Ravens sign long-snapper
The uncertainty regarding who would fill the void left by the injury to long snapper Morgan Cox Sunday versus the Browns was ended Wednesday at Owings Mills during John Harbaugh’s press conference, as Harbaugh was immediately asked who would take over for Cox.
The team signed Kevin Houser, a tenth-year veteran out of Ohio State, was brought to Owings Mills last night for a physical. The news broke Wednesday that he had signed with the club, and he was already hard at work working with kicker Billy Cundiff on his rapport with his new teammate in practice that afternoon.
Houser was drafted in the seventh round of the 2000 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints and spent nine seasons in New Orleans. At one point, he had been the longest-tenured Saint several season ago and he was the veteran presence the Ravens said they were looking for.
“He’s a veteran guy, and he did real well in the workout yesterday, and we’ll see how well he does today in practice,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.
There were specific things Coach Harbaugh-a former special teams coach in his own right-that he expected out of the ideal candidate to replace Morgan Cox.
“You look at how he does with protection, how he handles the movement, and stuff that goes along with protection,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “You look at his anchor a little bit in case they try and bull rush him in there. There’s some things you work with that’s similar to pass protection with offensive lineman…. the ability to recover off the snap, get his head up, and how he handles some of the calls and the different things we do with our protection.
The Ravens also brought in veterans Bryan Pittman, Ethan Albright, and Jake Ingram but none of them seemed to fit with what the Ravens wanted to do.
Pittman didn’t even pass the physical, Harbaugh said.
Morgan Cox left Sunday’s game versus the Browns with a torn ACL and a damaged MCL and will be lost for the year. He played the remainder of Sunday’s game with the injury but was lost on punt and kick coverage.
Cox had played at a solid level this season and the team was looking for a guy to pick up right where Cox left off.
“These guys have been around. Most protections are very similar in the NFL. That’s why we really wanted a veteran. Those guys understand the schemes and they’ve done the techniques and they should be ready to plug right in.
Wednesday’s Practice: We fully expected Wednesday that the only Ravens not to be present at practice were safety Tom Zbikowski, who is out with a back injury, and LB Tavares Gooden who still is hurting with a separated shoulder on his left side.
With Zbikowski’s injury continuing to linger, he could be placed on IR soon to keep a healthy roster spot in place going into the playoffs.
But joining Zbikowski and Gooden who did not participate in practice were center Matt Birk who has shown up on the injury report in the past with a knee injury, and a curious scratch was LB Prescott Burgess, who normally would have made his mark during the special teams part of practice.
He was listed on the injury report because of illness, and over the last several weeks we have seen several Ravens players miss practice due the contagious flu bug floating around the Ravens locker room.
However, both tight ends Dennis Pitta(concussion) and Todd Heap(thigh/hamstring) were present during the open session of practice that the media were able to witness. Heap did most of his work off to the side just wearing sweats.
Kick return was the main focus of special teams practice and Jalen Parmele took all the drills at returning kicks with David Reed(concussion) still on the mends.
Reed was present at practice but did not participate in the drills. He was listed as limited in drills on the Ravens’ Wednesday injury report.
Five Ravens Named to Pro Bowl:
Yesterday’s Pro Bowl announcement came down last night and the AFC Roster will be represented by five Baltimore Ravens, but no offensive players from the Ravens will be going to Hawaii the week before the Super Bowl.
Linebacker Ray Lewis, LB/DE Terrell Suggs, DT Haloti Ngata, S Ed Reed, and kicker Billy Cundiff all have been named to the Pro Bowl, with the list being announced Tuesday night.
Ray Lewis will be going to his twelfth Pro Bowl trip. Suggs will be going to his fourth, and Reed will be going to his seventh in his nine-year career. Ngata is going for the second straight year.
But Cundiff will be going for the first time in his career, which should be a tremendous honor for a kicker who joined the team only a year ago as a band-aid to a struggling position.
It was the media’s first opportunity to catch up with the players since the announcement at practice, and in reality, the team still said that the honors are secondary to Cincinnati on Sunday and their path through the playoffs towards eventually getting to Dallas.
“It’s bitter sweet,” Suggs said. “It’s good to be recongized not only by other coaches and other players amongst the other teams and the fans. It’s good. It’s really good. Don’t get me wrong.”
“But we still want the Lombardi. I’ve been to Hawaii. This will be my fourth time. But I really would love to play in the Super Bowl.”
This is the first year the Pro Bowl will be played the week BEFORE the Super Bowl instead of after the big game. The Super Bowl participants will miss the annual all-star game.
“It really didn’t mean too much,” quarterback Joe Flacco said, who was named a third alternate to the AFC quarterback position. “I think that if you’re a Pro-Bowl guy, you are and an alternate is an alternate.”
“I’m not real worried about that,” Flacco continued. “The Pro Bowl is the Pro Bowl, and I’m focused on playing good football games and coming in looking at the tape and having my coaches say, “Yeah, you played a hell of a game today’ and me feeling the same way.
Other alternates included guard Ben Grubbs, FB Le’Ron McClain, and punter Sam Koch. They were named as second alternates, and the third alternates were Flacco and Michael Oher.
Fourth alternates were Ray Rice, wide receiver Anquan Boldin, and safety Dawan Landry.
Probably the biggest snub of them all-at least according to the Ravens-was Koch not getting to the Pro Bowl.
“But Sam Koch, for sure, has had a Pro Bowl year. Some of the things Sam does are unrecognized by the voters sometime. He doesn’t have a huge gross average, but he kicks directionally, he puts it out of bounds 40, 45 yards on a pretty regular basis. The pooch punting has been phenomenal. I would say he is deserving,” Harbaugh noted.
Suggs even wore Koch’s white jersey out to practice as a sign of respect toward his teammate on special teams.
Preparing for the Bengals
Make no mistake. Despite the team’s playoff’s goals, the focus of the team was on Cincinnati alone on Sunday.
The Bengals-despite their 4-11 mark-come in winners of two straight games and winners of their last three decisions against the Baltimore Ravens, including a 15-10 victory in Week 2 of this season with Mike Nugent hitting five field goals.
The Ravens understand the need to finish the regular season strong going into the playoffs no matter where they go.
“Defensively, I’ve got to tell my defense to keep doing what we’re doing,” Lewis said. “In the last game where we lost, we gave up five field goals. They didn’t get in our end zone. Any time you can play at that high of a level coming home, now it’s our time to finish it off.”
They also see the Bengals as a challenge despite the less-than-stellar record, especially given their recent slide and struggles against Cincinnati.
“It seems like they’re always dangerous when they play us,” Harbaugh said. “When you watch them on tape, it does not look like a team that’s not a winning team. On tape, they look like a winning football team.”
“We know how good these guys are. We’ve played them enough. We understand what they’re about, and it’s going to be one of those AFC North kind of games.”
One guy definitely looking for a rebound game is quarterback Joe Flacco, who in Week 2, had probably his worst game of the season, completing 17-of-39 passes for for 154 yards for one touchdown while throwing four costly interceptions.
“I think we put that behind us pretty quickly,” Flacco said. “We’ve moved on and had a pretty good season.”
Since that game, Flacco has really rebounded well, throwing 24 TDs while only throwing four interceptions. But his coach still felt like that game in particular was not the thing that changed Flacco for the better. He always had it in him to take care of the football, said Harbaugh.
“Joe’s been about good ball security here for three years,” Harbaugh said. “So, I don’t think that there was an epiphany that now it’s important. Obviously, that cost us in that game. Joe realizes that. I think it’s one of Joe’s strengths anyway.”
There are four different scenarios that could play out after Sunday’s contest versus the Bengals. The Ravens have guaranteed themselves at least the fifth-seed in the playoffs and depending upon the results on Sunday, the Ravens could either be headed to Jacksonville, Kansas City, and most likely Indianapolis.
And if the Steelers were to lose to Cleveland, the Ravens would earn the second seed in the playoffs and have a first-round bye.
The Ravens said that while taking care of their own business against the Bengals is their primary goal, they did admit that it will be tough to not be looking at the scoreboard when it comes to the Pittsburgh-Cleveland result going on at the same time.
“When the score comes up, I’m sure all of us are going to take a look,” John Harbaugh said. “And we’re going to know by the crowd’s reaction. So I don’t have a problem with that. We’re going to play the game. We have all the focus on Cincinnati.”
“It’s hard not to watch it,” Ray Lewis said. “But we do understand that we need to take care of our business. If we don’t care of our business, none of that matters.”
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