Tag Archive | "NFL"


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Ravens bring food, support to west Baltimore

Posted on 30 April 2015 by Luke Jones

(Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens)

After many players spoke out against the violence in Baltimore earlier this week, the Ravens brought support and supplies to the west Baltimore area on Thursday morning.

Head coach John Harbaugh, former Ravens linebackers Ray Lewis and O.J. Brigance, and quarterback Joe Flacco were part of a group of 55 players and 30 organization volunteers. The group visited two elementary schools as well as Frederick Douglass High School, where Lewis gave an impassioned speech to students.

“We have an opportunity to change Baltimore,” said Lewis as CNN brought live coverage of his words. “If you want to make real change, be the example of change.”

Lewis elected to forgo his normal ESPN duties covering the NFL draft in Chicago in order to remain in Baltimore to offer support in such a trying time. Due to the citywide curfew, the Ravens were forced to cancel their Thursday night draft party at M&T Bank Stadium earlier this week.

It was hardly surprising, but the Ravens’ arrival in the community hit hardest by Monday’s rioting was the latest example to help justify the overwhelming support they’ve received from Baltimore and its fans for the last two decades.



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With many needs, Newsome, Ravens need to strike gold in 2015 draft

Posted on 30 April 2015 by Luke Jones

I’m intrigued and, frankly, surprised as the Ravens are only hours away from the 2015 draft.

No one should doubt the ability of general manager Ozzie Newsome to find talent in this year’s draft class — especially with 10 scheduled selections — but can you recall a year in recent memory in which the Ravens have had so many needs?

Wide receiver and tight end are the positions most glaring, but Baltimore also can’t afford to make the same mistake two years in a row by failing to add a No. 3 cornerback behind Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb, two players with injury history. That’s not counting the list of wants that includes a running back, an edge pass rusher, a safety, a run-stopping defensive tackle, and an interior offensive lineman.

A lot of holes to fill, no matter how well you evaluate talent.

As you’d expect, the Ravens will stay true to their draft board, creating an abundance of possibilities as they’re not scheduled to pick until 26th overall in the first round.

“We’ll value the board,” Newsome said earlier this month. “We’ll watch it very closely, and as we get close to our pick if there’s somebody that we really covet, then we’ll [move up] and get him. If not, we’ll just value all the guys that are available to us.”

All along, I expected the Ravens to swap a pick or two for a veteran player as they did last spring with the acquisition of starting center Jeremy Zuttah and two years ago with the in-season acquisition of starting left tackle Eugene Monroe. Of course, a move of that sort could still be in the works during the draft or even in the days after with the Ravens once again projected to net multiple compensatory picks next year.

But the Ravens appear too vulnerable at more than one spot, which is not a position you want to be in if you truly want to draft the best player available while minimizing the number of holes on your roster entering training camp.

“It would be really helpful for us to do that,” said head coach John Harbaugh last month about the desire to make more additions before the draft. “Obviously, the more you can add before the draft, it takes pressure off of the draft to chase a position need. The more we can do that, obviously, the better off we’ll be.”

The Ravens have signed safety Kendrick Lewis and backup quarterback Matt Schaub as their only notable additions of the offseason while they’ve lost defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, wide receiver Torrey Smith, rush specialist Pernell McPhee, tight end Owen Daniels, safety Darian Stewart, and backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor.

Wednesday’s ESPN report of Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett being on the trading block creates natural speculation that the Ravens could be in the mix. New Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman is obviously familiar with the 28-year-old, who had the best seasons of his NFL career playing under the former Bears head coach.

Armed with more than $10 million in cap space and needing a tight end, the Ravens might be willing and able to give Bennett the new contract he reportedly desires if they can pull off a trade. If possible, it would be wise to eliminate one of their biggest needs, especially at a position that’s thin in this year’s draft.

Otherwise, Newsome will need to be at his best — while having the board really cooperate — to address the Ravens’ biggest needs while also satisfying a few wants over the next three days.



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City curfew forces cancellation of Ravens draft party

Posted on 28 April 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens announced the cancellation of Thursday’s NFL draft party at M&T Bank Stadium in accordance with the citywide curfew set to go into effect Tuesday night.

With mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announcing a 10 p.m. curfew that is scheduled to last for a week, the organization elected to cancel the event scheduled to run from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday. For those who already bought tickets, automatic refunds will be issued via the method of payment used for the original purchase.

Questions concerning refunds can be directed to the Ravens’ ticket office at 410-261-7283.

The Ravens also announced that the team store outlet sale scheduled for this Saturday has been postponed and will be rescheduled for a later date.

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Ray Lewis forgoes ESPN draft coverage to remain in Baltimore

Posted on 28 April 2015 by Luke Jones

On the morning following one of the darkest days in Baltimore’s history that included over 200 arrests, 144 vehicle fires, 19 structure fires, and 15 police officers injured, one of the city’s iconic sports figures broke his silence.

After clamoring for the end of rioting on Tuesday morning via social media, future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis revealed he would forgo his role with ESPN covering Thursday’s NFL draft in Chicago to remain in Baltimore, the network announced.

“I felt that it was more important for me to stay in Baltimore and try to help the city I love,” Lewis said in a statement. “I greatly appreciate ESPN’s understanding and flexibility at this late date. I did not feel right leaving the city at this time.”

It remains unclear what Lewis intends to do in the coming days, but you likely won’t find a more influential figure to speak to the city’s youth after he became one of the most revered figures in Baltimore sports history over his 17-year career. Anyone taking issue with that sentiment because of Lewis’ history likely wouldn’t be part of the target audience anyway.

Lewis posted the following thoughts on his official Twitter account as well as a video to his official Facebook page:

I've got a message for the rioters in Baltimore.

Posted by Ray Lewis on Tuesday, April 28, 2015

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Tucker signs restricted tender with Ravens

Posted on 23 April 2015 by Luke Jones

Both of the Ravens’ restricted free agents are now reportedly under contract for the 2015 season as kicker Justin Tucker and safety Will Hill each signed their tenders on Thursday.

Baltimore announced that fourth-year kicker Justin Tucker signed his restricted second-round tender worth $2.356 million for the 2015 season. Other teams had the right to negotiate and sign the 2013 Pro Bowl kicker to an offer sheet, but the Ravens would have had the right to match the deal and would have received the team’s second-round pick if they had elected to pass.

The high price that Tucker would command in addition to the compensation always made it highly unlikely that another team would seriously pursue him. The attention will now shift to Tucker’s future beyond this season as the Ravens have made it clear that they’d like to sign the former rookie free agent to a long-term contract, but he will aim to become one of the highest-paid kickers in the NFL.

Tucker is currently the most accurate kicker in league history after making 97 of 108 career field goal attempts in his first three seasons.

The Ravens did not announce Hill’s signing, but the safety inked his low tender of $1.542 million, according to a report from The Sun. Considering there was no draft pick attached to Hill’s tender, his restricted free agency was worth monitoring, but his history of drug-related suspensions and off-field concerns likely scared away other teams from making a long-term financial commitment.

After serving a six-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy last season, Hill quickly emerged as a starting safety for the Ravens, collecting 42 tackles, an interceptions, and four pass breakups in 10 games (eight starts). He returned an interception for a touchdown in a Monday night win over the New Orleans Saints.

Originally an undrafted free agent from the University of Florida, Hill played the first two years of his NFL career with the New York Giants.

Friday is the final day that restricted free agents can be signed to offer sheets by other teams.


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The Baltimore Ravens unveil their 20th Anniversary patch

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Ravens announce plans for 20th season

Posted on 23 April 2015 by Luke Jones

Photo courtesy of Shawn Hubbard, Baltimore Ravens

Approaching their 20th season in Baltimore this fall, the Ravens announced plans Thursday to commemorate the occasion.

Players will wear a 20th season patch on their jerseys this fall much like they did for the Ravens’ 10th season in 2005.

The organization also announced the 10 most popular players in franchise history as voted on by personal seat license holders earlier this year. Peter Boulware, Joe Flacco, Todd Heap, Jamal Lewis, Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, Ed Reed, Matt Stover, Terrell Suggs, and Marshal Yanda will each appear on tickets and the cover of the game-day program for a home game this season.

The Ravens noted in a release that five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was voted as one of the original top 10, but he will not appear on a game ticket or program after being traded to the Detroit Lions last month.

“You look at that list of players and you think of all the wins represented with this group, and that includes two Super Bowl championships,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a team statement. “Except for Matt and Marshal — both great stories in their own right — all of these players are first-round draft choices, and that’s something our scouts can be proud of.

“It is an impressive list with Hall of Famers, Ring of Honor members, and all-time greats. Our fans did a good job with the selections.”

The Ravens kick off their 20th season on the road against Denver on Sept. 13. Their home opener is against Cincinnati on Sept. 27.


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Brandon Williams on Ngata’s exit: “The show must go on”

Posted on 22 April 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens know they have large shoes to fill after the departure of five-time Pro Bowl selection Haloti Ngata, but at least one member of the defensive line won’t be caught reflecting on the past.

After proving himself as an above-average nose tackle in his first year as a starter, 2013 third-round pick Brandon Williams expects no drop-off for the NFL’s fourth-ranked run defense despite Ngata being traded to the Detroit Lions last month.

“It was surprising, but at the same time, you get the opportunity to step up and show what you’re actually capable of,” William said. “I love Haloti, great guy, wish him the best in Detroit, but we’re in Baltimore right now. The show must go on. Someone else has to step up.”

That someone is expected to be 2014 second-round pick Timmy Jernigan, who filled in for Ngata during his four-game suspension for Adderall use in the final month of the regular season. Though not as massive as the 340-pound Ngata, the 6-foot-2, 300-pound Florida State product collected 23 tackles and four sacks in 12 games as a rookie.

Jernigan has been complimented by teammates for having an impressive motor, which will be necessary as he takes on a larger role in his second season.

“He’s definitely ready. I call him the little pit bull, because he never stops,” Williams said. “He might be smaller than Haloti — not a lot of people are as big as Haloti — but he still gives it his all, 100 percent every single time. He never quits, so he’s definitely ready.”

Many have pointed to the performance of the defensive line in Ngata’s absence as a major reason why the organization took a firm stance in contract negotiations this offseason. In the four games Ngata missed, the Ravens allowed just under 3.6 yards per carry, which was right in line with the 3.6 yards per attempt allowed for the entire season.

While the offense struggled to find consistency in the final month of the season, the defense continued to excel without Ngata to help the Ravens qualify for the postseason with a 3-1 finish.

“It kind of got us ready for this point right here,” Williams said. “Haloti’s not here, so [Jernigan is] going to have to step it up. Someone’s going to have to step up — whoever it is. And we still had a great defensive line when Haloti had his stint away [on suspension]. It will be fine.”

Mosley on mend

Ravens inside linebacker C.J. Mosley continues to wear a protective cast over his surgically-repaired left wrist, which will likely lead to him being limited in organized team activities set to begin next month.

“I’m going to do everything I can. I don’t know how much physical stuff I can do,” Mosley said. “But I’m going to be out on the field definitely.”

Mosley has visions of building on a successful rookie year in which he was the only player in the NFL to collect at least 125 tackles, three sacks, and two interceptions. He finished second behind St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Becoming the first rookie to make the Pro Bowl in franchise history, Mosley is currently limited in his ability to lift weights, but the 17th overall pick of last year’s draft is upbeat about his progress after he initially injured the wrist in December.

“Everything is progressing,” Mosley said. “I haven’t had any major setbacks so far, so I’m just getting back into it with the workouts and everything.”

Marlon Brown excited to work with Trestman

Wide receiver Marlon Brown isn’t paying much attention to the speculation of the Ravens needing to draft another receiver, but he cracked a big smile when asked about his early impressions of new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman.

The 6-foot-5 Brown took notice of how Trestman used bigger wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery in Chicago and expects big things from himself in his third season.

“He’s so excited and so detailed about the offense,” said Brown about Trestman. “I like that he’s breaking it down, so the whole team can understand the aspects of the offense and everything. I’m loving him.”

It’s no secret that Brown struggled to find his way in his second year after the offseason signing of veteran Steve Smith and the implementation of Gary Kubiak’s offensive system, but the tall wideout eventually became a solid option on third down, finishing with 24 catches for 255 yards.

Depending on whether the Ravens add a wideout in this year’s draft, Brown could find himself with many more opportunities as he competes with the likes of Kamar Aiken and Michael Campanaro. The continuity that Trestman wants to maintain will certainly help as the Ravens try to replace the production of Torrey Smith and tight end Owen Daniels, who both departed via free agency.

“There’s been a couple changes with alignment issues and verbiage maybe,” Brown said. “Other than that, everything is pretty much the same.”

Attendance strong for first week of offseason program

The Ravens officially began their voluntary offseason conditioning program this week with attendance estimated to be in the high 50s, according to head strength and conditioning coach Bob Rogucki.

Sixty-three players are currently listed under contract on the Ravens’ official website, but that doesn’t include restricted free agents and exclusive-rights free agents who have yet to sign their tenders. Since the program is voluntary, the organization is cognizant of new training methods being introduced every year and tries to implement them to make it more attractive for as many players as possible to train at the Owing Mills facility.

“We try to bring something in every year just to add a change to what we do,” Rogucki said. “Our method and philosophy stays the same. If we don’t bring something new in, there’s going to be something out there that we’re not aware of. Players may find it and see it, so we try to keep up on the trend that’s out there. That’s just good business on our part.”

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2015 schedule features five prime-time games for Ravens

Posted on 21 April 2015 by Luke Jones

Despite being featured in five prime-time games, the Ravens will face the daunting task of playing five of their first seven contests on the road to begin the 2015 regular season.

Baltimore will open a season with two road games for the first time since 2010 as long trips to Denver and Oakland await. The Ravens are playing five of the first seven on the road for the first time since 2000, a season that culminated with the franchise’s first Super Bowl title.

After beginning the season with two straight home games last year, the Ravens start the regular season in Denver for the second time in three years. Of course, the season-opening game against the Broncos will bring back the bad feelings of not beginning the season at home as the defending Super Bowl champions two years ago and subsequently being blown out as Peyton Manning threw seven touchdown passes in a nationally-televised Thursday night game.

The Ravens open their home schedule in Week 3 by welcoming the Cincinnati Bengals to town.

For the second straight year, both Baltimore-Pittsburgh games will be played in prime time as the Ravens travel to Heinz Field for a Thursday night game on Oct. 1 and Pittsburgh comes to M&T Bank Stadium for a Sunday night game on Dec. 27. The Steelers played a Thursday night game in Baltimore last season, but the Ravens will host a Sunday night game against their biggest rival for the first time since 2010.

These AFC North rivals will now have played at least one game in prime time in nine consecutive years.

The schedule features three other prime-time games as the Ravens play Monday night games at Arizona on Oct. 26 and in Cleveland on Nov. 30. Nine of Baltimore’s last 10 Monday night games have been scheduled on the road.

Baltimore will host another Sunday night game against the defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks in Week 14.

For the fourth time in the last five seasons, the Ravens will conclude the regular season in Cincinnati. The Bengals have been Baltimore’s opponent in the regular-season finale five times in the last six years.

While many will focus on having to play five road games in the first seven weeks, the most brutal aspect of the Ravens’ schedule is two different occurrences of back-to-back road games involving a great deal of travel as Baltimore plays San Francisco and Arizona in Weeks 5 and 6 after their first two games at Denver and Oakland. However, the organization had asked the league to schedule their road games in San Francisco and Oakland in consecutive weeks with the thought of staying on the West Coast, so you wonder if the Ravens will get creative with their travel plans for either of those stretches.

The five prime-time games are the Ravens’ highest total since the 2011 season.

The Ravens will play seven games against playoff teams from last season: Pittsburgh (twice), Cincinnati (twice), Denver, Seattle, and Arizona. Baltimore has five games against opponents who finished below .500 in 2014: Cleveland (twice), Jacksonville, Oakland, and St. Louis.


Sunday, Sept. 13 at Denver Broncos – 4:25 p.m.
Skinny: The Ravens will recognize the familiar faces of Gary Kubiak and Owen Daniels, but how much will Peyton Manning have left at age 39?

Sunday, Sept. 20 at Oakland Raiders – 4:05 p.m.
Skinny: They’re still the Raiders, but the presence of young quarterback Derek Carr gives new head coach Jack Del Rio some hope that his predecessors never enjoyed.

Sunday, Sept. 27 vs. Cincinnati Bengals – 1:00 p.m.
Skinny: Four straight trips to the playoffs is a nice feat, but Andy Dalton no longer inspires confidence that he’ll lead this franchise to its first playoff win since Jan. 6, 1991.

Thursday, Oct. 1 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers – 8:25 p.m. (CBS/NFL Network)
Skinny: Troy Polamalu and Haloti Ngata are the latest great players to depart this rivalry, but the Ravens earning their first playoff win over the Steelers in Pittsburgh last January brings new energy.

Sunday, Oct. 11 vs. Cleveland Browns – 1:00 p.m.
Skinny: Until they find a quarterback, it’s difficult envisioning the Browns earning their first win in Baltimore since Mike Pettine was a member of Brian Billick’s staff.

Sunday, Oct. 18 at San Francisco 49ers – 4:25 p.m.
Skinny: Torrey Smith will be out to prove to the Ravens that they made a mistake letting him walk, but the shine is gone from this once-budding rivalry with Jim Harbaugh now in Ann Arbor.

Monday, Oct. 26 at Arizona Cardinals – 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Skinny: Making their first trip to Arizona since 2003, the Ravens will face a team that would have been interesting to watch last January if something called a Ryan Lindley hadn’t been playing quarterback.

Sunday, Nov. 1 vs. San Diego Chargers – 1:00 p.m.
Skinny: The Chargers handed Baltimore a stunning loss at M&T Bank Stadium last year, but will Philip Rivers still be their quarterback this time around?

Sunday, Nov. 8 — BYE

Sunday, Nov. 15 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars – 1:00 p.m.
Skinny: The Jaguars hung tough against the Ravens last year and added Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas, but they haven’t won in Baltimore since Mark Brunell was their quarterback.

Sunday, Nov. 22 vs. St. Louis Rams — 1:00 p.m.
Skinny: It generally doesn’t bode well for your franchise when people are focusing more on your future home than your prospects for the 2015 season.

Monday, Nov. 30 at Cleveland Browns – 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Skinny: The Browns really aren’t playing in those god-awful new uniforms this year, right?

Sunday, Dec. 6 at Miami Dolphins – 1:00 p.m.
Skinny: Counting the postseason, the Ravens have won four straight games in Miami and should consider having their mail delivered to Sun Life Stadium with the number of Baltimore fans who have traveled their for the last couple contests.

Sunday, Dec. 13 vs. Seattle Seahawks – 8:30 p.m. (NBC)
Skinny: A meeting between two of the last three Super Bowl champions is a marquee game on the 2015 NFL calendar as Seattle comes to Baltimore for the first time since 2003.

Sunday, Dec. 20 vs. Kansas City – 1:00 p.m.
Skinny: The Ravens haven’t lost to Kansas City in over a decade, but facing former mentor Andy Reid always means a little extra for John Harbaugh.

Sunday, Dec. 27 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers – 8:30 p.m. (NBC)
Skinny: NBC can’t get enough of Baltimore-Pittsburgh as the network will broadcast one of these rivalry games for the sixth consecutive season.

Sunday, Jan. 3 at Cincinnati Bengals – 1:00 p.m.
Skinny: The Ravens haven’t won a game at Paul Brown Stadium since 2011, which sets this one up to be another crucial encounter with playoff implications.

Notes: In a move that was initiated last season, flexible scheduling can be applied in Weeks 5 through 10. During that period, flexible scheduling can be used in no more than two weeks by moving a Sunday afternoon game into prime time and moving the Sunday night game to the afternoon.

Another recently-implemented wrinkle will be a select number of games being “cross-flexed,” moving between CBS and FOX to bring some games to wider audiences.

Flexible scheduling will still be used in Weeks 11 through 17 as it has been in past years. In Weeks 11-16, the schedule lists the games tentatively set for Sunday Night Football on NBC. Only Sunday afternoon games are eligible to be moved to Sunday night, in which case the tentatively scheduled Sunday night game would be moved to an afternoon start time.

Flexible scheduling cannot be applied to games airing on Thursday, Saturday, or Monday nights.

A scheduling change would be announced at least 12 days before the game. For Week 17, the Sunday night game is announced no later than six days prior to Jan. 3.

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Ravens reach contract extension with cornerback Jimmy Smith

Posted on 21 April 2015 by Luke Jones

A little over a week away from the NFL draft, the Ravens have reached a contract extension with one of their best draft picks in recent years by coming to terms with cornerback Jimmy Smith.

Originally scheduled to earn $6.898 million in the fifth-year team option of his rookie contract this season, Smith will now make up to $48 million over the next five years with $21 million fully guaranteed, according to Pro Football Talk. The extension includes a $13 million signing bonus, a guaranteed $1 million base salary for 2015, and a $7 million guaranteed base salary next season, per multiple outlets.

The 2011 first-round pick was in the midst of the best season of his career when he suffered a season-ending foot injury last October. Graded by Pro Football Focus as the ninth-best cornerback in the NFL through the first seven weeks of 2014, Smith suffered a Lisfranc injury against Cincinnati on Oct. 26 that eventually required season-ending surgery on his left foot.

“For me, it was never truly about being the highest-paid corner,” Smith said. “I know I couldn’t be that on this team and be here just because of the talent already spread around. You have to pay other people. I knew that going into this [that it] would be that with the injury and all that. All those things came to mind, but it worked out.”

Smith had collected 28 tackles, an interception, and six pass breakups prior to the injury. The 6-foot-2 corner has secured five interceptions in his career.

After two disappointing and injury-riddled seasons to begin his NFL career, Smith is a good example of exercising patience with draft picks who don’t immediately blossom into starters. To show how far the Colorado product has come in two years, he began the 2012 postseason as the No. 4 cornerback behind even Chykie Brown on the depth chart before eventually making key plays on the final defensive series to protect a 34-31 win over San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII.

General manager Ozzie Newsome made it clear this offseason that keeping Smith in Baltimore beyond the 2015 season would be a priority. The Ravens would also like to sign guards Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele and kicker Justin Tucker to long-term deals as they enter the final year of their current contracts.

“I think that his best football is still ahead of him,” Newsome said. “If he doesn’t get hurt in the Cincinnati game last year, I don’t know where he could have ended up as a player, but he was definitely trending up. I just want to thank Jimmy for committing five more years of football to us, and I’m looking forward to it.”

The deal does not come without some risk, however, as Smith has battled a number of injuries throughout his career and missed 17 games in his first four seasons.

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Ravens begin voluntary offseason training program

Posted on 20 April 2015 by Luke Jones

With the start of the 2015 regular season less than five months away, the Ravens officially began their voluntary offseason training program on Monday.

The first phase of the program lasts for two weeks and includes only strength and conditioning work, physical rehabilitation, and mental preparation. This part of the offseason is strictly voluntary, but most players beyond select veterans are expected to attend regularly.

A video on the team’s official website that highlighted the first day showed a number of players in attendance including quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Matt Schaub, tight ends Dennis Pitta and Phillip Supernaw, defensive tackle Brandon Williams, running back Justin Forsett, wide receiver Marlon Brown, linebackers C.J. Mosley, Courtney Upshaw, and Albert McClellan, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, and offensive lineman John Urschel.

The Ravens did not provide access to media for the first day of the program, but Pitta’s attendance can be viewed as a positive sign as he hopes to continue his NFL career after dislocating and fracturing his right hip twice in a 14-month period.

Coaches are not allowed to lead players in on-field workouts during this first part of the offseason program.

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