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Ravens waive Cousins, Harper, seven others

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Ravens waive Cousins, Harper, seven others

Posted on 27 August 2011 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 2:30 p.m.)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Needing to trim their 90-man roster down to 80 by Tuesday, the Baltimore Ravens got a head start by cutting nine players on Saturday morning.

The most prominent player to be waived was offensive lineman Oniel Cousins, a third-round selection in the 2008 draft. Maligned for his inability to play tackle, the Ravens shifted Cousins inside to guard where he started in place of the injured Marshal Yanda against the Kansas City Chiefs in the second preseason game. However, newly-signed veteran Mark LeVoir started at guard against Washington on Friday in what appeared to be a bad sign for the UTEP product.

“This decision was made basically last night, so it was thought through,” Harbaugh said. “For him to get a chance now to get out and negotiate his deal and get with a team where he’ll have a chance — personally, I think his future is at guard. I think he can do it, but it’s going to take an opportunity where someone has a need for that guy, and he can get in there and go to work on it. With our situation with Jah [Reid] being young and Mark [LeVoir] coming in, it kind of squeezed him out.”

The second prominent name to be released was receiver Justin Harper, a member of the practice squad the last two seasons. A seventh-round pick from Virginia Tech in 2009, Harper’s 6-foot-3 frame made him an attractive prospect, but his inconsistency catching the football and tendency to try to make one-handed catches frustrated coaches.

Harper dropped a Tyrod Taylor pass at the goal line in the fourth quarter against the Redskins.

The Ravens also waived tight end Jonathan Stupar, offensive lineman Brady Bond, receiver Terrell Zachery, linebacker Anthony Leon, receiver Rodney Bradley, center Ryan Bartholomew, and defensive tackle Cornell Banks.

The timing of the cuts suggests the Ravens wanted to give these nine players an opportunity to catch on with other teams in time to play in the final preseason game and have the opportunity to make another 53-man roster.

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Ravens agree to deal with veteran tackle Mark LeVoir

Posted on 20 August 2011 by Luke Jones

Looking to boost their depth at offensive tackle, the Ravens agreed to terms with former New England Patriots lineman Mark LeVoir on Saturday, according to the AP.

The 29-year-old lineman made two starts in 32 games over the last three seasons in New England. LeVoir was released by the Patriots earlier this week.

Baltimore finds itself thin at the tackle position after they moved fourth-year lineman Oniel Cousins inside to guard after an ineffective performance against the Philadelphia Eagles last week. Rookie Jah Reid is currently the starting right tackle and played the entire game against Kansas City on Friday night.

At 6-foot-7 and 310 pounds, LeVoir began his career with stints in Chicago and St. Louis before landing with the Patriots in 2008. The former Notre Dame product finds an ideal opportunity in Baltimore after playing in only six games with the Patriots last season.

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Ravens-Chiefs Preseason Primer: What to watch tonight

Posted on 18 August 2011 by Luke Jones

***Join us in the Purple Haze live chat beginning at 7:30 p.m. as WNST.net brings you live coverage from M&T Bank Stadium. For the quickest updates and analysis, follow WNST on Twitter and be sure to subscribe to the WNST Text Service.***

Playing their preseason home opener on Friday night, the Ravens envision a better showing against the Kansas City Chiefs after a lackluster effort in Philadelphia last week.

Coach John Harbaugh said starters will play well into the second quarter, a higher workload than you’ll typically find in the second preseason game, in an effort to accelerate the development of a young offense with question marks along the offensive line. With starting lineman Matt Birk (knee surgery) and Marshal Yanda (back spams) current sidelined, the Ravens will use Bryan Mattison at center, Oniel Cousins at right guard, and rookie Jah Reid at tackle — an uncomfortable proposition for quarterback Joe Flacco.

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Friday will also mark the preseason debuts for newly-acquired veterans Ricky Williams and Lee Evans. Williams had only practiced once prior to the opener against the Eagles, and the Ravens traded a fourth-round pick to Buffalo to bring the veteran wideout Evans to Baltimore a day after the Ravens’ 13-6 loss last week.

The Ravens will also welcome three former players back to Baltimore as defensive tackle Kelly Gregg, fullback Le’Ron McClain, and offensive tackle Jared Gaither all signed with the Chiefs after spending multiple years in Baltimore. Gregg was released to create salary cap space while McClain and Gaither departed as unrestricted free agents.

Series history

The Ravens and Kansas City have never met in the preseason, but Baltimore’s 30-7 thrashing over the Chiefs in the Wild Card round last year will be fresh on everyone’s mind.

However, the Chiefs hold a slight advantage in the regular season series, 3-2. Kansas City won the first three meetings between the two AFC teams before the Ravens earned victories in 2006 and 2009.

Kansas City connections

In addition to the three former Ravens now on the Kansas City roster, there are several other links between the two teams.

Safety Bernard Pollard began his NFL career with the Chiefs after being selected by them in the second round of the 2006 draft. He played three seasons in Kansas City, accumulating 189 tackles, three interceptions, and one sack before being released prior to the start of the 2009 season.

Chiefs receiver Terrance Copper played two games for the Ravens in the 2008 season, Harbaugh’s first season as head coach. On the flip side, Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff spent time during the 2008 offseason on the Kansas City roster.

Chiefs defensive line coach Anthony Pleasant played defensive end for the Ravens in their inaugural season of 1996 after spending the first six years of his career in Cleveland.

Kansas City tackle Branden Albert (Glen Burnie) and receivers coach Richie Anderson (Sandy Springs) are Maryland natives.

And perhaps the most interesting connection is Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli’s former role as the pro personnel coordinator for the Ravens in 1996. Pioli moved to Baltimore from Cleveland, where he worked as a personnel assistant for the Browns for four seasons.

Injury report

Yanda (back spasms) will not play after missing five straight days of practice this week, though Harbaugh is hopeful the guard can return for next week’s game against Washington. Birk has been sidelined since the first full week of camp after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery.

Cornerback Chris Carr missed practice on Tuesday and Wednesday after straining his hamstring in Monday’s workout, leaving his status against the Chiefs in doubt.

Others not expected to play include receiver James Hardy (hamstring), running back Damien Berry (leg), and defensive back Marcus Paschal.

Receiver David Reed missed practice on Wednesday after being activated from the physically-unable-to-perform list at the beginning of the week.

Veteran cornerback Domonique Foxworth has increased his workload in practice in recent days as he continues to work his way back from the ACL injury that wiped out his entire 2010 season. The former Maryland star has worked with the second team while rookie Jimmy Smith and third-year player Cary Williams took reps with the starting defense. Foxworth did not play in the preseason opener.

7 Players to Watch

1. WR Lee Evans – Friday night’s game will mark one week since the Ravens acquired Evans from the Bills. The eighth-year veteran stepped into the starting lineup on his first day of practice, but Evans still needs to develop timing with Flacco. The former Wisconsin Badger has shown impressive speed in practice, including a fly route on Monday that caused Carr to pull up lame.

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Ravens' plan comes into focus for Chiefs on Friday

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Ravens’ plan comes into focus for Chiefs on Friday

Posted on 17 August 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the Ravens wrapping their final practice of the week in preparation for their second preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Friday, coach John Harbaugh announced his team has essentially ended the training camp portion of the summer.

Of course, it’s tough to see it that way given the unusual circumstance of training camp being held at the team’s facility in Owings Mills due to the 134-day lockout that cancelled practices at McDaniel College for the first time in the 16-year history of the franchise. Harbaugh said the Ravens will resume a practice schedule similar to the regular season beginning next week, though he wouldn’t rule out some extra work where needed.

Without an offseason in which to work, the coach will play starters a bit more than they would normally go in the second preseason game. Harbaugh said most starters will play well into the second quarter against Kansas City at M&T Bank Stadium.

“We have a shorter offseason this year; we didn’t have any OTAs,” Harbaugh said. “We need to get ready to play. We’re going to be playing a regular season game very soon. But there are certain guys that don’t need to play that much.”

Harbaugh mentioned veterans Ed Reed and Ray Lewis by name as candidates to be pulled earlier than the rest of the first-unit players. Lewis was absent from Wednesday’s practice as he dealt with a family illness.

The Ravens will be shorthanded on the offensive line as Harbaugh confirmed right guard Marshal Yanda will not play on Friday after missing five straight days of practice as he deals with back spasms. With center Matt Birk already sidelined after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery two weeks ago, Yanda’s back issue conjures up memories of last summer and Jared Gaither’s back injury that sidelined him for the entire summer. The Ravens are being extra cautious with Yanda despite Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron maintaining a stance of the injury not being serious.

“Whether he’ll go next week or not, I don’t know,” Harbaugh said. “You know Marshal, he’ll want to. If we have to hold him back, it’ll basically be us holding him back. He’s going to be out this week. It’s not a serious thing; he’s not going to be out for the regular season or anything like that. He’ll probably play next week.”

With Birk and Yanda out, the Ravens will play Bryan Mattison at center, Oniel Cousins at right guard, and rookie Jah Reid at right tackle. Rookie Justin Boren has also received time at right guard with the first unit, so the Ohio State product is worth keeping an eye on.

Defensively, Chris Carr has missed the last two days of practice with a hamstring tweak, opening the door for third-year cornerback Cary Williams to start opposite rookie Jimmy Smith. The two have worked has the starting corners all week while Lardarius Webb and Domonique Foxworth have worked with the second defense. Harbaugh praised Williams’ improved technique in addition to his impressive size and athleticism.

With the starters receiving more playing time, many eyes will be on quarterback Joe Flacco, who will have the chance to work with newly-acquired Lee Evans for the first time in a game situation. Much was said about the Ravens’ intentions to give Flacco more freedom within Cameron’s offense, and Harbaugh was emphatic about the fourth-year quarterback’s increased responsibilities with play calls.

“In training camp, at least half the plays that we’ve called out here, and I haven’t done a count, but I’ll bet you it’s at least half have been plays where he’s had a choice to make a decision,” Harbaugh said. “He changes a run to another direction, he changes a run to a pass, he changes a pass to a maximum protection or to a run. And he’s done a great job with that.”

It’s clear general manager Ozzie Newsome and the coaching staff will be expecting improvements in a number of areas on Friday, particularly along the offensive line and tackling on defense. With the sloppy product shown in the Ravens’ 13-6 loss to the Eagles last Thursday, the Ravens coach has found himself needing to reflect from time to time on the unprecedented nature of this training camp.

“You just have to take a deep breath sometimes and say we’re not where my eye says we should be, whether it’s in terms of execution or in terms of personnel,” Harbaugh said. “You just have to take a step back and say we’re going to keep working on those things.

“We’re going to keep working on those guys out there [on the market] that can help us or trades or something. Those things usually got done three or four months ago. It’s a very strange training camp that way.”

Hear more from Ravens coach John Harbaugh as well as tight end Ed Dickson’s conversation with WNST’s Glenn Clark in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault.

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Ravens offense working to boost long-ball potential

Posted on 16 August 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — As a number of veterans rested during Tuesday afternoon’s practice, the Ravens continued working on their timing in the vertical passing game in hopes of stretching the field and creating the explosions that were lacking a season ago.

Veteran receiver Anquan Boldin sat out his second straight practice — coach John Harbaugh said it was merely to rest the 30-year-old — as rookie Torrey Smith joined newly-acquired veteran Lee Evans as a starting receiver in the first offense. Quarterback Joe Flacco connected on a few deep balls to Smith and Evans — one a beautiful 43-yard touchdown strike to Smith with cornerback Cary Williams trailing behind. Evans has challenged a number of the Ravens’ top corners over his first four practices in Baltimore, even causing veteran Chris Carr to tweak his hamstring on a deep route Monday.

Though the Ravens continue to preach their need to regain the power running game,  receivers gaining separation and taking the top off the defense will be a priority after the triumvirate of Boldin and departed veterans Derrick Mason and T.J. Houshmandzadeh created little diversity in the passing game a season ago. Of Ravens players making more than 10 receptions a year ago, former tight end Todd Heap averaged 15.0 yards per catch to lead all pass catchers. Evans averaged 15.6 yards per reception in Buffalo last season.

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As the NFL continues its transformation into a pass-heavy league in recent seasons, the Ravens hope Evans and Smith will allow Flacco to show off his strong throwing arm that’s often gone unused in his first three seasons. Their contributions would also go a long way to loosening coverage underneath for Boldin to get touches and gain yards after the catch.

“It’s so hard in this league just to march the ball all the way down the field time and time again,” Harbaugh said. “It sure looks like they’re going to be a lot of long drives with the kickoffs being the way they are, so you’ve got to have that big-play ability, that quick-strike ability. Hopefully, we can develop that.”

Evans will factor heavily into the development of the passing offense after playing his first seven seasons in Buffalo. The 30-year-old has looked as fast as advertised during practice, and the Ravens were able to take a good look at him catching three touchdown passes against them last October.

“We know what gameday looks like and feels like, because he can run,” offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. “The thing that caught my attention was he had been here 10 minutes (on Saturday) and we ran a [deep route] and he got on top of the corner. Joe [Flacco] says to me, ‘That felt different.’ Then, he got right on top of a corner on the next one and Joe underthrew him. I think there is a speed and an explosion that feels a little different that I think every team needs and is nice to have.”

Of course, the development of the vertical passing game hedges completely on the development of the offensive line. With rookie Jah Reid currently in line to be the starter at the right tackle position and veteran center Matt Birk sidelined after undergoing knee surgery, the Ravens will need to provide adequate time for Flacco to find his speedy targets down the field.

Fourth-year lineman Oniel Cousins’ struggles in the preseason opener prompted the coaching staff to shift him inside to guard, putting even more pressure on this year’s third-round pick to be ready to start by Week 1. Both Harbaugh and Cameron have echoed their excitement in Reid’s development in recent days.

“He’s very strong,” said Harbaugh, who discussed Reid’s development with Jarret Johnson and Terrell Suggs earlier in the day. “He’s just a gifted, gifted guy. Big, strong. He’s a bender. He’s got very long arms. He’s got a little bit of a nasty streak. I think, obviously, he’s more ahead in the run game than he is in the pass protection at this point, which you would expect. He’s getting it. I think just fundamentals, attention to detail, assignment, play with a little bit of poise — hopefully the game will slow down for him a little bit.”

The game slowing down for Reid would go a long way in speeding it up for the Ravens’ aerial attack.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear more from head coach John Harbaugh.

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Live from Owings Mills: Webb a “game-time decision,” Cousins expected to play against Jets

Posted on 11 September 2010 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With an opening night encounter against the New York Jets only two days away, the Baltimore Ravens took the practice field on Saturday for a final tuneup before Sunday’s walk-through and train ride to East Rutherford, N.J..

Cornerback Lardarius Webb was practicing again on Saturday and is listed as probable on the official game status report released Saturday afternoon. Coach John Harbaugh,  however, labeled the second-year corner a game-time decision, which often means a player will be listed as questionable on the final injury report. Even if Webb does play, Fabian Washington and Chris Carr are expected to start against the Jets, with Josh Wilson working as the third corner.

“[Webb has] practiced 100 percent the whole week; he’s done everything,” Harbaugh said on Saturday. “We didn’t rule [him] out, and we haven’t said he was going to go. That’s kind of one we’re leaving up in the air for you.”

The Ravens are at least making it sound like Webb might play after defensive coordinator Greg Mattison claimed the second-year corner was “a lot closer” to returning following Friday’s practice. As he has said repeatedly since returning to the practice field last month, Webb will defer to the coaching staff to decide whether he plays in the opener,

“I think I can play if it came down to it,” Webb said. “I’m still leaving it up to coach  Harbaugh and [trainer Bill Tessendorf], but I am prepared and ready.”

Webb did not sound encouraged when asked about the potential chance of returning to the field for Week 1 after failing to receive any action in the team’s four preseason games. The cornerback missed training camp and the entire preseason as he rehabbed the surgically-repaired ACL in his right knee.

“It’s just all about the right timing,” Webb said following Saturday’s workout. “Me, [Harbaugh], and [Tessendorf will] come together and see what we want to do this week. We’re going to leave it to the game-time decision.”

The Ravens are keeping everyone guessing regarding the right tackle position with Jared Gaither already ruled out with the same back injury that has kept him off the practice field since early August. Oniel Cousins is listed as probable for Monday’s game and practiced on Saturday. Harbaugh’s comments following practice suggested all indications point to the young tackle being on the field against the Jets; however, it does not mean Cousins will be in the starting lineup. The third-year tackle said the symptoms from a concussion sustained in the final week of training camp have disappeared over the last few days.

“I don’t believe [Cousins] is touch-and-go,” Harbaugh said. “I would expect him to play. I shouldn’t speak for the doctors, but it looks to me like he’s ready to play.”

Cousins had made comments on Friday suggesting he may not be ready to go against the Jets. Tony Moll or starting right guard Marshal Yanda would be the most logical candidates to start should Cousins be held out. Moving Yanda to right tackle would force top reserve Chris Chester to move into the starting lineup at right guard, a position at which he split time last season with Yanda, who was still working his way back from a devastating knee injury suffered in 2008.

The preseason hype machine has been as loud as ever in Baltimore with expectations soaring for third-year quarterback Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense. The receiving trio of Anquan Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Derrick Mason appears tremendous on paper, but the question remains whether the young quarterback can keep all three former Pro Bowlers content by spreading the ball around in the passing game. The three possess similar traits, but none have a strong ability to stretch the field, making the trade of Mark Clayton a perplexing short-term decision with speedy receiver Donte’ Stallworth out with a broken foot until at least the bye week at the end of October.

Despite Houshmandzadeh being a Raven for less than a week, Harbaugh expects the veteran wideout to receive extensive playing time against the Jets. The former Bengals and Seahawks receiver wants to play as much as possible but is realistic about his limitations after only practicing four days with the team.

“That’s what I’m used to doing is playing the entire game,” Houshmandzadeh said following Saturday’s practice. “I’m not a fool, I know that’s not going to happen. But I want to play as much as I can.

All signs point to safety Tom Zbikowski returning punts against the Jets, as he is listed as the top returner on the team’s official depth chart and was again fielding punts in the portion of practice open to the media on Saturday. Webb has also fielded punts in practice this week, but one would think the coaching staff would prefer not to use Webb in the return game before he establishes himself as fit to contribute on defense.

There were no surprises among the players absent from practice, as Gaither, Stallworth, and defensive tackle Terrence Cody (knee) were absent from practice again on Saturday. All three have already been ruled out for Monday night.

NOTES: Ed Reed celebrated his 32nd birthday on Saturday and celebrated by working out on the side field at 1 Winning Drive. Several teammates wished the free safety a happy birthday during the portion of practice open to the media. Reed will miss at least the first six weeks of the season after being placed on the reserve Physically Unable to Perform list last week. … Walt Anderson will be the referee in Monday night’s game. His crew officiated the Ravens’ Monday night loss to the Packers last season in which a total of 23 penalties for 310 yards were called between the teams.

Check out the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from Harbaugh, Webb, Cousins, and Houshmandzadeh following Saturday’s practice in Owings Mills.

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Ravens-Giants Purple Haze chat now!

Posted on 28 August 2010 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens will try to win their third straight preseason game this evening as they host the New York Giants at 7:30 p.m. The third preseason game is widely-regarded as the most critical of the four preseason contests, so we can expect extensive playing time for the starting units.

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Glenn Clark and I are live from the press box at M&T Bank Stadium for all pre- and post-game coverage at WNST.net. We’ll have the Purple Haze chat open for business at 7:30 to talk about tonight’s preseason action, and you can expect a number of WNST.net personalities to chime in throughout the game. It’s the newest and best way to enjoy the game other than actually being at the stadium yourself!

If you haven’t done it already, remember to sign up for the WNST Text Service to receive all breaking news including injury updates prior to tonight’s game. It’s our best feature at WNST.net, and it’s free! As always, you can get the quickest updates and quips by following us on Twitter (@WNST)!

Stay right here for updates (time-stamped below) leading up to the start of the Purple Haze chat at 7:30 p.m.!

_______________________________________________

7:00 p.m. — Interestingly enough, cornerback Lardarius Webb is dressed and going through pre-game activity. He was listed as a scratch tonight, but as we saw with Chris Carr in the preseason opener against Carolina, the preseason inactive list is not official like the one we see in the regular season.

We’ll continue to monitor Webb’s status as we get closer to game time.

6:55 p.m. — The Giants have an equal number of inactive players this evening. Receiver Ramses Barden, quarterback Jim Sorgi, safety Michael Johnson, cornerback Terrell Thomas, running back D.J. Ware, cornerback Aaron Ross, tight end Travis Beckum, linebacker Chase Blackburn, center Shaun O’Hara, guard Kevin Booth, receiver Sinorice Moss, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, and defensive lineman Chris Canty will all sit out tonight’s contest against the Ravens.

Rich Seubert will slide over to center in place of O’Hara and Guy Whimper will play left guard. Defensively, Rocky Bernard will replace Canty at defensive tackle, Bruce Johnson will take Thomas’ place at cornerback, and Jonathan Goff will start at MLB. Keith Bulluck is expected to play, however.

6:35 p.m. — If you’re on the WNST Text Service, you would already know the Ravens inactive list for this evening!

Thirteen players will not play this evening, including Lardarius Webb, Jared Gaither, Terrence Cody, Oniel Cousins, Demetrius Williams, Eron Riley, Marcus Paschal, K.J. Gerard, David Hale, Daniel Sanders, and the three remaining members of the PUP List (Ed Reed, Brendon Ayanbadejo, and Matt Lawrence).

Tony Moll will again be at right tackle with Gaither and Cousins sidelined, and Tom Zbikowski will receive the start at free safety with Reed still on the PUP list.

6:00 p.m. — Several players dealing with injuries were out on the field going throughout workouts earlier as we await to learn their status for tonight’s game.

Receiver Demetrius Williams was doing some agility work after not practicing the entire week. He sprained his ankle during last Saturday’s victory over the Redskins.

Cornerback Lardarius Webb was doing extensive work with secondary coach Chuck Pagano, though it is doubtful the Ravens would want Webb to play so soon after coming off the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Receiver Eron Riley (back) was also working out on the field.

5:40 p.m. — The Ravens will try to improve their preseason mark to 3-0 and win their seventh straight preseason game. The team holds an all-time 34-23 record in preseason play and is 17-12 at home.

Tonight marks the 12th time the Giants and Ravens have met in the preseason. Baltimore holds a 6-5 series lead in the preseason. The teams last met in a preseason contest on Aug. 19, 2007, a game in which the Giants won 13-12.

5:25 p.m. — The NFL will experiment with an eighth on-field official for tonight’s game, one of four preseason games the league is using as a test study. The deep judge will not be used in the regular season and is solely intended to provide the NFL Competition Committee with video and feedback for future consideration.

The “deep judge” will be positioned in the defensive backfield, opposite the back judge on the head linesman’s side of the field. His primary job is to watch eligible receivers.

Of course, the official crews are also adjusting to the newly-positioned umpire, who is now in the offensive backfield. Umpires were previously positioned behind the defensive line but have been moved because of safety concerns after several umpires were seriously injured in recent years.

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JOIN US NOW!!! Ravens-Redskins Purple Haze chat…enter here!

Posted on 21 August 2010 by Luke Jones

LANDOVER, Md. — Training camp may be over, but the Ravens hope to improve their preseason mark to 2-0 when they travel to FedEx Field to take on the hated Washington Redskins on Saturday night. Despite only being a preseason game, there’s always a little more spice when the team from D.C. is involved.

Glenn Clark and I are live from Landover to bring you all pre- and post-game coverage at WNST.net, and we’ll have the Purple Haze chat underway at 7:00 p.m. Join us to talk about tonight’s game as a plethora of WNST.net personalities will be checking in as well. It’s the newest and best way to enjoy the game other than actually being at the stadium yourself!

If you haven’t done it already, remember to sign up for the WNST Text Service to receive all breaking news including injury updates prior to tonight’s game. It’s our best feature at WNST.net, and it’s free!

Stay right here for updates (time-stamped below) leading up to the start of the Purple Haze chat at 7:00 p.m.!

______________________________________________

6:30 p.m. — Despite not being listed as inactive, cornerback Lardarius Webb remains on the PUP list and will not play this evening. It was simply an oversight.

6:20 p.m. — The Redskins only have two players on the inactive list: wide receivers Malcolm Kelly and Mike Furrey (who was placed on Injured Reserve earlier this week).

Larry Johnson will get the start at running back ahead of Clinton Portis for the Redskins.

6:10 p.m. — If you’re on the WNST Text Service, you’ve already received the Ravens inactives for tonight’s game, which include Oniel Cousins, K.J. Gerard, Marcus Paschal, David Hale, Daniel Sanders, Stefan Rodgers, and the four players on the active PUP (Lardarius Webb, Ed Reed, Matt Lawrence, and Brendon Ayanbadejo).

Tony Moll will start at right tackle in place of Jared Gaither and Oniel Cousins. Of course, Tom Zbikowski will start at free safety in place of Ed Reed.

5:57 p.m. — Mark Clayton just did some work on the field but wasn’t suited up to play. The receiver has battled a sore ankle this week and missed practice on Thursday.

We’ll learn the inactives shortly.

5:47 p.m. — Chris Carr is not suited up as he does some running on the field. No official word whether he’s playing or not.

If Carr cannot go, Travis Fisher would presumably start in his place opposite Fabian Washington in the starting defense.

5:35 p.m. — The Redskins will wear white jerseys with burgundy pants while the Ravens will sport their purple jerseys with white pants tonight at FedEx Field.

Lardarius Webb is doing some conditioning work on the field. With John Harbaugh saying he was “very close” to coming off the physically unable to perform list, it will be interesting to see if the second-year cornerback is back on the practice field in Owings Mills this week.

5:00 p.m. — Tonight’s game marks the sixth time the Ravens and Redskins have met in the preseason, with Baltimore holding a 3-2 advantage in the series. The Ravens bested Washington 24-10 in the 2009 preseason.

Of course, the Ravens have also dominated when it actually matters with a 3-1 all-time record against the Redskins in the regular season. Their most recent meeting was a dominating 24-10 victory for the Ravens in a nationally-televised Sunday night affair on Dec. 7, 2008.

Both teams won their preseason openers, with the Ravens beating the Carolina Panthers, 17-12, and the Redskins scoring 41 points in a victory over the hapless Buffalo Bills.

4:50 p.m. — Glenn Clark and I have arrived in the FedEd Field press box and have been seated at the corner of the end zone.

Upon arriving, Glenn sais to me, “You know what’s great about this place? … Nothing.”

What a funny guy. He truly loves D.C. or Landover or Raljon or whatever they’re calling this place these days.

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Optimistic Ravens exit Westminster as stakes begin to grow

Posted on 19 August 2010 by Luke Jones

Optimism percolated from every route leading to Westminster as the masses flooded to McDaniel College over the last four weeks to take a glimpse at a team with its sights set on a date in Dallas on the first Sunday in February.

The Ravens set an all-time training camp attendance record of 112,051 despite a new kid-friendly autograph policy that many thought would temper the masses.

Even with the uncertain status of Ed Reed and the unfortunate losses of rookie Sergio Kindle and Domonique Foxworth, the Ravens have practiced with a swagger indicative of a team fully expecting to be playing deep into January or—with some good fortune—even later. A workmanlike demeanor from third-year coach John Harbaugh has muzzled some of the flamboyant comments uttered by players in past anticipated seasons, but the goal is clear, even under the hot sun of Westminster.

“[Camp has] just been tremendous,” Harbaugh said. “First of all, we’ve gotten a lot of work done. Our guys have worked really hard, and it’s a grind. Football training camp is hard work.”

Despite injury concerns in the secondary (Reed and Lardarius Webb) and offensive line (Jared Gaither), the Ravens managed to avoid any more catastrophic injuries after the deflating loss of Foxworth on July 29.

Breaking camp marks the next step in the quest for a Super Bowl, but the stakes rise much higher from this point forward. Optimism and good vibes are easily found in the secluded confines of an NFL training camp.

Despite the open nature of practices in Westminster, coaches and players work within a cocoon of order. Distractions are at a minimum as players live with curfews and are away from everyday responsibilities related to family and friends.

It was football and only football for four taxing weeks, but players return to a sense of normalcy on Friday.

Now, Joe Flacco and a much-improved offense—on paper anyway—have three more preseason games to fine-tune their work to determine if the vision of becoming an elite unit comes to fruition.

As much as we analyze every play and every day of the summer, picking on cornerbacks like Doug Dutch and Chris Hawkins shows little in terms of how explosive the Baltimore offense will ultimately be. The pressure gets that much heavier, even if the workload of practice decreases.

An unsettling situation at the right tackle position might derail that optimism as quickly as Ray Rice can take it 83 yards to the end zone. The physical and mental health of Gaither is critical with unproven players in Oniel Cousins and Tony Moll—who have also been hindered with injuries—waiting behind him.

An even shakier atmosphere exists with the defense, a perennial top-5 unit in the NFL for over a decade. Even before the loss of Foxworth due to a torn ACL, the Ravens were light on quality at cornerback and occasionally-promising showings from the likes of Travis Fisher, Cary Williams, and Prince Miller in Westminster will not get it done against the Cincinnatis and New Englands of the world.

Fabian Washington has progressed nicely in his recovery from a torn ACL last season and will see his first game action against the Washington Redskins on Saturday. Chris Carr, the nickelback a season ago, will be relied upon to hold down the other starting spot as Webb will presumably be getting back to the practice field in the coming days.

And, oh yeah, the six-time All-Pro Reed still has no timetable for a return despite making progress in rehabbing his surgically-repaired hip. Tom Zbikowski has competently held his spot at free safety with the Ravens showing cautious optimism that Reed might be able to play Week 1. However, only the enigmatic safety really knows when he will be ready.

“We feel like the guys that we have are going to be able to go in there and get the job done,” said Carr, who reminded reporters the Ravens finished with the eighth-ranked pass defense last season despite late-season injuries. “We feel like we’re experienced, and we have a lot of potential to get better. We feel like we can do a lot of things back there.”

Easy feelings to have within the sheltered atmosphere of Westminster, but Ozzie Newsome knows better. The front office clearly wants—and needs—to upgrade the cornerback position, even if  it’s only a quality third or fourth defensive back from another team.

The most critical component to enhancing the suspect pass defense is improving the pass rush, as the Ravens produced their second lowest sack total (32) in franchise history in 2009.

Despite the absence of the rookie Kindle, Antwan Barnes and Paul Kruger have impressed in that area, both in camp and against the Carolina Panthers last Thursday. The emergence of these two coupled with a healthy and motivated Terrell Suggs might just mask a weaker secondary.

However, we’ve seen strong preseason performances from countless young players in years past—Barnes being one of them—only to see them forgotten by mid-September.

When the Ravens put Westminster in the rear-view mirror on Friday, they leave training camp behind and return to the cozy confines in Owings Mills, but the summer sun rapidly transforms to the white-hot expectations created—locally and nationally—over the last seven months.

“Hopefully, we’re the best football team we can be coming out of this training camp at this time, but we still have work to do,” Harbaugh said. “Next week we’ll be right into training camp again, and it’ll be one-a-days, more of an in-season type schedule, but we’ll still be in camp as far as we’re concerned.”

Cutdown dates loom for players trying to secure a roster spot, the clock ticks on whether Newsome can find another piece to enhance the secondary, and the New York Jets and Monday Night Football await in less than four weeks.

Thankful players say goodbye to the team hotel in Westminster and return to their own beds on Friday, but with that come the more restless nights as a season of lofty expectations quickly approaches.

Training camp is in the books.

From here on out, it gets a little more real.

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Live from Westminster: Webb still on PUP, “very close” to returning

Posted on 19 August 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. — The Ravens concluded their final morning practice at McDaniel College without a single player leaving the field with an injury.

They also appear to be regaining a key member of their secondary in the near future.

Despite speculation that Lardarius Webb would come off the Physically Unable to Perform list on Thursday, the second-year cornerback did not practice, but the Ravens hope Webb can return to practice before the team’s third preseason game against the New York Giants.

“He’s very close,” John Harbaugh said. “He’s right there. That’s up to the doctors to make the decision about when he practices, but he’s right there and I know he wants to practice.”

Webb said earlier in the week he did not want to play in the preseason, citing a desire not to rush his surgically-repaired right knee, but both Harbaugh and Webb have backed off those comments slightly. The cornerback has been working on his conditioning and lateral movement on a regular basis, with his most intense work coming Wednesday afternoon.

“I’m just working on my confidence [in my knee] right now,” Webb said.

The cornerback did not want to discuss specifics about his progress or a time frame for his return, only saying the knee is “coming along” several times and deferring to Harbaugh for any other questions about his return.

“I was taught not to talk as much,” said Webb, clarifying his brief answers to the media. “I got in trouble for talking to you all one time. They said I said something, so I have to keep everything short right now. So that’s why you’re getting the short answers.”

As Webb continues to move closer to a return, cornerback Chris Carr practiced fully for the first time since playing briefly in the preseason opener last Thursday. Carr says his injured left hamstring is feeling much better but will see how he feels on Saturday before determining how much he’ll play in the second preseason game.

“I felt pretty good out here,” Carr said following the Thursday morning practice. “The last couple days I came out here and practiced a little bit and did some conditioning. During my exercises and stuff, my hamstring felt just as strong as my right one does. That was a good sign, so I felt pretty confident coming out here today being able to do everything.”

Center Matt Birk (neck), linebacker Prescott Burgess (undisclosed), and defensive tackle Brandon McKinney (knee) returned to the practice field as well as linebacker Tavares Gooden (neck) and fullback Le’Ron McClain (back/upper leg), though both were limited.

Receiver Mark Clayton and tight end Ed Dickson were new absences from practice. Clayton is dealing with “soreness” in his legs, according to Harbaugh, though he had his right ankle taped on Wednesday morning.

Dickson is dealing with an issue in the hip flexor and groin region and was held out by Harbaugh despite the rookie’s wishes to return to the practice field after sitting out a special teams workout on Wednesday afternoon. The injury is not considered to be serious.

“That was my call [on holding Dickson out],” Harbaugh said. “I just don’t want him to do anything to that that’s more serious.”

Others absent from practice included tight end Davon Drew (hamstring), defensive back Marcus Paschal (leg), and offensive linemen David Hale (tailbone), Oniel Cousins (headache), Daniel Sanders (arm), and Stefan Rodgers (arm).

In addition to Webb, safety Ed Reed (hip), running back Matt Lawrence (knee), and linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (quadriceps) remain on the active PUP list.

Stay right here for updates (time-stamped below) and visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear Harbaugh, Webb, Carr, and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe as well as Le’Ron McClain’s conversation with Thyrl Nelson.

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1:50 p.m. — Players practiced in shells and shorts with only two days remaining until the second preseason game against the Redskins.

Cornerback Travis Fisher was picked on quite a bit during practice, being beaten by Anquan Boldin, Demetrius Williams, and Donte’ Stallworth in a 10-minute span at one point during the morning session. Perhaps it’s the curse of No. 41 (see Frank Walker).

With Tavares Gooden being limited as he continues to rest his neck, Dannell Ellerbe took the reps at inside linebacker with the first team.

Chris Carr played the nickel spot when the Ravens ran their three-cornerback packages with Cary Williams and Fisher rotating on the outside.

Offensively, Boldin, Stallworth, and Williams were in on three-wide sets with Derrick Mason resting and Mark Clayton out with a sore ankle. This was just the latest indication that Williams has solidified his role as the No. 5 receiver with rookie David Reed struggling during training camp.

1:45 p.m. — Billy Cundiff has held a slight edge over Shayne Graham in the kicking competition thus far, but the former struggled considerably on the final day of workouts in Westminster.

Cundiff missed from 38 and 53 yards and hit the left upright on another late attempt at the end of practice while Shayne Graham connected from 48 and 53 yards despite missing a long attempt of his own before the conclusion of practice.

With our daily kicking updates coming to an end, we’ll have to rely on the kickers’ performance in the final three preseason games, which will carry far more weight in determining who will be the guy on Sept. 13 against the New York Jets.

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