Tag Archive | "John Harbaugh"


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Crazy or not, Ravens striking right chord after bye week

Posted on 10 November 2015 by Luke Jones

An 8-0 finish?



The chatter among players began moments after the win over San Diego and has only been amplified with a bye week to rest their bodies and minds. Despite a 2-6 record that has them standing 13th out of 16 teams in the AFC entering Week 10, the Ravens still have their sights set on the playoffs as they trail current No. 6 seed Pittsburgh by 2 1/2 games.

Few outside the Baltimore locker room think qualifying for the postseason is anything but crazy talk, but that’s perfectly fine with the Ravens.

“That’s why it’s going to feel so much greater when we finally make it,” cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “Coming back from this type of record and this season and the first eight [games], it’s going to feel that much greater when we make the playoffs. Let’s make some history.”

Unrealistic? Absolutely. Insane? Perhaps.

But I still like it.

Recent Ravens teams haven’t exactly oozed swagger like those from yesteryear, and that was even before they lost their two most demonstrative leaders — Terrell Suggs and Steve Smith — to season-ending injuries in the first half. Players know the odds are wildly against them, but believing you’re good enough fits into that winning equation — whether you actually are or not in the end.

Doubting talent and coaching is fair, but questioning the effort of these Ravens doesn’t mesh with all six of their losses coming by just one possession and a combined 30 points. A team that’s mailed it in doesn’t compete on a weekly basis, making the post-bye confidence an encouraging sign for better results with a more favorable schedule in the second half.

Of course, how much better is the real question, and that can only be answered on the field.

“We have to earn our way to have that conversation for sure,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “But I expect our guys to have high expectations. The standard here has been high. We’ve set a high bar here for a long time, and we’re proud of that. We have high expectations, so we’re not going to let those expectations go. We’re not pleased with where we are — just like the fans aren’t pleased, coaches aren’t pleased, players aren’t pleased. Nobody in the organization is pleased with where we are, and we’re very determined to turn it around.”

We’ve all heard how the Ravens could be better than their 2-6 record. Given the small margin of defeat in those six losses, it’s fair to acknowledge the possibility, but let’s not forget those two victories could have easily turned into defeats as well. The eternal optimist would be stretching further to say the Ravens could be 6-2 or better than the pessimist would be in pointing to the possibility of a winless record through eight games.

Even if you believe that the Ravens were unlucky in the first half of the season, that doesn’t mean a run of good fortune is on the way. With Baltimore having a poor defense and an average offense lacking reliable pass-catchers — even before Smith’s Achilles injury — for Joe Flacco, predicting much better than a .500 record in the second half of the season would be based more on blind optimism than what we watched in the first half of 2015.

But players and coaches certainly don’t have to feel that way.

“The mindset is 1-0. Take care of what we have to take care of this week,” said running back Justin Forsett, who “definitely” thinks the Ravens can still make the playoffs. “We’ll just do our part and control what we control. Hopefully, at the end, we’ll be where we want to be.”

Even if the Ravens were to somehow run the table to finish 10-6, there’s no guarantee of even that being good enough as they needed help in Week 17 a year ago to make the playoffs with that same record. Rebounding from 2-6 is an incredible long shot, but who said the Ravens or their fans need to be grounded in reality, especially with eight games to go?

Does Harbaugh think the Ravens can make history as the first team to start 1-6 and make the NFL playoffs under the current format?

“Of course we can. We’re planning on it,” Harbaugh said. “We’re very optimistic about what’s in front of us, our future. We love our players, love the way they work, love the enthusiasm that they had today coming back and getting ready for Jacksonville.

“We’ll take it one day at a time, one game at a time.”

That’s all the Ravens can do, but some extra bravado can only help their near-impossible cause.

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Clock ticking for Pitta, Perriman to help Ravens in 2015

Posted on 09 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Two talented pass-catchers are potentially at opposite ends of their careers with the Ravens.

Each with the clock ticking.

Sixth-year tight end Dennis Pitta faces a Wednesday deadline to determine whether he will attempt to come back this season from the second devastating hip injury of his career suffered more than 13 months ago. Meanwhile, head coach John Harbaugh acknowledged Monday that time is running out if injured first-round receiver Breshad Perriman wants to see the field in his rookie season.

Two weapons, if healthy, who could help quarterback Joe Flacco, but both are surrounded by more questions than answers as the Ravens returned from their bye to begin preparations for Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

After beginning the season on the physically unable to perform list, Pitta returned to practice on Oct. 21, triggering a 21-day window to determine whether he would return to live-game action this season. The 30-year-old hasn’t played since dislocating and fracturing his right hip for the second time in a 14-month period on Sept. 21, 2014.

“He did look good in practice. We had a tough time covering him,” said Harbaugh, who stated that an announcement would not come before Wednesday. “He was doing stuff from the ‘look’ team and made a bunch of plays out there and just kind of looked like his old self out there.

“But don’t construe that as saying that he’s ready to go, because it’s not about that. It’s going to be about he and the doctors. The doctors are going to take a hard look at that and help him decide, ‘Is this really safe?’”

Pitta’s return wouldn’t necessarily fill a positional need with the Ravens having selected three tight ends in their last two drafts, but the 2010 fourth-round pick was a favorite target of quarterback Joe Flacco, catching seven touchdowns in his last full season in 2012. Pitta caught three more touchdowns that postseason in helping the Ravens win Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.

Though he’s received positive reviews from teammates and coaches in his return to practice, Pitta acknowledged last month that there were conflicting opinions from those close to him on whether he should return to the football field after his second serious injury, which occurred without him being hit. He also said that retirement would be a distinct possibility if he would not be able to return to the field in 2015.

“Dennis is going to play if he can,” Harbaugh said. “There’s no doubt in my mind based on what I’ve talked to him. If it’s safe and he feels like he can get out there and the hip is responding well, he’s going to play. And if it’s not safe, then he’s not going to play.

“I’m sure Tuesday — it is an off-day — we’ll sit down [and] have a pow-wow on it and figure out if that’s what we’re going to do and what the doctors and he say is the best thing.”

While there isn’t as much long-term concern with Perriman, Harbaugh said Monday that he’d like to see the 26th overall pick of this year’s draft be able to play in even the final four games of the season, but he would need to return to the practice field soon in order for that to happen. The 22-year-old sprained the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on the first day of training camp on July 30 and briefly practiced in late September before a setback prompted arthroscopic surgery and another lengthy absence.

With No. 1 receiver Steve Smith out for the rest of the season and previously intending to retire, Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome would love to take a look at what they have with the first receiver selected in the first round by the organization since Mark Clayton in 2005. The Ravens have carried Perriman on the 53-man roster all season.

“The clock is ticking if he can’t get out there and practice soon,” Harbaugh said. “I’d love to get four games out of him, just so you can see him and he can develop for four games. But that means now we need four weeks of getting him ready to play four games, and I haven’t been told that he’s going to practice this week.

“I think that’s a conversation that the doctors and Ozzie need to have, and we need to make a determination on that real soon.”

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Ravens defensive end Urban returns to practice field

Posted on 09 November 2015 by Luke Jones

Ravens defensive end Brent Urban practiced on Monday for the first time since suffering a biceps injury in early August.

Returning from the Week 9 bye, the team announced the 2014 fourth-round pick has returned to practice after beginning the regular season on injured reserve with the designation to return. Urban now enters a 21-day practice window in which the Ravens may elevate him to the 53-man roster at any point or leave him on IR for the remainder of the season if deemed unable to return at the conclusion of the period.

Urban, 24, suffered a torn biceps on Aug. 8, an injury that was initially feared to sideline him for the entire season. The Ravens are intrigued by the 6-foot-7, 295-pound defensive lineman’s potential, which is why they used their one designation to return on him at the start of the season instead of saving it for another injured player.

“I don’t know if you’d say Brent Urban is going to be some kind of premier pass rusher,” head coach John Harbaugh said last week. “Maybe he’ll develop into that, and we’ll all be excited. But he’s going to pressure the quarterback. He’s going to get push-back. He’s going to get knock-back. He’s going to create problems, just because of his leverage and his size, and he’s going to be definitely hard to throw the ball around.

“I think if nothing else — at the very least — he’s going to get batted balls, and that’s going to be good for us. He’s such a young player. We’re going to have to find out what kind of a player he is once he gets out there and gets going again.”

Urban suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee early in his first training camp, meaning expectations should be tempered for a player who hasn’t taken as much as a preseason snap in his NFL career. But the Ravens believe he can be a factor at the 5-technique defensive end spot — currently manned by veterans Chris Canty and Lawrence Guy — and as an inside rusher in passing situations.


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Five Ravens predictions for rest of 2015 season

Posted on 07 November 2015 by Luke Jones

No one expected this.

Even if you wondered why the Ravens were receiving so much preseason love after enduring a number of substantial offseason departures, a 2-6 record at the midway point could haven’t been predicted based on the history of the John Harbaugh era. Now, Baltimore must simply crawl back to respectability before any thought of playoff contention can seep back into the psyche.

If you’re looking for a reason to be optimistic, the Ravens have four remaining games against opponents who entered Sunday with losing records and two others against teams with only .500 marks. After playing five of their first seven on the road to begin 2015, Harbaugh and his team will relish the opportunity to play five of their next seven contests at M&T Bank Stadium.

While inviting you to mock my preseason prophecies for the Ravens from a couple months ago, I offer five new predictions for the second half of the 2015 season …

1. Joe Flacco will remind the Ravens that reworking his contract won’t be cheap this offseason. Simply looking at the numbers won’t tell the story as you can’t expect Flacco and this group of pass-catching targets to excel with Steve Smith out for the rest of the year. That said, the eighth-year quarterback will find a way to make the offense work and play at a respectable level. With Flacco scheduled to carry a $28.55 million cap figure in 2016, both sides knew all along that his six-year, $120.6 million contract signed in 2013 would need to be reworked this offseason. Flacco will play well enough to remind Ozzie Newsome that he can lead the Ravens to the top, especially if the general manager assembles an acceptable group of talent around him unlike two of the last three seasons.

2. Jimmy Smith will start playing more like the cornerback the Ravens signed to a long-term deal last spring. Already lacking playmakers on both sides of the ball, the Ravens could hardly afford to have the fifth-year cornerback play at an underwhelming level coming off last year’s Lisfranc surgery, but Smith has at least played better of late. The surgically-repaired foot should continue to improve as the season goes on, and that will help Smith’s confidence after defensive coordinator Dean Pees recently described his play as “tentative” this season. With other recent deals such as the ones with Eugene Monroe and Dennis Pitta not working out, the Ravens need Smith to look like a No. 1 corner averaging eight figures per year. He’ll begin regaining that form in the second half.

3. Rookie Buck Allen will emerge as a viable offensive weapon coming out of the backfield. It’s easy to say that the Ravens need an inexperienced group of receivers to step up in Smith’s absence, but how much can you reasonably expect from a group of former rookie free agents and castoffs? Baltimore will lean more on its running game and Allen needs more than the 4.6 carries he’s averaged in his first eight NFL games. Justin Forsett will remain the primary ball carrier, but the 2015 fourth-round pick has more explosiveness as a receiver out of the backfield and can help an undermanned passing game. To keep Forsett fresh and to determine whether Allen can at least be a strong No. 2 option, Marc Trestman will give the rookie more opportunities and he will take full advantage.

4. Chris Givens and Terrence Brooks will become starters by the end of the season. Envisioning Givens as a starter isn’t going out on a limb since he played more snaps than Marlon Brown in the San Diego game, but the fourth-year wideout plays with a chip on his shoulder after plummeting down the depth chart in St. Louis and gives Flacco a speed option he lacked at the start of the season with Breshad Perriman sidelined. Givens isn’t a long-term starter, but he will make enough plays to warrant keeping him around as an option to use in three- and four-wide sets in 2016. Meanwhile, veteran Kendrick Lewis has disappointed at safety, and it’s time for the Ravens to see whether Brooks can be a viable starter moving forward. At the very least, he’ll wrestle away the job from Lewis.

5. The Ravens will finish with a 6-10 record to earn a top 10 pick in the 2016 draft. Predicting a dramatic second-half turnaround just isn’t realistic given Baltimore’s lack of overall talent and injuries, but a favorable remaining schedule will translate to more wins for a group that’s continued to compete every week under Harbaugh. Even with two of their three remaining away games coming against teams with losing records, the Ravens shouldn’t be considered a good bet to win on the road. A 6-10 record would have had the Ravens picking as high as eighth or as low as 10th in this spring’s draft. A return to championship contention in 2016 isn’t impossible, but hitting on a couple higher draft picks in the first and second rounds would be a heck of a shot in the arm for a roster lacking elite players.

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Ravens sign former New Orleans receiver Joe Morgan

Posted on 04 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Trying to improve a dire wide receiver situation during their bye week, the Ravens officially added veteran Joe Morgan to their 53-man roster on Wednesday.

Baltimore signed the former New Orleans Saints wideout after he and two other receivers — Hakeem Nicks and Chuck Jacobs — worked out for the team on Tuesday. The Ravens created an open spot on their 53-man roster once they officially move Steve Smith to injured reserve.

The 27-year-old Morgan had one of the best performances of his career against the Ravens when he registered a 62-yard reception and a 67-yard run in a Monday night game last Nov. 24.

“We all remember that — his speed on that,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He is a guy that has been up and down on their roster throughout the course of the season, and our scouts had identified him as a potential roster-add early on, and we’ve been talking about him in our personnel meetings all season.”

A 6-foot-1 product from Walsh University, Morgan was released by New Orleans last month after appearing in just two games and not registering a catch. He has 14 receptions for 471 yards in his career — an impressive 33.6 yards per catch — making him a deep-ball threat if nothing else.

His best season came in 2012 when he caught 10 passes for 379 yards and three touchdowns. Morgan missed the entire 2013 campaign with a knee injury and caught four passes for 92 yards last season.

“As a speed receiver, the main thing they want me to do is run,” said Morgan, who sees plenty of similarities between offensive coordinator Marc Trestman’s system and what he was running in New Orleans. “I can run with the best of them. You tell me to go out and run a go route, that’s simple enough. You can go out and run a go route; there’s no play to that at all. I’ve been saying my whole career I want to be labeled as more than just a speed receiver.”

The Ravens also added Jacobs to their practice squad and released tight end Konrad Reuland on Wednesday.

Pondering Jacoby

Harbaugh said he hadn’t learned about Jacoby Jones’ release from the San Diego Chargers until after Wednesday’s practice, leading one to believe the former Ravens return specialist is unlikely to return.

However, given the respect he has for Jones’ contributions to the organization, Harbaugh wasn’t about to dismiss any notion of interest in a reunion — at least publicly.

“At some point in time, Ozzie [Newsome] had pulled the trigger on [signing Morgan and Jacobs on Tuesday],” Harbaugh said. “That’s the first I’d heard of Jacoby’s situation [this morning]. I would assume it’s something that we’ll talk about today a little bit and see where we’re at.”

Jones had signed a two-year, $5.5 million contract with San Diego in March after being released by the Ravens in late February.

Bye week rest

After practicing on Tuesday and Wednesday of their bye week, Ravens players are now off through Sunday, leaving them four straight days of rest as mandated by the collective bargaining agreement. Coaches will take off Friday through Sunday before returning to the team’s training facility in Owings Mills.

The Ravens haven’t had a player arrest since former running back Bernard Pierce was charged with driving under the influence in March, but Harbaugh reminded players of the expectations the organization has during their downtime.

“I don’t expect anything to happen with our guys,” Harbaugh said. “We have a bunch of guys that [we] have full faith and confidence in that they’ll make the right choices and do the right thing. If somebody stubs his toe, then, obviously, there are always consequences of some kind for that.”

Injury report

Harbaugh was optimistic about the status of starting center Jeremy Zuttah, who left Sunday’s win over San Diego with a shoulder injury and didn’t return. Zuttah, left tackle Eugene Monroe (shoulder), and guards Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele did not practice on Wednesday.

“Things do look good for Jeremy,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll know more Monday — see if he practices Monday, Wednesday — but things do look good.”

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Perriman “frustrated” not to be on field, position coach says

Posted on 03 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman hasn’t spoken publicly since the eve of his first NFL training camp, only adding to the mystery of his knee injury suffered on July 30.

Three months later, the 2015 first-round pick still isn’t playing as Baltimore suffered its worst start in franchise history. After suffering a sprained posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on the first day of training camp, Perriman aggravated the injury on Sept. 27 and underwent arthroscopic knee surgery a few days later.

Head coach John Harbaugh said last week that Perriman still had a “chance” to play this season, a stark contrast from the initial diagnosis that the 6-foot-2 wideout had merely fallen on his knee and would only miss a day or two of practice.

“He has been a little frustrated,” wide receivers coach Bobby Engram said on Tuesday. “I think he wants to be out there. He wants to compete. He wants to play. But at the same time, he realizes he has to go through this process and get himself healthy.”

Harbaugh called Perriman’s injury “one of the all-time slowesthealing sprained PCLs ever” last month, a description that might be accurate but didn’t do much to help the Central Florida product’s perception with some fans questioning his toughness.

With Steve Smith suffering a season-ending torn Achilles tendon in Sunday’s win over San Diego, the Ravens would surely like to see how Perriman would perform as Joe Flacco’s No. 1 receiver, especially if Smith follows through with his previous plan to retire. He’s not the only 2015 first-round receiver not to play this season — Chicago’s first-round pick Kevin White is on the physically unable to perform list with a stress fracture in his lower leg — but Perriman has been frustrated not to be able to prove the Ravens right for selecting him with the 26th overall pick this spring.

“I’ve been disappointed for Breshad, because he put in so much work and preparation to give himself that opportunity,” said Engram, who played 14 years in the NFL. “It’s unfortunate, but that’s a part of this business that we take part in. Football, it’s a physical sport, and sometimes these things happen.

“But he has been around [the facility]. He has been in the meetings. His spirits have been good, and we look forward to getting him healthy and getting him back.”

Upshaw, Z. Smith not filling sacks void

A season ago, Elvis Dumervil, Terrell Suggs, and Pernell McPhee combined for a whopping 36 1/2 sacks.

But with McPhee now in Chicago and Suggs lost for the season in Week 1, the Ravens haven’t been able to fill the void with fourth-year linebacker Courtney Upshaw and rookie Za’Darius Smith, who have combined for just two sacks despite extensive opportunities to rush the quarterback. Serving almost exclusively as a run-stopping strong-side linebacker in his first three seasons, Upshaw hasn’t collected a sack since the 2013 season even though he’s received more playing time in 2015.

“You’ll see that Courtney is dominant on the edge of the run game,” linebackers coach Ted Monachino said. “He would love to have more production as a pass rusher. We would all love for him to have more production as a pass rusher. We’ve got combination of rush and coverage. We’ve got to find a way to tie those two things together better than what we have.”

The lack of an established threat on the opposite edge has allowed offensive lines to focus more on Dumervil, limiting the Pro Bowl linebacker to just 2 1/2 sacks in eight games. Assuming Suggs’ role as the every-down rush linebacker, Dumervil has still been able to generate pressure — even if not finishing plays with as many quarterback takedowns — and has graded as the ninth-best edge defender in the NFL this season, according to Pro Football Focus.

A fair question for the second half will be how well Dumervil holds up after seeing his most extensive action of his three years in Baltimore.

“I think that Elvis, as a run defender, is improving,” said Monachino, who added that Dumervil had previously served as a full-time player in Denver. “I think Elvis as a first- and second-down guy with some opportunity in the pass rush, I think that helps.

“We all recognize the fact that 55 [snaps in a game] is different than 35 reps for a guy that’s a pass rusher, especially a high-effort pass rusher. We’ve got to continue to find ways to get Elvis singled, and when we can, he has to take advantage of those opportunities.”

J. Smith still “dominating” despite inconsistency

After Jimmy Smith’s play was recently described as “tentative” by defensive coordinator Dean Pees, defensive backs coach Chris Hewitt took a more positive stance in assessing the No. 1 cornerback’s play in 2015.

Smith is returning from last year’s Lisfranc injury, which has led many to wonder whether he’s been fully healthy all season. The 2011 first-round pick’s play is low on Hewitt’s list of concerns for the league’s 30th-ranked pass defense, however.

“He’s giving up a couple of plays, but the guy — if you watch the entire film — the guy has been dominating people,” Hewitt said. “He has had some dominating plays. Has he had dominating games? No, but he has had dominating plays.

“I think he’s continuing to keep on getting better as a player. He’ll be the first to tell you that he wants to be better, and he has put a lot of weight on his shoulders and a lot of stress on himself to become that leader or that big-time playmaker that we need. He’s doing a great job. I’m not pressing too much on Jimmy.”

Rosburg not impressed with Tucker’s dance moves

Kicker Justin Tucker drew plenty of attention for his celebratory dance that followed his game-winning 39-yard field goal against San Diego, but his nod to Drake was lost on his special teams coordinator.

“I have no reaction whatsoever.” said Jerry Rosburg as he smiled when asked about Tucker’s “Hotline Bling” dance. “I’m not sure what it was, so I’m really not sure if I’ve seen it before.”

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Trade deadline passes with Ravens standing pat

Posted on 03 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — In the midst of their bye week with a disappointing 2-6 record, the Ravens did not make any moves before Tuesday’s league-wide trade deadline at 4 p.m.

They weren’t alone as the only deal of significance around the NFL occurred Monday with the Denver Broncos acquiring two-time Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis from the San Francisco 49ers. The lack of activity was not a surprising development given the quiet history of the trade deadline in the NFL compared to the other major professional sports.

“There’s always a lot of talk and a lot of nothing happens,” head coach John Harbaugh said on Monday. “I’m interested if somebody calls [about] how we could get better, but usually nothing comes of it.”

Despite no activity on Tuesday, general manager Ozzie Newsome did complete two trades in the first half of the regular season, acquiring cornerback Will Davis from Miami in exchange for a 2016 seventh-round pick on Sept. 21 and adding wide receiver Chris Givens from St. Louis for a 2018 seventh-round pick on Oct. 3. Davis suffered a season-ending knee injury on Oct. 11, but Givens has steadily emerged as a vertical threat for a passing game now without top receiver Steve Smith for the rest of the season.

With their playoff hopes all but gone at the midway point of the season, the Ravens were wise to hold on to future draft resources instead of making a deal for a short-term fix at receiver or another position of need.

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Harbaugh says Smith hasn’t revealed 2016 plans to him

Posted on 02 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It’s unclear whether we’ve seen the last of Steve Smith in the NFL, but Ravens coach John Harbaugh says the injured receiver hasn’t yet revealed his 2016 plans to him in the aftermath of a season-ending Achilles injury sustained on Sunday.

The 36-year-old is scheduled to undergo surgery next week in Charlotte, N.C. with Dr. Robert Anderson handling the procedure to repair the torn Achilles tendon. Despite saying after the Ravens’ 29-26 win that he thought Smith would be back, Harbaugh reiterated Monday that the veteran wideout hasn’t indicated any decision about his football future.

“He didn’t express any decisions to me, one way or the other,” Harbaugh said. “Probably, it’s too emotional of a time right now to make any decision like that. But he will make those decisions in due time, I’m sure.

“I’ll respect him, and we’ll see where it goes.”

Smith announced his intentions to retire at the end of the season back in August, but speculation had persisted in recent weeks that the fiery competitor could reconsider with the Ravens off to the worst start in franchise history. The organization repeatedly shot down trade rumors regarding Smith, another indication that general manager Ozzie Newsome was optimistic about the chances of him returning for a 16th NFL season.

While Smith has plenty of time to make a decision about his future, the Ravens now face the prospects of moving forward without their leading receiver. Kamar Aiken will become Joe Flacco’s new primary receiver by default, but other unproven options will be asked to step up, including the recently-promoted Jeremy Butler.

The Ravens are also expected to work out free-agent receivers this week.

“I wouldn’t rule out that we would bring another receiver in from somewhere,” Harbaugh said. “Obviously, we’re looking real hard right now to figure out what we’re going to do.”

Silent Suggs

With Smith becoming the second prominent veteran player to suffer a season-ending Achilles tear in 2015, many have asked what injured linebacker Terrell Suggs has been up to.

Harbaugh acknowledged not having much communication with the six-time Pro Bowl selection in the aftermath of the Week 1 injury.

“If you know Terrell, that’s just how he operates,” Harbaugh said. “That’s kind of between him and Ozzie right now as far as where the rehab is at and what he’s doing. I trust him, and I trust he’s doing everything he has to do to get himself back.”

Harbaugh added that he would anticipate Suggs rejoining the team in Owings Mills when his rehabilitation is to a point where he’s moving around with few restrictions. Many have opined that Suggs’ leadership would be helpful for a Ravens team in the midst of a difficult season.

As for the 33-year-old’s future, Harbaugh expects the 2011 AP Defensive Player of the Year to return for his 14th season in 2016 despite the lack of recent communication.

“I assume he will. I never thought that he wouldn’t,” Harbaugh said. “I talked to him right after [the injury] happened, and he told me that this is just another challenge for him to overcome — something along those lines. So, I felt very good about it at that time.”

Injury updates

Defensive end Brent Urban (biceps) is expected to return to practice in the near future and is on track to play again in 2016. The second-year defensive lineman suffered a torn biceps in training camp and was placed on injured reserve with the designation to return at the start of the regular season.

“He’s soon to be up,” said Harbaugh, who is eager to finally see the 2014 fourth-round pick get on the field after two injury-marred seasons. “I anticipate that as soon as he’s able to practice, he will practice, because he’s healthy. He looks pretty good in there right now. I’m not saying 100 percent healthy, but he’s right there, and he’s really excited to get going.”

Harbaugh also said that left tackle Eugene Monroe (shoulder) expects to be ready to return after the bye week, but the head coach wasn’t sure of a timetable for Jeremy Zuttah after he left Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury.

Elam suspension not surprising

Though not delving into the specifics that led to injured safety Matt Elam being suspended one game for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, Harbaugh said that the ban stemmed from an incident occurring more than a year ago and even praised the 2013 first-round pick for taking accountability.

“Matt self-reported that,” Harbaugh said. “That was a situation he got involved in down there in Florida or whatever. I don’t even know the details of it, but what I do know is that he brought that to the league’s attention through the Ravens and went to the league and let them know that, and this was the result of doing that.

“But I give him credit for stepping up and talking about the situation, whatever it was, and taking responsibility for it.”


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S. Smith injury makes Sunday’s win feel like loss for Ravens

Posted on 01 November 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens and their fans deserved to feel good after Sunday’s 29-26 win over the San Diego Chargers.

Only their second win overall and first at M&T Bank Stadium in 2015, the Ravens at least had a modest reason to smile and exhale going into their bye with thoughts of transforming a 2-6 record into a respectable second half with a favorable schedule that includes five home games.

That was until the official news came regarding Steve Smith.

With the 36-year-old receiver suffering a torn Achilles tendon late in the third quarter, we’re now left wondering if we’ve seen the last of Smith, who moved past Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter into 10th place on the NFL’s all-time list for receiving yards on Sunday. Despite recently reconfirming his plans to retire at the end of the 2015 season, the fierce competitor may not want to end his career in such heartbreaking fashion.

In the meantime, reality has yet set in for the Ravens as they try to enjoy their first win in a month and some much-needed rest this coming week. Already lacking playmakers on both sides of the ball, Baltimore just lost its best one as well as one of its most respected leaders on the field and in the locker room.

“I don’t think we’ve felt the full effects of it yet,” cornerback Lardarius Webb said. “I look up to the guy. It’s sad, for the moment, that he not just goes out like that [but] just for him to go down [for] the season. He’s meant so much to this team, just his leadership and the guy who he is.”

Describing any injury as crippling is difficult when you’re already 2-6 and going nowhere in terms of the playoff race, but Smith’s ability and passion are not easily replaced in the second half of the season.

As they have all year with all eight of their games decided by one possession, the Ravens will continue to compete with head coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco leading the way. But much like when they lost six-time Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs in the season opener, the Ravens can’t simply use the “next man up” mantra in response to Smith’s injury.

He’s too important.

“It’s going to be an emotional thing just to lose players like that at any point,” Flacco said. “I’m not afraid to say — when you have a guy like that — what he means to this team, this organization, myself. What he’s done and just the kind of competitor he is, it’s probably a little bit tougher when you lose a guy like that.”

How the Ravens replace Smith’s production will likely keep offensive coordinator Marc Trestman awake at night over the bye week as the 15th-year wideout entered Week 8 with more receiving yards and touchdown catches than every other Baltimore receiver combined. Kamar Aiken will become the No. 1 receiver by default — complete with all 49 of his career receptions — but finding another starter from a group including Marlon Brown, Jeremy Ross, Chris Givens, and Jeremy Butler is a sobering challenge.

The season-long absence of first-round pick Breshad Perriman now becomes even more frustrating with Smith out of the picture and the Ravens not having the opportunity to see how the rookie would fare as the No. 1 receiver, the long-term role they envisioned for him when he was chosen with the 26th overall pick this spring. Harbaugh said last week that Perriman has a “shot” to play this season, but what that means is anyone’s guess after three months of frustration stemming from the 6-foot-2 wideout’s knee injury sustained on the first day of training camp.

Flacco will do what he can to try to maximize this offense, much like he did when the Ravens managed to score 30 points against the Browns with Smith on the sideline. The running game and their trio of young tight ends will become even more important than they already were with an underwhelming group of receivers behind Smith.

With two home dates against Jacksonville and St. Louis following the bye and only two of their eight remaining games against opponents currently holding winning records, the Ravens should be able to find at least a few more wins before the season from hell comes to an end.

But losing Smith is a sickening punch to a gut already too tender from six one-score defeats in eight games and a list of other injuries.

“Obviously, it makes it a little bit tougher than we’d like,” Flacco said, “but we’ve played a game this year without him and I think our guys did a great job stepping up. We were able to put some offense up, put some points on the board. The next guy steps up.

“It’s not like we’re just going to be playing with a ghost out there.”

But it feels that way right now.

And Smith’s injury made a much-needed win feel too much like a loss on Sunday.

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Ravens fans should remember history on Sunday

Posted on 31 October 2015 by Luke Jones

This season hasn’t been fun.

Not for the Ravens, not for their fans, and — believe it or not — not even for reporters, who don’t particularly enjoy asking John Harbaugh and his players the same questions week after week about why they continue losing close games.

With the Ravens returning home at 1-6 and with their once-lofty expectations dashed, many have wondered what that will mean for Baltimore’s six remaining home games. Established as one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL over the last 15 years, M&T Bank Stadium has rarely hosted games at less than full capacity, but the Ravens are off to the worst start in franchise history.

Virtually all tickets were sold long ago, but will the fans still come?

“This is a great city, and I haven’t had any other experience than that while being here,” eighth-year quarterback Joe Flacco said. “Obviously, throughout the course of games when you’re not playing well and things like that, you can feel people get upset. It’s just part of how it is. But in terms of a consistent basis and a game-to-game basis, I don’t know anything else but Baltimore coming out and supporting their teams.

“I would definitely be surprised. But at the end of the day, these people and this city are entitled to good football. And when they’re not getting it, you can understand.”

Yes, you can understand fans not showing up, but one hopes there is some perspective beginning with Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers, the same team that recently confirmed its intentions to apply for relocation to Los Angeles next season. It will be 20 years ago this week that Art Modell announced his intentions to move the Cleveland Browns, returning the NFL to Baltimore after a 12-year absence.

Remember the feeling 20-plus years ago when the thought of having even a 1-6 NFL team sounded great?

Those in our 30s remember a childhood without the NFL and with only stories of the old Colts from our parents and grandparents. Baltimore deserves winning football, but that idea need not be defined as a God-given right to playoff football every single year or else.

The Ravens are down in 2015 and need to make improvements in a variety of ways, but the city has an opportunity to prove just how special its fan base really is. Let’s face it, earning a reputation for providing a great home-field advantage isn’t difficult when your team owns just three losing seasons in 15 years and none since 2007.

But what message would 20,000 empty seats send on Sunday? The Ravens are already aware that 1-6 is unacceptable compared to the lofty standards they’ve established over their 20 years in Baltimore, so there’s no need to “protest” to owner Steve Bisciotti. If the losing were to continue in 2016 and beyond, that would be a different story.

To be clear, this isn’t a plea for fans to willingly spend hard-earned money on a substandard product. But if you already have tickets for Sunday’s game as well as the remaining schedule, make sure they’re put to use.

Go to the games, have fun, and forget about the big picture of a disappointing 2015 season for a few hours.

Try to sell your tickets to Ravens fans who might still be willing to spend some money and don’t have season tickets.

Or just give them to a neighbor, relative, or friend if you can’t stomach the thought of watching a losing team in person. Years later, I remain grateful to family friends such as Tom Potteiger, Ed Cook, and Ken Mistovich for those times when they offered Ravens tickets to my father and me as we couldn’t always afford such luxuries when I was growing up.

Large swaths of empty purple seats on Sunday won’t make Baltimore any worse than other cities that won’t support a loser.

But the idea is to be better than that, right?

With two Super Bowl championships, four division titles, and 10 playoff appearances since 2000, the Ravens have brought plenty of joy to Baltimore over the last 15 years.

It would be heartwarming to see the city pick them up when they’re down with a loud and full house on Sunday and once again remind the NFL how great Baltimore really is.

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