Tag Archive | "john"

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Hey John: You can’t be 4-4 and seriously talk playoffs

Posted on 09 November 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Just judging from the sheer volume of social media I consumed all day yesterday, the fan base here is in “quit on the 2009 season” mode. The lofty expectations following a rookie campaign for John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco that ended in the AFC Championship Game led all of us in the Charm City to feel as though this year would somehow be better.

Well, we’re halfway through the race and things haven’t gone according to the best laid plan.

The Ravens have lost four of their last five, including yesterday’s turd in Cincinnati. The team, overall, just hasn’t been as good as advertised in many ways. The Bengals have now embarrassed the Ravens twice in four weeks en route to sole possession of the AFC North lead and have earned the right to crow.

While yesterday’s loss certainly felt like more of a beatdown than the final score — and we’ll get to Steve Hauschka’s missed kick in a minute — the NFL only counts one thing en route to a playoff berth in the tournament: wins. And right now, at 4-4, this isn’t going to get it done.

I could make excuses for all of the other three losses — and losing in the waning seconds on the road to New England and Minnesota doesn’t make you a bad team. But the pair of losses to the Bengals has been illuminating, especially when you consider Marvin Lewis’ recipe for building a team with a 6-2 start.

The Bengals have just about everything you’d want — a world-class quarterback with a world-class wide receiver and a running back who runs like Jamal Lewis with a line that’s got a nasty streak. On defense, they’ve built through a young linebacking corps (sound familiar?) and a pair of first-round cornerbacks who allow the safeties and linebackers to play hardball with the pass rush. Oh, yeah — they also arguably have the best kicker in the sport.

The Ravens, as was in full display yesterday, are sorely lacking in various departments but especially the ability to get off the field consistently on 3rd down on defense. It’s been a defensive franchise for the better part of 11 seasons. All good things must end and the 2009 defense is not up to “Play Like a Raven” standards.

Is that Greg Mattsion’s fault? Is that because of the clear falloff at the cornerback position? Is it not having Rex Ryan? Is Bart Scott missed that much? Is Ed Reed OK? Will Haloti Ngata be injured all year?

The entire secondary was beaten in coverage during the first half and the penalties were dreadful. All over the field. Ray Lewis is still the Ravens best player when Ngata is not dressed and that speaks volumes.

The first three losses were “excused” in my opinion. Yesterday, however, did a lot to expose the Ravens as a team that’s pretty good but not a serious playoff contender, especially not with that secondary and lack of pass rush.

Sure, Haloti Ngata’s absence needs to be factored into the equation in the Bengals debacle, but the Ravens have sufficient depth at that position and I’m not sure Ngata would’ve been a difference maker in the outcome yesterday in Cincinnati.

As for the offense, Joe Flacco just was not good enough yesterday, nor was the offensive line, which played its worst game of the season. Penalties? All over the place and ill-timed. Productivity? How about making their first third-down conversion in the fourth quarter? That’s just putrid, unacceptable and not worthy of the NFL playoffs.

They didn’t run well. They didn’t pass well. They were out of sync all day and Flacco looked bewildered during his short stints in the first half. Flacco has now dropped five straight to teams led by Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer.

Derrick Mason and Ray Lewis declined to comment after the game yesterday but I’m sure they’ll have something to say on Wednesday at The Castle.

Harbaugh did his usual tap dance around any tough questions from the media — (memo to John: denying that the team doesn’t tackle well is laughable at this point) — but it’s easy to do what you want when you’re in the AFC Championship Game and things are going better than advertised.

But when the team is a disappointing 4-4 at the turn and the one decision that’s truly pinned to Harbaugh’s special teams badge of expertise — the banishment of kicker Matt Stover in the offseason — costing the team team parts of two of the losses, the questions are only going to get tougher around the head coach and around Steve Hauschka.

This team was supposed to go to the playoffs. This team was supposed to be a Super Bowl contender. The “upgrades” of the offseason were well-calculated and the draft went well. The Ravens and the fanbase were not prepared to be swept by the Bengals and be 4-4 at the turn.

All eyes will now turn to Cleveland, where the Ravens most certainly will awaken eight days from now at 5-4. Right? We can only hope…

The Ravens have amassed four losses and haven’t yet seen the Steelers, the Colts or a frigid December night at Lambeau Field and a West Coast trip to the zoo in Oakland in early 2010. There’s a lot of football left to be played.

The Ravens will sort this out on the field. They need to go 6-2 to have a chance. They need to go 7-1 to be assured of a spot.

If they do it, they’ll be good enough. If they lose two more times to the Steelers, they’ll be playing golf on Jan. 4th and deservedly so.

And if that happens, John Harbaugh’s gonna have a lotta ‘esplainin’ to do at that postseason press conference while he sits next to Steve Bisciotti and the Steelers and Bengals are still playing football…

Things like:

What really happened in the decision to replace Matt Stover with Steve Hauschka?

What really happened with Chris McAlister and how did we get sold that Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr are upgrades?

Why all the penalties?

Where is the pass rush?

Where is Willis McGahee?

Where is the urgency on offense when the team is down two scores with three minutes left?

Of course, Harbaugh doesn’t really like the tough questions but they’re coming. It’s a tough job. It’s been a lot of fun, this honeymoon of riches and a great start to his era in Baltimore. Getting to the AFC Championship Game as a rookie head coach indeed buys you a hall pass for a while.

I have a feeling a lot of that ended yesterday, with a sweep to the Bengals and a 4-4 record at the turn.

But, as Brian Billick would no doubt tell him, these Monday mornings aren’t a whole lot of fun when the town gets disappointed and the team plays poorly.

And someone has to answer the questions…

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Another prime example of what Al Davis & Peter Angelos have in common

Posted on 26 September 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Banning free speech and free access to information by legitimate journalists is now apparently catching on in the NFL, as Al Davis has banned former-QB and current CBS broadcaster Rich Gannon from the Oakland Raiders facility in advance of Sunday’s game against the Broncos.

“Rich Gannon is not welcome here,” Raiders executive John Herrera said Friday when asked about the ban. “We told CBS we did not want him in our building, we did not want him to be part of our production meeting, and that’s where it sits.”

“He’s attacked us on a regular basis since becoming a member of the media,” Raiders King of Propaganda (also known as public relations executive) John Herrera said. “After affording him the opportunity to establish a career here, he has since gone on to attack us in a way that’s totally unacceptable.”

This has become a way of life in Oakland, as it is here in Baltimore with Peter Angelos in regard to me and WNST, who continually report the truth only to be scorned and castigated in an effort to undermine the credibility of our journalistic conviction. (Hey, WNST is a Top 100K Alexa company and the Orioles are 60-93 — not a low blow, just a fact!)

At least someone in the media in the Bay Area has some level of conviction and integrity to ask the team to explain the “corporate rationale.” But as you’ll see below, the goofy un-American, Marxist answers that you get from delusional, uber-wealthy 80-year old men are right up there with the nonsensical speeches of Iran and Libya’s leadership at the United Nations over the past few days.

And with Gannon, he’s a guy who wore the silver helmet and led the team to a Super Bowl seven seasons ago and was the NFL’s MVP in 2002. I just a kid from Dundalk with a microphone and a 25-year record of journalistic integrity.

Gannon’s crime? He had the audacity to say the Raiders should “blow up the building and start over again.”

“We think in a post 9/11 world, that’s not a very proper thing to say,” Herrera said. “It’s uncalled for. He seems to be a guy who can’t get over the fact that he played the worst Super Bowl game in the history of the game and he wants to blame everybody but himself.

“I guess it’s our fault he threw five interceptions.”

(I think this was known as the “sticks and stones” reasoning when I was 8 years old on the Colgate Elementary playground in Dundalk.)

CBS is outraged, the NFL is embarrassed (as they should be) and Rich Gannon is apparently amused, because he’ll be calling the Denver game at 4:05 p.m. in Oakland on Sunday no matter what Al Davis thinks.

This is a way of life in Oakland, as we’ve reported several times before.

So, you want to be a sportswriter, huh?

Here’s a classic video of the aforementioned Herrera attempting to humiliate and intimidate a Bay Area reporter last year over the Lane Kiffin storm, which all turned out to be true:

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‘Twas The Night before the Ravens opener…

Posted on 12 September 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

It kinda reminds me of Christmas Eve with anticipation. We’ve been waiting…and waiting…and waiting…and finally, football season is really here in Baltimore.

Wash away those ghosts of Troy Polamalu – the ones from the AFC Championship Game in January not the one from Thursday night – and let us begin a season anew.

First up, it’s the woeful Kansas City Chiefs. The general vibe around town all week has been one of supreme confidence. Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed began their Wednesday press conference with dancing. John Harbaugh has sounded confident. Joe Flacco seems like a veteran all of a sudden.

I’ve quizzed several Kansas City media members and I had a chance to watch parts of two of their preseason games (both without Matt Cassel). No one is brimming with confidence in the land of the red Chiefs and no one really expects them to win tomorrow.

The Vegas line started at 10 ½ and has now moved to 13 points. Even if Matt Cassel plays on Sunday – and that seems to be a sure bet given their backup options with Tyler Thigpen and Brodie Croyle – the Chiefs are a team of nobodys and “who is thats” coming in to serve the purple patrons an Opening Day patsy.

The Ravens should win on Sunday. There should be no excuses.

The team has looked brilliant in virtually every facet of first-team play through four preseason games. They’ve almost made it look too easy, even without Terrell Suggs for long stretches.

Confidence is high. Tailgates are sizzling with Roma Sausage and cold beer. Even the weather looks to be strong – forecast is 78 degrees and zero chance of precipitation.

So, just how will the 2009 season go for the Ravens?

The fans are abuzz with talk of depth at the wide receiver position. The offensive line is trying to find some depth to open up holes for a running back-by-committee arrangement with Willis McGahee, Le’Ron McClain and Ray Rice, who will probably be the leading rusher if they all stay healthy. And the health and productivity of Todd Heap is certainly a question mark.

But, offensively, it feels like Flacco will be asked to do more and looks more than capable of stepping up to that challenge.

Defensively, the eyes will always be on Ray Lewis, who is fighting Father Time with every season. Consider that he’s now survived two years longer than Jon Ogden and the likes of Peter Boulware, Jamie Sharper, Chris McAlister, Duane Starks – who all entered the league after No. 52 – all seems to be done in the NFL. Lewis was considered a surefire Hall of Famer five years ago is now continuing to pile on his own legacy.

What kind of a year will it be for Lewis?

And Ed Reed, who has had neck issues and certainly doesn’t appear set for a long, long career given his style of play and reckless abandon and penchant for physical contact?

Terrell Suggs appeared injured during most of camp but quieted all questions for me in the Atlanta game, when he looked dominant and healthy.

The secondary will have a fresh look with Dominique Foxworth and Fabian Washington mixing it up with Frank Walker, who has to earn a little more confidence from the purple crowd and probably will vs. Kansas City.

The defensive line appears to be the strength of the defense, led by Haloti Ngata who had a mysterious injury appear earlier this week.

Questions and more questions. We’ll have 16 weeks of this marathon.

The answers begin at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Bring on the season. Bring on the Chiefs. Bring on the roadtrips!

My prediction: Ravens go 12-4 and win the Super Bowl.

Baltimore 31, Kansas City 13

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Not Auto-Matt-ic: Paging Stover...Matt Stover!

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Not Auto-Matt-ic: Paging Stover…Matt Stover!

Posted on 31 August 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Just in case you’re wondering, the Ravens have NOT contacted Matt Stover about their kicking needs for the game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sept. 13. Not yet, anyway.

But, of course, there are more than just a few people around the Charm City who think that might not be a bad idea.

And the team is led by head coach John Harbaugh, who spent his entire existence in the world of special teams and kickers and punters. This has to perturb Harbaugh more than most coaches.

The kicking game and life in the NFL is a strange one. Here is this macho game played by the biggest, fastest and toughest guys in our culture and along comes a little kicker with it all on the line to win the game on his foot and the 40 yards between the line of scrimmage and goal posts.

It’s not a cruel joke or coincidence as much as it’s weekly reality in the NFL.


After he made the game-winning kick in Tennessee last January, the Ravens jettisoned Matt Stover for three reasons, really:

1. He wasn’t their best bet on kickoffs, which forced them to carry an extra man on the roster
2. He cost them a lot of money (more than $1 million per year) as opposed to a rookie who’d earn 40% of that
3. He wasn’t getting any younger and his distances seemed to get shorter each year, even if he was considered “automatic” inside of 45 yards

Now, with just this lame preseason finale in Atlanta awaiting on Thursday, the Ravens appear to have two young kickers but no one that they can truly trust with big games on the line.

Both Graham Gano and Steve Hauschka have managed to both do something that Stover never did in 14 years in a purple helmet: they’ve manged to make us actually think about the kicking game.

Stover was so automatic, so universally forgotten about that his presence was a bit of a security blanket. Like Ray Lewis has been at middle linebacker. Like Jon Ogden was for many years at the left tackle spot.

Think about all of the kicks Stover made over the years. How many of them do you really remember?

Sure he missed a few biggies – one in the AFC Championship Game in Oakland back in 2001 as I recall. His most memorable miss is almost certainly the 0-13 Miami 2007 “gimme” that contributed to Brian Billick’s ouster as head coach.

But he just came in, made the kick, praised Jesus and ran back to the bench.

Well, over the last three preseason games, not only have we witnessed the competition drama of these two nice young men trying to fill the shoes of a “once a generation” kicker, but we’ve had the “hold our breath” drama over whether the three points is actually going up on the scoreboard on something most Ravens fans have viewed as “Auto-Matt-ic”.

Neither one of them is stepping up even remotely to the level of confidence we had with Matt Stover.

So, will the Ravens call Matt Stover?

Probably not. (For all of the same reasons they had eight months ago.)

Will the Ravens regret not calling Matt Stover?

Only time will tell.

But Stover is available, in shape and waiting by the phone. (For the record, I hear he’s enjoying his first August off in 24 years…)

And if I know that much, you can bet that Ozzie Newsome can’t be too far away.

You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone…

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Harbaugh refutes ESPN report regarding Ozzie’s interest in Vick

Posted on 13 August 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

On a bizarre night for breaking news in Baltimore — with Michael Phelps getting into an accident at Calvert & Biddle and Michael Vick abruptly signing in Philly — the wildest story came an hour after the Eagles fans went into deep shock and disgust when ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that the Ravens were very much in the hunt for Vick’s services.

ESPN reported that Ozzie Newsome wanted Vick and had a lack of agreement with owner Steve Bisciotti and head coach John Harbaugh.

It didn’t take me five minutes after the game to find one “off the record” official who called it “bulls**t” and John Harbaugh then told me he was happy to go on the record as saying “that’s completely false, completely untrue.”

Who knows what those conversations sounded like in Westminster last week but both of my sources were very perplexed and almost angry about the report.

Either way, we can collectively breath a sigh of relief that Vick isn’t heading here.

For the folks in Philadelphia the second guessing and the drama has only begun.

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Live from Brawl-minster: Ravens get chippy in heat, Harbs cancels p.m. practice

Posted on 08 August 2009 by Luke Jones

1:47 p.m. — As fans continue to wonder about the status of Terrell Suggs and Samari Rolle, Harbaugh is not providing much clarity on either player.

“No, nothing really new on that.  They’re both just rehabbing, and that’s where we’re at.”

Suggs injured his heel on Sunday, and Rolle is the only player remaining on the physically unable to perform list.

1:41 p.m. — Harbaugh did not seem upset nor surprised with the morning practice skirmish.  He simply reiterated his preference for the battles in between the whistles.

“We’ve had a lot of scuffles before the whistle gets blown, I can tell you that,” Harbaugh said.  “Those are the scuffles we’re most interested in.  The other ones are irrelevant.  We don’t mind them.  We don’t want them.  We don’t not want them.  We don’t care about them.  The ones before the whistle gets blown—those are the ones that matter.  Our guys have had plenty of those.”

Here are Harbaugh’s comments on the Michael Oher calf situation:

“It doesn’t look serious.  He pinched it, as Bill [Tessendorf] put [the injury report] in there.  It may be a little bit of a calf sprain.  It will be a rehab issue for a little while.”

12:32 p.m. — A few reminders if you’re planning on heading out to Westminster in the next few days.

This afternoon’s practice has been cancelled.  The next practice will take place tomorrow afternoon at 2:45 p.m.  It is open to the public.

Monday morning’s practice is CLOSED to the general public.  The team will have an open practice at 2:45 p.m.

Monday morning’s practice will be open to the media, so WNST.net will have all of the Ravens updates you want and need.

12:30 p.m. — Brendon Ayanbadejo was working out on the other field during practice.  He’s still recovering from a sprained toe.

Suggs walked out to the field for the final moments of practice, wearing sneakers and still limping slightly.

12:27 p.m. — We saw our daily long touchdown to Justin Harper this morning, as Troy Smith threw a deep one to the second-year receiver.  Harper beat Evan Oglesby on the play.

While Harbaugh is pleased with Harper’s ability to stretch the field, he still wants more consistency out of the 6-3 receiver.  He wants Harper to make the tough catches in traffic, an area in which he’s struggled.

12:24 p.m. — Ray Rice continues to show great moves in the open field.  This morning, Rice caught a pass in the flat and put a tremendous move on Jason Phillips, leaving the rookie in the dust.  Rice continues to get the majority of the first-team reps at running back, but McGahee is still right behind him.

McGahee was seen with an ice pack on his left knee yesterday morning, but he was back out there today with no apparent problems.

12:21 p.m. — Tight end L.J. Smith appears to be finding his way in the Ravens’ offense.  He caught several passes today and seems to be regaining his speed after tweaking a hamstring at the beginning of training camp.

If healthy, Heap and Smith have the potential to be a pretty formidable duo at tight end, a major help to Flacco with the uncertainty at the wide receiver position.

12:16 p.m. — As previously reported, it was an ugly day offensively.  Dropped passes and interceptions were the story of the morning before the big fight.  In addition to Walker, Chris Carr also picked off Flacco.

Despite the rough morning, Flacco did have some nice throws including a nice 17-yard out pattern to Marcus Smith (who was playing Mason’s position with the starting offense) and a long, beautiful touchdown to Smith later in practice.  Considering Smith has had a quiet starting to training camp, it was good for him to make some plays this morning.

12:14 p.m. — Cornerback Frank Walker had another good day, breaking up several passes and picking off Joe Flacco during 11-on-11 drills.  Walker is the most physical corner on the roster and has the ability to play bump-and-run coverage, unlike most of the Ravens’ cover corners.

12:09 p.m. — It was an “over 30” day off for Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Derrick Mason, Kelly Gregg, Trevor Pryce, and Matt Birk.

Harbaugh gave a few injury updates after practice.  Oniel Cousins sustained a sprained left ankle, but the head coach said he should return soon.  Terrell Suggs (heel) and Samari Rolle (shoulder/neck) continue to rehab their respective injuries, but Harbaugh did not update when the two will return.

Oher suffered a right calf strain or “pinch” as Harbaugh described it.  The coach did not seem concerned about the injury, but Oher did not return to practice.

12:03 p.m. — It was a difficult day for Gano, but his morning ended in triumph.  After missing kicks from 35, 48, and 53 yards, Gano had a 36-yard attempt with the afternoon off riding on it.  The rookie kicker hit it, and Harbaugh cancelled the afternoon practice to reward his team for all of its hard work.

Gano’s leg was tired today, according to Harbaugh.  He came up short from 53 yards, a distance he had easily been making throughout training camp.

Gano did make field goals from 43, 47, and 51 in addition to his 36-yarder at the end of practice.

10:49 a.m. — John Harbaugh cancelled the afternoon practice today in his post-practice comments. More to come…

10:38 a.m. — Well, we had our first skirmish/melee of training camp in the heat this morning as the offense and defense knocked heads in a team-wide shove-around (apparently started by Paul Kruger and Joe Reitz) with various players involved, including Chris Chester, Jameel McClain & Jared Gaither. It’s hard to say what caused it, but the defense was shoving the offense around pretty good for the second day in a row.

Other morning notes: Michael Oher had a right calf cramp and left practice early. In general, the offense was sloppy and unproductive through much of the morning practice, in front of the usual large weekend crowd here in Westminster. Lots of dropped passes and interceptions.

Perhaps the fight helped matters. After the mini-brawl, the offense looked more focused and was more productive.

Tavares Gooden got limited reps early but didn’t participate later in practice. Jared Gaither was back and took plenty of live reps.

Graham Gano struggled early in the practice (plenty were talking about Matt Stover) but he hit a 36-yarder to end the morning session.

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Derrick Mason’s return to Ravens was never in doubt at WNST

Posted on 01 August 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

In what has not been a surprise to us – if you go back to Monday July 13th’s blog vault you’ll see we can confirm this — Derrick Mason will in fact play for the Ravens this season, ending his temporary “retirement” from the Ravens and the NFL.

Three weeks ago, it took us about 45 minutes after Mason announced his “retirement” via his agent’s sports website, to begin predicting that Mason would play in 2009 but somehow it’s a major “news” story today. This was in no way a huge upset/surprise/shocker for anyone using common sense and their “sniffer” for facts.

The amount of money at stake, Mason’s lack of true leverage (he would’ve had to refund money to the Ravens if he didn’t play) and the fact that he attended virtually every camp in the offseason and is in world-class shape all were clues that we would be seeing Mason in a purple sweater on Sept. 13 when the Kansas City Chiefs come to town.

So, while others may take the credit for “breaking” the story today we’ve felt all along that it would be a major upset if Mason didn’t play in 2009.

Just this morning I told a friend that if it were a horse race I’d pay no more than 2-to-5 — or .40 cents — if he winds up playing. Even a bet that bad would’ve been a lousy one!

I’ve been told Mason has had some personal issues he’s had to resolve this summer, even above and beyond his situation with the tragedy of Steve McNair and his own contract-extension wishes.

In the end, this was a bit of a stare down — albeit with complications — about money and reward and desire.

No one sensible really ever expected that Mason wouldn’t play.

It’ll be good to have No. 85 back in the fold.

Here’s what baltimoreravens.com is reporting:

“Mason came to the team’s training camp hotel in Westminster, Md., to meet with general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh.

He also called Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti earlier today to inform him of his decision.

Mason is sending a letter to the NFL stating his intentions.

He will take a physical either later this afternoon or early tomorrow morning.

The Ravens anticipate that Mason will be on the field sometime Sunday, although like all Ravens, he will have to pass a running test.”

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Ravens sign Michael Oher to a five-year contract

Posted on 29 July 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

The waiting is over! Michael Oher will be in camp tomorrow and will meet with the media. In the end, he missed four workouts. He’ll be on the field Friday morning when the veterans all report for the first time.

These eleventh hour signings are all-too-common but are a bit of a necessary evil. There’s a lot of money at stake. It’s a real fistfight on the negotiating side and I never pick sides on these and the Ravens do their best to not get the media or anyone else involved.

Of course, agent Jimmy Sexton will be bandying the numbers at some point later tonight and we’ll report the signing bonus and salary. That’s just the way it works.

In the end, it always gets done. It will all around the league for the other 26 first-round “holdout” draft picks as well. Every hour over the next few days you’ll be hearing of more signings.

From Mike Duffy at the Ravens website:

“At approximately 9 p.m. tonight, Michael Oher and his agent, Jimmy Sexton, agreed to a five-year contract with the Ravens.

The Ravens are one of the first teams to have all of their draft picks signed this season.

Oher, who is currently in Memphis, plans to attend tomorrow afternoon’s administrative day, which includes weight lifting, meetings, and a session on the field. He is then expected to meet with the media late tomorrow afternoon.

The Ravens were optimistic that Oher would not hold out for long after missing four practices reserved for rookies, quarterbacks and selected veterans.

“We knew Michael wanted to be here,” stated head coach John Harbaugh. “He said that many times. Ozzie [Newsome] wanted him to be here, and his agent wanted him to be here too. The agent wanted to make sure he did the right thing by Michael, and we wanted that.

“A big congratulations to Pat (Moriarty, Ravens vice president of football operations) and Ozzie for working hard to get this done. I think we might be the first team to have all of our draft choices signed.”

Oher is slated to start at right tackle opposite left tackle Jared Gaither, forming the youngest group of offensive tackles in the NFL.”

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Death of Eagles Jim Johnson is hitting Harbaugh hard tonight

Posted on 28 July 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

I went to Westminster today and hung out for an hour. It’s always great to know that football season is here and the games, tailgates, travel and fun of the NFL campaign is upon us again. (Just to get geared up, I’ve been reading John Steadman’s book, “From Ravens To Colts.” God, I miss Steadman a lot!)

I even got to spend some quality time with Lenny Moore. Video is in the vault to the right…I’d embed it here but it’s not the appropriate place for it.

About 15 minutes ago my wife called me to tell me that Jim Johnson died. I just Tweeted it and I thought I’d throw a quick note together because I feel like I want to share my “link” to Jim Johnson.

And this is sure to get complicated.

But let me say that I actually pulled John Harbaugh up after practice today at 10:45 a.m. and specifically asked him about Jim Johnson. And Harbs said: “I’m not hearing anything good. I wish I could say I did.”

I didn’t know Jim Johnson. I never met him.

But, WOW, do I know a lot of people who do and people who really thought the world of him.

Let’s start with John Harbaugh. They worked together in Philadelphia for a decade before Harbaugh, the lowly special teams coach “passed” the 67-year old Johnson, who was once interviewed by the Arizona Cardinals for a job. Johnson’s claim to fame is being a blitz genius and a guy whose defense took the Eagles to multiple NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl in Jacksonville.

In addition, Jim Harbaugh was the quarterback of the mid-1990’s Ted Marchibroda Colts. Jim Johnson was the defensive coordinator there. Tony Siragusa played for Jim Johnson in Indianapolis as well.

Then there’s the Philadelphia Eagles and media folks in the city, guys like Brian Baldinger who just loved Jim Johnson and learned from him.

Last Friday, I went to breakfast with the Chief Marketing Officer of the Washington Capitals, a guy named Tim McDermott, who came on my show two weeks ago to promote the Sept. 21st Capitals Festival in D.C. to kickoff the season. An hour after I left him, his brother, Sean McDermott (who also worked with John Harbaugh with Andy Reid in Philadelphia), was named defensive coordinator of the Eagles.

These are all quality people who loved Jim Johnson immensely and respected his work and work ethic through an entire life as football coach and a teacher. If you don’t take anything else I say seriously, believe this: football coaches are my favorite people on the planet. I’ve met dozens and dozens of NFL coaches and some of them are my best friends “away from work.” I can’t say that I’ve met a handful that I haven’t liked and learned something from over the years.

I know I would’ve really liked Jim Johnson, too. I’m sorry I never got the chance.

He leaves behind a heckuva legacy and it’s a sad evening for many people in my life who knew Johnson and really loved him. His legacy is one of working with and being admired by many, many people.

Here’s a press release the Ravens just issued and a statement from Harbs:

JOHN HARBAUGH ON THE PASSING OF EAGLES’ DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR JIM JOHNSON

“I loved Jim Johnson. This is a sad day for so many people who were touched by this great man. Ingrid and I, the Harbaugh family, and the Ravens have Jim’s wife, Vicky, and the Johnson family in our thoughts and prayers. Jim was a tremendous teacher of football and life. He had a special ability to bring out the best in people while getting you to see the best in yourself. He saw potential and developed it. He made me believe I could coach at this level. In football, he was a pioneering and brilliant strategist, changing the way defense is played in the NFL. For me, he was a father-type mentor, and above all, a cherished friend. He belongs in the Hall of Fame. I will miss him so much.”

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State launches new marketing initiative

Posted on 08 May 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

In a long-overdue announcement, the State of Maryland held a press conference this morning to announce that they’re getting serious about luring major events to the region with the formation of a joint coalition between the Governor, the Stadium Authority and a marketing group formed specifically to generate sports-related tourism and revenue here.

I attended the press conference and will discuss it on “Limited Access” at 2 p.m. today. The basic premise was a website launch and an organized outreach that will lure events — both recreational and professional — to venues throughout the state.

A good idea, I think. We’ll see what the benefits are beyond the obvious: AC Milan and Chelsea at M&T Bank Stadium on July 24. (By the way, they’ve sold 52,000 seats so far for the event!)

Here’s the press release:

STATE EXPANDS SPORTS MARKETING, LAUNCHES MARYLAND ‘HERE TO PLAY’

Cal Ripken Jr., State officials unveil comprehensive sports marketing database

Baltimore, Maryland (May 8, 2009) – Maryland Department of Business & Economic Development Secretary Christian S. Johansson and Maryland Stadium Authority Chairman John Morton, III were joined by Cal Ripken, Jr. and more than 100 sports industry executives at Oriole Park at Camden Yards today to officially launch www.marylandsports.us. This electronic marketing platform features an online sports facility directory, special event calendar and cooperative marketing network designed to increase the number of sporting events and travelers in Maryland.

“Sports travel is a $182 billion industry nationally,” said Governor O’Malley. “With world class facilities and abundant natural resources, Maryland is moving forward to capitalize on our incredible assets to attract more high quality sports events and host the millions of athletes and spectators who participate.“

Featuring more than 600 recreation and sporting venues – including major league stadiums, university arenas, state parks and both government and privately operated facilities — the online directory is accessible via the web at www.marylandsports.us and is the first of many resources planned for events rights-holders and promoters interested in Maryland. An Events Calendar and other links will also provide information on assets and activities in Maryland to the thousands of enthusiasts who comprise the billion-dollar sports travel industry.

“DBED’s strong partnership with the Stadium Authority is already paying dividends for the State’s economy by attracting world class sporting competitions to Maryland,” said DBED Secretary Christian S. Johansson. “We have helped secure the NCAA lacrosse championships in 2010-2011 and the first ever exhibition soccer match between international powerhouses Chelsea and Milan on June 24, 2009.”

“Bidding for lucrative competitions is a complex, competitive process, involving numerous state and local partners,” said MSA Chairman John Morton, III. “This new initiative further proves that when Maryland bids on an event – we’re in the game to win.”

Proposals for additional events in other parts of the state are in progress, as are plans to develop a signature “Maryland” competition that will draw participants, spectators, and media attention to the state and its many attractions.

“ The Governor and other visionaries who recognized the opportunities the sports event and travel industry present deserve tremendous credit,” said Terrance Hasseltine, Director of the Maryland Office of Sports Marketing. “We have an opportunity to capitalize on our sports assets, like our central location and excellent facilities, and tap into this growing segment of the economy. The partnership between the Stadium Authority and Department of Business and Economic Development puts Maryland in a stronger position to do so.”

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