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Puzzle pieces impressively fall into place for Ravens’ 2015 draft

Posted on 02 May 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The smiles on the faces of the Ravens decision-makers said it all at the conclusion of the 2015 NFL draft.

Entering the three-day event with 10 scheduled picks and an extensive grocery list of positions to address, general manager Ozzie Newsome was able to put a check mark next to nearly every item by the time Saturday evening rolled around. The Ravens may have stayed true to their draft board, but it’s difficult to recall a time when it aligned so closely with their biggest needs and wants.

“It couldn’t have worked out any better,” assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said. “I think, just in terms of if we had imagined this draft beforehand, we’d be very, very excited. We got it, and it looks great on paper. But hopefully, it looks good in person as well.”

Seven weeks after waving goodbye to Torrey Smith, Owen Daniels, Haloti Ngata, and Pernell McPhee, the Ravens said hello to wide receiver Breshad Perriman, tight end Maxx Williams, defensive tackle Carl Davis, and defensive end Za’Darius Smith with their first four draft picks. It’s a sequence of selections that would make you think the Ravens were drafting solely for need if not for the fact that all four prospects were projected to be taken earlier in the draft by many pundits.

Newsome followed that by adding a cornerback (Tray Walker) and a running back (Buck Allen) — two other positions of need in most minds — before finally building more offensive depth with tight end Nick Boyle, guard Robert Myers, and wide receiver Darren Waller.

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Time will tell how well these nine players pan out — history tells us at least a couple won’t — but it’s difficult not to be impressed with the manner in which the Ravens worked. Newsome only pulled off one trade to do it, forfeiting one of three fifth-round picks to move up three spots in the second round to take the consensus top tight end in Williams.

“We’re not done putting this team together right now,” said Newsome, adding that they had already begun the process of signing rookie free agents. “It’s still maybe four months before we have to play Denver [in the season opener]. As a personnel staff, we’re still going to be mining for players to make our roster to make us better.”

Of course, no draft is perfect as the fourth-round selection of Walker, a lesser-known player from FCS school Texas Southern, could be considered a reach with many projecting him as a late-round pick or priority free agent. His 6-foot-2, 191-pound frame is impressive for a corner, but he’s unlikely to quell concerns about the depth behind starters Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb.

Then again, Walker’s performance at the College Gridiron Showcase game as well as his private workout with cornerbacks coach Matt Weiss left the Ravens very impressed, making you wonder if they’ve uncovered the latest diamond in the rough. Unsurprisingly, Newsome wouldn’t rule out the possibility of making other additions when he was inevitably asked about a secondary that endured a mountain of injuries in 2014.

The selection of two tight ends confirmed what we’ve known all offseason about the Ravens not counting on the return of veteran Dennis Pitta, who reiterated last week that he hopes to play again despite two serious right hip injuries in two years. Baltimore wasn’t going to forgo the opportunity to add the best tight end in the draft as well as Boyle, a physical blocking tight end from Delaware.

If Pitta can make his way back to the field at some point, a position of clear weakness before the draft could ultimately become of the Ravens’ biggest strengths. Having too many tight ends would be a good problem to have in the West Coast offense that will continue to be used by new offensive Marc Trestman.

“I still don’t know what’s going to happen with [Pitta],” Newsome said. “But Maxx Williams was way ahead of anybody that we had on the board when we picked him, and Boyle was the same way. We have a very tight end-friendly offense, so having one or two is not enough.

As always, the Ravens weren’t only drafting for 2015 as the selection of Myers provides insurance behind guards Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele, who are both set to become free agents next offseason. And while Baltimore hopes Perriman becomes an immediate starter and the eventual No. 1 receiver, the 6-foot-6, 240-pound Waller is an intriguing project to keep an eye on during training camp as the 204th overall pick and final Ravens selection of this year’s draft.

Beyond giving two thumbs up for addressing virtually every need and want on their list — safety and kick returner were the only real positions of interest to go untouched — you don’t grade a draft immediately after its conclusion despite the many who will try to. Three or four years from now, Newsome and the Ravens might look at this weekend fondly or they could cringe with regret.

The value and names are impressive on paper, but now these draft picks — along with a batch of rookie free agents to follow — must show how it translates on the field.

“Our needs and the types of things that are going to make our team better — specifically by position or by the type of player and where they were strategically found — I just thought it was masterful,” said Harbaugh in summarizing this year’s draft. “It’s a big success. Now we have to turn these guys into a football team.”

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Ravens bring food, support to west Baltimore

Posted on 30 April 2015 by Luke Jones

(Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens)

After many players spoke out against the violence in Baltimore earlier this week, the Ravens brought support and supplies to the west Baltimore area on Thursday morning.

Head coach John Harbaugh, former Ravens linebackers Ray Lewis and O.J. Brigance, and quarterback Joe Flacco were part of a group of 55 players and 30 organization volunteers. The group visited two elementary schools as well as Frederick Douglass High School, where Lewis gave an impassioned speech to students.

“We have an opportunity to change Baltimore,” said Lewis as CNN brought live coverage of his words. “If you want to make real change, be the example of change.”

Lewis elected to forgo his normal ESPN duties covering the NFL draft in Chicago in order to remain in Baltimore to offer support in such a trying time. Due to the citywide curfew, the Ravens were forced to cancel their Thursday night draft party at M&T Bank Stadium earlier this week.

It was hardly surprising, but the Ravens’ arrival in the community hit hardest by Monday’s rioting was the latest example to help justify the overwhelming support they’ve received from Baltimore and its fans for the last two decades.

 

 

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newsome

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With many needs, Newsome, Ravens need to strike gold in 2015 draft

Posted on 30 April 2015 by Luke Jones

I’m intrigued and, frankly, surprised as the Ravens are only hours away from the 2015 draft.

No one should doubt the ability of general manager Ozzie Newsome to find talent in this year’s draft class — especially with 10 scheduled selections — but can you recall a year in recent memory in which the Ravens have had so many needs?

Wide receiver and tight end are the positions most glaring, but Baltimore also can’t afford to make the same mistake two years in a row by failing to add a No. 3 cornerback behind Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb, two players with injury history. That’s not counting the list of wants that includes a running back, an edge pass rusher, a safety, a run-stopping defensive tackle, and an interior offensive lineman.

A lot of holes to fill, no matter how well you evaluate talent.

As you’d expect, the Ravens will stay true to their draft board, creating an abundance of possibilities as they’re not scheduled to pick until 26th overall in the first round.

“We’ll value the board,” Newsome said earlier this month. “We’ll watch it very closely, and as we get close to our pick if there’s somebody that we really covet, then we’ll [move up] and get him. If not, we’ll just value all the guys that are available to us.”

All along, I expected the Ravens to swap a pick or two for a veteran player as they did last spring with the acquisition of starting center Jeremy Zuttah and two years ago with the in-season acquisition of starting left tackle Eugene Monroe. Of course, a move of that sort could still be in the works during the draft or even in the days after with the Ravens once again projected to net multiple compensatory picks next year.

But the Ravens appear too vulnerable at more than one spot, which is not a position you want to be in if you truly want to draft the best player available while minimizing the number of holes on your roster entering training camp.

“It would be really helpful for us to do that,” said head coach John Harbaugh last month about the desire to make more additions before the draft. “Obviously, the more you can add before the draft, it takes pressure off of the draft to chase a position need. The more we can do that, obviously, the better off we’ll be.”

The Ravens have signed safety Kendrick Lewis and backup quarterback Matt Schaub as their only notable additions of the offseason while they’ve lost defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, wide receiver Torrey Smith, rush specialist Pernell McPhee, tight end Owen Daniels, safety Darian Stewart, and backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor.

Wednesday’s ESPN report of Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett being on the trading block creates natural speculation that the Ravens could be in the mix. New Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman is obviously familiar with the 28-year-old, who had the best seasons of his NFL career playing under the former Bears head coach.

Armed with more than $10 million in cap space and needing a tight end, the Ravens might be willing and able to give Bennett the new contract he reportedly desires if they can pull off a trade. If possible, it would be wise to eliminate one of their biggest needs, especially at a position that’s thin in this year’s draft.

Otherwise, Newsome will need to be at his best — while having the board really cooperate — to address the Ravens’ biggest needs while also satisfying a few wants over the next three days.

 

 

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Five questions pondering Forsett, Orioles corner outfielders, others

Posted on 24 April 2015 by Luke Jones

Every Friday, I’ll ponder five topics related to the Orioles or Ravens (or a mix of both).

Five questions …

1. Is it just me or are we once again too quick to doubt Justin Forsett? I understand skepticism about a running back who will turn 30 in October and is coming off a career season, but there’s too much discussion about finding his replacement considering the Ravens still don’t know who will be starting at a wide receiver spot or at tight end. Yes, it will be a tall order for Forsett to duplicate his 5.4 yards per carry average from 2014, but we are still talking about a back who averaged 4.9 yards per carry in his career prior to last season and has less wear and tear on his body than the typical player his age. For those who wanted to give the offensive line most of the credit for Forsett’s dream season, why is Melvin Gordon or Todd Gurley that attractive in the first round then? It makes sense for the Ravens to look at the running back position in the middle rounds, but I’ll be underwhelmed if a running back is the pick at 26th overall next Thursday night.

2. Is it just me or has Steve Pearce been buried too quickly? Make no mistake, the great story of the 2014 season is off to an awful start with a .507 on-base plus slugging percentage in 52 plate appearances, but I’m surprised to see manager Buck Showalter only give him one start in the last five games. It made sense to keep the red-hot Jimmy Paredes in the lineup, but I’m not sure why Alejandro De Aza (prior to Thursday night) and Chris Davis were automatically penciled into the lineup over that time. I said throughout the winter that asking Pearce to duplicate his .930 OPS from last season would be too much, but it’s not a good look for the organization to have him on the bench this early after he was often mentioned as a reason why money wasn’t spent to retain Nick Markakis or Nelson Cruz.

3. Is it just me or did Jimmy Smith’s injury history play a large part in the Ravens re-signing the cornerback now? It’s fair to acknowledge the risk in investing $21 million guaranteed in a player who’s missed 17 games over his first four seasons, but that played into general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens retaining Smith at a reasonable cost. A simple look at the $25.5 million guaranteed that the Philadelphia Eagles gave free agent Byron Maxwell — the former Seattle cornerback with all of 17 career starts — last month made it obvious Smith could have commanded much more on the open market next offseason. But it made sense for both sides to gain some long-term security as the Ravens couldn’t afford to let their top cornerback walk and Smith couldn’t risk a slow start coming back from a foot injury to hinder his market value. The Ravens will now keep their fingers crossed that this deal works out better than the 2012 extension they gave to Lardarius Webb.

4. Is it just me or are the Orioles’ issues at the corner outfield spots making you pay attention to Nolan Reimold in the minors? I don’t expect the 31-year-old to be the answer, but watching De Aza, Travis Snider, and David Lough make such cringe-worthy fundamental mistakes over the last week has me concerned about the corner outfield positions. Reimold has followed up his excellent spring with an unspectacular start at Triple-A Norfolk (.250/.333/.393), but he’s drawn seven walks and hit his second homer of the season on Thursday. Those numbers aren’t exactly beating down the door for a promotion, but the aforementioned names aren’t undisputed everyday players, either. It’s wishful thinking, but Reimold’s plate discipline and speed could eventually warrant a shot in the leadoff spot, which has produced more strikeouts and fewer walks than any other slot in the order for the Orioles.

5. Is it just me or did John Harbaugh provide some much-needed common sense and historical context in his essay about football? Kudos to the Ravens head coach for this impassioned piece about a game that’s increasingly under attack in the 21st century. Harbaugh struck a fine balance in acknowledging real concerns about the game that must be addressed while reminding us of the redeeming qualities of football that we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss or eliminate. Perhaps it’s the fact that I played nine years of football growing up and still maintain friendships with former teammates going all the way back to elementary school, but research, historical context, and thoughtfulness are more constructive than the fear-mongering we too often see about so many issues facing society. As Harbaugh wrote, the game needs to improve, but let’s not ignore the values it has taught many of us along the way.

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suggs

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NFL to release 2015 schedule on Tuesday night

Posted on 20 April 2015 by Luke Jones

The wait is just about over.

The NFL announced it will release the 2015 regular-season schedule on 8 p.m. Tuesday night, which gives teams and their fans better framework to prepare for another season. Coming off their sixth trip to the postseason in seven seasons under head coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens are once again anticipating being scheduled for a few marquee prime-time matchups.

Baltimore’s preseason schedule was announced earlier this month, but the Ravens will learn when they will play each of their opponents that were determined at the end of the 2014 season. In addition to their normal games against the rest of the AFC North, the Ravens will face the AFC West and the NFC West in addition to Jacksonville and Miami, who both finished third in their respective divisions like the Ravens.

Facing so many teams on the West Coast has sparked a unique scheduling request by the Ravens as they have asked the NFL to slot road games against San Francisco and Oakland in consecutive weeks. This would allow the team to remain in the Bay Area in the week between games and cut down on the toll of an additional cross-country trip.

Below are the Ravens’ opponents for the 2015 season:

HOME GAMES: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, San Diego, Seattle, St. Louis, Jacksonville

AWAY GAMES: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Denver, Oakland, San Francisco, Arizona, Miami

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Separating wants from needs as Ravens approach NFL draft

Posted on 16 April 2015 by Luke Jones

In football and in life, wants and needs are relative terms often used interchangeably when they shouldn’t be.

As we’re finally two weeks away from the NFL draft, the line between those wants and needs has been blurred by the saturation of too many mock drafts as well as the attempt to decipher the truths, half-truths, and outright lies told by executives around the league.

We all know the Ravens will take the “best player available” and will “stay true to the board” over the three-day event, but it’s difficult to recall a time in recent years when they’ve had this many apparent needs going into the draft. With all significant free-agent activity over, below is a look at which positions remain real needs and which ones are merely wants.

Wide receiver — NEED
Skinny: I’d be more inclined to buy into the hype about Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown, and Michael Campanaro if this weren’t the same organization that thought it could find a starting receiver among Jacoby Jones, Deonte Thompson, and Tandon Doss two years ago. The trio of young receivers do show promise, but a team with Super Bowl aspirations can’t count on two former undrafted free agents and a 2014 seventh-round selection to be enough opposite veteran Steve Smith. The Ravens have done too good a job trying to convince everyone that they don’t need a receiver for them not to take one early, whether it’s a Jaelen Strong or Breshad Perriman in the first round or coming away with a wideout like Devin Smith or Devin Funchess in the second round.

Pass rusher — WANT
Skinny: Make no mistake, this one likely tops their list of wants, but the Ravens aren’t doomed if they don’t find a replacement for Pernell McPhee, who was a unique talent but not always consistent in his four years in Baltimore. Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are still a formidable duo while Timmy Jernigan looks like a perfect candidate to help pick up the slack with some of the inside pressure that McPhee was so good at applying. The Ravens hope defensive end Brent Urban can also be part of that pass-rush equation, but he will need to prove he’s healthy. Perhaps outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw finally seizes the opportunity to rush the quarterback more often, but he’s never shown a consistent ability to do it at the NFL level.

Tight end — NEED
Skinny: Even if Dennis Pitta returns to football or Crockett Gillmore is ready to become a starter, another tight end is needed if the offense is serious about continuing to use the same system installed by former coordinator Gary Kubiak last season. The problem will be trying to find one as Minnesota’s Maxx Williams or Miami’s Clive Walford would be a reach at 26th overall, but both could be gone by the time the Ravens’ second-round pick rolls around. There are a few other decent mid-round options such as Ohio State’s Jeff Heuerman, Florida State’s Nick O’Leary, or even Penn State’s Jesse James, but none of the aforementioned prospects scream immediate starter, which will put substantial pressure on Gillmore going into the 2015 season if the Ravens don’t add another veteran.

Running back — WANT
Skinny: There’s been plenty of conjecture about the Ravens selecting Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon or Georgia’s Todd Gurley in the first round, but you’ll have a tough time convincing me there’s enough value there unless either rapidly becomes one of the top four or five backs in the NFL. The release of Bernard Pierce shouldn’t faze anyone considering he was a major disappointment over the last two years anyway. The combination of Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro is enough with such a formidable offensive line in front of them. With an eye toward the future, the Ravens will still have a good chance to grab a solid back in the middle rounds such as Northern Iowa’s David Johnson, Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford, or Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon, but it’s not the pressing need some have made it out to be.

Cornerback — NEED
Skinny: There’s validity to general manager Ozzie Newsome’s assessment that the position will be in better shape with the return of Jimmy Smith, but let’s not pretend the pass defense was playing that well before his injury last year. Rashaan Melvin showed promise as a solid depth corner, but neither he nor Asa Jackson — who will be coming off a knee injury and wasn’t very good when he played in 2014 anyway — should be penciled in as a No. 3-caliber corner. With Smith having a history of injuries and Lardarius Webb turning 30 this season, the Ravens are again begging for trouble if they put too much confidence in their current cast of corners. If it’s not a first-round talent such as Kevin Johnson or Marcus Peters, a second-round corner such as Quinten Rollins or Ronald Darby would be quite desirable.

Interior offensive lineman — WANT
Skinny: Center Jeremy Zuttah had offseason hip surgery and guards Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele are scheduled to become free agents next winter, making it a slam dunk that the Ravens would like to add another interior lineman to go with 2014 fifth-round choice John Urschel. It isn’t a necessity for 2015, but Newsome could find himself in a tough spot a year from now if the Ravens don’t pick up a lineman in the middle-to-late rounds this year.

Defensive tackle — WANT
Skinny: Even if Timmy Jernigan is ready to step into the gigantic shoes left behind by Haloti Ngata, the Ravens lack an obvious backup to swing between the 3-technique and Brandon Williams’ nose tackle spot, which could be an issue if they don’t add a bulky defensive lineman. A mid-to-late-round talent with upside such as Ellis McCarthy of UCLA would make a lot of sense to give the defensive line a boost in short-yardage situations.

Safety — WANT
Skinny: Not that the combination of Will Hill and the newly-signed Kendrick Lewis will make anyone forget about Ed Reed, but there just aren’t any safeties in this draft beyond Landon Collins of Alabama who represent a clear upgrade over what the Ravens already have. The return of 2014 third-round pick Terrence Brooks from the knee injury he suffered late last year will be an improvement over anything else they would likely come away with in this draft.

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Is paralysis by analysis hurting Ravens at receiver?

Posted on 07 April 2015 by Luke Jones

A month after watching starting wide receiver Torrey Smith depart via free agency, the Ravens have expressed a strong sentiment this offseason.

They’re not panicking at the wide receiver position. Of course, a tight salary cap left them on the outside looking in with the top options available on the free-agent market, but the Ravens have given no clear indications that they’ve actively been trying to add a solid veteran to a mix that includes a soon-to-be 36-year-old Steve Smith and no other receiver who registered more than 24 catches last season.

Instead, the organization has talked up its current group of young receivers — Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown, and Michael Campanaro — while attempting to throw cold water on the notion that they’re desperate for a starter. Last week, owner Steve Bisciotti spent more time discussing the need for a pass rusher and another tight end rather than a wide receiver in a conference call with season-ticket holders.

Of course, it’s the season of smokescreens around the NFL, so anything said at Wednesday’s pre-draft press conference should be taken with a heavy grain of salt. But you can count on general manager Ozzie Newsome, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, head coach John Harbaugh, and director of college scouting Joe Hortiz offering the same synopsis of the wide receiver position that they typically do.

“The wide receiver draft class is deep,” Harbaugh said at the league meetings in Arizona last month. “I think there are options for the Ravens in rounds one through seven. It’s always hard. Every position is different. We’ve done studies on that as far as the success rate in different rounds at different positions.

“Receiver is a little bit of a crapshoot in the first round. It turns out, it’s a crapshoot in every round. A lot of receivers, they’ve been seventh-round picks, fifth-round picks, third-round pick receivers that have turned out to be Hall of Fame-type players. Then, you’ve got first-round picks that have never really done anything. Obviously, your chances are higher the higher you pick a guy. But it’s hard to predict.”

Harbaugh’s right on both accounts. This year’s draft class of wide receivers is one of the best in recent memory with many analysts projecting upwards of five or six being taken in the first round with plenty of quality depth available in subsequent rounds.

Drafting a wide receiver is a tricky proposition with the results all over the map around the league. The Ravens have certainly had a slew of misses with first-round disappointments Travis Taylor (2000) and Mark Clayton (2005) as well as a number of other failed picks before finally hitting on Torrey Smith in the second round of the 2011 draft.

But the expression of being able to take a receiver in any of the seven rounds will remind observers of the Ravens’ recent years in which they haven’t drafted a wideout outside the sixth or seventh round since 2011. It’s fair to wonder if some paralysis by analysis exists with the Ravens not taking even a moderate risk at the position in any of the last three drafts when wide receiver was at least a consensus area to improve.

The run began in 2012 with the sixth-round selection of Tommy Streeter, who never played a regular-season snap in Baltimore.

“Really the whole draft, there are guys in each round that can help us,” Hortiz said prior to the 2013 draft when the Ravens needed a receiver after trading Anquan Boldin. “There is a really solid core group of guys in the middle rounds that I think will go in the second or third round that will be solid, dependable starters in the NFL.”

The Ravens came away with only Aaron Mellette in the seventh round that year and struggled in the passing game on their way to missing the playoffs for the only time in the Harbaugh era. Mellette never played a snap for the Ravens, but the organization deserves credit for signing Brown as an undrafted free agent that year and he’s exceeded expectations in his first two seasons.

Last year when Torrey Smith was entering the final season of his rookie contract and newcomer Steve Smith was entering his 14th NFL season, Newsome repeated a familiar assessment about another class of wide receivers held in high regard.

“I would say that’s a position where you could probably draft a player in any of the seven rounds, and I think our board stacks that way,” Newsome said. “If there is an opportunity for us to add another receiver, we will definitely do it based on the way our board is stacked right now.”

The Ravens did take Campanaro in the seventh round, and the 5-foot-9 Wake Forset product shows some promise to be a contributor if he can remain healthy. But he was unable to do that last year as he dealt with two different hamstring injuries and a rib injury. As Harbaugh has suggested, Campanaro can’t be counted on until he proves he can stay on the field.

The lack of movement to add a veteran through free agency or trade over the last month only raises the need to add a wide receiver in the draft. And even though the consensus top three receivers in the draft — West Virginia’s Kevin White, Alabama’s Amari Cooper, and Louisville’s DeVante Parker — are expected to be gone by the time the Ravens pick 26th in the first round, a number of intriguing options should be available over the first two days.

Yes, it’s the one position in the draft in which the otherwise-shrewd Newsome has struggled, but the Ravens can’t focus so much on risk aversion that they’re caught standing on the sideline while receivers come off the board in the first few rounds.

A repeat of two years ago cannot happen if the Ravens want to be back in championship contention for 2015.

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Ravens set dates for offseason workouts, organized team activities

Posted on 02 April 2015 by Luke Jones

Months away from their 20th season in Baltimore, the Ravens will officially return to work later this month to begin preparations for the 2015 season.

Head coach John Harbaugh and his staff, which includes new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman and several other newcomers and changes, will begin the first phase of the workout program on April 20. This portion is limited to two weeks of conditioning and strength training as well as physical rehabilitation. Many notable players and young players alike have been present on the first day in past offseasons.

The second phase of the offseason schedule spans the next three weeks of the program. On-field workouts that include individual player instruction and drills as well as team practices conducted on a “separate” basis are permitted, but no live contact or team offense against team defense drills are allowed.

The final phase of the offseason program consists of the next four weeks. During this period, teams may conduct a total of 10 days of organized team practice activity, or OTAs. No live contact is permitted, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are allowed.

Nearly all workouts are considered “voluntary” by definition, but it’s privately expected that players attend regularly. In recent years, Harbaugh has praised his players for their attendance for offseason workouts.

The league’s collective bargaining agreement permits one mandatory minicamp for veteran players, which may occur during the third phase of the offseason. New head coaches are allowed to hold an additional voluntary minicamp for veterans.

Each club may also conduct a rookie football development program for a period of seven weeks, which may begin on May 11. During this period, no activities may be held on weekends except one post-draft rookie minicamp, which may be conducted on either the first or second weekend after the draft.

The date of the post-draft rookie minicamp will be released at a later time.

Below is the Ravens’ 2015 offseason training program schedule that was released Thursday by the NFL:

First Day: April 20
OTA Offseason Workouts: May 26-28, June 1-3, June 8-11
Mandatory Minicamp: June 16-18

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Rice continues waiting for second chance that may never come

Posted on 27 March 2015 by Luke Jones

It was exactly four months ago Saturday that former U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones overturned Ray Rice’s indefinite suspension levied by the NFL on the same day the sickening video that changed everything was released.

And that video is the biggest reason why the former Ravens running back reportedly hasn’t received as much as a visit or even a tryout with another team despite the many who have offered their endorsements for him around the league. Various Ravens officials and players have expressed hopes of Rice receiving another chance while former Baltimore assistants such as Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano and Detroit head coach Jim Caldwell — men who know Rice better than most and who both had a need at running back this offseason — have echoed that sentiment.

Nearly everyone in the NFL who knows Rice wants him to receive another chance, but no one wants to be the one to provide it.

Should Ray Rice receive another chance in the NFL?

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The 2008 second-round pick remains unsigned while the likes of Trent Richardson — along with his train wreck of a career as a former No. 3 overall pick in 2012 — and Darren McFadden — and his 3.3 yards per carry average over the last three seasons — have found new homes in free agency. Make no mistake, Rice’s 3.1 yards per carry average in 2013 is a real factor contributing to his frigid market, but even several running backs you’d describe as “has-beens” or “never-weres” have received work on the open market as the calendar turns to April this coming week.

Yes, the video is what distinguishes Rice from Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald, who both landed elsewhere despite their own dark clouds of domestic violence hanging over their heads. Opinions vary on whether any of the aforementioned men deserve second chances in the NFL, but it’s clear a different standard has been attached to the 28-year-old running back.

The Ravens were willing to stick by Rice until the public relations nightmare of a second video surfaced on Sept. 8, and it’s that visual of the heinous act that makes him unemployable while others who’ve committed — or who have been accused of committing — similar acts have received more of a pass. Fair or not, it appears to be reality for Rice, who continues to wait for his second chance.

Will Ray Rice receive another chance in the NFL?

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If no team signs Rice soon, his chances wouldn’t appear to improve with the upcoming draft that includes a deep group of quality running backs who are several years younger and possess more upside.

Four months after an arbitrator ruled in Rice’s favor and forced his reinstatement, the question is no longer whether he should receive another chance. Everyone has his or her own opinion on that matter that’s unlikely to change at this point.

But when those who know Rice best won’t even give the three-time Pro Bowl selection a second chance, you must seriously wonder if it will ever happen.

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NFL passes proposal banning New England’s ineligible receiver tactic

Posted on 25 March 2015 by Luke Jones

The “circus act” used by the New England Patriots in their divisional playoff win against the Ravens will be illegal moving forward.

On the final day of the league meetings in Phoenix, NFL owners passed a proposal forbidding players with eligible numbers to line up as ineligible outside the tackle box. Though the proposal was officially submitted by the league’s competition committee last week, head coach John Harbaugh has made his feelings about the tactic clear, reiterating his original protest that prompted an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the third quarter of the 35-31 loss on Jan. 10.

Patriots running back Shane Vereen reported as ineligible and split out three times — while covered up by an eligible receiver — during a touchdown drive in the third quarter. Under the new rules, Vereen would be required to line up as part of the offensive line if he were to report as ineligible.

“We have jersey numbers for a reason. Let’s use it, like they do in college,” Harbaugh said Tuesday in Phoenix. “That was John Madden’s proposal and I like that proposal. Certain jersey numbers are eligible numbers and certain jersey numbers are ineligible numbers. If you’re eligible, you put on an eligible number. If you’re ineligible, you put on an ineligible number. They do it in college and they did it in the NFL up until, I don’t know, I’m going to guess the 60’s. That’s why they created ineligible and eligible jersey numbers so you can look at them and say, ‘He’s eligible and he’s not.’

“Now, we through kind of a circus act where we have to identify who is ineligible and who is not with signals. That’s what got the referees in trouble in the playoffs.”

Harbaugh has said his point of contention was with the tardiness in which referee Bill Vinovich announced which player was ineligible, but many have simply taken the Baltimore coach’s objections as sour grapes after his defense was unprepared to handle Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s unconventional — but legal — tactic. With the rule change passing, it’s clear that the Ravens had plenty of support as even Pittsburgh Steelers president and co-owner Art Rooney II agreed over the weekend that his AFC North rival had a legitimate gripe.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady suggested after the game that the Ravens should “study the rulebook” when asked about Harbaugh’s objections.

The rule change now means such a tactic would result in a five-yard penalty as an illegal substitution.

 

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