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Our Ravens/Eagles Slaps to the Head

Posted on 16 September 2012 by Glenn Clark

After Baltimore Ravens victories, Ryan Chell and I award players who made positive contributions with “Pats on the Ass” during the “Nasty Purple Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net.

The Ravens fell to the Eagles 24-23 Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, meaning there were no Pats to be awarded.

So instead of offering “Pats on the Ass”, Ryan and I again offered “Slaps to the Head” postgame. A slap on the side of the head from a coach tends to come along with them saying something along the lines of “you’ve gotta do better than that.”

Same rules as there were with Pats. Two offensive players, two defensive players, and a Wild Card (Special Teams player, coach, or another Offensive or Defensive player). One player gets “two slaps” (or a slap on both sides of the head), it’s the opposite of a “Player of the Game” honor.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches after each game.

Here are our five Ravens that have “gotta do better than that.”

Glenn Clark’s Slaps…

5. Arthur Jones

4. Matt Birk

3. Cary Williams

2. John Harbaugh

1. Joe Flacco (two slaps)

(Ryan’s slaps on Page 2…)

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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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Ravens offensive line starting to take shape?

Posted on 20 August 2012 by Luke Jones

One of the great mysteries off the offseason and training camp has been trying to determine exactly what the Ravens offensive line will look like when they take the field against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 10.

It started with the departure of Pro Bowl selection Ben Grubbs via free agency in March and has continued on with the uncertainty surrounding left tackle Bryant McKinnie, but as the Ravens approach their third preseason game of the summer, it’s apparent that John Harbaugh and the coaching staff need to narrow in on their decision for a starting five and where those players will line up exactly. The bizarre start to camp for McKinnie left the door open for competition at the tackle position as the Ravens have used the 32-year-old veteran as well as Michael Oher and rookie Kelechi Osemele at the tackle positions at different times.

However, conventional wisdom points to the Ravens settling in with the alignment used last year with McKinnie at left tackle and Oher on the right side, and that’s exactly what they’ve done over the last two days of practice. Harbaugh has praised the group’s versatility, but quarterback Joe Flacco acknowledges the need to start building chemistry up front.

“You want to get to a point where there’s some continuity between those guys,” Flacco said, “and they can really play together and be in sync, because that is the most important position on the field as a whole. Those guys need to kind of play off each other and get comfortable with each other.”

Considering the confusing circumstances surrounding McKinnie’s late arrival and the questions surrounding his weight and conditioning, it’s apparent the Ravens not only wanted to evaluate Oher on the left side and Osemele at right tackle but have been trying to send a message to last year’s starting left tackle that he wasn’t going to be assured of anything. And though he’s worked against reserve defenders in the first two preseason games, most still regard McKinnie as the team’s best pass blocker and his conditioning has been satisfactory, which holds more significance with the Ravens looking to use the no-huddle offense more this season.

With left guard Bobbie Williams struggling in the first two preseason games and still dealing with soreness in his surgically-repaired right ankle, Osemele has been receiving his most extensive work at left guard since organized team activities in the spring.

While Harbaugh still isn’t tipping his hand regarding McKinnie’s status, it’s beginning to look like the 6-foot-8 lineman is regaining a grip on the starting job.

“He’s had a tempo and a rhythm,” Harbaugh said. “It’s just a matter of practicing, and it’s like anybody else. He is practicing well. He’d be the first to tell you he’s not there yet. Nobody is there yet, but he is practicing well, and he is in the mix. I am looking forward to seeing how it shakes out, but he is doing a good job.”

Having played with McKinnie for seven years in Minnesota, center Matt Birk says his longtime teammate has put in the necessary work to not only get himself in better condition but to also show better agility than he has in recent years. Never regarded as a strong run blocker, McKinnie is receiving positive reviews even when the play isn’t being run to his side of the line.

“He is moving well,” Birk said. “We all get a little bit older, and you learn some things and figure some things out. Bryant has done a good job of being in shape. I think he is moving as well as I’ve seen him move in a long time on the back side. He is getting his back-side blocks and back-side cutoffs.”

Even if it looks like the Ravens are on the verge of solving the puzzle at tackle, the other question remains whether Williams can hold up inside or the rookie Osemele will eventually push him out of the starting lineup.

Rice understudy still under study

After showing impressive moves and good acceleration in his preseason debut against Detroit on Friday, rookie running back Bernard Pierce appears on the verge of taking a firm lead in the race for the backup job behind Ray Rice.

But the Ravens are still keeping their intentions for the backup job close to the vest.

“Right now, it’s a huge question mark,” running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery said. “I would like to think that I know the answer to that, ‘Who’s going to back up Ray?’ But, that’s why we are in training camp to find out who’s going to back up Ray.”

Though he only participated in nine plays and carried the ball four times for one yard, Pierce showed the ability to break tackles and good vision in his limited opportunities. More importantly, however, the rookie looked to be fully healthy after dealing with a hamstring injury for most of training camp.

“He’s learning what the NFL running back position is all about,” said Montgomery, who described Pierce as finally showing the “reckless abandon” he ran with at Temple in Friday’s preseason game. “You can see the redeeming qualities that he has is that inside ability to run in between the tackles and then able to bounce plays to the outside to drop his pads and run over people.”

Kicking competition grows intense

CONTINUE >>>

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Birk, J. Smith, three others return to practice Saturday

Posted on 11 August 2012 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 5:40 p.m.)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Returning to the practice field after their 31-17 win in the preseason opener over Atlanta, the Ravens saw five players return to action but were also dealing with several news absences from injuries sustained against the Falcons.

Center Matt Birk (back), cornerback Jimmy Smith (back), defensive end Arthur Jones (hip), running back Bernard Pierce (hamstring), and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe all returned to practice on Saturday as the Ravens begin a new week of practice leading into their first preseason home game against Detroit on Friday.

Birk hadn’t practiced since July 28 after dealing with back spasms.

“It’s good to get those guys back,” coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s very important. Those guys were out here practicing, and we need to have those guys.”

Despite the good news of several key players returning, the Ravens also faced the fallout from Thursday’s game as tight end Ed Dickson (sprained right shoulder), defensive lineman Ryan McBean (broken left ankle), wide receivers Torrey Smith (sprained ankle) and Logan Payne (hip), and cornerbacks Asa Jackson (hamstring) and Chykie Brown (hamstring) did not practice.

All aforementioned players were injured against the Falcons, with McBean’s injury potentially sidelining him for the rest of the season. Dickson — who came out to watch practice in street clothes with his right arm in a sling — is expected to miss a few weeks but will be ready in time for the Ravens’ season opener on Sept. 10. Smith’s injury is not considered to be serious.

Harbaugh would not disclose any updates on the severity of McBean’s fracture or confirm whether it would be a season-ending injury.

“It’s already been reported, so there’s no reason for me to comment any further,” Harbaugh said. “You guys already got what you need.”

Others not practicing included linebackers Josh Bynes (back) and Darryl Blackstock (groin), and wide receivers Tandon Doss (hamstring) and Patrick Williams (leg). Wide receiver David Reed (knee) and offensive lineman Jah Reid (calf) remain on the active physically unable to perform list while linebacker Terrell Suggs continues to rehab his surgically-repaired Achilles tendon while on the non-football injury list.

Rookie linebacker Courtney Upshaw (shoulder) was practicing again after sitting out Thursday’s game. He practiced for the first time since July 28 on Tuesday but was held out of the game due to a lack of practice reps.

 

 

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Birk to receive frequent days off; no change in McKinnie’s status

Posted on 31 July 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens continued to deal with absences on both the offensive and defensive lines as they took the practice field on Tuesday.

In addition to left tackle Bryant McKinnie — who continues to be held out of practice with a lower back injury and hasn’t taken the team’s conditioning test — center Matt Birk was given off practice for the second straight day. Entering his 15th season, the 36-year-old will receive frequent rest throughout the preseason in a move that will allow the Ravens to further evaluate rookie Gino Gradkowski and young interior lineman Justin Boren.

“Matt is at a stage of his career where probably he’s going to practice less than he’s not going to practice,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I think that would be the best thing for Matt getting ready to go.”

Offensive lineman Jah Reid (calf) continues to be held out of practice while he’s on the active physically unable to perform list.

On the defensive line, the Ravens continue to be without All-Pro lineman Haloti Ngata (hamstring) and defensive end Pernell McPhee (knee), but veteran defensive tackle Ma’ake Kemoeatu joined them as a non-participant as he was given a day off as a member of the “30-and-over” club.

Outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw (bruised shoulder), wide receivers Tandon Doss (hamstring) and David Reed (knee), linebacker Terrell Suggs (Achilles tendon), and tight end Dennis Pitta (broken hand) were also absent. Pitta underwent surgery on Tuesday and is expected to be back for the Ravens’ season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 10.

Rookie running back Bernard Pierce and linebacker Josh Bynes were also new additions to the list of players missing from practice. Pierce is dealing with a hamstring tweak, and his girlfriend is also expecting their first child.

Despite a plethora of missing players on Tuesday, the Ravens saw three players return to action in wide receivers Tommy Streeter and Devin Goda and offensive tackle Ramon Harewood.

Wide receiver LaQuan Williams left practice late in the session, but whatever was ailing him is not considered to be a concern.

Maryland football coach Randy Edsall was attending practice on Tuesday.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from John Harbaugh, linebacker Paul Kruger, and linebackers coach Ted Monachino HERE.

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New G Williams, Ravens brought together by familiarity

Posted on 29 July 2012 by Ryan Chell

The Ravens have made it a habit over the years to grab veteran offensive lineman late in free agency or training camp to not only bring experience, but to also have that key backup in case an injury should occur to solidify that same offensive line.

Last year, it was Andre Gurode, who started several games for the injured Ben Grubbs. In 2008, it was Willie Anderson who saw action at right tackle.

This season, with the team reeling from the loss of Grubbs at the left guard position to free agency-as well as Gurode’s dismissal, the Ravens felt like they needed to keep up with that tradition.

And they did just that at the beginning of June, signing former Bengals and Eagles guard Bobbie Williams to a two-year contract.

Williams is adjusting to the atmosphere in Owings Mills, but he’s confident that he’ll fit right in with training camp the first opportunity to do so.

“I’m just taking it all in,” Williams said after practice Saturday. “I’ve been rolling for a week. I came in when the young guys came in, and it was good that I did that so I could get that advantage and get things going. We’re just hitting all cylinders now.”

Williams had spent the last eight seasons with the Bengals, and the 35-year old has started 130 games in his 12-year NFL career.

The Ravens certainly felt like they made the right decision by bringing in a stable and dependable Williams in with the early shuffling of their offensive line in camp.

When he was signed on June 8th, Williams was at first expected to battle for the left guard position with Ravens 2nd round pick Kelechi Osemele and second-year man Jah Reid.

However, both started off training camp with back and calf injuries respectively, and Williams was told to line up and clear the way for newly-paid running back Ray Rice.

Coach Harbaugh earlier in the week said that Williams has already made them forget about Ben Grubbs, and Harbaugh attributed that to his tremendous work ethic.

Those were strong words according to Williams.

“I’m just appreciative that they respect me on that level. I don’t plan on letting anyone down, including myself, and the good Lord.”

Williams said that when he came in, he was told that a spot wasn’t going to be given to him. And despite it looking that way, he still wants to prove himself to Coach John Harbaugh and the coaching staff.

“I came in with the attitude to work-period. And it ain’t going to leave. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but it ain’t going to leave till February…let’s just put it that way.”

Williams remembers Coach Harbaugh from Harbaugh’s time as a special teams coach with the Eagles-who drafted Williams in the 2nd round of 2000 NFL Draft-and said that he has always been “a player’s coach.”

And the way Williams talks about offensive line Coach Andy Moeller-you would think they have been around each other for a lifetime-not two months.

“I’m used to the coaching staff and the guys around me. It’s a great group and I’m not just saying that.” And Coach Moeller man-I think the world of him. He’s a real teacher of the game. I truly respect him and his knowledge of the game. And that’s very key.”

He may have that familiarity with his coaches, but many are certain that the Ravens brought Williams in given his time with their AFC North rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals.

That kind of insight into an opposing locker room’s scheme could do wonders for a defensive coordinator, and the fact that he knows the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers blitz packages from seeing them 4 times a year the past eight seasons, that can only be added bonus.

“That might have played a little part of it knowing the division,” Williams laughed.”

But Williams said it could also be the exact opposite. The Ravens knew who he was from having to get past him to sack Carson Palmer or Andy Dalton for nearly a decade, and they wanted that kind of “lunch pail” attitude on their line.

To “Play like a Raven”, as the theme points out.

“I also know what kind of team this is, Williams said. “I know that the Baltimore Ravens are a tough, blue collar, hard-working team and they felt I could contribute to that and that I have some of those same qualities. They said, ‘Hey, we know this guy can play here’.”

And with a newly-paid running back in Ray Rice in the backfield and with an offense that lives and dies by his yardage, Williams says he’s the perfect guy to clear those holes for Rice.

“It’s what I’ve always been known to do. I’ve always been that hard-nosed, dependable guy that will get down and dirty and likes contact. I like to be physical. I like to get my hands on people.”

He said all it takes for him to get to that level is getting comfortable with the guys lining up next to him at left tackle and center.

“I’ve got to get familiar with my center. And then my left tackle. I’ve been leaning heavily on Matt Birk and Michael Oher. I sit next to Marshal Yanda in meetings and I’ve asked him some things.”

But obviously, with left tackle Bryant McKinnie not in camp so far-but yet announcing he would report Monday for his first practice-he may have to start all over again with that level of comfort with those playing next to him.

But Williams says that’s no problem at all. McKinnie’s addition to this offensive line finally-much like his own signing by the Ravens-only improves their chances of success.

“Whatever we have, we’re working with that and we’re doing a pretty good job. If another piece is added like I was added, it makes us even better.”

And even if things remain as they are, Williams is still confident that this team can do some special things this season. It’s one of the reasons he signed with the Ravens in the first place.

“That’s just the nature of the game. You learn the ropes and you learn to make do with what you had. You learn to make that work. And you go out there and solidify that.”

And the chance to win a ring? Any way I can help with that, I’m there.”

Thanks to Bobbie Williams for chatting with me after practice today! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Your Monday Reality Check-A mountain of misinformation

Posted on 17 June 2012 by Glenn Clark

I honestly still can’t believe some of the things I read/heard/saw last week about Baltimore Ravens OT Bryant McKinnie.

If you missed it, McKinnie was not on the fall last week in Owings Mills during mandatory minicamp at the Under Armour Performance Center. When asked why McKinnie was not practicing, head coach John Harbaugh said “Bryant McKinnie is a guy that we held out just for conditioning purposes. We’re going to probably continue to do that and continue to try and get him in good shape. I think practice-wise, he’s just as well doing the conditioning part of it.”

Let me start this post by saying I fully understand a few things. One is that Harbaugh has never felt the need to share more information than necessary about any of his players. Another is that the information was new to reporters, so asking follow up questions might not have seemed pertinent. I wasn’t present at minicamp (media availability was scheduled during my radio show “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net each day) and was unable to fully grasp exactly what was going on.

With no media availability scheduled before the start of Training Camp, reporters felt it necessary to question Harbaugh later in the week for more information about McKinnie’s status. Unfortunately the coach was again vague, offering “we will leave that between us. That’s something that is an in-house type of thing right now. Bryant has done a good job, he’s worked hard. It’s not as simple as some of you guys want to make it. It’s just a situation where we are going to do what is best for the team, what is best for Bryant. We want him here; there’s no reason he wouldn’t be here. He has worked hard, so you try to do what’s most beneficial for every guy in every situation, and it’s always individualized.”

Now’s the part where I offer some examples of various stories I’ve read about Bryant McKinnie.

Here’s this from SI.com…

“Cut last season by the Vikings, Bryant McKinnie, who sat out Thursday’s practice, may be on the verge of extending an ignominious streak. Here is a player who has a history of being overweight and struggled with the same problem last season. He also reportedly has financial problems, yet can’t get into good enough shape to participate in minicamp. You have to question his commitment and when a team starts signing veteran offensive linemen and McKinnie gets held out of minicamp, it could be a sign of things to come.”

And this from SB Nation…

“The Baltimore Ravens gave veteran left tackle Bryant McKinnie a $500,000 roster bonus earlier this spring, but now might be regretting the outlay of cash. McKinnie came to Baltimore after the Minnesota Vikings cut him last summer for reporting to camp overweight. The Ravens rounded him into shape and he had a pretty solid year, allowing the team to shift Michael Oher over to right tackle and solidify that side of the offensive line.

McKinnie reportedly was on his way to getting in good shape earlier this year, but the most recent news was that the team held him out of the mini-camp this past week for “conditioning reasons.” This does not bode well for either the Ravens nor McKinnie.

Bryant is on the short end of a legal case where he defaulted on a $4 million loan he took out during the NFL Lockout last year and seriously needs a full season paycheck to pay it back. If he does not report to the Ravens Training Camp in six weeks in excellent shape, there is a very good chance that the team may decide to cut ties with him and let him go.”

Allow me to be fair again for a second. The SI.com blurb was a clear re-write with no author attached. While SB Nation does have a handful of experienced journalists and columnists, their sites are still largely made up of part-time writers/editors with no actual experience truly covering a team.

So perhaps CSNBaltimore.com’s veteran writer Ray Frager would be a better source.

“Offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie’s conditioning issues have been a big part of the Ravens chatter over this week. There is speculation he is around that 400-pound summit that caused him to lose his job in Minnesota.”

Maybe even the Baltimore Sun’s Mike Preston would be a better option.

“The entire McKinnie episode is strange and you wonder if he is going to be around when training camp opens. Here is a player who has a history of being overweight and struggled with the same problem last season.

He also reportedly has financial problems, yet can’t get into good enough shape to participate in minicamp. You have to question his commitment and when a team starts signing veteran offensive linemen and McKinnie gets held out of minicamp, it could be a sign of things to come.”

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Ed Reed no-shows first day of Ravens’ mandatory minicamp

Posted on 12 June 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — An unsettling off-season for the future of safety Ed Reed grew more concerning for the Ravens on Tuesday.

Beginning a mandatory three-day minicamp in Owings Mills, the team was without its All-Pro safety as Reed did not appear for the first of the three mandatory days under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement. Reed is subject to a fine of up to $63,000 if he skips all three days of the camp, but it is unclear whether the Ravens will follow through with the action.

Coach John Harbaugh briefly addressed the situation, pointing to the terms of the new CBA when asked whether he was concerned with the star safety’s absence.

“I have not communicated with Ed, so I’m not sure what the situation is on that,” Harbaugh said.

Reed has questioned his desire to continue playing while also expressing his preference for a long-term contract. He is slated to make $7.2 million in the final year of his contract this season.

While Reed has not kept in touch with his head coach, linebacker Ray Lewis offered clarity on the situation in revealing he’s been in touch with his longtime teammate. Unsurprisingly, Lewis downplayed the significance of Reed’s absence, insisting the safety is focusing on his family and will report for training camp ready to play their 11th season together in Baltimore.

“These three days won’t take away from what Ed Reed’s focus is,” Lewis said, “and that is to come back and help our defense be the best defense there is in football. I don’t think it’s an issue at all. Not for us.”

Also absent from Tuesday’s workout were left tackle Bryant McKinnie and center Matt Birk. However, their reasons for not being on the practice field were different than Reed’s potential disenchantment.

“Bryant McKinnie is a guy we held out for conditioning purposes,” Harbaugh said. “We’re probably going to continue to do that and try to continue to get him into good shape.”

The Ravens awarded McKinnie a $500,000 bonus earlier this off-season but want to see the veteran shed pounds and get himself in better shape in the final year of his two-year deal signed last August. McKinnie recently said he’d like to be down to 350 pounds by the start of the season and weighed around 365 a month ago.

Birk had a surgical procedure on the varicose veins in his legs, confirming what Harbaugh told media earlier this off-season. The starting center is fully expected to be ready for the starting of training camp.

“Matt Birk had surgery last week on his legs; he’s got those veins,” Harbaugh said. “We tried to get it done earlier. We could not get it done earlier — whatever [the] doctor’s reasons there were. He was not allowed to fly this week, so he wouldn’t have been able to practice anyway.”

Defensive end Pernell McPhee was also missing from the practice field on Tuesday as he recovers from a minor injury. A Scout.com report says McPhee underwent arthroscopic knee surgery a couple weeks ago but will be ready for the start of camp.

Running back Ray Rice (franchise tag) and linebacker Terrell Suggs (Achilles tendon) were also absent from practice. Wide receivers Tandon Doss (undisclosed) and David Reed (torn ACL) and offensive linemen Kelechi Osemele (undisclosed) and Howard Barbieri (undisclosed) were on the field but not working.

Offensive lineman Jah Reid and cornerback Cary Williams (hip) returned to practice.

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More Questions Than Answers for the Ravens

Posted on 25 May 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

#1 – What’s going to happen with Ray Rice?

 Not only has Ray Rice been one of the best pound-for-pound bargains in all of football during his time as a Raven, but unlike many other running backs in similar situations last season Rice played things quiet and trusted that the team would take care of him. Whether or not they do remains to be seen, and whether or not they should is debatable. Running backs come and go quickly in the NFL, but by most accounts Rice has been “special” and is perhaps worth the risk. Either way expect him to play in 2012, but history hasn’t been kind to players who hold out of camp. A bad season for Rice under the franchise tag could be disastrous for him and for the Ravens.

 

#2 – Who’s playing on the offensive line?

 

This question is actually a myriad of different questions. Who fills Ben Grubbs spot at LG? How much does Matt Birk have left in the tank? Can we pencil in Bryant McKinnie at LT? Are Michael Oher and Marshal Yanda still the right side? And where do Kelechi Osemele, Jah Reid, Gino Gradkowski and Ramon Harewood fit into the picture? The answers to all of these questions could represent the beginning or the end of any offensive hopes the Ravens will have in 2012?

 

#3 – Do they have enough at wide receiver?

 

Torrey Smith was a pleasant surprise last season, but whether he can refine his route running and improve his hands still remain to be seen. He’s now a proven field stretcher but will need to add to his game in order to be a bona fide playmaker. Anquan Boldin was worse than expected last season, but was also injured, He’ll need to be more like the Anquan Boldin of old to lead these Ravens forward on the offensive side of the ball. And beyond those two the questions are even bigger. Is Jacoby Jones a wide out or a just a special teamer? Will Tandon Doss be ready to play in 2012? Who is Tommy Streeter and if he’s any good, how did the Ravens get him so late? Before we start comparing Joe Flacco to the NFL’s elite quarterbacks, let’s make sure he has some weapons that he can rely on.

 

#4 – Are the tight ends good enough?

 

Ed Dickson is big and athletic enough but has struggled with his hands. Dennis Pitta has very good hands but may not be big or athletic enough to impose his will on defenders, as modern tight ends are prone to do. Until one or the other shows marked improvement the Ravens will hesitate to use the middle of the field in the passing game, where coincidentally the best offenses all seem to have fantastic weapons. And who is Lamont Bryant?

 

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Ravens rookie OL Gradkowski looking forward to working with Birk

Posted on 10 May 2012 by WNST Audio

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