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Purple Reign 2: Flacco & Bisciotti met, talked Super Bowls & millions last August

Posted on 30 May 2013 by Nestor Aparicio

This is an excerpt from a new, 480-page book on the Baltimore Ravens championship run called Purple Reign 2: Faith, Family & Football – A Baltimore Love Story. If you enjoyed every aspect of their Super Bowl win in New Orleans, you’ll love this book that chronicles how the team overcame adversity and personal tragedies, and used theology sprinkled with faith, family and love on the way to a Baltimore parade fueled by inspiration, dedication, perspiration and yes, a little bit of luck.

Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 15 of the definitive book on the Ravens’ Super Bowl XLVII victory in New Orleans, Purple Reign 2: Faith, Family & Football – A Baltimore Love Story.

If you enjoy it, please consider buying the books for the holidays as gifts for anyone who loves the Baltimore Ravens.

You can purchase both Purple Reign books by clicking here:

You can read an excerpt from Chapter 9 here where Joe Flacco and Steve Bisciotti talk about the risk of $100 million:

You can read an excerpt from Chapter 15 on the firing of Cam Cameron and its impact on Joe Flacco

This is from Chapter 9, “Injury after insult after implosion – Psychology 2012.” If you enjoy this small snippet you can purchase the book and read another excerpt here. You can also join the Facebook fan page here. The book will be released on May 31st and will be delivered before Father’s Day if purchase before June 5th.

 

AS THE TEAM WAS ASSEMBLED in the preseason, questions lingered, but Harbaugh felt great that the team had survived an offseason without arrests, without incidents, without any member of a veteran team blaming Evans or Cundiff for the New England loss. He inherited a fractured team in 2008, and by the summer of 2012 he was feeling good about the unity of the players and their maturity.

But the obvious questions for fans, media, and The Castle staff were all the same:

Is this the last chance for Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Matt Birk?

Will the offensive line hold up?

Can the Ravens win the big one?

Can Joe Flacco win the big one?

As Bisciotti knew on draft day in 2008, and as Newsome, Harbaugh, and everyone else in the organization had experienced the hard way — it always comes back to the quarterback. Was Joe Flacco going to be the franchise quarterback who would win a Super Bowl for the Baltimore Ravens?

Flacco, who played perhaps the best game of his career and threw what would’ve been the pass that took the Ravens to the Super Bowl on his last drive in January, somehow went into the 2012 season as the man on the hot seat who had not only turned down a $90 million offer for more than six months, but who had gone on WNST.net & AM 1570 in April and said he thought he was the best quarterback in the NFL. As much as Tim Tebow was the darling of ESPN with a seemingly non-stop Jets theme on SportsCenter, Flacco became something of a punch line for a quarterback who could get a team to the playoffs, but somehow was perceived as “not Super Bowl caliber.”

Short of catching his own pass in Foxborough, he literally had done everything he could do to get his team into the Super Bowl and yet the abuse was seemingly endless.

But the game is won on the X’s and O’s and the execution, and Flacco knew this. Cameron and Flacco had talked about more passing, more shotgun formations, and more pressure on defenses, but over the summer of 2012 it became clear the Ravens would become more of a personalized offense for No. 5. If the Ravens were offering Flacco $90 million dollars, they’d need to trust him to earn that money. He loved the tempo of the no-huddle offense and loved that it allowed him to dictate to the defense both personnel and pace.

“What quarterback wouldn’t want to run the no-huddle or fast-paced offense?” Flacco said. “Let’s be honest, it’s more fun to play quarterback when you do that. We like the pace we’re running on offense right now, but it’s a work in progress. We’ve done OK, and we’ve played pretty quick. But, we know we can play better, and we will play faster as we get into it more.”

Harbaugh endorsed this ideological move from being a team that always allowed its defense to cut loose while always seeming to fear the worst from the offense — trying to utilize the clock, run the ball, and be more conservative. “We’ve talked about the no-huddle [offense] since Joe’s [Flacco] rookie season,” Harbaugh said. “He ran it at Delaware and has had success in it when we’ve run it the last few years. He is a key to running it, and he loves it. And, we have the parts for it right now, including the offensive line. We can run the offense very fast, a little fast, slower, and we can huddle. We’re in a good spot right now with how we can run our offense.”

While some of the idiot sports talking heads and media types were constantly flogging Flacco, the people who watch coaches’ film were always impressed with him, using the evidence and residue of four straight playoff appearances and his improving game to shout down the detractors.

“We’ve spent time with Joe [Flacco], and I perceive a change in him,” said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, who saw Flacco play at Audubon High in his hometown of Philadelphia. “He’s won since Day One with the Ravens, but he’s more confident now. They’re confident in him, too, and the improved offense reflects all of that. He can make every throw. He can bring his team from behind. The question becomes, ‘Can they win a Super Bowl with Joe?’ And the answer is an emphatic, ‘Yes!’”

Mike Lombardi, who was doing NFL analysis in the summer of 2012 before becoming the general manager of the Cleveland Browns, said “That anyone spent the offseason criticizing [Joe] Flacco strikes me as ludicrous. Flacco didn’t drop the ball in the end zone against the Patriots. In fact, it was Flacco who drove the Ravens to give them two chances to win that game. It was others who didn’t make plays. While he doesn’t play in an offense that shows off his skills statistically, Flacco is a winning QB, and his record [45-21] shows it.”

ESPN’s Ron Jaworski spoke out on Flacco’s arm strength and ability to attack opposing defenses. “Arm strength – that’s Flacco’s No. 1 attribute,” Jaws said. “I get so tired of hearing how arm strength is overrated. It’s far more important than people think. He has the strongest arm in the NFL. And he has an aggressive, confident throwing mentality. The element always overlooked by those who minimize arm strength is the willingness of quarterbacks like Flacco to pull the trigger. Few recognize that because there is no quantifiable means by which to evaluate throws that are not made by quarterbacks with lesser arm strength. It’s all about dimensions. Flacco gives you the ability to attack all areas of the field at any point in the game.”

Flacco took the responsibility as a personal challenge and something he embraced.

“It’s definitely my offense as a quarterback; it’s my job to get out there and lead these guys and direct them and run the traffic, and get it run the way that I want it to be run,” he said in training camp. “Cam may be running the plays, and I may be controlling certain things on the line depending on what the play is, but the fine details of being a good offense are all of the fine details. And it’s my job to get those correct and that we have everyone on the same page. As long as I’m out there in practice getting it to the games and on game day, as long as I’m doing that and expressing to the receivers, expressing to the running back, and to the offensive line how I feel, and what I see back there and as long as we can get on the same page as that together, then that’s when we’re doing something, and that’s when I’m doing my job.

“You talk about being paid that much money, they don’t do that so that they can go out there to do every job, they do that so they can delegate some jobs onto me. And I can go out there and get it done the way it should be. That’s a big part of being a quarterback. To be able to make sure that everything is running smoothly and everybody sees it the way I see it. And that once we get there on Sunday, we can just react and play. Because we’re all up to speed and we all have the same vision of everything. I think that’s what good quarterbacks are able to do, is to take that and then take a certain play and make it great, just because everyone has a good understanding of that.”

By the beginning of training camp it was very clear that the Ravens and Flacco were at an impasse in negotiating a new contract that would replace the final year of his five-year deal from 2008. Newsome called Bisciotti and said that after tireless conversation with Flacco’s agent Joe Linta, there was no way to get a long-term deal and that the Ravens would need to play out the season and consider signing or franchising their star quarterback in 2013.

Bisciotti authorized a final offer – a “bump and roll” contract that gave Flacco a $1 million per year bonus if he won a Super Bowl and $2 million per year for the six years of the deal if he had won two Super Bowls. It would’ve been a raise that stayed on the books for the life of the deal. The average salary number was $16.7 million per year on the Ravens’ base offer, which would’ve made Flacco the fourth-highest paid quarterback behind Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning. Flacco was essentially turning down $90 million because he was rejecting the notion that he was the fourth best quarterback in the NFL.

Linta and Flacco once again turned it down the week before training camp opened.

Bisciotti was flustered, wanting to get the deal done and ran into Flacco in the cafeteria in Owings Mills during the first week of training camp and summoned the quarterback to his office upstairs.

“I had never, ever – not for one minute – even spoken to Joe about the contract,” Bisciotti said. “That was for Pat [Moriarty] and Ozzie [Newsome] to do, but I wanted to take one more swing at it and try to understand the situation.”

They spent 45 minutes with the door closed.

“There are two things here that I don’t understand,” Bisciotti said to Flacco. “I don’t understand why you’re walking away from this deal? As maligned as you are in the press and as little faith as so many pundits have in you, we’re offering you a $90 million deal and you can go wave that in their face and say, ‘F**k you guys! See, the Ravens DO believe in me!’ ”

Flacco was nonplussed. “I really don’t care about my critics,” he bluntly told the Ravens owner.

Bisciotti was exasperated. “I don’t understand it. Joe, don’t you think you’d play better with a clear head and having this contract behind you?” he continued. “You won’t have to answer questions from anybody, and you can just focus on playing and winning the Super Bowl.”

Flacco said it again. “Steve, I appreciate the offer, but I really don’t care about the media, critics, any of it. I’ve gotta trust my agent, and he doesn’t want any incentives in contracts. And I’ve gotta leave it to him.”

Bisciotti reasoned that until they won a Super Bowl together neither one would get that ultimate respect they desired. “I’m offering you a better deal than the one you’re asking me for if you’re planning on winning the Super Bowl,” he said.

Flacco wasn’t upset or emotional, as is his custom. He simply smiled and said he was going to play out the year. Bisciotti said, “Well, I tried,” as he shook Flacco’s hand. “Then go out and put a few rings on my desk and get what you think you deserve.”

“I figured if he’s fine with it then I should be fine with it,” Bisciotti said. “I wanted it behind both of us. I guess I didn’t really understand how different a guy he was. I told him, ‘You are a different cat, man!’ ”

Flacco remembers the conversation vividly. “Yeah, he couldn’t get over it,” Flacco said. “He said, ‘Do you know what you’re doing? This is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard!’ I told him I knew what I was doing and my price wasn’t getting cheaper. I saw his point of view but I also thought that I was right. I’m a little bit of a hard head.”

Flacco believed the market always get set by the next elite quarterback that signs and the price always goes up if you perform. “It wasn’t a bad offer but I felt like I could do better if I waited,” he said. Like his adversary in this $100 million negotiation, he had gone to the Bisciotti school of downside management.

“My agent said to me, ‘Think about the worse possible situation and if you’re OK with that then hold your position,” Flacco said. The downside here would’ve been a catastrophic injury or a bad 2012 season on the field. “If I got hurt, I got hurt,” he said. “That’s the nature of the game. I was willing to look in the mirror and live with that.”

Flacco said he turned the tables on Bisciotti: “I told him, ‘You should give me four or five million more now because if I win the Super Bowl’ – and I did say ‘if’ – ‘then it’s gonna cost you $20 million.’ ”

Flacco figured he was still only making his base of $6.5 million in 2012 no matter what. The Ravens weren’t ripping up his deal. It was an extension. And there’s always a new “going rate” for top quarterbacks.

“I was actually glad that he called me up to talk about it because it was a cool conversation to have,” Flacco said. “Even though we weren’t agreeing it was a great conversation. It’s one of those talks that grows a relationship, I think.

“Hey, I tried to throw him a bone and save him some money.”

 

To purchase Purple Reign 2: Faith, Family & Football – A Baltimore Love Story, click here.

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Ravens acquire center A.Q. Shipley from Indianapolis

Posted on 09 May 2013 by Luke Jones

Needing to fill their void at center, the Ravens have acquired A.Q. Shipley from the Indianapolis Colts to compete with second-year lineman Gino Gradkowski for the 2013 starting job.

General manager Ozzie Newsome will send a conditional pick in next year’s draft to the Colts in exchange for Shipley, who made five starts and appeared in 14 games during the 2012 season. The 6-foot-1, 309-pound lineman was a seventh-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2009 and spent time on practice squads in Pittsburgh (2009) and Philadelphia (2010) before signing with Indianapolis last year.

Considering the Ravens invested a 2012 fourth-round pick in selecting Gradkowski, you’d expect him to have the inside track in emerging as the retired Matt Birk’s replacement. He appeared in 16 games during his rookie season, serving primarily on special teams and saw limited time at center.

Shipley would be the ideal fit for a role similar to the one held by veteran Andre Gurode in 2011 when he served as Birk’s backup and filled in at both guard positions as well.

According to Pro Football Focus, Shipley earned a +6.9 grade in 476 offensive snaps last season. The Ravens drafted Colorado State-Pueblo lineman Ryan Jensen in the sixth round of last month’s draft to presumably offer some competition to Gradkowski, but the addition of Shipley diminishes the rookie’s chances of making the 53-man roster.

Shipley was a four-year letterman at Penn State and was an All-America selection, Rimington Trophy winner, and Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year as a senior. He is a native of Moon Township, Pa. and attended Moon Area High School in Pittsburgh. 

The Ravens also announced Thursday morning that they’ve released rookie guard Jeff Braun, who played at West Virginia and attended Winters Mill High School in Westminster.

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Ravens center Birk walks away after 15 NFL seasons, first Super Bowl triumph

Posted on 22 February 2013 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — After a 15-year NFL career and finally winning a Super Bowl earlier this month, Ravens center Matt Birk figured it was the perfect time and setting to reveal he was walking away from the game.

In lieu of a fancier press conference at the team’s Owings Mills facility next week, the 36-year-old offensive lineman announced his retirement on Friday morning while dedicating a literacy center at Battle Grove Elementary School in Dundalk. Wearing a t-shirt with the slogan “Finish Everything,” Birk couldn’t specify a time when he made his final decision but spoke to head coach John Harbaugh for roughly an hour last weekend and said he hadn’t made up his mind at that point. He phoned the coach and general manager Ozzie Newsome on Thursday afternoon to reveal his decision.

Taking questions from the Battle Grove students before opening up to the gathered media, Birk was asked why he was retiring. The quick-witted center didn’t disappoint in laying out his answer.

“Why am I retiring? I’m old, I have six kids, and it’s just time. I really enjoyed football. I got to play for a long time. I’ve been very fortunate, but I just feel like it’s time to do something else.”

Birk spent the last four seasons with the Ravens after playing for his hometown Minnesota Vikings for the first 11 years of his career. Named to six Pro Bowls in his career, the Harvard University graduate was selected in the sixth round of the 1998 draft and earned his first championship in being part of the Ravens’ 34-31 win over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3.

It was the perfect ending for a career that began with Birk struggling to make the Vikings’ 53-man roster in 1998 and ended with the grizzled veteran celebrating with teammates and his family on the turf of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans after finally reaching the pinnacle of the NFL for the first time.

“You can’t ask for anything more,” said Birk, who went to work out at the Ravens’ practice facility a final time Friday morning. “It is a great way to end it, but like I said, no one’s entitled to a Super Bowl. Certainly not me. I was just so grateful and fortunate that I was able to be part of this team. It is a special team and the run that we made — the championship that we won — is something that I’ll never forget. I was telling [Harbaugh], you get a reason to come back and get together and relive those days. You’re forever linked, and that’s pretty cool.”

Despite playing well this past season, Birk was expected by many to retire to spend more time with his family as the father of six children. He said Friday that his wife Adrianna had offered her blessing for him to continue playing if he wanted to return next season. Birk signed a three-year, $8.525 million contract after contemplating retirement last offseason, but the deal was structured in a way that many expected the longtime lineman to either retire or be released after the first year of the deal.

Asked whether he thought he had anything left in the tank to continue playing if he desired, Birk quipped that no one would be able to find out the truth.

“It doesn’t matter what I think,” said Birk as he laughed. “Anyone who wants to challenge me, yeah, I’ll tell them [I can still play] because there’s no way you’re going to find out. It was great. Last year, I felt great and that was a blessing. It’s a physical game; it’s a violent game. I was able to feel good about what I put out there on the field. It was just a good way for me to end.”

The Ravens will save $2.05 million in salary cap space with Birk’s retirement, which will provide some relief as they deal with limited space and hope to work out a long-term contract with quarterback Joe Flacco. Baltimore drafted Delaware’s Gino Gradkowski in the fourth round of last year’s draft with the intention that he’d eventually take over for Birk.

The retiring center expressed confidence that Gradkowski would be ready to take over at center in his second professional season.

“Gino will be fine. The biggest thing about football is it’s a character game because it’s hard,” Birk said of his 2012 understudy. “It’s different from other sports. Gino’s got that. He’s a great guy. Gino will do whatever it takes to be successful.”

Birk was named the NFL’s 2011 Walter Payton Man of the Year for his work in the community, which includes his HIKE foundation to improve literacy. His foundation’s goal is to “impact the lives of at-risk children by providing interactive programs and resources needed to guide a child through the key educational transitions between elementary, middle, high school and college.”

Several teammates expressed congratulations to Birk via social media on Friday morning as the veteran was considered one of the leaders in the locker room in a different way from the demonstrative and vocal leadership of Ray Lewis, who was the first member of the championship team to announce his retirement back in January.

Birk was touched by messages posted on Twitter from several teammates including Vonta Leach, Jameel McClain, and Torrey Smith.

“That means a lot,” Birk said. “You play the game for a lot of reasons, but the respect of your opponent and more so the respect of your teammates is probably the biggest thing you’re shooting for.”

Cognizant of player safety concerns in the NFL, Birk has said he will donate his brain to Boston University’s School of Medicine for research into concussions.

His post-football intentions remain unclear, but the Minnesota native predicted Baltimore hasn’t seen the last of him by any shot.

“I’ll continue to advocate for player safety and retired players’ rights — now that I am a retired player,” Birk said. “We’ll see. I don’t have any plans for what’s next. I certainly didn’t plan on playing football for 15 years. Kind of not having a plan has worked out for me so far. I’m going to stay with it.”

Making the difficult decision to leave the hometown team he grew up rooting for following the 2008 season certainly wasn’t part of any plan, but he was immediately impressed with Harbaugh’s vision for the Ravens despite the coach having only finished his first season in Baltimore.

It’s safe to say the gamble paid off in choosing a new football home after 11 seasons in Minnesota.

“At the time, I just said, ‘[With] the limited information I have about the Ravens, I’m going to bet on this guy and I’m going to come here,'” said Birk, who labeled Harbaugh a friend first and foremost. “I’m sure glad I did. From the beginning, the organization and the city just welcomed us with open arms.

“I don’t need to tell anybody what this team means to this city. It’s definitely a special connection. To have the honor of playing here for four years and playing under coach Harbaugh and his staff, it was truly an honor.”

 

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Sizing up the Ravens’ possible salary cap cuts

Posted on 14 February 2013 by Luke Jones

Unless you’ve been hibernating since the glory of Super Bowl XLVII, you’re well aware of the Ravens’ salary cap woes and how critical the negotiations with quarterback Joe Flacco will be between now and March 4.

The entire offseason will hinge on whether the sides will come to an agreement on a long-term contract by that date or if the Ravens will need to use the franchise tag on their starting quarterback. Further complicating the matter would be the decision to use the $14.6 million non-exclusive tag — leaving Flacco able to negotiate with other teams — or the exclusive tag that will cost somewhere around $20 million but would take him off the market entirely.

Regardless of the outcome of the negotiations before the start of the new league year on March 12, the Ravens are likely to make at least a couple cuts in hopes of signing some of their unrestricted free agents. However, the reality of using the franchise tag would mean multiple changes simply to fit Flacco under the salary cap as Baltimore is estimated by NFL.com to be $12.9 million under the cap before addressing the signal-caller or any of its restricted free agents or exclusive rights players.

It’s important to remember the rule of 51 as the top 51 cap numbers on the roster count against the salary cap. The savings from any released player is offset in part by an additional player making it into the top 51 from the bottom of the list. For example, if a released player carrying a $3 million cap number is replaced in the top 51 by another player carrying a $405,000 cap number, the end result is a $2.595 million savings on the salary cap.

Here’s how I’d rank the list of possible candidates to be cut for cap purposes (with the cap savings noted in parentheses), in order from most likely to least likely:

1. Bobbie Williams ($1.2 million)
Skinny: The offensive lineman was relegated to reserve duties in favor of Jah Reid midway through the season and will either retire or be released. At 36, Williams will need to find a home elsewhere to continue his career, but after finally winning a Super Bowl after years in Cincinnati, he would be picking an ideal time to walk away from the game. The Ravens will go younger and cheaper to fill his reserve role in their group of offensive linemen.

2. Matt Birk ($2.05 million)
Skinny: When Birk signed a three-year contract last offseason, it was structured with an understanding of it essentially being a one-year deal as the cap figures grow substantially over the last two years of the deal. The Ravens drafted Delaware product Gino Gradkowski in the fourth round last April to be the heir apparent to Birk at the center position, so all signs point to him taking over for the 2013 season. The 36-year-old Birk is contemplating retirement and there remains a possibility the Ravens decide to keep Birk — who played very well down the stretch — for one more season if they can sign Flacco to a long-term deal in time, but most signs point to the veteran’s days being finished in Baltimore.

3. Vonta Leach ($3 million)
Skinny: The Pro Bowl fullback has done everything the Ravens could have possibly expected after signing him two summers ago, but his high cap number makes him a prime candidate to be cut considering his position just isn’t a big enough priority with the offense continuing to move toward the passing game. The Ravens would certainly miss Leach’s punishing blocking ability, but they could shift tight end Ed Dickson to more of an H-back position while also adding a younger, cheaper fullback coming out of college. With other positions to address and the lack of cap room, Baltimore just can’t justify paying a fullback so much money.

4. Brendon Ayanbadejo ($806,000)
Skinny: His lower number is the reason why the reserve linebacker isn’t ranked higher on the list, but Ayanbadejo would easily be expendable given his age and role on the team. The defense depended on him less in passing situations this season and the 36-year-old also had some lapses on special teams down the stretch. Saving less than $1 million on the cap doesn’t do much, but parting ways with the former Pro Bowl special-teams player would seem like a logical move to make with minimal impact on the makeup of the team if you need to clear money from the cap.

5. Jameel McClain ($1.8 million)
Skinny: If you could look into the crystal ball and guarantee the Ravens would re-sign fellow inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, it would be a no-brainer to part ways with McClain, who missed the end of the season after suffering a spinal cord contusion in early December. However, considering the Ravens are losing the retiring Ray Lewis and potentially Ellerbe, general manger Ozzie Newsome would be hesitant to part ways with another inside linebacker. McClain is solid against the run, but his limitations in pass coverage make him an expendable player if the Ravens are confident they can lock up Ellerbe, which obviously isn’t a sure thing at this point.

6. Jacoby Jones ($4 million)
Skinny: The return specialist and No. 3 receiver carries a large cap number, so his status will be in jeopardy if the Ravens need to use the franchise tag on Flacco. His speed on the outside was a major asset in taking pressure off fellow speed receiver Torrey Smith and opening the intermediate portion of the field to Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta, but he is still a part-time player offensively. You’d hate to lose Jones’ tremendous return ability, so there’s a good chance the Ravens would explore a contract extension to lower his cap figure and keep him for a few more years before potentially making the difficult decision to release him. Jones is owed a $1 million roster bonus in March, so that could complicate the situation further.

7. Anquan Boldin ($6 million)
Skinny: The wide receiver’s appearance on this list is based strictly on his cap number and how far that space would go in curing the Ravens’ problems if it comes down to the franchise tag for Flacco. His quarterback would be one of the first to say he wants Boldin to remain in Baltimore, so it’s likely Newsome will pursue an extension with the 32-year-old to reduce the 2013 cap number before resorting to a release. Boldin has already said he’d retire if the Ravens cut him, so perhaps the general manager could remind him of that in trying to strike a cap-friendly deal. The departure of Jones would hurt, but parting ways with Boldin would almost appear to be crippling in the short term as there is no logical replacement on the roster to count on with the disappointing development of Tandon Doss.

 

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Birk believes taking care of older players right thing to do

Posted on 31 January 2013 by WNST Staff

CENTER MATT BIRK

(on what has impressed him most in the playoffs about QB Joe Flacco) “I don’t think it’s just this postseason. He’s done it all year. He does it all the time. He just goes to work and does his job. He’s certainly played well. I think Joe always plays well. There have been some games this post season – because of situations we’ve been in or the way defenses have played us – where they’ve kind of said that Joe’s not going to be the one that beats us, so they focus on Ray Rice and try to take away the running game. Those games have kind of been in Joe’s hands and he’s stepped up and gotten the job done. I’m impressed by it, but I’m not surprised by it.”

 

(on being satisfied with the medical care he’s provided as a player) “I’ve always felt like I’ve gotten great care from the teams I’ve been on. Obviously it’s a tricky situation. As players, we expect to be safe and we want to be safe but at the same time we play a very physical game. I think that we can always make strides and always continue to improve the type of care that we’re giving our players while they’re playing and after they’re playing. We can’t expect them to take care of everything. I guess I’m saying that unfortunately it’s part of the game. Guys suffer. I’m not saying we should try to solve it, but we should try to take care of them the best we can. Doctors aren’t perfect. The medical system isn’t perfect. So I would say that I’m satisfied. I think that we do get great care and obviously they invest a lot of money in players to try to keep us well and keep us productive and on the field. Some of that responsibility has to fall on the player.”

 

(on adjustments the offensive line has made this postseason) “Bryant McKinnie had to move to starting left tackle. Jah Reid went down. He was our starting left guard, so Bryant moved into left tackle. Michael Oher goes from starting left tackle to right tackle. Kelechi Osemele moved from right tackle to left guard. So there are three new pieces in there and it’s worked out well. The guys have had to move have had the biggest adjustments and they just did it. That’s what was best for the team. We figured that gave us the best chance to win and have those five guys out there. We would just try to make the most of it.”

 

(on being outspoken about player safety and defense) “There’s just a sense of what’s right. I’ve always felt very fortunate to be able to play this game, and obviously to make a very good living doing it. That hasn’t always been the case for players. I came into the league in 1998 and played with guys who were in the league in the 1980s. Financially speaking, they were quick to tell me it always hasn’t been like this. In 1994, things started getting pretty good for the players. They’ve continued to be good. They reminded me that it hasn’t always been like this. This has been a long, hard fight. It started way before I got here. So I think there is a sense with those guys that because of their actions and their sacrifices, they’ve allowed us to do this and be able to provide for our families in such a manner that we owe it to them that we try to take care of them as much as we can and give back a little bit. Because medical care, all of those things, it wasn’t the same 30 or 40 years ago but the players today are the ones benefiting from it.”

 

(on plans to donate his brain when he died) “You get used to (the conversation). Like I said, I compare it to being an organ donor. To me it’s not that big a deal. Terrible pun – it’s a no-brainer (joking). It really is, because once you’re gone, you’re gone, and if some or your organs or body parts can help somebody else or help further the understanding of the effects of football then I’m all for it.”

 

(on worrying about the effects of football in his life) “Sometimes you worry about it, especially if something happens like you can’t find your car keys. You think, ‘Oh my gosh.’ You overreact a little bit. You think, ‘Is this from football, is that why I can’t remember why I came into this room?’ It’s not, especially if you’re a parent. You have mush brain. Do I worry about it? I don’t worry about it but I surely try to do everything I can to keep myself healthy and if I can try to prevent something that happens down the road, I’m going to take those precautions.”

 

(on his current level of play and deciding whether or not to retire) “I will think about my decision after this game. I’m playing until I’m not. There’s a lot that factors into that. It’s not just football. It’s family. I just really like playing with this group and this team, with the group of guys playing the offensive line, playing for Coach (Andy) Moeller and Coach (John) Harbaugh and all of those guys. I think that’s why I’m so inspired and motivated every day to keep working hard to keep trying to get better.”

 

(on taking his time to think about retiring) “I don’t think that anything would happen Sunday that would make me decide right then and there or sway my decision either way.”

 

(on Joe Flacco in the playoffs) “It’s Joe. He’s always had great focus. He doesn’t get caught up in all the things that come along with being an  NFL quarterback. He’s always focused on the task and I think he just loves football, loves preparing, and loves going out there and competing. The catch that he gets, the contract and all that stuff, I don’t think it’s really that important to him. It is but it isn’t. At the end of the day I think his main focus and his task is to just play in the game and to play as well as he can.”

 

(on the Joe Flacco saying the offensive line has been a key in the post season) “That’s just of Joe to say, but we just try to do our job and give Joe and Ray (Rice) and Dennis (Pitta) and Anquan (Boldin) and Torrey (Smith) and Bernard (Pollard), all our guys, all our playmakers, chances to make plays. That’s our job, to do our job so that those guys can do the special things that they can do.”

 

(on his previously expressed opinion opposing gay marriage and how that differs from his openness to having a gay teammate) “I guess I could say this as many times as I want and people aren’t going to believe you, but that’s not a hateful attitude towards people who are gay. I have gay people in my life – gay people in my life that I love. If you’re asking me if I would accept a gay teammate: yeah absolutely. It would be really not that big of an issue to me personally.”

 

(on why no NFL player has publicly come out as gay) “It’s probably because of fear and how they’re going to be accepted or not accepted in the locker room. I think most NFL players feel very fortunate to be able to do this for a living, so maybe if a gay player comes out, they might think it might hurt their career or their chances. Unfortunately, I think it’s just based on fear of the unknown and how people are going to react.”

 

(on whether or not he and Brendon Ayanbadejo (who has advocated for gay marriage) have had debates on the issue) “Yeah, we’ve had some discussions. Obviously on the issue of marriage we couldn’t be further apart, but he’s my teammate and I respect him. I’ve known him since before he was my teammate and continue to respect him. I just think he’s wrong and I’ll just kind of leave it at that.”

 

(on where the Ravens are in terms of preparation for the game) “I think we’re right where we normally are for games, come this time of the week. You try to keep things as normal as possible and just try to prepare like we always do as players and as a team. We’re kind of creatures of habit. We have comfort in our routine and that takes some of the guesswork out of things, so we’re just trying to keep things as normal as possible and I think we’re right where we’re supposed to be.”

 

(on practice translating to game play) “You can’t practice hard and well and not get better and that’s our motto. That’s how Coach Harbaugh runs it – Coach John Harbaugh (laughs). We came ready to work and are going to work, because we’re here so we might as well work and make it a great day. In anything, whether football or life, hard work is the key to success.”

 

(on distractions in the media this week) “During the course of the season, it’s so long that stuff happens whether it’s public or in your private life. Stuff happens. Part of being a professional player is being able to block that stuff out and compartmentalize things and stay focused on the task at hand. That’s what it takes to be a professional athlete. Some guys can’t handle that. They don’t last long. I don’t think teams that can’t handle issues that come up are going to be successful, because things happen. Life happens. I’m not really concerned about the distractions or issues that the 49ers have had. There’s stuff out there about lots of different things on this team. That’s fine. We’re not going to let it impact our preparation and our performance on Sunday. That’s just the mindset that we have.”

 

(on practicing on a baseball field with crosswinds in New Orleans) “It’s just part of the deal. It’s the way it is. You can’t do anything to change it. Like I said, we were out there and said, ‘Hey, let’s just go to work and work hard and not worry about what we don’t have but focus on the opportunity that we do have to have a great Wednesday practice.’ I think we did that.”

 

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Birk seeing same old Flacco during biggest week of QB’s career

Posted on 30 January 2013 by WNST Staff

CENTER MATT BIRK

(on his decision to return for this season) “I mean, I always say that I’m playing until I’m not. I told Art after the season, I just need some time. Every year is just exhausting and the way our season ended last year, it takes a while to process those emotions. For me, before my physical well-being, if I feel like I can do it again or if I want to do it I need to make sure that it’s good for my family. People say, ‘What do you mean it’s good for your family? You’re an NFL player. You make a ton of money.’ But it’s a big sacrifice on their part, on my wife and I have six kids. You have to coordinate a lot of things and you have to make sure everybody is on board. (My family) just kind of took off; we have a little place we go to and hang out for a couple of months and that’s what we did. I don’t try to set a timeline on it or rush the decision. I just wake up every day and just live and see how I feel. It just got to the point and made the decision that we could do it again.”

 

(on if how close the team was last year played into his decision to return) “A little bit. That was as tough of a way to end the season as you can probably have. It was kind of in the back of my mind, I sure would like to give it one more run with this group.”

 

(on the success of the offensive line) “We just study real hard and we work fundamentals and techniques. There is no secret formula, you just try to prepare as well as you can and then go out there and do your best. It’s a good feeling to know as an offensive lineman that you have a quarterback and you have receivers and running backs that we know if we do our job up front those guys are going to make plays and good things are going to happen for our football team.”

 

(on the most difficult task for an offensive lineman) “It kind of depends. It depends on the situation and who you’re going against, who your opponent is. The most important thing as an offense is to have balance and to be able to do both and then the defense can’t key in on one or the other and you can keep them off balance a little bit.”

 

(on what he will do after football) “It’s scary. I joke but I’m kind of serious. People say, ‘What are you going to do when you’re done?’ and that’s probably why I’m still playing. The unknown is scary in some ways. You’re never going to be able to replicate some of the feelings, some of the emotions that you get playing this game. But I think it’s also important too, that’s a good life lesson to have: to keep everything in perspective. If this is as good as it gets for you then you’re in trouble. Through spirituality, through your family, through relationships, a lot of things, you need to have everything in the right perspective and you need to realize all of this is going to be gone someday. It ends for everybody.”

 

(on if his family wants him to retire) “Sometimes but then in the offseason I’ll be home for a month or two and they will be like, ‘Isn’t it time for you to go back to work?’ I like to try to get involved and they have a rhythm at home. When we have the reentry period in the offseason where I’m home a lot more, there’s always a few bumps on reentry.”

 

(on how Joe Flacco has been this week) “Joe has been Joe. He’s always the same, that’s the thing about him that you have to love. He’s not impressed by anything or anything that he does. Obviously he’s a hot topic this week but it doesn’t really affect him one way or the other. I really don’t think he cares too much.”

 

(on his expectation for Joe Flacco on Sunday) “I expect for him to be Joe. To go out there and play solid like he always does. He’ll do whatever is asked of him to help our team win.”

 

(on if this is the final opportunity for a lot of guys on the team to win the Super Bowl) “I don’t know if this is it but there are a lot of guys that are getting up there in years (in the league) and this is their first opportunity and you never know when it could be your last. We talk about opportunity a lot, how you have to seize the moment and appreciate the moment and make the most of the opportunity. The future, who knows? I know teams go through that, they have a window that will close and then they rebuild but as far as the Ravens’ franchise overall, they’ve been pretty good for a long time. It’s a pretty big window that they’ve had but the future is unknown. You have to make the most of it.”

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Birk promoting player safety at Super Bowl

Posted on 30 January 2013 by WNST Staff

CENTER MATT BIRK

 

(on getting involved with the new device a sensor by MC10 and Reebok for tracking the impact of hits) “I guess football has done so much for me in my life and I think it’s a great game. Not just aside from playing professional football, but I think it’s a great game to teach a lot of lessons and a lot of things about life that are very valuable. I think especially as NFL players, we should try to help the game in making it as safe as possible. That’s certainly a hot topic these days, and in our game that filters down to the kids’ level, and as a father and as someone who’s concerned about kids and their safety and just doing everything we can to make the game safe and make it positive.”

 

(on the device a sensor by MC10 and Reebok helping the college and high school level) “The device were talking about is the sensor from MC10 and Reebok.  It gives you instant feedback on the impact of hits during a game and it talks about head injuries and concussions it’s not like a broken bone or something that’s very evident to the eye or to a medical doctor so this device gives you instant feedback as far as the impact and how great it was, in order to measure that so coaches and parents and medical staff aren’t waiting until after to get that data. Right away they know there’s an impact and a reason to be alarmed and get the kid out and taken through the battery of testing.”

 

(on how the concussion message has changed the NFL) “The culture has definitely changed.  Way back when you didn’t really talk about it and it wasn’t really considered, in a lot of ways, a real injury by players because that was just the talk in the locker room.  You just played through it, you did everything you could to play through it.  Nowadays with all of the things we’re finding out with the long term effects, attitudes have changed among players, and, if a guy has a concussion, it’s definitely accepted in the locker room because it’s so important as a player and on a team to have the respect of your teammates.  Now a days with all of the unfortunate data and cases that come across now, its okay to say ‘Yeah I have a concussion I can’t go back out.’”

 

(on donating his brain for research) “It’s my obligation as a professional football player to try to do my part to make the game as safe as possible for future generations.  I don’t really look at donating my brain as that big of a deal, it’s kind of like donating an organ.  I think it’s something that I should do.”

 

(on motivating his teammates to also donate their brains for research to the Boston University project) “I’ve talked to them about it and just try to explain it.  It’s kind of a morbid thing when you think about it and it kind catches you, but really if you think about it, it’s not that big of a deal.  You don’t need it once you’re dead and I think it’s important for the cause and for them to compile as much data so they can learn as much as they can about head traumas and the effect it has. CTE and all these things that weren’t on anybody’s radar five years ago.”

 

(on what his hope is in donating his brain and his involvement in this cause) “Just to make the game safer.  I think this is great that we’re having this discussion now.  Five years ago we weren’t talking about this and it’s so important for our game at the professional level and the future of it, but especially and more importantly, for the hundreds and thousands of kids that play football.  It’s a great game.  The best thing about football is the things that it teaches you about life and being a part of a team, something greater than yourself, values, teamwork, hard work, overcoming adversity, all of those things, and to show all these kids who play that they’re as safe as possible and can have a positive experience.”

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Birk admires Oher’s versatility

Posted on 29 January 2013 by WNST Staff

 

CENTER MATT BIRK

 

(on if he thought it would take 15 years) “I didn’t think I was going to be here 15 years later in 1998.”

 

(on he and Randy Moss starting together that year at opposite ends of the publicity spectrum) “I was fortunate enough to play with Randy for seven years and the way he took the league by storm was unbelievable.  To be a part of that and to be his teammate for seven years, we had a lot of fun in the locker room and obviously won a lot of games in large part to him.  I haven’t kept in touch with him or anything like that, but obviously I’m happy for him and that he’s still playing.  I think Randy’s been through a lot, gone through a lot of different things, but I understand having been his teammate for seven years what a competitor he is and how hard he works.”

 

(on the time and effort he’s put in and what it means to get here with the guys in his locker room) “Just being here with these guys, this is a special group.  That was obvious when I got to Baltimore.  Being here for four years, it’s just a tight-knit group and we really are a team and that come from Coach Harbaugh.  If you’re not about the team you’re not going to play for the Ravens.  Obviously we have great players, Hall of Fame players, guys that their impact isn’t measured only on the field, but off the field as well.  It’s just a blessing to able to play with those guys.”

 

(on any misconceptions about Randy Moss in a general sense) “I would just say he was a great teammate, extremely hardworking.  I mean the things he did on the football field were fantastic.  Those are the guys you want to play with, those types of competitors.

 

(on if this is a dream matchup) “These are two very physical teams, alike in a lot of ways and the physical aspect of football. That element is never going to change and big games you have to be physical.  The two teams here are physical.  It’s our 20th game of the season, we’re not going to change what we do and they’re not going to change what they do.  It’s going to be pretty straight forward.  I think the way the game evolves and changes and so much in passing and spreading out the field and doing things.  I like the fact that just as a fan it comes down to these two teams and this style of play to decide the world champion.”

 

(on Joe Flacco’s development) “He’s just continued to get better.  It’s been five years evolving and every year he’s gotten better and other guys have developed along with him that are young players.  Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Dennis Bennett, guys like that.  Joe’s gotten better, but I think a lot of guys around him have gotten better as well.  It’s kind of a two way street.”

 

(on Joe Flacco being a leader in the locker room) “I think just Joe being Joe.  He is who he is and he’s very comfortable with that.  The person he is and his personality.  He doesn’t try to be somebody he’s not.  The quarterback position is a leadership position and hopefully you have to play well and Joe’s done it time and time again.  He’s proven that he’s an excellent quarterback on big stages and he plays well and you do the best you can to respect your teammates.

 

(on the special feeling you need to have in the playoffs to win and coming back sense the middle of the season) “I think we have great leadership on this team.  I think Coach Harbaugh is a great coach and a great leader.  I think the guys in this room, their performance and their careers speak for themselves, but they’re not guys that a just in it for themselves.  They’re team guys, they lead and the rest follow.  Everybody’s going to have bumps in the road.  You’re going to have downs in the middle of the season and we understand that and you try your best to avoid them, but it’s going to happen.  I think when we had ours nobody panicked because players still believed in players and in coaches and coaches believed in players and we still believed in the way we were doing things.  We know that you get rough patches during the season it’s a long season, but we just have to do things the way we’ve been doing.  Our philosophy is just come to work ready to work and try to work as hard as you can and to get as good as you can and that’s basically all we do.”
(on the length of time he’s been in the league and what it feels like being here) “I feel very fortunate to be playing this game and to be doing it with this group of guys.  It’s a special group of guys all the way around and nobody’s entitled and nobody deserves to play in the Super Bowl, but everything really came together for us.”

 

(on President Obama saying that if he had a son he would have to think long and hard before letting him play football because of the physical toll it takes) “I have three sons and I think anyone who is a parent can relate to that.  Certainly it is a dangerous game and we’re finding out more and more, every day, the long term effects that this game can have.  I think it’s a joint effort with the commissioner, with coaches, with players, with everybody, everybody that wants to watch and make this game as safe as it can be.  I think we’re making strides in that.  Football’s a great game.  Obviously it’s a great game for NFL players, it’s how we make a living, but most kids who play football aren’t going to make it to the NFL.  It’s such a great game because it teaches you about life and lessons and there’s so much to be gained by participating in football.  It’s served us all well and just to continue to have this conversation and continue to talk about it and just do whatever we can to make it safer  whether it be through rule change or research.”

 

(on how important Coach Jim Caldwell has been to this team) “Obviously he’s done a great job.  It’s probably less than an ideal situation.  I think his track record speaks for itself and what he’s accomplished in this league.  I think he helped Joe (Flacco) progress, get a different coach, different voice and a different viewpoint and this offense as a whole, he’s obviously brought a lot of ideas and when he became coordinator he was able to put his stamp on it, his personality a little bit more.  Fortunately he’s been successful.”

 

(on the dynamic of the changes in the offensive line) “We always talk about chemistry on the offensive line, five guys because you work together so much and ideally you’d love to have five guys in there at the same position all season.  That’s not the way it worked out for us, but you get back to the team philosophy that we have and everybody buying in and what was best for the team.  Guys like Michael (Oher) and Michael’s been back and forth many times throughout his career and he just does it.  He doesn’t complain. He just does it because he knows that’s what’s best for the team.  Brian (Williams) did a great job of just staying ready all season to jump in and Kelechi (Osemele) as a rookie you lean so much and you’re learning curve is so steep and he’s playing left tackle for 16 games and then all of a sudden get switched to guard.  Those guys, they just want to win.  They’re about the team and whatever it took when we had to make those changes because of injury and everybody just went all in and did the best they could.”

 

(on Bryant McKinnie and Aldon Smith matching up) “It’ll be a great matchup. Bryant’s been a great player in this league for a long time.  Left tackle  position, you’ve got to be able to block guys one-on-one in the pass and obviously with Smith, the year that he’s had and to do what he’s be able to do is phenomenal.  That’ll be two great players going at it.”

 

(on Alex Smith going out with a concussion and if that hurts the advancement of the safety issue) “I don’t know that situation particularly, but I think the culture has changed for the better in the last few years as far as concussions are concerned.  I think the attitude is that it’s not smart to play with a concussion.  You’re not doing your team any favors by trying to play through a concussion because you can.”

 

(on if he had the information now based on the research they’re showing, would that have affected his decision as far as playing) “I don’t know.  It’s hard to say.  I have three sons and once they get to a certain age and want to play football, I’ll let them.”

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Changes coming to Ravens offensive line during bye week?

Posted on 22 October 2012 by Luke Jones

Entering the bye week following the Ravens’ worst loss in his five years as head coach, John Harbaugh preached a message of reflection and evaluation in speaking to the media 24 hours after the 43-13 loss to the Houston Texans.

The problems are numerous on both sides of the football despite the Ravens’ 5-2 record and first-place standing in the AFC North, but one of the most concerning aspects through the first seven weeks of the season is the inconsistent play of the offensive line. Quarterback Joe Flacco was sacked four times and had several passes batted down as the Houston defense controlled the line of scrimmage.

It was the latest example of the offensive line following a strong performance with a poor outing as the Ravens held Dallas to one sack in Week 6 before allowing the Texans to make life miserable for Flacco throughout the day in Houston on Sunday.

“We’re a work in progress,” Harbaugh said. “I’m not going to put a grade on it – it’s just not what we do. We’ve done some really good things, and we’ve done some not so good things.”

The offensive line has been in line with the overall “Jekyll and Hyde” personality demonstrated by the Baltimore offense, turning in excellent performances mixed with unacceptable showings. The group struggled to protect Flacco in all three road games this season, allowing 10 sacks in those contests, and allowed the Cleveland Browns to sack the fifth-year quarterback four times in a Week 4 win in Baltimore. However, the line excelled in home wins over Cincinnati, New England, and Dallas, allowing a combined four sacks in those three games.

Beginning in training camp with the late arrival of 2011 starting left tackle Bryant McKinnie, Harbaugh emphatically stated the best five linemen would play as the Ravens used a variety of combinations in the preseason before surprisingly settling on Michael Oher at left tackle, Ramon Harewood at left guard, and rookie Kelechi Osemele at right tackle to begin the season. Veteran Bobbie Williams supplanted Harewood in the starting lineup against the Cowboys, but the Ravens appear no closer now to having a comfortable starting lineup than they did in late July.

Are more changes coming following the bye week with the offensive coaching staff now having the opportunity to take a step back from game-planning to evaluate its own personnel in a more detailed manner?

“That’s a possibility,” Harbaugh said. “We’re not benching guys and putting other guys in there and all that kind of stuff. To me, that wouldn’t be a fair description of what we’re doing. On our offensive line, we’re just trying to find a good mix. [Different] guys are probably going to be playing since we have a mix of young guys and older guys. I would guess we’re going to roll some guys in there and see how they do.”

If changes are to be made, the most logical step would be to put McKinnie back in the spot he enjoyed last season with Oher sliding back to the right tackle position he played last season. The move would also allow the Ravens to slide Osemele to the left guard spot where he received plenty of work during spring organized team activities and training camp.

McKinnie offers little as a run blocker but is arguably the Ravens’ best pass-blocking tackle. The results with Oher at the left tackle spot have been mixed as it appears the fourth-year offensive lineman is better suited to play on the right side.

And with the Ravens hell-bent on being a pass-heavy offensive attack this season — another aspect that could be tweaked during the bye — it would make sense to make the change to improve the outside pass blocking while upgrading the left guard spot where the 36-year-old Williams struggled mightily on Sunday. Of course, McKinnie’s lack of mobility and conditioning concerns would also impact the Ravens’ desire to run the no-huddle offense, which has floundered in three road games this season.

McKinnie played 18 snaps on Sunday after Osemele temporarily left the game with a sprained right ankle, but Harbaugh wouldn’t discuss the 33-year-old tackle’s play, citing a minor injury he sustained while playing. It’s no secret the organization was unhappy with McKinnie’s lack of commitment in the offseason and cut his pay less than a week before the start of the regular season.

“He got hurt. He’s had a little hip flexor issue that came up during the game,” Harbaugh said. “That’s all he played once he came out with the hip flexor, so it wasn’t that many plays to really evaluate.”

The Ravens could also look at the possibility of working Harewood back into the mix as well as second-year tackle Jah Reid, who is finally healthy after dealing with a calf injury for the better part of four months.

Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda and veteran center Matt Birk figure to be the only safe bets to remain at their current positions on the starting offensive line, but Harbaugh said  even rookie Gino Gradkowski has made big strides and would be ready to play guard if needed.

Regardless of whether the Ravens make wholesale changes or simply confirm the current group as its best starting five, it’s apparent Harbaugh and the coaching staff will be taking a long look up front before their next game on Nov. 4 against the Cleveland Browns.

“We’d like to have five guys who are rock solid and who are in there and working with everybody all the time,” Harbaugh said. “It’s really just not where we’re at right now. So, let’s make the best of it and let’s work some guys in there. If we get hot with a group, then we’ll stick with it.”

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Kruger, McPhee questionable for Sunday’s game in Philadelphia

Posted on 14 September 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Defensive end Pernell McPhee and linebacker Paul Kruger were listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Eagles after both practiced for the first time all week on Friday.

Both players worked on a limited basis as McPhee sported a bulky brace on his right knee and appeared to be limited as he went through positional drills during the portion of practice open to the media. The second-year defensive end said Thursday that he expects to play against the Eagles.

Kruger has dealt with a back injury stemming from Monday night’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals. He was one of the final players to walk out to the field and seemed to be moving fairly well as he went through individual drills. The fourth-year linebacker said he felt much better after practice.

“I’m hoping it loosens up even more before the game,” said Kruger, who expressed optimism for playing Sunday. “I’ve got a couple days left. I’ve got to keep the legs moving and loosen the back up. I’m just trying to stay on top of it and get it fully ready by Sunday.”

Should McPhee and Kruger be unable to play, it opens the door for third-year defensive lineman Arthur Jones to start at defensive end while rookie Courtney Upshaw would presumably get the start at the strongside linebacker position.

Coach John Harbaugh would not provide any information or thoughts regarding the status of either player as he reminded media of his instructions that discourage players from discussing injuries.

“I don’t really have any thought on it,” said Harbaugh when asked whether the two would be game-time decisions. “The buses will pull up at one o’clock. All of our guys will be there, they will get out of the bus, and then we’ll see what happens.”

Free safety Ed Reed (hamstring) was listed as probable after practicing for the third straight day. The 34-year-old indicated after Monday’s game he would be ready to play against Philadelphia and all signs point to that being the case barring an unforeseen setback.

Center Matt Birk (thight) was also listed as probable on the final injury report of the week and will play against the Eagles. Both he and Reed practiced fully on Friday.

Offensive lineman Jah Reid (calf) has been ruled out after observing practicing Friday but not working with the offensive linemen as he continues to rehab the same injury that’s plagued him since June’s mandatory minicamp.

Meanwhile, the Eagles received good news Friday as starting wide receivers DeSean Jackson (hamstring) and Jeremy Maclin (hip) practiced on a limited basis. Both were listed as questionable for Friday’s game, but Maclin told reporters he plans to play.

Per their official site, the Eagles will wear white jerseys on Sunday, meaning Baltimore will wear its purple jerseys on the road.

The referee for Sunday’s game is replacement official Robert Frazer, who worked the Bills-Jets game last Sunday.

The Ravens will conduct a walk-through Saturday morning before traveling to Philadelphia for their 1 p.m. game at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday afternoon.

Here is the final injury report …

BALTIMORE
OUT: T Jah Reid (leg)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Paul Kruger (back), DE Pernell McPhee (knee)
PROBABLE: C Matt Birk (thigh), S Ed Reed (thigh)

PHILADELPHIA
OUT: WR Riley Cooper (collarbone)
QUESTIONABLE: WR DeSean Jackson (hamstring), WR Jeremy Maclin (hip), CB Curtis Marsh (hamstring)
PROBABLE: S Colt Anderson (knee), WR Jason Avant (wrist), S Kurt Coleman (facial lacerations)

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