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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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Predicting the Ravens’ 53-man roster at the end of preseason

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Predicting the Ravens’ 53-man roster at the end of preseason

Posted on 29 August 2014 by Luke Jones

The preseason is finally over as the Ravens now turn their sights toward the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 7.

But first, head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome must trim their roster from 75 players to 53 by Saturday’s 4 p.m. deadline. Though many often label this the “final” roster after nearly six weeks of summer football, it’s merely the first 53-man roster with the Ravens looking to make adjustments and upgrades wherever and whenever possible.

Depth concerns are apparent in the secondary and along the defensive line, which have prompted general manager Ozzie Newsome to look for outside help — he signed veteran cornerback Derek Cox earlier this week — to enhance the roster between now and the start of the season. Meanwhile, the Ravens appear to have good depth at linebacker and wide receiver that could leave one or two incumbents on the outside looking in by Saturday afternoon.

Though Newsome, Harbaugh, and the remainder of the coaching staff and front office are cognizant of the number of players at each position, trying to pinpoint a specific number of wide receivers or linebackers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. The Ravens will always look carefully at players’ special-teams abilities in addition to what they bring to their specific positional group.

NFL teams must get down to the regular-season number of 53 by Saturday, but they will also be able to formulate 10-man practice squads — an increase from the previous number of eight — once players around the league clear waivers.

Take a look at last week’s roster projection to see whose stock is up and who might have landed on the wrong side of the bubble after the 22-13 win over New Orleans in which most starters didn’t play.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players projected to be retained at that given position. Players listed as injured or suspended will not count against the 53-man roster limit when final cuts are made.

QUARTERBACKS (2)
IN: Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor
OUT: Keith Wenning
Skinny: Wenning played more than expected in thinking the Ravens wouldn’t want to put too much tape out there for other teams to see, but it’s still a good bet the sixth-round pick passes through waivers and lands on the practice squad. Baltimore hasn’t carried three quarterbacks on the roster since 2009, and that’s expected to continue.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (4)
IN: Bernard Pierce, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Justin Forsett, Kyle Juszczyk
OUT: Fitz Toussaint
SUSPENDED: Ray Rice (will be suspended for the first two games of the regular season)
Skinny: Toussaint was the surprise of the night in New Orleans in rushing for 103 yards on 17 carries, but don’t read too much into the final preseason game when nearly all roster decisions have already been made. However, his performance improves his chances of being invited to join the practice squad or to be picked up elsewhere.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
IN: Steve Smith, Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, Marlon Brown, Michael Campanaro, Deonte Thompson
OUT: Kamar Aiken, Jeremy Butler
Skinny: Being a draft pick and having the potential to develop as a slot receiver, Campanaro is a notch above Thompson and Aiken, who are essentially a coin flip for one spot. Thompson gets the nod because of his lightning speed and improved performance as the summer progressed, but Aiken also grabbed four catches for 57 yards in the preseason finale. It’s very close.

TIGHT ENDS (3)
IN: Dennis Pitta, Crockett Gillmore, Owen Daniels
OUT: Nathan Overbay, Phillip Supernaw
Skinny: Concerns remain over how much Daniels has left in the tank after a disappointing summer, but the Ravens are going to give him the benefit of the doubt and plenty of rest as we saw over the last couple weeks. It was encouraging seeing Daniels back on the practice field this week, but the rookie Gillmore might need to be a bigger factor than most anticipated.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)
IN: Eugene Monroe, Kelechi Osemele, Jeremy Zuttah, Marshal Yanda, Rick Wagner, Gino Gradkowski, John Urschel, Jah Reid, A.Q. Shipley
OUT: James Hurst, Ryan Jensen, Reggie Stephens, Parker Graham
Skinny: If Reid’s concussion symptoms linger longer than Harbaugh indicated earlier in the week, Hurst could temporarily find himself on the 53-man roster as the third tackle. Otherwise, it appears Shipley and Urschel get the nod as backup interior linemen over Jensen, who had a disappointing summer and could be a practice squad candidate.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (5)

CONTINUE ON NEXT PAGE >>>>>

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Poly grad Williams, Omar Brown among Ravens’ cuts to get to 75

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Poly grad Williams, Omar Brown among Ravens’ cuts to get to 75

Posted on 25 August 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens completed the process of trimming their preseason roster to 75 a day prior to Tuesday’s deadline by cutting a number of players headlined by wide receiver LaQuan Williams and safety Omar Brown on Monday.

Linebackers Austin Spitler and Nick DiMarco, offensive tackle David Mims, cornerbacks Deji Olatoye and Marrio Norman, running back Cierre Wood, wide receiver Mike Willie, and punter Richie Leone were also released.

Baltimore waived offensive lineman Brett Van Sloten (knee) and fullback Shaun Chapas, who were both dealing with injuries.

To complete their transformation from 90 to 75 players on the current roster, the Ravens placed defensive linemen Kapron Lewis-Moore (Achilles tendon) and Brent Urban (knee) as well as offensive lineman Will Rackley (head) on season-ending injured reserve. Lewis-Moore and Urban had already undergone season-ending surgeries while Rackley continues to recover from a concussion sustained at the start of training camp.

“There is a feeling when you have fewer guys,” said head coach John Harbaugh about trimming his roster for the first time this summer. “It starts in the meeting. We came in the meeting, I walked in and I waited a little bit, and my first thought was, ‘Everybody is not here. Do we have everybody?’ We did have everybody, but we didn’t.

A Poly grad and University of Maryland product, Williams was re-signed by the Ravens in the offseason after being cut last year but was unable to distinguish himself in a deep group of wide receivers. A feel-good story as an undrafted free agent who made the Ravens’ 53-man roster in 2011, Williams hadn’t recorded a reception in three preseason games and failed to make his mark on special teams as he had in previous seasons.

Brown had spent the last two seasons bouncing back and forth between Baltimore’s practice squad and active roster, but his future appeared clear when he didn’t take any defensive snaps and was only on the field for two special-teams plays in Saturday’s 23-17 win over Washington.

“Omar and LaQuan are just two guys who have been here for a long time,” Harbaugh said. “[They] have been Ravens for a number of years and have contributed so much to us. That’s the toughest thing. They’re going to go play for other teams — I don’t doubt that at all. But those guys have contributed so much, and we’re so appreciative of what they’ve done.

“All of those guys will get opportunities elsewhere or back here again in the future. That was a tough day. Some tears, some hugs, and you come back out and you go back to work.”

General manager Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh must trim the roster to 53 by 4 p.m. Saturday.

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Sizing up the 2014 Ravens roster after second preseason game

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Sizing up the 2014 Ravens roster after second preseason game

Posted on 17 August 2014 by Luke Jones

With two preseason games in the books, the Ravens’ 53-man roster picture continues to take shape with final cuts less than two weeks away and questions still remaining.

Depth concerns are apparent along the defensive line and in the secondary, which could prompt general manager Ozzie Newsome to be looking for outside help to enhance the roster between now and the start of the season. Meanwhile, the Ravens appear to have some depth at linebacker and on the offensive line — though overall quality might be in question with the latter — that could leave a few incumbents on the outside looking in by the end of the summer.

My current look at the roster suggests 42 players are locks if the deadline to trim the roster to 53 took place today. My rough assessment of the 90 players on the roster lists 20 players on the bubble with at least some decent chance of making the final roster. Not all bubble players are on equal footing, with certain positions lacking quality depth and others enjoying an abundance of talent.

Though general manager Ozzie Newsome, head coach John Harbaugh, and the remainder of the coaching staff and front office are cognizant of the number of players at each position, trying to pinpoint a specific number of wide receivers or linebackers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. The Ravens will always look carefully at players’ special-teams abilities in addition to what they bring to their specific positional group.

The Ravens must trim the roster from the current 90 players to 75 by 4 p.m. on Aug. 26 and must go down to the regular-season number of 53 by Aug. 30.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players currently on the roster at that given position. Bubble players’ names that are underlined are currently on my projected 53-man roster as of Aug. 17. Players listed as injured or suspended are not projected to count against the 53-man roster when final cuts are made.

QUARTERBACKS (3)
LOCK: Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor
BUBBLE: Keith Wenning
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: With depth concerns at other positions, it’s difficult to justify the Ravens keeping three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster for the first time since 2009. They’re likely to attempt to sneak Wenning through waivers to place him on the practice squad, but it won’t be the end of the world if another team snatches up the sixth-round selection.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (8)
LOCK: Bernard Pierce, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Kyle Juszczyk
BUBBLE: Justin Forsett
LONG SHOT: Cierre Wood, Fitz Toussaint, Shaun Chapas
SUSPENDED: Ray Rice (will be suspended for the first two games of the regular season)
Skinny: The rapid emergence of Taliaferro and two fumbles in two preseason games by Forsett have landed the veteran in a more vulnerable position than you’d expect despite Rice serving a suspension to begin the season. The guess is Forsett still finds his way on the 53-man roster to begin the year, but his spot will be in serious danger by Week 3.

WIDE RECEIVERS (11)
LOCK: Steve Smith, Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, Marlon Brown
BUBBLE: Michael Campanaro, Kamar Aiken, Deonte Thompson
LONG SHOT: Jeremy Butler, LaQuan Williams, Mike Willie, Jace Davis
Skinny: Many will view Thompson’s 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown as a play that lands him on the roster, but the third-year wideout only saw two offensive snaps against Dallas. Aiken has been the better player this summer and has more size as a receiver, and Campanaro has shown more consistent hands than Thompson.

TIGHT ENDS (5)
LOCK: Dennis Pitta, Crockett Gillmore, Owen Daniels
BUBBLE: none
LONG SHOT: Phillip Supernaw, Nathan Overbay
Skinny: The Ravens’ decision to “rest” Daniels is raising eyebrows as it relates to the veteran’s health, but his inability to gain separation in practices has tempered enthusiasm for the tight end position. However, his track record and an uneven summer for the rookie Gillmore make it difficult to think Daniels is anything but a lock.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (16)
LOCK: Eugene Monroe, Kelechi Osemele, Jeremy Zuttah, Marshal Yanda, Rick Wagner, Gino Gradkowski, John Urschel
BUBBLE: Jah Reid, A.Q. Shipley, James Hurst, Will Rackley, Ryan Jensen
LONG SHOT: Brett Van Sloten, Reggie Stephens, David Mims, Parker Graham
Skinny: Reid gets the nod as the primary backup tackle over Hurst, and Shipley has been more consistent than Jensen this summer. Hurst and Jensen would be strong candidates for the practice squad if left off the 53-man roster.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (12)

CONTINUE ON NEXT PAGE >>>>>

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Ravens’ cornerback situation can’t be overlooked in win over Cowboys

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Ravens’ cornerback situation can’t be overlooked in win over Cowboys

Posted on 16 August 2014 by Luke Jones

A 37-30 win for the Ravens over the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday night doesn’t reflect what was the most concerning image from the opening minutes of the second preseason game of the summer.

Already without starter Lardarius Webb and No. 3 corner contender Asa Jackson due to injuries, the Ravens lost their most important piece of the secondary — and likely their entire defense — as Jimmy Smith landed hard on his back defending a sideline pass intended for Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant. The good news is that X-rays were negative on his chest and the fourth-year watched the remainder of the game from the sideline despite spitting up blood on the sideline as he was helped off the field.

A bruised chest isn’t necessarily cause for panic — The Sun reported Smith was still coughing up blood following the game — but watching Chykie Brown and Dominique Franks handle the cornerback spots with the starting defense conjured memories of David Pittman and Willie Gaston manning the Baltimore secondary in the disastrous 2007 season. And it was another reminder of just how thin the Ravens’ cornerback depth is considering Brown has been picked on for much of the summer and Franks had been relegated to third-string duties until the last week.

Franks was beaten on a jump ball to Bryant for a 31-yard touchdown — a matchup that was simply unfair — while Brown was later burned by Cowboys wideout Terrance Williams on a deep route that was badly underthrown. To Brown’s credit, he did recover to break up the pass, but the play was more about a poor throw from Cowboys backup Brandon Weeden than an impressive play by the fourth-year cornerback.

It didn’t help that Dean Pees’ defense struggled to stop the run and generated little pressure in the pocket in the first half, but general manager Ozzie Newsome and the front office must address what is obvious with the start of the season only three weeks away. The Ravens need to add an established cornerback to their secondary in order to not be exposed by potent passing games in the throw-happy NFL.

All you need to know about the confidence level in the current batch of cornerbacks is the Ravens’ experimentation with using three safeties in the nickel defense with rookie Terrence Brooks lining up at the slot corner position. Jackson was emerging as a promising option for the No. 3 job, but he remains too much of an unknown and was spotted in a walking boot Saturday after injuring his ankle a week ago. John Harbaugh said it was a “minor” ankle sprain at the time, but the head coach is often ambiguous and vague when discussing injuries, making you wonder when Jackson will even make it back to the practice field.

Even if Smith and Webb are healthy for the start of the season — the latter has been sidelined with a back injury since July 25 — no one on the current roster instills enough confidence in being able to handle the No. 3 cornerback spot. That reality has made the free-agent departure of Corey Graham to Buffalo in the offseason that much more glaring as the Ravens didn’t draft a cornerback or sign a veteran at the position until the middle of June.

The problem will be addressing the problem at this stage as quality cornerbacks aren’t exactly waiting in abundance. A free-agent veteran such as Asante Samuel is always a possibility, but that won’t necessarily solve the problem as the Ravens already signed veterans Aaron Ross — who tore his Achilles tendon at the start of training camp — and Franks at the end of mandatory minicamp and have seen disappointing results. The Ravens’ best bet — or only hope — might be to dangle a future draft pick in hopes of acquiring another team’s second or third cornerback.

The nickel defense has become too much of a staple in today’s NFL to continue to expect an in-house candidate to handle the job. That concern will become a major problem if any of the Ravens’ current injuries linger into the start of the season with Cincinnati and Pittsburgh first up on the schedule.

The clock is ticking and the concern only grew as Smith landed hard on the turf at AT&T Stadium and needed to be helped off the field.

The Ravens need help in the secondary.

But it’s going to be difficult to find it.

 

 

 

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Rice to be suspended for first two games of 2014 season

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Rice to be suspended for first two games of 2014 season

Posted on 24 July 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After months of speculation with varying opinions about his fate, Ravens running back Ray Rice will be suspended for the first two games of the 2014 season as punishment for a domestic violence incident that occurred in an Atlantic City casino in February.

The league officially announced its decision on Thursday afternoon as Rice was punished for “conduct detrimental to the NFL in violation of the league’s personal conduct policy.” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a letter that Rice’s conduct “was unquestionably inconsistent with league polices and the standard of behavior required of everyone who is part of the NFL.”

Rice was fined a game check — which is reportedly calculated from his 2013 base salary of $1 million — in addition to the salary he’ll lose during the two-game suspension without pay, bringing his total lost compensation to roughly $529,000. He will be unavailable as the Ravens open their season against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium on Sept. 7 and welcome the Pittsburgh Steelers to Baltimore four days later for a Thursday night game.

“It is disappointing that I will not be with my teammates for the first two games of the season, but that’s my fault,” Rice said in a statement released by the Ravens. “As I said earlier, I failed in many ways. But, Janay and I have learned from this. We have become better as a couple and as parents. I am better because of everything we have experienced since that night. The counseling has helped tremendously.”

“My goal is to earn back the trust of the people, especially the children, I let down because of this incident. I am a role model and I take that responsibility seriously. My actions going forward will show that.”

Baltimore will be able to replace Rice on the 53-man roster while he’s suspended. The running back will be allowed to participate in all aspects of training camp and in preseason games before beginning his suspension on Aug. 30.

The 27-year-old running back and his wife met with Goodell in New York last month, leading many to assume a ruling on a potential suspension would come before the start of camp as the Ravens try to rebound from an 8-8 season that saw them miss the postseason for the first time since 2007. In the spring, Rice pleaded not guilty to a third-degree charge of aggravated assault and was accepted into a pretrial intervention program after allegedly striking his fiancee and rendering her unconscious at the Revel Casino on February 15.

“We appreciate the thorough process the league office used to evaluate the incident with Ray Rice,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement. “The time the commissioner spent with Ray and Janay is typical of the extra steps the NFL takes when making decisions regarding discipline issues. While not having Ray for the first two games is significant to our team, we respect the league’s decision and believe it is fair.

“We also respect the efforts Ray has made to become the best partner and father he can be. That night was not typical of the Ray Rice we know and respect. We believe that he will not let that one night define who he is, and he is determined to make sure something like this never happens again.”

The news was met with much criticism on Thursday as many believed the NFL is taking too soft of a stance on domestic violence. The Ravens have stood firm in their support for Rice throughout the process and never wavered in expressing their positive feelings toward him, regularly pointing out his pristine record and reputation prior to the February incident.

Head coach John Harbaugh said earlier in the week that Rice’s suspension would not impact his team’s preparations in training camp until after the second preseason game. He reiterated that idea on Thursday, adding that the organization has already moved on from a football standpoint.

“It’s really not a big deal. It’s just part of the process,” Harbaugh said. “We said from the beginning the circumstances would determine the consequences. There are consequences when you make a mistake like that. I stand behind Ray — he’s a heck of a guy. He’s done everything right since. He makes a mistake; he’s going to have to pay a consequence. That’s good for kids to understand that it works that way. That’s how it works. That’s how it should be, and we’ll move forward.

“Ray will be back when the time comes. It’s not something that we’re dwelling on; it’s just that we’re not worrying about it. [We're] moving forward.”

Primary backup Bernard Pierce, veteran newcomer Justin Forsett, and 2014 fourth-round pick Lorenzo Taliaferro are expected to compete for more reps while Rice serves his suspension.

 

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Report: Multiple provisions on McClain trade for Ravens to receive pick

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Report: Multiple provisions on McClain trade for Ravens to receive pick

Posted on 02 July 2014 by Glenn Clark

While some Baltimore Ravens fans had thought that parlaying a linebacker who had never played a snap for the team into an upgrade in the 2015 NFL Draft was a “deft” or “savvy” move from General Manager Ozzie Newsome-a report Wednesday indicated the move was much less likely to be so beneficial.

The team dealt retired LB Rolando McClain to the Dallas Cowboys Tuesday, with reports indicating they would also swap their 7th round pick next year for the Cowboys’ 6th round selection. While there are still possibilities those scenarios could play out, ESPNDallas.com reports it is far from a sure thing.

From the report…

According to multiple sources, if McClain, who was acquired Tuesday, does not make the team or is not on the Cowboys’ 53-man roster for five games or 46-man game-day roster for three games in 2014, then the Ravens will not receive any compensation. 

As it stands right now, the trade calls for the Cowboys to give up their seventh-rounder in 2016 if McClain is on the 53-man roster for five games or 46-man roster for three games only if their pick is better than the Ravens’ pick in the round. If it is, then the teams will swap selections. If the Ravens finish with a worse record in 2014, then there is no swap. 

If McClain plays in 50 percent of the defensive snaps in 2014, then the Ravens would receive the Cowboys’ sixth-round pick in 2015 and the Cowboys would receive Baltimore’s seventh-round pick in 2015.

The former first round pick has not played in the NFL since November 2012. During that time he has been arrested twice, retired twice and has now come out of retirement for a second time (his agent-Pat Dye-told ESPN he was committed to playing after being traded to Dallas).

The Alabama alum worked out for the Ravens earlier in the offseason with NFL.com’s Aditi Kinkhabwala reporting it was “not a roaring success.” McClain reportedly failed the conditioning part of the workout.

The ‘Boys view McClain as a low-risk option in replacing injured veteran Sean Lee-who will miss the 2014 season with a knee injury. They did not give McClain any guaranteed money.

The Ravens drafted fellow former Alabama LB C.J. Mosley in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft to join Daryl Smith, Josh Bynes and last year’s second round pick Arthur Brown in giving the team depth at the position.

We can neither confirm nor deny this as being the official record for most news posts about a single player who never actually played for the Ravens.

-G

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Ravens looking to extend contract of Pro Bowl kicker Tucker

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Ravens looking to extend contract of Pro Bowl kicker Tucker

Posted on 27 June 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have made no secrets about their desire to sign the likes of Haloti Ngata, Torrey Smith, and Jimmy Smith to long-term contracts, but Pro Bowl kicker Justin Tucker has been added to that list.

In an interview with the team’s official website, general manager Ozzie Newsome said the Ravens would like to sign the third-year kicker to a new deal as he enters the final year of his rookie contract. An undrafted free agent from the University of Texas, Tucker signed a three-year, $1.44 million contract in 2012 and is scheduled to become a restricted free agent after the season.

Tucker was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2013 after going 30-for-33 on field goal attempts, including a 6-for-6 effort and a franchise record 61-yard field goal to win the Week 15 game against the Detroit Lions. He also made 33 consecutive field goals at one point during the season, the fourth-longest streak in NFL history.

Newsome confirmed the Ravens are also trying to extend two fourth-year players, cornerback Jimmy Smith and wide receiver Torrey Smith, who have both expressed a desire to remain with the team that drafted them in 2011.

“We’re trying to get these done,” Newsome said, “but we haven’t yet.”

Newsome also reiterated a desire to sign Ngata to an extension as he is signed through the 2015 season but carries a $16 million salary cap figure in each of the final two years of his deal, leaving many to ponder his future beyond this year.

The Ravens were able to sign fellow veteran Terrell Suggs earlier in the offseason to a four-year extension that runs through the 2018 season, lowering his 2014 cap number from $12.4 million to $7.8 million in the process.

“We wanted two things from these contracts,” Newsome told the team’s official website. “The first is to create some cap room and the other is to try and make sure these two players remained Ravens forever. We got ‘Sizzle’ done, and we’re still hopeful with Haloti.”

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Rice’s first public comments fall short with glaring omission

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Rice’s first public comments fall short with glaring omission

Posted on 23 May 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ray Rice was never going to win when he finally broke his silence on Friday.

Making his first public comments since a domestic incident in an Atlantic City casino in February forever changed his life, the Ravens running back wasn’t going to find words to brighten the opinions of the many who are justifiably angry and he may never improve the feelings of some. The parameters of declining to answer questions and scheduling the session on a Friday afternoon entering a holiday weekend created skepticism before Rice and his wife, Janay, ever stepped in front of cameras at the Ravens’ training facility in Owings Mills.

The missteps have already been picked apart, ranging from Rice fumbling with his phone to look at notes and offering an ill-suited analogy of getting up after being knocked down to his wife taking some responsibility for what happened — a public relations nightmare for a domestic violence incident — and the couple appearing distant with one another throughout the proceedings. What may have been a respectable desire to speak from the heart instead of reading a prepared statement was poorly executed as Rice has been known to occasionally ramble and speak in circles in his press conferences over the years.

But it was what he failed to say from the very beginning that ultimately doomed his first attempt to begin rebuilding his public image.

Oversight or not, Rice failed to directly and publicly apologize to his wife — the woman who sat next to him and in front of the entire world on Friday — while he expressed sorrow to others and spoke of his relationship with her growing stronger since the events of February 15. That’s not to assume the 27-year-old hasn’t apologized profusely to his wife in private, but if the goal of Friday’s event was to show his remorse and begin rehabilitating his image in the public eye, it needed to start with a direct appeal to the person impacted most by what happened at the Revel Casino.

Before apologizing to owner Steve Bisciotti, general manager Ozzie Newsome, head coach John Harbaugh, or anyone else, Rice needed to show the world how much he loved the woman sitting next to him and how deeply sorry he was to her. Perhaps the intent was to present a strong and composed partnership between the two, but his lack of an immediate and personal apology to his wife at the beginning made the rest of his words ring hollow.

“As me and Janay wish we could take back 30 seconds of our life,” Rice said, “we definitely sit here today and tell you that we are better parents, we are better lovers, and we are also better friends throughout the situation. And as our families sit here today, we want to just thank you for encouraging us.”

Even with the harsh criticism over what transpired Friday, Rice is fully capable of rehabilitating his image, but that won’t happen overnight. His actions over time and how they impact his wife, family, and others close to him will be the deciding factor while his words on Friday — awkward as they were — carry little weight in the big picture.

Some may eventually forgive him and others will not, but Rice has the ability to make things right in his own life by simply following through on his vows of being a better husband, father, and role model. If he does that in the coming years, lingering criticism from the outside world won’t really matter.

The image of Rice dragging what appeared to be his unconscious fiancée from an elevator will never disappear — reports swirled on Friday afternoon that the seventh-year running back is expected to receive a multi-game suspension from the NFL — but the details about what preceded the events in that disturbing video may never fully come to light.

“There were a lot of tears shed, but me and Janay can truly say that we’re in a better place,” Rice said. “Hopefully, one day, I’ll gain back everyone’s trust to let you all know that we’re still the same people, and I’m still the same person. I really treat my job as a very special job, and I failed miserably. But I wouldn’t call myself a failure, because I’m working my way back up.”

Rice only needs to look to former teammate and close friend Ray Lewis as a notable example of rebuilding one’s image and regaining that trust.

It can be done, but his first attempt to begin that process on Friday was an obvious setback.

The other missteps were always going to be picked apart, but his failure to publicly and directly apologize to his wife from the very beginning was the colossal gaffe that will be difficult to forget.

 

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Ravens’ 2014 draft may prove strong, but immediate questions remain

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Ravens’ 2014 draft may prove strong, but immediate questions remain

Posted on 11 May 2014 by Luke Jones

Assessing the Ravens’ 2014 draft now is akin to judging a gift based solely on its wrapping paper.

Only time will tell how many of their nine selections will pay dividends in 2014 and beyond. Even assistant general manager Eric DeCosta acknowledged recently that the evaluation process is as much art as it is science — and luck — with a number of variables ranging from talent and intelligence to health and work ethic determining how successful a player will be.

But the initial reaction to what the Ravens accomplished over the weekend and how it specifically relates to the 2014 season? Underwhelming and redundant.

It has little to do with questioning the quality of players they selected as much as it felt like a repeat of the 2013 draft with an overwhelming emphasis on defense — at the same positions — for a second consecutive year. After selecting a safety (Matt Elam), an inside linebacker (Arthur Brown), and a defensive tackle (Brandon Williams) with their first three picks last year, general manager Ozzie Newsome grabbed an inside linebacker (C.J. Mosley), a defensive tackle (Timmy Jernigan), and another safety (Terrence Brooks) with his first three selections over the weekend.

“You never know what kind of shape the draft is going to take,” DeCosta said Saturday evening. “We go into it blind, and this just ended up being really a draft about substance. We got guys that we think are going to be here for a long time and are going to help us win games. They’re guys in the fourth quarter that should be big-time players for us over time.”

It would be unfair to strongly doubt the talents of Mosley or Jernigan — two players viewed as top 20 talents by more than a few draft pundits — or the potential of Brooks to become defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ starting free safety as early as this coming season. But it is reasonable to question what the selections of Mosley and Jernigan mean for Brown and Williams, two players many expected to step into starting roles this season.

Of course, the Ravens would privately tell you they’ve found the eventual successors for veterans Daryl Smith, Haloti Ngata, and even Chris Canty after grabbing 5-technique defensive end Brent Urban with their first choice on Day 3 of the draft. But that doesn’t sound like dramatic improvement for this season as the Ravens try to bounce back from an 8-8 record and the first non-playoff season of the John Harbaugh era.

While no one would confuse the league’s 12th-ranked defense with the 2000 Ravens a year ago, it was the offense that was the biggest culprit that needed major reconstructive surgery this offseason.

It’s true that the Ravens have already worked to address the league’s 29th-ranked offense with the hiring of new coordinator Gary Kubiak, the free-agent additions of 35-year-old receiver Steve Smith and 31-year-old tight end Owen Daniels, and the trade for Tampa Bay center Jeremy Zuttah, but the need for a right tackle and the desire for another impact pass-catcher virtually went untouched this weekend. Yes, the Ravens will always take the best talent available, but the fact that they’ve taken only one offensive player in the first three rounds in the last two years — out of a total of seven choices — is concerning for that side of the football.

Third-round tight end Crockett Gillmore has encouraging upside, but many consider him more of a developmental prospect than someone ready to contribute this year behind Dennis Pitta and Daniels. And while the organization thinks fourth-round running back Lorenzo Taliaferro could be one of the steals of the entire draft, the 230-pound back will need to prove his accomplishments at FCS school Coastal Carolina will translate to the next level.

Are those additions enough to not just improve but dramatically improve what was an abysmal offense a year ago?

“We’re all laughing because the whole board was stacked toward the offense,” said Newsome at the conclusion of the third round. “But Eric has made the comment several times that we’re being contrary — everybody else in this league is drafting offensive players and we’ve been drafting defensive players. But it was stacked more toward the offensive side, but the way it fell for us, it’s been the defensive players.”

Truth be told, the Ravens are higher on second-year linemen Rick Wagner and Ryan Jensen than most assume as the former is currently projected to be the starting right tackle with the season just under four months away. But considering the albatross that was the offensive line for a franchise-worst running game a year ago, Penn State guard John Urschel being the lone lineman selected by Newsome — in the fifth round — understandably raises eyebrows.

And even after their other defensive additions, the Ravens’ decision not to draft a cornerback after the free-agent departure of Corey Graham will also put more pressure on Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson as they compete for the No. 3 corner spot.

That’s plenty of dependence on former late-round draft picks who’ve made little impact in their time with the Ravens.

“We need to give these young guys a chance,” Newsome said. “I think guys should fail on the field, so we’re going to give these guys the opportunity to fail on the field. That way we know whether they can [play] or not. But we feel real good about them. And the other aspect of that, bringing in a new set of coaches, and they’re getting a chance to put their eyes on them, and they feel good about the young guys that we drafted last year.”

That message sounds contradictory to how some now view the 2013 selections of Brown and Williams after Mosley and Jernigan were picked in this year’s draft. There’s no shame in acknowledging Mosley and Jernigan as superior prospects on their board, but it’s only natural to wonder if the Ravens feel they whiffed on last year’s class more than they lead on.

Make no mistake, the draft should always be about the long run, but that doesn’t prohibit a team from immediately improving its prospects for this season, which leaves this weekend with questions still unanswered.

The truth is the Ravens won a Super Bowl based largely on offense two years ago but have been more committed to improving the defensive side of the ball ever since. And though the defensive-minded Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl in February, the Ravens’ tireless dedication to defense doesn’t appear to mesh with what the league has become as DeCosta even pointed out over the weekend.

“We’ve added a nice influx of young defensive talent,” DeCosta said. “We’ve always been known as a team that has prided itself on defense. This is a blue-collar community, and I think they’re going to enjoy watching these guys play.”

Maybe so, but fans will also continue to hold their breath about the offense until the Ravens prove otherwise.

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