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NFL passes proposal banning New England’s ineligible receiver tactic

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NFL passes proposal banning New England’s ineligible receiver tactic

Posted on 25 March 2015 by Luke Jones

The “circus act” used by the New England Patriots in their divisional playoff win against the Ravens will be illegal moving forward.

On the final day of the league meetings in Phoenix, NFL owners passed a proposal forbidding players with eligible numbers to line up as ineligible outside the tackle box. Though the proposal was officially submitted by the league’s competition committee last week, head coach John Harbaugh has made his feelings about the tactic clear, reiterating his original protest that prompted an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the third quarter of the 35-31 loss on Jan. 10.

Patriots running back Shane Vereen reported as ineligible and split out three times — while covered up by an eligible receiver — during a touchdown drive in the third quarter. Under the new rules, Vereen would be required to line up as part of the offensive line if he were to report as ineligible.

“We have jersey numbers for a reason. Let’s use it, like they do in college,” Harbaugh said Tuesday in Phoenix. “That was John Madden’s proposal and I like that proposal. Certain jersey numbers are eligible numbers and certain jersey numbers are ineligible numbers. If you’re eligible, you put on an eligible number. If you’re ineligible, you put on an ineligible number. They do it in college and they did it in the NFL up until, I don’t know, I’m going to guess the 60’s. That’s why they created ineligible and eligible jersey numbers so you can look at them and say, ‘He’s eligible and he’s not.’

“Now, we through kind of a circus act where we have to identify who is ineligible and who is not with signals. That’s what got the referees in trouble in the playoffs.”

Harbaugh has said his point of contention was with the tardiness in which referee Bill Vinovich announced which player was ineligible, but many have simply taken the Baltimore coach’s objections as sour grapes after his defense was unprepared to handle Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s unconventional — but legal — tactic. With the rule change passing, it’s clear that the Ravens had plenty of support as even Pittsburgh Steelers president and co-owner Art Rooney II agreed over the weekend that his AFC North rival had a legitimate gripe.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady suggested after the game that the Ravens should “study the rulebook” when asked about Harbaugh’s objections.

The rule change now means such a tactic would result in a five-yard penalty as an illegal substitution.

 

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Report: Ravens alerted Indianapolis about Patriots’ deflated footballs

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Report: Ravens alerted Indianapolis about Patriots’ deflated footballs

Posted on 22 January 2015 by Luke Jones

With the eyes of the sports world staring a hole through the New England Patriots as reports of “Deflategate” dominate the countdown to Super Bowl XLIX, the Ravens continue to come up in the conversation.

According to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports, the Ravens were the ones who tipped off Indianapolis about the possibility of the Patriots using footballs that weren’t properly inflated. ESPN reported Tuesday night that 11 of 12 balls used by New England were discovered at halftime of the AFC Championship to be underinflated by two pounds per square inch.

Given the Ravens’ strong relationship with former defensive coordinator and current Colts coach Chuck Pagano, it wouldn’t be surprising for someone to have tipped off Indianapolis if there were legitimate gripes.

Head coach John Harbaugh downplayed any concerns about the Patriots using illegal footballs during their 35-31 win that ended the Ravens’ season in the divisional round two weeks ago. A CBS Sports report earlier this week indicated some Ravens players believed kicking balls were underinflated during their playoff game in Foxborough.

“It’s really not something that’s in the forefront of our mind. I can tell you that,” Harbaugh said. “The NFL is doing an investigation. They did call some of our people about it, and as far as I know — I didn’t know exactly what the conversations were — they answered honestly.

“We did not notice anything. We never had a ball that they were using on offense, so we don’t know anything about that in our game. We didn’t have a chance to handle any of their offensive footballs. As far as the kicking balls, it was 20 degrees outside. The balls were softer. Our guys told us during the game, and I just chalked that up to the fact that it was cold. Both teams were kicking the same kicking balls, so I didn’t really think anything of it during the game. Other than that, it’s not something that I’ve really given any thought to at all.”

Harbaugh may have felt awkward commenting publicly about the investigation as he enjoys a solid relationship with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who endorsed the former Philadelphia Eagles special teams coach as an excellent candidate to coach the Ravens back in 2008. However, it’s possible that others in the organization expressed concerns and Harbaugh simply didn’t feel compelled to speak for anyone but himself on the matter.

Asked if the current allegations would cause the Ravens to wonder if similar shenanigans had taken place in the past, Harbaugh had no interest in discussing the hypothetical question.

“As far as in the past, I don’t really want to get into all that,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t have any comment on that.”

Ravens kicker Justin Tucker wrote on his Twitter account Wednesday afternoon that he hadn’t spoken to anyone with the “NFL, NFL Security, or media” about the footballs not being properly inflated in the game against New England.

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Looking at who’s going to win the NFL Conference Championships

Posted on 16 January 2015 by Dennis Koulatsos

The NFL’s version of the final four is upon us, and the Seattle Seahawks are poised to defend their crown and repeat as champions. In the NFC, Russell Wilson is going after his second Super Bowl ring, as well as Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. In the AFC matchup, Tom Brady has a chance to climb the Mt. Rushmore of 4 time Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, joining Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana. Andrew Luck leads the upstart Indianapolis Colts, as the only quarterback in the tournament who is attempting to win his first Lombardi Trophy.

Ever since the Patriots caught fire after their dismal performance against the Kansas City Chiefs in front of a national football audience, I’ve been predicting a Patriots – Seahawks finale. I still believe that after this Sunday’s games are over, those are still the two teams that will be left standing.

I expect the Patriots to activate Jonas Gray, and come out running against the Indianapolis Colts. Gray rushed for over 200 yards in Lucas Oil stadium, and with the addition of LeGarrette Blount, I expect more of the same this Sunday. Bill Belichick is a master of situational football, and just like he abandoned the run in the Patriots’ win over the Baltimore Ravens in the prior week, he will once again adapt his personnel to match his opponent.

On the other side of the ball, I do not believe that the Colts can go up to New England without a running game, and get away with it. They will go only as far as Andrew Luck will take them, and Belichick will take away what Luck does best, he will commit more players to defend the pass, and dare the Colts to run on his defense.

The Seattle Seahawks look to be a team on a mission. They are peaking at the right time, and their defense is the difference maker. They  have solid corners, unbelieveable safeties, active linebackers, and a defensive line that at times is dominant. They have a mercurial quarterback in Wilson, arguably the best running back in the NFL in Lynch, and they don’t beat themselves. They are also the most complete team in the playoffs.

The Green Bay Packers have come this far with sheer grit and determination, and on the arm of Aaron Rodgers. His calf injury has hindered his play, but on one leg he is still better than most NFL QBs on two legs. The key to the Packers having a chance is to unleash stout running back Eddie Lacy, but I do not see his offensive line opening up holes for him. He’ll have to make his own, and although he is capable of just that, I don’t believe it is going to be enough.

 

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Kubiak staying put as Ravens offensive coordinator

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Kubiak staying put as Ravens offensive coordinator

Posted on 11 January 2015 by Luke Jones

Just over 24 hours following their playoff loss to the New England Patriots, the Ravens received news that helped ease the sting on Sunday night with the announcement that Gary Kubiak will remain as offensive coordinator.

Despite reportedly receiving interest from the Chicago Bears, the New York Jets, and the San Francisco 49ers for their head coaching vacancies, the former Houston Texans head coach will return to Baltimore for the 2015 season. Under Kubiak, the Ravens set single-season franchise bests for points scored and total yards in the regular season.

“It is flattering and humbling to be invited to interview for a number of NFL head coaching positions, and I greatly appreciate these opportunities,” Kubiak said in a statement released by the team. “But I have decided to stay with the Ravens. This is a special organization and we, like [coach John Harbaugh] says, are building something great. I want to be a part of that and contribute in whatever ways I can.”

Kubiak’s return is certainly good news for quarterback Joe Flacco, who posted career highs in passing yards (3,986) and touchdown passes (27) while posting his highest passer rating (91.0) since the 2010 season. Flacco had a good relationship with quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison, who was Kubiak’s offensive coordinator in Houston and would have likely left with him had he taken another head coaching position.

Despite plenty of rumors about his future, Kubiak repeatedly said late in the season that his sole focus was with the Ravens as they made their push for a sixth playoff appearance in the last seven years.

“I’ve been through it and I had my turn, and I’m really enjoying what I’m doing,” Kubiak said on Dec. 31. “I’ve told you all that over and over again. I don’t think about what’s next.”

As players cleaned out their lockers in Owings Mills on Sunday afternoon, many expressed hope that the offensive coordinator would remain with the Ravens. Under Kubiak, Baltimore finished eighth in the NFL in points scored and 12th in yards per game while the running game ranked eighth despite a disastrous 2013 campaign in which the Ravens finished last in the league in yards per carry.

The news figures to only help in retaining free agents such as running back Justin Forsett, tight end Owen Daniels, and wide receiver Torrey Smith. And while working with Flacco and a strong offensive line, Kubiak is unlikely to see his head coaching stock drop dramatically if he wants to pursue head jobs next offseason.

“It’s always tough when you get comfortable with a guy like that,” Smith said hours before the announcement was made. “He’s a players’ coach — I will tell you that much. He’s a guy that you want to play for, so if he gets another head coaching job, you’re not surprised at it.”

 

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In end, Ravens couldn’t overcome biggest weakness

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In end, Ravens couldn’t overcome biggest weakness

Posted on 11 January 2015 by Luke Jones

Reflecting on Saturday’s season-ending 35-31 loss to New England, the Ravens know there were other reasons why they didn’t advance to the AFC Championship.

A last-minute interception by quarterback Joe Flacco tarnished what had been a banner day for him and a Ravens offense that produced at least 30 points for the second straight week. The decision to take the deep shot, the effort by wide receiver Torrey Smith to break it up, and the throw itself all came under scrutiny, but the offense had been more than good enough to win for the first 58 minutes of the game.

The vaunted pass rush that ranked second in the NFL with 49 sacks during the regular season managed to sack Patriots quarterback Tom Brady only twice with neither coming in the second half as the Ravens squandered a 14-point lead — their second of the night — in the third quarter. Baltimore had accumulated four or more sacks in each of its last eight wins and was 0-5 over that same stretch when failing to reach that plateau.

But it was the Ravens’ greatest weakness that ultimately led to their demise as the secondary was exposed and exploited by Brady and New England’s passing game. In giving up 408 passing yards and four touchdown passes — one thrown by Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman — the Ravens cannnot be fooled by the statistical improvement in the final month of the season that came against opposing passing games led by Blake Bortles, Case Keenum, and Connor Shaw. Baltimore ranked 31st in pass defense entering the final month of the regular season before rallying to finish 23rd.

Fixing the secondary will be a major undertaking for general manager Ozzie Newsome, who misread the Ravens’ depth at cornerback last offseason long before a rash of injuries decimated the position. There are no easy solutions as every notable member of the unit faces a significant question this offseason and secondary coach Steve Spanguolo could draw interest as a potential defensive coordinator elsewhere.

Top cornerback Jimmy Smith will be returning from a Lisfranc injury and is scheduled to make $6.898 million in the fifth-year option of his rookie contract. Emerging as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL before the foot ailment cut his season short in October, Smith is someone the Ravens would like to keep for the long run, but it’s difficult to ignore the reality that he’s missed 17 games in four seasons when considering the significant money it will likely require to keep him.

Veteran Lardarius Webb made a team-high 11 starts at cornerback, but he carries a $12 million cap figure for the 2015 season. After once appearing on the verge of becoming a Pro Bowl player, Webb will be entering his seventh season and played like no more than average at best after returning from a back injury that cost him all of training camp and three games at the start of the season. Two surgically-repaired knees on top of the back ailment make you wonder if his 5-foot-10, 182-pound body is failing him at this stage of his career.

Cutting Webb would only save $2 million in cap space — he has three years remaining on a six-year, $50 million contract signed in 2012 — and the Ravens would need to replace him in the starting defense, but it’s difficult to justify his salary for such lackluster play for much of the 2014 campaign.

Safety Will Hill was a rare bright spot in the secondary after starting the final eight games upon coming off a six-game suspension, but can the Ravens trust him to stay out of trouble and remain committed to the game? The Ravens wouldn’t figure to have difficulty keeping the restricted free agent, but he’ll need to prove Baltimore right in giving him a second chance before a long-term commitment is even considered.

The in-house options look grim beyond that.

Even if it’s too soon to declare Matt Elam a complete bust, there’s no sugarcoating how disappointing the 2013 first-round pick has been through his first two seasons. In fairness, Elam was forced to play out of position again for much of the year, but he also led the Ravens in missed tackles, which is a problem considering his tackling was viewed as a strength of his coming out of the University of Florida.

Third-round safety Terrence Brooks offered a few glimpses of potential amidst typical struggles of a rookie, but a knee injury cut his season short and the Ravens couldn’t have seen enough to feel comfortable in moving forward with him as a guaranteed starter.

Cornerback Rashaan Melvin was a nice story in becoming a starter late in the year after being signed off the Miami Dolphins’ practice squad in early November, but the Patriots completed 15 of 19 passes for 224 yards, two touchdowns, and a 150.9 passer rating against him in coverage. He proved himself enough to be a solid option for depth, but no more than that at this point.

Injuries limited Asa Jackson to just seven games and his pass coverage wasn’t overly impressive when he played.

Safeties Darian Stewart and Jeromy Miles and cornerback Danny Gorrer are unrestricted free agents, and cornerback Anthony Levine is a restricted free agent.

The draft appears to be the most logical outlet to seek improvement for 2015 and beyond, but the Ravens won’t pick until 26th overall and rookie cornerbacks don’t often provide an immediate impact in significant roles. Baltimore can look no farther than Smith’s selection in 2011 as evidence with the 6-foot-2 University of Colorado product disappointing in his first two years before establishing himself as a starter in 2013.

The Ravens don’t need a top 10 secondary with the strength of their front seven, but it was apparent that even an average secondary might have carried them to at least an AFC Championship appearance.

It will be up to Newsome to make the necessary improvement for 2015.

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Ravens-Patriots: Inactives and pre-game notes

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Ravens-Patriots: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 10 January 2015 by Luke Jones

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — January in Foxborough is a familiar scene for the Ravens as they meet the New England Patriots in the AFC divisional round on Saturday afternoon.

Head coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens are playing for the right to go to their fourth conference championship game in the last seven years, and they’ll have their starting left tackle available for the first time since Week 16 as Eugene Monroe is active. An ankle injury still limited Monroe in practices this week, so it will be interesting to see how he fares in his first live-game action since Dec. 21.

According to their depth chart, Monroe’s return would push rookie free agent James Hurst to right tackle and four-time Pro Bowl selection Marshal Yanda back to normal right guard spot. Rookie John Urschel had been filling in at right guard with Yanda moving outside the last two weeks.

(Update 4:05 p.m. — Based on pre-game warmups, it appears that Monroe will serve as the emergency backup tackle for Saturday’s game with Hurst remaining at left tackle.)

As expected, rookie defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (foot/ankle) is active after being listed as probable to play and practicing fully all week. He will move back into the defensive line rotation as a substitute behind five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who returned from a four-game suspension at the start of the postseason.

With Monroe and Jernigan both active after missing the Pittsburgh game, offensive lineman Ryan Jensen and defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson were deactivated for Saturday’s game.

The Patriots listed running backs Jonas Gray and James White as inactive, which is interesting considering how much head coach Bill Belichick has liked to use a committee approach in his backfield this season. Of course, New England could struggle finding room against the NFL’s fourth-ranked run defense, regardless of who is receiving the carries.

The Ravens will be playing the Patriots for the fourth time in their playoff history as they have won two of the previous three postseason games played at Gillette Stadium. Baltimore is 1-7 against New England in the all-time regular-season history that’s been overshadowed by four postseason meetings in the last six seasons.

The forecast calls for temperatures dipping below 20 degrees as the game progresses with winds up to 10 miles per hour.

The referee for Saturday’s wild-card game will be Bill Vinovich.

The Ravens will be wearing white jerseys with black pants for Saturday’s game while New England dons its navy blue tops with silver pants.

Below are the inactives for Saturday:

BALTIMORE
DL DeAngelo Tyson
TE Phillip Supernaw
DT Casey Walker
DT Terrence Cody
DE Steven Means
CB Chris Greenwood
OL Ryan Jensen

NEW ENGLAND
RB Jonas Gray
OL Cameron Fleming
OT Jordan Devey
WR Brandon Boyce
TE Steve Maneri
DL Zach Moore
RB James White

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Monroe questionable, Jernigan probable for Saturday’s game

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Monroe questionable, Jernigan probable for Saturday’s game

Posted on 09 January 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens will hope to get an important piece of their offensive line back as left tackle Eugene Monroe was officially designated as questionable for Saturday’s divisional playoff game in New England.

Monroe practiced on a limited basis all week in his first on-field activity since injuring his ankle in the Week 16 loss at Houston. Rookie free agent James Hurst has filled in for Monroe in each of the last two games, leaving the Ravens without either starting tackle after Rick Wagner was lost for the season in late December.

Should Monroe be able to play, the Ravens will be faced with an interesting decision of whether to shift Hurst to the right tackle spot — allowing Marshal Yanda to return to his normal right guard position — or to stay with the current alignment on the right side of rookie John Urschel at right guard and Yanda playing right tackle.

Rookie defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (foot/ankle) was listed as probable to play against the Patriots after participating fully in practices all week. The 2014 second-round pick missed last week’s wild-card game in Pittsburgh after injury his left foot in the regular-season finale.

After enjoying their bye week, the Patriots are in excellent health after listing four players as probable for Saturday’s game.

BALTIMORE
QUESTIONABLE: OT Eugene Monroe (ankle)
PROBABLE: TE Owen Daniels (non-injury), DT Timmy Jernigan (foot/ankle), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury), LB Terrell Suggs (non-injury)

NEW ENGLAND
PROBABLE: QB Tom Brady (ankle), WR Julian Edelman (concussion), RB Jonas Gray (ankle), WR Brandon LaFell (shoulder/toe)

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Ravens-Patriots: Five predictions for Saturday

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Ravens-Patriots: Five predictions for Saturday

Posted on 09 January 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have made a mostly-pleasant habit of traveling to Foxborough in January to take on the New England Patriots.

The latest chapter in this underrated rivalry will be written Saturday with Baltimore eyeing its fourth trip to the AFC Championship game under head coach John Harbaugh. Meanwhile, the No. 1 seed Patriots are seeking their first championship in a decade with 37-year-old quarterback Tom Brady not getting any younger.

Joe Flacco will try to continue an impeccable postseason run in which he’s thrown 20 touchdowns and just two interceptions over his last nine playoff games. The seventh-year signal-caller has thrown 13 touchdowns without an interception in leading the Ravens to wins in their last five postseason contests.

Who will win on Saturday?

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It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens and Patriots meet for the fourth time ever in the playoffs — all have been in Foxborough — with Baltimore holding a 2-1 edge. New England leads the all-time regular-season series by a 7-1 margin despite the Ravens’ postseason success at Gillette Stadium.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to hand New England another loss in the postseason …

1. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will be chased by Will Hill most of the day while catching a touchdown and posting 100 receiving yards. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will throw the kitchen sink at New England in trying to cover the All-Pro tight end, but Hill will draw most of the responsibility with little success. The 6-foot-1, 207-pound safety did an admirable job in holding New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham to six catches for 47 yards in late November, but Gronkowski has played at a different level than anyone at his position this year and is more physical. Brady will go to him early and often to try to offset a Baltimore pass rush bearing down on him.

2. Three of the Ravens’ sacks against Brady will come from inside pressure. Four has been the magic number for the Ravens as they’ve collected at least four sacks in their last eight wins and are 0-4 when failing to reach the plateau over that stretch. Brady was sacked just 21 times this year, but his quick release was a bigger factor in that statistic than an offensive line that’s been shaky in pass protection this year. The Ravens will exploit rookie center Bryan Stork and guards Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell with A-gap blitzing as well as the presence of Haloti Ngata, Pernell McPhee, and Timmy Jernigan in passing situations. Inside pressure will force Brady backward and give Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil time to reach him off the edges.

3. Steve Smith will have a quiet game, but Torrey Smith will catch a touchdown and fetch a key pass interference call. Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis is expected to match up against Steve Smith, which will spell trouble for the veteran wideout as Revis will match the 35-year-old’s physicality with press coverage. This will leave the 6-foot-4 Brandon Browner against Torrey Smith in a matchup that could determine the outcome of the game. The Maryland product will be challenged by Browner’s physicality, but the former Seattle defensive back is prone to penalties, drawing 15 flags in nine games in the regular season. The speedy fourth-year wideout draws pass interference calls as well as anyone and will fetch a big one inside the red zone in addition to catching a first-half touchdown.

4. Brady will pass for more yards, but Flacco will throw more touchdown passes. The Patriots will try to establish the run with their extensive collection of running backs, but they won’t find much room against the league’s fourth-ranked run defense, meaning the ball will be in their franchise quarterback’s hands all day. Brady will make amends for his 56.8 passer rating in his three previous playoff games against the Ravens, but Baltimore will clamp down inside the red zone. In contrast, the Ravens will find enough running room to keep Justin Forsett involved, and Flacco will have another efficient game like he did in Pittsburgh with 220 yards and two touchdowns to put his team in position to grab a victory in the fourth quarter.

5. Justin Tucker will kick the game-winning field goal to give the Ravens a 24-23 win. New England was the better team this season, but Baltimore has history on its side and — more importantly – the right tools to match up with the Patriots. If the Ravens are able to pressure Brady inside and out, it will make up for potential problems in the secondary and allow the Baltimore offense to keep up as it deals with an improved Patriots defense. This game could go either way, but it’s getting to the point where you just can’t pick against Flacco in the playoffs until someone finally cools him off. The Ravens won’t be scared playing in familiar Foxborough, and they’ll find a way to win there once again in January.

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Monroe remains limited participant for Thursday’s practice

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Monroe remains limited participant for Thursday’s practice

Posted on 08 January 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — There were no significant changes to Thursday’s injury report as the Ravens completed their final full practice of the week in preparation for their divisional-round meeting with the New England Patriots.

Starting left tackle Eugene Monroe (ankle) remained a limited participant as he hopes to make his return to action for the first time since Dec. 21. Head coach John Harbaugh acknowledged Monroe is “progressing well” but wouldn’t elaborate beyond that when asked by reporters.

Rookie Timmy Jernigan (foot/ankle) was a full participant for the second straight day and appears on track to be back in the defensive line rotation after missing last week’s playoff win in Pittsburgh.

Veteran linebacker Terrell Suggs received a day off from the final practice of the week as he regularly has late in the season.

Meanwhile, the Patriots removed running back LeGarrette Blount (illness) from their injury report a day after he was listed as a limited participant.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Terrell Suggs (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: OT Eugene Monroe (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: DT Timmy Jernigan (foot/ankle), TE Owen Daniels (non-injury), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury)

NEW ENGLAND
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Julian Edelman (concussion), RB Jonas Gray (ankle), WR Brandon LaFell (shoulder/toe)
FULL PARTICIPATION: QB Tom Brady (ankle)

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Frigid temperatures await Ravens in New England

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Frigid temperatures await Ravens in New England

Posted on 08 January 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens completed their final full practice of the week Thursday with unusual conditions ahead of Saturday’s playoff game in New England.

Offsetting their inability to practice outside due to Tuesday’s snowfall on top of already-frozen fields, head coach John Harbaugh opened the doors of their Owings Mills field house to create colder temperatures for Thursday’s workout on the indoor turf field. It’ll be the Ravens’ closest simulation this week to Saturday’s forecast in Foxborough, Mass. predicting a high of 20 degrees and winds up to 20 miles per hour for the 4:35 p.m. kickoff.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has had his team practice outdoors all week, but the Ravens are no strangers to frigid temperatures in January. Practicing outside at least a day or two would have been preferable, but Harbaugh wasn’t dwelling on any potential drawbacks as the Ravens try to become the NFL’s all-time leader in road playoff wins Saturday.

“It’ll be good. The situation is what it is,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not worth even contemplating. We don’t really have a turf field out here.”

Baltimore’s last trip to New England two years ago may have been 20 degrees warmer than Saturday’s prediction, but the Ravens experienced a game-time temperature of 13 degrees — with a wind chill of minus-1 — in Denver two years ago. Of course, the Ravens prevailed 38-35 in that double-overtime thriller against the Broncos in which quarterback Joe Flacco threw for 331 yards and three touchdowns.

But with only 17 players who were active that day remaining on the current 53-man roster — cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Anthony Levine were both on injured reserve at the end of that season — it’s fair to wonder how much the frigid temperatures might affect the Ravens as they try to advance to their fourth AFC Championship game under Harbaugh.

“It’s going to be cold,” veteran linebacker Daryl Smith said. “You just have to focus on playing ball no matter the elements — if it’s rain, snow, whatever it is. We have a job to do, and that should be our only focus.”

As you’d expected, a number of players insisted they won’t wear sleeves as they desire the proper mindset to play in their coldest game of the 2014 season. Tight end Owen Daniels downplayed how much of an advantage Patriots players gained by working outside this week, wondering if they bundled up more for practices than they will for the game.

A former member of the Houston Texans, the 32-year-old played at New England in the playoffs two years ago, but the temperature was in the low 50s.

“It has to be really, really cold — negative temperatures — for it to get to players,” said tight end Owen Daniels, who studied meteorology at the University of Wisconsin. “The ball will be a little bit harder, a little more slick, so there are little issues you have to adjust to each week depending on the weather of the game.”

 

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