Tag Archive | "NFL"

Ravens president Cass on Rice settlement: “It’s time to turn the page”

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Ravens president Cass on Rice settlement: “It’s time to turn the page”

Posted on 16 January 2015 by Luke Jones

After deciding to settle the grievance filed by running back Ray Rice over his Sept. 8 release, the Ravens are ready to put one of the ugliest sagas in franchise history behind them.

The wrongful termination hearing was set to begin on Thursday before the sides agreed to a settlement that spared each party further public scrutiny and embarrassment. Rice was seeking the $3.529 million he was scheduled to make in base salary upon returning from his original two-game suspension before his contract was terminated hours after TMZ released the in-elevator video of Rice striking his then-fiancee Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino.

It remains unclear how much money was included in the settlement.

“The Ravens agreed to resolve the grievance with Ray Rice. It’s time to turn the page, and we’re moving forward,” team president Dick Cass said in a released statement. “We will continue to focus on being the best partner we can be with our community, and that includes our work with the House of Ruth and One Love Foundation on the issue of intimate partner abuse.

“We wish Janay and Ray Rice the best.”

The Ravens recently donated $400,000 to the One Love Foundation, an organization created in memory of murdered University of Virginia women’s lacrosse player and Baltimore native Yeardley Love that raises awareness about domestic violence.

Rice’s indefinite suspension handed down by the NFL after the in-elevator video surfaced on Sept. 8 was overturned in November, but the 27-year-old has yet to be signed by a team.

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Dennison, Shanahan headline list of potential Kubiak replacements

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Dennison, Shanahan headline list of potential Kubiak replacements

Posted on 16 January 2015 by Luke Jones

Gary Kubiak remains the offensive coordinator for now, but the Ravens can read the writing on the wall.

With the 53-year-old off to Denver to interview for the Broncos’ vacant head coaching position on Sunday, head coach John Harbaugh has to think Kubiak won’t be able to pass on the opportunity to return to the organization with which he spent 20 years as a player and assistant coach. It was always going to take a unique opportunity to entice Kubiak to leave the Ravens, and that’s exactly what was presented when the Broncos parted ways with head coach John Fox less than 24 hours after Kubiak announced his intentions to stay in Baltimore.

Assuming Kubiak is on the way out in taking his dream job, where will the Ravens turn to find their fourth offensive coordinator in the last four years?

With quarterback Joe Flacco arguably having the finest regular season of his career and the Ravens setting franchise records for points scored and total yards, continuity is ideal and no one would provide more of it than quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison being promoted to offensive coordinator. It won’t be an easy sell as his ties to Kubiak and Denver are strong and many expect him to be the top candidate to serve as the new Broncos offensive coordinator if Kubiak is hired.

But Harbaugh should sell the 56-year-old Dennison on the idea of escaping Kubiak’s shadow to establish himself as a potential head coaching candidate. Instead of going to Denver and facing an uncertain situation with Peyton Manning on his last legs or even having to start over with a new quarterback, Dennison knows he could continue working with Flacco — with whom he shares a good relationship — and an offensive line that’s a perfect fit for the zone-blocking schemes he would continue to employ.

It doesn’t hurt for Harbaugh to remind Dennison that — assuming Kubiak takes the Denver job — the last two Ravens offensive coordinators will have become head coaches after only one full season on the job. It would be a unique opportunity to establish himself as someone other than Kubiak’s right-hand man.

The Ravens would be promoting a man with plenty of experience as an NFL offensive coordinator as he served in that capacity under Mike Shanahan in Denver from 2006-2008 and with Kubiak in Houston from 2010-2013.

The biggest key for the Ravens maintaining the offensive momentum created in 2014 will be finding a coordinator whose system fits well with the methods the offensive line employed after a disastrous 2013 campaign. Dennison wouldn’t figure to change too much if he does remain in Baltimore and appears to be the only viable in-house candidate as tight ends coach Brian Pariani has just one year of experience as an offensive coordinator at the collegiate level and it came with a 2005 Syracuse team that went 1-10.

If Dennison does head to Denver to become Kubiak’s offensive coordinator, the Ravens could take another long look at Kyle Shanahan, whom they interviewed last offseason when Jim Caldwell left to become the head coach of the Detroit Lions. His ties to Kubiak also make him a candidate to wind up as the Broncos offensive coordinator, but he left a positive impression with the Ravens last year and could jump at the chance to work with Flacco and such a solid offensive line.

His post-2013 dismissal as part of his father’s staff in Washington was difficult and he had to work with mediocre quarterback play in Cleveland as the Browns offensive coordinator this past year, but Shanahan ran successful offenses in Houston as well as in Robert Griffin’s rookie season in 2012. The 35-year-old is perceived by some as having a bigger ego than his résumé justifies, but his offensive philosophies would figure to mesh well with what Kubiak and Dennison started in 2014.

Of course, the Ravens face key personnel decisions with running back Justin Forsett, wide receiver Torrey Smith, and tight end Owen Daniels becoming free agents and the future of tight end Dennis Pitta unclear, but they’d like to avoid blowing up the foundation established in 2014.

If Kubiak does leave, persuading Dennison to stay or bringing in Shanahan appear to be the best ways to continue building in the same direction.

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Kubiak reportedly set to interview with Denver this weekend

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Kubiak reportedly set to interview with Denver this weekend

Posted on 16 January 2015 by Luke Jones

After a few days of uncertainty, it appears Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak will listen to what the Denver Broncos have to say.

Kubiak is expected to interview with the Broncos for their head coaching vacancy this weekend, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. Despite publicly stating his intentions to remain with the Ravens before the Broncos parted ways with head coach John Fox on Monday, Kubiak spent 20 years in the Denver organization as a player and assistant coach, making it unsurprising that he would at least discuss the opening with general manager John Elway.

Kubiak is considered the clear favorite for the job if he wants it.

In other news, ESPN reports that Detroit Lions defensive coordinator and former Ravens secondary coach Teryl Austin has withdrawn his name from consideration for the Denver job. Austin was originally scheduled to interview Friday, but he has also been linked to the Atlanta Falcons head job.

Should Kubiak take the Broncos job, it will be interesting to see how much the Ravens press to keep quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison and tight ends coach Brian Pariani. Many assume Dennison would depart to become Kubiak’s offensive coordinator in Denver, but the Ravens could try to entice him with a promotion to remain with the organization after working well with quarterback Joe Flacco.

Dennison has previous experience as the offensive coordinator under Kubiak in Houston and has also coached special teams and the offensive line, making him a suitable replacement if the Ravens can persuade him to stay.

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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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Ravens secondary coach Spagnuolo rejoining New York Giants

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Ravens secondary coach Spagnuolo rejoining New York Giants

Posted on 15 January 2015 by Luke Jones

Ravens secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo is heading back to the Big Apple.

The assistant head coach to John Harbaugh has agreed to re-join the New York Giants as their defensive coordinator, a position he held there from 2007-2008 while guiding his defense to a win against the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. Spagnuolo spent the last two years with the Ravens, serving as a senior defensive assistant in 2013 before being assigned to coach the secondary this past season.

A rash of injuries led to plenty of struggles in the secondary as the Ravens finished 23rd in pass defense, but the 55-year-old Spagnuolo was praised by Harbaugh at his season-ending press conference earlier this week. The pair worked together for eight years in Philadelphia under head coach Andy Reid.

“Steve is a great coach. He’s done a great job with the guys throughout the course of the season,” Harbaugh said. “Obviously, [he is] a tremendously experienced coach. He’s been a head coach, been a coordinator, and that’s not something that we would want to hold him back from as an opportunity.”

Spagnuolo beat out the likes of former Oakland head coach Dennis Allen, former Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris, and former Giants linebacker Pepper Johnson for the job.

As for who might replace Spagnuolo in Baltimore, assistant secondary coach Chris Hewitt would be a logical in-house replacement, but the Ravens would likely look outside the organization for other candidates. This marks the second straight offseason that Harbaugh will need to replace his secondary coach after Teryl Austin departed last January to become the defensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions.

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Rice reportedly settles grievance with Ravens over termination

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Rice reportedly settles grievance with Ravens over termination

Posted on 15 January 2015 by Luke Jones

A hearing scheduled to begin Thursday between running back Ray Rice and the Ravens will not take place after all.

As first reported by Pro Football Talk, the sides settled Rice’s wrongful termination grievance in which he was seeking $3.529 million in base salary he was scheduled to make for the rest of the 2014 season before being cut on Sept. 8. Terms of the settlement have not been disclosed, but the agreement appears to close the book on Rice’s relationship with his former organization.

Unlike his appeal of the NFL’s indefinite suspension handed down hours after TMZ released the elevator video of what transpired between him and Janay Palmer, Rice figured to have a more difficult time in winning his grievance against the Ravens given the wide latitude that NFL teams own in cutting players. It’s possible that both sides wanted to bring closure without shedding light on any new details that could bring further embarrassment to either party.

Rice’s side was expected to argue that his release fell into the category of double jeopardy as the organization supported him throughout the ordeal until the time of the in-elevator video, but the Ravens would have likely pointed to the running back’s poor 2013 performance in which he rushed for a career-low 660 yards and averaged just 3.1 yards per carry as more than enough grounds for termination.

 

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Denver submits request to interview Kubiak for head coach

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Denver submits request to interview Kubiak for head coach

Posted on 15 January 2015 by Luke Jones

To no one’s surprise the Denver Broncos have formally asked for permission to interview Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak for their head coaching vacancy.

Now we wait to see if Kubiak accepts. The 53-year-old spent 20 years in the Broncos organization as a player and assistant coach and remains close with general manager John Elway, whom he backed up at quarterback for nine years.

Per NFL Network, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh was expected to discuss Kubiak’s plans on Thursday morning, but the organization will not stand in his way if he wants to meet with the Broncos. Kubiak issued a statement through the Ravens Sunday night that he would not pursue any head coaching positions, but that stance may have changed once the Broncos and former head coach John Fox officially parted ways on Monday.

“If a coach gets a chance to be a head coach in this league, you’ve got to be happy for him,” Harbaugh said on Tuesday. “I don’t know if anything else will come up — I haven’t heard of anything along those lines — but if something comes up, we’ll just have to deal with it.”

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No questions at left tackle for Ravens heading into offseason

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No questions at left tackle for Ravens heading into offseason

Posted on 14 January 2015 by Luke Jones

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh made it clear Tuesday there is no controversy at left tackle going into the offseason.

A few eyebrows raised when starting left tackle Eugene Monroe was deemed active for Saturday’s game in New England before rookie free agent James Hurst remained the starter against the Patriots, but Harbaugh said the decision was based solely on Monroe’s health. After injuring his ankle in the fourth quarter of the Week 16 loss in Houston, Monroe did not play in the regular-season finale or the Pittsburgh game and was limited to just five special-teams snaps against New England.

Monroe was a limited participant in practices last week leading into the trip to Foxborough.

“Eugene wasn’t 100 percent, but we felt like he was enough to be a good backup for us,” Harbaugh said. “If we lost one of the tackles, we’d probably rather be able to put Eugene in there at less than 100 percent than have to shuffle the offensive line around again. And credit to him for getting himself back into that kind of a position. But as far as playing the left tackle spot the whole game, where [Monroe] was at, James was the better option.”

If Monroe had remained inactive against the Patriots and the Ravens would have lost either Hurst or Marshal Yanda, who was already filling in for the injured Rick Wagner at right tackle, they would have been forced to move left guard Kelechi Osemele out to tackle and insert Ryan Jensen into the game. Instead, the Ravens deemed a banged-up Monroe as a better option to activate than Jensen, who was only promoted to the 53-man roster at the end of the regular season.

Needless to say, it was a disappointing year for Monroe after he signed a five-year, $37.5 million contract last offseason. He missed four games after undergoing knee surgery in late September and never appeared healthy enough to play at the level he did last season when he was acquired from the Jacksonville Jaguars. The ankle injury against the Texans all but ended his season, opening the door for Hurst to become the first player in NFL history to start a playoff game at left tackle as an undrafted rookie.

Counting the postseason, the Ravens went 5-2 in games Hurst started at left tackle, leaving some to wonder if the rookie’s performance was good enough to supplant Monroe as the starter. When carefully watching Hurst’s play, it would be more accurate to describe Baltimore as surviving with him at left tackle.

Harbaugh made it clear how he views the depth chart heading into next season.

“Eugene is our starter going forward,” Harbaugh said. “We’re happy to have that be the case.”

Of all offensive tackles who participated in at least 25 percent of his team’s snaps in the regular season, Hurst finished 79th out of 84 and had minus-16.9 pass blocking and minus-9.0 run blocking grades, according to Pro Football Focus’s cumulative assessments. Monroe ranked 63rd out of 84, but his minus-1.0 pass blocking grade and minus-10.7 run blocking grade reflects how much he struggled moving laterally in Gary Kubiak’s zone-blocking system while not having quite as many issues as a pass blocker. That could certainly be explained by the knee issues he experienced early in the year and then coming back from surgery in the middle of the season.

Monroe will be on notice to bounce back dramatically — especially carrying a $7.7 million cap figure in 2015 — but he also has a track record suggesting he’ll be better with an offseason to once again get healthy.

Even if his performance wasn’t strong enough to seriously make Monroe look over his shoulder, Hurst did establish himself as a solid backup for an offensive line that took major strides in 2014.

“Those experiences I’m going to carry with me and use them to my advantage just to make myself a better football player,” said Hurst of the seven starts he made in his first NFL season. “It’s a huge offseason after your rookie year. You know really what you need to work on to be a better pro.”

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Forsett added to Pro Bowl roster in place of Houston’s Foster

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Forsett added to Pro Bowl roster in place of Houston’s Foster

Posted on 13 January 2015 by Luke Jones

After completing one of the most surprising seasons in franchise history, Ravens running back Justin Forsett is on his way to his first Pro Bowl.

The 29-year-old was chosen as a first alternate last month and will now replace the injured Arian Foster, his former teammate in Houston. Forsett rushed for a career-high 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns in his first year with the Ravens and led all NFL running backs with a 5.4 yards per carry average.

“I first want to thank all of my teammates and coaches that played a part, especially our offensive line and [fullback Kyle Juszczyk,]” Forsett said. “It is as much credit to them as it is to me.”

Forsett becomes the fourth Ravens player to be on his way to the game, which will be played in Arizona on Jan. 25. Right guard Marshal Yanda and linebackers Elvis Dumervil and C.J. Mosley were selected for the game in late December.

Those players will be joined at the Pro Bowl by head coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens staff, who agreed to coach one of the teams after the Denver Broncos and head coach John Fox parted ways on Monday.

“We’re looking forward to doing that,” Harbaugh said. “Right now, we are preparing to put a couple of schemes together and go out there and coach a game.”

The running back’s addition means the Ravens will continue their streak of having at least four players selected to every Pro Bowl since 2005. Baltimore could have more players added to the game as Juszczyk, linebacker Terrell Suggs, punter Sam Koch, and return specialist Jacoby Jones are also first alternates.

 

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Ravens “cautiously optimistic” about Pitta returning next year

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Ravens “cautiously optimistic” about Pitta returning next year

Posted on 13 January 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens head coach John Harbaugh remains hopeful that tight end Dennis Pitta will be able to resume his NFL career after suffering two serious hip injuries in the last two seasons.

Harbaugh had no new information about the future of the 29-year-old, who was lost for the season after dislocating and fracturing his right hip for the second time in 14 months in a game against the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 21. Pitta signed a five-year, $32 million last winter that includes a $4 million guaranteed salary for the 2015 season, meaning there is virtually no chance that Baltimore would consider cutting him this offseason.

“I will say that I’m cautiously optimistic because of the injury,” Harbaugh said. “I think all of us would [say], “OK, is this going to be good?’ We want to make sure he’s going to be totally healthy, totally safe — as much as is reasonable in football — to make make sure that hip is sound and everything before our doctors would ever clear him. In the end, it will be up to the doctors and Dennis to determine that.”

Pitta has expressed a clear desire to continue his playing career after being limited to just seven games in the last two seasons. The 2010 fourth-round pick was emerging as one of the better tight ends in the NFL before suffering the first hip injury on July 27.

A vigorous rehab and the timing of the injury allowed Pitta to return for the final month of the 2013 season, but the second injury led to a slower rehabilitation process in hopes of giving the hip proper time to heal and get stronger. Many have wondered whether Pitta should play again after twice suffering an injury considered so rare in football.

Harbaugh said he spoke to Pitta on Tuesday as the tight end hopes to receive an update on his hip later in the coming days.

“He’s going to see a couple specialists this week, so I’m kind of looking forward to seeing what they say,” Harbaugh said. “But he’s working out today, so that seemed to be positive to me.”

In 50 career games in Baltimore, Pitta has made 138 receptions for 1,369 yards and 11 touchdowns as one of Joe Flacco’s favorite targets.

Corners on mend

In addition to having five cornerbacks on injured reserve during the 2014 season, Harbaugh revealed Tuesday that Rashaan Melvin will undergo shoulder surgery that will keep him sidelined until organized team activities in the spring.

The former Miami Dolphins practice squad member started the final three games of the regular season and both postseason games and had played well before being torched by the Patriots for two touchdowns in Saturday’s playoff loss. However, the 6-foot-2 Melvin is regarded as an intriguing option as a depth cornerback for next season.

“If everything goes well, he should be back for OTAs and for minicamp,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t think we had any other surgeries at this time after the [magnetic resonance imaging exams] came in, so that’s good news. It’s the best we’ve probably been.”

Harbaugh revealed encouraging news about the status of No. 1 cornerback Jimmy Smith, who suffered a season-ending Lisfranc injury in late October. Smith remains in a walking boot, but it appears that he’ll be ready to go in plenty of time for spring workouts.

Smith is in line to make $6.898 million for the fifth-year option the Ravens exercised on his rookie contract.

“Jimmy will actually go into the offseason healthy,” Harbaugh said. “He’ll be running here in a couple weeks, so he’ll get a chance to get a full offseason in. Maybe four weeks might be the number off the top of my head. It’s pretty encouraging that way.”

Harbaugh, Ravens staff heading to Arizona

Harbaugh confirmed that he and his staff will coach one of the Pro Bowl teams opposed by the Dallas Cowboys staff in Arizona on Jan. 25.

The Denver Broncos staff was originally supposed to be the AFC representative before head coach John Fox parted ways with the organization on Monday, opening the door for the Ravens to receive the invitation. Harbaugh sees it as a fun event while also taking advantage of the opportunity to get to know other players, which could pay off at some point down the road.

“We get to coach a little bit more, which is nice,” said Harbaugh, who added that the Pro Bowl practices would be brief. “I mentioned a few times regarding Steve Smith and other players  — you get to know guys. I got to know Steve really well way back at his first Pro Bowl. That’s always a fun part of it in getting to know some of the players around the league.”

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