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Eyes on Ravens running backs as preseason opener looms

Posted on 07 August 2016 by Luke Jones

Asked at the start of training camp about the possibility of the Ravens using a committee approach at running back this season, veteran Justin Forsett pretended not to understand what the concept meant.

Despite a collection of young and talented backs behind him on the depth chart, the 30-year-old isn’t ready to relinquish the starting role he worked so hard to secure two years ago when he gained a career-high 1,266 yards after years as an NFL journeyman. But he has his hands full this summer.

“Everybody wants to be on the field all the time,” said Forsett, who missed the final six games with a broken arm last season after a career year in 2014. “I want to put myself in a position where they can’t take me off the field. That is my mentality. At the end of the day, everybody has their role, and I’ll let [the coaches] decide that.”

Plenty of questions remain on both sides of the ball, but we’re unlikely to learn too much in the first preseason game about the wide receiver, tight end, and outside linebacker positions where multiple players remain sidelined with injuries. But running back is a different story with four healthy options vying for meaningful playing time while 2014 fourth-round pick Lorenzo Taliaferro remains on the physically unable to perform list.

Projected to be on the bubble this summer, Baltimore native Terrance West has been the most impressive running back in camp, which isn’t as much a knock on Forsett, Buck Allen, or Kenneth Dixon as it is a compliment to the urgency with which the Towson product has played. Fifteen pounds lighter than last year and showing improved vision and quickness, West is looking like the back the Cleveland Browns thought they were getting when they selected him in the third round of the 2014 draft.

Of course, it’s generally unwise to draw too many conclusions from training camp as veterans assured of roles are often pacing themselves while getting ready for the fall and unproven players are maximizing every rep to etch out a spot on the 53-man roster. At the very least, West has made himself arguably the most intriguing player to watch in Thursday’s preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers.

“He is just out there working hard and trying to get better,” offensive coordinator Marc Trestman said. “He is running hard. He is running aggressively. He has been much improved in terms of his understanding of pass protection, which is critical to getting him on the field. I feel a lot more comfortable with that. He has had a tremendous attitude in the classroom and on the field.”

West isn’t the only young back trying to push Forsett for playing time as Allen wants to build on a solid rookie season in which he rushed for 514 yards and collected an additional 353 yards as a receiver. A fourth-round selection in 2015, Allen has looked the part of a good change-of-pace receiver out of the backfield.

But he’s aiming for a bigger role in his second season after focusing on becoming more explosive this offseason. One of the questions about Allen as a rookie was his ability to consistently run between the tackles to be a productive every-down back.

He averaged 3.8 yards per carry in a season in which he started the final six games.

“Just be more physical. Run like you’re 220 [pounds], not 212,” Allen said. “That’s something I really took personal. Making that jump cut look clean, that’s something I worked on. Only time will tell.”

Until the last few days, it had largely been a three-man competition in the Baltimore backfield since Dixon, a fourth-round rookie from Louisiana Tech, suffered a minor knee injury on the first day of camp. However, he returned to the field late last week and turned in his best practice of the summer at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday night, flashing his skills as a receiver and some impressive moves in the open field.

Regarded by some as the second-best running back in this year’s draft behind fourth overall pick Ezekiel Elliott, Dixon averaged 11.1 yards per reception to go along with a stout 5.6 yards per carry over four collegiate seasons. His 87 career touchdowns briefly gave him the NCAA Division I record last December before it was quickly eclipsed by fellow Ravens draft pick Keenan Reynolds.

“He looked quick and sharp; he made good cuts,” head coach John Harbaugh said after Saturday’s practice. “I feel like he did a pretty good job of pass protection. We will have to see. That last third-down run was really a special run. It was good to see him out there. He has been chomping at the bit.”

The question all along has been whether Forsett will recapture his success from two years ago to cement his status as the starter or if a younger back will seize the job, but the Ravens hope a clear-cut No. 1 back will emerge to provide the offense a much-needed play-maker.

In the meantime, it’s hard to argue with Forsett’s impeccable character leading the young group as his willingness to help younger players is a trait he picked up from those who helped him early in his career when he was simply trying to survive in the NFL.

“I feel like me being here is greater than football,” Forsett said. “Anytime I can help and serve my teammates [and] allow them to be better, I’m all for it. When I got into the league, it was guys like T.J. Duckett, Maurice Morris, and Julius Jones that helped me along the way. Edgerrin James, those guys helped me be a pro and showed me the way.

“It is my duty to pass that on.”

He’s just not ready to pass on the starter’s workload yet.

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Stanley leaves Saturday’s practice with “soft tissue” injury

Posted on 06 August 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Inching closer to the first preseason game, the Ravens saw rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley leave the field with a “soft tissue” injury midway through Saturday’s practice at M&T Bank Stadium.

Head coach John Harbaugh would not disclose any other specifics about the injury, but Stanley is not expected to miss much time at this point. Baltimore’s preseason opener against Carolina is on Thursday night, so the 2016 first-round pick will only have a few days to recover if he’s to see action against the defending NFC champions.

Stanley’s status would certainly impact the decision of whether the Ravens will play starting quarterback Joe Flacco in the first preseason game, but the rookie wasn’t ruling out playing on Thursday and described himself as “perfectly fine” after practice.

“I’m not concerned,” said Stanley, who left the field with a member of the training staff after suffering the injury during a 1-on-1 drill. “Minor setback. It’s nothing major.”

With Stanley absent, the Ravens used rookie fourth-round pick Alex Lewis as their starting left tackle. Lewis has seen extensive time at guard this spring and summer, but he has played more tackle in recent days and received the nod over third-year tackle James Hurst when Stanley left the field.

Wide receiver Chris Matthews left the field shortly after practice began with what was also labeled a “soft tissue” injury.

“I don’t think they’re too serious,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll know more tomorrow. Just soft-tissue type issues.”

The Ravens started practice without 14 members of their 90-man roster. Cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (left leg) and Maurice Canady (undisclosed), wide receivers Chris Moore (foot) and Michael Campanaro, tight ends Dennis Pitta (finger) and Crockett Gillmore (hamstring), safety Matt Elam (undisclosed), and defensive linemen Timmy Jernigan (ribs) and Bronson Kaufusi (broken ankle) were not participating. Wide receivers Steve Smith (Achilles) and Breshad Perriman (knee), linebackers Terrell Suggs (Achilles) and Elvis Dumervil (foot), and running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot) remain on the active physically unable to perform list.

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Ravens unveil first depth chart ahead of preseason opener

Posted on 05 August 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens unveiled their first depth chart of the summer with very few surprises in relation to what we’ve witnessed in training camp so far.

The depth chart reflects players currently on the physically unable to perform list, which explains why the likes of Steve Smith, Terrell Suggs, and Elvis Dumervil are listed at the end of their position groups. In most cases, reserve players behind the projected starters are listed by seniority.

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The listed starting offensive line is exactly what we’ve seen at most practices in the spring and summer with rookie first-round tackle Ronnie Stanley set to protect Joe Flacco’s blindside and third-year lineman John Urschel still the favorite to take Kelechi Osemele’s old left guard spot.

Of course, the wide receiver position is difficult to project with Smith and 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman still on the PUP list, but Michael Campanaro has practiced well while staying healthy so far, making a strong case to see time in the slot. Maxx Williams being listed fourth among the tight ends reflects how deep that position is.

Buck Allen is listed as the primary backup to Justin Forsett at running back, but Terrance West can further improve his case for a bigger role if he can build on an impressive training camp with good showings in the preseason.

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With Suggs and Dumervil still absent, Za’Darius Smith and Albert McClellan have handled starting outside linebacker duties in training camp. It will be interesting to see if McClellan remains at the “Sam” linebacker spot when Dumervil and Suggs return or whether Smith will slide over to that spot. The Ravens would like to see Dumervil return to his previous role as a situational pass rusher, but it’s unclear if Suggs will still be a three-down linebacker coming back from his second Achilles injury in four years.

The Ravens are listing veteran Zach Orr ahead of rookie Kamalei Correa as the starting weak-side inside linebacker, but the 2016 second-round pick has received more reps with the base defense during training camp. The nickel package has featured Orr entering at inside linebacker with Correa shifting to the edge.

Veteran Kyle Arrington is currently ahead of Will Davis and rookie Tavon Young on the depth chart, but that appears to be a nod to the veteran more than a reflection of what we’ve seen during camp.

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As for special teams, Kaelin Clay is the early leader to be the return specialist, but Campanaro remains in the mix as the Ravens try to keep him healthy. Former Navy star and sixth-round pick Keenan Reynolds has struggled to consistently catch punts and has a lot of ground to make up over the next few weeks. Young has shown impressive speed as a potential kick returner.

It’s important not to read too much into the first depth chart, especially once moving past the first and second units. The depth chart is composed by the Ravens’ public relations staff, but it is based on practice and game reps, giving fans and media a worthwhile snapshot.

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Veterans rest as Ravens continue countdown to preseason opener

Posted on 05 August 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With their first preseason game now less than a week away, the Ravens rested a number of veterans during Friday’s practice.

However, that list did not include starting quarterback Joe Flacco, who continues to ease any lingering concerns about the health of his surgically-repaired left knee. The 31-year-old has yet to miss a practice this summer despite undergoing ACL reconstruction surgery just eight months ago.

It remains to be seen whether Flacco will play in Thursday’s preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers, but the Ravens are pleased with where the ninth-year quarterback is from a football standpoint despite him missing all spring workouts and their June minicamp while rehabbing.

“It is obvious he has spent time on his own getting himself ready,” offensive coordinator Marc Trestman said. “He is certainly ready mentally. Each and every day, he is just working to try and get better, and we are seeing a lot of productivity out here. It is good stuff.”

A total of 18 players were missing from the field at the start of Friday’s practice with wide receiver Kamar Aiken, running back Justin Forsett, safety Eric Weddle, linebacker Albert McCellan, tight end Benjamin Watson, and offensive linemen Jeremy Zuttah and Marshal Yanda presumably receiving the day off as veterans with no known injury concerns.

Players absent because of injuries included tight ends Dennis Pitta (finger) and Crockett Gillmore (hamstring), defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (ribs), wide receiver Chris Moore (foot), cornerback Maurice Canady, and defensive end Bronson Kaufusi (broken ankle). Wide receivers Steve Smith (Achilles) and Breshad Perriman (knee), linebackers Terrell Suggs (Achilles) and Elvis Dumervil (foot), and running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot) remain on the active physically unable to perform list and have yet to practice this summer.

Safety Matt Elam was on the field for the start of practice before leaving the field and not returning. He appeared limited during Thursday’s practice with an unknown ailment.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith was having one of his best practices of camp before he began favoring his left leg toward the end of Friday’s workout. The defensive back broke up a deep ball intended for speedy receiver Mike Wallace in a 1-on-1 drill and broke up another pass later in the day.

Camp highlights

One of the top plays of the day was an impressive connection from Flacco to second-year tight end Maxx Williams with linebacker C.J. Mosley in tight coverage down the middle of the field. The quarterback threw slightly behind Williams in order to fit the ball into a tight window and the 2015 second-round pick made a strong catch.

Williams has quietly had a solid camp despite a few veterans being ahead of him in the pecking order.

Currently atop the depth chart as the Ravens’ primary return specialist, Kaelin Clay flashed skills as a receiver with a great touchdown catch on a back-shoulder throw from backup quarterback Ryan Mallett and brought in another good catch later in practice. However, he dropped an easy one during an 11-on-11 drill.

Safety Terrence Brooks has a lot to prove after an underwhelming start to his NFL career, but he had a strong day, intercepting a Mallett pass that went off the hands of tight end Darren Waller and stripping the ball from running back Terrance West as the whistle blew to conclude a non-live play.

Waller later beat coverage from linebacker Kamalei Correa to catch a touchdown pass from Flacco on a deep corner route.

Late teammate remembered

A number of Ravens players including Perriman, Forsett, Kendrick Lewis, Julian Wilson, and Anthony Levine used Twitter to remember late teammate Tray Walker, who would have celebrated his 24th birthday on Friday.

The young cornerback tragically died from injuries sustained in a motorbike accident in March.

The Ravens have not issued his No. 25 jersey this summer.

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Ravens lose rookie defensive end Kaufusi for season

Posted on 04 August 2016 by Luke Jones

(Photo courtesy of BaltimoreRavens.com)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A week into training camp, the Ravens have suffered their first season-ending injury of the summer as rookie defensive end Bronson Kaufusi broke his left ankle on Thursday.

Kaufusi, 25, sustained the injury when another player fell into his lower leg during a “thud” drill in which players aren’t supposed to go to the ground. The third-round pick from Brigham Young could not put any weight on the leg and left the field on a cart midway through the morning session.

“You do everything you can to keep players off the ground, but sometimes guys fall and that’s what happened with Bronson,” Harbaugh said. “I’m sure he’ll be out for the year.”

The 6-foot-6, 285-pound defensive lineman was competing with veterans Lawrence Guy and Brent Urban for playing time at the 5-technique defensive end position after veteran Chris Canty was cut in the offseason. Kaufusi had been mostly working with the second and third defensive units over the first week of training camp.

He missed spring workouts and June’s minicamp with a back injury.

“It will be an opportunity for him to take the next year and go to work on his body, go to work and become a mature NFL football player physically,” Harbaugh said. “He’s young. He needs a lot of work on his lower body, strength-wise and flexibility-wise.

“He was playing well, but he’s only going to be better next year.”

Kaufusi’s absence will likely improves the roster chances of fourth-year defensive lineman Kapron Lewis-Moore, who has had a good start to the summer.

This marks the third straight season in which the Ravens have dealt with at least one serious injury at the 5-technique spot during training camp. Urban suffered a torn ACL and Lewis-Moore tore his Achilles tendon in 2014, and the former tore his biceps last summer before eventually returning to action in November.

In 50 career games at BYU, Kaufusi started 37 games and accumulated 26 1/2 sacks, five forced fumbles, and two interceptions.

INJURY NOTES: Cornerback Will Davis (knee) and running back Kenneth Dixon (knee) both returned to the practice field on Thursday with the latter only working on a limited basis. … Safety Lardarius Webb and wide receiver Michael Campanaro received the day off. … Wide receivers Steve Smith (Achilles), Breshad Perriman (knee), and Chris Moore (foot), running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot), cornerback Maurice Canady, linebackers Terrell Suggs (Achilles) and Elvis Dumervil (foot), tight ends Crockett Gillmore (hamstring) and Dennis Pitta (finger), and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (ribs) remained out of practice.

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Ravens cornerback Smith feeling “way better” than he did in 2015

Posted on 03 August 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith made it a point not to talk about his surgically-repaired right foot last season.

Despite starting all 16 games after missing the second half of 2014 with a Lisfranc injury and the subsequent surgery, Smith’s play fell off in 2015 as he ranked 77th among qualified NFL cornerbacks in Pro Football Focus’ grading system. Not wanting to make excuses last season but acknowledging he felt discomfort throughout the campaign, the 28-year-old had the surgical screws removed from his foot this spring in hopes that he will finally get back to being the player he was two years ago.

In 2015, Smith made 54 tackles, broke up 10 passes, and grabbed three interceptions — returning one for a touchdown in the 2015 season opener — but he struggled going up against the opposition’s No. 1 receiver on a weekly basis.

“I feel way better than I did last year,” said Smith, who signed a four-year, $41 million contract extension through the 2019 season last spring. “My foot is not even close to what it was last year. Now, it’s just getting back and knocking some rust off, but I feel good.”

Trying to rebound from a 5-11 season in which they set a single-season franchise low for interceptions with only six and ranked 27th in opponent passer rating, the Ravens are counting on Smith to bounce back in a major way. With pass rushers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil both on the wrong side of 30, Baltimore needs Smith as well as nose tackle Brandon Williams and inside linebacker C.J. Mosley to lead its next great defensive unit.

It’s been a quiet start to training camp for Smith, who missed spring workouts while recovering from the procedure and gave up a long touchdown to rookie Chris Moore on the second day of practice. The 2011 first-round pick has allowed some other completions here and there, but getting back to top form in time for the Sept. 11 opener is the primary goal.

Head coach John Harbaugh credited Smith’s determination in competing last season despite being at less than full strength and pointed out the unique challenge of playing the cornerback position where every mistake is magnified.

“It’s not like another position when you’re in the trenches and nobody sees it,” Harbaugh said. “For a corner not to be 100 percent — not to be as fast or as quick — is tough. That’s where we’ve got to get him to, and he’s working to get there. He’s 100 percent healthy. Now, if we can get all of the quickness, and the speed, and change of direction back to where it was, then we’ll have the Jimmy Smith that we all know.”

Harbaugh defends Richardson

The Ravens elected to move on from injured running back Trent Richardson on Tuesday, but Harbaugh went out of his way to defend the 2012 first-round pick, who has faced plenty of ridicule as his NFL career has fallen apart over the last few years.

“He’s definitely still on our radar. It’s amazing to me the vitriol and, really, the hate out there that people want to put out,” Harbaugh said. “All he’s done is come in here and work as hard as he can, and he’s got a [recovery from knee surgery], and we’re making a roster decision. He’s done nothing wrong. He’s still trying very hard. He’s just a young guy who’s trying his best to make it in this league. Because he was a top pick, I know that that definitely comes with more scrutiny.

“Certainly he understands that and he handles it really well, but he’s a good person, he wants to do well, and he’s a hard worker. There’s a possibility that sometime, someway, some fashion, he could come back here or somewhere else in the league.”

Of course, the Ravens frequently say they are leaving the door open for departed players to return in the future, but they currently have a 90-man roster with numerous individuals having no real chance of making the regular-season roster and still elected to let Richardson go.

Richardson went unclaimed off waivers on Wednesday.

Injury report

Twelve players currently on the 90-man roster did not practice on Wednesday including tight ends Dennis Pitta (finger) and Crockett Gillmore (hamstring), wide receiver Chris Moore (foot), defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (ribs), cornerbacks Will Davis (undisclosed) and Maurice Canady (undisclosed), and running back Kenneth Dixon (knee).

Wide receivers Steve Smith (Achilles) and Breshad Perriman (knee), linebackers Terrell Suggs (Achilles) and Elvis Dumervil (foot), and running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot) remain on the active physically unable to perform list and have yet to practice during training camp.

Roster moves

With Dixon and Taliaferro still sidelined because of injuries, the Ravens were light at the running back position and signed Stephen Houston on Wednesday. The former undrafted free agent out of Indiana spent time with New England and Pittsburgh during training camp two years ago.

The Ravens waived left-footed punter Michael Palardy to make room on the roster.

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Ten Ravens thoughts on first week of training camp

Posted on 02 August 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens approaching the end of their first week of training camp, I’ve offered 10 early thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Ravens have numerous injury questions, but Joe Flacco is looking less and less like one. Other than the brace on his left knee, you’d never know he’s eight months removed from surgery. He’s moving and throwing like he always did and says he’s not even thinking about the knee.

2. Everyone is rooting for Keenan Reynolds to make an impact after his brilliant career at Navy, but he’s a substantial work in progress. It’s still very early, but he hasn’t played with much confidence and has dropped more passes and kicks than you’d like to see even in practices.

3. With other running backs currently sidelined, Terrance West is taking advantage of the reps and has looked the part of a motivated young player vying for a significant role in the offense. West has shed 15 pounds from last season and is noticeably more explosive running the football.

4. After missing spring workouts to have the screws removed from his right foot, Jimmy Smith has had a quiet start. He hasn’t practiced poorly, but he’s still working his way back to full strength. The defense sorely needs him to return to his pre-surgery 2014 form this season.

5. An understated need in 2016 will be for Za’Darius Smith to become an impact player. He looks comfortable in pass coverage and has shown good pass-rush ability. If he can handle responsibilities formerly held by Pernell McPhee and Courtney Upshaw, less pressure falls on Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil.

6. Though Jerraud Powers remains the favorite to play slot cornerback in sub packages, rookie Tavon Young has displayed good ball skills and has shown good aggression in coverage. He also looked smooth and fast returning a kickoff at Monday’s stadium practice. He’s someone to watch in the preseason.

7. Much has been written about Kamalei Correa competing to start at inside linebacker next to C.J. Mosley, but he plays with an edge, evident by the skirmishes on Monday. The Ravens need more attitude and higher-end talent, and Correa has a chance to bring both to the defense.

8. It’s unclear how much time he’ll miss, but it was a shame to see rookie receiver Chris Moore walking with his left foot in a boot on Monday. It was only a couple practices, but his acceleration going after the deep ball reminds a little bit of Torrey Smith.

9. It was interesting to see Justin Tucker repeatedly pop kickoffs into the air that landed inside the 5-yard line on Monday. With touchbacks on kickoffs moving to the 25, John Harbaugh said this offseason that the Ravens could alter their approach instead of just booting it through the end zone.

10. Crockett Gillmore has a rare combination of size and quickness that is fun to watch, but you wonder if his physical style of play will continue hindering his durability. He’s already had quite a few injuries in two-plus years with a hamstring strain the latest ailment to sideline him.

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Pitta sprains finger, draws mocking from Flacco

Posted on 02 August 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — After what Dennis Pitta has been through over the last three years, no one would dare make fun of the Ravens tight end suffering another injury, serious or not.

That is, unless you’re Joe Flacco.

The quarterback couldn’t help but take a dig at his best friend on the team after Pitta sprained one of his right fingers in a scuffle with rookie linebacker Kamalei Correa on Monday night. Of course, the injury pales in comparison to the two devastating injuries to his right hip that have limited Pitta to seven games over the last three seasons.

“He got his little baby injury that he always gets at camp and gets himself out of a week in camp,” said Flacco as he cracked a big smile. “That’s better than breaking his hip though, so I’m cool with that. It will put him on the sideline for a little bit and protect him for a little bit.”

Pitta was nearby when Flacco spoke with reporters and was ready with a reply.

The two have underrated senses of humor not often revealed to the media.

“I heard Joe say, ‘It’s a good thing he didn’t break his hip,'” Pitta said, “which isn’t that funny, Joe.”

It was unusual to see both Pitta and Flacco involved in some of the many heated exchanges during Monday’s workout at M&T Bank Stadium as Correa got under the skin of a few offensive players with his physicality. Head coach John Harbaugh later sent linebacker Za’Darius Smith and offensive lineman Ryan Jensen off the field for fighting.

Considered one of the most mild-mannered players on the team, Pitta was asked when was the last time he’d gotten in a training camp scrum.

“In college,” said the seventh-year tight end from Brigham Young as he laughed. “Normally, I don’t have a lot of reasons to fight people, but I felt like there was a reason. Without going into detail, there was some after-the-whistle stuff that wasn’t necessary. Me and K.C. already talked about it, so we’re good.”

Shortly after the scrum with Pitta, Correa delivered a hard shot to wide receiver Mike Wallace, which prompted Flacco to get in the rookie’s face. The sight of the franchise quarterback being unhappy naturally made the Boise State product stand down.

So, what was Flacco’s message to Correa?

“Listen, I’m protected, man. I can say whatever I want to him because I’ve got a big army coming behind me,” said Flacco, trying to hold back laughter. “It wasn’t nice, but I really didn’t have to be scared with a big army coming behind me. I think he was too smart. I challenged him to see if he was willing to come after me a little bit and he made the right decision I think.”

Correa certainly did.

“He’s our quarterback, he’s our leader. I can’t say anything,” said Correa with a slight grin. “I’m just out there [and] he says something. He’s a captain. He’s a leader. He’s Joe Flacco.”

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Ravens complete heated practice at M&T Bank Stadium

Posted on 01 August 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Despite a light crowd at M&T Bank Stadium on Monday, there was no shortage of chippy behavior as the Ravens completed their most physical and heated practice of the summer to this point.

Upwards of a half-dozen scuffles took place as even the mild-mannered Dennis Pitta and Joe Flacco got into heated exchanges with rookie inside linebacker Kamalei Correa during 11-on-11 team drills. The veteran tight end took exception to Correa’s physicality through the end of a play while Flacco exchanged words with the 2016 second-round pick after he delivered a big pop to veteran wide receiver Mike Wallace a couple plays later.

“Normally, I don’t have a lot of reasons to fight people, but I felt like there was a reason,” said Pitta, who added that he hadn’t gotten in a training camp scrum since his college days. “Without going into detail, I think there was some after-the-whistle stuff that wasn’t necessary. Me and K.C. already talked about it, so we’re good.”

In the skirmish, Pitta suffered a sprained finger that will keep him sidelined for a short time, but he downplayed the severity of the injury.

The tipping point of the extracurricular activity occurred later in the practice session when outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith took a swing at offensive lineman Ryan Jensen, prompting head coach John Harbaugh to send both players to the sideline. Harbaugh said he liked the physicality and spirit on display throughout the practice, but there’s a balance between competing until the end of the play and doing something to jeopardize your team in a real game.

“You have to know where to draw the line,” Harbaugh said. “It is between the lines. It is between the whistles and between your ears. That’s where the game is played. You understand that is where the physicality happens — between the whistles. You have to know when to walk away, and you have to be smart.”

Other players involved in altercations included defensive linemen Lawrence Guy, Bronson Kaufusi, and Trevon Coley and offensive tackles De’Ondre Wesley and Stephane Nembot.

New grass receives good reviews

The new natural grass surface at M&T Bank Stadium was given its first real test on Monday night.

With the Ravens set to play on natural grass at the stadium for the first time since 2002, Harbaugh and countless players were pleased with the new field after the decision was made to abandon the artificial turf field at the end of last season. The Ravens will also change up their field paint design, replacing the midfield shield logo with the primary bird logo that adorns their helmets. One end zone will be painted with the word “Baltimore” and the other will have “Ravens.”

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(Field graphic courtesy of BaltimoreRavens.com)

The shield logo had been painted at midfield since the 2000 season.

Attendance report

Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda and wide receiver Michael Campanaro returned to action after receiving Sunday off. Cornerback Will Davis was the only new absence for the evening workout.

Players still absent from practice included wide receivers Chris Moore (foot), Breshad Perriman (knee), and Steve Smith (Achilles), running backs Kenneth Dixon (knee), Trent Richardson (knee), and Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot), cornerback Maurice Canady, linebackers Terrell Suggs (Achilles) and Elvis Dumervil (foot), tight end Crockett Gillmore (hamstring), and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (ribs).

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Wallace turns in strong performance after rough start to camp

Posted on 01 August 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Mike Wallace didn’t get off to the kind of start he envisioned in his first training camp with the Ravens, but the speedy receiver finally made his mark on Sunday.

Though initially failing his conditioning test and being quiet over his first couple practices, Wallace stood out with several receptions and beat Shareece Wright for a touchdown from Joe Flacco during a red-zone drill. With Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman currently sidelined with injuries, Wallace looked like the best receiver on the field for the Ravens on Sunday.

The strong showing came after a drop early in practice that drew an animated pep talk from head coach John Harbaugh. After only being able to work with Flacco in the meeting room during the spring, Wallace is relishing the opportunity to build a rapport with his new quarterback, who has returned to practice less than eight months removed from major knee surgery.

“I’m just trying to get better every day,” Wallace said. “Obviously, I’m on a new team, so I’m just trying to get comfortable with my quarterbacks — all of them, especially Joe. It’s just great to be out there with a guy who has been around for so long and just knows the game.”

Though failing the conditioning test wasn’t the best look for a veteran player in his first season with the Ravens, Wallace has made a good impression with coaches and teammates since signing a two-year, $11.5 million in March. He also downplayed the challenge of learning the Baltimore offense, noting that this is his sixth offensive system in the last six years.

Wallace hopes the latest change will bring a career renaissance after he was held to a career-low 473 receiving yards and two touchdowns in Minnesota last season. The 30-year-old made it no secret that working with the strong-armed Flacco was one of the biggest draws in deciding to come to Baltimore.

“Just seeing Joe is like, ‘This guy is really good,'” Wallace said. “The play-calling is just aggressive, and that’s what I was looking for. I’ve been on some great teams. My quarterbacks before were really good quarterbacks. I have no problems with those guys. It’s just this style of offense fits what I want to do.”

Sunday camp highlights

** After receiving the largest amount of guaranteed money for any kicker in NFL history earlier this month, Justin Tucker connected on a 69-yard field goal to conclude Sunday’s practice, which earned a chest bump from Harbaugh. The NFL record is a 64-yarder.

** Rookie inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor continues to turn heads with his physicality as he delivered a crushing blow to knock over defensive tackle Trevon Coley, who was holding a blocking pad during a kickoff coverage drill. Onwuasor later decked Kyle Juszczyk on a run play, which prompted the fullback to get up and push the 217-pound undrafted free agent from Portland State.

** It was another sloppy day for the offense as Kamar Aiken, Chris Matthews, Daniel Brown, and Wallace were among the receivers with drops. There were also a few quarterback-center exchange problems.

** Veteran safety Eric Weddle continues to impress as he made a nice breakup on a Flacco pass intended for Wallace on a deep out along the sideline.

** Wanting to see more interceptions in 2016 after the Ravens set a franchise worst with only six last year, secondary coach Leslie Frazier had an assistant hit tennis balls in the air for his defensive backs to practice catching in an unusual drill.

Injury report

Guard Marshal Yanda and wide receiver Michael Campanaro received the day off and did not practice.

Rookie cornerback Maurice Canady was the other new absence on Sunday, but Harbaugh would only say that he has a “little issue” that’s going to keep him out for “a little while.” The head coach said he will no longer describe player injuries or speculate about recovery timetables, citing what happened with Perriman last season.

Rookie receiver Chris Moore missed his second straight practice with what Harbaugh described as “a little tweak” that he’ll have to work on. Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (ribs) is “fine” despite missing Sunday’s workout, according to Harbaugh.

Others missing from Sunday’s practice included Perriman (knee) and Smith (Achilles), tight end Crockett Gillmore (hamstring), linebackers Terrell Suggs (Achilles) and Elvis Dumervil (foot), and running backs Kenneth Dixon (knee), Trent Richardson (knee), and Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot).

Super Bowl XXXV champions visit practice

The Ravens had two special visitors to Sunday’s practice as former head coach and current NFL Network analyst Brian Billick broadcasted live from Owings Mills and former Pro Bowl return specialist Jermaine Lewis was there with family.

Billick interviewed Harbaugh after practice while Lewis spent time chatting with Smith and Harbaugh.

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