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Ravens-Steelers: Five predictions for Thursday night

Posted on 30 September 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers appeared to be two teams moving in opposite directions, but a single injury altered that thinking on Sunday.

A knee injury to Ben Roethlisberger not only puts the Steelers (2-1) in a holding pattern for at least the next few weeks while trying to survive with backup Michael Vick at the helm, but it gives the winless Ravens hope that they can go to Heinz Field on a short week and potentially steal their first victory of 2015. Of course, it won’t be easy for Baltimore with starting tight end Crockett Gillmore, starting left tackle Eugene Monroe, starting defensive end Chris Canty, and rookie wide receiver Breshad Perriman all ruled out for Thursday night.

Searching for answers and knowing only three NFL teams have rebounded from an 0-3 start to make the NFL playoffs since 1990, the Ravens’ biggest enemy at this point might be themselves as a season full of high expectations has instead started in nightmare fashion for John Harbaugh’s team. It’s officially uncharted territory for a team that had never started 0-3 in franchise history and has made the playoffs in six of the last seven years.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens play Pittsburgh for the 39th time in their regular-season history as they own a 17-21 mark. The teams split a pair of games at Heinz Field last season, but Baltimore prevailed 30-17 over the Steelers in a wild-card playoff game last January.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to improve to 5-2 in Thursday night primetime games under Harbaugh …

1. Pittsburgh will control the tempo of the game by handing the ball to Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams a combined 35 times. Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley isn’t going to allow Vick to take many chances, leaving plenty of opportunities for these running backs. The Ravens rank fourth in the league allowing just 3.4 yards per carry, but the Steelers will spread out the defense to create just enough room for Bell and Williams to keep Vick in manageable down-and-distance situations.

2. Maxx Williams will catch his first touchdown and provide the Ravens with another threat behind Steve Smith. Considering how many issues the Pittsburgh defense has had with tight ends so far, Gillmore’s absence couldn’t have come at a worse time, but Williams will find room against linebackers who are poor in pass coverage. The bigger question will be how he and fellow rookie Nick Boyle fare as blockers with the Ravens desperately needing to get their struggling running game in order.

3. Brandon Williams will pick up his first sack of the season and create problems in the Pittsburgh backfield. There have been few bright spots on the Ravens’ 26th-ranked scoring defense, but Williams has been a force and the unit’s best player. With Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey out, the third-year nose tackle should dominate Cody Wallace by collecting his first quarterback takedown as well as a few other tackles for a loss to force more Pittsburgh runs to the perimeter on Thursday night.

4. Antonio Brown will still collect 100 yards receiving and a touchdown without Roethlisberger throwing to him. The Steelers likely won’t have Brown running as many downfield routes, but they will use bubble screens and other ways to get the ball to the playmaker in open space to put pressure on tacklers. It will be interesting to see if Dean Pees elects to have Jimmy Smith shadow Brown, but the Ravens better be ready to give him help against one of the top wide receivers in the NFL.

5. Vick will manage the game effectively while the Ravens lack the “it” factor to do what it takes in a 24-16 loss. I fully expect a Harbaugh-coached team to compete in this one and I’m tempted to pick the Ravens to win with Roethlisberger out, but last week was the game in which they needed to pull themselves off the mat and they still couldn’t do it. Many have cited Baltimore’s 5-1 record against Pittsburgh when Roethlisberger hasn’t played, but two active defensive players — Courtney Upshaw and Albert McClellan — took part in that last win in 2012, a game Brown also missed. The defense will be a little better than the last two weeks and the offense will find ways to move the ball, but the recurring theme of not being good enough in the fourth quarter will cost Baltimore again in a close one.

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Jimmy Smith trying to shake off disappointing start to 2015

Posted on 29 September 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Asked how he shakes off one of the most difficult games of his NFL career, Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith demonstrated by literally shaking his arms and shoulders while smiling.

Even when dealing with an 0-3 start, it’s important to have a sense of humor — and a short memory — when competing in an NFL secondary. That’s not to say that Smith didn’t take his poor performance hard on Sunday, declining to speak to the media after giving up the game-winning touchdown pass to four-time Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green in the 28-24 loss to Cincinnati.

“I took the loss as a loss,” said Smith, who apologized Monday for being “too emotional” to talk after the defeat. “It wasn’t so much that I was just so down on myself, it was just a loss. I didn’t play as well as I wanted to, so all of that affected it.”

Signed in the offseason to a four-year, $41 million contract extension through 2019, Smith appeared ready to pick up where he left off last season, returning a Peyton Manning interception for the Ravens’ only touchdown in a 19-13 season-opening loss to Denver. However, the 27-year-old cornerback has struggled since then, allowing a long touchdown to Amari Cooper in the Week 2 loss at Oakland before being torched by Green in Week 3.

In three games, Smith has been thrown at 28 times and has allowed 18 receptions for 275 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions, according to Pro Football Focus. It’s a stark contrast from a year ago when the 2011 first-round pick was targeted just 39 times in eight games and allowed 20 receptions for 163 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception. A Lisfranc injury that required season-ending surgery last November short-circuited a Pro Bowl-caliber campaign and forced Smith to spend much of the offseason rehabbing, but he was mostly a full participant in training camp and played in two preseason games.

The early-season woes have led many to wonder if his left foot is still an issue 11 months after the injury. A problem to the foot area can be debilitating at a position requiring backpedaling and such frequent changes in direction, but Smith wouldn’t comment on the possibility of any lingering effects.

“People come back from injuries; they play,” said Smith, who’s missed 17 games due to injuries in his young career. “Until this season is over, I’ll never talk about my foot.”

Identified as one of the leaders of a defense trying to fill the void of the injured Terrell Suggs, Smith said he isn’t lacking confidence despite allowing Green to make seven catches for 126 yards and a touchdown when they were matched on Sunday. He cited his preparation and film study as the biggest reasons why his recent play won’t shake his confidence moving forward.

Of course, the proof lies on the field where he’s appeared hesitant to engage in press coverage such as when he was beaten badly by Cooper on the 2015 first-round pick’s touchdown in Week 2. His early third-quarter interception of Andy Dalton on Sunday was a flash of what he’s capable of doing, but Smith hasn’t carried the same swagger on the field that he did a year ago when he had appeared to finally arrive as one of the best cornerbacks in the AFC.

The struggles have been across the board in the secondary as the Ravens currently rank 29th in pass defense. Miscommunication, technique flaws, and poor tackling have plagued Baltimore in each of the last two weeks, but Smith views these issues as correctable with better preparation as well as “effort and will” to bring down ball-carriers.

“There are times when we’re playing at a high level; it’s just we’ve got to be way more consistent,” Smith said. “Even though they’re huge plays, it’s a minor technique that we’re missing or that we’re not completing. So, it’s not even the calls; it’s things we have to fix and clean up, and we’ll get that done.”

Trying to rebound from the first 0-3 start in team history to save their season, the Ravens need Smith playing at his highest level in order to do so. Other than the passing combination of quarterback Joe Flacco and wide receiver Steve Smith, there may not be a more important player to the Ravens’ success than Smith when he’s playing at his best.

For what it’s worth, teammates and coaches haven’t lost faith in him despite the last two weeks.

“Jimmy is one of our best corners,” linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. “He’s one of the good players on our team — great guy, great teammate. Some days you give up plays; some days you make plays. That’s just the National Football League, and I wouldn’t want to take any other corner but him.”

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Ravens-Eagles: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 15 September 2012 by Luke Jones

Here’s what will happen when the Ravens travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday for their fourth ever meeting in the regular season …

1. After receiving only 13 touches in Week 1, Ray Rice factors more heavily in the offense and cracks the 100-yard mark on the ground against the Eagles defense. It will be interesting to see how offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and quarterback Joe Flacco attack Philadelphia in the early stages with the Eagles possessing such a strong pass rush and secondary. The Eagles are vulnerable against the run and allowed 99 yards on the ground to Cleveland last week. If the offense is to be successful on Sunday, Rice will play a larger role because it’s difficult envisioning Flacco chucking the ball all over the field with defensive ends Jason Babin and Trent Cole bearing down on him and cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie looming in the defensive backfield. The Ravens may come out throwing early, but they will quickly find more success with Rice carrying the ball between the tackles and trying to get the ball in open space.

2. Not to be outdone by Rice, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy runs for 90 yards and a touchdown against a defense that struggles to set the edge against the shifty back. The Ravens already faced questions about their ability to control the edge against the run, and injuries to linebacker Paul Kruger and defensive end Pernell McPhee will limit their availability on Sunday. McCoy is a far more pedestrian runner between the tackles, but the 2011 Pro Bowl running back thrives in open space and the Ravens will give him daylight too often in the early going. Facing injuries at the wide receiver position, the Eagles would be wise to rely heavily on McCoy’s talents against the Baltimore defense. Baltimore struggled to stop Cincinnati’s BenJarvus Green-Ellis last week and will have fits trying to keep McCoy in check.

3. Tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson combine for a dozen catches and 130 yards as Baltimore’s wide receivers struggle to gain separation. Torrey Smith will likely be blanketed by Asomugha and intermediate target Anquan Boldin will likely draw Rodgers-Cromartie, meaning Flacco will look more to his tight ends than he already does. Pitta led the Ravens with five catches and 73 yards while adding a touchdown against the Bengals as he picked up right where he left off last year in becoming a bigger part of the passing game. However, the Ravens will likely use more two-wide receiver sets with fullback Vonta Leach in the game to lead the way for Rice, which is a personnel set in which Dickson plays more often. Regardless of who’s in the game at tight end — the Ravens like having both on the field as well — Pitta and Dickson will have the upper hand against the Philadelphia linebackers and safeties to make up for the struggles the wide receivers will likely encounter. Quick passes to the tight ends will also aid an offensive line that will have its hands full with Philadelphia’s front four.

4. The defense struggles to pressure Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, but the secondary forces a key fourth-quarter turnover with wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin less than 100 percent. Both starting receivers missed practice time this week and will not be playing at 100 percent on Sunday, which will help the Baltimore secondary a great deal. The Ravens failed to create much pressure against the Bengals and it will be the same story Sunday as Kruger and McPhee play at less than 100 percent. That being said, Vick threw four interceptions against the Browns last week and could be forced to rely more heavily on possession receiver Jason Avant and McCoy out of the backfield with Jackson and Maclin ailing. Always a phenomenal athlete, Vick is still prone to make the critical mistake and the Ravens’ secondary is too talented not to take advantage, even without an effective pass rush to help the unit. In a one-possession game, Vick continues that trend and that turnover will factor heavily in deciding the outcome.

5. After hearing all week about their Week 2 letdowns in 2010 and 2011, the Ravens beat a good team on the road with a 27-24 victory in Philadelphia. Coach John Harbaugh addressed the possibility of a Week 2 meltdown with his team at the beginning of the week and the Ravens want to erase the memories of what happened in the second week of the season in each of the last two seasons. Unlike last season when the Ravens took on what looked to be the underwhelming Tennessee Titans, it’s difficult to overlook an Eagles team with such tremendous talent on both sides of the ball, which likely helped their focus in making preparations this week. Of course, this doesn’t mean the Ravens are immune from another Week 2 loss, but they shouldn’t be caught by surprise this time around. Despite facing a defense with a great pass rush and secondary, the Ravens offense shows once again why it’s a force to be reckoned with as Rice’s big day and an efficient Flacco lead Baltimore to a 2-0 start.

 

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Rice, Suggs In Running For Madden 13 Cover

Posted on 08 March 2012 by WNST Staff

EA SPORTS AND ESPN’S SPORTSNATION KICK OFF MADDEN NFL 13 COVER ATHLETE FAN VOTE

This Year’s Campaign Expands to 64 Players – With Play-In Round Featuring Two Athletes

From Each NFL Team Represented in Head-to-Head Matchups

March 7, 2012 – EA SPORTS™ and ESPN announced today the return of the award-winning Madden NFL Cover Vote campaign, where fans can cast their vote for the next athlete to grace the cover of one of the highest-selling videogame franchises in North America. Last year, nearly 13 million votes were cast through ESPNSportsNation.com and ESPN mobile in both companies’ most successful cross-platform activation. Tenth-seeded Cleveland Browns running back, Peyton Hillis, trucked through the six week competition all the way to the ultimate end zone – the Madden NFL 12 cover.

This year’s competition will incorporate more athletes and more chances to vote as the field has been expanded to 64 NFL players, putting even more control in the hands of the fans. Beginning today through March 21, fans can visit the SportsNation Facebook page to choose among the 64 candidates in a play-in round (each matchup features two players from the same NFL team) to advance to the official 32-player, seeded tournament.  The winners of the play-in round will be unveiled with the official seeded, 32-player bracket on March 21 on ESPN’s “Madden Cover Vote Special” from 5-6p.m. EST.  To ensure their favorite player advances to the next round, fans are encouraged to vote daily and tweet their picks using #MyMaddenCoverVote on Twitter.  Every Wednesday between March 21 and April 25, fans can tune into SportsNation on ESPN2at 5p.m. EST to check out the latest Madden NFL 13 Cover Vote standings.

In addition to the SportsNation Facebook page, fans will be able to vote in the play-in round via the open Web through widgets embedded on blogs, websites and more.  Each widget features an individual match-up for each of the 32 total teams in the league.  For the cover vote from March 21-April 25, all voting must be cast at ESPN.com/MaddenVote.

The star-studded list of candidates participating in the play-in round features past Super Bowl winners, perennial Pro Bowlers and some of the most popular players in the NFL including Drew Brees, Arian Foster and Rob Gronkowski. The full list of matchups featured in the play-in round are:

AFC

Ravens Terrell Suggs vs. Ray Rice Jets Mark Sanchez vs. Darrelle Revis
Steelers Troy Polamalu vs. Ben Roethlisberger Bills Stevie Johnson vs. Ryan Fitzpatrick
Browns Joe Thomas vs. Joe Haden Dolphins Reggie Bush vs. Brandon Marshall
Bengals Andy Dalton vs. AJ Green Patriots Wes Welker vs. Rob Gronkowski
Texans Arian Foster vs. Andre Johnson Chargers Phillip Rivers vs. Antonio Gates
Colts Dwight Freeney vs. Robert Mathis Broncos Tim Tebow vs. Von Miller
Jaguars Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Blaine Gabbert Chiefs Dwayne Bowe vs. Derrick Johnson
Titans Jake Locker vs. Chris Johnson Raiders Sebastian Janikowski vs. Shane Lechler

NFC

Bears Jay Cutler vs. Matt Forte Rams Chris Long vs. Brandon Lloyd
Lions Calvin Johnson vs. Matt Stafford 49ers Vernon Davis vs. Patrick Willis
Vikings Percy Harvin vs. Jared Allen Seahawks Marshawn Lynch vs. Earl Thomas
Packers Aaron Rodgers vs. Clay Matthews Cardinals Larry Fitzgerald vs. Patrick Peterson
Falcons Matt Ryan vs. Julio Jones Eagles Michael Vick vs. LeSean McCoy
Saints Drew Brees vs. Jimmy Graham Giants Victor Cruz vs. Jason Pierre-Paul
Panthers Cam Newton vs. Steve Smith Cowboys Jason Witten vs. DeMarcus Ware
Buccaneers Josh Freeman vs. LeGarrette Blount Redskins Brian Orakpo vs. Ryan Kerrigan

The Madden NFL 13 cover vote marks the third-consecutive year that EA SPORTS has asked fans to help shape the face of the Madden NFL franchise through a cover athlete voting campaign.  It also marks the second year of its collaboration with ESPN’s SportsNation.

Madden NFL 13 is developed in Orlando, Florida by EA Tiburon.  For more information about Madden NFL 13, please visit: http://www.ea.com/madden-nfl. To download assets pertaining to the Madden NFL 13 please visit http://maddennfl13.newslinevine.com.

All player participation has been facilitated by National Football League Players Incorporated, the licensing and marketing subsidiary of the NFL Players Association.

EA SPORTS™ is one of the leading sports entertainment brands in the world, with top-selling videogame franchises, award-winning interactive technology, global videogame competitions and breakthrough digital experiences. EA SPORTS delivers experiences that ignite the emotions of sport through industry-leading sports simulation videogames, including Madden NFL football, FIFA Soccer, NHL® hockey, NBA basketball, NCAA® Football, Fight Night boxing, EA SPORTS MMA and Tiger Woods PGA TOUR® golf, and EA SPORTS Active.

For more information about EA SPORTS, including news, video, blogs, forums and game apps, please visit www.easports.com to connect, share and compete.

About Electronic Arts

Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA) is a global leader in digital interactive entertainment. The Company’s game franchises are offered as both packaged goods products and online services delivered through Internet-connected consoles, personal computers, mobile phones and tablets. EA has more than 100 million registered players and operates in 75 countries.

In fiscal 2011, EA posted GAAP net revenue of $3.6 billion. Headquartered in Redwood City, California, EA is recognized for critically acclaimed, high-quality blockbuster franchises such as The Sims™, Madden NFL, FIFA Soccer, Need for Speed™, Battlefield™, and Mass Effect™. More information about EA is available at http://info.ea.com.

EA SPORTS, EA SPORTS Active, The Sims and Need for Speed are trademarks of Electronic Arts Inc. Mass Effect is a trademark of EA International (Studio and Publishing) Ltd.  Battlefield is a trademark of EA Digital Illusions CE AB.  John Madden, NFL, FIFA, NHL, NBA, NCAA, Tiger Woods, and PGA TOUR are trademarks of their respective owners and used with permission.  Twitter is a registered trademark of Twitter, Inc.  All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Officially Licensed Product of National Football League Players Incorporated.

About SportsNation

SportsNation is a live sports television show born from the Internet, fueled by fan interaction and focused on fun.  The show, which has the youngest and most male audience on the ESPN network, features discussions of the day’s hottest sports topics but also smaller stories that generate buzz on the Web but are overlooked by other shows.  Feeding off the theory that if two heads are better than one, 200,000 heads are better than two, SportsNation engages hundreds of thousands of sports fans across the country via ESPN.com’s SportsNation page (http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/).

About ESPN Games and EA

ESPN’s long-standing relationship with EA produces deep brand integrations into console gaming titles such as EA SPORTS NCAA Football 12 and Fight Night Champion.  Additionally, the relationship in 2011 produced the biggest ESPN poll vote ever for the Madden NFL 12 cover vote, logging nearly 13 million votes, the most ESPN votes ever for a joint collaboration.  The Emmy award-winning EA Virtual Playbook also most recently extended to boxing and golf in 2011.

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PLAY-IN ROUND VOTING THRU FACEBOOK & OPEN WEB

Thanks for your interest in SportsNation’s Madden NFL 13 Cover Vote.

EA Sports and ESPN’s SportsNation have chosen two players from each NFL team to be included in a social play-in round for the Madden NFL 13 cover.

Starting March 7th on SportsNation’s Facebook page and on voting matchups called ‘sapplets’ or ‘widgets’ embedded across open web (info below), fans will be able to vote on matchups from each NFL team to send one representative into the final bracket of 32 players at ESPN.com/MaddenVote on March 21st.

If you choose to embed one of the 32 individual voting ‘sapplets’, you can use the next page that includes all 32 embed codes for all 32 NFL teams. They post to your site much like a YouTube clip and can increase time spent on your site as well as traffic by generating debate about matchups.

The social Play-in vote launches on Wednesday, March 7th and closes two week later on Wednesday, March 21st. The Facebook tab and voting ‘sapplets’ will be live during those two weeks.

CHEAT SHEET:

WAY TO EMBED:

  • Go to page 2. Find your team.
  • Copy the embed code.
  • Paste the embed code onto your website where you would embed a YouTube clip.
  • The voting platform is ready and interactive on your page!
  • Please Note: do NOT embed on Tumblr and do NOT change the height & width

Canvas

NEW embed Code

49ers Vote

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Patriots Vote

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Redskins Vote

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Eagles Vote

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Romo

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Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7 Athletes Needing a Championship for Validation

Posted on 07 February 2012 by Luke Jones

In honor of Giants quarterback Eli Manning winning a second Super Bowl to solidify his status among the NFL’s elite signal callers, this week’s Tuesday Top 7 looks at the athletes needing to win a championship to validate their greatness.

Any athlete who has already won a championship was not eligible for the list, so suggesting that Tiger Woods needs to win another major or Tom Brady must secure a fourth Super Bowl — and first after the Patriots’ cheating scandal — does not work. Luke Jones stuck to athletes in team sports while Drew Forrester considered those who participate in team or individual sports.

Luke Jones’ Top 7 (listen to his explanation HERE)

7) Tony Romo
Romo

6) Steve Nash
Nash

5) Michael Vick
Vick

4) Carmelo Anthony
Melo

3) Philip Rivers
Rivers

2) Alexander Ovechkin
Ovie

1) LeBron James
James

Drew Forrester’s Top 7 … (listen to his explanation HERE)

Continue >>>

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Towson Announces 19 Man Recruiting Class For 2012

Posted on 01 February 2012 by WNST Staff

TOWSON, Md. –  A talented group of 19 football players has signed National Letters of Intent to attend Towson University and play football, it has been announced by Coach Rob Ambrose.

The Tigers’ recruiting class includes five transfer students, including four FBS transfers. Joining the Tigers as transfers are defensive lineman Brendon Gannon of Western Michigan, defensive back Darrell Givens of Rutgers, defensive back Ben Harvey of South Carolina and cornerback Jordan Love of Georgia. In addition, offensive lineman Jake McDowell transferred from Golden West Junior College.

Of the 14 incoming freshmen, five are products of Maryland high schools. The Tigers have also added three newcomers from the Tidewater area of Virginia. 

“This is the best recruiting class we’ve ever had,” says Coach Ambrose. “That’s the natural progression of building a program. Each recruiting class needs to be better than the one before it. These incoming players are the biggest, fastest recruits we’ve ever signed.”

The Tiger coaching staff will officially announce the recruiting class at the NLI Signing Party at Bill Bateman’s Wednesday evening at 6:00 p.m.

BRYTON BARR, Linebacker
6-0, 220-lbs., Mechanicsburg Area H.S., Camp Hill, Pa.

Two-time All-State selection … honored as Keystone Conference Defensive Player of the Year as a junior and senior … four-year starter at linebacker for the Wildcats who made 504 tackles in career … two-year team captain for Coach Chris Hakel … also forced 20 fumbles in his career … had six career interceptions … three-time all-conference selection … led team with 154 tackles as a senior … also had 175 tackles as a junior … chosen to play in the Big 33 all-star game … also played tight end for the Wildcats and scored 24 touchdowns in career … had 1,500 receiving yards in career … two-time team MVP … honor roll student … PERSONAL: Has one older brother … has done volunteer work with Special Olympics … favorite NFL team is the Atlanta Falcons … lists defensive back Shann Schilinger of Atlanta as his favorite NFL player … had summer job as landscaper … lists “Tuesdays With Morrie” as his favorite book … favorite movie is “The Book Of Eli” …  favorite actor is Denzel Washington …enjoys eating steak … enjoys music by John Mayer … father is a graduate of Columbus College who played college baseball … father is a realtor … mother is a food service supervisor … son of Terry and Quinn Barr … born on February 6, 1994 in Harrisburg, Pa

CHRISTIAN CARPENTER, Athlete
6-2, 185-lbs., Aberdeen H.S., Aberdeen, Md.

Very talented two-way standout at Aberdeen High School … second team All-State selection … earned first team All-Metro notice as a senior … also named first team All-Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference … played wide receiver and defensive back for the Eagles … caught 64 passes for 1,112 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior … also made 148 tackles with six interceptions … scored one defensive touchdown for the Eagles … led Coach Johnny Brooks’ Eagles to a 10-3 record and the semi-finals of the Maryland state playoffs … Eagles showed vast improvement after posting a 1-9 record in 2010 … helped Eagles win UCBAC championship … named Most Valuable Player at the UCBAC all-star game … also played in the Crab Bowl … member of track and field team at Aberdeen where he excelled in the long jump … PERSONAL: Has one younger brother … lists mother as the person he admires the most … hobbies include video games … avid fan of the Baltimore Ravens … lists the late Sean Taylor as his favorite NFL player … favorite athlete is Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat … favorite movie is “Planet of the Apes” … enjoys eating spaghetti … parents are Syracuse University graduates … mother earned MBA from Strayer and works in Human Resources … son of Robert and Davita Carpenter … born on March 2, 1994 in Alpharetta, Ga.

ROB CHESSON, Running Back
5-9, 175-lbs., Old Mill H.S., Millersville, Md.

Explosive running back who earned first team All-State honors … named as Maryland State Offensive Player of the Year … led Old Mill High School to a 14-0 record and the Maryland “4A” state championship … set a Maryland state record with 49 touchdowns scored, breaking previous mark of 43 … rushed for 2,701 yards on 337 carries … scored game-winning two-point conversion in Old Mill’s 36-35 win in the state championship game over Quince Orchard … ran for 154 yards on 25 carries in state championship game … led the Patriots to a win over Catonsville in the state semi-finals by rushing for 312 yards on 24 carries and scoring seven touchdowns … ran for 247 yards and scored five touchdowns in win over Southern … picked up 216 yards on 35 carries with five touchdowns against Arundel … also scored five TD’s in 180-yard effort against South River … led Washington to a win in the Crab Bowl by running for 134 yards with one touchdown … PERSONAL:  Has one older sister and one younger brother … has two cousins playing football in Anne Arundel County … son of Robert and Tikira Barber … born on October 27, 1993 in Annapolis, Md.

BRENDON GANNON, Defensive Lineman
6-2, 260-lbs., Cardinal Gibbons H.S., Halethorpe, Md.

Transfer from Western Michigan University … has three years of eligibility remaining … two-year performer for the Broncos who was a redshirt in 2010 … appeared in one game in 2011 … made one tackle against Bowling Green … member of Broncos’ team that posted a 7-6 record and dropped a 37-32 heartbreaker to Purdue in the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl in Detroit … earned All-MIAA honors twice at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Baltimore … team captain of the Crusaders … led team with 98 tackles as a senior … selected to play in Baltimore Touchdown Club’s all-star game … also played basketball for the Crusaders and served as team captain … member of the track and field team at Gibbons … attended Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) for one year and played football … made 64 tackles with eight sacks in one year at Wyoming Seminary … PERSONAL: Has three brothers and one sister … lists mother as the person he admires the most … hobbies include baseball and lacrosse … had summer job working at a pharmacy … favorite NFL team is the Baltimore Ravens … lists Jason Pierre-Paul of the New York Giants as his favorite NFL player … favorite book is “Life On The Mississippi” by Mark Twain … favorite movie is “Paid In Full” … lists Dwight Howard as his favorite athlete … favorite actress is Jada Pinkett … mother is a dental assistant … son of Latonia Small … born on July 13, 1991 in Baltimore, Md.

DARRELL GIVENS, Defensive Back
6-1, 193-lbs., Lackey H.S., Fort Washington, Md. 

Transfer from Rutgers University … has two years of eligibility remaining … two-year performer for the Scarlet Knights … appeared in four games over the last two seasons … member of Scarlet Knights’ team that posted a 9-4 record in 2011 and beat Iowa State in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium … appeared in two games this season and made one tackle … also played in two games in 2010 … widely-recruited cornerback out of Lackey High School who earned scholastic All-American honors … rated as the No. 6 cornerback in the nation by ESPN.com … also rated as No. 29 cornerback in the nation by Rivals.com … two-time All-County selection who also earned All-State honors as a senior … had 57 tackles and intercepted two passes as a senior … also caught 18 passes for 268 yards and a touchdown … led the Chargers to an 8-4 record as a senior … helped Lackey make back-to-back appearances in regional championship game … made 82 tackles as a junior with three interceptions, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries … PERSONAL: Has two brothers and one sister … born on September 25, 1990 in Washington, D.C.

BEN HARVEY, Defensive Back
5-10, 185-lbs., Good Counsel H.S., Columbia, Md.

Transfer from University of South Carolina … did not play for the Gamecocks … has four years of eligibility remaining … member of Gamecocks team that posted an 11-2 record and beat Nebraska in the Florida Citrus Bowl … All-Metro defensive back at Good Counsel High School … helped the Falcons post a 10-2 record as a senior … member of Coach Bob Milloy’s WCAC championship team … also played basketball and ran track … helped the Falcons’ track team win the WCAC title … honor roll student … PERSONAL: Hoping for a career in computer science … lists mother as the person he admires the most … avid fan of the Baltimore Ravens … lists Darrelle Revis as his favorite NFL player … favorite movie is “Scarface” … lists Lindsay Lohan as his favorite actress … had summer job as camp counselor … favorite athlete is LeBron James … favorite book is “Art of War” … mother is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts who played basketball … son of Kenny Harvey and Juanita Matthews … born on January 9, 1993 in Boston, Mass

SYD HOLT, Defensive End
6-4, 210-lbs., Sayreville War Memorial H.S., South Amboy, N.J.

All-State first team performer at defensive end … team captain who led the Bombers to an 11-1 record and the 2010 Central Jersey Group IV state championship … named as New Jersey Defensive Player of the Year by The Newark Star-Ledger … made 90 tackles with 13.5 sacks for Coach George Najjar … earned All-County and All-League honors … also caught 17 passes for 198 yards and four touchdowns as a tight end … had 48 tackles and 13 sacks as a junior … also played basketball for the Bombers … PERSONAL: Has two younger sisters and one younger brother … lists father as the person he admires the most … has done community service work at food shelters and a retirement home … favorite NFL teams are the St. Louis Rams and the Pittsburgh Steelers … favorite athlete is Lebron James … favorite actor is  Tyrese Gibson … enjoys eating fried chicken … favorite musician is Chris Brown … son of Sydnor L. Holt and Telica Harrington  … born on March 2, 1993 in Newark, N.J.

Ra-ZAHN HOWARD, Defensive Tackle
6-3, 300-lbs., Asbury Park H.S., Asbury Park, N.J.

Third team All-State selection at defensive tackle … led Asbury Park High School to NJSIAA state championship … transferred to Asbury Park prior to senior season … keyed Asbury Park defense which allowed just 464 rushing yards all season … named as the Class B Central Defensive Player of the Year … made 68 tackles with 12 sacks and 15 quarterback hurries … also forced three fumbles and made 31 tackles for lost yardage … also named first team All-Shore Conference for Coach Matt Ardizzone …  made 57 tackles and had ten sacks as a junior at Winslow Township H.S. … also played basketball in high school … also wrestled and won regional title as a sophomore … PERSONAL: Cousin of Marcus Valentine, a four-year standout for the Tigers who was one of the captains of the Tigers’ Colonial Athletic Association championship team in 2011 … career goal is to work in juvenile probation and corrections … lists Marcus Valentine as the person he admires most … favorite NFL team is the Detroit Lions … lists Denzel Washington as his favorite actor … favorite musician is Stevie Wonder … lists “Friday Night Lights” as his favorite movie … enjoys eating chicken parmesan … son of Mark Howard and Tina Morris … born on August 9, 1994 in Red Bank, N.J.

DREON JOHNSON, Fullback
6-0, 235-lb., Mayde Creek H.S., Houston, Tex.

Versatile performer at Mayde Creek High School … saw action at offensive tackle, fullback and defensive end for the Rams … two-year team captain for Coach Lance Carter … earned first team All-District honors at offensive tackle … honored as top offensive lineman in the district as a senior … led team in tackles as a junior … three-year starter … also a member of the Rams’ wrestling team and track and field team … PERSONAL: Has one brother and one sister … lists mother as the person he admires the most … hobbies include playing basketball … favorite NFL teams are the Houston Texans, the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers … favorite NFL player is running back  Brandon Jacobs of the Giants … lists LeBron James as his favorite athlete … favorite movie is “Dead Presidents” … favorite actor is Terrence Howard … enjoys listening to music by Z-RO … likes to eat Mexican food … mother is a substitute teacher … son of Lamonica Benton … born on December 12, 1992 in College Station, Texas.

CLIFTON JONES, Defensive Tackle
6-2, 250-lb., Tallwood H.S., Virginia Beach, Va.

Explosive defensive lineman who earned first team All-District honors at Tallwood High School … team captain of the Lions … also named first team All-Beach for Coach John Kepple … member of All-Region second team … named as team captain … standout performer for the Lions’ track and field team who finished fifth in the region in the shot put … honor roll student … PERSONAL: Has one sister … lists family as the people he admires the most … had summer job in child care … favorite NFL player is Michael Vick … lists “The Wood” as his favorite movie … favorite athlete is NBA standout Brandon Roy … mother is a nurse … father is a high school football coach … son of Clifton Jones Sr.  and Pam Archie … born January 9, 1994 in Norfolk, Va.

JULEON KILLIKELLY-LEE, Cornerback
5-10, 160-lbs., Woodlawn H.S., Gwynn Oak, Md.

Very speedy cornerback who earned second team All-State honors … also named All-Baltimore County … played three years at Western Tech and one season at Woodlawn … intercepted three passes as a senior at Woodlawn and scored seven touchdowns … threw for 546 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior … also ran for 521 yards for the Warriors … members of the first Western Tech team to post a 10-0 record … made 20 tackles and intercepted four passes as a junior at Western … played in Crab Bowl and the Chesapeake Bowl … outstanding sprinter for the Warriors’ track and field team … won Maryland state championships in the 100-meter dash and the 200-meter dash … PERSONAL: Has one older brother … lists father as the person he admires the most … has done community service work planting trees and feeding the hungry … hobbies include singing … avid fan of the Baltimore Ravens … had summer job working with automotive repair … lists Ray Lewis and Adrian Peterson as his favorite NFL players … enjoys reading “Of Mice and Men” … favorite movie is “Jason’s Lyric” … lists Steve Carell as his favorite actor … enjoys listening to music by C.J. Hilton … father is a fire alarm technician … mother is an IT analyst and a graduate of the University of Baltimore … son of Donald Lee and Lanca Killikelly … born on May 1, 1994 in Baltimore, Md.

DONNELL LEWIS, Cornerback
5-10, 160-lbs., Woodside H.S., Newport News, Va.

Honored as one of the Top 100 football players in Virginia … two-way standout who played quarterback and defensive back at Woodside High School … honored as Peninsula District Player of the Year … two-time All-Region selection at defensive back … led the Wolverines to a perfect 10-0 record … completed 49 of 88 passes for 760 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior … also rushed for 739 yards and scored seven touchdowns for Coach Danny Dodson … had two interceptions … intercepted seven passes as a junior and returned two for touchdowns … also played basketball and ran track … honor roll student … PERSONAL: Has one younger brother and one younger sister … lists father as the person he admires the most … career goal is to become a police officer … had summer job working at Busch Gardens … avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys … favorite NFL player is Michael Vick … lists LeBron James as his favorite athlete … favorite movie is “Friday Night Lights” … lists Walter Dean Meyers as his favorite author … enjoys eating lasagna … father is an Army veteran … mother works in daycare … son of Donnell Lewis Sr. and Hirut Lewis … born on March 12, 1994 in Fort Riley, Kansas.

JORDAN LOVE, Cornerback
6-0, 190-lbs., Deep Run H.S., Glen Allen, Va.

Transfer from the University of Georgia … two-year performer for the Bulldogs … has two years of eligibility remaining … played in 21 games in career at Georgia … appeared in eight games and started once in 2011 … made 12 tackles and forced a fumble … also broke up one pass … made first career start in season opener against Boise State … member of Bulldogs team that finished the season with a 10-4 record as Southeastern Conference runners-up … played in all 13 games as a freshman in 2010 … made nines tackle and forced a fumble as a freshman … had career high five tackles and forced a fumble against Coastal Carolina in 2011 … All-State selection at Deep Run High School in Virginia …. rated as No. 1 cornerback in Virginia as a senior … made 45 tackles as a senior … also ran for 281 yards with two touchdowns … also returned a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown … intercepted three passes as a junior … PERSONAL: Has two brothers and two sisters … father is a graduate of Southern Illinois who played pro football for the Seattle Seahawks … mother is a graduate of Jackson State who works for the FBI … born on December 31, 1990 in Chicago, Ill.

JAKE McDOWELL, Offensive Lineman
6-5, 290-lb., Los Alamitos H.S., Los Alamitos, Cal.

Solid offensive lineman who is a transfer from Golden West Junior College … two-year standout for the Rustlers who earned second team all-conference honors in 2011 … helped Golden West post a 7-4 record … earned all-league honors at Los Alamitos High School in California … helped the Griffins win their league championship … honor roll student … PERSONAL: Has two younger brothers … devoted fan of the St. Louis Rams  … career goal is to become a physical therapist … lists grandfather as the person he admires the most … hobbies include snowboarding … favorite NFL player is Clay Matthews … lists “Dark Knight” as his favorite movie … favorite actor is Christian Bale … lists Katherine Heigl as his favorite actress … enjoys music by Toby Keith … favorite athlete is Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels … father is a graduate of Cal State Fullerton … mother is a Carritos College graduate … son of Matthew and Susan McDowell … born on June 8, 1992 in Irvine, Cal.

WILLIE PONDER, Wide Receiver
5-11, 175-lb., Western Branch H.S., Chesapeake, Va.

Two-way standout at wide receiver at Western Branch H.S. … earned first team all-district honors as a senior … named as the Bruins’ Most Valuable Player … earned honorable mention All-Tidewater notice … two-year captain for Coach Scott Johnson … also played basketball and ran track for the Bruins … honor roll student every semester … member of Latin Club … also a member of Future Business Leaders of America … PERSONAL: Career goal is to become a pharmacist or work in physical therapy … lists parents as the people he admires the most … has been very active in community service work … favorite NFL team is the Atlanta Falcons … lists Percy Harvin as his favorite NFL player … had summer jobs working at Best Buy and Auto Bell Car Wash … cousin, Glenn Waldron, played football at University of New Hampshire … favorite musician is Drake … enjoys eating pizza  … favorite movie is “Friday Night Lights” …  lists Kobe Bryant as his favorite athlete … parents work for the U.S. Navy … mother is a graduate of Troy University … son of Willie and Nicole Ponder … born on October 7, 1992 in Olney, Md.

FRED SANTARELLI, Offensive Tackle
6-6, 295-lbs., The Hill School, Philadelphia, Pa.

Two-sport standout at The Hill School … earned All-State honors at offensive tackle … also named All-WAPL for Coach Grey Simpson … helped the Rams post a 6-3 record as a senior … also wrestled for the Rams … PERSONAL: Has two younger sisters … career goal is to become a coach … lists former St. Joseph’s Prep Coach Gil Brooks as the person he admires most … hobbies include playing video games … favorite NFL team is the Philadelphia Eagles … lists All-Pro tackle Jason Peters of the Eagles as his favorite NFL player … favorite movie is “The Godfather” … lists Robert DeNiro as his favorite actor … had summer job working at a pizza restaurant … favorite athlete is Usain Bolt … mother is a former All-American basketball player at Immaculata who coaches basketball … father played football at Juniata College and served as team captain … father is an attorney … son of Frederick and Letty Santarelli … born on February 25, 1993 in Philadelphia, Pa.


BRADY STUP, Offensive Tackle
6-5, 270-lbs., Tuscarora H.S., Frederick, Md.

Second team All-State selection at Tuscarora High School … two-way tackle who also earned All-Area and all-conference honors for Coach Dean Swink … team captain of the Titans … made 75 tackles with six sacks as a senior … honorable mention All-State selection as a junior … selected to play in the Crab Bowl All-Star Game … honorable mention All-Monocacy Valley League wrestler … also played lacrosse for the Titans … PERSONAL: Parents are both Towson graduates … father, Bill Stup, played football for the Tigers from 1985 to 1988 and was a team captain as a senior … older brother, Billy, played football for the Tigers from 2008 to 2011 … lists parents as the people he admires most … has spent a lot of time working on grandparents’ farm … very active in church activities … has three brothers … older brother, Bobby, plays football at Colgate … devoted fan of the Baltimore Ravens … lists Ray Rice as his favorite NFL player … lists “Gladiator” as his favorite movie … favorite meal is fried chicken .. has an uncle who played football at Virginia Tech … has another uncle who played football at Shepherd College … mother is an occupational therapist … father owns a business … son of Bill and Lori Stup … born on August 23, 1994 in Havre deGrace, Md.


SHAYNE SULLIVAN, Offensive Tackle
6-6, 285-lbs., Archbishop Spalding H.S., Crofton, Md.

All-Metro first team pick at offensive tackle … also named All-MIAA and All-Anne Arundel County … earned first team All-State honors among private schools … winner of Annapolis Touchdown Club’s Al Laramore Award as top lineman in Anne Arundel County … named to Baltimore Touchdown Club Super 22 team … chosen to play in the Crab Bowl All-Star game … two-way lineman who helped the Cavaliers post a 7-4 record as a senior … member of MIAA “B” championship team which posted a 10-3 record for Coach Mike Whittles as a junior … also played rugby … PERSONAL: Has two older sisters … lists his high school coach, Mike Whittles, as the person he admires the most … favorite NFL team is the Miami Dolphins … favorite NFL player is Brandon Marshall … outstanding XBox player who finished third in a world-wide Madden football tournament … favorite book is “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss … favorite athlete is LeBron James … lists “Ace Ventura” as his favorite movie … favorite actor is Steven Seagal … enjoys listening to music by Eminem … favorite food is crabs … father is a University of Maryland graduate who works as a mortgage banker … mother works as an administrative assistant … son of John and Susan Sullivan  … born on October 6, 1994 in Annapolis, Md.


MAX TEJADA, Defensive Line
6-2, 285-lbs., The Bolles School, Orange Park, Fla.

Talented defensive lineman who earned All-State first team honors as a senior at the Bolles School in Florida … three-year starter for Coach Corky Rogers … helped the Bulldogs to the state championshop and a 16-1 record … named first team All-First Coast … team captain … member of two state championship teams at The Bolles School … helped the Bulldogs compile a 39-3 record in career … also wrestled for the Bulldogs and finished fourth in the state … PERSONAL: Has two younger brothers … career goal is to become an Athletic Trainer … lists grandfather as the person he admires the most  … hobbies include fishing … devoted fan of the New York Jets … favorite NFL player is Ndamukong Suh … favorite movie is “Scarface” … lists Al Pacino as his favorite actor … favorite meal is steak and potatoes … father works as a clothier … mother is a financial aid advisor … son of Ramon and Kathy Tejada … born February 11, 1991 in Jacksonville, Fla.


2012 Towson University Football Recruits

Player Pos. Ht. Wt. High School Hometown Other
Bryton Barr LB 6-0 220 Mechanicsburg Area Camp Hill, Pa.
Christian Carpenter
ATH
6-2
185
Aberdeen H.S.
Aberdeen, Md.
Robert Chesson
RB
5-9
175
Old Mill H.S.
Millersville, Md.
Brendon Gannon
DT
6-2
260
Cardinal Gibbons H.S.
Halethorpe, Md.
Western Michigan
Darrell Givens
DB
6-1
193
Lackey H.S.
Fort Washington, Md.
Rutgers
Ben Harvey DB 5-10 185 Good Counsel H.S. Columbia, Md. South Carolina
Syd Holt DE 6-4 210 Sayreville War Memorial South Amboy, N.J.
Ra-Zahn Howard DT 6-3 300 Asbury Park H.S. Asbury Park, N.J.
Dreon Johnson FB 6-0 235 Mayde Creek H.S. Houston, Texas
Clifton Jones DT 6-2 250 Tallwood H.S. Virginia Beach, Va.
Juleon Killikelly-Lee CB 5-10 160 Woodlawn H.S. Gwynn Oak, Md.
Donnell Lewis DB 5-10 160 Woodside H.S. Virginia Beach, Va.
Jordan Love CB 6-0 190 Deep Run H.S. Glen Allen, Va. Georgia
Jake McDowell OT 6-5 290 Los Alamitos H.S. Los Alamitos, Cal. Golden West J.C.
Willie Ponder WR 5-11 175 Western Branch H.S. Chesapeake, Va.
Fred Santarelli OT 6-6 295 The Hill School Philadelphia, Pa.
Brady Stup OT 6-6 295 Tuscarora H.S. Frederick, Md.
Shayne Sullivan OT 6-6 285 Archbishop Spadling H.S. Crofton, Md.
Max Tejada DL 6-2 285 The Bolles School Orange Park, Fla.

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50 words or less .... Thursday, April 28th

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50 words or less …. Thursday, April 28th

Posted on 28 April 2011 by Rex Snider

Welcome to what promises to be a pretty busy Thursday in the Baltimore sports community. The Ravens are primed to welcome their newest member of the fold and the Orioles are hoping to break out a broom on the Red Sox.

But, challenges exist.

There will be 25 obstacles standing in front of Ozzie Newsome and company and the birds lineup must deal with Boston ace, Jon Lester …. while Adrian Gonzalez and his lineup mates will face a likley easier task in figuring out Brad Bergesen.

Here’s today’s edition of “50 Words Or Less ….”
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The Forgotten Piece ???
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A daily conversation revolving around the Orioles always seems to regard the hitting attack or young starting pitching. I get it …. it’s “sexier” than discussing defense, baserunning and the bullpen.

But, last night served as another reminder that this team does not have a SHUT THE DOOR closer, nor do they have that coveted formidable 8th and 9th inning tandem. It’s a weakness that’s plagued the Orioles for a number of years.

Ask yourself this question …. were you comfortable heading into the top of the 9th inning with a 5-4 lead, last night?
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That’s “Mr. Cover Model”
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Well, Twitter certainly served as the ideal “LET’S PILEUP ON PEYTON HILLIS” social format, yesterday afternoon. As soon as news broke of the breakout back’s throttling of Michael Vick in the Madden-2012 cover matchup, the detractors and haters surfaced …..

“One Shot Wonder” …. “Overrated” …. “Another Mistake By The Lake” …. indeed, we saw and read it all. I think it’s kinda funny. A process that allowed people to manipulate results is what availed Hillis and Vick to reach final consideration in the first place.

Hey, it’s just a video game and a very popular one. Nobody buys it for the cover anyway. But, rest assured, there are some relieved souls in EA Sports hierarchy today.
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Reaching Rock Bottom
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Yep, today’s the day. It’s the 23rd anniversary of the one distinction the Baltimore Orioles would rather forget. On April 28, 1988, in the artificial confines of the Metrodome, the birds set a new mark for frustration and failure.

0-21

We always hear Dimaggio’s 56 game hit streak and Ripken’s 2,131 consecutive game streak will never be broken. Well, you can probably toss this distinction behind both of those marks. I can’t foresee another team doing it …..
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With The 26th Pick …..
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I’ll say it again, NOBODY really knows what the Ravens will do during tonight’s 1st round of the NFL Draft. But, plenty of opinions exist …..

Peter King – Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

Drew Forrester – Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State

Matt Bowen – Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, Temple

Glenn Clark – Mike Pouncey, C, Florida

Brian Billick – Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

Who do I side with? King has NFL connections … Drew has LOCAL connections … Bowen played the game … Glenn is a “Ravens Insider” … and the coach possesses all four qualities.

I’m gonna trust Glenn. He was right on the money with Sergio Kindle, in 2010. And, he thought the Ravens would drop down to snag him. That’s money …..
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Greatest Debut Album
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I’ll start this rant by admitting my feelings are still smarting. One of these days, I might be considered for the MORNING REACTION’S Hall Of Fame. I’ve only been listening and contributing, in one way or another, for 7 freakin’ years …..

Regardless, I’ve gotta offer an opinion on yesterday’s conversation about the “Greatest Debut Album”. The Cars’ self-titled debut album bests the original Van Halen offering?

Come on …..

The truth in simple sports-related terms; The Cars couldn’t carry Van Halen’s jock. The Cars debut album sold 6 million copies and Van Halen’s debut has sold nearly 11 million issues. But, let’s forget sales and talk about the music …..

Would you rather listen to “My Best Friends Girl” or “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” ???

Case closed …..
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Keep An Eye On …..
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Yeah, I’m finishing up with more NFL conjecture. If Blaine Gabbert slips past the Buffalo Bills at #3 overall, will Marvin Lewis grab him? It’s an interesting debate, especially given the Bengals’ fractured relationship with Carson Palmer.

Many expert minds believe Gabbert is the best “NFL quality” quarterback in this class. I think they’re onto something. The talent is untapped and unrealized, but I don’t like the potential prospect of facing the next Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, twice a year, for the next decade.

So, I’m hoping Buffalo doesn’t screw this up. But, they probably will …..

Happy Thursday …. I’ll chat with you at 2pm

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Blog & Tackle: SI’s look at Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith

Posted on 20 February 2011 by Chris Pika

As the deadline for the expiration of the CBA between the NFL and the NFLPA gets closer, Sports Illustrated took a look at the two people who are at the head of the negotiations, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith.

The league and NFLPA are in uncharted waters with Goodell and Smith at the helms for this negotiation. At some point an agreement will be reached. The how and the how long are the unknowns. So, it is appropriate to pull back the curtain on the two men who are the faces and driving forces for their respective sides.

SI and SI.com’s Peter King wrote the personality piece on Goodell, “The Man of the Hour” for the Feb. 7 edition, and some parts are worth noting as the two sides try to reach an agreement.

First is on his relationship with his employers, the 32 NFL owners.

Goodell will have trusted lawyers and owners by his side during the negotiations, but make no mistake: This will be a deal the commissioner drives, in meetings both with the NFL Players Association and its head, DeMaurice Smith, and with leaders of the 32 franchises. One ownership source says Goodell’s level of trust among the owners is so high that if he recommends an agreement that passes muster with the players, it will easily get the three-quarters vote (24 of 32 teams) necessary for passage.

One thing Goodell has proven in private is that he will staunchly defend the “shield” as he calls it. Michael Vick ran afoul of it with his dogfighting activities, and learned first-hand.

But the commissioner has a cold and confrontational side that serves him well in staring down miscreants and business adversaries alike. “The way Roger talked to me when I was still hiding from what I’d done was such a slap in the face,” says Michael Vick. “Like, ‘Don’t you lie to me!” With stronger language than that. It was rough.”

Goodell was also key in the negotiations with the city of Cleveland to get a new stadium and an expansion franchise in 1996 that would take over the old Browns colors and records after the original Browns franchise moved to Baltimore to become the Ravens.

“There would not have been a deal without Roger,” says Cleveland’s chief negotiator Fred Nance. “No way. He came into a city under siege and was hard-nosed and stubborn. But he was sensitive to figuring out what we had to have to make a deal, and how much he could compromise knowing he had the owners to answer to whatever he did.”

Goodell and Chairman of NBC Universal Sports & Olympics Dick Ebersol are good friends, and the league and network are business partners, but this exchange shows where Goodell draws the line, and what the negotiations between the league and the players’ association might be like.

Now, fast-forward to the 2009 negotiations between the NFL and NBC over extending the network’s broadcast contract for 2012 and ’13. The NFL, according to Ebersol, insisted on a rights fee of $600 million a year, though NBC wasn’t getting a Super Bowl in either of those seasons. Ebersol and Goodell had a few back-and-forth discussions, and Goodell finally said the NFL wouldn’t take a dime less than $600 million.

“There was a coldness and a ‘that’s it’ tone in Roger’s voice that was chilling,” says Ebersol. “At his heart Roger can be a cold son of a bitch. I think the people on the other side of the negotiating table are going to hear that in the coming months. He’s going to show mettle, and he’s going to do what he thinks is best for the National Football League. It’s what he’s always done.”

On the other side of the table is Smith, who was profiled by SI’s Jim Trotter in “The Fighter” for the Feb. 21 issue.

When Smith took over the reins of the NFLPA, he was replacing a legendary and dominant figure in Gene Upshaw, who passed away in 2008. Smith had plenty of Upshaw’s observations and notes to work from as he prepares to negotiate with the NFL.

Smith reaches into his papers and pulls out a program from a 1991 union meeting. Former executive director Gene Upshaw, preparing to speak to player reps, wrote some introductory remarks in cursive on the back of the program. Smith begins reading to himself, then stops halfway through and recites: The owners will always take short-term loss for long-term gain.

Upshaw governed the NFLPA as a lone figure, but Smith’s style is more inclusive, trying to give the players a larger voice in the direction the PA will take in the coming weeks.

Smith doesn’t believe in secrecy. Before his election he told players he wanted them to take more control of their careers and their futures, and that if they were unwilling to educate themselves and be more involved in the process, he wasn’t the man to lead them. The other candidates included Troy Vincent and Trace Armstrong, two former players who’d served as union presidents, and a prominent lawyer, David Cornwell, who once worked in the league office. Smith was elected by a vote of 32-0.

His negotiating style is framed by a current player representative.

As much as Smith relishes a fight, he also knows he’ll have to make concessions to strike a deal. He has presented the league with a proposal for a rookie wage scale and made a counteroffer regarding the league’s proposal to reduce the players’ share of revenues. “De is a very intense guy, but he’s also a realist,” says All-Pro center Jeff Saturday, the Colts’ player-representative. “He’s not just a hype man. He’s telling you there are going to be things we’re going to have to compromise on, and here’s why. You have to be up front and honest. Not everything is going to go the players’ way. He’s done a good job of balancing that, so the guys understand that we’re in this to get this thing finished and to get a new agreement in place.”

Where the NFLPA has been effective is that unlike Upshaw, Smith isn’t afraid to prod the NFL’s power players. Earlier in Trotter’s story, Smith references the term “3-D chess” to describe the intricate game between the owners and players. Here is an example of one “chess” move.

One of the ways Smith tries to determine the power players in the league is by “poking the elephant” to see the reaction he’ll get. He has filed multiple legal challenges, including a complaint that the NFL left money on the table in its TV contract extensions in exchange for guarantees that the owners would be paid in 2011. (The special master in the case ruled that the league would have to compensate the players but did not nullify the agreements; the NFLPA is appealing that decision.) Smith has also charged the owners with colluding to limit player movement and earnings during the 2010 free-agency period. (That complaint is pending.)

And another “elephant-poking” move on Smith’s board:

Consider the collusion case. When the union leaked word that it would be filing suit, Smith received a call from Goodell urging him not to go forward. At that point Smith asked if the owners would make certain concessions during the lockout if he dropped the claim. Goodell asked for 30 days to consult the owners. Eventually he came back and said there would be no concessions. Those close to Smith say the endgame was not necessarily to get the concessions but to determine whether Goodell had the influence to get the owners to budge.

In both articles there are stories about Goodell’s and Smith’s upbringings, and how particular incidents in their lives shaped how they see the world today. The two men are not dissimilar in makeup, but both will have to work hard to find common ground.

They don’t have the close personal relationship at this point that their predecessors, Upshaw and Tagliabue, had. But both seem to have the strength to shut out the rhetoric that each side has to spew in labor negotiations, find a way to get things their side needs, and most importantly, allow the other side to save face when the deal is done.

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Overcoming a trainwreck weekend and starting anew …..

Posted on 17 January 2011 by Rex Snider

I cannot recall the last time I greeted a Monday with such enthusiasm. Like nearly every other sane person, I usually kick and scream my way into accepting the reality of another work week.

But, today is quite different. I just want to get started – on putting this past weekend and its disastrous chain of moments and events behind me. Indeed, this is the official beginning of my NEW YEAR …..

It doesn’t mean I won’t agonize, at times, over the Ravens loss in Saturday’s divisional playoff game with the Steelers. Heck, I will never forget it. But, as Ray Lewis said “you can only get better, that’s all you can do”; so, I’m inspired not to dwell on this defeat, either.

We’re always going to complain about officiating. And, Saturday’s holding penalty that negated Lardarius Webb’s returned punt for a touchdown represents an official’s ability to impact a game with poor decisions. That said, every team suffers a fair share of questionable penalties.

The game wasn’t lost on the Webb play, nor Anquan Boldin’s dropped touchdown pass, or T.J. Houshmandzadeh’s failure to extend the Ravens final drive. All three of these plays could’ve led to a win, but they certainly don’t define the loss, itself.

Everybody knows how the game was lost – TURNOVERS.

Surrendering the ball inside your own 25 yard line, on three consecutive possessions will likely seal one’s fate, right? Well, it will at least surrender a two touchdown lead.

Good teams can and will make such mistakes. Great teams, however, usually capitalize upon such blunders. Today, that’s really the essence of how the most disappointing loss in Ravens history can be summed up. The Ravens cracked the door, and the Steelers kicked it in …..

Today is not just a new beginning for me. It also marks the first day of the next chapter for the Ravens, Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots. All of these franchises can and will make changes – you can bet on that.

Here, in Baltimore, the popular consensus is Cam Cameron will be the greatest casualty of this past season’s fallout. Whether it’s the questionable play calling, sporadic offensive production or unrealized potentials, the artist of the offensive schemes is the rumored soul to be paying with his job.

However, I will offer up an additional “mitigating” reason for making a change at offensive coordinator. Perhaps, we’re confronting a potential crossroads with Joe Flacco and his command of an offense. With three seasons completely in the books, a fair argument exists with this quarterback …..

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Ravens play a prime part in very “hairy” NFL weekend …..

Posted on 10 January 2011 by Rex Snider

If you look back on the totality of this past weekend’s games, I think it’s pretty easy to detect the obvious: every round of the NFL playoffs will present some unpredictable circumstances, as well as some very quirky results …..

Many of us thought 3 of 4 visiting teams would win their respective matchups. But, did we think the New Orleans Saints, as the most resounding favorite (-10.5 points) in NFL history, would be the sole “road loser?”

If I presented the following circumstances: the Indianapolis Colts are losing by one point, they’re driving inside the Jets 30 yard line with less than one minute remaining …. would you predict a Manning win or loss?

If you knew 2 running backs would rush for 100+ yards, and the weekend’s matchups featured names like Ray Rice, Joseph Addai, LaSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles and LaDanian Tomlinson, would you ever imagine that Marshawn Lynch and James Starks would be those guys?

A pretty telling factor …. Michael Vick’s last win was the week before Christmas, when he was being mentioned in the same breath with Tom Brady, for NFL MVP honors.

Does the respective, opposing defense matter? Well …. the Philadelphia Eagles averaged 28 points, per game, during the regular season and the Seattle Seahawks averaged just 19 points, per contest. Which team is still alive?

After a steady December of witnessing snowy, icy games across the midwest and northeast, the first two weeks of January have not been impacted by inclement weather, at all.

Did you ever imagine Joe Flacco and Dan Marino would be mentioned in the same sentence? That’s right, they’re the only quarterbacks to win 36 games in their first 3 seasons. With a win in Pittsburgh, Flacco will stand alone on this record.

Ten years ago, Brandon Stokley caught a touchdown pass in the Ravens Super Bowl victory. Did any of us think he would catch another touchdown, a decade later? He did it Saturday – in Seattle’s win.
Speaking of touchdown receptions …. Anquan Boldin went more than a month (5 weeks) without one. The troubling streak ended yesterday – let’s hope he can have two consecutive games with TD catches for the first time since October 17th and 24th.

With this weekend’s wins by the Ravens and Jets, both AFC wildcard teams advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs, in consecutive seasons, for the first time (2010 & 2011).

Yesterday’s win also yielded John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco as the only HEAD COACH and QUARTERBACK to win playoff games in their first 3 NFL seasons.

On Saturday, the Seattle Seahawks won their 8th game of the season. Their opponent, the New Orleans Saints, won their 8th game of the season, a mere 44 days earlier …. on Thanksgiving Day !!!!

Speaking of those Seahawks, it will be impossible for them to finish with a winning record, UNLESS they win the Super Bowl. That’s correct, if they lose the Super Bowl, they’ll finish the season 10-10 overall.

And finally …..

On a weekend when Matt Ryan debuts as one of Gillette’s new “clean shaven” models, Joe Flacco grew a beard. Who says Joe doesn’t want to be different?

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