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Flynn

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Greatest Ravens by jersey number (61-80)

Posted on 30 August 2010 by Luke Jones

With Sports Illustrated releasing its list of all-time best NFL players by jersey number recently, we continue to look back at the 15-year history of the Baltimore Ravens to construct a list of the greatest players for Nos. 1-99.

Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 covered jersey numbers 1 through 60 if you missed them.

Part 4 (61-80) mostly looks at the trenches of the offensive line, with a few obvious choices and several where we need to look long and hard to find a representative.

61 Casey Rabach (2001-04)

Though in the shadow of Mike Flynn for three seasons before finally getting an opportunity to start at center in 2004, Rabach was a solid backup who has become one of the best centers in the NFC while playing for the Washington Redskins.

62 Mike Flynn (1997-2007)
Flynn

Flynn made 115 starts in his 11 seasons with the Ravens, most of them at center. He was the starting right guard on the Super Bowl XXXV team and moved to center after Jeff Mitchell’s departure for Carolina the following season. Undrafted from Maine, Flynn is one of the great underdog stories in franchise history.

63 Wally Williams (1996-98)

A versatile interior lineman who played center and both guard positions in his time with the Ravens, Williams became the team’s first franchise player in 1998 before departing for the New Orleans Saints in 1999.

64 Edwin Mulitalo (1999-06)
Mulitalo

In addition to coining the term “Festivus” for the playoffs in the Charm City, Mulitalo combined with tackle Jonathan Ogden to form an impenetrable left side of the offensive line in their eight seasons together.

65 Chris Chester (2006-present)
Chester

Though Chester came into the league undersized, he has made himself into an invaluable reserve with his ability to play all three interior positions on the offensive line. The former Oklahoma Sooner has made 33 starts in his career.

66 Ben Grubbs (2007-present)

1996 tackle Tony Jones and former guard Bennie Anderson both wore the same number, but Grubbs is the clear choice for No. 66. Though he has yet to make a Pro Bowl, Grubbs’ 44 career starts in three seasons puts him on the cusp of receiving the honor.

67 Quentin Neujahr (1996-97)

A backup for two years at center, Neujahr wins the honor, because there are no other candidates to consider.

68 Keydrick Vincent (2005-06)
Vincent

Largely considered a disappointment after coming to Baltimore from the Steelers, Vincent made 21 starts at right guard over two seasons and is the only legitimate player to have worn the number.

69 Jeff Blackshear (1996-99)

Though a forgotten name from the early years of the franchise, Blackshear made 60 starts at right guard in his four seasons with the Ravens and had a productive nine-year run in the NFL.

70 Harry Swayne (1999-2000)

The recently-departed long snapper Matt Katula can stake a legitimate claim to this number, but it is hard to overlook Swayne’s 13 starts during the Ravens’ championship season, even if he was past his prime by the time he came to Baltimore.

71 Jared Gaither (2007-present)
Gaither

Gaither’s work ethic has always been in doubt, but his raw size and talent makes him the obvious choice for the number. A fifth-round selection in the 2007 supplemental draft, Gaither has easily outplayed expectations, even if he has caused a few headaches on the Baltimore coaching staff.

72 Damion Cook (2002-04)

Fans would much rather have seen Leon Searcy as the choice here had he actually played a snap for the Ravens in 2001. As a result, Cook and his 13 games over three seasons earn the distinction.

73 Marshal Yanda (2007-present)

Despite suffering a devastating knee injury in 2008, Yanda has rebounded quickly to regain his right guard spot and is versatile enough to slide to right tackle in a pinch, where he started 12 games as a rookie in 2007.

74 Michael Oher (2009-present)
Oher

Already a celebrity before ever taking a snap in Baltimore, Oher amazingly had the ability to switch back and forth from right to left tackle as a rookie when filling in for the injured Gaither. He will now be in charge of protecting Joe Flacco’s “blind side” for many years to come.

75 Jonathan Ogden (1996-2007)

The indisputable choice for second-greatest Raven of all time behind linebacker Ray Lewis, Ogden anchored the left side of the Baltimore offensive line for 12 seasons and would have played longer if not for a toe injury. In addition to mauling defensive linemen every Sunday, Ogden also had an incredible amount of athleticism at 6-foot-9, 340 pounds, catching two touchdowns in his career.

76 Jarret Johnson (2003-present)
Johnson

Yes, Johnson is more commonly known for wearing No. 95, but he wore a different number his rookie season when he played 15 games and started once, good enough to grab the honor for this jersey number. A past-his-prime Erik Williams and defensive tackle Amon Gordon barely warrant a mention here.

77 Orlando Brown (1996-98, 2003-05)

Though his temper rivaled his massive size, “Zeus” was a powerful force on the right side of the offensive line in two different stints with the Ravens. His comeback from an injury that nearly left him blind in one eye—thanks to an errant penalty flag—is worth mentioning, and his career trumps reserve Ethan Brooks and only one season from current veteran center Matt Birk for the distinction at No. 77.

78 Adam Terry (2005-09)

Brown wore this number in the first two years of his second stint with the Ravens, but Terry did just enough in a disappointing career with the Ravens to grab the honor. Though he would never stabilize the right tackle position as the organization hoped, Terry proved to be a viable backup to Ogden at left tackle despite battling injuries throughout his time in Baltimore.

79 Larry Webster (1996-2001)

Right tackle Tony Pashos earns serious consideration here, but Webster was a key member of the defensive line rotation in his time with the Ravens. Though he faced multiple suspensions for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, Webster gets the nod over Pashos and Willie Anderson’s one-year stint in Baltimore.

80 Brandon Stokley (1999-2002)

He struggled to stay healthy and never realized his full potential until moving on to Indianapolis, but Stokley is famous for ending the 2000 team’s five-game touchdown drought with a touchdown catch in Cincinnati and catching the first score in the Ravens’ Super Bowl XXXV victory (see the 1:00 mark below).

Next up: We wrap up our list of the greatest Ravens by jersey number by looking at Nos. 81-99 and an impressive group of players in the history of the franchise.

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Tony Banks and Scott Mitchell

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Ravens’ fight for playoff lives is nothing new

Posted on 17 December 2009 by Luke Jones

As the Baltimore Ravens continue to grapple for a postseason spot entering Week 15 (and here’s another great source for predicting your own playoff scenarios) against the Chicago Bears, the franchise finds itself in a familiar position.

While last season’s improbable run in John Harbaugh’s first season landed Baltimore in the AFC Championship, the franchise has found itself on the playoff bubble five other times in the last 11 years. Not counting the Super Bowl season of 2000 and a franchise-best regular season record of 13-3 in 2006 (the Ravens clinched a berth in Week 15 of both seasons), the Ravens’ playoff chances have always boiled down to the final week of the season.

Here’s a look back at the other “bubble” teams in the 14-year history of the Ravens, with some teams having more success than others down the stretch.

Tony Banks and Scott Mitchell
1999: 8-8 (2-1 in final three weeks), missed playoffs

Synopsis: Brian Billick’s first season as head coach saw the Ravens secure their first non-losing record. Despite starting the season third on the depth chart behind Scott Mitchell and Stoney Case, Tony Banks emerged as the starting quarterback by season’s end, leading the team to impressive wins over the eventual AFC Champion Tennessee Titans and the Pittsburgh Steelers (the Ravens’ first victory in Pittsburgh). A four-game winning streak kept the Ravens in the playoff hunt entering Week 17, but Baltimore fell to the Patriots in snowy Foxboro, 20-3. The strong second half was a precursor to a Super Bowl championship a season later, though Banks would find himself replaced by Trent Dilfer by mid-season. The soon-to-be record-breaking Baltimore defense finished second in the NFL in yards allowed.

What went wrong: Billick asked fans to take a “leap of faith” with the newly-signed—and much-maligned—Mitchell, and the experiment lasted all of 56 passing attempts and four interceptions in two losses to begin the season. The Ravens got off to a 4-7 start, too much to overcome despite the strong play of the defense and the emergence of Banks and new receiver Qadry Ismail down the stretch.

Terry Allen
2001: 10-6 (2-1 in final three weeks), Wild Card

Synopsis: Looking to defend their Super Bowl title by improving the offense, the Ravens replaced Dilfer with former Pro Bowl quarterback Elvis Grbac who struggled to win over his teammates and win games. Running back Jamal Lewis suffered a torn ACL in the first week of training camp, and the Ravens employed a committee of Terry Allen, Jason Brookins, and Moe Williams for the ground attack. Needing a win in Week 17 against the Vikings on a Monday night, the Ravens clinched a Wild Card spot with a 16-3 victory behind Allen’s 133 rushing yards and a bruising defensive performance.

What went right: While Ravens fans hold Grbac responsible for failing to repeat, the team literally had its legs cut out from under it with the loss of Lewis before the season started. While the defense could not match its record-setting numbers of a season earlier, it still finished second in yards allowed and fourth in points surrendered. Signed off the street during training camp, Allen provided an admirable effort with Brookins and Williams providing assistance. With Grbac struggling and fans clamoring for Randall Cunningham to replace him, Billick used the running game and the still-stellar defense to get into the playoffs and earn a road victory over the Dolphins in the first round before falling in Pittsburgh the next week, 27-10.

Jeff Blake
2002: 7-9 (1-2 in final three weeks), missed playoffs

Synopsis: In what was perhaps Billick’s best coaching job in his nine years as Ravens coach, the 2002 team managed to stay in the playoff hunt entering the final two weeks of the season despite saying goodbye to key veterans Shannon Sharpe, Rod Woodson, Tony Siragusa, and numerous others in the salary cap purge of the Super Bowl roster. The Ravens looked to be one of the worst teams in the NFL and got off to an 0-2 start before rebounding in a huge Monday night victory over the Broncos. Jamal Lewis returned from his lost 2001 season to rush for 1,327 yards, Todd Heap earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl, and linebacker Ed Hartwell and rookie safety Ed Reed led the defense after Ray Lewis went down with a shoulder injury early in the season. Back-to-back losses to the Browns and Steelers to close the season ended the Ravens’ improbable playoff hopes but could not devalue a very surprising season.

What went wrong: The team could not find consistency at the quarterback position with Chris Redman suffering a back injury and veteran Jeff Blake struggling with consistency. The loss of Lewis coupled with an inexperienced unit caused the defense to fall to 22nd in the NFL despite the encouraging development of several young players. Three out of four losses to end the season sealed the young team’s fate.

Jamal Lewis
2003: 10-6 (2-1 in final three weeks), AFC North champion

Synopsis: The Lewises reigned in 2003. While Ray Lewis earned his second Defensive Player of the Year award, the real story of the season was Jamal Lewis, who became just the fifth player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. Lewis’ 295 rushing yards against the Browns in Week 2 set a new NFL record and created the identity for the Ravens’ offense. Rookie Kyle Boller struggled before going down with a quadriceps injury, and journeyman Anthony Wright took the reins of the offense. The team clinched the AFC North title in Week 17 when the Browns knocked off the Bengals earlier in the day, but the Ravens knocked off the Steelers in overtime for good measure. Baltimore would fall at home in the Wild Card round the following week when the Titans stifled Lewis and the running game.

What went right: Jamal Lewis’ historic season made up for an otherwise ineffective offense. The defense finished third overall and was led by Ray Lewis and emerging star Ed Reed. Eight players made the Pro Bowl including both Lewises, Reed, Heap, Jonathan Ogden, Adalius Thomas, Peter Boulware, and Chris McAlister. With the Ravens struggling at 5-5, Wright threw four touchdown passes to Marcus Robinson in an improbable 44-41 comeback win against the Seahawks to initiate a three-game winning streak. However, an ugly loss to Oakland in Week 15 forced the Ravens to win their final two games to clinch the North. Lewis was up to the challenge as he shredded the Browns again for 205 yards and eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark against the Steelers with 114 yards in the overtime win to conclude the regular season.

Kyle Boller
2004: 9-7 (1-2 in final three weeks), missed playoffs

Synopsis: Following the script from the previous season, the 2004 squad struggled with consistency, as Boller completed his first full season as the starting quarterback. Once again, the defense led the way with Reed earning the Defensive Player of the Year honor, keeping the award in the Charm City for the second year in a row. A three-game winning streak in the middle of the season put the Ravens at 7-3 and on the short track to the playoffs, but losing four of five down the stretch placed their playoffs hopes on life support at 8-7. Needing a victory over the Dolphins and three other teams to lose in Week 17, the Ravens held up their end of the bargain in a 30-23 victory but didn’t receive enough help to steal a postseason spot.

What went wrong: With Jamal Lewis facing the repercussions of federal drug-related charges and serving a two-game suspension during the season, the offense plummeted to 31st in the league. Boller showed flashes of promise but lacked any consistent receiving threat with Heap missing most of the season with an ankle injury. Even with the struggles on offense, the Ravens controlled their own destiny down the stretch but lost road games to the Patriots, Steelers, and Colts and suffered a heartbreaking loss at home to the Bengals over a five-game stretch. The Ravens’ inability to win any one of these games ultimately sealed their fate.

Le'Ron McClain
2008: 11-5 (2-1 in final three weeks), Wild Card

Synopsis: With a rookie coach and quarterback, the 2008 Ravens were viewed as a rebuilding team with little chance of making noise in the AFC. However, Harbaugh reunited a divided locker room, and Flacco played more like a grizzled veteran than a quarterback playing at Delaware a season earlier. The three-headed attack of Le’Ron McClain, Willis McGahee, and Ray Rice combined for over 2,000 rushing yards, and a veteran defense finished second overall. After struggling to a 2-3 start, the Ravens won nine of their last 11 games to clinch a Wild Card spot with a 27-7 victory over the Jaguars in Week 17.

What went right: Nearly every move the Ravens made turned to gold as they marched deep into the playoffs. After receiving only eight carries in his rookie season, McClain came out of nowhere to rush for 902 yards to lead the ground attack, taking the pressure off the rookie Flacco. After getting off to a slow start due to a lingering neck and shoulder condition, Reed completed one of the greatest defensive stretches in NFL history by intercepting eight passes and scoring two touchdowns over the season’s final six weeks. After losing to the Steelers at home due to a controversial Santonio Holmes touchdown, the Ravens needed to steal one on the road against the Cowboys. Instead, motivated by rumors that they were handpicked as an easy opponent in the Texas Stadium finale, the Ravens dominated the Cowboys in a 33-24 victory. With a Week 17 win that was more of a formality than a challenge, the Ravens entered the playoffs and won two road games before falling to the Steelers in the AFC Championship game.

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Complete recap of the Terrell Suggs/John Harbaugh Press Conference

Posted on 15 July 2009 by Luke Jones

Terrell Suggs downplayed the importance of signing one of the richest contracts in NFL history, but there was no mistaking how seriously the Ravens wanted to keep the Pro Bowl linebacker in Baltimore.

Facing a 4 p.m. deadline, Suggs and the Ravens agreed to a six-year, $63 million contract Wednesday morning, eliminating the possibility of Suggs playing under the franchise tag for a second straight season.  The 26-year-old linebacker is relieved to continue his career in Baltimore.

I consider myself a player of the fans,” Suggs said.  “I play for them.  I love the cheers that I get when I’m running out of the tunnel, and I’m just glad that we finally got back to football, and that they wanted me [in Baltimore] and I wanted to be there.  Ozzie [Newsome] and everybody, we all wanted the same thing, and we just had to agree on the little stuff.  Both sides compromised a lot, and now we came to an agreement”

The deal includes $33.1 million in bonus money, second only to Peyton Manning’s bonus from a deal signed in 2004.  Suggs now becomes the highest-paid linebacker in the history of the NFL, though he was quick to downplay the significance of that moniker.

That was never a focal point,” he said. “That was never brought up once in the negotiation.  I never wanted to be the highest-paid anything. I’m not that guy.  I don’t care what the next man is getting.  I just wanted it to be fair. This is a business, and everything is structured and branded a certain way.”

Suggs will now report to camp on time after missing nearly the entire preseason last year after being designated the franchise player. The Ravens will now have all four starting linebackers present for the start of training camp in less than two weeks.

Coupled with the loss of Bart Scott to the New York Jets, the absence of Suggs may have slowed the transition from Rex Ryan’s scheme to new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, though the system is expected to undergo only minor changes.

Suggs has been in contact with Mattison during the offseason to keep up with the mental side of the defense.

“We’re looking forward to seeing all four linebackers out there together now for the first time in any offseason program since we’ve been here,” Harbaugh said.  “There’s nothing like getting those guys out there together and practicing together and competing together.  Plus, the other thing I’m excited about is his personality being out there from early on in training camp.  He’s a guy that perks up the whole practice field, so it will be fun to have him out there.”

Suggs is happy to be reporting to training camp on time, but he downplayed the significance of missing training camp, citing his play last season that earned him a trip to his third Pro Bowl.

His 53 career sacks are the second-highest total in Ravens history, behind only Peter Boulware’s 70.

“The only thing about training camp is it brings you back closer with your teammates,” Suggs said.  “You all get close again; you all become a team.  You all go in there and run.  Last year I missed that, and it didn’t hurt me too bad—I don’t think—but it’s going to be good to finally get back in training camp in the hot summer days with all the fans looking.  It’s going to be interesting.”

Suggs’ new contract trumps the record-setting deal signed by his teammate and mentor Ray Lewis in 2002.  Lewis’ deal included a $19 million signing bonus.  Suggs emphasized his vast respect for Lewis and insisted the 34-year-old is still the heart and soul of the defense.

“Ray [Lewis] is hands down a Hall of Famer, and you know he’s probably the greatest ever to play the position,” Suggs said.  “Like I said, that [record bonus] happened merely on accident. I’m not sure if I’m a Hall of Famer yet, but I’m sure going to play to try to achieve that status. But until then, Ray is arguably the greatest linebacker ever to play the game.”

– Mason update

The news of Derrick Mason’s retirement was a popular topic during Wednesday’s conference call.

Harbaugh is currently on vacation but has informally communicated through text messages with the veteran wide receiver.  He plans to talk at greater length with Mason next week.

“It’ll be interesting to see where he’s at with everything,” Harbaugh said.  “I know he’s gone through a lot in the last couple weeks with [Steve McNair’s death] and those kinds of things. But I’m looking forward to talking to him.”

Suggs expressed hope that Mason would come back this season but respected the possibility that he’s done with football.

“At 35 years old you really start to put things into perspective,” Suggs said.  “Either way [he decides], I love ‘Mase.’ He’s a great teammate.  You can’t say that about a lot of guys.  He’s not selfish, not even in the least, and he’ll always look out for you.  A guy like that is always great to have in the locker room.”

Mason is well respected among teammates and team officials for his professionalism and work ethic since coming to Baltimore in 2005.  His absence would leave Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams as the team’s current starting receivers.

“Derrick Mason is the kind of guy that if he is going to be on board, he’s going to be on board 100-percent-plus,” Harbaugh said.  “He’s going to be doing all the things that great players do, because you don’t become a great player—and I think one of the premiere receivers in the game by far—without being committed to excellence.”

If Mason decides to go through with his retirement, the options on the free agent market are limited, though Harbaugh said the team would explore other options in addition to the players currently on the roster.

“You can only do so much,” Harbaugh said.  “There are only so many guys out there available, and a lot of what we do is developing the players that we have.  We think we have good players here, too.”

*****

Here is the transcript from the live blog I wrote during the conference call:

2:31 – The conference call for Terrell Suggs and John Harbaugh has now concluded. Check back later for a full recap including more direct quotes from Suggs and Harbaugh.

2:28 – Harbaugh is very excited to get going at training camp and thinks the Ravens have a great football team ready to go this season.

2:27 – Harbaugh says the Ravens will look to improve the wide receiver situation, but he’s confident with the group of players they currently have. He mentioned there’s only so much you can do at this point.

He downplayed the reports of Mason practicing at the facility on Monday before the retirement announcement came. He reiterated how dedicated Mason has been throughout his time with the Ravens.

“If he is going to be on board, he is going to be on board 100 percent plus…Getting mentally ready is part of that…If he decides to come back, he will be completely ready to go.”

2:24 – Regarding Derrick Mason, Harbaugh has had informal communication with Mason and plans to meet with him sometime next week.  He says Mason’s obviously had a lot on his mind in regards to the death of Steve McNair.

2:22 – Harbaugh says Suggs wants to work on football and understands the importance of being with Mattison and his teammates for the entire duration of training camp.

The coach is excited about the type of player that Suggs will be over the next six years. He thinks Mattison will help Suggs take his play to “another level.” Harbaugh also mentioned how Suggs is an underrated run-stopper.

2:21 – Harbaugh cited how great of a guy Suggs is. His dedication and attention to detail is right there with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. He’s a great player.

2:20 – John Harbaugh is now joining the conference call.

Talking about the success of keeping new players:
“It goes back to Ozzie [Newsome], and of course, Steve [Bisciotti] and Dick [Cass]. It’s just a tremendous organization. Players want to be here.”

He also discussed how many players who have been disappointed to leave because of the financial side of the game.

“You can’t just sign them all. When you draft the way Ozzie drafts, you’re going to lose some guys over time…You can sign one guy, but maybe the next guy you can’t sign.”

2:18 – Suggs has finished up, and we now await John Harbaugh to join us to talk about the new contract for his star linebacker.

2:17 – When asked about the details that needed to be worked out in order to reach an agreement, he didn’t really want to get into specifics. He’s just relieved to have it finished.

He talked about the young Ravens fans that might ask why he wasn’t practicing at training camp. Now, that’s not an issue.

2:16 – Suggs is downplaying the importance of being at training camp from the very beginning, citing his strong play last season.

He’s relieved to finally have the contract resolved after two years. The business side of football is difficult.

2:14 – In regards to Derrick Mason, Suggs was very complimentary and was “shocked” at his retirement. He would love to play with him for another year, but he understands with Mason being 35-years old.

He isn’t sure whether Mason will decide to return. He respects the fact that Mason may not have the passion to play anymore.

2:12 – I asked Suggs on his thoughts about being the highest-paid linebacker in NFL history and playing with Ray Lewis:

“Ray is hands down a Hall of Famer, and he’s probably the greatest to ever play the position. The fact that I’m the highest paid linebacker is really by accident.”

2:10 – Suggs credits the Ravens for going the extra mile to get a long-term deal done, considering the salary cap.

He says his role won’t change. He’ll lead on the field, as always.

On the contract:
“I’m going to continue to be the dominant player I’ve always been…I’m looking forward to showing them that they didn’t make a mistake, and they got the right guy.”

2:08 – Suggs is talking about the process last year and the dispute over whether he was a defensive end or a linebacker. He considered himself a defensive end and had bulked up because of that.

Suggs admitted to having his doubts about reaching a long-term deal.

“We were all on the phone all-day yesterday…It was little minor things here and there. Would we really let something minor stop me from signing a long-term deal?”

2:06 – Talking about Bart Scott: “It was going to be hard to bring all three [linebackers] back.”

Suggs believes Scott would have stayed if the money had been there and believes he’s lucky to be in New York with Rex Ryan. He considers it a win-win situation for Scott.

2:05 – Suggs says being the highest-paid defensive player was never a focal point. He just wanted it to be “fair.” The reason the numbers were so high is because of him being consider a hybrid defensive end-linebacker.

He considers being the second-highest paid (in terms of bonus money) as just a coincidence. He felt it was what he had earned.

2:02 – Suggs: “I’m always trying to do better. I’m just happy it got done…I consider myself a player for the fans. I play for them. I’m just glad that we finally got back to football.”

“Both sides compromised a lot. We came to a great agreement. Now, we can get back to football.”

1:55 – We’re just a few minutes away from hearing from Terrell Suggs. John Harbaugh will answer questions right after the star linebacker.

1:45 – Having lost Bart Scott to the New York Jets, Harbaugh and new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison have to feel good knowing they’ll have their entire starting linebacking unit present at the beginning of training camp in Westminster.

Suggs’ presence will certainly ease the transition from Rex Ryan to Mattison and allow the Ravens to get an authentic look at how Tavares Gooden—or Jameel McClain—fits into the entire defensive scheme during the preseason.

1:26 – Ozzie Newsome will not be present for the press conference, but he offered his thoughts earlier on reaching a long-term agreement with the Ravens linebacker.

“Getting a deal done with Terrell is consistent with our history of retaining our best Pro Bowl players, like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Jonathan Ogden, Todd Heap, and Jamal Lewis. Securing Terrell for six seasons gives us a premier pass-rusher whose ability to stop the run does not get enough credit.

“This is a good day for the Ravens franchise.”

1:18 – You’ve heard the news by now that Terrell Suggs has signed a six-year, $63 million contract, avoiding playing under the franchise tag for a second straight season.

The deal includes $33.1 million in bonuses, making it the second-highest amount in NFL history—behind only Peyton Manning. The long-term deal now places Suggs as the highest-paid linebacker in the NFL.

We’ll hear from Terrell Suggs in about 40 minutes with coach John Harbaugh to follow.

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Where does Ray Lewis rank among the greatest players of the decade?

Posted on 26 June 2009 by Luke Jones

Leave it to “The Worldwide Leader in Sports” to jump the gun on an otherwise interesting promotion for the network this week.

We’re still over two months away from the start of the 2009 season—the last season of the decade—but ESPN.com has decided it’s time to hand out its NFL all-decade honors.  I guess we don’t need to bother playing this season.

The Ravens were well represented with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed being named to the all-decade defense while the first draft pick in franchise history, Jonathan Ogden, was the lone Raven on the all-decade offense.  Fullback Lorenzo Neal was also named to the team, but his one season in Baltimore hardly constitutes him as an all-decade representative for the Ravens.

The Ravens were also ranked the fifth-best team of the decade.

ESPN closed out the week by revealing their top 25 players of the decade on Friday, and this is the list with which Ravens fans are sure to take issue.  Lewis, the only player to win the NFL Defensive Player of the Year twice this decade, ranks only ninth, behind defensive ends Jason Taylor (fifth) and Michael Strahan (eighth).

With all due respect to Taylor and Strahan, easily the two best defensive ends since 2000, neither player was as dominating throughout the decade as Lewis.

He’s easily the best defensive player of the last 10 years, and the accolades support it.  Lewis has seven Pro Bowl appearances in the decade compared to six for Taylor and four for Strahan.  With Lewis leading the way, the Ravens have ranked no lower than sixth in total defense every year of the decade except 2002—the year of the team’s salary cap purge when Lewis missed 11 games with a shoulder injury.

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning clearly belong at the top of the list, but Lewis should be in the top three or four instead of barely cracking the top 10.

Ogden and Reed finished 11th and 12th respectively.

As for my picks of the decade, you’ll have to wait until after 2009, the appropriate time to name an all-decade team.  I’m sure ESPN will manage to do a revised list then too.

Here’s a little something to emphasize my point about Lewis and to keep you salivating for the start of training camp.

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5 Ws and 1 H

Posted on 10 May 2009 by Luke Jones

I wanted to take a moment to wish all the moms out there a very Happy Mother’s Day.  In the sports world, we tend to overlook Mom in favor of Dad taking the kids to ballgames or coaching the little league team.

In my own childhood, my dad often had the glory, taking me to Orioles and Ravens games and coaching many of my teams, but my mom was right there at every game as my No. 1 fan.  I sincerely thank her for that.

Now, on to the 5 Ws and 1 H for the week.

1.  Who really deserves to be the Orioles’ closer at this point?  The closer-by-committee idea sounds logical, but relievers have to be effective in order for it to work.  The struggles of George Sherrill against right-handed hitting are well-documented (right-handers are hitting .378 against him), but no one else is emerging as a viable option.

Chris Ray (7.20 ERA) still doesn’t look right after returning from Tommy John surgery, Jamie Walker is really a one or two-batter pitcher at this point in his career, and Jim Johnson gave up the demoralizing three-run homer to Johnny Damon this afternoon.

Danys Baez has been the best of the bunch, but the team is hesitant to throw him into the role of pitching on consecutive days at this point.  He has done a great job filling the role held by Matt Albers last season before he went down with a shoulder injury.

Then again, the club really doesn’t need a closer when the bullpen can rarely hold a lead into the ninth inning.  One thing is for sure—the bullpen has been a major disappointment after looking like it might be one of the team’s strengths entering the season.

2.  What do you think was going through the mind of Alex Rodriguez on Thursday when the news broke that Manny Ramirez was being suspended 50 games for failing a drug test?

Was A-Rod happy to have the attention deflected away from him, or did it bring more scrutiny for his return to the Yankees lineup?

3.  Where will the Ravens go with the wide receiver position after trying out Jerry Porter, Kelley Washington, and Tab Perry this weekend?  None of the three will be a savior, but it certainly seems more crucial to find another veteran option after learning Derrick Mason could miss the preseason after undergoing shoulder surgery.

Washington reportedly had the most impressive showing of the three, but Ozzie Newsome will continue to see who else might shake loose from the other 31 NFL teams between now and late July.

Anquan Boldin’s agent Drew Rosenhaus claims he still expects his client to be traded, but don’t look for the Ravens to make the move unless they can sign Terrell Suggs to a long-term extension.  Suggs’ $10.2 million cap number makes a Boldin trade and subsequent new contract virtually impossible.

4.  When will we see the next high-profile minor leaguer in Baltimore?  Rich Hill—though not really a prospect—pitched six scoreless innings and picked up his first victory for Triple-A Norfolk on Sunday.

We’ll have to wait and see on the status of Luke Scott (shoulder) and Lou Montanez (thumb) during Monday’s off day.  Nolan Reimold (.381, 8 HR, 25 RBI at Norfolk) would figure to be on Andy MacPhail’s speed dial and is more than deserving of a promotion.

Matt Wieters is now hitting .301 despite only hitting one home run this season in Triple A.  At this point, it seems the Orioles are content waiting until early June to promote the 22-year-old catcher to avoid Super 2 Status, preventing him from being eligible for a fourth year of arbitration before free agency.  The recent hot streak of catcher Gregg Zaun—hitting .478 in May—makes the situation a little easier to swallow.

5.  Why won’t Brett Favre just stay or go away?  I have no problem with one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history wanting to continue his career; however, I grow tired of the drama over whether he will return or stay retired.

Here’s an idea:  simply WAIT and THINK before making a life-changing decision, and stick with it when you finally decide.  The drama that has unfolded since he retired from the Packers is more annoying than compelling.

Favre should have taken a lesson from Jonathan Ogden in handling a retirement.  Though the circumstances were different with Ogden nursing a chronic toe problem, he waited and really thought about his future before finally retiring last June.

6.  How are we going to make it to late July for the start of Ravens training camp?  This weekend’s minicamp feels like such a tease for those of us craving football season.

It would certainly help if the Orioles could play competitive baseball until then, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to enjoy watching a team that’s 13-19 and cannot pitch at all.  The promotion of young players like Wieters and Reimold will spark some interest, but will it be enough?

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Something happened on the way to 11-5

Posted on 29 December 2008 by caseywillett

– Did it start with the firing of Brian Billick a year ago ?

-Was it Jason Garrett saying no to the Ravens and them picking John Harbaugh ?

– Was it the retirement of Jonathan Ogden and Steve McNair ?

– What about Rex Ryan getting no head coaching jobs this year and coming back to Baltimore ?

-Did it come in the form of Cam Cameron losing his job in Miami and connecting with his old friend John Harbaugh ?

-Was it the kid from Delaware named Joe Flacco that some people were suspect about if he could play at the NFL level ? Then not only taking this team, but the whole city on his back and marching them into the playoffs.

-The injuries to Troy Smith and Kyle Boller that paved the way for this guy from the Blue Hens to be a starter in the NFL.

-Was it the trying times at training camp when everything that could have gone wrong injury wise did ?

-Remember when we were talking about how letting John Welbourne leave without a deal was a mistake and Chad Slaughter and Mike Kracalik starting at the tackles in a game while we wondered how long Adam Terry and Jared Gaither would be out ?

-Questioning what Lorenzo Neal had in the tank when he showed up during training camp ? Willie Anderson ,who was told he could not play any more with the Bengals or in the NFL and being a huge part of this offensive line ?  How about Fabian Washington going from being run out of Oakland to one of the unsung star players this year ?

-Was it a fullback that would go on to have one of the best seasons of any Ravens running back ?

-Watching Kelly Gregg, Dawan Landry, Dwan Edwards, go down and the team not miss a beat. Seeing your all pro corner leave the team with an injury, and it possibly being a blessing in disguise.

-How about a guy who looks more like a coaches kid than a guy who came from the  Buffalo Bills and stepped into the secondary and they never missed a beat ?

-How about the punter who last year people were talking about how to pronounce his name and what it sounded like to being a huge factor for this team and helping the defense have the success that they have had ?

-How about a linebacker that many people questioned how much he had left in the tank going out and having a remarkable season 13 years into the league ?

-How about the safety who questioned if he would ever play football again in training camp, only to play and possibly be Defensive Player of the Year ?

-What about the wide receiver that many said is nothing more than a possession receiver, having a huge year including one of the more amazing performances any one has seen against the Cowboys ?

-Was it maybe not having a bye week and the focus this team showed going through 15 straight weeks of games including 6 out of 8 straight games on the road ?

-How about going into Texas Stadium for the final game in that stadium and beating the Dallas Cowboys in front of the whole world ?

-What about the character the team showed in responding from two tough losses to the Steelers and Titans on some some what controversial calls ?

-That wide receiver from Oklahoma that people said was not a deep threat, putting up some of the bigger deep plays of the season, and being the first Ravens receiver to have eight 100 yard games.

There are many more we could sit here and name, and they all plus the ones included would be reasons collectively as to why the Ravens are 11-5 and going to the playoffs. This has been an amazing run by a football team that seemed like they were going to be more like the 5-11 team the year before than a 11-5 team that people are talking about as a serious threat in the playoffs.

This has been one of the best years I have had covering a team. At every challenge that has come at this team, they have stared it down and moved on.

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News and Notes from 1 Winning Drive (Thursday)

Posted on 06 November 2008 by caseywillett

_ Cam Cameron pointed out that they are expecting to see Ray Rice on the field on Sunday, despite being on the injured report yesterday.  Willis McGahee had a very noticeable limp as he walked through the locker room today.

-Cam Cameron feels like that part of the reason that Jared Gaither has had the success he has had in playing football is just because of the athlete that he is. Cameron also pointed out that it did not hurt at all to have a guy like Jonathan Ogden around for Gaither to learn from.

-DeAngelo Hall’s name has been talked about between Rex Ryan and his players, but Rex pointed out that he has tried to call his brother Rob, the defensive coordinator for the Raiders, but Rob is not returning his calls Rex figures the only reason is because ” they must be having issues out there.” I still think it is a very long shot to think that Hall is coming to Baltimore.

-Samari Rolle is expected to play on Sunday, but how long will be the big question. You have to respect the way he has fought back from everything he has been through and still wants to get on the field and play.

– Cam Cameron was talking about the tight ends for the Ravens and whether Dan Wilcox will be available this Sunday. Cam pointed out that it is not known yet whether or not Wilcox will be ready, but that Edgar Jones and Adam Terry will be ready. Terry has been used as a tight end in the past and probably be used as a pass blocking tight end if Wilcox can not play on Sunday. Wilcox has been bothered by a hamstring and thigh issue and did not practice today.

-There is no difference between the offense that Texans run with the change of quarterback. Rex Ryan went as far as saying that the offense is “identical” with either quarterback.

– The Texans have been very good at home this year going 3-1. They have  scored more than 27 points in all five of those games. In their three wins, the Texans have scored 29,28,35, points. The one loss to the Colts was win the Texans scored 27 points.

– Houston is also the most successful team in the NFL in converting third-down conversions. The Texans are converting 48.1% of their third down plays(50-104).

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