Tag Archive | "Mike Tomlin"

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An open letter to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin

Posted on 29 November 2012 by Drew Forrester

Hey coach, I hope this finds you well and preparing to enjoy a wonderful Holiday season with your family and friends in Pittsburgh.

(Actually, while I think you’re a helluva football coach, I have to admit I giggled my ass off last Sunday watching you squirm your way through that press conference in Cleveland after your football team lost to the lowly Browns.  So, for obvious reasons, I’d probably rather you not be well.  If that makes me a bad guy, so be it.  I do, though, hope you have a great Holiday season.  I’m a Ravens fan, not a Grinch.)

Based on the whispers coming out of Pittsburgh about Ben Roethlisberger, it appears as if you’re going to have him back for this Sunday’s big game in Baltimore.  What a warrior that guy is, huh coach?  A month ago on a Monday night, he suffered some whacky rib and shoulder injury that could have killed him if he would have reached for the remote control the wrong way and now, suddenly, he’s going to risk life and limb to play against the Ravens?  Holy canoli. I’m impressed.

(Are you guys nuts Coach?  Why would you risk the best player on your team for one game?  You know you’re getting your ass kicked down here on Sunday no matter who stands behind center.  I realize you have to paint the best picture you can for your team, but in your heart of hearts, you’ve seen this play out over the last couple of years and you know for sure it’s going to play out down here again this Sunday.  Your team can’t beat the Ravens.  You’re going to get your feelings hurt, Roethlisberger or not.)

We have a lot of respect for the Steelers here in Baltimore, Coach.  We know as long as you guys have a pulse, you’re always capable of pulling off one, two, three or even four wins in a row and then somehow weaving your way through the pile of post-season teams to return to the Super Bowl.  Truth be known, we’d rather NOT see your team in the playoffs if we could pick and choose our playoff opponent.  Somehow, you always seem to nip us in the end when the chips are down in January.

(As S.E. Hinton once wrote (she’s a she, by the way, in case you didn’t know), “That was then, this is now”.  Yeah, we respect the Steelers here, but the Ravens are now the kings of the AFC North and your team is chasing our team.  With Roethlisberger at quarterback – and getting assistance from the refs like you usually do – the Steelers always have a puncher’s chance of beating anyone.  Without Roethlisberger, you’d be hard pressed to win the SEC.  And if it comes to pass that you’re fortunate enough to make the playoffs, you’ll be one and done without a home game, so we won’t see you in this post-season anyway.)

Go ahead and throw caution to the wind, Coach.  Tape Big Ben up and bring him down here on Sunday.  Your team has a much better chance of winning that way.  And, as you know, the standings are such that you really are in “must-win” territory these days.  You don’t have a choice, I suppose.  You have to go with Roethlisberger.

(Don’t be a dummy, Mike.  Leave Roethlisberger on the bench and let Charlie Batch be the QB of record in a 30-10 loss.  No one will blame you.  You can talk about “not risking a career” and “we have faith in Charlie” and “injuries are part of the game” and everyone in Pittsburgh will understand.  If you go with Ben, you’re getting your asses kicked here.  If you go with Batch, you’re getting your asses kicked here.  Do you see the similarity?)

Finally, I wasn’t around last Sunday.  How’d you guys do against the Browns?

(I know what happened in Cleveland.  hehe)

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Tomlin’s 3rd quarter gaffe paves way for huge Ravens win in Pittsburgh

Posted on 19 November 2012 by Drew Forrester

If you’ve been a regular listener to The Morning Reaction over the years, you know by now one of my personal sports adages is “the other team tries, too”.

After watching Sunday night’s 13-10 Ravens win in Pittsburgh, I need to add a small note to the end of that phrase — “and sometimes they DON’T try.”

That’s what happened on Sunday night when Mike Tomlin – with his team gouging the Ravens defense for five yards a carry all night – decided to sissy-out and kick a field goal rather than go for it on 4th and 2 from the Baltimore four yard line late in the 3rd quarter.

“Sometimes they DON’T try…”

Really, Mike?  Your running game was trampling the Ravens for the most part.  Your quarterback was literally hanging on for dear life with each hit he took.  And your defense – coupled with another unimaginative Ravens offensive effort – was doing a great job of shutting the door and keeping Baltimore close.

4th and 2 and you kick a field goal to make it 13-10?  Lame-ass coaching, that’s what that was.  As soon as I saw the Steelers line up for the field goal, I said, “This is a horrible decision…they won’t get this close to scoring again tonight.”

And I was right.  It WAS a horrible decision and they didn’t get anywhere near the red zone for the remainder of the night.

Of course, the national TV guys didn’t say a word about Tomlin’s horrible decision.  They mumbled something about the game being “a bloodbath” and “a nailbiter, as always” and forgot to mention that the Pittsburgh coach just handed the game to John Harbaugh and Company.

Here in Baltimore, we’ll gladly take it, as it helped pave the way for an ultra critical Ravens road win and a seemingly safe 2-game lead over the Steelers with six games to play in the regular season.

There’s another famous saying that goes like this:  NEVER look a gift horse in the mouth.

And Sunday’s win in Pittsburgh was a gift horse, what with Byron Leftwich lumbering around and Mike Tomlin playing safe with the game – and maybe his team’s season – on the line.

Three weeks ago in New York, Tomlin gambled with a crazy fake field goal on the Giants six yard line in a game Pittsburgh would eventually win despite the unsuccessful fake attempt.  And that was with his 2-time champion quarterback at the helm, not a stiff like Leftwich.

Sunday night, with red zone trips about as rare as a 5-game winning streak from the Pirates, Tomlin played it safe and kicked a field goal when two yards could have paved the way to a 14-13 lead and, perhaps, a shocking win.

Just like the referees helping the Ravens beat New England earlier this year…and Jason Garrett and Tony Romo aiding in a Baltimore win over Dallas…and Pat Shurmer forgetting to coach in a squeaker-of-a-win in Cleveland, the Ravens will no doubt take Sunday night’s win and head back to Baltimore with a smile on their face.

Hey, a win in Pittsburgh is a win, no matter how you do it.

Even if it takes the Steelers coach losing his man-card to get the job done, you smile at the end and say, “We’ll take it.”

Thanks Mike Tomlin.

We needed that.

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Tim Tebow

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Let’s Back Our Way Into the 15-7-0

Posted on 02 January 2012 by Glenn Clark

You know how it works. 15 positive football observations, 7 “not so” positive football observations and one “oh no” moment from outside the world of football.

(As a reminder, we don’t do Baltimore Ravens analysis here. We do PLENTY of that elsewhere. This is about the rest of the world of football.)

15 Positive Observations…

1. Matt Flynn may have just earned himself a boatload of money Sunday.

Perhaps Flynn’s success had much more to do with the Green Bay Packers’ scheme & wide receivers and even the Detroit Lions’ less than exceptional defense than the former LSU quarterback himself. But as he enters free agency, Flynn may have just made himself a viable option for teams that won’t enter 2012 with Andrew Luck on their roster.

Of course, 80 of his 480 yards and one of his five touchdowns came on this play to Ryan Grant. I’m pretty sure Ryan Chell could have made this throw…

The Packers can sit back and wait to find out who they’ll play in the divisional round while the Lions get to visit the Superdome next weekend. But I’d say it’s pretty much a toss-up as to who has the more difficult road ahead.

In an unrelated story, the Packers went with Pat Lee as their kick returner for the New Year’s Day game. He did something stupid…

And one more-here’s Packers LB Brad Jones handling a fan who ran out onto Lambeau Field…

2. The New England Patriots scored 49 unanswered points Sunday. I’m not really sure how to follow that up.

Much like the Fins a week earlier, the Buffalo Bills worked Charm City into a lather with hopes of ruining the Pats’ run to the Number 1 seed. Also much like the Fins, the Bills for some reason must have thought New England would quit when they fell behind early. But after spotting the Bills 21 points, the Patriots would go on to score the next 49.

But they can’t possibly win the AFC of course because their defense isn’t good enough.

Right.

You’ll see a lot of funny things in 2012. I’ll go ahead and guess that there won’t be many funnier than this Drayton Florence flop…

Also of note in this game was Bills WR Stevie Johnson, who exposed a “Happy New Year” message on an undershirt after scoring a touchdown…

It’s a shame Tom Brady didn’t have a “Happy 28 Point Beatdown” undershirt to respond with. For a semi-decent receiver, Johnson is about a full-fledged clown.

3. I still have no idea why he’s headed to Arkansas State, but Gus Malzahn made the Chick-Fil-A Bowl a lot of fun to watch.

Before departing his Offensive Coordinator gig at Auburn, Malzahn pulled out a bunch of tricks (including a Statue of Liberty Play of all things) to help beat Virginia in the Georgia Dome…

Elsewhere on New Year’s Eve Levi LaVallee and Robbie Maddison were doing extreme sport jumping of some sort on ESPN that may or may not have been amazing. None of us really know and none of us really bothered to watch. But technically it happened!

How did I spend my NYE you ask? At a place I can’t name because they aren’t a sponsor. They ARE however the home of Sweet Potato Tots and the “Billy Goat’s Gruff”…

It was a 14 out of 10.

4. There’s something about David Akers throwing a touchdown that I really enjoy.

I’d show you video of the play, but it’s not available on YouTube. Instead, those of you who REALLY wanna see it can check it out here and the rest of you can look at this picture of Elsa Hosk. We’ll all meet back at the local saloon.

The San Francisco 49ers clinched the #2 seed in the NFC thanks to their win over the St. Louis Rams. In Baltimore, we just want to say Thank You again. We can’t really say it enough.

The Rams will fire Steve Spagnuolo according to reports. Also according to reports, it will be cold this week.

5. Credit Gary Kubiak for not kicking an extra point Sunday. Now it’s time to go win a Wild Card playoff game.

The Houston Texans didn’t need to beat the Tennessee Titans Sunday for any tangible reason. They didn’t, thanks to Kubiak’s decision to go for 2 late (a decision that backfired after a Joel Dreessen false start and a snap sailed over the head of QB Jake Delhomme-who replaced a banged up T.J. Yates). Let’s take a look at the video board…

Earlier in the game, Bryan Braman made an awesome play…

The Texans host the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round of the postseason. If they win, the Texans visit M&T Bank Stadium in the divisional round. I would think most of us would be pretty happy with that matchup, especially considering the Steelers could be another option.

6. Texas A&M’s Ryan Swope is probably the best receiver you didn’t talk about this season.

Here’s video of the Aggies’ win over Northwestern in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. You voted it “the video I’m least likely to watch this week” in an informal poll I just took…

Here was Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald’s reaction when he found out I was going to show the highlights of the game…

7. For as much as we laughed at them this season, the Philadelphia Eagles look capable of being dangerous in 2012.

Of course, that’s the only if Michael Vick stays healthy…and we all know that’s a significant “if.”

The highlight of the day in Philly happened well before Philly kicked the tar out of the Washington Redskins. It happened when Skins OC Kyle Shanahan tried to pump his team up before the game. It was HILARIOUS…

Kyle Shanahan makes Cam Cameron look popular.

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Flacco sacked SD

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Ravens Not Ready For Show

Posted on 20 December 2011 by Tom Federline

As of this date, the Baltimore Ravens are NOT an elite NFL team ready to make a run for the Super Bowl. Here are my picks for the best teams in the league at the moment: Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots and the San Diego Chargers. And the latter may not even make it into the playoffs with even a wild card shot. Did you here Chris Colinsworth prior to the game Sunday night? “If the Ravens take care of business and beat the Chargers we will see them in Indy.”  Well Christopher, even though you seem to have a handle on the Ravens more than 95% of the rest your challenged sports announcing peers – Newsflash – The Ravens need a few lessons on how to take care of business and they will not find it from their coaches.

Which team was embarrassed more this past Sunday? Tennesse Titans (loss to Indy Irsays)? GB Packers (loss to Chiefs)? NY Giants (loss to Redskins)?  Or the Ravens (thumping by SD Chargers)? Carzy week in the NFL, huh gang? I have to go with Ravens. Another prime time loss, a potential statement maker for a playoff run, thwarted by another “chump”  performance instead of “champ” performance. I sound like a broken record and it pains me to say it again…….The Ravens have the talent, they do NOT have the coaches.

Can we trade John Horribaugh for his brother Jim Harbaugh? Can we just switch them and hope nobody notices? After last nights outcome, who would get the better Christmas present from Ravens fans? In my book, we saw the Coach of the Year, after last nights gift. You go JIM Harbaugh. You have been entered into my “Old School – Coaches Hall of Fame”. Love your passion and you are doing well with Mike Singletarys team. Speaking of last night, what was Rapelsberger doing in that game? Thank you Mike Tomlin. Keep playing him! The Ravens fans may receive two Christmas gifts even before that day gets here. Steelers keep pace with Ravens with loss to 49ers and the Squeelers lose Rothlesbergers for playoffs. Even though, with wht I believe was a stupid move last night Mike Tomlin, would you come coach the Ravens? Must fire Camera Cameron though. Probably your first move anyway. You are a leader.

The Ravens are not ready. Only way they are making it, is if Camera and Horribaugh get out of their way. Let Ray Ray coach the Defense and let Flacco/Birk/Boldin run the offense. Let Them Play –  the kids are alright – they have the talent. Flacco can run that offense! I only saw three positive moments Sunday night: 1. Ray Jr. 21 yard first play scamper. 2. Boldin 34 yard 3rd down conversion same first drive. 3. Anquan Boldin wearing an Orioles ball cap during introductions. To many negatives to mention. Have the Ravens lost their place kicker? Right there, is another major pothole on road to Indy. Yes, there are two more games left. Should they win those two? You’re darn right. Will they win those two? No idea. Are they champs or chumps? We have seen both.

They are better than “chumps”. I believe that they know that. For those that know me, brace yourself for this one………Hey Bisciotti – get Brian Billick back here for a motivational speech! Are you still paying  him? Let Ray Ray run the show – we all know his philosophy and motivational skills – “I’ll Take You There” (Staple Singers). I think I may need to go out and get some purple kool-aid. Because right now – I see two more losses – one at Cincy and the other if they get the Squeelers for a third time. 

A story is in the making for a Baltimore Super Bowl in Indianapolis. That is almost to good to be true. It would make for a nice sports filled January and February. But right now, the Ravens need an identity and they need it quick. Where’s the purple juice? How about Purple Gatorade? I like the grape Gatorade. How about grape soda? Remember Grape Nehi’s? Man, they were good. Start serving it out at the Palace. Oh and for good measure, crank the Staple Singers.

Merry Christmas gang. Breathe deep. Hug those that are close with passion.

D.I.Y.

Fedman

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Pittsburgh playing coy with injured linebackers for Ravens game?

Posted on 01 November 2011 by Luke Jones

Having dealt with their own barrage of injuries through the first seven games of the season, the Ravens won’t take any pity on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ health woes at the linebacker position.

But they will likely be left guessing over who exactly will be on the field when they travel to Heinz Field to take on their bitter rival Sunday night for part two of the 2011 edition of the best rivalry in the NFL.

The Steelers’ second-ranked defense — ranking only behind Baltimore — has been decimated by injuries to its talented group of linebackers.

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Four-time Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison has missed the last four games with an orbital bone fracture in his face while inside linebacker James Farrior missed Sunday’s game against New England with a calf injury. A third starting linebacker fell during the Steelers’ impressive win over the Patriots when LaMarr Woodley sustained a hamstring injury in the third quarter of their 25-17 win over the Patriots.

A Tuesday report by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said Woodley will not play against the Ravens and could possibly be out until after the Steelers’ bye on Nov. 20. However, Woodley said on his Twitter page he’s not willing to throw in the towel for the Baltimore game just yet.

“Everybody counting me out … don’t count me out yet,” said Woodley, whose nine sacks have helped fill the void left by Harrison in the Pittsburgh pass rush. “Big game on Sunday.”

The information on Harrison has been even more conflicting, with his agent declaring him ready to return against the Ravens before the 33-year-old linebacker said otherwise on his Twitter page. Harrison has been cleared to practice, but the veteran said he will not be able to play on Sunday night.

“He has been cleared to practice and that is where we are,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday. “We will reevaluate the situation at some point later in the week and let that be our guide in terms of potential participation. But, right now, I just want to be clear that he has been cleared to practice.”

Tomlin also said Farrior will practice on a limited basis on Wednesday despite the Post-Gazette reporting the 36-year-old would miss a month with the calf injury.

Though it appears likely that all three will be unavailable against the Ravens, the gamesmanship already being exhibited will force the Baltimore offensive line to prepare for the Steeelers’ pair of dominating pass rushers in Harrison and Woodley. In the decisive 35-7 win over the Steelers in the season opener on Sept. 11, the Ravens limited Pittsburgh to one sack and ran for 170 yards in the blowout.

With Harrison being out for the last month, the Steelers have been forced to shift inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons to the outside. Veteran Larry Foote and rookie Chris Carter have played larger roles than anticipated with Farrior and Woodley now sidelined with ailments.

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John Harbaugh (Rob Carr-Getty Images)

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Rating the Ravens after Baltimore’s 35-7 victory over Steelers

Posted on 12 September 2011 by Ryan Chell

The 2011 season opener could not have gone any better for the Baltimore Ravens.

Not only did they get a divisional win-they earned it against the hated Pittsburgh Steelers. They kicked the living crap out of the defending AFC Champions, 35-7, and left the Steelers leaving Baltimore with their tails firmly entrenched between their legs.

The win may feel like a Super Bowl victory to Raven nation, and while it certainly puts the momentum in the AFC North in the Ravens’ corner for now, no win in the NFL is perfect. Every coach-especially John Harbaugh-will tell you that.

But boy, did it feel like it.

John Harbaugh (Rob Carr-Getty Images)

Quarterback-“B”-Joe Flacco finished Sunday’s contest 17-29 for 224 yards and three touchdowns-one to Ray Rice,  Anquan Boldin, and Ed Dickson respectively. Flacco’s 27-yard pass to Boldin on the Ravens’ first drive of the game-the third play-could not have been in a better position over the outstretched arms of Steelers CB Bryant McFadden, and his 18-yard pass to Dickson after the Steelers’ third turnover at the start of the third quarter essentially was the nail in the coffin for Pittsburgh.

However, Flacco wasn’t perfect. He had several balls thrown at Lee Evans that were nowhere near the receiver and sailed out of his reach. And for a quarterback who wasn’t sacked-let alone touched-till the start of the fourth quarter, Flacco often dumped the ball on the check down way too quickly when he could have waited for a play downfield to develop.

But no turnovers on Flacco’s part combined with three touchdown passes and getting the monkey off his back? Okay in my book.

Running Back-“A”-The only reason why this isn’t a perfect A+ is because the Ravens interior running game still had its issues running up the middle against the Steelers. But that’s expected-especially against the likes of NT Casey Hampton. But what wasn’t expected was Ray Rice having this kind of success against a stout Steelers front seven. Rice became the first running back since-well, himself-to rush for 100 yards against Pittsburgh, and he did so with all the help in the world from FB Vonta Leach, T Bryant McKinnie, and guard Ben Grubbs.

Ray Rice (courtesty of Rob Carr-Getty Images)

And it didn’t take long. Rice made his impact from the start on the first play of the game, rushing for 36 yards behind Leach and McKinnie. He finished with 149 total yards of offense and two scores. Leach made his presence known in his first regular season game as a Raven, delivering punishing blocks on the opposing linebackers. Ricky Williams had a quiet but impressive 63 carries on 12 touches in his Raven debut, showing that he still has gas left in the tank.

Wide Receiver/Tight End-“B-“Anquan Boldin was the only wide receiver to catch a pass  and finished with 74 yards on four catches and the opening touchdown. Ed Dickson had a spectacular debut in his first game as a starter in 2011, catching five balls for 59 yards and a score. He had a 34-yard grab negated by a hold on Bryant McKinnie, but it looks as if Dickson and Pitta’s job Sunday could easily put the nightmare of not having Todd Heap anymore to rest. Lee Evans played decoy all game long, but they need him and second-rounder Torrey Smith to produce something should opposing defenses key on Boldin and Dickson.

Offensive Line-“A”-The same reasoning behind the almost-perfect score for the running backs-the offensive line was outstanding Sunday, but some penalties and not having the best day running up the middle prevent them from the 100% grade. But Flacco stayed completely upright till the fourth quarter and they gave the fourth-year man all day to throw. Birk, Grubbs, and McKinnie were all called for holding in the game, and those mental mistakes can be disastrous sometimes.

Defensive Line-“A+”-The Ravens sacked Ben Roethlisberger four times-three of them coming from Terrell Suggs. Suggs also forced two fumbles. The Ravens have made it clear that they intend to have Suggs rush the passer first and foremost now as opposed to sending him out in coverage. It doesn’t make use of his skills if they don’t. Suggs said of Big Ben after the game, “God can have his soul, but his ass is mine.

Haloti Ngata continued his case toward earning a long-term deal from owner Steve Bisciotti by forcing a fumble of Rashard Mendenhall as well as batting a ball up in the air that linebacker Ray Lewis came down with for one of the Ravens three interceptions.

Linebackers-“B+”-Ray Lewis of course leads this unit, and he finished with seven tackles, a forced fumble, and an interception. Other than Jarret Johnson’s half sack and his batted ball that led to an INT, this unit was pretty quiet on the day depending upon if you count Suggs as DE or a LB. With the Steelers trailing big, Roethlisberger found guys like Mike Wallace and Hines Ward in the holes left by the linebackers, so their coverage skills may have to improve week-by-week.

Secondary-“A-“-Ed Reed-on his birthday-had two interceptions and could have very well had a third. Not only was Reed’s ball-hawking skills on full display, he appeared to be flying toward the ball-carrier and making solid tackles. Reed for the last several years has battled neck and shoulder injuries, and it appeared like Sunday, he was healthy for the first time in a long while. Lardarius Webb led the team in tackles with 11, and Cary Williams also had a solid game starting at corner back.

Special Teams-“A”-K Billy Cundiff was 2-for-2 in field goals with his longest coming from 30 yards out. Four of his seven kickoffs went in the end zone for a touchback. Sam Koch had five punts averaging 41 yards. And you have to give the special teams credit when they score a 2-point conversion…especially from the punter!

Agree with my grading? Disagree? Call into “The Reality Check” 2-6PM EST with Glenn Clark, tweet me @WNST or @Ryan Chell87, or comment below! Would love to hear from you! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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With beatdown of Steelers, monkey is off Ravens’ backs

Posted on 11 September 2011 by Peter Dilutis

Tom Brady and the Patriots used to play the role for Peyton Manning and the Colts.

The Celtics used to play the role for Lebron James.

And until September 11, 2011, Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers played the role for Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh.

The role of the monkey on their respective backs.

Goodbyeeeee monkey!

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No one around Baltimore would admit it. Everyone wanted to believe that the Ravens would win their season opening game against the hated Pittsburgh Steelers.

But until we actually saw it play out in front of our eyes on a glorious afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium, was there any reason to expect the Ravens to clear their biggest hurdle since John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco arrived in town some four seasons ago?

Think about it. The Ravens were 2-6 against the Steelers coming into Sunday. Their two wins, one in 2009 and one in 2010, were against Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch led Steelers teams.

And as all Ravens fans know, Big Ben and his Steelers have sent the Ravens home from the playoffs two of the past three seasons.

In those eight games, Joe Flacco has struggled mightily. Harbaugh has been out-coached. Cam Cameron went vanilla. The defense gave up big plays at the worst times.

Yes, the Steelers were the monkey on the backs of everyone in the Ravens organization.

All of that is erased with Sunday’s win. Long gone is the pain of those heartbreaking playoff losses in 2008 and 2010. Say goodbye to the notion that Joe Flacco can’t perform well against the Steel Curtain, or the thought that Cam Cameron is afraid to open it up against Dick LeBeau’s defense.

That’s all in the past.

What an afternoon this was for Ravens fans. Rather than a competitive football game, Baltimore football fans were treated to a 60 minute party filled with both relief and joy. It’s as though the monkey was placed in the middle of M&T Bank Stadium while 70 thousand passionate purple fans took turns bashing its head in with a bat.

Yes, it was that good. It almost had to be this good. If this current group of players and coaches were going to erase the demons that the Steelers have created over the past three seasons, this win had to be extraordinary.

If this organization was going to fully move on from their complete meltdown last January, this couldn’t have been just a mellow, 20-17 statement. It had to be a smackdown of epic proportions.

And the Baltimore Ravens delivered.

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Ravens crush Steelers, 35-7 – Here’s how it happened

Posted on 11 September 2011 by Drew Forrester

Now that was an ass kicking.

Here’s how the whole thing unfolded, as the Ravens pounded the Steelers, 35-7 on Sunday afternoon in Baltimore.

I’ll throw out 7 key points of the contest.  It happened like this:

1.  Message sent — After last January’s playoff collapse in Pittsburgh, the Ravens needed a win – badly – in this one to at least erase some of the stink that probably still resonates in their locker room.  Ummmm…stink erased.  Big time.  This one might not be enough to make guys completely forget about that playoff ouster, but it was a great way to start 2011.  It’s one thing to pull out a 20-17 win by the skin of your teeth.  It’s another thing to win 35-7 and completely embarrass the Steelers.  It’s only one game out of 16, but this was a real message-sender from the Ravens.

2.  Offensive line dominance — Bryant McKinnie’s performance was sensational.  At one point in the 4th quarter, Larry Foote tried his luck on McKinnie and the big man simply slapped him in the head and knocked him to the ground.  Foote got up, gestured over to the sideline as if to say “we need a change here” and jogged off the field.  No one else had any luck on McKinnie either.  And his presence and terrific play made Michael Oher’s day that much easier, as Oher handled his affairs extremely well and looked much more comfortable on the right side.

3.  Pressure the QB, Ravens! — I said all off-season that the way to beat the Steelers – and virtually anyone else in the league – is to put quality pressure on the opposing quarterback.  The Ravens did that and then some on Sunday, forcing 7 turnovers and making Ben Roethlisberger look like a hybrid of Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright.  Terrell Suggs was a wrecking machine, as was Haloti Ngata – and both of them took advantage of terrific line stuffing play from 2nd year lineman Terrence Cody.  If the Ravens get that kind of pressure all season, they’ll be awfully tough to beat week-in and week-out.

4.  Dickson and Pitta contribute — For one day at least, the folks in Baltimore forgot about Todd-what’s-his-name?  Both Ed Dickson (TD catch) and Dennis Pitta had big afternoons and it was clear that the Steelers didn’t expect either of those players to make an impact in the throwing game.  With Evans and Boldin, the Ravens have two high quality wide-outs, but coverage on those two often leaves the tight end open for short yardage completions and that’s what happened on Sunday as the Steelers keyed on the two stars and left Dickson and Pitta to themselves.

5. Where are the Flacco haters now? — While Flacco’s completion percentage (58.6%) was well below his career average, the three TD passes were a thing of beauty.  Futhermore, Flacco beat Roethlisberger – finally – and also took a James Harrison sack and looked none the worse for wear.  It was a big day for Joe.  He, like some others, needed a performance like that to put the January playoff loss out of his head.

6.  Put the game away — Up 21-7 at half, the Ravens came out and put the game away within 5 minutes of the 3rd quarter, creating an early turnover followed by a TD pass to Dickson that made it 29-7.  Last year’s team would have won this game 24-21.  This year’s team?  Well, it was only one game, but there was no sign of a collapse in Baltimore on Sunday.

7.  Even in a win, there are always questions and observations. Here are a few of those that I made during the game itself:

>   Is Cary Williams going to play 10 yards off of his man all season?  Once the Steelers figured out Williams was vulnerable in one-on-one situations, they put the speedy Mike Wallace on him and Wallace tortured poor Williams.  I hope Cary Williams is better than he showed on Sunday.

>  On 3rd and 2 in the 2nd quarter, the Ravens tried to throw the ball for a first down.  Huh?  Why not go with Ray Rice behind Vonta Leach there and plow away for two yards and continue the drive?  I didn’t get that play call at all.

>  Can someone explain why Jimmy Smith – the team’s #1 draft pick and, we assume, the starting cornerback on Sunday – was on the kickoff coverage team to start the game?  Smith was injured on that play and didn’t return.  I didn’t get that at all…why have him in there?

>  Why the fake extra-point and Sam Koch run?  I understand if it’s on, you want to use it.  But in game #1?  In the 3rd quarter?  Wouldn’t that play be better served for storage until it was REALLY important?  Helluva play, mind you.  I’m just not sure it needed to be unwrapped like that in the opener.

>  What happened to Torrey Smith?

DREW’S RAVENS MVP OF WEEK #1:  Bryant McKinnie

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NFL Week 1 game notes: Ravens vs. Steelers

Posted on 09 September 2011 by Chris Pika

Week 1 of the 2011 NFL schedule features a pair of teams that have waged one of the fiercest rivalries in the NFL over the past decade, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens.

Sunday’s 1 pm (CBS) game in M&T Bank Stadium may prove to be everything the NFL Kickoff opener was not Thursday night — a healthy dose of strong defense.

In our second edition of “From the notes …” for Week 1, we look inside the weekly PR game notes produced by the Steelers and Ravens PR departments and the NFL Communications office via the Elias Sports Bureau.

Pittsburgh won the AFC North last season with a 12-4 record. The Steelers were the AFC Champions, and the club advanced to Super Bowl XLV, where they lost to the Green Bay Packers:

SUDDEN START: Due to the labor impasse the 2011 offseason was all but lost, leaving just over a week for teams to sign undrafted rookies, free agents and their own draft picks that they selected back in late April.

For the Steelers the main focus was on resigning their own players to keep a nucleus in tact that had reaped tremendous success over the past few years.

Pittsburgh’s appearance last year in Super Bowl XLV marked the franchise’s third trip to the title game since 2005. The Steelers bring back 20 players that started in that Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh will also return 18 players that started at least 11 games last season, including 15 players that started 14 or more games.

Key players that the Steelers resigned in the offseason included CB Ike Taylor, LB LaMarr Woodley, OT Willie Colon, OT Jonathan Scott, K Shaun Suisham and NT Chris Hoke. Pittsburgh also signed LB Lawrence Timmons to a five-year contract extension.

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A Final Week of Private Workouts As Draft Season Nears Culmination

Posted on 23 April 2011 by Glenn Clark

We’re less than a week away from the kickoff of the NFL Draft (Thursday night-8pm-ESPN & NFL Network), but we’ve already seen the end of Private workout season, as the Ravens hosted their final private workouts this week.

Now GM Ozzie Newsome, Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta, Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz, Head Coach John Harbaugh, Owner Steve Bisciotti, Team President Dick Cass, VP of Football Administation Pat Moriarty and the entire scouting staff will be involved in the process before the team makes their first pick.

Before I continue, I remind you of the players we have already profiled during Draft season.

QB-Ricky Dobbs (Navy), Pat Devlin (Delaware), Colin Kaepernick (Nevada), Josh Portis (California-Pennsylvania), Taylor Potts (Texas Tech), Christian Ponder (Florida State), Tyrod Taylor (Virginia Tech), Jake Locker (Washington), Greg McElroy (Alabama), Andy Dalton (TCU), Jeremiah Masoli (Ole Miss), Ricky Stanzi (Iowa), Jerrod Johnson (Texas A&M)
FB
-Anthony Sherman (Connecticut), Owen Marecic (Stanford), Shaun Chapas (Georgia)
RB
-Evan Royster (Penn State), Da’Rel Scott (Maryland), DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma), Damien Berry (Miami), Kendall Hunter (Oklahoma State), Roy Helu Jr. (Nebraska), Alex Green (Hawaii), Shane Vereen (Cal), Jordan Todman (UConn), Dion Lewis (Pitt), Jacquizz Rodgers (Oregon State), Mark Ingram (Alabama), Ryan Williams (Virginia Tech), Mikel Leshoure (Illinois), Darren Evans (Virginia Tech), Stevan Ridley (LSU)
WR
-Lester Jean (Florida Atlantic), Terrence Toliver (LSU), Leonard Hankerson (Miami), Austin Pettis (Boise State), Denarius Moore (Tennessee), Owen Spencer (North Carolina State), Jock Sanders (West Virginia), Titus Young (Boise State), Vincent Brown (San Diego State), Ryan Whalen (Stanford), Torrey Smith (Maryland), Randall Cobb (Kentucky), Jon Baldwin (Pittsburgh), Greg Salas (Hawaii), Cecil Shorts III (Mount Union), Jerrel Jernigan (Troy), Niles Paul (Nebraska), Dane Sanzenbacher (Ohio State)
TEWill Yeatman (Maryland)
OT
-Matthew O’Donnell (Queens University Canada), Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin), Nate Solder (Colorado), Anthony Costanzo (Boston College), Joseph Barksdale (LSU), Derek Sherrod (Mississippi State), DeMarcus Love (Arkansas), James Brewer (Indiana)
G-Danny Watkins (Baylor), Will Rackley (Lehigh)
CZane Taylor (Utah), Kris O’Dowd (Southern Cal), Rodney Hudson (Florida State), Brandon Fusco (Slippery Rock)
DE
-Justin Trattou (Florida), Allen Bailey (Miami), Eddie Jones (Texas), Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue), Brooks Reed (Arizona), Cliff Matthews (South Carolina), JJ Watt (Wisconsin), Cameron Heyward (Ohio State), Dontay Moch (Nevada), D’Aundre Reed (Arizona), Aldon Smith (Missouri), Adrian Clayborn (Iowa), Sam Acho (Texas), Ryan Winterswyk (Boise State), Christian Ballard (Iowa), Ricky Elmore (Arizona)
DT-Muhammad Wilkerson (Temple)
LB
-Mark Herzlich (Boston College), Casey Matthews (Oregon), Adrian Moten (Maryland), Nate Irving (NC State), Colin McCarthy (Miami), Martez Wilson (Illinois), Kelvin Sheppard (Louisiana State), Alex Wujciak (Maryland), Akeem Dent (Georgia), Justin Houston (Georgia)
S
-Jermale Hines (Ohio State), Jaiquawn Jarrett (Temple), Maurice Rolle (Louisiana-Lafayette), Rahim Moore (UCLA), Ahmad Black (Florida), Will Hill (Florida)
CB-Anthony Gaitor (Florida International), Aaron Williams (Texas), Jalil Brown (Colorado), Jimmy Smith (Colorado), DeMarcus Van Dyke (Miami), Brandon Harris (Miami), Ras-I Dowling (Virginia), Richard Sherman (Stanford), Brandon Burton (Utah), Curtis Marsh (Utah State), Chris Culliver (South Carolina), Buster Skrine (Chattanooga)

If you missed any of those profiles, you can check them out in the archives here at WNST.net.

Part 1-A look at players who participated in the East West Shrine Game in Orlando, Florida
Part 2-A look at players who participated in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama
Part 3-A look at players who participated in the NFLPA Game (former Texas vs. The Nation Game) in San Antonio, Texas
Parts 456-Previews of players ahead of the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis
Part 7-A look back at players who made in impact at the National Football League Scouting Combine at LucasOil Stadium in Indy
Parts 8, 9 & 10-A look at players who participated in early Pro Timing Days
Part 11-Players the Ravens have shown direct interest in

The Baltimore Ravens (obviously) made no personnel changes this week, so my team needs remain the same…

1. Defensive End
2. Offensive Tackle
3. Wide Receiver
4. Cornerback
5. Fullback
6. Inside Linebacker
7. Safety
8. Center
9. Running Back
10. Quarterback

Here are ten more prospects-all of whom have been shown special attention by the Ravens during Draft season. (Reported by WNST.net, National Football Post, Carroll County Times, Baltimore Sun, Pro Football Weekly or others.)

Thanks to CBSSports.com/NFLDraftScout.com, NFLDraftBible.com, WNST.net (The AP), ESPN.com, NFL.com, Wikipedia, YouTube and various official athletic websites for helping to put together the profiles.

DT Corey Liuget (Illinois)

It might have surprised some to see that Liuget had visited Owings Mills for a meeting with the Ravens. The team has PLENTY of depth on the D-Line (with the exception of rush end). Behind Haloti Ngata, Kelly Gregg and Cory Redding, the team has the likes of Brandon McKinney, Terrence Cody, Arthur Jones, Lamar Divens and Kelly Talavou to play the position.

Liuget remains an intriguing prospect. He’s an outstanding gap filler at 6’2″, 298; and even managed eight sacks during his career with the Fighting Illini-five of those coming in 2010.

Liuget is expected to come off the board as early as the mid-teens in the first round. Should he fall, the Ravens would find themselves with a difficult decision-as it would be hard to imagine they have many players higher on their board than a player with Liuget’s ability.

Liuget has been a steady riser during Draft season. The Ravens have to be impressed by the fact that he’s capable of playing in both the three and the five technique-and his Pro Day workout in Champaign was reportedly quite impressive.

He might not seem to fight an immediate need-but he simply can’t be ruled out as the Ravens’ first round choice.

CB Justin Rogers (Richmond)

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If you’ve been following my Draft updates, you should be well aware of the Ravens’ issues at Cornerback.

Josh Wilson, Chris Carr and Fabian Washington are slated to become unrestricted free agents. Cary Williams is an exclusive rights free agent. Domonique Foxworth missed the entire 2010 season due to a torn ACL.

The team is going to have to address the defensive secondary SOMEHOW during the offseason-by retaining their own players or adding new ones (or more likely a combination of both).

Rogers recently visited 1 Winning Drive, giving the Ravens a chance to take a better look at the CAA prospect. His size (5’11”, 180 pounds) is not exceptional, but his 4.40 Pro Day 40 time certainly is.

His Spiders career was certainly exceptional as well, as he finished his four seasons with 12 interceptions (three of which were returned for touchdowns.) He showed himself plenty capable of being a matchup corner-albeit against FCS competition.

He’s not going to come off the board until Saturday. Most pundits believe the team will have picked a corner before then-but it doesn’t rule out the possibility that the team could still add Rogers.

LB Akeem Ayers (UCLA)

The Ravens certainly aren’t the only team that has shown interest in Ayers, as half the league (or more) has hosted the former Bruins backer. But it doesn’t change the fact that the interest in Ayers from General Manager Ozzie Newsome and the team is genuine.

That being said, Ayers isn’t a perfect fit for Chuck Pagano’s defense. While he’s shown an ability to get after quarterbacks (11 sacks during his career in Los Angeles), he can’t be fairly expected to be a true “rush backer.”

Of course, the Ravens already have one of those players in LB Terrell Suggs, so they’re really only in need of a complement to T-Sizzle.

Ayers is a more complete standup backer, as he added 6 interceptions (two returned for touchdowns) to his numbers at UCLA. He has mammoth size (6’3″, 254 pounds) and pretty good speed to boot (4.69 40 at his Pro Day).

As the Ravens look to address their rush early in the draft, they’ll have to decide on whether they’re looking for more of a down lineman or a stand-up backer. My guess is that they’re looking for more of a hybrid-as it will allow them to keep LB Jarret Johnson on the field significantly-but slide a rusher back in obvious passing situations.

Ayers likely won’t stick around until the team’s 2nd round choice (at 58). The team will probably have to pull the trigger at 26 or miss out.

(Ayers joined Rex Snider on “The Afternoon Drive” on AM1570 WNST Thursday, that chat can be heard in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net.)

G/C Stefen Wisniewski (Penn State)

If selected by the Ravens, Wisniewski would not be the first Wisniewski to play Pro Football in Charm City.

His father (Leo Wisniewski) was selected by the Baltimore Colts in the second round of the 1982 NFL Draft. His family tree is rooted in NFL tradition, as his uncle (Steve Wisniewski) was an eight time Pro Bowl guard for the LA/Oakland Raiders and still an assistant O-Line coach for the team.

Clearly football is in his blood.

The Ravens could be well served to add the 6’3″, 313 pound interior lineman to their O-Line. Wisniewski played more Guard in Happy Valley, but many teams believe he will be a Center at the NFL level.

The Ravens have flux at both positions, as G Marshal Yanda is a restricted free agent-but could be asked to return to OT should unrestricted free agent Jared Gaither depart. While C Matt Birk decided to return this season, he is widely expected to be playing in his final NFL season. G/C Chris Chester is also a restricted free agent, but isn’t widely viewed as a “Center of the future” type.

Wisniewski is likely to be a Friday night pick. It would be easy to imagine new Offensive Line coach Andy Moeller rooting to add a player with the bloodlines of a Wisniewski.

DE Robert Quinn (North Carolina)

The word “interesting” doesn’t even begin to describe Quinn as a NFL Draft prospect.

Quinn is likely better known for his off the field history coming into his pro career than he is for his on field ability. He was suspended for the 2010 season after the NCAA determined he had lied to investigators about receiving improper travel accommodations and jewelry.

When asked how the scandal could affect Quinn (and former UNC teammates Marvin Austin & Greg Little) at the Ravens’ annual Pre-Draft Luncheon, Newsome pointed out the Ravens had an advantage because Pagano was the DC in Chapel Hill back in 2007.

Quinn is widely believed to be a Top 10 talent in this year’s draft class-but the off field trouble has left in doubt where he will end up being selected. That’s where the Ravens come in. Should he continue to fall, the team would have the opportunity to select him at 26th or even consider moving up a few spots to get him.

Quinn has the physique of the type of rush end the Ravens are interested in adding to their defense. He’s 6’4″, 265 pounds and has really good speed (4.59 40 at his Pro Day). In two seasons with the Tar Heels, he tallied 13 sacks-11 of which came in 2009.

As well as addressing the off field trouble, the Ravens have to determine whether or not the year off will also hurt Quinn on the field.

If he slides, it will be awfully difficult decision on whether or not the team should take the chance.

LB Jonathan Cornell (Mississippi)

Despite the fact that only a few players in the history of the NFL have even been worthy of being mentioned in the same SENTENCE as future Hall of Fame LB Ray Lewis, the words “heir apparent to Ray Lewis” tend to get thrown around frequently during Draft season.

It ultimately is never fair to any Inside Linebacker the Ravens select, which Tavares Gooden has found out in recent years.

Gooden, Dannell Ellerbe and Jameel McClain have failed to nail down the WILL LB spot next to the perennial Pro Bowler, and Jason Phillips hasn’t been able to work his way on the field regularly. We also know Lewis won’t be around forever…even if it feels like he might be.

At 6’1″, 236 pounds; some scouts are going to label Cornell as “undersized.” Of course, some of those same scouts said the same thing about that former Miami Hurricanes LB in 1996. Cornell certainly showed an ability to make tackles, finishing his Rebels career with 215 tackles and eight sacks. His 4.76 forty time at his Pro Day in Oxford had to be considered at least a bit disappointing.

There’s no guarantee that Cornell gets drafted at all. Ellerbe and McClain both made the team’s roster out of Training Camp after not being selected. The Ravens will be a bit more hamstrung in the late rounds of this year’s Draft, as they will be unable to sign undrafted free agents until the NFL’s labor dispute is resolved.

With that in mind, Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta and company will know that it might be more necessary than ever to not risk exposing a player like Cornell to a prolonged post-Draft free agency period.

DE Jabaal Sheard (Pitt)

Sometimes a team finds red flags in a player that concern them as they make a decision in whether or not they should be drafted.

Other times a team finds positive attributes that make the decision to draft the player a true slam dunk.

In the case of Sheard…well…there’s…both? From the Carroll County Times…

“He was arrested last summer for felony aggravated assault and resisting arrest after an altercation in a bar where he threw a man through a glass door. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, was ordered to apologize and pay medical bills. He was suspended from the team for two weeks as well as internal discipline.

He was awarded a medal for bravery years ago for helping an elderly woman escape from a burning home.”

When not getting arrested or helping elderly women from their homes, Sheard has been a hell of a pass rusher for the Panthers. He’s tallied 19 sacks over the last three seasons, and is viewed as a player who could stand up or put his hand in the dirt at the next level.

Sheard is a beast of a man, measuring in at 6’3″, 264 pounds and clocking in with a 4.68 forty time at the Combine. Scouts have been impressed with his bull rush abilities and the way he handled double teams when teammate Greg Romeus got hurt in 2010.

The Ravens are expected to address DE/OLB early in the Draft. Sheard is unlikely to stick around until the 58th pick and might not be a stretch at all should he come off the board at 26.

WR Greg Little (North Carolina)

So remember all of those things I said about Quinn? Let’s repeat them for Little.

It’s hard to imagine how the year off will affect him, but we do not it took away an opportunity for him to prove himself as a superior pass-catcher.

Little played just a season and a half at receiver after starting his ACC career at Running Back. He finished his UNC career with 1,774 yards of total offense and 12 combined touchdowns. But the only numbers scouts can really use in considering his potential NFL ability are his 62 catches for 724 yards and five TD’s in 2009.

Ironically, Little has good size (6’3″, 231 pounds) but only decent speed (4.51 forty at the Combine). Unfortunately, he’s never really established himself as an outside or over the top receiver, so teams are hard pressed to determine whether or not he’ll be able to be much more than a slot option.

The Ravens probably have receivers like Little on the roster already. He’s similar to Anquan Boldin, certainly thicker than Derrick Mason. The team will have tough decisions to make with unrestricted free agents T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Donte’ Stallworth, but neither are really expected back in Charm City next season.

The team is more likely to think big and fast when it comes to receiver upgrades, as they desperately need to stretch the field vertically and extend the field horizontally. The team could use more than one receiver in their upgrade process, which could be where Little fits the picture.

If the team doesn’t go receiver early in the Draft, they could certainly consider grabbing Little on Friday night and trying to use free agency (which should be coming…eventually) to add a superior playmaker to their corps.

G/C Mike Pouncey (Florida)

One AFC scout said this to me about the predicament the Ravens could find themselves in when it comes to Pouncey at 26.

“Well…they’d have to take him…they couldn’t afford the risk of him joining his brother in Pittsburgh.”

Clearly that doesn’t ACTUALLY mean the Ravens would have to select Pouncey at 26, but it is a tough decision they’d face. The Ravens have struggled to get consistent pressure on Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger over the years, which has allowed for Pittsburgh to dominate the AFC North. Every decision they make this offseason must be made knowing the road to the Super Bowl will go directly through the Steel City.

Should Mike Pouncey join his brother Maurkice Pouncey, the Steelers’ O-Line would clearly become that much stronger. It would also make the Ravens’ road to Super Bowl XLVI even more difficult.

That being said, the Ravens’ interest in Pouncey isn’t solely based on keeping him out of Pittsburgh. Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron would be well served to add a player of Pouncey’s size (6’5″, 303) and ability to his O-Line. Pouncey is more likely to begin his career at guard than center; and the Ravens could ultimately shift Yanda to tackle should Gaither depart and stick with Pouncey at RG. The move would also give them a potential “center of the future” should Birk retire following the season.

Most scouts believe Pouncey isn’t quite as NFL ready as his brother was, but it’s hard too many rookies being as NFL ready as his brother was. Few scouts doubt the fact that Pouncey is an outstanding talent however, which is why he could go off at the board at 26 or earlier.

Head Coach John Harbaugh spent real time with Pouncey at the NFL Combine. The other head coach Pouncey said he spent real time with in Indy?

Mike Tomlin…of course.

K Kemar Scarlett (Morgan State)

kemarscarlett

Scarlett gained attention in recent weeks after a lengthy ESPN.com profile and an appearance with Thyrl Nelson on “The Mobtown Sports Beat” on AM1570 WNST recently. (That interview can be heard in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net.)

The Ravens visited Scarlett’s Pro Day over on Hillen Road, but make no mistake-they’re very happy with their own kicker (Billy Cundiff) and they have no interest in Scarlett or any other kicker available in this year’s Draft. It’s certainly a refreshing change for Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg after the last two offseasons.

That being said, Scarlett had a nice career for the Bears; connecting on 27 of 34 field goal attempts, including two 47 yard boots during his senior season.

Scarlett will have an opportunity to play football professionally…it just isn’t going to start with him hearing his name called in the NFL Draft.

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

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