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Ravens-related thoughts from wild-card weekend

Posted on 11 January 2016 by Luke Jones

Some have perceived a softer culture for the Ravens since Super Bowl XLVII, but Cincinnati’s Vontaze Burfict reminded us Saturday that there’s a fine line between attitude and recklessness.

Baltimore may lack the big personalities and swagger that it once had on the defensive side of the football, but the Bengals linebacker has proven time and time again that you simply can’t trust him. His personal foul on Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown on Saturday was just the latest example of a player lacking any regard for others on the field and playing too recklessly in a critical spot. This came after replays showed him driving his knee into the right shoulder of Ben Roethlisberger on the sack that took the Steelers quarterback out of the game.

The Ravens are no strangers to Burfict’s antics as offensive lineman John Urschel pointed out the hit on rookie tight end Maxx Williams in Week 17 on Sunday. Former Baltimore wide receiver Torrey Smith called Burfict a “dirty” player last season, and ex-Ravens Ray Rice and Bobbie Williams had issues with the Bengals linebacker in his rookie season.

To be clear, the Ravens would benefit from having more attitude on the defensive side of the ball. They certainly would like to have the play-making ability demonstrated by Burfict on his late interception that looked like it would seal the Bengals’ first playoff win in a quarter-century before Jeremy Hill’s fumble.

But the famous rant from Mike Singletary describes Burfict perfectly: “It is more about them than it is about the team. Cannot play with them, cannot win with them, cannot coach with them. Can’t do it. I want winners.”

Intimidation and ferocity have been traits of many great players over the years, but only when those qualities can be harnessed, something Burfict was incapable of doing when it mattered most.

Was Mallett watching?

A fake Ryan Mallett Twitter account garnered some attention during the Houston Texans’ embarrassing 30-0 loss to Kansas City on Saturday, but you hope that the real Mallett did reflect as Brian Hoyer turned in one of the worst playoff performances by a quarterback in recent memory.

It’s fair to point out that Hoyer posted a solid 91.4 passer rating this season, but Mallett had a golden opportunity in Houston that he completely squandered as he’s more physically gifted than the Texans’ current starter. There’s no way to know for sure if Mallett would have fared any better against the Chiefs, but Houston was a much better opportunity for him than Baltimore in terms of playing time if he’d simply been more of a professional.

To his credit, Mallett has done all of the right things since signing with the Ravens, but Saturday should have been a reminder to him of what might have been. Now, he plays for a team that strictly views him as a backup behind an entrenched franchise quarterback.

He’ll be lucky to receive another opportunity like the one he had in Houston, but you hope he’s learned his lesson if that day does come.

Thankful for Tucker

While many thought of Billy Cundiff when Minnesota’s Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard chip shot that would have won the game for the Vikings, the reliability of Justin Tucker also came to mind.

To be fair, Walsh is a former Pro Bowl kicker and had missed just one kick inside 30 yards in his four-year career, but the 2012 sixth-round pick had also failed to convert four extra points this year, showing he hadn’t been as reliable from shorter distances. Meanwhile, Tucker has never missed from inside 30 in his NFL career and has missed just one field goal try inside 40 yards in his four seasons.

A miss such as Walsh’s could happen to anyone — these guys are human, after all — but Sunday likely reminded general manager Ozzie Newsome how lucky he’s been to have Tucker and how the Ravens can’t afford to let him go this offseason despite his issues from beyond 50 yards this past year.

Winning trumps all 

With John Harbaugh and the injury-ravaged Ravens speaking so much about their heart and resiliency at the end of the season, you hope that they take some notes from the Chiefs as they won their 11th consecutive game on Saturday.

At one point, the Chiefs were 1-5 and had lost their best player — four-time Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles — to a season-ending knee injury in October, but Andy Reid’s team did more than just to keep fighting and to play teams close every week. Of course, the Ravens weren’t as talented as Kansas City and lost the likes of Joe Flacco and Steve Smith as the season progressed, making a turnaround of that magnitude virtually impossible.

But you also don’t want players to take too much satisfaction from a 5-11 record, no matter who was on the field by season’s end.

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Harbaugh explains Ravens’ new pants

Posted on 21 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Even after the Ravens had suffered a 34-14 defeat to Kansas City on Sunday, many fans were still discussing it on social media.

What the heck was with the new gold-yellow-mustard pants John Harbaugh’s team was wearing?

“That was a nod to the tradition a little bit,” Harbaugh said. “The players like it. They like something different. I don’t know. I didn’t take a vote to see who liked them or who didn’t like them, but they were excited to be out there in a little different look.”

A simple search on Twitter shows that the new looked was panned by virtually all fans and observers. It was the first time in franchise history that the Ravens had worn uniform pants that weren’t white or black.

Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders always liked to say, “If you look good, you feel good; if you feel good, you play good.” If that’s the case, the Ravens may have never stood a chance against the Chiefs.

Many had speculated that the look make have been mandated by the NFL and Nike, but Harbaugh said the new pants were in the works since last season and likely would have been worn earlier in the year had the Ravens gotten off to a better start.

“Maybe we should do a contest for our third pant-color combination with the fans, so we can have them weigh in and we could wear them,” Harbaugh said. “I think it’s fun. Uniforms are fun. They should be fun. We want to be traditional. We have a look that we’re proud of in Baltimore. It stands out, and we want to build on that. But if we can be creative in there somewhere, hey, I’m all for it.

“I want to play well. It doesn’t really matter what color the pants are to me. If the players like it, I like it.”

If I were to make my own uniform suggestions, I would adjust the Ravens’ black uniform pants by adding a white and purple stripe on the sides, which would be similar to what the team wore in 1997. Some say the Ravens look like they’re wearing tights or pajamas when sporting the solid-black pants, and this change would help remedy that.

As for a third set of pants — to ensure that Sunday’s pants never again see the light of day — I’d suggest purple ones to be worn with the black alternate jerseys to replace the tired “blackout” look that many teams now have. College programs such as TCU and Northwestern have pulled off this look quite effectively in recent years.

Have no fear, I’ll go back to the occasional #FashionTweets hashtag on Twitter and stick to football now.

 

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Gillmore to IR, J. Smith has “good chance” to return Sunday

Posted on 21 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens’ injured reserve list grew once again on Monday as tight end Crockett Gillmore will officially miss the rest of the season.

The 2014 third-round pick was in his first season as a starter and had been sidelined with a back injury since Dec. 6. Gillmore also missed two games earlier this year with a calf injury, meaning he will have missed a total of six games in 2015.

Head coach John Harbaugh said last week that Gillmore appeared unlikely to play again this season.

“It’s not working out. His back flared up again,” Harbaugh said last Wednesday. “He also has the [sore] shoulder. It’s not looking good for Crockett right now.”

The Ravens now have 19 players on IR, which doesn’t include tight end Dennis Pitta being on the physically unable to perform list or linebacker Zach Thompson, who was released from IR after receiving an injury settlement earlier this month.

While many fans lamented the free-agent loss of Owen Daniels, pondered the status of Dennis Pitta, and looked forward to the arrival of rookie draft picks Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle in the offseason, Gillmore immediately grabbed hold of the No. 1 tight end job over the summer and caught 33 passes for 412 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games. Used mostly as a blocking tight end as a rookie, the Colorado State product proved he was capable of being a reliable target as a pass-catcher.

Able to break tackles with a massive 6-foot-6, 270-pound frame, Gillmore has drawn comparisons to former New York Giants tight end Mark Bavaro with his impressive physicality.

The loss of Gillmore was expected, but the Ravens hope to have No. 1 cornerback Jimmy Smith back in action against Pittsburgh this coming Sunday. Smith injured his hamstring on the opening series of Sunday’s loss to Kansas City and did not return.

With the postseason-hopeful Steelers sporting the league’s fifth-ranked passing game, the struggling Ravens will need all the help they can get in the secondary.

“Jimmy has a good chance,” Harbaugh said. “I just talked to him and I think he’s got a good chance to play, so we’ll see how it goes this week.”

To take Gillmore’s place on the 53-man roster, the Ravens signed former Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker Chris Carter. Also a former member of the Steelers, Carter is a five-year NFL veteran who had 10 tackles in 13 games for the Bengals this season before being waived last week.

Carter was selected by Pittsburgh in the fifth round of the 2011 draft out of Fresno State.

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Ravens lose cornerback Jimmy Smith to thigh injury

Posted on 20 December 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens lost top cornerback Jimmy Smith to a thigh injury on the opening series of their 34-14 loss to Kansas City on Sunday.

The fifth-year defensive back appeared to hurt his hamstring chasing after Chiefs running back Charcandrick West on his 38-yard touchdown run. Minutes after going to the Baltimore locker room for further examination, Smith was declared out for the remainder of the game.

Head coach John Harbaugh did not have an update on Smith after the Ravens’ 10th loss of the season.

“I don’t have an update on that. I don’t know,” Harbaugh said. “I knew he was out for the game, but that’s the last I’ve talked to the doctors about that.”

Intending to use Lardarius Webb exclusively as a nickel back and at safety this week, the Ravens instead moved the veteran back outside — opposite of Shareece Wright — in the base defense after Smith’s injury.

Smith’s exit created an opportunity for the recently-promoted Jumal Rolle to play cornerback in the nickel package for the remainder of the game. After appearing in 18 games for Houston over the last two seasons, Rolle was signed to the Baltimore practice squad after being cut by the Texans last month.

Harbaugh said earlier in the week that he wanted to give Rolle a chance to play over the final three weeks of the season.

“We had guys to come in and step it up,” Webb said. “Jumal Rolle came in, played good. We’ve got Shareece here. I thought he came in and did an awesome job when Jimmy went down.”

Should Smith not be able to return to play in Week 16, a high-octane Pittsburgh passing game will face even less resistance in a Baltimore secondary that has struggled all season.

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Allen’s benching a head-scratcher in lost season for Ravens

Posted on 20 December 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens’ performance on Sunday matched their new uniform pants.

Ugly.

Of course, we’re used to this by now as the 4-10 Ravens clinched just the fifth campaign of double-digit losses in franchise history with the 34-14 defeat against Kansas City. For the second straight week, it was a Buck Allen fumble in the first half transforming a close game into a lopsided affair.

This time, however, head coach John Harbaugh had seen enough and benched the rookie fourth-round pick for the remainder of the game after Chiefs safety Tyvon Branch returned the fumble 73 yards for a touchdown late in the first quarter.

“You play the best players. At running back, the best players don’t fumble,” said Harbaugh, who added that the benching “probably” won’t continue next week. “Fumbling — it is what it is. You have to hold on to the football. He knows that. I have a lot of love and respect for Buck. No way is Buck going to be banished by any stretch. He has done a lot for us. He has a great future for us.”

Allen took the demotion in stride and said himself that fumbling is unacceptable, but what is really accomplished by benching him for the rest of the game, especially when you’re 4-9 and in evaluation mode for the rest of 2015? If you’re still in playoff contention and are afraid of him putting the ball on the turf again, then, fine, go in a different direction if you have a better option.

But what did Harbaugh hope to gain by keeping Allen out for the remainder of the game with just two weeks remaining in a lost season?

Benching him for the rest of the first half and using Terrance West — a former third-round pick with his upside of his own — as the No. 1 option would have been a reasonable punishment, but making the rookie sit for nearly 48 minutes of action and giving former practice-squad member Terrence Magee his playing time only created a bigger headline and more embarrassment for the lone bright spot of a disappointing rookie draft class in 2015.

Ball security is of the utmost importance — no one is saying it isn’t. But even the best running backs fumble sometimes as the great Adrian Peterson has seven this year. Allen has fumbled twice all season, hardly making this an epidemic despite one in each of the last two weeks.

“You have to hold on to the football,” Harbaugh said. “That football belongs to everybody in the organization, every fan, everybody that cares about the Ravens, and it’s a precious commodity. You don’t win football games when you turn the ball over.”

The eighth-year coach is correct, but you don’t win when players commit foolish penalties, either.

That begs the question why second-year defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan wasn’t disciplined in a harsher manner for an inexcusable late hit on Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith on a third-and-11 play that extended Kansas City’s opening drive. Instead of punting from their own territory, the Chiefs scored on a 38-yard run by Charcandrick West three plays later to give them a 7-0 lead.

In Week 2, Jernigan committed a senseless roughing-the-passer penalty on Oakland’s game-winning touchdown drive with less than two minutes to go, proving his talent has been overshadowed by a lack of discipline on more than one occasion. He was also flagged for unnecessary roughness in last week’s loss to Seattle.

“I took him out for a play and put him back in,” said Harbaugh when asked about Jernigan’s penalty after he had just explained Allen’s benching. “I don’t need to justify that. Timmy Jernigan is a guy that I’ve talked to about that. He understands where we’re at. I made the decision to keep him in the game.”

But has the 2014 second-round pick gotten the message?

It didn’t sound that way after the game.

“If he’s going to run along the sideline, I’m going to hit him every time,” Jernigan said. “I’m not going to apologize for that one any time. I was running to the ball, and I saw the quarterback running along the sideline.

“To me, it doesn’t look like the guy is noticeably slowing down and running out of bounds. If you’re along the sideline, I’m going to hit you. I don’t care who you are unless you make it obvious that you’re going out of bounds. If you’re running along the sideline, and you don’t go out, I’m going to have cameras in my face asking me why I didn’t hit you. And then the quarterback runs for an 80-yard touchdown. I feel like I’m just doing what I can to help the team.”

You’d really like to give Jernigan the benefit of the doubt that he didn’t see a replay of his obvious infraction before talking to reporters. But if he did see it and failed to recognize that Smith was obviously out of bounds when he hit him, it just reinforces the lack of discipline the Ravens have shown all season as they entered Week 15 ranked 25th in penalties and 29th in penalty yards.

Either way, benching Allen for the remainder of the game was excessive, especially after Jernigan came away with what amounted to barely a slap on the wrist. It’s not as though the latter is an established veteran or multi-time Pro Bowl selection beyond reproach.

The Ravens repeatedly hurting themselves on Sunday was nothing new in this disappointing season.

But Harbaugh abruptly sending a rookie to the doghouse was a head-scratcher.

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Ravens-Chiefs: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 20 December 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Matt Schaub and Jimmy Clausen are both active, but mystery still surrounds the quarterback position for the Ravens as they host the red-hot Kansas City Chiefs.

After missing last week’s loss to Seattle with a chest ailment, the 34-year-old Schaub practiced all week and was listed as probable on the final injury report. However, head coach John Harbaugh left himself wiggle room earlier in the week when he complimented Clausen’s play against the Seahawks and expressed belief that he had two good options at quarterback.

Based on pre-game work, Clausen appeared to be preparing to make his second straight start as he was far more active and taking the starting reps over Schaub, but the Ravens did not make an official announcement regarding a change to the projected starting lineup.

That uncertainty at quarterback wasn’t even considering the signing of Ryan Mallett, who was deactivated for Sunday’s game but is already signed for next season. The former Houston Texan would appear to be a decent bet to see the field before the 2015 season concludes.

Despite being listed as questionable with a calf injury, No. 2 running back Terrance West is active. The newly-promoted Terrence Magee is also active as the third-string back behind starter Buck Allen.

Young cornerbacks Tray Walker and Jumal Rolle are active along with defensive lineman Carl Davis after Harbaugh pledged earlier in the week that they all would receive more opportunities over the final three weeks of the season.

As expected, linebacker Albert McClellan (ankle), wide receiver Marlon Brown (back), and cornerback Kyle Arrington (back) were all deactivated after being listed as doubtful on the final injury report.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs will not only be without Pro Bowl outside linebacker Justin Houston (knee), but they will be without starting left guard Jeff Allen (ankle). Houston was ruled out on Friday while Allen had been listed as questionable.

The Ravens and Chiefs will be meeting for the seventh time in the regular season with the teams splitting the first six. However, Baltimore has won the last four overall meetings against Kansas City, which includes a 30-7 win at Arrowhead Stadium in the first round of the 2010 playoffs.

Sunday’s forecast in Baltimore calls for sunny skies with a high of 43 degrees and winds up to six miles per hour, according to Weather.com.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Jeff Triplette.

For the first time in franchise history, the Ravens will be wearing gold pants to go along with their purple jerseys, and the reaction on social media wasn’t favorable. Kansas City will don its white tops with white pants.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
QB Ryan Mallett
WR Marlon Brown
CB Kyle Arrington
LB Albert McClellan
TE Crockett Gillmore
TE Richard Gordon
DE Kapron Lewis-Moore

KANSAS CITY
QB Aaron Murray
WR De’Anthony Thomas
S Husain Abdullah
LB Justin Houston
G Jeff Allen
DL David King
DL Rakeem Nunez-Roches

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Ravens-Chiefs: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 19 December 2015 by Luke Jones

The questions run rampant for the Ravens’ Week 15 meeting with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Who’s starting at quarterback?

What will the secondary look like?

Does Sunday represent the Ravens’ last best chance to win another game before the most disappointing season in franchise history mercifully comes to an end?

Meanwhile, Kansas City comes to town having won seven in a row to erase a 1-5 start and enter Sunday holding the first of two wild-card spots in the AFC. Simply put, the Chiefs are exactly what the Ravens wanted to be after the worst start in franchise history, but it simply hasn’t happened for the latter.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens play Kansas City for the seventh time in their regular-season history with the series tied 3-3. Baltimore has lost three of the four meetings between the teams at M&T Bank Stadium, but the Ravens won the last of those home contests back in 2009. Counting the postseason, the Ravens have won their last four meetings with the Chiefs.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to avoid the first five-loss home schedule in the 20-year history of the franchise …

1. The Chiefs will hold a plus-two turnover advantage in a microcosm of the season for both teams. Though their list of injuries isn’t quite as extensive, the Chiefs lost star running back Jamaal Charles for the season in October and has been without All-Pro linebacker Justin Houston since late November. Andy Reid’s team has kept ticking by forcing turnovers on defense and committing few with an efficient offense. Meanwhile, the Ravens rank 30th in takeaways (11) and 24th in giveaways (23). Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith won’t wow you with ability, but he’s thrown just four interceptions all year. Baltimore will be turning to Matt Schaub or Jimmy Clausen, who both struggle to protect the football. If both teams follow their 2015 scripts, the Chiefs will capitalize on the Ravens’ mistakes.

2. Elvis Dumervil will exploit former teammate Jah Reid for two quarterback sacks. As bizarre as it was to read that Reid received a three-year contract extension earlier this week, Pro Football Focus has graded the former Raven 73rd of 77 offensive tackles in the NFL this season. On top of that, the first overall pick of the 2013 draft, left tackle Eric Fisher, has graded only 37th overall, according to PFF. This should help Dumervil, who has been limited to just six sacks without a viable edge rusher playing on the opposite side. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will try to run some stunts to take advantage of an offensive line that’s allowed 41 sacks, fourth worst in the NFL. The Ravens defense ranks 20th in the league with only 28 sacks, but Dumervil will turn in a 2014-like performance on Sunday.

3. Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce will catch a touchdown pass and collect over 80 receiving yards. Kansas City sports the league’s 27th-ranked passing game, but Smith has effectively used his tight end to the tune of 59 catches for 749 yards and four touchdowns this season. Whether trying to use linebackers or safeties, Baltimore has struggled to cover tight ends and Kelce will effectively move the chains to continue drives for the Chiefs. It will be interesting to see how the Ravens try to cover Kelce as inside linebacker Daryl Smith has been replaced more and more by Zach Orr in the nickel in recent weeks. And with Lardarius Webb now factoring into the rotation at safety, you wonder if even more communication issues are inevitable. Kelce will be ready to take advantage on Sunday.

4. The Baltimore secondary will offer new looks, but Alex Smith will throw for 225 yards and two touchdowns. Head coach John Harbaugh said earlier in the week that it was time for young defensive backs such as 2015 fourth-round cornerback Tray Walker, second-year safety Terrence Brooks, and former Houston Texans cornerback Jumal Rolle to receive more opportunities. While it will be important to evaluate the aforementioned players in the final three weeks of the season, the results probably won’t be pretty for a defense that has repeatedly failed to be on the same page even with veterans on the field. Smith carries the dreaded “game manager” label, but he will take advantage of Baltimore mistakes to find Kelce and top receiver Jeremy Maclin for several big plays on Sunday.

5. The Ravens will rebound cosmetically from the Week 14 blowout loss, but Kansas City won’t provide enough help in a 23-14 defeat. Even while carrying a louder tone of resignation this week following an embarrassing loss to Seattle, Baltimore will return to its pattern of competing more like it did in the first 12 games of the season that were all decided by one possession. However, the injury-ravaged Ravens aren’t talented enough to beat a quality team without substantial help from the opposition. The Chiefs won’t figure to provide that assistance as they’ve committed just 12 turnovers all season, third fewest in the NFL. Either Jimmy Clausen or Matt Schaub will facilitate a couple scoring drives against the NFL’s 15th-ranked pass defense, but a couple Ravens mistakes will be the difference.

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Schaub probable, but Harbaugh mum on starter for Sunday

Posted on 18 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Asked if he could settle a bet among reporters about whether he’d name his starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against Kansas City, Ravens coach John Harbaugh answered in predictable fashion on Friday.

“There are probably high odds in one direction,” said Harbaugh as he laughed. “I’m probably not going to name a quarterback today. That’s probably all I have to say on the matter.”

After practicing fully on Thursday and Friday, veteran Matt Schaub was listed as probable on the final injury report of the week, but it remains to be seen whether he will resume starting duties. Harbaugh stated earlier in the week that he felt the Ravens had two good options in Schaub and Week 14 starter Jimmy Clausen.

The latter took at least half of the starter reps on Wednesday and Thursday, according to offensive coordinator Marc Trestman. Though Schaub appeared to be laboring at a couple different points during the viewing portions of practices this week, the “probable” designation makes it clear that Harbaugh’s decision over who starts will be more about performance than health for Sunday’s game against the Chiefs.

“He looked good,” Harbaugh said. “I won’t say he’s 100 percent, but by Sunday he has a chance to be 100 percent. He looked good. He’s a tough guy. He worked hard this week.”

To no surprise, starting tight end Crockett Gillmore (back) was officially ruled out for Sunday’s game after Harbaugh said he wouldn’t be able to play this week and could be lost for the rest of the season. Linebacker Albert McClellan (ankle), cornerback Kyle Arrington (back), and wide receiver Marlon Brown (back) were all listed as doubtful to play after missing all three practices this week.

After being limited by a calf injury on Thursday, running back Terrance West missed Friday’s workout and is questionable to play. The Ravens added rookie Terrence Magee to the 53-man roster earlier this week, and he would serve as the No. 2 running back behind Buck Allen if West cannot play.

Four-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda is probable to play despite missing practice on Wednesday and Thursday with an ankle issue. He was a full participant in the final workout of the week.

With Schaub listed as probable, it would seem highly unlikely that the newly-signed Ryan Mallett would receive any playing time on Sunday, but he has made a good first impression with the organization, according to his offensive coordinator.

“He’s taking this very seriously,” Trestman said on Thursday. “He has been here 24-7 the last three days doing everything he can to soak up as much of the offense as he can, and what has impressed me most — and we all see his assets, his physical ability — but he has football intelligence. He has picked up some verbiage very quickly. We’ve thrown him in there in practice the first days he was here; we put him in there. He has had six to 12 plays working with the guys.”

Meanwhile, the Chiefs officially ruled out All-Pro outside linebacker Justin Houston (knee), but fellow Pro Bowl linebacker Tamba Hali (knee) is probable to play.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Jeff Triplette.

According to Weather.com, Sunday’s forecast calls for mostly sunny skies with temperatures in the mid-40s and winds up to five miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: TE Crockett Gillmore (back)
DOUBTFUL: CB Kyle Arrington (back), WR Marlon Brown (back), LB Albert McClellan (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: RB Terrance West (calf)
PROBABLE: LB Elvis Dumervil (non-injury), G Kelechi Osemele (knee), QB Matt Schaub (chest), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury), G Marshal Yanda (ankle)

KANSAS CITY
OUT: S Husain Abdullah (concussion), LB Justin Houston (knee), WR De’Anthony Thomas (concussion)
QUESTIONABLE: OL Jeff Allen (ankle), RB Spencer Ware (rib)
PROBABLE: QB Chase Daniel (toe), DE Mike DeVito (concussion/shoulder), LB Tamba Hali (knee), TE Travis Kelce (groin/quad)

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Kansas City’s turnaround reflects bizarro season for Ravens

Posted on 18 December 2015 by Luke Jones

It wasn’t long ago that the red-hot Kansas City Chiefs were in the same spot as the Ravens.

Having completed a stretch of four of their first six on the road and lost star running back Jamaal Charles to a season-ending knee injury a week earlier, Andy Reid’s team was 1-5 after a 16-10 loss at Minnesota on Oct. 18. It was the same day Baltimore fell to San Francisco to drop to 1-5, the worst start in the 20-year history of the Ravens.

Two months later, Kansas City is in the midst of a seven-game winning streak and is in line to become the first NFL team since the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals to rebound from a 1-5 start to make the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Ravens need to win one more game just to avoid tying the worst record in team history.

It’s only fitting that the Ravens meet a bizarro version of themselves in this difficult 2015 season.

“We’re playing the hottest team in football coming in here, coached by a great coach,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “They have a bunch of great players. They’re plus-12 [in] turnovers. I don’t think they ever turn the ball over. They’re doing the things they need to do to win football games. They’re doing what we hoped to do after a slow start.”

When 12 of your 13 games have been decided by a single possession like the Ravens have experienced this season, you need to be good at protecting the football and limiting your opponents’ scoring chances to win those tight contests. Of course, 4-9 Baltimore hasn’t done that in ranking 31st in turnover ratio (minus-12), 30th in takeaways (11), and 24th in giveaways (23).

Kansas City ranks second in the league in turnover ratio in addition to having a top 10 defense and rushing attack.

The Chiefs are everything the Ravens want to be right now.

“Giving them away and not taking them away. That has been the story that has not helped us and [has] helped other teams,” cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “If I can pinpoint something, I would say defensively, it’s turnovers and big plays. That’s a huge part — interceptions and fumbles and forced fumbles, turnovers in general, being a stingy defense, taking that ball away.

“Giving our offense more opportunities [and] cutting other offenses’ opportunities short. That would have gone a long way this season for us.”

If it weren’t enough to look around the league and see Michael Oher starting at left tackle for the undefeated Carolina Panthers and Tyrod Taylor shining in Buffalo — two players often maligned to varying degrees by Ravens fans — Thursday may have brought an even better example of this bizarre world. Heavily criticized as a third-round bust in his four years with the Ravens, Jah Reid signed a three-year extension with the Chiefs on Thursday as he’s held down the starting right tackle job.

Strange times, indeed.

High school reunion

Sunday will be a proud day for Colton High School in California as not only will Ravens cornerbacks and high school teammates Jimmy Smith and Shareece Wright play their ninth game together, but they’ll look to the opposing sideline and see another familiar face from those days — Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen.

“It’s pretty cool. Danny Sorensen, he was a young kid when I was at Colton — me and Shareece,” Smith said. “He was our safety. He comes from a long line of talented football players. His brother, actually, is Brad Sorensen, who was my high school quarterback, and he was the backup for San Diego a few weeks ago [when we played]. It’s kind of a cool thing.”

Daniel Sorensen was signed by Kansas City as a rookie free agent out of Brigham Young last year.

Pitta named Ed Block winner

After suffering two serious right hip injuries in a 14-month period, tight end Dennis Pitta was named the Ravens’ recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award this season.

The 30-year-old returned to the practice field in late October, but he was not cleared to return to live-game action and has remained on the physically unable to perform list. While his football future remains in doubt, Pitta has continued to serve as a mentor and an additional coach to a young group of tight ends throughout the 2015 season.

Thursday’s injury report

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Kyle Arrington (back), WR Marlon Brown (back), TE Crockett Gillmore (back), Albert McClellan (ankle), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury), G Marshal Yanda (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Terrance West (calf)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Elvis Dumervil (non-injury), G Kelechi Osemele (knee), QB Matt Schaub (chest)

KANSAS CITY
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: S Husain Abdullah (concussion), LB Justin Houston (knee), WR De’Anthony Thomas (concussion), RB Spencer Ware (rib)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: OL Jeff Allen (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: DE Mike DeVito (concussion/shoulder), LB Tamba Hali (knee), TE Travis Kelce (groin/quad)

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Schaub returns to practice, Clausen takes most reps

Posted on 16 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — An ever-changing quarterback situation is likely to remain a mystery all week as the Ravens continue preparations for their Week 15 contest against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Veteran Matt Schaub (chest) returned to practice on a limited basis on Wednesday while Week 14 starter Jimmy Clausen continued to take most of the first-team reps, according to head coach John Harbaugh. Meanwhile, the newly-signed Ryan Mallett will spend the week working with the scout team while he’s brought up to speed in learning the Baltimore offense.

“He was in meetings pretty much all day yesterday with [quarterbacks coach Marty Mornhinweg] and then studying on his own trying to learn our offense and learn this game plan to be ready in case he’s needed,” said Harbaugh, who added that there was “absolutely a chance” that Mallett could play before the 2015 season is over. “I think that’s where we’re at for the rest of the year. Obviously, he’s a guy that has had a certain amount of success in the NFL, has a lot of talent.”

The Ravens were missing a number of players from Wednesday’s practice including guard Marshal Yanda (knee), linebackers Elvis Dumervil (non-injury) and Albert McClellan (ankle), cornerback Kyle Arrington (back), wide receiver Marlon Brown (back), and tight end Crockett Gillmore (back). Harbaugh has already ruled out Gillmore for Sunday’s game.

Dumervil and McClellan were both shaken up at different points during Sunday’s loss to Seattle before returning to action.

Promoted from the practice squad on Tuesday, running back Terrence Magee and cornerback Jumal Rolle were also present and working as official members of the 53-man roster. With return specialist Raheem Mostert no longer on the roster, Magee as well as punt returner Kaelin Clay could receive opportunities to return kickoffs against the Chiefs.

“Both those guys work back there. You see it in practice,” Harbaugh said prior to Wednesday’s practice. “Those are both possibilities, and the way the roster goes, Raheem is going to be back here [on the practice squad] practicing unless something happens unexpected. He could be out there Sunday as well.”

The “unexpected” did happen with Mostert, however, as the Cleveland Browns claimed the rookie running back and returner off waivers on Wednesday afternoon. This came just two days after Cleveland was awarded former Ravens offensive lineman Kaleb Johnson off waivers.

Meanwhile, Kansas City’s impact push rushers were missing from Wednesday’s workout as outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston both sat out with knee injuries. The pair have combined to collect 14 sacks this season.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Kyle Arrington (back), WR Marlon Brown (back), LB Elvis Dumervil (non-injury), TE Crockett Gillmore (back), Albert McClellan (ankle), G Marshal Yanda (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: G Kelechi Osemele (knee), QB Matt Schaub (chest)

KANSAS CITY
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Tamba Hali (knee), S Husain Abdullah (concussion), LB Justin Houston (knee), WR De’Anthony Thomas (concussion), RB Spencer Ware (rib)
FULL PARTICIPATION: OL Jeff Allen (ankle), DE Mike DeVito (concussion/shoulder), TE Travis Kelce (groin/quad)

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