Tag Archive | "NFL"

Suggs applying tough lessons from last season to bounce back in 2014

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Suggs applying tough lessons from last season to bounce back in 2014

Posted on 18 June 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs spent a decade chasing the elusive Super Bowl glory he finally tasted at the end of the 2012 season.

But he couldn’t have imagined how difficult it was going to be defending that championship following the retirement of Ray Lewis and the free-agent departure of Ed Reed, leaving the Ravens without two Hall of Fame players and leaders who were the heart and soul of the organization. Of course, a myriad of reasons explained an 8-8 season in which the Ravens missed the playoffs, ranging from a porous offensive line and nonexistent running game to an otherwise-solid defense that struggled to create turnovers and get off the field in the fourth quarter.

Suggs and his veteran teammates said all the right things last season when asked how they’d possibly replace the leadership void created by the departures of Lewis, Reed, and other veterans, claiming there were more than enough voices ready to handle the changes. But the 31-year-old linebacker acknowledged Wednesday it was not only “very agonizing” to miss the postseason for the first time since 2007 but also draining going through his first season without two men who’d been older brothers to him for the first 10 years of his career.

“I had those older guys around to build, and it was a period of adjustment,” Suggs said. “It was weird, and it transpired onto the field — not having those guys there. But, the most [important] thing we can learn from last year about those guys not being there is those were once-in-a-lifetime guys — Ed Reed and Ray Lewis — and all we can be is ourselves. They’re not going to come walking through the door to help us win another championship. All you can be is yourself, and that should be enough.”

Even though Suggs posted double-digit sacks for the fifth time in his career in 2013, his play down the stretch didn’t help the Ravens’ push for a sixth straight trip to the postseason as he collected only one sack in the final eight games, leading many to speculate he was playing hurt. His 10 sacks were enough to earn him his sixth invitation to the Pro Bowl, but his play against both the run and pass deteriorated at an alarming rate with four games in which he posted one or no tackles.

With the Ravens needing a win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17 to sneak into the playoffs, Suggs and fellow pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil combined for one tackle and zero sacks in a 34-17 loss that resulted in the Ravens staying home in January. Asked to reflect on his up-and-down season at this week’s mandatory minicamp, Suggs didn’t hide behind what could have been the convenient excuse of saying he was hurt.

“One of the things was you get a little cold and you gain a little weight,” said Suggs about the second half of the season. “I probably put on a little too much weight down the stretch there. But that was one of my big focuses going into this year. Definitely, if I keep my weight down, I can have a strong finish. I think I was pretty much healthy.”

Head coach John Harbaugh went out of his way to praise Suggs for his conditioning level upon reporting to Owings Mills earlier this week. The veteran linebacker likes the changes made to both sides of the ball, citing the positive vibe created by the hiring of new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak.

The linebacker also complimented the free-agent signing of veteran wide receiver Steve Smith, who isn’t afraid to ruffle some feathers like he did during Wednesday’s practice when he got into a scuffle with cornerback Lardarius Webb. It’s the kind of attitude that was lacking on the offensive side of the ball last season following the trade of wide receiver Anquan Boldin.

“It’s good to have that. We had it a few years ago in 81,” Suggs said. “And it’s good to have that fire back on that side of the ball, [to] have somebody who will go out there and jab back with us and compete.”

In addition to acquiring Smith and a few other veterans such as center Jeremy Zuttah and tight end Owen Daniels, the Ravens spent a large portion of their offseason re-signing their own players, including a four-year contract extension for Suggs. The deal did provide short-term relief in lowering his 2014 salary cap figure from $12.4 million to $7.8 million, but general manager Ozzie Newsome made a $16 million gamble in guaranteed money that Suggs’ second half last season was more of an aberration than a preview of what’s to come for a linebacker entering his 12th season.

So, who is the real Suggs at this stage of his career? The man who looked like a Defensive Player of the Year candidate while accumulating nine sacks in the first eight games last year or the worn-down player who failed to set the edge against the run and provided little pressure on the quarterback down the stretch?

The truth is likely somewhere in the middle, but Suggs appears determined to prove he’s closer to the player he was in the first half of the 2013 season based on what kind of shape he was in upon arriving at the team facility this week. And he made it clear he’s recommitted to just being himself after struggling to adjust to life without Lewis or Reed for the first time in his NFL career.

“You’re going to always have something to prove when you’re playing this game,” Suggs said. “You never want to hit your cruising altitude; you always want to be ascending with your game. You can always get better.”

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Lewis-Moore only new absence during Wednesday’s minicamp practice

Posted on 18 June 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens continued to have excellent attendance at their second day of mandatory minicamp as only five players were missing from the field on Wednesday.

Defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore was not present after leaving practice the day before with what appeared to be a left hamstring injury. He joined defensive tackle Terrence Cody (hip surgery), offensive linemen Jah Reid (calf) and Parker Graham (undisclosed), and wide receiver Kamar Aiken (lower leg) as non-participants on Wednesday.

Coach John Harbaugh said Tuesday that Reid’s calf strain continues to improve and that the fourth-year lineman will be ready for the start of training camp. Cody isn’t expected to return until camp.

Running back Bernard Pierce (shoulder surgery) once again took part in individual drills and is on track to be cleared fully by the start of camp in late July.

Asked if he was pleased with the conditioning level of veterans such as Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs who were not present for the previous three weeks of voluntary organized team activities, Harbaugh did not express any specific concerns in getting his first look at them this week.

“It’s hard to evaluate all that, but I’m certainly not disappointed in anybody,” Harbaugh said. “They all look good. If I was going to single a guy out, it would probably be Terrell Suggs. He can give you the numbers, but I’ll tell you this — the numbers were very good. You can tell he’s been working really hard.”

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Washington-Redskins-Helmet-

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Why The Redskins’ Name Debate Is Getting Ridiculous

Posted on 18 June 2014 by Brandon Sacks

In the NFL, no team has caused more of a disturbance than the Washington Redskins.  There has been a major discussion about the name of the franchise.  The name is considered to be a belittling term for Native Americans, and there has been a push to change it to something that is less controversial.  There has been a strong recommendation from many different people, including some Native American Tribes and the US Congress, to change the name.  The problem with this is the owner of the franchise.  Dan Snyder has made it very obvious that he has no intentions of changing the name, and he has been very adamant about that.

Earlier today, there was a serious blow to Snyder’s intentions.  The US Patent Office has officially cancelled the Redskins’ trademark, calling it disparaging to Native Americans.  This means that the Redskins organization no longer has control over the sale of merchandise for the team; some regular Joe Schmo can now sell merchandise with the Redskins name and logo on it without problems from the team.  Some have called this revocation the beginning of the end for the name of the franchise.

Everyone that is a fan of the sport is caught up in the situation in one way or another.  However, the reality of the situation is that it is absolutely ridiculous.  Dan Snyder has made it obvious that he has zero intention to change the name, yet people are still trying to convince him to do so.  This same exact revocation happened back in 1999 where they were denied trademarks, but the team won the appeal.  You can expect the same exact series of events to transpire.

Here’s another question that is brought up by the attack on the Redskins.  Why is it not acceptable for Washington to have this name when there are other teams that have potential derogatory names for Native Americans.  The Chicago Blackhawks, Cleveland Indians, and Atlanta Braves all are teams that have names derived from Native American culture, yet it is acceptable for them to have their names.  The Indians are even referred to as the Tribe, but people decide to look past this because it’s easier to gang up on the Redskins.

The Redskins are a privately owned company, yet people want to force the owner to change the name.  What about all of the state college and public high school teams that are subsidized by the federal government?  The reigning BCS National Champion Florida State Seminoles shouldn’t be exempt from this argument.  The William & Mary Tribe, who were the Indians until the mid-1980s, seem exempt from this whole debacle, yet the minute change doesn’t remove the ties to Native American culture.  What about in high school?  The oldest high school in Baltimore County, Franklin High School in Reisterstown, which has been around since 1820, is called the Indians.  None of these teams receive any criticism from the general public, yet the government has the power to make these schools change their names should they be found degrading.

What is is about the mob mentality that causes people to want to gang up on the Redskins?  There are other teams in all levels of sports that have names that could be equally offensive, yet people turn a blind eye.  By doing this, it only makes the arguments that are presented against Washington’s historic football franchise that much more laughable.  In this era of being politically correct about everything, you cannot judge one group without judging all of them.  People need to start using certain arguments with every single sports team, from recreational to professional, before this entire spectacle with the Redskins will change.  Until then, it will remain a huge joke.

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Ngata not dwelling on uncertain future with Ravens

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Ngata not dwelling on uncertain future with Ravens

Posted on 17 June 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata made it clear Tuesday he hopes to finish his career right where it started with the Ravens.

Whether that happens or not will largely hinge on how well the 30-year-old performs in his ninth season in Baltimore.

Under contract through the 2015 season, Ngata carries the second-highest cap figure of any defensive tackle in the league at $16 million this year. His cap figure remains the same next season, but the Ravens would stand to save $8.5 million in space should they elect to part ways with him after the 2014 season, making it highly unlikely they’ll simply allow the defensive lineman to play out the final year of his deal.

General manager Ozzie Newsome explored a contract extension this offseason to lower Ngata’s cap figure and afford him the opportunity to finish his career in Baltimore, but the sides didn’t get far when discussing how much additional money would be included in a new deal. It’s a strategy the organization executed with linebacker Terrell Suggs, who signed a four-year extension earlier this offseason to lower his 2014 cap number in the process.

“I would love to be a Raven for life,” Ngata said. “If we can get something done, that’d be great. We’ll just let my agent and Ozzie take care of that business off the field.”

Trying to determine Ngata’s value is a tricky proposition despite the 2006 first-round pick coming off his fifth straight invitation to the Pro Bowl. Nagging injuries over the last three seasons have limited his offseason preparation and in-season production, leading many to believe Ngata isn’t the same player who continues to receive the accolades. He has typically started each of the last few seasons well before fading down the stretch when physical ailments begin hindering him.

In 15 games last season, Ngata collected 52 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks, his lowest sack total since the 2009 season after three straight campaigns in which he collected five or more. According to Pro Football Focus, Ngata ranked 18th among all defensive tackles in the NFL last season as he received his fifth consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl.

Telling reporters and coach John Harbaugh this is the healthiest he’s been in several offseasons, Ngata envisions himself providing a greater presence as a pass rusher than he did a year ago. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 340 pounds, Ngata looks much like he did last year for the Ravens’ mandatory minicamp and did not attend the last three weeks of voluntary organized team activities.

“This year, I just tried to lose more body fat and just stay around the same weight,” said Ngata, who spent much of last offseason rehabbing the medial collateral ligament sprain that sidelined him in the second half of Super Bowl XLVII. “Towards the end of the season, I lost some strength, but [I'm] just trying to lose body fat and lean up a little bit more.”

A simple look at the last couple drafts indicate the Ravens are in the midst of rebuilding their defensive line. After selecting defensive tackle Brandon Williams in the third round of last year’s draft, Newsome took Florida State standout Timmy Jernigan in the second round this year as the pair will battle for the starting job vacated by free-agent departure Arthur Jones.

The Ravens envision Williams as a nose tackle, which would prompt defensive coordinator Dean Pees to slide Ngata back to the 3-technique tackle spot. However, Jernigan has a similar profile to Jones, which could keep Ngata at the nose position where he primarily played last season. Strong seasons from both Williams and Jernigan would enable the Ravens to take a strong stance as it relates to Ngata’s contract demands and future beyond 2014.

Jernigan is just one defensive lineman eager to soak up as much information as he can from the perennial All-Pro talent.

“It’s a blessing to play with another great defensive tackle,” Jernigan said. “It’s a defensive lineman’s dream to be able to play with a great player beside him. It definitely will take a whole bunch of pressure off me, and he’ll definitely be a great person to learn from.”

In the same way that Ngata learned from veterans such as Kelly Gregg and Trevor Pryce when arriving on the scene in 2006, the Ravens hope Ngata can help the likes of Jernigan, Williams, DeAngelo Tyson, Brent Urban, and Kapron Lewis-Moore take their play to the next level. Never one to be outspoken, the veteran acknowledged he might need to step outside his comfort zone to help lead such a young unit along with fellow veteran Chris Canty.

In reality, Ngata could find himself mentoring his imminent replacement with his future so cloudy beyond this season.

“Haloti is not going to change his personality,” Harbaugh said. “I have always felt like he was a great leader according to his personality. He works hard and he talks to the guys. He’ll continue to do what he’s always done. If he feels like he needs to talk a little more, it would be great.”

The biggest statement Ngata will need to make this season is with his play if he hopes to remain in Baltimore or at least put himself in optimum position for another payday on the open market if the Ravens deem his contract demands too expensive next winter.

No matter how much longer he remains with the Ravens, the league’s 12th-ranked defense from a year ago needs him to be a force in the trenches to take a significant step forward and get back to the postseason. And they’ll hope he recaptures his once-dominating form — and sustains it — with the benefit of a healthy offseason.

“I want to get better and better and try to at least get to double-digit sacks,” Ngata said. “That’s something I’ve never done. Hopefully, I can continue to get better and get to my goals.”

 

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Ravens waive 2013 draft pick Mellette, Hamilton at start of minicamp

Posted on 17 June 2014 by Luke Jones

On the same day they started their three-day mandatory minicamp, the Ravens announced they’ve waived wide receiver Aaron Mellette and linebacker Adrian Hamilton.

Both players failed their physicals prior to the start of camp.

“We’ll continue to monitor those guys in the next six weeks,” coach John Harbaugh said after Tuesday’s practice, “and see where they’re at.”

Mellette was a seventh-round in last year’s draft and initially made the 53-man roster at the end of the 2013 preseason before eventually being placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. Head coach John Harbaugh acknowledged earlier this spring that the Elon product was still dealing with soreness that had limited him at different times during the offseason work out program.

The Ravens signed Hamilton to their practice squad in 2012 after he collected an incredible 22 sacks for Prairie View A&M in his senior season. He was promoted to the active roster and appeared in two games at the end of that regular season, but a wrist injury landed Hamilton on IR late in the 2013 preseason.

Neither Mellette nor Hamilton was considered a future star by any means, but the Ravens had spoken highly of each player’s upside at various points over the last couple years, making their departure at this stage of the summer at least mildly surprising.

With the Ravens trying out veteran cornerbacks Drayton Florence, Aaron Ross, Marquice Cole, and Dominique Franks during this week’s minicamp, they now have two open spots on their 90-man roster to add a veteran or two to the mix.

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 17 June 2014 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: WNBA-Washington Mystics @ Atlanta Dream (Wednesday 12pm from Atlanta live on NBA TV), Washington Mystics @ Seattle Storm (Sunday 9pm from Seattle live on NBA TV); Boxing: Robert Guerrero vs. Yoshihiro Kamegai (Saturday 10pm from Carson, CA live on Showtime)

10. Chesapeake Crab & Beer Festival (Saturday Inner Harbor); Mike Epps (Friday 8pm Baltimore Arena); Bob Saget (Friday 8pm Warner Theatre); Hal Sparks (Thursday-Saturday Magooby’s Joke House); Mick Foley (Tuesday & Thursday DC Improv), Steve Rannazzisi (Friday & Saturday DC Improv); Jersey Boys” and “Think Like A Man Too” out in theaters (Friday); The Lego Movie” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” available on Blu-Ray/DVD (Tuesday)

Yes. You DO know Steve Rannazzisi.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLUaszCUPFo

Think Like A Man Too does not look like a film I’d enjoy viewing. This picture however does. Isn’t that odd?

9. Foreigner/Styx (Friday 7pm Jiffy Lube Live), Zac Brown Band (Sunday 7pm Jiffy Lube Live); John Butler Trio (Wednesday 7:30pm Wolf Trap), Daryl Hall & John Oates (Thursday 8pm Wolf Trap); Matisyahu (Friday 8pm Power Plant Live); Devo (Wednesday 8pm Rams Head Live), Hank 3 (Friday 9pm Rams Head Live); Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe (Saturday 9pm Baltimore Soundstage); Cara Kelly and the Tall Tale/The Herd of Main Street (Saturday 8pm 8×10 Club); Johnnyswim (Thursday 8pm Rams Head on Stage), Marc Broussard (Sunday 8pm Rams Head on Stage), Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (Monday 8pm Rams Head on Stage); Scott Stapp (Tuesday 8pm Howard Theatre); Kaiser Chiefs (Wednesday 7pm 9:30 Club); Bacon Brothers (Saturday-Monday 7:30pm Birchmere); Playing For Change (Tuesday 7:30pm The Hamilton); Robert Randolph & The Family Band (Saturday 5:45pm National Capital BBQ Battle); Steve Aoki (Saturday 9pm Echostage); Willie Nelson “Band of Brothers”, Linkin Park “The Hunting Party”, Sam Smith “In The Lonely Hour” and David Gray “Mutineers” available (Tuesday)

I enjoy the work of the Zac Brown Band.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5ISTO6GiLk

The Herd of Main Street is a talented band from this area that you should REALLY BE LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjqQ__Sb3uA

Hey look! It’s both Johnnyswim AND Daryl Hall!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fuq8A883nFQ

Marc Broussard is deliciously Broussardian.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4c5y_OTU78Q

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ravens showing interest in veteran cornerback options

Posted on 16 June 2014 by Luke Jones

Hoping to boost their cornerback depth before the start of the 2014 season, the Ravens are reportedly taking a looking at a couple veteran options this week.

Former New York Giants cornerback Aaron Ross posted on his official Twitter account that he would be coming to Baltimore where he will receive a tryout. The 31-year-old played in just four games due to a back injury last year and has 11 interceptions in his seven-year career, which includes 52 starts.

Ravens secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo coached Ross in his first two NFL seasons in New York and is obviously familiar with his skills despite his increasing age.

According to The Sun, the Ravens will also try out former Carolina Panthers cornerback Drayton Florence, who is entering his 12th NFL season and has spent time with five teams in his career. The 33-year-old played in 14 games for Carolina’s sixth-ranked pass defense last year.

Veteran cornerbacks Marquice Cole and Dominique Franks will also reportedly try out at this week’s minicamp.

Following the free-agent departure of Corey Graham, the Ravens have expressed confidence in Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson, but the addition of a veteran would figure to benefit the battle for the No. 3 corner spot behind starters Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb.

The Ravens are also reportedly interested in former Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers, but a number of teams have shown interest, according to The Sun.

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Brigance named PFWA’s 2014 George Halas Award winner

Posted on 16 June 2014 by WNST Staff

BALTIMORE RAVENS SENIOR ADVISOR TO PLAYER DEVELOPMENT O.J. BRIGANCE SELECTED AS PFWA’S 2014 GEORGE HALAS AWARD WINNER

Baltimore Ravens senior advisor to player development O.J. Brigance, whose continuing battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease) serves as an inspiration to many and who has helped raise research funds to fight the disease via his Brigance Brigade foundation, has been selected as the 2014 George Halas Award winner by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA).

Brigance, the 45th Halas Award winner, is the first member of the Ravens franchise to receive the honor from the PFWA.

The Halas Award is given to a NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed. The award is named for Halas, a charter member (1963) of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, who was associated with the Chicago Bears and NFL from their inception in 1920 until his death in 1983 as an owner, manager, player and promoter. Halas won 324 games and six NFL titles in 40 seasons as a coach.

In May 2007, Brigance was diagnosed with ALS. He partnered with the Johns Hopkins University Packard Center for ALS Research and became their ALS ambassador. In 2008, the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation saluted him with the Johnny Unitas Tops in Courage Award for his strength in his ALS battle. He earned an 2008 Emmy Award as the host of the team’s weekly TV show, “Ravens Report”.

He was the honorary chair of the annual Fiesta 5K run six times (2008-13), and the event raised over $1 million in those six years for the Packard Center. He established his own foundation, the Brigance Brigade (brigancebrigade.org), to raise awareness and money for ALS research and patient services. The foundation hosted a 5.7k (his NFL uniform number) run in Baltimore this spring that raised $110,000.

Brigance continues to work for the Ravens as senior advisor to player development. He works closely with director of player development Harry Swayne to assist Ravens players with each career phase.

Brigance, who just completed his 10th season in the Ravens front office, played seven years with three NFL teams (Miami, Baltimore and St. Louis) and five years in the Canadian Football League with the British Columbia Lions and the Baltimore Stallions as a linebacker. Brigance earned two championship rings as a player, both in Baltimore (a CFL Grey Cup ring with the Stallions in 1995 and the Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV) and one as a front office member with the Ravens for Super Bowl XLVII.

Brigance retired after the 2002 season, and he joined the Ravens front office in 2004 as the club’s director of player development. His department was selected as the NFL’s 2005 and 2006 Best Overall Player Development Program, the 2005 Most Outstanding Internship Program and the 2007 Outstanding Continuing Education Program. Brigance’s wife, Chanda, facilitated the Lady Ravens Association, coordinating involvement for the players’ and coaches’ spouses and significant others for many years.

“O.J. Brigance is the most influential person in our organization,” said Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. “In a building of strong men, he is the strongest we have. You are energized each and every day to see how he attacks every day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind, and we are blessed to have such an inspiring man with us every day.”

ABOUT THE PFWA: The Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA) is the official voice of pro football writers, promoting and fighting for access to NFL personnel to best serve the public. The PFWA is made up of accredited writers who cover the NFL and the 32 teams on a daily basis. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter, who covers the Atlanta Falcons, is the organization’s president for 2013-15, while ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold, who covers the Denver Broncos, is the PFWA’s first vice-president and long-time national writer Dan Pompei is the organization’s second vice-president. Follow the PFWA at ProFootballWriters.org and on Twitter at @PFWAwriters.

GEORGE HALAS AWARD WINNERS (To the NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed): 1970 – Joe Namath (New York Jets); 1971 – Gale Sayers (Chicago Bears); 1972 – Tom Dempsey (New Orleans Saints); 1973 – Jimmy Johnson (San Francisco 49ers); 1974 – Mike Tilleman (Atlanta Falcons); 1975 – Dick Butkus (Chicago Bears); 1976 – Billy Kilmer (Washington Redskins); 1977 – Tom DeLeone (Cleveland Browns); 1978 – Pat Fischer (Washington Redskins); 1979 – Bert Jones (Baltimore Colts); 1980 – Roger Staubach (Dallas Cowboys); 1981 – Rolf Benirschke (San Diego Chargers); 1982 – Joe Klecko (New York Jets); 1983 – Eddie Lee Ivery (Green Bay Packers); 1984 – Ted Hendricks (Los Angeles Raiders); 1985 – John Stallworth (Pittsburgh Steelers); 1986 – Gary Jeter (Los Angeles Rams); 1987 – William Andrews (Atlanta Falcons); 1988 – Joe Montana (San Francisco 49ers); 1989 – Karl Nelson (New York Giants); 1990 – Tim Krumrie (Cincinnati Bengals); 1991 – Dan Hampton (Chicago Bears); 1992 – Mike Utley (Detroit Lions); 1993 – Mark Bavaro (Cleveland Browns); 1994 – Joe Montana (San Francisco 49ers); 1995 – Dan Marino (Miami Dolphins); 1996 – Larry Brown (Oakland Raiders); 1997 – Jim Harbaugh (Indianapolis Colts); 1998 – Mark Schlereth (Denver Broncos); 1999 – Dan Reeves (Atlanta Falcons); 2000 – Bryant Young (San Francisco 49ers); 2001 – Kerry Collins (New York Giants); 2002 – Garrison Hearst (San Francisco 49ers); 2003 – Robert Edwards (Miami Dolphins); 2004 – Sam Mills (Carolina Panthers); 2005 – Mark Fields (Carolina Panthers); 2006 – Tony Dungy (Indianapolis Colts); 2007 – Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints); 2008 – Kevin Everett (Buffalo Bills); 2009 – Matt Bryant (Tampa Bay Buccaneers); 2010 – Mike Zimmer (Cincinnati Bengals); 2011 – Mike Heimerdinger (Tennessee Titans); 2012 – Robert Kraft (New England Patriots); 2013 – Chuck Pagano (Indianapolis Colts); 2014 – O.J. Brigance (Baltimore Ravens).

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Kubiak in learning mode as much as Ravens players this spring

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Kubiak in learning mode as much as Ravens players this spring

Posted on 10 June 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the Ravens trying to revamp the NFL’s 29th-ranked offense from a year ago, the focus has fallen on quarterback Joe Flacco and his teammates trying to learn Gary Kubiak’s system this spring.

But as players try to grasp the terminology and master the precision and timing of the West Coast offense, the Ravens’ new offensive coordinator is doing plenty of his own learning during organized team activities. Kubiak spent the offseason learning as much as he could about his new personnel, but the former Houston Texans head coach is using spring practices to determine players’ strengths and weaknesses within his system.

The current objective is more about experimentation than perfection with the start of the season still three months away.

“I think that’s been my challenge right now as a coach — to watch,” Kubiak said. “I’m throwing the kitchen sink at them, and then I have to kind of watch and see what sticks and what they do best. When we come back for [training] camp, I’ll probably have to cut some things down, but they’ve been very receptive. We have plenty of time from a teaching standpoint, plenty of time on the field.”

Of course, Kubiak hasn’t started with a clean slate in terms of learning his players as he’s been reunited with wide receiver Jacoby Jones, who had a strong relationship with the coach in Houston. General manager Ozzie Newsome also added tight end Owen Daniels and running back Justin Forsett, two former Houston Texans with experience playing in Kubiak’s system.

Those players have acted as a tutoring system for the likes of wide receivers Torrey Smith and Steve Smith, tight end Dennis Pitta, and running backs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce as they try to grasp a new playbook.

“There are a few people in each place that kind of know the way I’ve done things and how I do things,” Kubiak said. “Jacoby has been a big asset, Owen’s been a big asset with Dennis, and Justin’s been a big asset with Ray. I think the way things got situated before we got to work has been a big positive.”

The vision of Kubiak’s West Coast attack has been evident during OTAs as the passing game has been centered around shorter routes based on timing, quite a shift from the emphasis on the vertical passing game that existed under former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron in Flacco’s first five seasons. The deep ball will still be a factor with Flacco’s arm strength and speedy options such as Torrey Smith and Jones on the outside, but Steve Smith and Pitta will be the focal points in the short-to-intermediate passing game.

The 35-year-old Smith will be of particular interest during training camp as the Ravens view him as more of a possession receiver, which is a departure from his reliance on speed and playing outside throughout his career.

The timing and precision of Kubiak’s system requires quarterbacks to have exceptional footwork, making that one of the biggest points of emphasis for Flacco this spring beyond the mastery of the playbook and learning the responsibilities of every other player on the field. That focus has allowed Kubiak to develop a new appreciation for the seventh-year quarterback, who isn’t exactly known around the league for his mobility.

“I knew he had a big arm, but I had no idea how good of an athlete he is,” Kubiak said. “[He is] a very good athlete. The things we like to do, [moving] around, the zone-pass schemes that we like to run, I think fit to a lot of his strengths. We just need to continue to get better at them. But his progress and where he’s at right now, I couldn’t be happier.”

The Baltimore offense remains a work in progress with questions still surrounding the state of the offensive line as the right tackle position remains up for grabs and new center Jeremy Zuttah continues to adjust to his new surroundings. The group appears promising on paper, but offensive line coach Juan Castillo’s ability to teach Kubiak’s zone-blocking system will be scrutinized after a 2013 season that was nothing short of disastrous in terms of line play.

As Kubiak pointed out on Tuesday, plenty of time remains to work out the details — like how to handle the running back position with Rice all but guaranteed to be suspended to start the season — but the Ravens are using spring practices to mold a vision of what the offense will look like with new pieces and a new philosophy in place.

“That’s my challenge right now. Finding out what we do best and making sure I don’t overload them,” Kubiak said. “But I did think it was very important that we challenge them mentally as well as physically, especially throughout the course of OTAs. I told them that. I said, ‘Guys, I’m going to throw a lot at you. We need to go make some mistakes, but let’s go make them hard. We’ll figure it out and make sure on opening day we’re doing what we do best.’”

Tuesday practice attendance

With the Ravens in the midst of their final week of voluntary OTAs, a number of veteran players were absent from the field on Tuesday including linebackers Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, and Daryl Smith, defensive linemen Haloti Ngata and Chris Canty, and offensive linemen Eugene Monroe and Marshal Yanda.

Others missing from practice included defensive tackle Terrence Cody (hip surgery), offensive lineman Jah Reid (calf strain), and wide receivers Kamar Aiken and Jace Davis.

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Osemele biggest key to Ravens fixing offensive line

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Osemele biggest key to Ravens fixing offensive line

Posted on 04 June 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It was a year ago when the only question about Ravens offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele was whether he would become a Pro Bowl left guard in his second season in the NFL.

The expectations were high for the 2012 second-round pick after his successful shift to left guard was part of a offensive line shuffle that helped catapult the Ravens in a run to their Super Bowl XLVII championship. Osemele had played admirably at right tackle during his rookie season, but his postseason work inside made most think he was ready to take off in his second year.

Instead, a debilitating back injury led to poor play and, eventually, season-ending surgery while the offensive line crumbled with too many question marks all over. Now recovered and participating fully during voluntary organized team activities this spring, Osemele sees no reason why the lofty goal of making the Pro Bowl should be any different as he returns from surgery to repair a herniated disk.

“That’s always going to be the expectation for me as a player,” Osemele said. “Knowing the ability that I have and my work ethic, I feel like I would be an underachiever if that wasn’t my goal.”

With uncertainty lingering at right tackle after the Ravens re-signed left tackle Eugene Monroe and acquired veteran center Jeremy Zuttah this offseason to reshape their offensive line, Osemele is the linchpin of the group as he is currently slated to be the starting left guard. However, his versatility leaves the door open for the third-year lineman to shift back to right tackle should 2013 draft picks Rick Wagner and Ryan Jensen fail to play well enough to win the job and general manager Ozzie Newsome chooses not to sign a veteran.

Putting aside the right tackle battle, the Ravens are still putting plenty of faith in Osemele regaining the form of his rookie year, even after the positive reviews and the way he’s looked during spring workouts in which players practice in helmets, jerseys, and shorts. They know the true test won’t come until training camp when players are in full pads and experiencing full contact. The organization will then see how well Osemele holds up against the likes of hefty defensive linemen Haloti Ngata, Timmy Jernigan, and Brandon Williams in practices.

“As far as explosiveness, it’s hard to gauge that for any player, because we’re not hitting out here,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I don’t think you can really evaluate the power that a guy has, but I don’t doubt that it’s in there with him if you just watch the way he moves. He looks good. He’s going to be a lot better than he was last year.”

The Ravens and Osemele hope his best play has yet to come as he initially sustained the back injury during his collegiate days at Iowa State. The combination of him and Monroe on the left side of the offensive line is formidable on paper as Monroe’s athleticism at the left tackle spot is complemented well by Osemele’s combination of power and agility from the interior.

But the recovering lineman acknowledged the changes he’s been forced to make in his training regimen after last fall’s surgery. He is no longer permitted to perform any lifting over his head or squats as he focuses more closely on core training and flexibility than he did in the past.

The preexisting back condition that he had managed for years worsened last offseason when he trained too hard with thoughts of the Pro Bowl on his mind. And it showed in his diminished performance that was limited to just seven games before he was placed on season-ending injured reserve and underwent surgery in November.

“I didn’t train very smart,” Osemele said. “It was definitely on me [and] the way that I had been training, obviously, without knowledge of how bad that it was and then throughout the season getting those multiple MRIs, and seeing the condition worsen and already being at a point where you have to [play] because you’ve been taking all the reps. I ate up all the reps and then couldn’t play to my ability.”

An offensive line that was already struggling took further lumps with Osemele sidelined as the undersized A.Q. Shipley filled in at left guard next to new starting center Gino Gradkowski, giving the Ravens major problems inside as their running game and pass protection could never get on track during a disappointing 8-8 season.

The question of what player will line up at right tackle isn’t one that figures to be resolved anytime soon, but Osemele’s return to the mix will ease the concerns of the entire organization. The Ravens saw more than enough during his rookie season to feel confident that Osemele can be an anchor of the offensive line as long as the back is no longer an issue.

He said Wednesday that he hasn’t felt this healthy and strong since his first year or two of college.

“He’s back to his usual self, running around,” Monroe said. “[He is] one of the best-conditioned guys on the field, just grinding and trying to get better. We are even having to slow him down a little bit because it has been a while since he played, and we have certain rules we have to follow right now. We’re just working together every day. I’m glad he’s right next to me, I really am.”

On Wednesday, Harbaugh reiterated the preference of Osemele staying at left guard next to Monroe while the Ravens solve the puzzle at the right tackle spot. Even if they don’t find a great answer at that position, there are plenty of ways for offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak to scheme help in protection to account for vulnerability on the right side.

One weak link on the offensive line can be overcome, but the Ravens cannot afford to be vulnerable at multiple spots like they were last season, making it critical that Osemele is once again the player that dominated defensive linemen in the 2012 postseason while helping the organization win its second Super Bowl title. He’s the most important variable in determining whether the unit makes substantial improvement or once again struggles this season.

Whether it’s ultimately at left guard or right tackle, Osemele needs to be a force.

“We can’t lock ourselves into saying one thing or another, because we just don’t know how it’s going to play out,” Harbaugh said. “[Osemele] gives us flexibility because he can move out to tackle, but I sure like the way he and Eugene look over on that left side. That’s the direction we’re heading right now and hopefully we can maintain that course.”

Wednesday OTA attendance

There were more veterans absent for Wednesday’s workout than at last week’s workout that was open to reporters as Ngata, linebackers Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, and Daryl Smith, defensive end Chris Canty, and guard Marshal Yanda were not on the field.

Ngata, Suggs, and Canty were the only veterans not present last Thursday.

Defensive tackle Terrence Cody (hip surgery) and offensive lineman Jah Reid (calf strain) remained sidelined as they continue to rehab injuries. Rookie wide receiver Michael Campanaro (hamstring) returned to the practice field after he’d been sidelined since his first week with the organization.

Running back Bernard Pierce (shoulder surgery) and rookie defensive end Brent Urban (ankle surgery) were once again practicing after undergoing procedures earlier in the offseason.

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