Tag Archive | "miami"

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Sunday off proves fruitful for Ravens’ playoff hopes

Posted on 12 November 2018 by Luke Jones

The status of injured quarterback Joe Flacco may have dominated the weekend conversation, but a Sunday off still proved fruitful for the Ravens and their playoff hopes as they return to work this week.

Losses by Cincinnati and Miami left Baltimore only one game out of the final AFC wild-card spot, an encouraging development as John Harbaugh’s team tries to rebound from its current three-game losing streak after a week of rest. The Bengals were particularly miserable in their 51-14 home defeat to New Orleans and will travel to M&T Bank Stadium in Week 11 after allowing an NFL-record 2,117 yards over their last four games — three of them losses. The Ravens learned firsthand a few weeks ago how impressive the Saints are, but Cincinnati playing so poorly coming off its bye should serve as a morale boost for other AFC teams vying for the No. 6 spot the Bengals are currently occupying.

After falling at Green Bay, the Dolphins enter their bye week having lost five of their last seven to erase the good vibes of a 3-0 start. And despite advancing to last year’s AFC Championship and still being considered dangerous on paper, Jacksonville may have seen its fate all but sealed Sunday after sustaining a fifth consecutive loss in a 29-26 final at Indianapolis to fall to 3-6.

The news wasn’t all positive, however, as Tennessee pulled off a surprising 34-10 blowout win over New England to move a full game ahead of Baltimore. Of course, the Ravens own a head-to-head tiebreaker with the 5-4 Titans, who will now play back-to-back road games against the Colts and AFC South-leading Houston.

Their 29-26 win over the Jaguars gave the Colts a third straight victory and officially made them a team of interest in the wild-card race. Indianapolis plays its next two games at home against the Titans and Dolphins, but the Ravens have the superior conference record at the moment to keep them ahead in the wild-card standings.

Of course, none of this means much if the Ravens don’t win their next two home games against the defense-challenged Bengals and hapless Oakland to get themselves back above .500 ahead of a daunting December featuring road games at Atlanta, Kansas City, and the Los Angeles Chargers. A loss in either of these next two games will shift all focus to the organization’s future and anticipated changes.

Below is a look at the AFC wild-card standings at the end of Week 10:

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following fourth preseason win over Miami

Posted on 26 August 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens continuing their undefeated streak in a 27-10 win over Miami, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. A Ravens defense playing without Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley, Eric Weddle, Brandon Carr, and Willie Henry held the Dolphins starters to a total of two yards in the first quarter. You can debate where the high-end talent ranks compared to other teams, but this defense is extremely deep.

2. Lamar Jackson had his best preseason performance, running for a touchdown and throwing for another. I was most impressed by his 33-yard completion to Tim White, a play in which he scrambled left and easily could have taken off. Seeing him keep his eyes down the field was a positive.

3. Between Jackson’s improved play and a new list of health concerns entering the season, Robert Griffin III can’t be liking his roster chances as much as he did a week ago. Whether it’s with the Ravens or elsewhere, the former first-round pick has proven he belongs on an NFL roster.

4. Tony Jefferson made his preseason debut, seeing 19 defensive snaps and making four tackles. After an underwhelming first season in Baltimore, Jefferson had to be itching to get out there as Chuck Clark played solid football and the now-injured rookie DeShon Elliott showed promise for the future.

5. Sixth-round pick Bradley Bozeman starting at right guard suggests he may have surpassed Jermaine Eluemunor for a roster spot, but it was more interesting seeing him flip positions with starting center Matt Skura later in the first half. Center remains a real concern after the free-agent departure of Ryan Jensen.

6. Stanley Jean-Baptiste is doing everything he can for a roster spot in the aftermath of Jimmy Smith’s suspension as he intercepted a pass in a second straight game. He and rookie Anthony Averett have played very well, which you don’t expect from corners so low on the depth chart.

7. With Hayden Hurst out to start the season, fellow rookie Mark Andrews now has a better chance to contribute immediately. His initial response to that opportunity was a drop on a Griffin pass thrown slightly behind him and a false start on a first-and-goal from the Miami 1. Not good.

8. The weak-side inside linebacker competition is trending upward after good performances from both Kenny Young and Patrick Onwuasor. My guess is we’ll continue to see a rotation early in the season, but Young will be tough to keep off the field as he gains more experience.

9. Greg Senat started at left tackle and had a chance to solidify a roster spot with a decent showing, albeit against Pro Bowl defensive ends Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn. Instead, the rookie struggled early and left with a foot injury, leaving his status in question. Stay healthy, Ronnie Stanley.

10. De’Lance Turner showed breakaway speed on his 65-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, but the seal delivered by Nico Siragusa and perfect trap block from Randin Crecelius were refreshing to see after uninspiring play from the reserve interior line for most of the preseason.

11. It was good seeing Jordan Lasley, Janarion Grant, and White show a pulse in the receiver and returner competitions after the Indianapolis debacle. I’m not convinced Grant or White is on the verge of “winning” the return job, but I still believe the Ravens like Lasley’s potential despite his struggles.

12. I agreed with the decision to rest key starters, but Joe Flacco has played 10.4 percent of the time a Ravens quarterback has lined up this preseason. Terrell Suggs has taken 23 snaps in four games. There has to be a better way without gouging fans for a bad product.

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Ravens-Dolphins preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 24 August 2018 by Luke Jones

Saturday brings what is traditionally viewed as the final tuneup before the start of the regular season, but it may not turn out that way for at least a few key members of the Ravens.

With as many as three possible starters on the offensive line potentially sitting out against Miami, two rookies — Greg Senat and Orlando Brown Jr. — could be manning the first-team offensive tackle spots against Dolphins defensive ends Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn, who combined for 19 sacks last season and have an impressive total of 154 1/2 in their careers. Starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley and versatile offensive lineman James Hurst — who has served as the backup left tackle in past seasons — are not expected to play, begging the question whether starting quarterback Joe Flacco should even suit up if the inexperienced Senat is protecting the blindside.

Flacco has played only 31 snaps in the preseason, but he’s performed well in two games, completing 12 of 16 passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 141.4. By all accounts, the 33-year-old is healthy and has had an excellent spring and summer, making you wonder if exposing him to a patchwork offensive line is worth the risk so close to the Sept. 9 opener against Buffalo.

“We’ll see. It’s just going to really depend on how much Joe needs,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “I’m confident in the guys we’ll put out there that they can protect Joe, and I’m confident that we can run schemes that will protect him. They have two really good pass-rushing ends obviously, and we have to make sure that we keep those guys under control, no matter who’s the quarterback.”

After such a seamless start to the summer, the Ravens officially learned this week they will be without top cornerback Jimmy Smith and first-round rookie tight end Hayden Hurst to begin the season, significant blows to both sides of the ball. Saturday will offer defensive coordinator Wink Martindale his best opportunity to see what the secondary will look like for the season opener as veteran Brandon Carr and 2017 first-round pick Marlon Humphrey will handle the starting outside spots while Smith serves his four-game ban for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Hurst’s absence certainly hurts a tight end group that combined to make only 43 receptions in the NFL last season.

Of course, those absences to begin the season will impact roster decisions as general manager Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh must formulate the initial 53-man squad next Saturday.

The Ravens have the additional challenge of a quick turnaround coming off a Monday night win in Indianapolis.

“I told the guys this is great preparation for the season because we’re going to have an oddball start to the season,” said Harbaugh, referencing the Week 2 trip to Cincinnati just four days after the opener. “We’re going to play Sunday-Thursday right out of the gate. Wow, what a great opportunity to prepare for that. We got just what we needed is the way we’re looking at it.”

Saturday marks the second time the Ravens and the Dolphins will face off in the preseason with Baltimore winning the only other exhibition encounter last year. Baltimore leads the all-time regular-season series by a 7-6 margin and has won both postseason meetings, but this year will mark the first time since 2012 these teams won’t meet in the regular season.

The Ravens own a 31-12 record in preseason games under Harbaugh and have won 11 straight exhibition contests.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

The Ravens are not required to release an injury report like they do for regular-season games, but I’ve offered my best guess on what one would look like if it were to be released ahead of Saturday’s game.

Most of the players ruled to be out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will remain in question. Of course, this list does not include any veteran starters who could be held out due to the coaching staff’s preference.

Again, this is not an official injury report released by the Ravens:

OUT: TE Hayden Hurst (foot), OT Ronnie Stanley (knee), LB Bam Bradley (knee), CB Jaylen Hill (knee), WR Quincy Adeboyejo (quadriceps)
DOUBTFUL: CB Maurice Canady (muscle strain), OL James Hurst, LB Alvin Jones
QUESTIONABLE: RB Kenneth Dixon (hamstring), TE Mark Andrews (hamstring), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder/ankle), S Bennett Jackson

Five players to watch Saturday night

WR Jaleel Scott

Past disappointing fourth-round picks such as Ron Johnson, P.J. Daniels, and Christian Thompson were never in real danger of being cut as rookies, but Scott saw only three offensive snaps against Indianapolis and dropped a pass in that limited playing time, making you wonder if he’s really even on the bubble at this point. He’ll need a strong finish to the preseason to avoid a dubious distinction, but the Ravens could still attempt to stash him on injured reserve or at least get him to the practice squad if he clears waivers.

CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste

Previously a long shot to make the team with six cornerbacks ahead of him in the pecking order, Jean-Baptiste now finds himself on the bubble with Smith going to the reserve-suspended list to start the season and Maurice Canady currently banged up. The 2014 second-round pick is with his sixth different organization as he’s been talented enough for teams to sign and too inconsistent to stick anywhere for long. His solid performance against the Colts included an interception and looks more important now.

OT Greg Senat

A former basketball player at Wagner, the 6-foot-6, 305-pound Senat is a raw prospect who could dramatically enhance his chances of making the 53-man roster with a good performance against the Dolphins. Both James Hurst and Alex Lewis have struggled in past stints as the reserve left tackle, so Senat holding his own with the first team would be an encouraging sign for the present and future.

DE Zach Sieler

The seventh-round pick from Ferris State received ample playing time beginning in the first half of the Colts game, a good indication of where he stands in his attempt to win a roster spot. Veterans Brent Urban and Carl Davis are not under contract beyond this season while Chris Wormley is the only other 5-technique defensive end who’s safely on the roster, making it more likely that Sieler makes the team.

TE Darren Waller

I didn’t like Waller’s chances a couple weeks ago as he returned from a one-year drug suspension, but the Hayden Hurst injury and an underwhelming wide receiver competition have created the opportunity for him to potentially take a spot. Formerly a wide receiver, Waller has a 6-foot-6, 255-pound frame that could be utilized in the red zone and as a bigger slot option, but can the organization really trust him?

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Banged-up offensive line could impact Ravens’ plans for Miami game

Posted on 22 August 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Going into what will be most starters’ final preseason tuneup on Saturday night, the Ravens are banged up along the offensive line.

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley left Monday’s game in Indianapolis with what was labeled a minor knee sprain, and the versatile James Hurst quietly exited before fellow interior starters Matt Skura and Alex Lewis and was not present for Wednesday’s practice. The potential absence of both Stanley and Hurst — who has served as the backup left tackle in past seasons — could complicate Baltimore’s plans against Miami, and that’s not even considering the status of right guard Marshal Yanda, who is practicing but has yet to play in the preseason after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery.

Should those three not play against the Dolphins, it’s fair to wonder whether head coach John Harbaugh would alter his plans for quarterback Joe Flacco’s playing time.

“It’s always a part of the decision-making,” offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. “However, it is football. And I’ll tell you what, with a backup man that’s fighting for a starting job, a good strategy is to put him in with the rest of the ‘ones’ and see how he does rather than put him in with the ‘twos’ or ‘threes.’ Sometimes you can’t get quite the evaluation, so there are a couple of those things that may happen as well.”

Rookie sixth-round pick Greg Senat has worked as the second-team left tackle in the preseason while Hurst has practiced at either right guard or right tackle. A former basketball player at Wagner, the 6-foot-6, 305-pound Senat is an intriguing prospect, but his lack of experience would be less than ideal protecting Flacco’s blindside this close to the start of the season.

Senat missed the start of training camp and the Hall of Fame Game with a lower leg injury before returning to practice in early August.

“Greg was hurt for a period of time,” Mornhinweg said. “The really good thing is — and we’ve had several players do this that have come in; they don’t have much work under their belt, but they’re getting better every day. He got better from last week to this week. That’s a good thing, and let’s see how far he can go in the next two weeks.”

Hurst’s absence could increase the likelihood of rookie third-round pick Orlando Brown Jr. beginning the season as the starting right tackle.

Returner competition

Monday wasn’t a banner game for return specialists Tim White and Janarion Grant, who each lost a fumble against the Colts, but the Ravens aren’t giving up on their potential.

Whether that means either makes the 53-man roster remains to be seen.

“They have the duty to the rest of the team to protect the football, and they know that,” special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. “It’s two young players that got in situations where they didn’t realize that they needed to practice the ball-security habits that they both have. They have those skills, and in both those situations, they need to lock the ball down and they didn’t. Hopefully, the lesson has been learned.”

Ideally, one of the two would seize the job and be able to provide a spark in the field-position game, but the Ravens could elect to just go with established veterans better trusted to secure the ball. Wide receiver Chris Moore served as the primary kick returner for much of last season, but not a single player to return a punt last season remains on the roster, leaving less clarity for that role.

Slot receiver Willie Snead has fielded plenty of punts during spring and summer workouts, but he fumbled his only career punt return for New Orleans last season.

“He’s been efficient. He’s in every meeting. He’s locked in,” Rosburg said. “He comes out here and practices well, and we’ll see how it plays out down the road. Again, we still have two preseason games left, so we want to give those other guys an opportunity to show what they can do.”

Mornhinweg concerned with Jackson taking hits

More than a few observers have expressed concerns about the number of hits taken by rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson in the preseason, a sentiment shared by Mornhinweg.

Shoddy pass protection from reserve offensive linemen has led to Jackson being sacked six times, but the former Heisman Trophy winner has taken multiple hits in the open field in lieu of trying to protect himself. It’s understandable for a rookie to be eager to make plays — especially playing before a national audience in two of the first three preseason games — but the Ravens clearly want him to stay healthy to continue his development.

“Yeah, that’s not good. You see what I’m saying? It’s just that simple,” Mornhinweg said. “Between the numbers, now, we want to get down underneath the hits unless you think you can score and typically you’re one-on-one. Outside the numbers, we want to get up and get out. And we’d rather get down a step too early than a step too late or get up and out a step too early than a step too late.

“That’s an ongoing process. Some of it is experience because he does have to filter through exactly what he can get away with and what he can’t in this league. It’s a little different situation here, a little different league, a little different speed, a little different quickness — all those things.”

Wednesday attendance

In addition to Stanley and Hurst, running back Kenneth Dixon, tight end Mark Andrews, defensive backs Maurice Canady and Bennett Jackson, and linebacker Alvin Jones did not participate in Wednesday’s practice.

Harbaugh noted after Monday’s game that Dixon was still not 100 percent after dealing with a hamstring injury for a large portion of camp. The third-year running back drew praise in his preseason debut by collecting 56 total yards on his nine touches, his first live-game action since 2016.

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Nasty with Rod Woodson and Ray Lewis, Nov. 1999

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Purple Reign reincarnated, the life and times of Ray Lewis this week at WNST

Posted on 23 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s been 17 years since the Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa. I wrote Purple Reign: Diary of a Raven Maniac in less than 100 days following that magic ride.

With the upcoming Ray Lewis fanfare and ceremonies and our big WNST roadtrip to Canton, I’m writing in regard to the past, present and future of the most legendary purple bird of them all, Ray Lewis.

I’m presenting an excerpt from my April 2001 book as a prelude to all things Ray Lewis and Canton and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

This is Chapter 4 entitled: “THE ORIGINAL BIRDS AND THE MEAN MACHINE” and also featured an extensive profile of Jonathan Ogden. Here is the original, unedited, unaltered piece on the Ray Lewis that I knew in the early days and where we were in April 2001:

 

 

There is no way anyone would have dared predict the greatness of Lewis five years ago coming out of the University of Miami as a very undersized junior linebacker. 
Twenty-three different franchises passed on the future Hall of Famer on that day in April 1996, including the Ravens when they selected Ogden. Now, with 20/20 hindsight and the clarity of a Super Bowl championship and MVP trophy, he would have easily been the first player taken in the draft.

His true impact on every game since the Ravens’ inception has been very clear to only one segment of the population: the fans who watch the Ravens play every week. And up until the 2000 playoffs, that made up a very small segment of NFL fans. The lowly Ravens, with their lack of identity, wins and major-market appeal, were about as far down the food chain as could be found in the league. The Ravens had never even sniffed a Monday Night Football appearance.

Ask around to folks in the organization and to the football minds on the inside and they’ll tell you that Ray Lewis has never played a bad football game. In five full seasons spanning 84 games, Lewis has missed two games after dislocating his elbow early in the 1998 season.

There were a handful of games when Lewis had an “off game” and still managed 12 tackles.

From the moment he took the field in the first game of franchise history, Sept. 1, 1996 against the Oakland Raiders at Memorial Stadium, Lewis has been a dominant player in the league, a guy who never takes a down off. But so very few had actually seen him play. Baltimore was not a preferred destination for media or scouts or front office types prior to the 2000 season.

I can very vividly remember the first time I met Ray Lewis.

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Dear John Vidalin: Welcome to Birdland where baseball ain’t great and beer ain’t so cold anymore

Posted on 08 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

Dear John:

First, welcome to Baltimore. As I can see from all three of your LinkedIn profiles, you have spent a lot of time running the revenue parts of professional sports organizations all over the continent.

As we both know, it’s the dough that pays for the doughnuts – or the crab cakes in this case. So as the incoming Chief Operating Officer for Business Operations for the Baltimore Orioles, I’m gonna treat you the same way I treat Dick Cass up in Owings Mills. (And if I find out you gave a kidney to save someone’s life, you’ll get even better treatment, too!)

I’m the last of the local sports historians and media moguls around here – and the last one who doesn’t work for Peter or have to answer to the powers that be at MASN or around The Warehouse to dispense facts and information. So, with me you’ll get what my WNST business partner Brian Billick always called the “unfiltered information”– as opposed to the C.Y.A. nonsense and smoke being blown rectally from various parts of what’s left of the Baltimore Orioles brand upon your arrival.

By the way, I’m also the only media guy in Baltimore who loves hockey. And I even loved it before last month! I’m guessing 99 is a magic number in your life and part of the reason why you do this for a living. I hear you’re a nice guy. Calgary Flames. Time in the NFL, Houston and San Francisco, then Miami and the Heat after the chill of a post-Lebron world in the NBA.

All those situations, leagues, people, egos, money, sponsors, expectations – and then the hardest part – winning. And you’ll have nothing to do with that but as you learned along the way, it’ll have everything to do with what you do and your success here in Baltimore.

You were involved in the really awesome Colin Kaepernick and Jim Harbaugh parts of the San Francisco 49ers lore before the move from Candlestick to Santa Clara that literally wrecked the franchise. The losing certainly didn’t help what was a shaky proposition all the way around in moving to Levi’s Stadium – but you knew that. You also worked within a “unique” family dynamic there so I know you must be keenly aware of what you signed up for here. Plus, you spent some time with the Washington Caps before they found Alex Ovechkin, so you saw the Orioles demise up close before the Nationals ever existed in the DMV.

You were also part of the remnants of the post-Lebron craze in Miami so you know what it looks like after the party is over. Sports is tough sell down there where the girls are pretty and the beach eternally beckons. So is hockey, as you know, but I must say I was blown away by the brand of the Tampa Bay Lightning and #GoBoltsGo across the Everglades this spring in my travels.

And the Houston Texans have always had everything – a well-funded owner, fresh start, a built-in fan base, lots of money, people and mixed nationalities to market and sell stuff to and a great defense and stadium – but without a quarterback it’s been just another starving place waiting for the Astros or Rockets to come along and win. They might even finally have one in DeShaun Watson!

You run a sports franchise. You need stars. You need wins. You need someone and something to market beyond a cartoon bird, a beautiful stadium and a pricey afternoon or evening of lousy, fifth-place baseball.

I’ve watched it here with Cal Ripken and Ray Lewis. And Johnny Unitas and Bert Jones and Joe Flacco, and Eddie Murray and Ed Reed and Frank Robinson. Stars are stars for a reason. Stars create winning. Stars helps sell stuff. And then the spigot flows from there.

And when you lose, well…

You know.

Just look out that window in your new, spiffy office with that incredible sunset view on any night this summer when the gates are open for business and you’ll see what happens when a team has abandoned its fan base for a generation, is getting its ass kicked 38 miles to the south in an unwinnable war by a far more powerful and better-run baseball brand, and is in the middle of losing 100 games and giving away all of its players.

Welcome to Camden Yards, circa 2019!

You’re in charge of the biggest shitshow in town, John – the Baltimore Orioles!

A chance for a new start?

Or a career risk with plenty of warning signs and dark clouds?

Hey bro, you came from Miami! They’ve won two World Series in a climate conducive to baseball 365 days a year and still couldn’t figure out how to sell beisbol to my kinda people from Venezuela, Cuba and Latin America and a coast full of hibernating New Yorkers and New Englanders.

And you know why, right?

Oh, sure the stadium has been in the wrong place twice but the real reason no one on earth is a Marlins fan is because the owner was the biggest asshole in South Florida and every human being, every politician, every business owner, every fan – black, white and brown – knew it.

Even the manatees and alligators knew it.

He was a ruthless shark with zero regard for the fans or any emotional intelligence beyond the lies and trail of profit in bilking the community politicians, while raiding the tax kitty and sucking on the civic titty. It was a badge of honour for any South Florida sports fan to stay away from that shitty monstrosity out in the middle of nowhere anyone would ever want to be on a summer night in Miami.

I experienced it personally when I tried to swab a few people to save lives down there in 2015 on my MLB 30-30 #GiveASpit tour. The Marlins reputation as a terrible franchise preceded them and they managed to even be worse. Derek Jeter will be spending the next decade trying to find people who can love baseball in a blimp in South Florida. (But he’s got at least one guy in Baltimore who loved the painted girls in the pool at the Clevelander!)

Sure, laugh at them. You sold against them so you know they were a punchline on South Beach! And yet you probably have no idea how close Orioles fans came to having Jeffria Loria be our douchebag owner here in Baltimore. He finished a very close second place.

You can read the history of how your new boss beat out that guy for the kingdom of Baltimore Orioles baseball on a hot summer day in 1993 in The Peter Principles. 

All of your experiences in these mixed markets and various sports will serve you well now that you’ve made it to the dying, fourth American sports brand of baseball in a market that lacrosse has infiltrated as a primary sport like a bacteria on termites in the spring and summer calendar of affluent (and not so affluent) white people in the suburbs of your primary (and now pretty-much only) market.

This would be one of the great turnaround stories in modern times, as I pointed out to Louis and John in their #DearOrioles letter, if this franchise is playing meaningful baseball games in August and September anytime soon.

I would petition the mayor of Baltimore in 2028 to change the name of the Inner Harbor to “Loujon” if they pull off a Rocky Wirtz-style turnaround with the Orioles and we start having parades around here.

I’m pulling for you – even if I never get my legitimate press credential back, which I’ll get to – because what is good for the city is good for me. I’ve been waiting all of my adult life for the Baltimore Orioles to capture the imagination of the community. I’m no longer holding my breath – or words and truths – for a lot of reasons.

I like that you are a hill charger. I’ve liked every Canadian I’ve ever met. (Well, except for Denis Potvin. He still sucks!)

I, too, am a hill charger, a tower jumper and a wall climber. I am a dreamer. I have delusions of grandeur. You can ask, Peter Angelos!

I’ve been charging The Warehouse wall with facts and legitimate questions since it was erected. At some point it’ll fall like Berlin. But it can’t keep going the direction it’s going – older, emptier, poorer, worse, less attractive, more expensive, harder to access, easier to ignore – and survive long term in Baltimore.

You can’t reach for the ceiling if you don’t know where the floor is located. I can assure you that you are closer to the basement than the attic and gravity is winning. Losing on the field is going to be the least of your problems if you’re truly going to be “in charge” of the Baltimore Orioles.

Most people in every lonely cubicle in your new digs at The Warehouse will tell you I’m the village asshole ­and have been for 27 years – “the worst former media guy in Baltimore who still owns his own radio station, broadcasts all day and reaches 100,000 a week but nobody listens to him” – because I ask legitimate and fair questions and don’t like it when I’m lied to or ignored on behalf of the fans after three decades.

Mr. Angelos says I’m fake news.

He’s taken away my access to do what feeds my family over the last dozen years. His actions regarding the press and media – as well as his stance on foreign players and in the international market – have a lot in common with the guy who runs our country.

I can’t be controlled. So, therefore, I must be destroyed.

I’m not worthy of a media credential because I won’t lie for his franchise or associate my name with his deeds without

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Chapter 17: The Last Ride of 52

Posted on 02 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

 

 

 

Your lowest moment is always when you feel your greatest pain. When I tore my triceps, and the doctor looked at me and she told me that, you know, I was out for the year. And I said, ‘Doc, are you sure?’ I said, ‘Nah. Doc – there’s no way I’m [going] to be out for the year with just a torn triceps. I’ve been through way worse.’ And she was like, ‘Ray, you know, nobody’s ever come back from this.’ And I said, ‘Well, you know, nobody’s ever been Ray Lewis, either.’ ”

– Ray Lewis (January 2013)

 

 

 

AFTER ALL THAT THE RAVENS had been through in their rocky December – three losses in a row, the firing of Cam Cameron, the preseason-style game in Cincinnati to end 2012 – the road to a Super Bowl was still very much alive in January. And there’s nothing to stir the passions of Baltimore football fans like seeing the stolen blue horseshoe and the five-letter word that’s associated with evil in the land of pleasant living: I-R-S-A-Y. The Indianapolis Colts were coming to Baltimore again, a visit that still elicits plenty of emotion from the over-40 crowd.

And this time it wasn’t the bravado and no huddle mastery of Peyton Manning that would confront the Ravens. Peyton was staying warm in Denver, waiting to see if the Ravens would be journeying to the Mile High City next week. This time, the Colts had a different hotshot quarterback in Andrew Luck. The Ravens could never solve Manning – and still couldn’t earlier in December – but this time it would be a different look and a different team coming from Indy. In 2011, a gimpy version of the Colts on the last legs of the Dungy era and the Jim Caldwell head coaching run, were shellacked 24-10 by the Ravens in Baltimore as quarterback Dan Orlovsky ran for his life amidst a purple swarm all afternoon. Orlovsky wouldn’t be running the show this time.

This time, Caldwell would be running the Ravens offense and the guy who was running the Baltimore defense in 2001 would be the head coach of the Colts. There were plenty of emotions with the return of Chuck Pagano to Baltimore and the quarterback prodigy of John Harbaugh’s brother, Jim, who groomed Luck at Stanford as head coach of the Cardinal, before Indianapolis and owner Jim Irsay made him the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft in April 2012 after jettisoning Manning, who wound up in Denver.

Pagano had successfully battled leukemia over the previous three months, and the #Chuckstrong campaign in social media was as solid as the Colts had been on the field in his absence. During his absence, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians stabilized a youthful team around Luck. Indianapolis was the surprise team in the AFC with an 11-5 record, including 9-2 down the stretch. They had played a last-place schedule all year, but had been impressive throughout the year and brought a wave of emotion with them from the friendly heart of the Midwest as Pagano’s health and strength was a rallying point for them all season.

Pagano had believed it a cruel, strange twist of fate that he even got the Colts head coaching job the previous January. As the Ravens went down the field on the final Lee Evans-Billy Cundiff drive in Foxborough, Pagano was thinking that he was finally going to the Super Bowl.

“If we win that AFC Championship Game that would’ve put me two weeks further out and no coach can have any discussion about a job,” Pagano said. “I would venture to say that Indy would’ve had to get their guy in place and they had already interviewed with a bunch of guys. I don’t think that it would’ve happened for me with the Colts. I know there were more qualified candidates than me, guys they had talked to in the process.”

Instead, the Ravens suffered the agonizing defeat and Pagano got the Indy job the next day. “It’s crazy how fate and destiny works,” he said. “I thought I’d be going to Indy that week. I just had no idea it’d be to be coaching the Colts. I thought I’d be coaching the Ravens defense in the Super Bowl.”

Now, a cancer survivor in remission with thin strands of gray hair returning to his previously bald head, Pagano was back in Baltimore on the sidelines as the head coach of an NFL playoff team almost 12 months later. He was coming back to Baltimore in an attempt to end

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Landry tag reinforces challenge of Ravens finding No. 1 receiver

Posted on 21 February 2018 by Luke Jones

The Ravens signing wide receiver Jarvis Landry was always going to be a long shot before he received the franchise tag from Miami on Tuesday night.

With limited space under the salary cap this offseason, Baltimore hardly would have been the favorite to land the Dolphins slot man had he made it to the open market. But Miami retaining Landry — or at least forcing teams to talk trades for his services in addition to signing him to a lucrative deal — only reinforces the challenge of finding a No. 1 receiver as those types of talents rarely reach free agency.

A list of the top wide receiver contracts in the NFL shows nearly all have remained with their original teams. According to OverTheCap.com, 15 of the top 18 wide receiver deals in terms of average annual value are with the team that either drafted or signed the player out of college with Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Emmanuel Sanders being the exceptions to the rule.

Jacksonville is also expected to place the franchise tag on the 24-year-old Allen Robinson, which would take the top two projected free-agent receivers off the market. The absence of Landry and Robinson leaves a group of free agents without any bona fide No. 1 types, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t interesting talents who could help Joe Flacco and the NFL’s 29th-ranked passing attack from last season.

The likes of Marqise Lee, Sammy Watkins, Paul Richardson, and Donte Moncrief may carry questions, but each is capable of contributing and an offense needing No. 1 and No. 2 options can’t afford to be too picky in adding pass-catching talent. The problem may end up being the asking price of these second- and third-tier options with the top two talents off the board and many teams looking for pass-catching help on an annual basis.

Regardless of the status of Landry or Robinson, the Ravens were always going to need a multi-pronged attack to improve at wide receiver with Mike Wallace scheduled to hit free agency and many expecting the disappointing Jeremy Maclin to be a cap casualty. General manager Ozzie Newsome will need to add some experience to the position via free agency or trade and invest a draft pick or two in the early rounds of the 2018 draft to truly move the meter at the position.

This year’s draft class may lack slam-dunk first-round picks beyond Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, but other prospects such as Courtland Sutton of SMU, Christian Kirk of Texas A&M, James Washington of Oklahoma State, and even Maryland’s DJ Moore could be enticing if the Ravens either trade back in the opening round or refrain from selecting a wide receiver until the second day of the draft.

After frequently neglecting the position in recent years, the Ravens need to put their best foot forward instead of simply waiting to make a post-June 1 addition or hoping a late-round pick magically pops.

Anything less will likely leave them in an all-too-familiar position in a pivotal season for the future of the organization.

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Chapter 6: The other Hall of Famer from The U…

Posted on 17 January 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

 

In my opinion, Ed Reed is the best safety to play the game. I tell him that to his face all the time. I truly believe it. I’ve studied him, and I’ve tried to incorporate things from his game into my game — a lot of it I’m not able to do. I learned the importance of film study from him. He is the prototype and what anyone would want at safety. People can say that you want big hits, but this game is about the ball. You can’t score without it. When you get someone back there who can get the ball, that’s what it’s all about.”

  – Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu (Nov. 2011)

 

 

 

ON ANY OTHER TEAM, HE’D be the leader. In any other franchise, he’d be the one they talk about building a statue for and retiring his number when his time is through. But, in a franchise that Ray Lewis made famous, Ed Reed will always be the second-best and second-most important player from the Miami Hurricanes to wear the Ravens’ purple.

There’s a certain swagger that the ‘U’ represents for anyone that’s spent any time in Coral Gables and worked their way into the NFL through the family of ‘Canes. The dominance of that program over three decades brings attention to anyone who wears the green and orange. And for anyone who knows the legend of Luke Campbell and the infamous “30 For 30 Series” regarding “The U” there’s an inherent culture of football, winning, and boasting that goes along with a renegade image that’s not only emphasized, but embraced.

Ed Reed is complicated. And most think he likes it that way.

As much as the two will be linked, there will always be something that makes Ray Lewis feel more significant to the Ravens and Ravens fans than Ed Reed. For starters, Reed will wear another uniform in 2013 and Lewis never opted for or really had the opportunity to take that path. But Reed, working in the shadows of the vivid, public leadership of Lewis, will probably never get the credit or respect he fully deserves simply because he played alongside of a once-in-a-generation icon.

Ed is Scottie Pippen. Ray is Michael Jordan.

But for pound-for-pound excitement and impact on a game, you’d be hard pressed to find a more compelling figure other than Lewis in the entire NFL over the first decade of his career. His accomplishments at the position of safety might never be matched. And like Ray Lewis, when his time comes for the ballot to Canton and a Hall of Fame bust, Ed Reed will almost certainly be a first-year inductee, which is the highest individual honor that can be bestowed upon an NFL player.

He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer yet he’ll always be “the other guy from Miami” who played for the Ravens and won a Super Bowl. It was easy to see the joy, relief, and energy that winning the Lombardi Trophy in his hometown of New Orleans brought to Reed in February 2013. It was an 11-year quest that was vindication for the native of St. Rose, just west of the big city along the Mississippi River.

Like many others on the Super Bowl XLVII champs, Reed fought adversity on his path from Destrahan High School in St. Charles Parish to Miami and onto Baltimore on his journey toward greatness while amassing wealth beyond his imagination.

Edward Earl Reed, Jr. was born September 11, 1978 in Jefferson, Louisiana and was always a great athlete. His dad, Ed Sr. was a welder and his mom, who worked at the local Walmart, had four other boys, and they all lived in a one-bedroom home.

By most accounts, Reed was a bit rambunctious and lacked focus in his teenage years yet teachers and coaches always saw a light

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Chapter 4: Ravens always begins with Ray

Posted on 14 January 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

 

“”It’s simple: when God is for you, who can be against you?”

– Ray Lewis (February 2013)

 

 

 

 

CONFETTI. THAT’S WHAT IT’S ALWAYS been about for Ray Lewis. When researching anything related to football, winning the Super Bowl, or why he made it through 17 grueling seasons in the middle of the Baltimore Ravens defense, it all comes back to the sight of confetti.

Ray Lewis is obsessed with confetti.

The thought of standing once again amidst a storm of showering colors and happy teammates, while hoisting the glittery silver Lombardi Trophy one more time before riding off into the NFL sunset motivated one of the greatest linebackers of all time morning, noon, and night.

“I look at that face [against] the backdrop of the confetti,” Lewis said before Super Bowl XLVII of his old pictures from Tampa in 2001. “That’s the only thing that makes that face. I promised that I’d do everything in my power to see that confetti drop again.” And he never stopped telling his teammates about that image, about that feeling they would have when it happened for them.

You can’t tell the Ray Lewis story in one chapter. It’s worthy of a book all its own, and the story continues to be told and will be told for years to come as the Ravens try to replace an irreplaceable rock in their existence.

Ray Lewis came to Baltimore a fractured man child, whose best friend and University of Miami roommate Marlin Barnes was murdered just seven days before he was picked by Ozzie Newsome with the 26th pick of the 1996 NFL Draft. He was 20 years old. He leaves the Baltimore football field 17 years later as a living legend, a civic hero whose storybook journey has some sordid stories, bloodstains, pain, drama, redemption, passion as well as a pair of World Championships and parades. It is a story nothing short of a fairy tale with a storybook ending shared by his fans and the entire community on a cold day in February 2013.

Murders. Pain. Eternal search. Death. Championships. Women. Failure. Success. Leadership. God. Orange jumpsuit. Incarceration. Leadership. Charity. Football. Passion. Fire. Dominance. Hall of Fame. Mentoring. Winning. Losing. Crying. Parenting. Owning. Preaching. Praying. Dancing. Triumph. Lifting. Running.

The World According to Ray is not an easy story to tell…

He walked into the Ravens complex on his first day of work with a black and white jersey, reminiscent of the Mean Machine in the movie “The Longest Yard” – no logo, no markings, just like a Penn State warm up — to do pull-ups and asked “What’s the record?” Lionel Vital, then a Ravens scout, told him “Forty six.” Lewis took off his shirt, did 47 pull-ups and asked what the record was for the next exercise.

Less than four months later, wearing purple for the first time, he was clearly the best player on the field at Memorial Stadium on 33rd Street when the Ravens played against the Oakland Raiders in September 1996. You can measure his greatness by the stats, the games played, the two Super Bowl championships, and his first-ballot Hall of Fame induction that will no doubt fill Canton, Ohio with Ravens fans in August 2018. All of it would’ve been a story that Hollywood would never buy because it wouldn’t be believable, but to see Ray Lewis holding the Lombardi Trophy as his swan song in Baltimore was not only believable, but it was Ray’s final act of redemption on the field.

How rare and unique was it to see the greatest athlete in the history of his franchise, the greatest defensive player of his generation, end his career with the same team and do it winning a Super Bowl championship on the way out of Baltimore?

Even though he told head coach John Harbaugh months earlier that he was walking away from the NFL at year’s end, his teammates had no clue when he entered the Owings Mills facility on January 2, 2013 what was about to transpire. Ray Lewis was going to tell his team that he was done. Based on the reactions that day, they were as shocked as most of the media witnessing it

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