Tag Archive | "ozzie newsome"

Gase interviews for Ravens offensive coordinator job

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Gase interviews for Ravens offensive coordinator job

Posted on 19 January 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens wasted little time in officially beginning the process to replace offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak by interviewing Denver assistant Adam Gase Monday night.

Serving as the Broncos offensive coordinator in each of the last two years, Gase traveled to Baltimore to meet with head coach John Harbaugh before the Ravens staff traveled to Arizona to coach the Pro Bowl this week. Though interest has been lukewarm for Gase in trying to become a head coach this offseason, Jacksonville and several other teams have courted the 36-year-old to become their offensive coordinator.

Gase has come highly recommended by Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning as he helped orchestrate the NFL’s top-ranked offense in 2013 and No. 4 unit in 2014. However, some have questioned how much of Gase’s success should be attributed to working with a Hall of Fame quarterback who has essentially run his own offense in Denver.

After spending time as an offensive assistant with the Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers, Gase was hired by then-coach Josh McDaniels to join the Broncos staff in 2009 and was retained by John Fox when he was hired in 2011. As a quarterbacks coach, Gase was credited for getting enough production out of quarterback Tim Tebow to get the Broncos to the playoffs in 2011 before Manning arrived on the scene the following year.

The hiring of Gase would likely bring a shift in offensive philosophy as he is known for an up-tempo, pass-happy style that differs from Kubiak’s West Coast offense that worked so well in Baltimore this past season. However, Gase adapted to a more run-oriented attack in the second half of 2014 when Manning struggled through the final weeks of the season with a quadriceps injury, leading you to believe his system can be more balanced.

A certain amount of mystery remains over how successful Gase can be as an offensive coordinator without Manning — or his many offensive weapons in Denver — but his credentials are impressive for someone who didn’t even play college football, let alone compete in the NFL. He began his coaching career as an undergraduate at Michigan State helping out coach Nick Saban, who then took Gase with him to Louisiana State as a graduate and recruiting assistant. Given general manager Ozzie Newsome’s relationship with the current Alabama coach, you can assume the Ravens have done their homework on a man regarded as one of the finest young offensive minds in the NFL.

Should the Ravens decide Gase is the right choice to replace Kubiak, they may need to move quickly given the interest he’s drawn from other teams and the high number of offensive coordinator jobs that remain unfilled around the league.

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Examining the Ravens’ 2015 class of free agents

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Examining the Ravens’ 2015 class of free agents

Posted on 13 January 2015 by Luke Jones

The start of free agency is roughly two months away, but the Ravens face a number of important decisions in their efforts to build upon their return to the playoffs in 2014 after a one-year absence.

As is often the case, salary cap space will be a substantial concern as the Ravens entered the offseason with an estimated cap commitment of roughly $138 million, according to Spotrac.com. The 2015 salary cap has not been set, but it is projected to rise from $133 million in 2014 to somewhere between $138 million and $141 million for the new season, which leaves general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens with very tough maneuvering ahead.

Of course, the Ravens could elect to terminate or renegotiate several veteran contracts with defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and his $16 million cap figure for 2015 at the top of the list. Baltimore would like to extend Ngata in a way similar to what they did with Terrell Suggs last winter, but cutting him outright would save $8.5 million. Cornerback Lardarius Webb carries a $12 million figure next season, but his release would only save $2 million in space as it would leave $10 million in dead money with the Ravens still needing to replace him.

Other veterans such as defensive end Chris Canty, wide receiver Jacoby Jones, linebacker Albert McClellan, and punter Sam Koch don’t carry lucrative cap numbers but could be released to create moderate savings for 2015.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

The Ravens will have the opportunity to re-sign any of the following 14 unrestricted free agents before they can sign with any other team beginning on March 10 at 4:00 p.m.

CB Antoine CasonSigned in early December, the 28-year-old was leapfrogged on the depth chart by former Miami Dolphins practice squad cornerback Rashaan Melvin, telling all you need to know about his standing.

DT Terrence Cody - I was surprised the Ravens brought back the 2010 second-round pick on a one-year deal last offseason, and he was a non-factor after returning from the reserve physically unable to perform list in November.

LS Morgan Cox - The veteran is hitting the point in his career where the Ravens usually want to go cheaper for a snapper, but they had some issues with both Kevin McDermott and Patrick Scales after Cox was lost for the season.

TE Owen DanielsThe 32-year-old had some inconsistent stretches this season, but you’d like to bring back an established option with Dennis Pitta’s status in doubt and 2014 third-round pick Crockett Gillmore still developing.

RB Justin ForsettThe feel-good story of the 2014 campaign will draw interest elsewhere, but his knowledge of Gary Kubiak’s zone schemes as well as his patience and vision make it important for the Ravens to bring him back.

CB Danny GorrerThe journeyman cornerback suffered a season-ending knee injury in December and won’t be a priority, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him re-signed to compete for a roster spot in training camp.

LB Pernell McPheeHis 7 1/2 sacks, 21 quarterback hits, and 35 quarterback hurries likely price him out of the Ravens’ budget as other teams will throw a lot of money at the rush specialist while envisioning a bigger role for him.

S Jeromy MilesMiles is a good special-teams player and emerged to earn a significant number of snaps in the defensive backfield, so you would think the Ravens would like to bring him back at a reasonable rate.

G Will RackleyThe former Jacksonville Jaguar sustained a concussion early in training camp and was placed on injured reserve, making it unlikely the Ravens will bring him back with their offensive line in much better shape now.

OL Jah ReidThe 2011 third-round pick never lived up to expectations to even become a reliable backup, so it would be surprising to see the Ravens bring him back on even a minimum contract for 2015.

CB Aaron RossThe 32-year-old tore his Achilles tendon on the eve of training camp and has dealt with other injuries in recent years, making you think his NFL career could very well be over.

WR Torrey SmithThe Ravens and the University of Maryland product both want to continue their relationship, but will other suitors offer No. 1 receiver money for Smith’s skill set and leave Newsome with a difficult decision?

S Darian StewartThe former St. Louis Ram played better in the second half of the season and wouldn’t be a bad option to bring back to compete with 2014 third-round pick Terrence Brooks for the safety spot opposite Will Hill.

QB Tyrod Taylor - The writing was on the wall for Taylor when the Ravens drafted Keith Wenning in the sixth round of last May’s draft, so it appears unlikely that he’ll be back with Baltimore.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

The following players have accrued three years of service and have expiring contracts. The Ravens can tender each with a restricted free agent offer, but other teams may then sign that player to an offer sheet. If that happens, Baltimore has seven days to match the offer and keep the aforementioned player. If the Ravens choose not to match the offer sheet, they would receive compensation based on which tender was initially offered to that player.

There are three different tenders — the values won’t be set until the 2015 salary cap is finalized — that can be made: a first-round tender ($3.113 million in 2014) would award the competing team’s first-round selection, a second-round tender ($2.187 million in 2014) would award the competing team’s second-round selection, and a low tender ($1.431 million in 2014) would award the competing team’s draft selection equal to the round in which the player was originally chosen. For example, a restricted free agent selected in the fifth round would be worth a fifth-round pick if given the low tender. If a player went undrafted originally and is given the low tender, the Ravens would simply hold the right to match the offer and would not receive any compensation if they elected not to match the competing figure.

The original round in which each player was drafted is noted in parentheses:

DL Christo Bilukidi (sixth) - The former Cincinnati Bengal appeared in only four games before being placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him non-tendered and re-signed to a cheaper deal. 

DE Lawrence Guy (seventh) - Added in late September, Guy emerged as a reliable member of the defensive line rotation and passed DeAngelo Tyson on the depth chart, making it likely the Ravens will want to bring him back.

S Will Hill (undrafted) – The bright spot in an otherwise difficult year for the secondary, Hill could receive the second-round tender to prevent other teams from trying to sign him away as the Ravens clearly want him back.

K Justin Tucker (undrafted) – The Ravens will explore a long-term deal with one of the best kickers in football, but the 2013 Pro Bowl selection would figure to receive a second-round tender to discourage other teams from sniffing around.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS

These players have less than three years of accrued service and can be tendered a contract for the league minimum based on their length of service in the league. If tendered, these players are not free to negotiate with other teams. Historically, the Ravens tender all exclusive-rights free agents with the thought that there’s essentially nothing assured beyond a likely invitation to training camp for each.

WR Kamar Aiken
CB Chris Greenwood
CB Tramain Jacobs
OL Ryan Jensen
S Anthony Levine
LS Kevin McDermott
DE Steven Means
CB Rashaan Melvin
LS Patrick Scales
TE Phillip Supernaw
RB Fitz Toussaint
S Brynden Trawick
DT Casey Walker

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Returning Ngata auditioning for future in playoff run

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Returning Ngata auditioning for future in playoff run

Posted on 30 December 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The timing couldn’t have been better for the return of Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata from a four-game suspension.

Not only do the Pittsburgh Steelers loom in the first round of the AFC playoffs, but Baltimore lost rookie defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan — Ngata’s replacement over the last month — to a foot injury in the regular-season finale. Even if the Steelers are without Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell on Saturday night, there’s no understating the boost a five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman can provide for a postseason run.

“He was missed a lot in the locker room, especially by me,” said outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who’s teamed with Ngata for the last nine years. “But as soon as we won [last Sunday], we saw the score, we’re in, and we’re like, ‘Yo, we get Haloti back.’ Now the locker room is kind of back [and] complete, so to say. It’s good to have one of the best interior linemen in the game going into a big playoff game like this.”

Teammates and coaches appear to have welcomed Ngata back with open arms after a positive test for Adderall cost him the final four games of the regular season, but it’s fair to wonder how much damage might have been done to his potential future in Baltimore. Ngata is scheduled to carry a $16 million salary cap figure in 2015 — the final year of a $61 million deal signed in 2011 — and many wondered how the Ravens would plan to address his contract long before the news came of his suspension on Dec. 4.

The 2006 first-round pick is one of the best players in franchise history and has been a respected member of the locker room for nearly a decade, which made his suspension as surprising as it was disappointing. In the midst of his strongest season since 2011, Ngata testing positive for Adderall was, at best, a substantial error in judgment as it now makes critics question how long he’s used a drug the NFL considers a performance-enhancing substance without a prescription.

Ngata was noncommittal when asked if he’d seek a prescription to use Adderall in the future, preferring to keep the focus on the Ravens’ fourth all-time postseason meeting with Pittsburgh.

“It was rough — definitely rough,” Ngata said of his ban. “I was talking to a bunch of the guys, and it felt like I was retired watching football during the season while I was just at home watching the game. It felt weird, but I’m just glad that we were able to get the wins and get into the playoffs.”

The 30-year-old has played at a high level this season, but his suspension offered the Baltimore defense an opportunity to see how it would fare without him. Winning three of four games, the Ravens remained stout against the run as second-year nose tackle Brandon Williams and Jernigan anchored the defensive line for the league’s fourth-ranked rush defense. In truth, the unit didn’t appear to miss a beat, which is more of a compliment to the rest of the defensive line than a slight to Ngata.

General manager Ozzie Newsome and the front office have often preached about an “80/20 rule” for valuing players in which the Ravens will seek out players offering 80 percent of the production for 20 percent of the cost of a high-priced player. One wonders if spending high draft picks on Williams and Jernigan over the last two years and their performance in Ngata’s absence will ultimately push the veteran out the door this offseason — and save $8.5 million in cap space in the process.

Ngata will not only be returning to try to help the Ravens make another postseason run, but he’ll be auditioning for his future — in Baltimore or elsewhere. There’s no way the Ravens can justify a $16 million cap figure for Ngata next season, but the 340-pound defensive tackle has the opportunity to remind everyone of how much havoc he can create for an opposing offensive line.

But first, all eyes will be on his conditioning on Saturday after a four-game layoff.

“He’s been training — that’s what he told me,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He looks good, and I’m sure he is. I’m sure he’s busting out of his skin. I’m sure he’s ready to go.”

The Ravens hope he’s ready to help them beat Pittsburgh for the first time ever in the postseason, and Ngata has plenty to prove in bouncing back from the lowest point of his NFL career. A standout showing in the postseason would make the Ravens feel better about pursuing a short-term extension with Ngata like they did with Suggs a year ago, but a quiet performance could reinforce the sentiment that it might be best to move on from the still-talented defensive tackle who is now on the wrong side of 30.

Ultimately, Newsome may decide it’s better to part ways with Ngata a year too early than to throw too much money at a player who isn’t getting any younger. His future may come down to just how much loyalty and regret he feels after putting his team in a bad spot over the final quarter of the regular season and how that could factor into negotiations.

If Ngata is looking for another significant payday, he may need to find it elsewhere. But if he’s willing to play ball with the Ravens in lowering his cap figure in exchange for a couple more seasons at a reasonable rate in Baltimore, he’ll have a chance to finish his career where it started.

“I just feel like I owe these guys,” said Ngata of his teammates. “I’m just going to do whatever I can to help the team, and I’m definitely just ready to get back out there again.”

The Ravens are certainly welcoming him back for what they hope is a meaningful postseason run, but how long will he remain after that?

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Ngata suspended four games for violating NFL’s PED policy

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Ngata suspended four games for violating NFL’s PED policy

Posted on 04 December 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens’ playoff hopes took a major blow Thursday with the announcement of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata being suspended four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

The news comes as Baltimore prepares for a critical Week 14 road matchup with the Miami Dolphins. Ngata will not be eligible to play for the rest of the regular season after he claims he tested positive for Adderall, which is considered an amphetamine.

The 340-pound defensive lineman would be eligible for the postseason should the Ravens qualify.

“I made a mistake, and I own this,” Ngata said in a statement released by the Ravens. “I took Adderall and take full responsibility for doing this. I am deeply sorry and broken up over this. I let down my family, my teammates, Ravens fans and myself. My hope is that the Ravens make the playoffs, and I believe they can do this. And, then I can come back and help us win.”

Unlike the past when players had all control over commenting about the specifics of a suspension, the NFL’s new drug policy allows the league to publicly dispute a player’s claim of what he tested positive for.

The five-time Pro Bowl selection was in the midst of his best season in a few years as he’s collected 31 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, and two interceptions to lead the league’s fourth-ranked run defense.

The 7-5 Ravens will likely turn to rookie Timmy Jernigan as well as veterans Terrence Cody and DeAngelo Tyson to pick up the slack at Ngata’s 3-technique defensive tackle spot. Baltimore already lost top cornerback Jimmy Smith earlier this year due to a Lisfranc injury, so Ngata’s suspension strips the Ravens of another top player on the defensive side of the ball.

“This is disappointing news for the Ravens,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement. “We are disappointed with Haloti, but no more than he is with himself.”

With the suspension, Ngata will forfeit $2 million from his $8.5 million salary in 2014 with the Ravens recovering $2 million against the salary cap. The 30-year-old has one year remaining on a five-year, $61 million contract signed in 2011, but he is scheduled to carry a $16 million cap figure in 2015, which has led many to speculate about his future as the Ravens will attempt to sign him to an extension or face the possibility of cutting him.

Ngata’s suspension is the latest chapter in a difficult year for the Ravens as they’ve dealt with the fallout from the Ray Rice saga as well as season-ending injuries to Smith and starting tight end Dennis Pitta.

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Ravens pass defense on pace to be worst in franchise history

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Ravens pass defense on pace to be worst in franchise history

Posted on 30 November 2014 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens entering the final quarter of the regular season following Sunday’s disappointing 34-33 loss to the San Diego Chargers, the pass defense will need to raise its level of play substantially to avoid a dubious distinction.

Giving up 376 yards in the air as San Diego’s Philip Rivers picked them apart, the 7-5 Ravens are now on pace to surrender 4,383 yards through the air in 2014, which would shatter the franchise-worst mark of 3,969 set in the inaugural 1996 season. That year, Baltimore finished 4-12 with a pass defense that finished last in the NFL.

The Ravens woke up Monday morning ranked 31st in the league in pass defense with only the Atlanta Falcons surrendering more yards through the air.

Where are Isaac Booth, Donny Brady, and Antonio Langham when you need them?

Of course, we’re in the midst of a pass-happy era in which offense reigns supreme — making the numbers difficult to compare to those of 18 years ago — but the Ravens haven’t had any answers in a secondary that was already facing questions long before significant injuries suffered by starting cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb. Smith is done for the year with a Lisfranc injury, and Webb continues to look like a shell of his former self after a back injury that took away his entire training camp and forced him out of three of the first four games of the regular season.

The Ravens have been unfortunate, but they were also poorly prepared to handle any injuries on the back end of the defense.

After former No. 3 cornerback Corey Graham departed via free agency, general manager Ozzie Newsome did not add any quality depth behind his starters in the offseason, instead counting on Asa Jackson and Chykie Brown to pick up the slack. Instead Jackson suffered a serious turf toe injury in Week 5 — he could return as soon as next Sunday’s game in Miami — and Brown struggled so mightily that Baltimore waived him in early November.

As a result, defensive coordinator Dean Pees has been forced to turn to journeyman Danny Gorrer and former safety Anthony Levine to go along with a struggling Webb. Many are inclined to blame coaching whenever a unit struggles, but you can only be so creative with schemes — the Ravens tried just about everything on Sunday — to overcome such personnel deficiencies.

The safety position has been just as problematic with 2013 first-round pick Matt Elam being a major disappointment in his second season. Pees has used a carousel of names — Darian Stewart, Jeromy Miles, Brynden Trawick, and rookie Terrence Brooks at various times — with only Will Hill looking to be a solid option at this stage of the season.

As for the record books, the Ravens will receive a respite from playing Pro Bowl quarterbacks as they’re slated to face Miami’s Ryan Tannehill, Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles, Houston’s Ryan Fitzpatrick, and either Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel — maybe both? — in the season finale against Cleveland. That said, Tannehill is in the midst of a good third season with the Dolphins and Fitzpatrick is coming off a six-touchdown performance in Week 13, so it won’t be a total cakewalk of opposing quarterbacks.

You can only hope Sunday was rock bottom for the pass defense as the Ravens will need an excellent final month to catch the first-place Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North or at least advance to the playoffs after last year’s absence.

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Trade deadline passes without any Ravens activity

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Trade deadline passes without any Ravens activity

Posted on 28 October 2014 by Luke Jones

The NFL trade deadline came and went Tuesday without the Ravens making any moves as they prepare for a key Week 9 game in Pittsburgh.

The news is hardly surprising with activity at the NFL’s deadline paling in comparison to the other major sports historically. In fact, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the only team to sell off players Tuesday by trading safety Mark Barron to the St. Louis Rams and linebacker Jonathan Casillas to the New England Patriots in exchange for draft picks.

The Ravens completed their first in-season trade in franchise history last season when they dealt fourth- and fifth-round picks in the 2014 draft to Jacksonville for current left tackle Eugene Monroe on Oct. 1, 2013. Baltimore followed that with another trade later that month by sending benched tackle Bryant McKinnie to Miami for a seventh-round pick.

This year, general manager Ozzie Newsome explored possibilities at the cornerback position in the wake of the mid-foot sprain suffered by Jimmy Smith in Sunday’s loss at Cincinnati, but the reality is that all teams value quality cornerback play and aren’t willing to part with it cheaply. With Smith expected to be sidelined at least until after the Week 11 bye, the Ravens only have three healthy cornerbacks on their 53-man roster — Lardarius Webb, Dominique Franks, and Chykie Brown.

Baltimore could turn to the open market for another option, but such a move would be no more than adding a warm body and the Ravens have a number of safeties who can play the nickel position including Matt Elam, Terrence Brooks, and Anthony Levine. Quality defensive backs just don’t grow on trees in this pass-happy, offense-driven era of professional football.

“We don’t have to [add someone]. If we can find the right guy, we would do that,” head coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “They’re scarce. If you’ve got a name for me, I’m willing to hear it.”

Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will need to be creative in not only dialing up consistent pressure up front to aid the secondary but in finding the right formula for coverage in the back end. Webb is improving but hasn’t looked like the force he was prior to his ACL injury in 2012 while it’s difficult to label Franks and Brown as anything but liabilities based on what we’ve seen so far in 2014.

The solution — or some semblance of one — will likely fall in how effectively Pees uses his safeties with Will Hill as the biggest wild card at this point. Baltimore has employed Elam as a nickel back for much of the season, but the 2013 first-round pick has struggled in coverage, making you wonder if Hill or or even the rookie Brooks might be a better fit for that role. Using a safety in the nickel spot can certainly provide an edge playing against the run, but enough range and ability in pass coverage are obvious requirements for it to work.

The Ravens need to find answers quickly as the Steelers’ fourth-ranked passing game awaits Sunday, but they didn’t find any help with the deadline passing on Tuesday afternoon.

 

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Report: Ravens immediately learned graphic details of Rice incident

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Report: Ravens immediately learned graphic details of Rice incident

Posted on 19 September 2014 by Luke Jones

On the same day in which a Ray Rice jersey exchange was held and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell showed remorse without divulging any specifics in an afternoon press conference, a report attempted to shed light on the Ravens’ mishandling and potential coverup of the running back’s domestic violence incident.

According to an ESPN report, Ravens director of security Darren Sanders spoke to an Atlantic City police officer who’d watched the now-infamous video hours after the February incident and learned the explicit details of what transpired between Rice and then-fiancée Janay Palmer. Sanders then relayed that information to team officials, but it remains unclear whom he spoke with directly.

Upon the TMZ release of the first video just four days after the incident, head coach John Harbaugh and senior personnel assistant George Kokinis reportedly recommended that the organization release Rice, but team owner Steve Bisciotti, general manager Ozzie Newsome, and team president Dick Cass rejected the suggestion, instead choosing to stand by the troubled running back. After offensive lineman Jah Reid became the third Ravens player arrested in the offseason, Harbaugh again approached team officials about releasing Rice, Reid, and wide receiver Deonte Thompson — the other player arrested in the offseason at that point — but was rejected again, according to ESPN.

The Ravens denied these allegations in a statement included in the ESPN piece saying, “John Harbaugh did not want to release Ray Rice until he saw the second video on September 8 for the first time. The video changed everything for all of us.”

Harbaugh was the only member of the Ravens’ brass to meet with reporters on the day Rice’s contract was terminated.

The report does not indicate that the Ravens ever had a copy of the video showing what happened inside the elevator, but Cass spoke to Rice’s attorney, Michael Diamondstein, in early April after the defense team had acquired a copy of the elevator security video from the Revel Casino via subpoena. ESPN reports that Rice’s lawyer told Cass that what was on the video was “f—ing horrible” and it was apparent that “Ray knocked her the f— out.”

Cass reportedly never asked Diamondstein for a copy of the video — the NFL didn’t either — and instead continued to urge Rice’s defense team to gain acceptance for their client into a pretrial intervention program that would not only eliminate the possibility of prison time but prevent the elevator video from ever being made public.

ESPN cited four sources indicating that Ravens officials — including Bisciotti, Cass, and Newsome — continued to push for only a two-game suspension from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in disciplining their star running back. The report also indicated that the organization believed Goodell had viewed the video, imploring Rice to tell the entire truth when he met with the commissioner in June.

Upon releasing Rice when the second video was released by TMZ on Sept. 8, Bisciotti sent Rice a text message stating the following:

Hey Ray, just want to let you know, we loved you as a player, it was great having you here. Hopefully all these things are going to die down. I wish the best for you and Janay.

When you’re done with football, I’d like you to know you have a job waiting for you with the Ravens helping young guys getting acclimated to the league.

In an interview with The Sun last week, Newsome maintained that Rice had told the truth about what was on the graphic video throughout the process while Cass and Bisciotti have indicated in interviews that his story didn’t necessarily align with what they saw on the video for the first time on the morning of Sept. 8.

In a press conference held earlier in the day in New York, Goodell reiterated that he mishandled the Rice case with the initial two-game suspension handed down on July 25.

“I got it wrong in the handling of the Ray Rice matter, and I’m sorry for that,” Goodell said. “The same mistakes can never be repeated.”

 

 

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Ravens must rebuild reputation in wake of Rice’s departure

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Ravens must rebuild reputation in wake of Rice’s departure

Posted on 09 September 2014 by Luke Jones

There was no other choice for the Ravens but to sever ties with running back Ray Rice on Monday afternoon.

The release of the second elevator video by TMZ depicted the worst-case scenario of what Rice had done to then-fiancée Janay Palmer and removed any lingering benefit of the doubt one could reasonably have in defending or understanding the 27-year-old’s actions on that February night in an Atlantic City casino. And it brought the Ravens’ embarrassing missteps to the forefront as the organization was forced to terminate the contract of the man they’d spent the better part of seven months defending and building up amidst intense criticism from the rest of the world.

Whether they were simply misled by Rice, the New Jersey legal system, and the NFL or callously turned a blind eye to what really happened is open for debate as this saga isn’t over — even if the three-time Pro Bowl running back’s career in Baltimore is. The truth is the Ravens will now face the challenge of rebuilding their own image and trust with the general public as their reputation for being one of the finest organizations in the NFL took a massive blow in their handling of the Rice incident.

From the emphatic insistence that his job status was not in jeopardy and strong praise for Rice’s character to the embarrassing initial press conference and the examples of profound support published on the team’s official website, owner Steve Bisciotti, team president Dick Cass, general manager Ozzie Newsome, and head coach John Harbaugh must all take responsibility for what was an error in judgment and a lack of sensitivity to what was a startling case of domestic violence. It was unfair for the organization to leave Harbaugh alone to field questions Monday evening as the masses — including Ravens fans and the local community — deserved to hear from the team owner and high-ranking officials following the decision to terminate the employment of one of the Ravens’ biggest stars since 2008.

Harbaugh told the media that Monday was the first time anyone in the organization had viewed the second video published for the world to see that morning. When pressed if he felt misled by his former running back and asked what about the video had changed the team’s reaction so drastically, Harbaugh didn’t “want to get into all that,” which isn’t a good enough answer from an organization that was labeled tone-deaf by many for their unwavering support of Rice throughout the entire ordeal.

It’s human nature to want to think the best of someone you admire no matter what the circumstance, and the Ravens certainly cared — and still care — about Rice as a person. But the organization allowed the goodwill Rice had built over his first six years in Baltimore to cloud its preparedness for — and sensitivity to — the worst-case scenario that proved to be the truth with the released video of Rice viciously striking his future wife and knocking her unconscious in that casino elevator.

Throughout the process, the Ravens gravitated toward what they wanted to believe — and perhaps how Rice and the New Jersey legal system had portrayed the incident — with little regard for the possibility that this incident of domestic violence was as bad as some had reported and many had feared. Yes, the Ravens knew Rice had done wrong, but their actions and words over the last seven months didn’t demonstrate an appropriate grasp of just how violently he had potentially acted.

The Ravens showed more than enough support for Rice by simply not cutting him from the start and instead allowed the legal process to play out, even if many believed they shouldn’t have even wasted that much time. However, the organization went out of its way to continuously remind everyone about how great of a guy Rice was, which — unintentionally or not — portrayed him as more of a victim than a perpetrator and showed a lack of sensitivity and compassion toward victims of domestic violence.

The recent partnership formed with the House of Ruth to help combat domestic violence was a good start, but much more will need to be done to put the memory of the last seven months behind them.

As an emotional Chris Canty stated, Monday was a sad day for the Baltimore Ravens as they severed ties with one of their biggest stars. Make no mistake, it was a sickening act committed by Rice alone that led to his deserved termination, but the Ravens only hurt themselves in the way they handled the matter along the way.

And it will take much longer to fix that tarnished reputation than it did to clean out Rice’s locker on Monday.

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Ravens to unveil Lewis statue outside M&T Bank Stadium Thursday morning

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Ravens to unveil Lewis statue outside M&T Bank Stadium Thursday morning

Posted on 03 September 2014 by Luke Jones

Just a few days before the Ravens begin their 19th season in Baltimore, they will officially honor the most decorated player in franchise history by unveiling a statue of retired middle linebacker Ray Lewis on Thursday morning.

Erected next to the statue of legendary Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas outside M&T Bank Stadium, the Lewis statue has been in the works ever since team owner Steve Bisciotti announced his intentions of permanently honoring the future Hall of Fame linebacker at the end of the 2012 season. The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and 13-time Pro Bowl selection was the only Ravens player to be part of both Super Bowl championships, earning Most Valuable Player honors in Super Bowl XXXV and winning his second championship in the final game of his 17-year career.

Lewis will be eligible for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018.

“Most times, I’m never at a loss for words, but that’s a very humbling thing,” Lewis said in late July while attending a training camp practice at M&T Bank Stadium. “This is my home. I gave everything I had to city. To have a statue in this city, it means everything.”

The organization will hold on 11 a.m. ceremony at Unitas Plaza outside the stadium with Bisciotti, team president Dick Cass, general manager Ozzie Newsome, and former teammates scheduled to attend in addition to friends and family of Lewis. The 39-year-old will speak from the podium during the ceremony, and sculptor Frederick Kail, who also made the Unitas statue, will be present.

Fans are invited to attend the event, which is scheduled to last roughly 15 minutes.

 

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Breaking down the Ravens’ 53-man roster following final cuts

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Breaking down the Ravens’ 53-man roster following final cuts

Posted on 30 August 2014 by Luke Jones

Saturday’s deadline arrived with the Ravens constructing their first official 53-man roster of the 2014 season in hopes of rebounding from the first non-playoff campaign of the John Harbaugh era a year ago.

Of course, the roster will remain fluid in the coming days as general manager Ozzie Newsome scans the open market for potential additions to enhance the talent already assembled. Baltimore will also construct a 10-player practice squad over the next few days with a number of players who were cut over the weekend potentially returning to the organization.

Here’s a look at the 53-man roster as it stood on Saturday evening with some early impressions:

QUARTERBACKS (2) — Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor
Analysis: The Ravens appear primed to go with only two quarterbacks for the fifth consecutive season after waiving rookie Keith Wenning on Saturday. The story will remain the same as it has for years in hoping the durable Joe Flacco continues his impressive streak of never missing a game as he enters his seventh season. Baltimore might be able to steal a win or two with Taylor at the helm in the event of a short-term injury to Flacco, but all hopes disappear if the Super Bowl XLVII Most Valuable Player goes down for any significant period of time.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (4) — Bernard Pierce, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Justin Forsett, Kyle Juszczyk
SUSPENDED: Ray Rice (can return in Week 3)
Skinny: The return of Pierce to the practice field on Saturday brought relief, but the third-year back will need to hold up over the first two weeks of the season before Rice is eligible to return. Taliaferro is a fair bet to see an increased role in short-yardage situations as the season progresses while Forsett’s job will be in jeopardy by Week 3. Juszczyk led the team in receptions during the preseason and could be a surprise contributor as a receiver out of the backfield. It will be very interesting to see how new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak distributes carries throughout the season with Rice and Pierce both coming off poor seasons.

WIDE RECEIVERS (7) — Steve Smith, Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, Marlon Brown, Michael Campanaro, Deonte Thompson, Kamar Aiken
Analysis: The Ravens found room to keep the trio of Campanaro, Thompson, and Aiken, but seven receivers feels a bit excessive in a passing offense that regularly uses two tight ends and the fullback out of the backfield, making it possible this positional group is altered before the start of the season. The Smiths need to come up big if this offense is to make major improvement from last year’s abysmal ranking of 29th in the NFL. Brown didn’t have a great summer and won’t be counted on as much as he was last season, but his 6-foot-5 frame remains extremely appealing inside the red zone.

TIGHT ENDS (3) — Dennis Pitta, Crockett Gillmore, Owen Daniels
Analysis: This group looked more promising before training camp began, but Daniels has looked more like this year’s version of Dallas Clark than the difference-making tight end he was for years in Houston. Pitta is 100 percent, however, and should be in for a big year after a full offseason to regain his strength and explosiveness. The Ravens will trust Gillmore to handle blocking duties once reserved for former Raven Ed Dickson, but the third-round rookie was uneven during practices and preseason games. Pitta alone makes this an above-average group, but the Ravens need contributions from Daniels and Gillmore to make Kubiak’s offense function at a high level.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9) — Eugene Monroe, Kelechi Osemele, Jeremy Zuttah, Marshal Yanda, Rick Wagner, Gino Gradkowski, John Urschel, Jah Reid, James Hurst
Analysis: Even if you’re buying into the idea that Zuttah and Wagner will hold up adequately as starting members of the offensive line, the depth behind the starters remains suspect, especially at the interior positions. Significant offensive improvement begins and ends with this unit as offensive line coach Juan Castillo is counting on healthy versions of Osemele and Yanda as well as Monroe to do the heavy lifting. This group had its moments in the preseason, but the offensive line deserves scrutiny until it proves it can do the job on a weekly basis with three AFC North opponents waiting right off the bat. Hurst appeared very green early in the summer but improved as the weeks progressed, and the Ravens like his upside.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (5) — Haloti Ngata, Chris Canty, Brandon Williams, DeAngelo Tyson, Timmy Jernigan
INJURED: Terrence Cody (placed on the reserve physically unable to perform list and can’t return until Week 7)
Analysis: The season-ending injuries to Kapron Lewis-Moore and Brent Urban transformed the defensive line from a deep group to one with questions as the Ravens are only carrying five defensive linemen for the time being. Williams had a very strong preseason and could be a game-changer against the run, but Ngata and Canty will need to hold off Father Time for another season if the Ravens want to consistently control the line of scrimmage, something they struggled to do at times a year ago. This unit could stand to benefit from a veteran addition if Newsome finds someone that strikes his fancy.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (6) — Daryl Smith, C.J. Mosley, Arthur Brown, Albert McClellan, Josh Bynes, Zachary Orr
Analysis: The depth at this position is exceptional with the 2013 second-round pick Brown and former starter Bynes serving as primary backups. The Ravens could try to deal from this position of strength to address other areas such as cornerback, but reserves such as McClellan and Bynes are also core special-teams players. If the first-round pick Mosley can be a game-changing linebacker next to Daryl Smith, the Ravens will have a pair of starting inside backers as good as nearly any in the league. Orr was a surprise to make the 53-man roster, but he appears vulnerable to be cut if other positional groups are addressed in the next couple days.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (4) — Elvis Dumervil, Terrell Suggs, Courtney Upshaw, Pernell McPhee
Analysis: Even if 2013 fourth-round pick John Simon was an obvious disappointment, his dismissal on Saturday speaks to how talented and deep this group is. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees needs Suggs and Dumervil to look like the disruptive pass-rushers they were in the first half of 2013 to help cover up a vulnerable secondary. Upshaw is solid against the run while McPhee will probably serve as more of a defensive lineman in the Ravens’ sub packages, but both are quality role players within the defense.

CORNERBACKS (4) — Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, Chykie Brown, Asa Jackson
Analysis: Seeing Webb, Smith, and Jackson back on the practice field Saturday was encouraging, but that doesn’t mean the top three cornerbacks will be 100 percent for the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 7. Jackson earned praise during training camp, but he’s also never played a defensive snap entering his third year in the NFL, and the maligned Brown struggled for much of the summer. In the pass-happy modern era of the NFL, you need three or four quality corners and only Webb and Smith are proven commodities at this point. It’s easier said than done, but Newsome really needs to add an established cornerback to the mix to prevent too many restless nights for Harbaugh and Pees.

SAFETIES (6) — Matt Elam, Darian Stewart, Terrence Brooks, Jeromy Miles, Anthony Levine, Brynden Trawick
SUSPENDED: Will Hill (can return in Week 7)
Analysis: Most attention has fallen on the cornerback position, but this position doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence, either. The Ravens hope Elam playing closer to the line of scrimmage will bring out his physicality, but he made few plays in training camp or during preseason games. Stewart is the starting free safety for now, but it only appears to be a matter of time before the third-round rookie Brooks gets his chance after he made major strides over the final couple weeks of the summer. Keeping the trio of Miles, Levine, and Trawick appears to be a bit much, but Levine’s ability to play cornerback makes him stand out a bit more than the others. Newsome stated an offseason goal of finding a game-changing safety, but there weren’t any signs of that being a reality this summer.

SPECIALISTS (3) — Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
Analsysis: Tucker might be the best kicker in the NFL while Koch appeared to have a strong enough summer to quell concerns about an underwhelming 2013 campaign and a high salary cap figure. The long snapper Cox quietly does his job as well as anyone every year.

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