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UPDATE* Injury report, Ravens zapped of a sack, Troy Smith, and other notes

Posted on 24 September 2008 by caseywillett

4:00
Here is the Ravens injury report for today:
OUT;
Dawan Landry (neck)
Did Not Particiapte :
Kelly Gregg (knee)
Limited Participation:
Nick Greisen (thigh)
Le’Ron McClain (back/ankle)
Willis McGahee (eye)
Samari Rolle (shoulder/neck)
Troy Smith (illness)
Full Participation:
Yamon Figurs (hamstring)
Tavares Gooden (hip)
Fabian Washington (neck)
1:15
Here are some notes from the media session this afternoon;
There is at least publicly no revenge factor on the Ravens minds about how the last time these two teams meet on Monday night. Terrell Suggs even reminded people in case people forgot that they actually beat the Steelers here to end the season.
Ray Lewis mentioned how the Ravens are not looking for a “coming out party” on national television Monday night. The Ravens just want to go out and play a football game.
Joe Flacco has not put a lot of thought into playing his first road game on Monday night football. Said that maybe as the game gets closer he will, but has as of now he has not.
Troy Smith ran the look (scout) team offense today. Troy mentioned how it feels good to be back on the field again and is still working his way back
Willis McGahee is still nursing a sore eye after getting cut on his eyelid during the Browns game. Coach Harbaugh said they have talked to the league about it, but have not heard back from them as of yet. The Ravens would not comment on who they suspect was the person scratching McGahee’s eye, put pointed out that it is clear to see on the tape who that person is.
The Ravens are not caught up on who is injured or not injured for the Steelers. The feeling is that when you do that that is when someone that you are not expecting hurts you. They are treating Rashad Mendenhall the same way they would Willie Parker. Terrell Suggs said he treats every running back like they are Barry Sanders and could set the record against them.
Dawan Landry has been around the facility the last couple of days, and is said to be in very good spirits. Landry’s parents were at the game and have been with him since the injury happened. Dawan’s brother Laron drove up from Washington after his game when the injury happened to Dawan and stayed at the hospital with him.
The Ravens have notified us that the team has lost a sack from Sunday’s game. The sack that was credited to the team in the 1st quarter now has been changed by the league to a rush for Derek Anderson. The Ravens now have a total of six sacks on the season. There will some stats that change, but they are still the top rated defense in the NFL.
12:17
Some quick tidbits  from Hines Ward’s  media conference call:
Hines says that this is a very physical and hard fought rivalry between the two teams. Each team knows what they are going to get from the opposing team and that it is going to be a hard hitting game.
He has no hard feelings toward anyone on the Ravens. When he was asked about last year when Bart Scott said he wanted to “kill” Hines Ward after the hit he gave Scott in Pittsburgh, Ward said he was pretty sure that Scott did not really mean that.
The thing that impresses him about the Ravens defense is that they are healthy and are flying to the football.
He does not feel that their game plan will have to change a lot with the loss of Willie Parker on Monday night. Ward said that this offense is not really built just around one guy.
He does think that it will be a big task for Joe Flacco to have to come into Heinz Field and play on Monday night for his first ever road game.
He does not take any of the trash talking personal while it is on the field. He pointed out that he played with one of the bigger trash talkers in the league in Joey Porter
Only message he wanted passed along to Bart Scott was that he says hello. Hines said he will be giving Scott a lot of smiles out on the field on Monday.
Here is an interesting note: The Steelers have not lost at home on Monday night since 10/14/91 when the lost to the New York Giants 23-20. That is 13 straight wins since that loss.

11:35

Yesterday I got a couple of questions in regard to the Ravens and their uniforms. Here is how the rules play out:
The Ravens and every other team in the NFL have to submit a list of what color uniform they wish to wear for each game during the season.
The home teams have the right to wear their choice. So if the Steelers and Ravens both submitted in July that they wanted to wear white for a game in Pittsburgh, the Steelers get to wear it because they are the home team.
The color of the pants can be switched, so a team is not committed to one color of the pants with the uniform, like when the Ravens wore the white top with the black pants.
It is not believed that the Ravens will wear their black uniforms this season

Here are some notes from the morning practice:

Troy Smith was at practice and throwing the ball for the first time since he became ill before the St. Louis Rams preseason game
Nick Greisen (leg) and Samari Rolle (shoulder) were not practicing this morning. Also missing was Dawan Landry who is dealing with a spinal cord concussion.
Yamon Figurs (hamstring) and Fabian Washington (neck) were both back at practice today.
Willis McGahee who is dealing with a cut eyelid and getting poked in the eye on Sunday, was at practice today
We do not know at this time how much each of these guys did during practice or what limitations they had at practice.
Back with more news and notes from the facility after media time with the coach and players.

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Let The Fun Begin! Who wants to go to Pittsburgh?

Posted on 22 September 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

For those of you wondering, these are the good days. The ones where you wake up and all of the years of your sports fandom are rewarded with a magical start to a Ravens season where hopelessness was the offseason prediction.

Three weeks ago, Las Vegas had the over/under on wins at six. And business wasn’t booming on betting the over, not even here at WNST where we all live to see the purple team win.

We love ‘em, but who knew that they’d actually be any good, right? This is when the real fun happens when we get a real season when we never expected it.

Look, they’re not the gonna win the Super Bowl every year and with the decade-plus-and-ongoing annual vomit the baseball team has served up for this community, we have to pick our spots.

THIS, most certainly, is one of those spots.

Get excited, yell loud, throw a WACKO 4 FLACCO sign in your car window or cubicle! Talk football at the watercooler and here at WNST.

YOU ARE ALLOWED TO BE EXCITED!!!
(If not now, then when? They could still finish 2-14. Who knows how this is gonna turn out? But I’m having fun!)

The mere notion that this team could have us wake up on the first day of fall undefeated (albeit 2-0) and in sole possession of first place in the AFC North with a pending extra 24 hours of preparation before playing second-place Pittsburgh on Monday Night Football seemed almost unthinkable 15 days ago.

(Apparently, many of the fellas in purple were lobbying HARD post-victory yesterday for a few days off but Coach HardBall had them back at the Bellagio for coffee and breakfast this morning. Another departure from Coach Billick, who most certainly would’ve told the team: “See you Thursday morning!”)

But here we are at 2-0 and in sole possession of first place and headed into the den of the lion in Steel City for a national TV game and if you’re not having fun yet, you should be.

Anyone smell a “coming out” party in Pittsburgh?

And with Ben Roethlisberger apparently on the shelf for next Monday, why not get a tad-bit optimistic, even if not fully delusional?

Think about it: a win on Monday Night and even Tony Kornheiser will have to do the Jim Mora talk on ESPN by the fourth quarter, right?

All the Ravens have done is take the field twice at home – playing each game literally “moment-to-moment” with significant injuries to Chris McAlister, Ed Reed, Willis McGahee, Kelly Gregg and with a rookie head coach and a rookie starting quarterback and a rookie left tackle (we almost FORGET about Jon Ogden, which is ridiculous) — and dominate division opponents.

Not just overwhelm them, but make them freaking quit in a sea of purple!

The Cleveland Browns and the Cinncinati Bengals are both winless and tied for last place, a full 2 ½ games behind the Ravens in the division. They were both manhandled and suffered the indignity of having Coach HardBall go easy on them by taking a knee. Hell, we did it TWICE yesterday!

Who is writing this fantasy script, anyway?

The final score yesterday easily could’ve been 42-10.

(I told you Harbaugh was a nice guy!)

We can X and O regarding the games and the differences we’ve seen in Cam Cameron’s offense – and we will at WNST all week right along with you — but it’s pretty apparent that Joe Flacco is a difference maker.

No matter how he plays or what situation he’s been dealt, the young Jersey lad is showing the poise of a signal caller much more mature than his years or 1-AA experience in Newark.

Just watching him handle the media in the postgame and the answers he’s now giving amidst success are telling.

He said that the reason he isn’t demonstrative on the field is because his siblings would ride him and make fun of him after games when he was a kid. He didn’t want to look like a fool and get laughed at.

“I learned pretty early on to cut that out,” Flacco said. “Being calm is what you’re supposed to be when you’re the quarterback.”

So, after the first interception, Harbaugh said Flacco was over consoling him instead of vice versa.

Joe Cool, indeed.

But it’s not just the WACKO 4 FLACCO show.

There are heros – unsung and otherwise – all over the field.

Let’s start at the top:

Ray Lewis has been sensational, playing like the best 33-year-old future Hall of Famer in the game. It’s not like 1997 when he was flying all over the field and you notice him on every play, but boy is he showing up in the “walk” year of his career and playing like he’s supposed to play. He looks hungry!

Ed Reed, who looks like he’d rather do anything than tackle someone at this point, still not only gets on the field but is a game changer by his mere presence. He can’t tackle and is clearly a different guy on his approach, but you better not throw the ball in his vicinity. He will make you pay! (That said, he still takes more chances and freelances as much as anyone in the game and it almost cost them yesterday!)

Justin Bannan is playing his ass off. With Gregg out, many of the defensive “other guys” have stepped up. Jarret Johnson has made big plays. Jim Leonhard was one of the stars of the game yesterday and no one knew who he was at breakfast. And McAlister, for all of his indiscretions and crankiness, is a machine. He plays with such pride and skill it looks almost effortless. It almost makes you sad when you consider how good he is and how underappreciated he is and how he should’ve been a Hall of Famer. But he should’ve been a better teammate and worker as well over the years. Maybe he sees this a last chance for greatness in his prime?

McAlister is playing through some discomfort for sure and if he leaves the lineup the whole ship starts to sink pretty quickly.

The Dawan Landry situation yesterday was one of those eerie moments that we never forget. We go from having fun at a football game to pondering life’s deeper meaning in an instant. The good-news prognosis is heartening but you realize what a serious game this is between the lines. And Landry is one of the real good guys on the team, soft-spoken, smiling and modest.

Offensively, Todd Heap clearly wanted to redeem himself from the Cincinnati disaster. Le’Ron McClain looks like the second-coming of Christian Okoye. And when Willis McGahee wasn’t getting poked in the eyes and bleeding all over the place, it’s clear this multi-dimensional backfield is going to pay dividends. I’ll also mention Ray Rice, because he’ll be a major factor before this is over in this offense.

In the receiving corps, Derrick Mason has been solid, Mark Clayton has reemerged as a potential threat and everyone in the organization will tell you that Demetrious Williams has the most upside of the whole bunch if he can stay on the field. (And if nothing else, Williams’ new Kid N’Play haircut will get him some positive attention if even when he doesn’t catch a few passes!)

Six weeks ago we didn’t have a quarterback.

Four weeks ago, Joe Flacco was buried in a deep No. 3 seat on the QB depth chart.

Three weeks ago, it was Troy Smith’s team. The name Kyle Boller has now become a distant memory.

This crazy season has gotten off to the kind of start that you can only appreciate after a few 5-11’s and 6-10’s on the backside of playoff appearances. I always called those years the “character building” seasons back in 1996 and 1997 through Teddyball.

I’m actually thinking about running a bus up to Pittsburgh next Monday night.

Anyone interesting in joining me…Drop me a note to nasty@wnst.net

I’m gonna work on some tickets and a bus today.

The price range would be in the mid $200s…at least that’s the early line.

Hopefully we can fill at least one bus!

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!

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Ravens-Texans to Monday night; injury report

Posted on 11 September 2008 by caseywillett

Just after 6 pm, the NFL released this statement to the media: Due to the importance of allowing the Houston area to focus on its recovery from the expected arrival of Hurricane Ike on Friday, the Houston Texans’ home game Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens has been re-scheduled for Monday night at Reliant Stadium at 7:30 pm Houston time (8:30 pm ET).

The game originally was scheduled to be played on Sunday, September 14 at 3:15 pm Houston Time (4:15 pm ET). The Texans-Ravens Monday night game will be televised on local CBS stations in the primary and secondary markets of the Texans (Houston, Beaumont-Port Arthur, and Bryan, Texas) and the Ravens (Baltimore; Washington, DC; Salisbury, MD; and Harrisburg, PA).

**********
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the folks in Texas as this storm bears down on the coast over the next day. Here is how the day unfolded out at Owings Mills …

4:50 pm: The Ravens have informed us that they have been told that the NFL will have a statement around 6 pm as it relates to the status of Sunday’s scheduled Ravens-Texans game.

Here is a blog about the situation from NFL.com, with quotes from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

I just do not see this game being played on Sunday. There would be way too many issues with getting things cleaned up after the storm and being ready to go for the game. If things can get cleaned up, cleared and ready to go for a game on Monday night, I would guess the Ravens would get the front end of a Monday Night Football doubleheader with the Eagles at Cowboys taking the main stage that evening.

It also has not been ruled out that the game could be played on another day next week, but that is to short of a turnaround for both teams.

Hopefully we will have a final answer coming in the next 45 minutes.

4:41 pm: Make sure to check out the audio vault on the WNST website to listen to Ian Eagle’s take on the current status of the Ravens–Texans game. As of now, there is still no word from the Ravens. The team is still waiting to hear word from the NFL as to what will happen.

4:10 pm: There is no news yet as far as the game goes, but here is the Ravens’ injury report for Thursday:

Did Not Participate
Brendon Ayanbadejo (leg)
Yamon Figurs (hamstring)
Kelly Gregg (knee)
Troy Smith (illness)
Fabian Washington (neck)

Limited Participation
Jared Gaither (ankle)
Trevor Pryce (back)

Full Participation
Chris McAlister (knee)
Jason Brown (ankle)
Todd Heap (back)
Corey Ivy (ankle)
Le Ron McClain (ankle)
Willis McGahee (knee)
Ed Reed (neck)

2:40 pm: Although no new news on the Ravens–Texans game, the University of Texas postponed its game against Arkansas until Sept. 27. Here are some sports event changes that have been made due to Hurricane Ike and its impact.

Also, here is an update from the Houston Airport System as it relates to flights coming into Houston.

1:43 pm: Still nothing official from the Ravens, but here is something to thing about. The Ravens game could be moved to Atlanta. The Falcons are on the road at Tampa Bay late Sunday afternoon, and the baseball Braves are in New York to face the Mets.

12:24 pm: The latest here officially from the Ravens is that the club was notified that they will be told something this afternoon or tonight as it relates to the game in Houston. The Ravens have been told to be ready to plan accordingly.

The Ravens have not been told about the possibility of the game being moved to Baltimore. That seems to not be an opition as there was so much fall out over the move of the 2005 Saints-Giants game that Chris Pika blogged about due to Hurricane Katrina.

9:30 am: The Ravens are monitoring the path of Hurricane Ike this morning and may be making alternate plans for the game Sunday afternoon. The Houston Chronicle is reporting that the game could be moved to Monday night.

The University of Houston has had to move their game Saturday versus Air Force to Dallas (at SMU’s stadium). There are some reports that flights into Houston may be put on hold starting tonight or Friday. That could possibly cause the Ravens to have to leave sometime in the next 24 hours.

More as word comes out here at 1 Winning Drive.

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UPDATE: Injury report and Wednesday Ravens notes

Posted on 10 September 2008 by caseywillett

Here is the Ravens injury report for Wednesday:
Did Not Participate:
Brendon Ayanbadejo (leg)
Troy Smith (illness)
Fabian Washington (neck)
Limited Participation
Yamon Figurs (hamstring)
Kelly Gregg (knee)
Corey Ivy (ankle)
Ed Reed (neck)
Full Participation
Chris McAlister(knee)
Jason Brown (ankle)
Jared Gaither (ankle)
Todd Heap (back)
LeRon McClain (ankle)
Willis McGahee (knee)

The Ravens returned to practice today as they prepare for the Houston Texans. Here are some news and notes from today:

Good news from media portion of practice this afternoon. Kelly Gregg was back on the field and may possibly be ready to play on Sunday
Haloti Ngata was not at practice during the media session, and there has been no reason as to why he was not there. Again, he was not there during the media portion of practice, he could have very well come out for practice later.
Fabian Washington, Brendon Ayanbadejo, and Troy Smith, were all not at practice this afternoon as they nurse injuries.
Fabian sort of rules himself out on Sunday. He said he is still dealing with some neck issues.
Troy Smith was in the locker room for a brief moment this afternoon. He looks to be in a little better shape than last time we saw him, but Coach Harbaugh said they will know more about his status on Friday.
Look for it to be a possible rotation of Willie Anderson, Adam Terry, and Jared Gaither, at the tackle positions. Terry could possibly see some time at the left tackle position if Anderson comes in at right.
There has been no news as far as possibly having to make changes in the Ravens travel plans as it relates to Houston yet,” whatever those plans are, they’ll let us know when it’s time, and our job is to get ready for the Texans.”
Todd Heap said that his back injury that he suffered in the 4th quarter of the Bengals game is ok, and not something that is going to bother him. Heap said that he landed on the Bengals player’s foot, but will be ok for Sunday.
Texans coach Gary Kubiak had an interesting take on the Ravens offense:’ I think you’ve got to worry about stopping the offense. When you look at the Ravens last week, the bottom line is they were dominant on the line of scrimmage. I’m not sure I’m right, but I think the quarterback only threw the ball 17-18 times last week. If you’re in this league and the quarterback only has to throw the ball that many times, then that means your football team’s got total control of the game on the ground. I think our tremendous challenge is figuring out a way to stop their run. If they can hold the ball longer, just like Pittsburgh did-I think Ben threw it 16 times or 15 times, I’m not sure; it wasn’t many-you’re in trouble as a football team. We’ve got to stop their offense, and when you look at last week they’re very physical and do a great job in the running game.”
One of the things to watch for is that Mario Williams will jump from one end of the line to the other, to cause match up problems.

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A Different Perspective on Sunday’s Win

Posted on 10 September 2008 by marcbouchard

Now that we’ve all sobered up after the “surprising” win over the Bengals, let’s take a moment to put things into perspective. The Ravens offense definitely had a new look – the overall pace was much improved and it was great to see rookie quarterback Joe Flacco directing the no-huddle offense.

But at the end of the day, the results of those new offensive schemes were not much of a departure from the past. Consider…

  • The Ravens turned the ball over (a fumble by Todd Heap) on their second play from scrimmage, and punted on four of their first seven possessions.
  • They committed two false start penalties in the first half of the game.
  • They failed to score a touchdown in their only trip inside the “red zone,” settling for a Matt Stover field goal after a first down on the Bengals 10-yard-line.
  • They took possession of the ball with 2:37 left in the first half and only ran 54 seconds off the clock before Stover’s field goal. This allowed the Bengals to get the ball back with 1:43 left and get a field goal before halftime. I seem to remember the subject of clock management coming up around here a lot in the past.
  • On their first possession in the third quarter, the Ravens faced third-and-3 and fourth-and-3 on the Bengals 34-yard-line. Even though they were seemingly running at will, they attempted passes on both downs, turning the ball back over to the Bengals on downs.
  • In the fourth quarter, LeRon McLain rushed for a total of 20 yards on three consecutive plays, with all three runs going through the left side of the Ravens offensive line. On the next play, the Ravens tried a misdirection pitch-out to Ray Rice, who fumbled the ball and allowed Cincinnati to pull within one score of tying the game with 10 minutes left.
  • Though Flacco managed the game well, at the end of the day, he had just 129 yards passing and completed 51% of his passes. His average completion went for 8.6 yards. Is it me, or do those numbers look awfully familiar?
I’m not trying to be a killjoy. I was right there with everyone else chanting “Let’s-go, Flac-co” and will always remember his 50-yard scamper (I realize it’s only 38 yards officially) for his first NFL TD. I am also happy that Cam Cameron is here because the Ravens offense definitely needed an infusion of new concepts. Plus, I think John Harbaugh’s demeanor is the perfect contrast to that of his predecessor, and he has obviously refreshed an organizational atmosphere that had grown stale.
But I can’t help think that we were all a little blinded by a seven-point win over what could be one of the worst teams in the NFL this year. (And if they’re not one of the worst, they certainly played like it on Sunday.) Sure, there were subtle differences with some of the offensive formations – and seeing those gives us optimism for the future – but the results (with the exception of the nice clock-killing drive at the end of the game) were virtually the same. No yards after the catch; no touchdowns in the red zone; no deep completions (Flacco’s longest successful pass netted 15 yards); no blow-out win over a team that looked like they would rather be somewhere else. And, as funny as it sounds, the Ravens have won a lot of games over the years in much the same fashion.
I’d call the euphoria surrounding Sunday’s win simply a matter of low expectations. We had all given the Ravens a pass this year, allowing the franchise to rebuild after the off-season regime change. But should our expectations really be so low? After all, this is basically the same nicked-up team that came as close as anyone to knocking off the undefeated Patriots during the ’07 regular season — and that was with Kyle Boller at quarterback! Maybe team owner Steve Bisciotti is right; maybe there is the nucleus of a Super Bowl team here. Throw in a guy like Flacco with a young and hungry offensive line, and who knows?
If you ask me, what we saw on Sunday – just like we saw in 2006 – is a guy behind center who can lead an NFL offense. Despite the aforementioned shortcomings, the Ravens offense possessed the ball for over 36 minutes and had 21 first downs to Cincy’s eight. Flacco also threw 29 passes without an interception, and even some of his incompletions were great throws. It was very much the modus operandi that the Ravens have tried to employ for over a decade now: take care of the ball and play good defense.
So if you’re looking to draw significant conclusions from Sunday’s game, forget about the play-calling and new offensive schemes. The story in Baltimore is the Joe Flacco story, and Chapter 1 perhaps doesn’t have to be about growing pains after all.

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With Much Anticipated Return!!

Posted on 09 September 2008 by stevenlink

Well it’s been a while since I blogged last and I apologize greatly to all the devoted fans of this blog (as tumbleweeds come tussling by).  A lot has happened in the World of Sports in the past few weeks and unfortunately I cannot cover it all but I’ll do the best I can.

Let me first get this thought out there about the Orioles: The season was a lot of fun for the most part.  This team exceeded a lot of expectations that were set at the beginning of the season for them.  The unfortunate part is that they are no longer exceeding those expectations and we are in September and the Orioles decided to slump again like they always do.  Everyone knows that the reason for this is their pitching…again.  The Brian Matusz #1 draft pick keeps looking better and better as does the rotation of the Bowie Baysox.  And on that note, congratulations to the Baysox for their historic season of winning their division.  It is a shame that they lost in the playoffs but it was pretty bush-league how the Akron Aeros placed Travis Hafner in their lineup.  I mean it’s fair having an All-Star slugger conduct his rehab stint during a playoff right?  But I digress…Andy MacPhail’s philosophy of pitching first for organization truly is the best way to rehabilitate this floundering franchise.

In regards to the Ravens’ game Sunday all I can say is, well, I was wrong.  I’ll admit that I was one of those persons who felt the Ravens had no chance winning that game against the Bengals.  But really, was I really that crazy for making that call?  You have Carson Palmer, Chad John-oh I mean Ocho Cinco, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh against a secondary that was beat up last year by this team, and on top of that, Ed Reed was a game-time decision and Wacko Flacco wasn’t overly impressive during the pre-season.

But the Ravens defense was simply phenomenal Sunday.   They decided to leave the hammer at home and instead brought the sledge to bust the Bungals offense with.  They were so dominant that T.J. Houshmandzadeh decided to invest in the Kleenex Tissue Company on Monday because of all the crying and complaining he did on the field.  My only problem with our defense yesterday was when Samari Rolle decided to try his best impersonation of Brett Favre and chucked the ball into the sidelines after his “fumble” recovery.  I mean really guys??  Did we not learn anything from last year and the delay of game penalties??  His reaction to that play was uncalled for.

The Ravens offense looked pretty good as well.  Ray Rice and Le’Ron McLain ran very well but Lorenzo Neal was the real hero with the way he created those running lanes for those two backs.  Todd Heap showed how rusty he was with his fumble and dropped touchdown.  But the rookie QB Joe Flacco really stole the show with his performance.  I thought he’d act like a deer in the headlights out there but again I was proven wrong.  He showed poise and confidence as he was able to adjust to blitzing linebackers or charging defensive linemen.  His block on Mark Clayton’s touchdown run was the play of the game to me.  Hopefully he can build on this experience and maybe, just maybe we finally have the start of a real quarterback here in Baltimore.  And if it takes me having to be wrong for this to happen…then I never want to be right.

Yesterday it was announced Tom Brady is done for the rest of this season.  The shouts of despair and sadness you hear is not only from New England, but also from all of those Fantasy Football players who decided to draft Tom Brady with their first round pick instead of that running back they knew they should have gone with instead.  The news about Tom is horrible.  No one wants to see such a great football player get injured, especially the injury that he was dealt.  So here it is, my Question to You – Do you think the Patriots are still Super Bowl contenders without Tom Brady behind center?  I don’t think they are Super Bowl contenders anymore because of this injury.  However, I do think this team will still make the playoffs.  They still have a ton of talent and the Belichick x-factor to win a lot of football games.   This team just won’t win games by 30 points this year like they did last.

Quick note on “Football Night in America” on NBC before the Sunday night football game, could it be more unprofessional?  I mean you had Tiki Barber with his rude comments, Jerome Bettis with his gushing about the Steelers, and of course Keith Olbermann…enough said.  It was like I was watching a bunch of frat boys discuss last night’s party and their take on what happened.   And what is the deal with Bob Costas?  Is he trying to reassemble the early 1990’s Sportscenter crew?  Is Craig Kilborn the next addition to his cast?  I know that Olbermann and Patrick are good friends, but NBC should get Olbermann off of the show the same way they got him off of the election coverage.  Bob, you disappoint me.

It’s no secret that I am a huge University of Miami Hurricane fan, and it was no secret of my feelings towards Urban Meyer, the head coach of the University of Florida football team, on Saturday night.  His decision to continue to pass the ball into the endzone with 1:00 minute left and kicking a field goal to end the game after the Canes stopped his team.  That action was completely uncalled for and disrespectful.  The Canes played great against a much more experienced and skilled team being down only 9-3 going into the 4th Quarter.  But their young and inexperienced team fell apart in that last quarter and were behind 23-3 when the Gators were still passing for that last touchdown.  Do you think it was a coincidence that even with the field goal the Gators were able to make their 21 point spread?  I don’t…And the excessive celebration call made during the BYU v. Washington game against Washington’s QB Locker was horrible and the fact it resulted in the Washington’s loss was even more of a kick in the jewels.

If you didn’t hear by now Maryland lost to Mid Tennessee State this past weekend.  That’s right folks, it wasn’t Tennessee or even Memphis who beat the Terps, but Mid Tennessee State.  To reiterate, it was not a team from the SEC or Conference USA, but rather the Sun Belt Conference.  The 24-14 loss was a complete embarrassment.  There was no reason for this loss.  This has been an underachieving program for the past 3-4 years.  My Take on this situation is that if the Terps do not make a legitimate run at a prestigious bowl this season then Ralph Freidgan should be let go.  There are no more excuses for him.  The ACC is one of the weaker conferences in the NCAA now (just take a look at the Top 25 poll and see how many ACC teams are represented there as one piece of evidence).  His team has underachieved ever since he had his own recruits took over this team with the exception of the 2006 season.  He has had recruiting scandals to recruiting losses from here in our own state to neighboring schools that should not happen.  I like Ralph, I think he has done so much for this program and putting it back on the map, but he needs to right the ship before Maryland Athletic Director finally sets him out to sea.  And if you were wondering who I think the AD should look at Skip Holtz, the head coach of ECU, to take over at Maryland.  I think his style of play and the players on the Terps’ roster would be a great fit.

And finally, for all of you European Premier League Soccer fans out there, I was told you can’t miss Saturday night’s game (noon game here) between Chelsea and Manchester City.  Manchester City spent 32 Million Pounds (converting to the dollar that would be like 1 billion dollars…sarcasm people) to acquire Brazilian striker Robinho.  Let’s not forget that in European Soccer the money spent is not going to the player but rather to the player’s previous team, Real Madrid.  Apparently the concept of the indentured servant is still alive and well in Europe…Also there is the Ohio State v. USC game Saturday.  I know all of my Notre Dame friends will be upset with this remark but I’m rooting for USC to smear the Buckeyes across the field for this game.

Well I hope my much anticipated return was well received.  I’m done for now but I’ll be sure to be back at the next chance I get.  Sayonara B-more.

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Ravens Dominate Bengals

Posted on 08 September 2008 by Ed Frankovic

Ravens Pound Bengals

The Ravens whipped the Bengals today using a great running game, a physical and intimidating defense, and a high energy effort – something that surprised many fans and media in this town, including myself. However, watching the way the Ravens players went at it today I don’t think they were surprised with their performance and that bodes well for this team going forward, if they can stay healthy. Confidence is a huge thing in sports and this football team has to have that after dominating Cincy today with a young offensive line, a rookie QB, and a rookie RB. The Bengals were a team that had given the Ravens fits the last several years but today the Baltimore Birds put a beat down on Marvin Lewis’ gang.

Here are some of my thoughts on the game today:

–    So just how hurt are Ed Reed, Chris McAlister, and Samari Rolle because they looked pretty healthy today? The Ravens are clearly a different football team when those 3 guys are on the field. Is it possible the Ravens were just being overly cautious with each of them this pre-season or are they really on the verge of being knocked out for several weeks this season or their careers (as we’ve heard about Reed)? I hope our man Casey Willett can get the scoop on this because a healthy secondary is definitely the difference between this team contending for a playoff spot versus the team likely playing for a high draft spot. Reed’s coverage on T.J. Houshmandzadeh early in the game that led to C-Mac’s interception is the type of play that turns a game around.

–    It was great to see the Ravens power running game back. Baltimore got most of their yards behind the strength of their offensive line in center Jason Brown and guards Marshal Yanda and Ben Grubbs. Ray Rice had a very good game except for his costly fumble, but he is a rookie and we’ll let him slide on that one. Le’Ron McClain was outstanding dragging tacklers all day for significant yardage. Bottom line: the Ravens offensive line teed off on the Bengals defensive line all day something we hadn’t really seen around here since 2003 when Jamal Lewis almost broke the NFL single season rushing record.

–    The play of Joe Flacco in total was very good. His TD run was just incredible but we can’t expect him to do that very often (btw, what a great block by Jason Brown on that run!). As for his pocket presence, it was superb! Fellow blogger Chris Pika pointed out that Joe only got hit 1 time in 75 plays meaning the o-line did a good job of blocking and Flacco did a very good job of feeling pressure when it came and moving away from it. As for his throws, I can only think of a couple that were off. #5 under threw Mark Clayton in the first half on a deep pass that if made properly would have been a TD and another time while scrambling out of the pocket he badly overthrew an open Clayton in the flat. Overall I have to give Flacco an A for his performance today.

–    The receivers stepped up today! It was great to see Mark Clayton back and playing at a high level. He can be a dangerous player and he was very good today. Derrick Mason was his usual solid self and he is a great leader for the younger guys. I’ve never met Mason but he seems like a real class act. Another thing the receivers did well was with their run blocking. You can’t run the ball that well without help from the WR’s.

–    I still think that the block in the back call on Yamon Figurs punt return was a very borderline to bad call. It appeared that the Ravens player (I think it was Frank Walker) hit the Bengals punter in the shoulder although from the referees angle he probably saw one of Walker’s hands on the punters back so he threw the flag.

–    Bart Scott and the rest of the Ravens linebackers were phenomenal today. I singled out Scott because he had a tough season last year and he looked more like his 2006 form today. Terrell Suggs, Jason Johnson, and Ray Lewis were all over the field all day and Rex Ryan has to be very proud of that crew.

–    Biggest disappointment of the day: TE Todd Heap. He dropped an easy TD in the second quarter that would have put the Ravens up 14-0 and his fumble in the opening minutes was reminiscent of some of his past ones. That fumble reminded me of the one he had in the Indy playoff game in January 2007 and someone has got to get Heap to stop leaving his feet with the ball under him because it is getting knocked out too much by the opposing team. Luckily for Heap the defense rose to the occasion and shut the Bengals offense down without any points after that turnover (I also think they ended up breaking Carson Palmer’s nose).

–    Coaching: WOW! Clearly the players were energized and how cool was it to see the offense run a “no huddle” sequence? That clearly confused the heck out of Cincinnati. The double reverse was a major risk/reward play so with Clayton going to the house Cam Cameron looks like a genius on that call.

Overall, it was a great day for the purple and black and the doubters have to be re-thinking their pre-season prognostications after this performance (myself included). As I said in the opening, if the Ravens stay healthy this team can contend for a playoff spot based on what I saw today. But this is only week one and right now this team needs to focus on just getting better each week. Next week will be a tough game going to Houston to face a Texans team that had their jocks handed to them by the Pittsburgh Steelers today. As our old coach told us time and time again: “Winning on the road in the NFL is one of the toughest thing to do in sports.”

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What an Opening Day!

Posted on 08 September 2008 by Vince Fiduccia

Wow! That is about all I can say after today’s Ravens home opener. What an electric atomphsere in the stands on a beautiful if not slightly hot day.
First, Joe Flacco was unbelievable.  I know the stats aren’t Hall of Fame worthy, but Flacco’s performance was so much more than numbers. The poise, the presence in the pocket, and the way he checked down to receivers. How about the confidence that Cam Cameron showed in the rookie, going with a no huddle, I don’t know what was more impressive–Cameron letting the rookie use it or the way Flacco operated the no huddle attack. I couldn’t believe Flacco’s fleet feet on that 38 yard touchdown scamper down the sideline. How about no interceptions or fumbles?
Did Flacco ever look like a lost rookie today? The answer is no; instead he showed more composure than most veterans in the league. It’s only one game and we can’t get too ahead of ourselves.  But, we may have at long last found our quarterback.
How about the crowd reaction to the kid?  Is this town starved for a star quarterback or what? The chants of “Let’s go Flacco” where deafening. What an awesome moment to see the crowd pulling for this kid.
Flacco was far from the only bright spot on this day. The win would not have been possible without the great play of the offensive line; they absolutely whipped the Bengals in the trenches.   In the fourth quarter when everyone in the stadium knew what the Ravens were going to do (run the ball), the Bengals couldn’t stop Le’Ron McClain. McClain following fullback Lorenzo Neal dominated the fourth quarter, and the Ravens enjoyed over 36 minutes of time of possession in an old fashion display of smash mouth football. On the pass protection front, the line gave great protection to Flacco and allowed the rookie the ability to go through his progressions. In all the line allowed the Ravens to rush for 235 yards and allowed no sacks.   Memo to Willis McGahee: your knee, head and heart better get better quickly or you might not get in at all. This team is already deep with rookie Ray Rice and McClain carrying the load.
The defense was equally terrific today holding the Bengals potent offense in check all day. This just in, the Bengals are going to have big problems on the line this year.  They have struggled all preseason with the run offense and can’t protect Carson Palmer, but I digress. It was finally great to see the Ravens secondary (Chris McAlister, Samari Rolle, Ed Reed and Dawan Landry) healthy and on the field at the same time. Was Chad Ocho Cinco, Johnson or whatever this clown’s name is, actually on the trip this weekend?   Ocho Cinco was nonexistent and Chris Perry got no running room thanks to Haloti Ngata and company.   The front seven controlled the Bengals’ offense and showed that age has not caught up to them.  These old dogs can still hunt.
It all added up to a very thrilling opening game and special congratulations to John Harbaugh on his first career coaching win. His team was very well prepared and conditioned, especially in the fourth quarter.
It’s a great start and as Drew Forrester likes to say, you can’t win them all unless you win the first.  Off to Houston with a 1-0 record next week and maybe the return of Kelly Gregg and the definite return of Fabian Washington to reinforce the defense.

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Ravens – Bengals 6-pack

Posted on 07 September 2008 by caseywillett

Here is my 6-pack of things to look for in today’s Ravens – Bengals game
  1. Give Joe time: With a rookie quarterback in Joe Flacco, a hurt if playing at all running back in Willis McGahee, a backup rookie running back in Ray Rice, and still a questionable offensive line, I expect the Bengals will throw everything they can at Joe Flacco early until he can beat the pressure. The Bengals linebackers coach Jeff Fitzgerald is the former Ravens linebackers coach, and knows the players on offense, especially the line. It will be huge today for Lorenzo Neal, and LeRon McClain, to pick up the blitzes and other schemed the Bengals will throw at Flacco. The offensive line will have to hold up, the offense can not afford to have to have Todd Heap or Dan Wilcox stay back on every play to help pass protect.
  1. Keep drives going: This is going to be a huge part of what the Ravens offense will have to do today. The Bengals defense is not that great, and it will be key to keep them out there as long as possible. By having long sustained drives, not only does it keep the Bengals defense on the field, it keeps the Ravens defense on the bench, and more importantly keeps Carson Palmer and that high powered offense on the sidelines. Mark Clayton told me this week that the one big key for them is to convert on 3rd down and not get in 3rd and long situations.
  1. Find Ben Utecht: As much as the Bengals wide receiving corp gets talked about, and rightfully so, the off season addition of Ben Utecht was a big pickup for the Bengals.  Ben will be a big part of what the Bengals will do today. He may not finish with 100+ yards or three touchdowns, but he will be the guy to come up with some key catches for the Ravens. He will become to Carson Palmer what Dallas Clark is to Peyton Manning. A guy who can line up almost any where and make that big reception for them. He will also cause match up problems for the Ravens defense.
  1. Get to Carson: With Kelly Gregg doubtful for this game, and Haloti Ngata still nursing a knee injury, it will be key but a little harder for the Ravens to get pressure on Palmer. Terrell Suggs will have his hands full with his former Sun Devil friend Levi Jones. Trevor Pryce will be a key to getting after Palmer and applying the pressure. Palmer will stand in the pocket and make you pay if you do not get to him quick enough. The linebacking corp of the Ravens can not be overly aggressive because that is when Ben Utecht and Chris Perry will hurt them in the passing game. Ravens have to get to Carson, hit him, knock him down, and not let him get comfortable in the pocket.
  1. Don’t play their game: It is no secret Chad Ocho Cinco loves to talk trash while he is on the field. TJ Houshmandzadeh can also do some good trash talking. Ocho Cinco has already made it known that he is going to be yelping at Dawan Landry and Bart Scott all day. Scott, Landry, and Chris McAlister, can not afford to let the talk get the best of them and get penalties for late hits. This is a game that Cinco, and Houshmandzadeh, will play with the Ravens and try to get them to retaliate.
  1. Special teams has to be special: It would be huge for the Ravens offense today if the special teams unit can give them a short field to work with. With a rookie quarterback, and injuries on the offense, the last thing they need is to have to be trying to go 60-80 yards ever offensive drive. On the other side of the coin, it will be huge for the special teams to force the Bengals to have to go 60-80 yards. The Bengals have the weapons that given the short field they will make you pay quickly, or get in position for Shayne Graham to give them points.
Final prediction: Bengals 27 – Ravens 20

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*UPDATE Cut down day for the Ravens

Posted on 30 August 2008 by caseywillett

4:30 So the Ravens have trimmed their roster down and announced the suspension of Derrick Martin for the first regular season game. You can see all of the cuts listed in Nestor’s blog.

On my 53 man roster, I went 51-53. I missed on Adam Bergen and Casey Bramlet by having them in and leaving Anwar Phillips and Jamell McClain out. As it relates to Peter Czech, we did not even know that he was on the team. We were told he was waived to make room for Casey Bramlet on Thursday, but on the Ravens site he is listed on the 53 man roster.

The Derrick Martin situation is no suprise. When you saw Kevin Faulk get suspended, you knew Derrick’s was coming also. Also not suprised with decision to IR David Pittman.

 

 

Today is the day that 22 members of the Ravens team have not been looking forward to. This is the day when you are told that your services are no longer needed for this football team. The Ravens have to get down to 53 man roster by 6 p.m. The rookies on the Ravens will all have to report to the Ravens facility today and await word whether they have made the team or not.

 
I will keep you updated here and through our text service throughout the day as the cuts become available. As it relates to the practice squad, the Ravens have until noon tomorrow to establish that team. Once a player becomes available, it goes in reverse order of record as to claiming a player.
 
Here is my attempt at the 53 man roster for the Ravens.
QB – Boller, Flacco, Smith, Bramlet
RB – McGahee, Rice
FB – Neal, McClain
WR – Mason, Clayton, Williams, Figurs, Smith
TE – Heap, Wilcox, Jones, Bergen
OL- Brown, Grubbs, Yanda, Terry, Gaither, Cousins, Hale, Chester
DL- Pryce, Douglas, Gregg, Ngata, Parker, Bannan
LB-Lewis,Scott,Suggs, Johnson, Barnes, Ayanbadejo, Greisen, Gooden
DB – Rolle, McAlister, Washington, Walker, Martin, Ivy
S – Reed, Landry, Leonhard, Zbkowski, Nakamura
ST – Koch, Katula, Stover
 
I admit this is just my guess, but hey someone had to put Bramlet on the team, it might as well be me.
 
Here is my thinking on a couple of guys:
Casey Bramlet – I think they are going to need him for a couple of weeks. With the status of Kyle Boller and Troy Smith in the air for week one, they may have no choice but to keep Casey.
 
J’Vonne Parker – I thought J’Vonne has had a very solid camp and preseason. Also factor in with Ngata, and Gregg nursing injuries, he gives them depth at that position.
 
Derrick Martin – Derrick is another player who I thought had a solid preseason and regular season. Derrick is nursing a shoulder injury right now and maybe we will find out how severe that is today, but I think Derrick has earned a spot on this team.

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