissatisfied with the impact of the Rooney Rule and the lack of minority hires made in filling head coaching vacancies, Caldwell will all but surely be a hot head coaching candidate at the end of next season. Even getting to the Super Bowl again, and therefore delaying the process for teams interested in Caldwell might not be enough to slow his roll.


In what looks to be a lame duck season for Caldwell with the Ravens, it’s important to figure out if the next guy in line is someone already on staff, or how the team can look to groom a next guy in line, potentially by hiring him as a quarterback coach / OC in waiting.

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Caldwell says Flacco gets respect from people who matter most

Posted on 31 January 2013 by WNST Staff


(on if he was considered for the Ravens head coach job in 2008 and the sense he had after meeting with them) “Yes, I interviewed for it. I’d been in Indy at that time for about five years, and often times guys that worked there had been very successful. Bill Polian, Chris Polian, Tom Telesco, all those guys. They all talked about different organizations that did things the right way, and they always talked about Baltimore when you look at all the stats in terms of teams that were able to draft well and do a great job with their personnel, got their teams ready to play. When you play there’s always a battle. It certainly felt that it was one of the better organizations in the National Football League. It was a lot of fun and interesting exercise for the interview.”


(on what he’s trying to find out when he goes on an interview) “First of all, before I go, I research. I research them from a personnel standpoint. That’s the nice thing about this league, they have a guy in house and his job is to know every single team in the league and their personnel incase someone’s released, you can decide if you’d like to pick him up or not. There’s a guy in house that’s an expert, so I’ll usually confer with him and talk about their roster and blend that with what I see and what we’d be able to do from an offense, defense, special teams standpoint, but then also, how they operate. I knew there were going to be some sticking points in different groups in terms of how I see things, and I wanted to make certain those things were brought forward so there weren’t any surprises. I also try to find out if there would be any surprises on their end of it, things they wanted me to do, or a certain protocol they wanted me to follow, things of that nature.”


(on his contribution to quarterback Joe Flacco) “That’s probably a great question for him. That’s the thing about that position in this league, if you don’t find a way to improve every week and every single week, in every facet, you’re going to find that you have a weakness that develops that the opposition can take advantage of. If the opposition sees that you don’t read coverages then they’re going to disguise you of that. If the opposition sees that you can’t handle the blitz, they’re going to give you some problems with the blitz. If the opposition sees you throw one side of the field better than the other, they’re going to shove one side down and overload their coverages. You cannot go into it focusing on just one efficiency. What you try to do is make certain that as a complete player, you want to go across the board and attack all of those areas. Even if they’re areas that you’re good at, you want to continue to improve, because it’s so completive. We’ve tried to make certain that we do all the little things right. There’s an old saying that ‘Big things will take care of themselves.’ Fundamentals, foot work, ball handling, ball security, accuracy, and timing, those are the things that evolve into quarterback plays.”


(on Joe Flacco’s demeanor in clutch situations) “He doesn’t get rattled. He has a real good grasp of what’s going on around him. He’s highly observant and it doesn’t change from situation to situation. What does change is that he performs well in big games, and I think it’s because of the fact that he doesn’t get so hyped up that it affects his play.”


(on the media getting hung up on numbers and if the coach or the player cares about that) “There are numbers that certainly count. The ones that matter are the loss counts. ‘That guy knows how to win games, he knows how to win.’ That’s the important fact that I think a lot of times people miss from time to time. That should be the focal point. He’s won more games on the road and in the playoff’s than any other quarterback in the history, I think that’s correct I’m not certain. He’s won more games than any one in our business for the first five years. Anytime you start saying that he’s in a top two or three category in this league, he’s doing something right.”


(on Joe Flacco being confident in himself) “He gets excited about ballgames because he loves to play. He has great passion for the game, but it doesn’t disrupt his focus and concentration. He does have a pretty settled and calm demeanor overall. He has poise.”


(on Joe Flacco as a person) “He’s a good family man. Joe is from a tight family, and he has a big family. I think he has five brothers and sisters. He grew up in an area where all of his extended family lived fairly close to one another, and that’s important to him. He’s a husband, he’s a father, he has young Steven. He’s a proud father, as well. He’s also a very loyal person, extremely honest and straightforward. He doesn’t shy away from tough questions, and he’s going to tell you what he thinks.”


(on trusting Joe Flacco and what makes him special) “One of the things is that, obviously, he’s earned that trust in this league. That fact the he performs so well in difficult situations, his teammates trust him, and the staff trusts him, as well. I think you’re going to continue to see him get better because of his excellence. He works hard, and I think he’s starting to see some of the things he’s been working towards for so many years.”


(on if he thinks Joe Flacco gets the respect he deserves) “I think he gets the respect from the people that he cares about most. His teammates, his coaches, and those people that are close to him, and I think that’s what counts. I think everyone else has a way they evaluate different individuals at his position and that relates to our sport, but I think he handles that well.”


(on how he feels about the role as offensive coordinator) “It’s been busy, but it’s been a great challenge, so I’ve really enjoyed it.”


(on the balance of his attack) “The great thing about our unit is that we have a lot of playmakers. When you have that many playmakers you want to make certain that you find a way that allows them to express their personality and their talent level. We have to change it up quite a bit. We run the ball a good measure, and the reason being is because we have two very fine tailback’s, an outstanding Pro Bowl fullback and an offensive line that can block you as well and come of the ball and be physical, receivers that don’t mind blocking, so we have to make sure that we can give them the ball and the opportunity to do so. We also have some fleet footed receivers, guys that can get down the field, guys that can stretch your defense, and guys that are big playmakers like Anquan Boldin, Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson, and the list goes on. With that in mind, that makes us look at a situation and make certain that we do have some balance on our offense because we do have a number of guys that can do something with the ball once they get it in their hands.”


(on if it’s a chess match to see what the defense is giving you) “That’s correct. A large portion of our game is also in the audible family depending on what the opposition does to dictate if you run or pass. A lot of it will depend on what they give us.”



(on what the receiving corps brings to the table) “Torrey Smith has been a big play receiver for us throughout the year. He’s a guy that can get down the field and make big plays. He’s a guy that you have to make certain that you cover because he can cover a lot of ground in a short period of time. He runs a variety of different routes for us; he’s a multidimensional guy. Anquan Boldin, often I think people think he’s a lot bigger than what he actually is because he plays big. He comes up in a lot of big plays, strong hands, strong arms, physical, and a great route runner. His experience, he’s been around a bit, he’s an exceptional leader. Jacoby Jones can certainly break a game open with his talent. He’s got speed. He’s a guy that we use in a variety of different ways. You can see what he’s doing for our team in terms of special teams and punt returns. He’s a threat to break it at any moment, and it gives us that explosiveness on offense also. He’s got length, and can catch the ball and run with it. Dennis Pitta is a very talented tight end. Ed Dickson does a tremendous job for us as well. We have a sound, solid group.”


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Like Lewis many years ago, Flacco can define legacy at Super Bowl

Posted on 31 January 2013 by Luke Jones

NEW ORLEANS — If you go back far enough in time, you’ll find a point when the greatest in NFL history weren’t nearly as accomplished or decorated in their respective careers.

Joe Montana wasn’t always a four-time Super Bowl winner for the San Francisco 49ers. John Elway was long considered the quarterback who couldn’t win the big one before two Super Bowl rings to end his long career in Denver.

In Baltimore, Ray Lewis and the Ravens defense weren’t always associated with the league’s all-time greatest. The soon-to-be-retired linebacker may have been the team’s best defensive player immediately as a rookie in 1996, but the rest of the world didn’t understand his greatness until a victory in Super Bowl XXXV in which he was voted the game’s most valuable player.

That moment in time propelled Lewis into the conversation as one of the greatest defenders in league history and the Baltimore defense into more than a decade of dominance and respect in NFL circles. It’s the shadow quarterback Joe Flacco will try to escape once and for all as the Ravens compete against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday evening.

Even if the fifth-year quarterback doesn’t look at it in the same way, Sunday’s game will be his defining moment.

“This team has had such a great defense for many years, such big faces on that side of the ball,” Flacco said. “That’s what we’re known for. Us guys on the other side, we don’t have any problem with that. We know that in order to win football games we have to go out there and do our job. We’re kind of humble guys on our side of the ball and don’t really care what people say about how we won it.”

Of course, a single championship won’t bring Flacco into the discussion of the all-time greats, but it would forever transform how outsiders perceive both him and the Ravens. With Lewis retiring and safety Ed Reed’s return in doubt, this era of great Baltimore defense is coming to an end. The numbers this season reflected that despite a stalwart performance from Lewis and the defense in three postseason games.

The opinions about Flacco have already been altered as he’s thrown eight touchdown passes and no interceptions in playoff wins over Indianapolis, Denver, and New England. Teammates believes he has nothing left to prove, but the critics and doubters will remain if the Ravens are unable to finish the job against San Francisco.

No one said it was easy — or even fair — to take that final step, but a win against the 49ers is what’s really needed to close the book on one era and open the door to another, presumably with Flacco leading the way. A new-found respect has been penciled in by even his biggest critics this postseason, but his performance on Sunday will be what’s written in permanent ink.

He may not be able to do it alone, but this postseason has fallen heaviest on the broad shoulders of the Baltimore signal-caller.

“This postseason has done that,” tight end Dennis Pitta said. “I don’t know if it will be on one game or not, because we’re going against a really good defense. It’ll be a challenge for us. I think our defense needs to play well, [but] I certainly think the offense has come a long way. That stigma — that perception — that the Baltimore Ravens are only defense has certainly changed through the course of this season and through this postseason.”

Truthfully, there isn’t much more you can ask of Flacco. A loss to the 49ers wouldn’t erase what he’s already done in his first five seasons in the league. Many will debate where he ranks in the quarterback hierarchy, but there’s no disputing his impeccable ability to remain calm in pressure-filled situations.

But a loss would still be a disappointment, leaving him outside a premium group of quarterbacks.

He’s knocking on the door of greatness, but one final push is needed, just as it was when Lewis came through the tunnel and danced in Tampa with the entire world watching on Jan. 28, 2001. In the meantime, those closest to him will continue to sing his praises until the rest of the world finally catches up — at least in their opinions.

“Joe Flacco’s done a hell of a job,” running back Ray Rice said. “He deserves all the credit. Every quarterback out there gets respect, but you’ve got to mention Joe up there with them now because of what he’s done. He just outplayed two Hall of Famers. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will be Hall of Famers. Joe Flacco outplayed them both, and that doesn’t happen often.”


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Caldwell tried to bring stronger commitment to running game

Posted on 30 January 2013 by WNST Staff


(on the Rooney Rule) “It has been a great rule and it has worked in the past.  Just like anything else, you have to, after a certain period of time, you have to revisit it and take a look and see if it needs a little tweaking.  I think it does in this particular case. I know for a fact that there are a lot of people interested in making certain that it works across the board, not just for coaching, but also front office jobs.  I think they’re trying to work out a way to make it a little bit more effective.”


(on the problem with the Rooney Rule) “I think they’re people that have strong interest in making certain that they get the best candidate.  Obviously, the intent of the rule is that they have an opportunity to talk to several individuals and through the interview process, they find someone that can run their program in the way in which they’d like it to run.”


(on if he was disappointed about not being contacted about available positions in the league) “No, sir. I worry about things I can control that.  In Proverbs 16:9 it says, ‘The man can plot his course, but the Lord determines his steps.’ I believe that to be the case.  It’s just the way things are and we have to be able to make the best of it.”


(on how disappointing it was to have so many minority coaches fired and not then not have a minority coach hired)  “I’ve coached for a little while and it’s not the first time that we’ve seen it. That’s one of the reasons that the Rooney Rule was put in place, because you’re trying to avoid those situations if possible. We’re at that stage where guys like Lovie Smith, who didn’t get an opportunity who had won and been very successful previously. Tony Dungy was able to get a job after he was released from Tampa, we went to Indianapolis.  Dennis Green went to Minnesota, and he may have taken a year of hiatus in there I’m not cretin, but he ended up at Arizona. Herm Edwards from the New York Jets went to Kansas City. There was a point in time that it indeed did happen, as it does for non-minority candidates. This year it did not. Obviously, there’s some concern there and that’s why I think the rule is going to be revisited.”


(on how his faith surrounds him) “We don’t understand everything and it does say that in the scripture in other areas of Proverbs, ‘Lean not to thine own understanding, but trust in the Lord with all thine heart.’ You have to really believe that. You have to believe that there is a greater plan and that he does have everything set fourth for you. You might not always see exactly what that was or is until maybe a year or so down the road, but if you trust and believe and work extremely hard where you are, then just know that at some point in this he’s going to get you to the point where you should be. It may be totally different than what you imagined.”


(on making the changes offensively) “It wasn’t like we made many significant changes in terms of what we’re doing from a schematic standpoint, because we were too far down he road for that. What we did was, do the things that we knew how to do well and try to crystalize it. I also want to make sure that you understand that there is no way that I take credit for any of that. We have players that are very good players and have been in the system for four or five years that are maturing and getting better as time goes on. It just so happened that towards the end of the season things were really starting to come together. We’d shown flashes all through the year, but we just had some ups and downs a little bit here and there. Obviously, we’ve played a little more consistently since we’ve been in the playoffs and that’s worked well for us.”


(on getting back to the core points on offensive) “We have a Pro Bowl player at fullback and a great Pro Bowl player at tail back.  Our job is to facilitate the talent and we also have great players on the outside on the flanks, Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, Dennis Pitta, you name it. We have to be somewhat balanced, because we’ve got to give everybody the opportunity to run and catch the ball because they’re good at it.”


(on what they got away from offensively) “You’d have to look at statistics overall. I think they’ve been somewhat close. I think we were a little more of a running team. Last year, I wasn’t here obviously, but they ran the ball 55 times a game. We haven’t run it quite that much, but our emphasis is that we go into each ballgame knowing that there may be a game we need to run a little more and there may be a game we need to throw a little more.”

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Caldwell says Ravens didn’t want to regret not running ball more in his tenure

Posted on 30 January 2013 by WNST Staff



(on quarterbacks from smaller schools in the NFL) “I just don’t think it’s any different than any other point in time in this league. You’re going to find guys from all the divisions for the most part that are able to come in and compete and play well – some with physical deficiencies that most of us think they’re too small, too short, too slow to play or too tall to play. They’re able to overcome it. That’s the great thing about the National Football League; you have all types.”


(on his strategy after he took over as offensive coordinator) “It wasn’t anything that was thought out to that degree in terms of, ‘How do I want to approach these guys?’ I have to be myself. I’ve been in this business a long time. This is my 37th year. It’s too late to change who I am. I basically presented the way I always present, talked about the different issues I thought we had to resolve in terms of being effective every week and move forward.”


(on what issues needed to be resolved) “At that particular time, we were very inconsistent in a lot of different areas. So, the big thing was to try to get some consistency. We were getting penalized a little bit too much and certainly those kinds of things weren’t consistent enough in our running game. We gave us maybe a little bit more of an opportunity to be successful – ran the ball more, put an emphasis on it and moved on from there.”


(on his Super Bowl experience) “You learn something from both. This game is the biggest stage there is in professional sports. It affords young men the opportunity to go out and show who they are in a very difficult situation. It also does the same thing for coaches as well. But, the big thing is that this game and the things that surround the game – it appears to be different, but the fact of the matter is when that horn sounds and that ball is kicked off, it’s still the same game that we’ve been playing all year long. Just a little different opponent – the best opponent there is in the league – and we have to find a will to win.”


(on the ending of his tenure in Indianapolis) “You have to understand. This business is about winning. We didn’t win. It doesn’t matter in this league. It doesn’t matter about injury, it doesn’t matter about players. None of that matters. The bottom line is, you have to win football games. We didn’t win. When you don’t win, you’re subject to get fired, so we were. So you have to go look for employment elsewhere.”


(on whether he wants to get another head coaching job) “Certainly. I certainly would like to be at the top of my profession. I think that every coach that’s in this business does want to get an opportunity to do so. I’ve had one in this league and it was my second total overall. I would love another one, but it may or may not happen.”


(on Jacoby Jones) “He’s a big play threat. Any time he gets his time on the ball he gives us an opportunity to stretch the field. You put he and Torrey (Smith) on the field at the same time you’re going to have some issues, along with Anquan. But, he’s been able to make some big catches for us and some big plays. He’s done some things that you maybe might not be able to see in terms of his blocking down the field. He’s a tough, competitive guy. He’s helped us stretch the field quite a bit and changed coverages that we see from week to week because everybody has to be concerned.”


(on his coaching career path) “The journey has been long, but it’s been a lot of fun. It’s been 37 years, but it only seems like it’s been nine or 10 years. I’ve been fortunate. I’ve had a chance to play in championship games in college and in high school and also on this stage. This is the third time I’ve been to this particular game in six years, which often times, some guys never get there. I really feel like I’m blessed in that regard.”


(on the team’s success in the playoffs) “That’s what it takes. Sometimes it’s just a matter of who gets hot at the end. Oftentimes we were building and improving, but maybe it didn’t reflect every single week out there on the field. Maybe in spurts. But, we could sense it in practice, we could sense it moving in the right direction. Then, all of the sudden it just sort of clicked right when the playoffs started. We started performing a lot better and things worked out.”




Super Bowl XLVII – Tuesday, January 29, 2013







(on the run game) “One of the things that we wanted to do was just to make sure that we didn’t leave a ball game and say, ‘Could we have run the ball a little bit more?’ We don’t ever want that to be a question – particularly with the two guys we have in the backfield. We have a Pro Bowl fullback and a Pro Bowl tailback. You have to get the ball in their hands and give them an opportunity to make plays for you. Sometimes it takes a little while so you have to have some patience. But we think we have the ability to mix it up a little bit. One thing we’re not going to do is walk out of the stadium and say, ‘Could we have run the ball just a little bit more?’”

(on 49ers DL Justin Smith) “He should get the headlines. The guy is unbelievable. If you watch him play on the inside, he is very, very difficult to handle. You just have to make sure that you know where he is and you better find a way to give him some assistance to whoever is blocking him. He can wreck your plays in a hurry. He’s a disruptive guy not only in terms of the run, but in the pass rush as well. Inside, he sets it up a lot of times for those guys on the outside. Brooks and Smith take advantage of it because he gets a lot of push in the middle. We know all about this guy. He’s not someone that coaches as they watch the film goes unnoticed. This guy is a player.”

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Ravens not looking to “replace” Lewis — because they can’t

Posted on 22 January 2013 by Luke Jones

As the Ravens begin preparations to play in Super Bowl XLVII, the finality has set in about inside linebacker Ray Lewis playing his final game on Feb. 3 in New Orleans.

The 37-year-old will offer his final pre-game speech prior to the game and, presumably, dance for the final time in front of the entire world as the Ravens seek their second NFL championship and first since Jan. 28, 2001. However, questions and concerns continue to exist about the daunting task of replacing Lewis’ impeccable leadership.

In addition to being regarded as one of the best defensive players in NFL history, Lewis is considered one of the greatest and most emotional leaders the sport has ever seen. Regardless of what happens against the San Francisco 49ers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, how do the Ravens fill that enormous void?

“He’s a guy who is ‘The Raven,'” safety Bernard Pollard said. “We respect him. When he speaks, everybody stops, everybody hears him. He’s kept this team together. He’s kept this organization together in so many ways, and we are all in this together. We want to go win this thing.”

The reality is that the Ravens won’t do anything differently to replace Lewis, in terms of his play on the field or his leadership. The talk in recent drafts of needing to find an “heir apparent” such as Dont’a Hightower or Vontaze Burfict or Manti Te’o has always been amusing in the sense that you never knowingly find a Hall of Fame player. Yes, someone will assume his position next season, but the Ravens will use the same approach they use for any other position on the field in looking for the right player at the right price or value, whether it comes via free agency or the draft.

Even more interesting is the discussion over how Lewis’ leadership will be replaced in the locker room. Candidates certainly exist such as quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Ray Rice, or even linebacker Terrell Suggs, but the Ravens cannot and will not alter their approach or ask any one individual to change who they are.

Lewis’ absence will be felt throughout the organization, and no one will replace the immense impact he provides in the same way. The post-Lewis era needs to be cultivated organically in the sense that the Ravens have other players they feel can be leaders — even if that leadership won’t include the same demonstrative theatrics or impassioned speeches.

The reality is the Ravens already have other leaders in their locker room, including players who have been drafted over the years and even free-agent signings. Flacco and Rice are leaders in a different sense than Lewis despite only completing their fifth season. General manager Ozzie Newsome has also combed the market in recent seasons for free agents who have provided leadership qualities in different areas such as center Matt Birk, defensive end Cory Redding (now with the Indianapolis Colts), and Pollard.

The Ravens will never look or feel the same way following Super Bowl XLVII, but that doesn’t mean the organization is obsessing over what to do in a life without Lewis. The transformation must happen naturally, just like it did with Lewis over the years after he was initially a 21-year-old rookie who entered a locker room that included veteran leaders such as Rob Burnett, Pepper Johnson, Eric Turner, and Vinny Testaverde in the spring of 1996. He didn’t become the leader that he is now overnight, and Lewis would be the first to tell you that.

“Everybody knows what kind of a player he is and what he has meant to this team and this organization,” said Birk, who could also be playing his final NFL game in New Orleans. “There is probably not another leader like him. There’s no one like him, someone that means as much as he does to this team. Everything that he has been through, being here from Day One and the way he plays and the emotion and the passion that he plays with.”

There’s simply no replacing Lewis, and the Ravens will continue to do things the way they always have and they’ll be just fine in the long run — even if it will never look the exact same way.

Caldwell staying as coordinator

The announcement by coach John Harbaugh at the end of Monday’s press conference that he would be retaining his entire coaching staff and, more notably, Jim Caldwell as offensive coordinator was hardly surprising as the Ravens won the AFC Championship.

The dramatic improvement of the Baltimore offense and quarterback Joe Flacco in the postseason made it easy to decide that Caldwell would be Harbaugh’s guy for the 2013 season.

The Ravens haven’t made any dramatic changes to what they do offensively, but Caldwell has offered a new voice, a calming presence, and an open line of communication with fellow assistants and offensive players. The former Indianapolis coach has taken very little credit, citing the execution and hard work of players and the tireless efforts of the rest of the offensive coaching staff as the explanation for the offense’s improved consistency.

Unlike former coordinator Cam Cameron who had a reputation for wanting things done his way and for not being receptive to suggestions from others, Caldwell has welcomed feedback from his players and other assistants, in part because of his lack of experience having never been an offensive coordinator prior to being elevated on Dec. 10.

He has identified the need to highlight Flacco’s strengths by being aggressive in the vertical passing game and moving the pocket to neutralize potent pass rushes. The Ravens have also used the middle of the field more effectively in the passing game, which was first evident when they scored 33 points against the New York Giants in Week 16.

If for no other reason, Caldwell deserved to remain as offensive coordinator because of the outstanding play of Flacco, who was the best quarterback in the AFC in the postseason and is on the cusp of joining a select group of NFL quarterbacks if the Ravens can topple San Francisco. It remains to be seen what type of stamp Caldwell will put on the offense with a full offseason of work, but his efforts are a significant reason why the Ravens are making plans for a trip to New Orleans.

McPhee finally making impact


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Changes for the Ravens and 49ers Since the First Harbaugh Bowl

Posted on 21 January 2013 by jeffreygilley

New England and Denver fans were wrong. The Ray Lewis retirement party did not start on January 12 or January 20. Instead, the Ravens will be playing the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl!!!

This will not be the first time the Harbaugh brothers have coached against each other. They played in Baltimore week twelve of the 2011 season, on Thanksgiving night.

The game was dominated by the Ravens’ front seven as they registered nine sacks. Alex Smith is still having nightmares courtesy of Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, and Corey Redding.

Things have changed on both sides of the ball for the Ravens and 49ers. Most of which, are similar.

Similar Changes:
1.Regression on defense
Last year’s game was advertised as a defensive battle and did not disappoint. However, both defenses have regressed. The 49ers defense was impenetrable in 2011, especially against the run.

This year’s 49ers defense is still great, but not dominant like last season. They are giving up almost three more points per game, and are a top five defense in only one category, which is rushing yards allowed per game.

The Ravens on the other hand have suffered a serious regression on defense, at least until the past few weeks. Still, the defense is not up to par with last season’s.

In addition to the injuries the team has suffered, players like Pernell McPhee, Jimmy Smith (when he has played), Terrence Cody, and Courtney UpShaw have not lived up to expectations.

2.Significant changes on offense
Remember when the Ravens replaced Tony Banks with Trent Dilfer in 2000? Well the 49ers have made a similar change from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick has only started nine games but is mature beyond his years. Not only is he a dynamic athlete, he can throw the ball with great velocity and accuracy.

Many Ravens fans rejoiced with the firing of Cam Cameron. After the Broncos game in week fifteen, the changes on offense did not look very promising. Flacco and Jim Caldwell responded the next week with one of the greatest games of Flacco’s career against the Giants.

Since Jim Caldwell took over, Flacco has completed 58 percent of his passes for 1,142 yards, has thrown 10 touchdowns, and ZERO interceptions. (I did not count the Bengals game since Flacco did not play for a majority of the game).

What I like about Caldwell’s offense is his ability to find mismatches and attack them. With Cam Cameron, he seemed conservative at times and did not have a good relationship with Joe Flacco. In contrast, Caldwell makes tremendous adjustments to find mismatches. Once that has happened, the offense has been dominant.

If the Ravens keep it close through the first half, the offense will eventually find favorable match-ups against a defense that Flacco had success against last season.

3.Both offensive lines have improved
As I said multiple times, the Ravens defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage the last time these two teams played. Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, and Corey Redding could do anything they wanted. Luckily for the 49ers, Redding is with the Colts, and Ngata and Suggs are not playing at 100 percent.

Despite the Ravens injuries, this should be a good battle with great individual matchups. Perhaps the best of which will be Mike Iupati against Haloti Ngata. Iupati is a young player but is already one of the best guards in the league. Despite Iupati’s talent, Ngata should win this battle more often than not.

Some question if the Ravens can handle the 49ers physical running attack. I guess they have forgotten the Ravens play in the AFC North. They will be able to handle this running game and should have success stopping Frank Gore.

Remember last year’s AFC Championship when Vince Wilfork dominated Matt Birk? Well the same can’t be said for last Sunday night. Birk played well but Kelechi Osemele played just as well.

He is bigger than Ben Grubbs, who left for New Orleans via free agency and also struggled against Wilfork. When Osemele was matched up with Wilfork, he more than held his own. Osemele should be matched up with Justin Smith for most of the game and will be able to hold his own physically.

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Ravens keeping Caldwell as coordinator, hire Castillo as consultant

Posted on 21 January 2013 by Luke Jones

Concluding his weekly Monday press conference less than 24 hours after the Ravens’ 28-13 victory in the AFC Championship, coach John Harbaugh made two announcements regarding his staff for the upcoming 2013 season.

Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell will remain in that position next season after resurrecting a Baltimore offense that was sputtering in the month of December. Replacing Cam Cameron on Dec. 10, Caldwell has been credited for creating an open line of communication with both players and fellow offensive assistants that has catapulted the unit to terrific production, specifically from quarterback Joe Flacco in the postseason.

“It was a move that was the best move at the time we felt,” said Harbaugh while reflecting on the decision on Monday. “That was the best thing for our football team. All the contributions and all the work that had gone into what we’d done before that had gotten us to that point and put us in position to move on from there. To me, it all goes kind of together in total.”

The news was hardly surprising after the Ravens advanced to their first Super Bowl since Jan. 28, 2001.

Harbaugh also announced former Eagles defensive coordinator and offensive line coach Juan Castillo has been hired as a consultant for the remainder of this season and will serve as the Ravens’ run-game coordinator next season. Harbaugh and Castillo spent 10 years together coaching in Philadelphia, so it makes sense for the latter to join the Baltimore staff.

It was interesting to note that Harbaugh made the announcements at the end of his press conference, which prohibited media from asking questions regarding the coaching moves.

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Our Ravens/Patriots “Pats on the Ass”

Posted on 20 January 2013 by Glenn Clark

After every Baltimore Ravens victory, Ryan Chell and I take to the airwaves on “The Nasty Purple Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net to offer “Pats on the Ass” to players who have done something to deserve the honor.

We give pats to two defensive players, two offensive players and one “Wild Card”-either another offensive or defensive player, a Special Teams player or a coach. We offer a “Pat on Both Cheeks” to someone who stands out, our version of a “Player of the Game.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches each.

Here are our “Pats on the Ass” following the Ravens’ 28-13 win over the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in the AFC Championship Game to clinch a trip to Super Bowl XLVII…

Glenn Clark’s Pats…

5. Jim Caldwell

4. Pernell McPhee

3. Marshal Yanda

2. Bernard Pollard

1. Joe Flacco (Pat on Both Cheeks)

(Ryan’s Pats on Page 2…)

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