Tag Archive | "John Harbaugh"

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Ravens cancel Wednesday’s practice to go to movies

Posted on 20 August 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Moving closer to their third preseason game against the Washington Redskins, the Ravens canceled Wednesday’s practice in favor of going to see the movie “Lucy” as a team.

“We’re trying to get them off their legs today. The leadership council [chose the movie],” head coach John Harbaugh said. “It was unanimous. I stayed out of it. To be honest with you, I can’t remember the name of what we’re going to see. I hope it’s good.”

Head coach John Harbaugh has typically organized a team-building activity every summer to break up the monotony of training camp. The Ravens still conducted their morning meetings and on-field walk-through before leaving the facility to see a movie in the afternoon.

Asked if he and his players were fans of Scarlett Johansson, the Baltimore coach laughed while refraining from commenting on the sultry actress.

“I’m not going to go down that road for you,” Harbaugh said. “Well played.”

Players will return to the practice field Thursday, which will be the final day of media access ahead of the third preseason game of the summer in which starters receive the most playing time.

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Wagner named starting right tackle to begin 2014 season

Posted on 18 August 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A position debated for much of the offseason has a resolution with the start of the season just under three weeks away as Ravens head coach John Harbaugh named Rick Wagner his starting right tackle following Monday’s practice.

The news was anticlimactic considering Wagner has received nearly all first-team reps since the start of training camp with fourth-year lineman Jah Reid working as the second-string right tackle. Wagner has held up well in his first summer working with the starting unit, earning compliments from coaches and teammates alike.

“He’s earned it. He’s earned that spot,” Harbaugh said. “And Jah has earned the third spot. Jah has done a heck of a job, too, as far as working his way into the third tackle spot.”

It remains to be seen whether the Ravens will elect to keep rookie offensive tackle James Hurst, an undrafted free agent from North Carolina who has worked as the backup left tackle behind Eugene Monroe in practices. In the event of an injury to Monroe, the Ravens could shift Wagner to left tackle with Reid moving into the right spot if they only elect to keep three tackles.

After so much discussion over who would replace former right tackle Michael Oher in the offseason, Wagner has gone largely unnoticed in practices this summer, which is a good thing at a position where most attention tends to be negative. Wagner played 41 snaps against San Francisco in the opener and 30 snaps against Dallas on Saturday night.

As a fifth-round rookie out of Wisconsin last season, Wagner served primarily as a blocking tight end in jumbo package situations.

“He’s been solid. Solid is the next step before being good, and good is the next step before being great,” Harbaugh said. “He’s on his way in a lot of ways. He has plenty of things to work on, but he does not make mistakes twice. He’s a good athlete. [Defenses have] tried to bull-rush him and go after him that way, and he has not really been moved too much at all. I’m proud of him.”

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Sizing up the 2014 Ravens roster after second preseason game

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Sizing up the 2014 Ravens roster after second preseason game

Posted on 17 August 2014 by Luke Jones

With two preseason games in the books, the Ravens’ 53-man roster picture continues to take shape with final cuts less than two weeks away and questions still remaining.

Depth concerns are apparent along the defensive line and in the secondary, which could prompt general manager Ozzie Newsome to be looking for outside help to enchance the roster between now and the start of the season. Meanwhile, the Ravens appear to have some depth at linebacker and on the offensive line — though overall quality might be in question with the latter — that could leave a few incumbents on the outside looking in by the end of the summer.

My current look at the roster suggests 42 players are locks if the deadline to trim the roster to 53 took place today. My rough assessment of the 90 players on the roster lists 20 players on the bubble with at least some decent chance of making the final roster. Not all bubble players are on equal footing, with certain positions lacking quality depth and others enjoying an abundance of talent.

Though general manager Ozzie Newsome, head coach John Harbaugh, and the remainder of the coaching staff and front office are cognizant of the number of players at each position, trying to pinpoint a specific number of wide receivers or linebackers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. The Ravens will always look carefully at players’ special-teams abilities in addition to what they bring to their specific positional group.

The Ravens must trim the roster from the current 90 players to 75 by 4 p.m. on Aug. 26 and must go down to the regular-season number of 53 by Aug. 30.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players currently on the roster at that given position. Bubble players’ names that are underlined are currently on my projected 53-man roster as of Aug. 17. Players listed as injured or suspended are not projected to count against the 53-man roster when final cuts are made.

QUARTERBACKS (3)
LOCK: Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor
BUBBLE: Keith Wenning
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: With depth concerns at other positions, it’s difficult to justify the Ravens keeping three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster for the first time since 2009. They’re likely to attempt to sneak Wenning through waivers to place him on the practice squad, but it won’t be the end of the world if another team snatches up the sixth-round selection.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (8)
LOCK: Bernard Pierce, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Kyle Juszczyk
BUBBLE: Justin Forsett
LONG SHOT: Cierre Wood, Fitz Toussaint, Shaun Chapas
SUSPENDED: Ray Rice (will be suspended for the first two games of the regular season)
Skinny: The rapid emergence of Taliaferro and two fumbles in two preseason games by Forsett have landed the veteran in a more vulnerable position than you’d expect despite Rice serving a suspension to begin the season. The guess is Forsett still finds his way on the 53-man roster to begin the year, but his spot will be in serious danger by Week 3.

WIDE RECEIVERS (11)
LOCK: Steve Smith, Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, Marlon Brown
BUBBLE: Michael Campanaro, Kamar Aiken, Deonte Thompson
LONG SHOT: Jeremy Butler, LaQuan Williams, Mike Willie, Jace Davis
Skinny: Many will view Thompson’s 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown as a play that lands him on the roster, but the third-year wideout only saw two offensive snaps against Dallas. Aiken has been the better player this summer and has more size as a receiver, and Campanaro has shown more consistent hands than Thompson.

TIGHT ENDS (5)
LOCK: Dennis Pitta, Crockett Gillmore, Owen Daniels
BUBBLE: none
LONG SHOT: Phillip Supernaw, Nathan Overbay
Skinny: The Ravens’ decision to “rest” Daniels is raising eyebrows as it relates to the veteran’s health, but his inability to gain separation in practices has tempered enthusiasm for the tight end position. However, his track record and an uneven summer for the rookie Gillmore make it difficult to think Daniels is anything but a lock.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (16)
LOCK: Eugene Monroe, Kelechi Osemele, Jeremy Zuttah, Marshal Yanda, Rick Wagner, Gino Gradkowski, John Urschel
BUBBLE: Jah Reid, A.Q. Shipley, James Hurst, Will Rackley, Ryan Jensen
LONG SHOT: Brett Van Sloten, Reggie Stephens, David Mims, Parker Graham
Skinny: Reid gets the nod as the primary backup tackle over Hurst, and Shipley has been more consistent than Jensen this summer. Hurst and Jensen would be strong candidates for the practice squad if left off the 53-man roster.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (12)

CONTINUE ON NEXT PAGE >>>>>

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J. Smith, Rice leave with injuries in win over Cowboys

Posted on 16 August 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens appeared to avoid a couple bullets in Saturday’s 37-30 win over the Dallas Cowboys after two key starters left the game with injuries in the first half.

Top cornerback Jimmy Smith created plenty of concern as he slammed his back hard on the turf while covering Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant on the opening drive of the game, but X-rays were negative for what’s being described as a bruised chest. The fourth-year defensive back watched the remainder of the game in street clothes after he was seen spitting up blood as he was helped to the sideline.

“Jimmy had kind of a chest contusion,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He landed on his back and got a bruise in there, so he should be fine.”

Despite what sounds like a minor injury, The Sun reported Smith was still coughing up blood in the locker room and couldn’t recall anything after the first series of the game.

Running back Ray Rice also left the game with an injured shoulder, but X-rays were negative as Rice told the Ravens’ broadcast team he was fine when he was initially taken into the locker room. He finished the game with 21 yards on two carries, which included a good burst on an 18-yard gain.

With Rice facing a two-game suspension to begin the regular season, top backup Bernard Pierce started the game and finished with 55 yards on seven carries.

“That’s a shoulder bruise,” said Harbaugh about Rice’s condition following the game. “It shouldn’t be anything too serious.”

Harbaugh reiterated to reporters that he didn’t expect either player to miss too much time.

Tight end Owen Daniels sat out Saturday night’s game after missing practices on Wednesday and Thursday, but the Ravens have maintained that the veteran is simply being rested and is not dealing with an injury.

 

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Ravens’ cornerback situation can’t be overlooked in win over Cowboys

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Ravens’ cornerback situation can’t be overlooked in win over Cowboys

Posted on 16 August 2014 by Luke Jones

A 37-30 win for the Ravens over the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday night doesn’t reflect what was the most concerning image from the opening minutes of the second preseason game of the summer.

Already without starter Lardarius Webb and No. 3 corner contender Asa Jackson due to injuries, the Ravens lost their most important piece of the secondary — and likely their entire defense — as Jimmy Smith landed hard on his back defending a sideline pass intended for Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant. The good news is that X-rays were negative on his chest and the fourth-year watched the remainder of the game from the sideline despite spitting up blood on the sideline as he was helped off the field.

A bruised chest isn’t necessarily cause for panic — The Sun reported Smith was still coughing up blood following the game — but watching Chykie Brown and Dominique Franks handle the cornerback spots with the starting defense conjured memories of David Pittman and Willie Gaston manning the Baltimore secondary in the disastrous 2007 season. And it was another reminder of just how thin the Ravens’ cornerback depth is considering Brown has been picked on for much of the summer and Franks had been relegated to third-string duties until the last week.

Franks was beaten on a jump ball to Bryant for a 31-yard touchdown — a matchup that was simply unfair — while Brown was later burned by Cowboys wideout Terrance Williams on a deep route that was badly underthrown. To Brown’s credit, he did recover to break up the pass, but the play was more about a poor throw from Cowboys backup Brandon Weeden than an impressive play by the fourth-year cornerback.

It didn’t help that Dean Pees’ defense struggled to stop the run and generated little pressure in the pocket in the first half, but general manager Ozzie Newsome and the front office must address what is obvious with the start of the season only three weeks away. The Ravens need to add an established cornerback to their secondary in order to not be exposed by potent passing games in the throw-happy NFL.

All you need to know about the confidence level in the current batch of cornerbacks is the Ravens’ experimentation with using three safeties in the nickel defense with rookie Terrence Brooks lining up at the slot corner position. Jackson was emerging as a promising option for the No. 3 job, but he remains too much of an unknown and was spotted in a walking boot Saturday after injuring his ankle a week ago. John Harbaugh said it was a “minor” ankle sprain at the time, but the head coach is often ambiguous and vague when discussing injuries, making you wonder when Jackson will even make it back to the practice field.

Even if Smith and Webb are healthy for the start of the season — the latter has been sidelined with a back injury since July 25 — no one on the current roster instills enough confidence in being able to handle the No. 3 cornerback spot. That reality has made the free-agent departure of Corey Graham to Buffalo in the offseason that much more glaring as the Ravens didn’t draft a cornerback or sign a veteran at the position until the middle of June.

The problem will be addressing the problem at this stage as quality cornerbacks aren’t exactly waiting in abundance. A free-agent veteran such as Asante Samuel is always a possibility, but that won’t necessarily solve the problem as the Ravens already signed veterans Aaron Ross — who tore his Achilles tendon at the start of training camp — and Franks at the end of mandatory minicamp and have seen disappointing results. The Ravens’ best bet — or only hope — might be to dangle a future draft pick in hopes of acquiring another team’s second or third cornerback.

The nickel defense has become too much of a staple in today’s NFL to continue to expect an in-house candidate to handle the job. That concern will become a major problem if any of the Ravens’ current injuries linger into the start of the season with Cincinnati and Pittsburgh first up on the schedule.

The clock is ticking and the concern only grew as Smith landed hard on the turf at AT&T Stadium and needed to be helped off the field.

The Ravens need help in the secondary.

But it’s going to be difficult to find it.

 

 

 

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Ravens-Cowboys preseason primer: Five players to watch

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Ravens-Cowboys preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 15 August 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens will try to build on an encouraging performance in their preseason opener as they travel to Texas to take on the Dallas Cowboys in their second preseason game of the summer.

Observers were abuzz over an impressive 10-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown in the starting offense’s only work of the night against San Francisco, but the Ravens have acknowledged throughout the week that they can’t put too much stock into one possession. Even with plenty of strides already taken throughout training camp to grasp new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s system, there is plenty of work remaining before the Ravens kick off the regular season against Cincinnati on Sept. 7.

“You have an opportunity to really see progress,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “You’re in a crucible, and every single day, it’s all you do. It’s wall-to-wall football. It’s morning to night. You go to sleep and you wake up, and you’re back at football. There’s no escape. There’s nowhere to hide, [and] there’s nowhere to run. It’s all football all the time, so you make progress rapidly, but you have to because you have a long way to go.”

Harbaugh confirmed starters are expected to receive more playing time against the Cowboys than they did against San Francisco, but the first units will receive their most extensive work against Washington in the third preseason game next weekend.

The Ravens are expected to continue giving running back Ray Rice first-team reps along with top backup Bernard Pierce before focusing more on the latter next week with Rice suspended for the first two games of the regular season.

“Normally, in the second preseason game you get a quarter, maybe a little more than a quarter,” Harbaugh said. “Some of that will be individualized for different players; we’ll have some play counts for a few guys, including Joe [Flacco] and some of the defensive players. We’ll see how it goes, but basically, about a quarter is what you’re looking at — maybe more. It could get close to a half; it could even be a half for some of the starters.”

Saturday will be the first preseason meeting between the Ravens and the Cowboys, but Baltimore owns the 4-0 edge in the regular season and will be making its first visit to AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The Ravens are 43-29 all-time in the preseason and have a 16-9 preseason mark in the Harbaugh era.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

The Ravens are not required to release an injury report like they do for regular-season games, but I’ve offered my best guess on what the injury report would look like if one were to be released ahead of Saturday night’s game against Dallas.

Most of the players ruled to be out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will be in question. This list, of course, will not include any veterans who may be held out of the preseason opener due to the coaching staff’s preference. Cornerback Lardarius Webb is not expected to play in the second preseason game as he’s been sidelined with a lower back injury since July 25.

Again, this is not an official injury report released by the Ravens:

OUT: CB Lardarius Webb (back), G Will Rackley (head), DT Terrence Cody (hip), DE Kapron Lewis-Moore (Achilles tendon), DE Brent Urban (knee)
DOUBTFUL: CB Asa Jackson (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: TE Owen Daniels (unspecified)
PROBABLE: LB Daryl Smith (groin), S Brynden Trawick (back), OL Ryan Jensen (leg)

Five players to watch Saturday night

1. C Jeremy Zuttah

While many pointed to the success of right tackle Rick Wagner in the first preseason game, the new Baltimore center appeared to make calls at the line successfully as the starting offense ran the ball effectively and protected Flacco. Zuttah isn’t dramatically bigger than 2013 starter Gino Gradkowski, but he’s held up well physically as a run blocker and in pass protection. The offensive line will remain under heavy scrutiny through the early portion of the series, but the reviews for Zuttah have been positive and the overall concern at the center position last year at this time appears to be a distant memory.

“The thing about Jeremy, he is a professional in every way,” offensive line coach Juan Castillo said. “He is smart, and he studies the game. For him, too, it’s a different technique, and he’s been working very hard at the fundamentals and trying to do the things the way we do it here in Baltimore.”

2. S Terrence Brooks

It was no secret that Brooks was lagging behind in the competition at free safety due to concerns with him grasping the intricacies of the defense, but injuries to Webb and Jackson at the cornerback position have prompted the Ravens to take a look at the Florida State product in the nickel spot, a position he played with the Seminoles. The shift is more of a reflection on how shallow the cornerback depth is at this point, but Brooks may find the nickel and dime packages as his best chance to see the field for meaningful defensive snaps to start his rookie season.

“Everybody is an option right now. We’re just trying to find guys,” said defensive coordinator Dean Pees on the No. 3 cornerback spot. “We’re moving guys around a little bit. We have two more games to experiment with where we want to put guys and see where they fit getting ready for the season. The first two games are [about] playing everybody [to] see what we have, and then after that, we have to start honing in. But we’ll move a bunch of guys around. Terrence is playing well; he’s playing hard. He’s a multi-position guy like all of our guys really are. It’s a possibility.”

3. WR Kamar Aiken

The 2013 practice squad member has turned plenty of heads and certainly took advantage of his opportunity in the preseason opener with four catches for 46 yards on six targets and 29 offensive snaps. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound wideout appears to be competing closely with Deonte Thompson for a potential roster spot, but Aiken has outplayed the incumbent member of the 53-man roster and can further improve his chances by building on what he did against the 49ers. Of course, special-teams contributions will play a major part in determining whether Aiken finds himself on the active roster.

“He is explosive and he’s big,” offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said. “I tell you, in all my years in the league, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen as competitive a situation as we have at receiver right now. I would have no chance telling John [Harbaugh] which five or six I would want right now, and that’s a good thing as a coach.”

4. DL DeAngelo Tyson

The 2012 seventh-round pick has been a steady member of the defensive line rotation in his first two seasons, but season-ending injuries to young defensive ends Brent Urban and Kapron Lewis-Moore may force the Ravens to use Tyson more exclusively at the 5-technique spot to spell veteran Chris Canty. The University of Georgia product can play multiple spots on the defensive line, so it will be a blow to their overall versatility in the trenches if Pees must use Tyson outside, but his presence has become much more important with the overall depth taking a hit this summer.

“The next guy will be up, and we’ll find a way to do it,” said Harbaugh about the injuries to Urban and Lewis-Moore. “There are always going to be injuries. You adapt, you adjust and you fill out your positions.”

5. TE Crockett Gillmore

The Ravens insist the veteran tight end Daniels isn’t injured, but it’s clear there are some physical concerns with him missing two straight practices following an off-day and not showing great separation while running routes in practices. These factors could open the door for Gillmore to receive more opportunities with the starting offense against Dallas and beyond. It’s been an inconsistent summer for the Colorado State product as a blocker and as a receiver, but that’s to be expected from a third-round pick who will be counted on to be used to some degree with neither Daniels nor starter Dennis Pitta considered particularly strong blockers.

“Crockett is a good football player,” Pitta said earlier this summer. “He’s a tough kid and he’s big and physical and a great blocker at the point of attack. I think that’s what stood out the most this early on. He’s going to be a valuable asset for this offense moving forward.”


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Ravens continue to rest veteran tight end Daniels

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Ravens continue to rest veteran tight end Daniels

Posted on 14 August 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens conducted their final full practice ahead of Saturday’s preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys as veteran tight end Owen Daniels continued to be absent from the field.

The former Houston Texan was absent from practice for the second straight day after offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said Daniels was simply receiving a day off on Thursday. Daniels’ two-day absence following the Ravens’ off-day will raise some eyebrows as the 31-year-old has had a quiet training camp thus far.

“We decided to rest his legs a little bit,” Harbaugh said. “He had been going pretty hard, so [we wanted] to [rest him] a little bit. Whether he’ll play in the game, we’ll just decide and see how he feels. But there’s no injury involved there.”

Daniels hasn’t shown great explosiveness when running routes against man coverage this summer after being limited to five games due to a broken leg in his final season with Houston. With starting tight end Dennis Pitta back to full strength after last season’s hip injury, the Ravens don’t need Daniels to handle a full workload, but Kubiak is known for using multiple tight ends in his West Coast offense.

The Ravens continue to be shorthanded in the secondary as cornerbacks Lardarius Webb (back) and Asa Jackson (ankle) failed to practice on Thursday with neither expected to play in the second preseason game of the summer. Offensive lineman Will Rackley (concussion) and defensive tackle Terrence Cody (active physically unable to perform list – hip) also continue to be sidelined.

Harbaugh expects starters to see more playing time in the second preseason game than they did against San Francisco last Thursday.

“Normally, in the second preseason game you get a quarter, maybe a little more than a quarter,” Harbaugh said. “Some of that will be individualized for different players; we’ll have some play counts for a few guys, including Joe [Flacco] and some of the defensive players. We’ll see how it goes, but basically, about a quarter is what you’re looking at — maybe more. It could get close to a half; it could even be a half for some of the starters.”

Thursday’s practice was a lighter workout with players working in helmets, shells, and shorts. The Ravens will conduct a closed walk-through on Friday before departing for Texas in anticipation of their first ever preseason meeting against the Cowboys.

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Pitta slowed by ankle sprain as Ravens, 49ers practice for final time

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Pitta slowed by ankle sprain as Ravens, 49ers practice for final time

Posted on 11 August 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens concluded their final day of practice with the San Francisco 49ers while tight end Dennis Pitta continued to be limited with a minor injury.

The starting tight end missed Sunday’s workout with what was originally described as a “tweak” by head coach John Harbaugh before suiting up for Monday morning’s practice. Pitta did not do much of anything during the 2 1/2 hour practice and appeared to be limping as he watched from the sideline.

“Dennis has an ankle sprain,” Harbaugh said. “He went for about 30 minutes [of individual work] and then we put him down.”

The Ravens sustained a number of injuries over the weekend with the most severe being the season-ending Achilles injury suffered by defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore. Cornerback Asa Jackson (ankle), safety Brynden Trawick (back), and offensive lineman Ryan Jensen were also absent on Monday after getting hurt during the first two practices against the 49ers.

Cornerback Lardarius Webb (back), guard Will Rackley (concussion), and defensive tackle Terrence Cody (physically unable to perform list – hip surgery) were also missing from Monday’s practice. Speaking with reporters after signing autographs for fans in attendance, Webb expressed optimism that he’ll be back soon, but the veteran defensive back wouldn’t specify a timetable for when he’ll practice for the first time or whether he’ll play in the preseason since being sidelined with back spasms on July 25.

“I would love to play some preseason, but I’ve been through some injuries,” said Webb, who has suffered torn anterior cruciate ligaments in both knees in his NFL career. “I’ve been in the same position many times. I hate to say many times. We’ll see.”

With Webb and Jackson out with injuries, the Ravens used third-round rookie safety Terrence Brooks at the nickel position with cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Chykie Brown lined up on the outside during 7-on-7 work and full-team drills against the 49ers. Brooks played cornerback as well as safety during his collegiate career at Florida State, but it’s a clear reflection of how thin the Ravens’ depth is in the secondary.

The Ravens and 49ers practiced in helmets, shells, and shorts on Monday after two days wearing full pads. Baltimore players will have the day off on Tuesday before returning to the Owings Mills facility to continue preparations ahead of Saturday’s preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys.

After much speculation and discussion over whether players from opposing teams would engage in any fighting during the three-day period, the Ravens and 49ers made it through their time together without a single skirmish of significance.

Orioles pitcher Bud Norris attended Monday’s practice in Owings Mills as the California native is a 49ers fan. The right-hander was scheduled to start against the New York Yankees on Monday night.

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Ravens welcome Boldin, 49ers to practice fields in Owings Mills

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Ravens welcome Boldin, 49ers to practice fields in Owings Mills

Posted on 09 August 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Taking part in joint practices for the first time in the 19-year history of the franchise, the Ravens welcomed the San Francisco 49ers to their training facility Saturday for the first of three practices following their 23-3 win in the preseason opener.

Both head coaches preached the need to take care of the other team in terms of practicing smart and not wanting to cause injuries while putting in the necessary work. The Ravens escaped the preseason opener in great shape from a health standpoint as cornerback Lardarius Webb (back), guard Will Rackley (back), and defensive tackle Terrence Cody (active physically unable to perform list – hip) were the only players not taking part in Saturday’s practice, meaning no players missed practice time due to injuries sustained in Thursday’s game.

Safety Brynden Trawick left the field while appearing to be favoring his back and didn’t return before the conclusion of practice. Offensive lineman Ryan Jensen also appeared to be banged up at one point but remained on the field.

“It definitely makes things a little different,” said quarterback Joe Flacco prior to the first joint practice. “I’m sure when we first go out there, we’ll be feeling each other out a little bit and seeing what kind of tempo there is and all that.”

The 49ers offense appeared to get the best of the Baltimore defense in 11-on-11 team work with former Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin making several catches in a red-zone period and fellow wideout Stevie Johnson making an acrobatic sideline grab with Jimmy Smith in tight coverage. Veteran receiver Kassim Osgood also lost safety Matt Elam and cornerback Chykie Brown in coverage for a long completion.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs appeared to struggle to create pressure off the edge while matched up against Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley.

Meanwhile, Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith continued his impressive summer with a number of challenging catches against the 49ers secondary, including an over-the-shoulder grab on a deep ball down the seam.

Head coach John Harbaugh said the teams intend to practice in full pads all three days, but they will not conduct live drills in which they tackle to the ground.

“We want to take care of the Ravens,” 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh said. “We want to be safe out here, and we need them to do the same for us. That’s the kind of environment where iron sharpens iron. That’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for good practice work. These aren’t games out here.”

Harbaugh brothers call out media

The Ravens and 49ers made it out of Saturday’s workout without any fights of note as outside linebacker Pernell McPhee and 49ers fullback Will Tukuafu appeared to get heated at one point before order was quickly restored.

Each Harbaugh brother preached to their respective teams about the importance of remaining focused during practices and the consequences of getting into scuffles with the opposition. However, both spoke about the media’s tendency to focus on fights and skirmishes in practices instead of the football side of things.

“What’s interesting to me — and what’s a real indictment on you as the media — is the fact that Jimmy Smith was asked about it, and he said when he sees these things on TV, all he ever sees is fights,” John Harbaugh said. “What does that tell you? How about a little self-check?

“We’re probably going to have 99 percent all great, positive things, but if there is a little shoving match out here, I’m quite sure that that’s what will be on these cameras, and it’ll be countrywide, and that’ll be everybody’s take on how it went, right? Because that’s how it is all the time. We’re going to look for the positive; you all can look for the negative — as usual.”

Flacco sees preseason opener as “good foundation”

After an opportunity to view the film from the strong opening drive on Thursday in which the starting offense traveled 80 yards on 10 plays to score a touchdown, Flacco echoed how encouraged he was to see the offensive line perform at a high level.

The challenge now will be continuing to progress as the first unit receives more extensive snaps in the second and third preseason games. Flacco completed four of five passes for 52 yards before most of the starting offense was pulled after running back Bernard Pierce plunged into the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown.

“We ran the ball really well and protected really well,” Flacco said. “There is a lot to build on. I think we built a good foundation there. I think each week from here on out, we have to keep showing that improvement and building off what we did.”

Boldin not dwelling on past

Making his return to the Ravens’ training facility in Owings Mills, Boldin seemed at peace with his former team’s decision to trade him to San Francisco last offseason and spent the early portion of practice greeting old teammates and staff members.

John Harbaugh quipped that he still blames general manager Ozzie Newsome for dealing Boldin away for a sixth-round pick before acknowledging it was a difficult business decision stemming from a tight salary cap. The 33-year-old receiver enjoyed the opportunity to visit his old neighborhood on Friday and has been appreciative for continued support from Ravens fans following the trade.

“I got a chance to see a lot of people I haven’t seen since the trade,” Boldin said. “It’s always good to see those people. I built a lot of relationships in my three years here.”

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Ravens-49ers preseason primer: Five players to watch

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Ravens-49ers preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 06 August 2014 by Luke Jones

A brotherly reunion and Super Bowl XLVII rematch adds a little more spice to the preseason opener as the Ravens welcome the San Francisco 49ers to Baltimore on Thursday night.

As is always the case with the first preseason game, the contest will offer little more than a cameo appearance for veteran starters expected to make the biggest impact this season, but it does provide welcome change for a group of players tired of working against one another after two weeks of practices in Owings Mills. While most veteran starters figure to see little more than a series or two, younger starters figure to see more extensive action in the first half if history holds to form.

“We’re kind of on a standard plan right now, as far as that [goes],” coach John Harbaugh said. “I don’t know exactly the number of plays yet, but it won’t be anything we haven’t done in the past.”

Of course, the first preseason game won’t be the standard road trip for the 49ers as they’ll then join the Ravens at their training facility in Owings Mills for three days of practices, providing extra competition as well as opportunities to evaluate just how much improvement has been made to a team that failed to make the playoffs last season for the first time since 2007. Much will hinge on the offense under new coordinator Gary Kubiak, who is bringing his version of the West Coast attack to reinvigorate a group that finished 29th in the NFL last year.

Entering his seventh season at the helm of the Ravens offense, Joe Flacco has been all business this summer as Kubiak and quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison have focused on the veteran quarterback getting rid of the ball quickly while improving his footwork. Flacco isn’t the only one who will be under the microscope with the new offensive attack, but even he acknowledges the preseason opener carrying more significance than in past years because of the dramatic changes made this offseason.

Of course, the outcome of the opener won’t provide any definitive answers for questions facing the Ravens on both sides of the football, but the game will sharpen points of emphasis for both coaches and players after facing another team.

“Anytime you’re running a new offense and you think you’re doing it pretty well, it’s always nice to get out there and have a real test,” Flacco said. “Have people hitting you and flying around and going full speed under the lights. It’s probably a little more important.”

Thursday will mark the first ever preseason meeting between the Ravens and the 49ers, but Baltimore owns the 3-1 edge in the regular season and a 1-0 advantage in the postseason after their 34-31 win in Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. The Ravens are 42-29 all-time in the preseason and have a 15-9 preseason mark in the Harbaugh era.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

The Ravens are not required to release an injury report like they do for regular-season games, but I’ve offered my best guess on what the injury report would look like if one were to be released.

Most of the players ruled to be out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will be in question. This list, of course, will not include any veterans who may be held out of the preseason opener due to the coaching staff’s preference. Cornerback Lardarius Webb is not expected to play in either of the first two preseason games as he’s been sidelined with a lower back injury since July 25.

Again, this is not an official injury report released by the Ravens:

OUT: CB Lardarius Webb (back), G Will Rackley (head), DT Terrence Cody (hip), DE Brent Urban (knee)
DOUBTFUL: LB Daryl Smith (groin)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Michael Campanaro (ribs), CB Marrio Norman (unspecified)
PROBABLE: DT Timmy Jernigan (back), CB Jimmy Smith (back)

Five players to watch Thursday night

1. RB Ray Rice

With so much attention justifiably paid to his off-field transgressions, you almost forget the 27-year-old back is coming off the worst season of his career in which he averaged a meager 3.1 yards per carry. Rice was heavy, slow, and banged up during the 2013 season and must play well to not only hold off backup Bernard Pierce but give the Ravens confidence that they can move forward with the three-time Pro Bowl selection beyond the 2014 season. Rice will want to use the first couple preseason games to make a favorable impression on Kubiak with his two-game suspension looming at the start of the season.

“Ray has looked really good,” Harbaugh said. “Comparisons to years in the past, we’ll find all that out during the season. But he’s in tremendous shape. I’m seeing him make good lateral cuts. He has really good burst, acceleration is there, [and] vision is there. He’s been very patient with the zone runs, which is something that I believe to be an improvement over the past — even two years ago.”

2. FS Darian Stewart

Signed to a one-year, $1.3 million contract in the offseason, the former St. Louis Ram has yet to be seriously challenged at the free safety position with third-round pick Terrence Brooks struggling to grasp the playbook in his first season. Stewart isn’t spectacular, but he’s been complimented by Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Dean Pees for knowing his assignments and being in the right place, traits that shouldn’t be taken for granted considering the Baltimore defense gave up too many big plays a year ago. Stewart isn’t a long-term answer or dynamic player, but the Ravens hope he can be a value signing comparable to when they signed Corey Graham a couple years ago.

“I see a grown, mature, confident guy that I think fits really well in our room,” said secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo, who was Stewart’s head coach for two years in St. Louis. “He’s kind of slipped in there. I’ve noticed he’s taken a backseat, which you have to do when you change teams a little bit, and that was early on. Now, I see his personality coming out. I think that will happen more and more. I think he’s going to be a great leader for us. I really do.”

3. RT Rick Wagner

Perhaps the storyline received too much attention during spring workouts, but there’s been less buzz about the right tackle position than you’d expect with second-year lineman Rick Wagner continuing to be the favorite to start over fourth-year disappointment Jah Reid. The Ravens have been higher on Wagner than most of the outside world all along, but the Wisconsin product will need to prove capable against preseason opponents to put concerns to rest. Wagner doesn’t need to be a Pro Bowl tackle, but he needs to hold his own as the Ravens are too challenged offensively to be forced to constantly provide help in protection on the right side of the line.

“He is doing a lot better,” said linebacker Elvis Dumervil, who often matches up against Wagner during practice. “You’ve got to stay consistent with [offensive line coach] Juan Castillo’s scheme — his protection, his switching it up. But for the most part, he’s just doing a really good job.”

4. DT Brandon Williams

The 2013 third-round pick appeared to be emerging as a contributor in the defensive line rotation last year before wearing down and being inactive over five of the last six games, but the Ravens have shown plenty of confidence in Williams so far this summer by sliding Haloti Ngata back to the 3-technique defensive tackle position and lining up the Missouri Southern State product at the nose. His strength and athleticism have been mentioned frequently, but Williams will need to show those traits translate in taking on interior blockers and making plays in stopping the run. If Williams is not up to the challenge, the Ravens could elect to shift Ngata back to the nose and take longer looks at second-round rookie Timmy Jernigan and third-year lineman DeAngelo Tyson.

“Now, his strength is a lot more functional because he understands the technical part of the game a lot better,” defensive line coach Clarence Brooks said. “He understands how we play a lot better and how we want things done. He understands that, and he was able to take his natural strength and work it into what we want. So far, everything is on the upswing.”

5. CB Tramain Jacobs

Most eyes will inevitably fall on Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson as the Ravens try to figure out who will be lining up at the No. 3 cornerback spot in the regular-season opener, but Jacobs is on a short list of rookie free agents to watch this summer. Playing at Texas A&M, the 5-foot-11, 182-pound cornerback saw plenty of tough competition in college practices matching up against wideout Mike Evans with Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel throwing the football. Jacobs has shown good athleticism and a nose for the football to put him in the conversation for a spot on the 53-man roster. With so much concern over the lack of depth at the cornerback position, Jacobs will have opportunities to turn heads if his play carries over to preseason games.

“Everybody’s getting a good look. It’s a stiff competition right now,” said starter Jimmy Smith, who mentioned Jacobs as someone in contention for the No. 3 cornerback job. “Obviously, we don’t want Webb hurt, but that gives opportunity for [others]. It’s a stiff battle at the third cornerback position right now.”

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