Tag Archive | "ozzie"

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WNST sets a “pre-game” pep rally & party for South Florida on Saturday

Posted on 01 January 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Hopefully by now you’ve heard about our infamous Super Bowl party at Whiskey’s Joe oh those many years ago before Super Bowl XXXV, so it’s with great pleasure that we announce the official WNST “Pre-Game Purple Pep Rally” in South Florida. We will be hanging on Saturday from 4:30 through the evening to watch the two NFL games at Joe’s distant cousin — ALABAMA JOE’S in Lake Worth, Fla. — on Lantana Road. It’s between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale just north of Boca Raton. It’s less than a mile from I-95.

There are so many connections here that we almost HAD to have a little South Florida celebration. The place is a bit of a Shrine to the Crimson Tide, but its slogan is: “If sports were a religion…this place would be a church!” Now, how can you not want to hang at a place like that, right? It’s has some other Baltimore connections as well as the “Tide” lineage of Ozzie Newsome, Phil Savage, Le’Ron McClain, etc. all the way down the line.

Directions to Alabama Joe’s are here. There’s also a menu full of really good-looking food on the site.

We’ll be announcing drink specials plus extra goodies (including a charity purple shooter!) here at WNST.net over the next 48 hours but many, many folks have emailed me about throwing an event in South Florida and this one made perfect sense. On game day, I’m sure we’ll just be roaming the lots in our sandals looking for free beer.

We’ll be shooting cool wnsTV videos to send home to the friends as well.

If you are staying in South Beach or Hollywood, we’d love to have you make the 45-minute-ish drive north on Saturday afternoon. If you’re already in the West Palm-Jupiter-Vero Beach area, it’s a pretty short drive as well. It’s as “centrally” located as a South Florida place can be.

I also know that Bobby Nyk is throwing a party on beach earlier in the day at Toucan’s in Hollywood. (He’s in Chile…I’m not kidding!) So I don’t have all of the details but I will get those out as well. It’s a small, cool little beach bar and here’s some video from the last Miami trip you can see it by clicking here.

All the relative links with directions and stuff is on the Alabama Joe’s official site here.

More to come…but if you’re going to be in South Florida or have a loved one or friend down there, tell ‘em to drop by anytime after 4:30…

One more to see on that road – and chances are my wife and I will be rolling in there as well is Riggins Crab House on the same road. This is a “Maryland Crab House” in South Florida. Sounds like I might need to order a dozen on Saturday afternoon before hitting Alabama Joe’s for the barbeque and shrimp and grits!

Riggins is an interesting place because they ALWAYS have a billboard on the center field fence for the Orioles spring training games. I’ve been seeing that sign for 15 years and I’ve never been in the place. But I’m going to on Saturday! The website is awesome, a full video of the place! Good stuff…

Like I said…more to come…but we’ve got a pretty good joint to throw a South Florida purple party!

Please don’t drink and drive in South Florida. We want to keep everyone safe for the big game!

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Harbaugh and Bisciotti celebrate Festivus

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Bisciotti and Harbaugh walk ‘arm in arm’ into 2009 Festivus

Posted on 29 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

What a difference 52 weeks makes. It will be a year ago this Wednesday — on New Year’s Eve — when Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti walked into Brian Billick’s office and abruptly fired the head coach who led his franchise to its only Super Bowl win. It was the biggest story in the city for weeks, and many folks were surprised and many questions were asked. For me, it wasn’t so much the actual firing of Billick as much as the “I changed my mind” reasoning so closely removed from a 13-3 season and the fact that Ozzie Newsome was clearly kept out of the decision. At the time I was a loud critic of the move, especially considering that Bisciotti didn’t have a clear vision of where the franchise was headed or who he wanted to hire as a head coach.

The thinking was this: Who is Bisciotti going to hire who is better than Billick?

Three weeks later, after getting turned down by Dallas offensive coordinator Jason
Garrett and eliminating defensive coordinator Rex Ryan from contention, Bisciotti turned to a “low mileage” young special teams coordinator whose QB brother was far better known not only in Baltimore but throughout the league and in college circles as the head coach at Stanford.

Bisciotti, who is a self-made billionaire and who did it by hiring great people, was pretty offended last winter at the mere notion that his decisions and pick to lead the organization on the field would be questioned. It’s one of the few times I’ve ever seen him publicly “chippy.”

Harbaugh and Bisciotti celebrate Festivus

Harbaugh came to this job as a universally revered “coach’s coach,” the son of a football coach and the brother of a very successful NFL quarterback. I had at least 20 NFL “insiders” who immediately called me and told me that Harbaugh would be a “great” NFL coach. Harbaugh had ZERO detractors. Even Brian Billick privately applauded Bisciotti’s choice to replace him as being “a great move.” Yesterday, as the clock struck zero and Harbaugh had led Bisciotti’s franchise full-circle and back into the NFL postseason, the two men embraced in as genuine a lock as you’d ever want to see on the field at M&T Bank Stadium. You can see the moment on video here… and it was celebrated with the fans.

We can revisit all of the details of last January’s semi-bizarre job search and all of the possibilities and permutations and fallout of a bloody, unexpected firing of a Super Bowl champion coach amidst a locker room full of revolt, dissent and mouthy and aging players. All of my January Bisciotti/Garrett/Harbaugh blogs are still here in the archives if you care to read them.

Here’s the point: Bisciotti has made three MAJOR calls in 2009. First he fired Billick, while owing him $18 million, a ballsy and risky move if there ever was one. Then, he hand-picked unproven John Harbaugh to lead his football team in January. And finally — you might never get anyone to admit this on the record within the franchise — Bisciotti absolutely JUMPED on the table in the draft room in April and insisted that Ozzie Newsome trade up into the 18th pick to take a New Jersey kid from “small school” University of Delaware named Joe Flacco to be his franchise quarterback.

Considering our history with sports franchise poobahs in Baltimore (think Irsay, Jacobs, EBW & Abe Pollin), we’re far from believing that owners should get overly involved in the day-to-day operations of a sports franchise in most circumstances – and this is your chance to fill in the holiday Peter Angelos joke of your choice right here – but obviously an NFL owner’s choice of a head coach and a franchise quarterback has never looked better than it does this morning, exactly 52 weeks to the day that Bisciotti was clearly shaken by the removal of Billick, whom he had deep affection and respect for as a person and a leader of men.

If you’re excited about the Ravens this week and you’ve got purple fever, sure it’s fashionable to give all of the credit to Flacco and Harbaugh (as well as Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Le’Ron McClain, Cam Cameron, etc.) but today is a day we should consider giving the credit to the “mastermind” of several of the most significant 2009 calls that have landed the Ravens in the postseason and headed to Miami this Sunday at 1 p.m.

Steve Bisciotti has played a MAJOR role in the Ravens’ turnaround by making moves that have been greeted with at least extreme “curiosity” inside his own building and amongst his experts. Who would’ve thought that Rex Ryan could get passed over for the head coaching job here for a special teams coordinator and respond in a fashion that has made him the front-runner for the St. Louis Rams job 52 weeks later? Human nature might’ve said, “You can’t bring Ryan back as defensive coordinator” given the strange circumstances.

But over the course of his life, Bisciotti has shown an uncanny ability to find and retain quality people as employees. It’s his “gift” as a business owner, bringing in people who he’ll brag are “better” than him. He’s always told me that it’s the secret of his success.

Sure, he subtracted Brian Billick who I clearly think is one of the better people I’ve met on the planet and a person that I’m supremely thrilled to have on my WNST.net team, but he also added another quality guy in John Harbaugh — as well as a new staff — and the change has obviously worked out fabulously in Year 1. (For the record, Billick had Cam Cameron flying into Baltimore to be his offensive coordinator a year ago today as well, had he not been fired…just a fact!)

The firing of Billick was a change, as I stated last Janaury, that I wouldn’t have made. Many concurred with my assessment. But that’s why he’s Steve Bisciotti and that’s why he’s worth a billion dollars. As the old Indiana Jones movie said, “He chose wisely.”

Many NFL jobs will begin popping open today. Brian Billick might even get another shot to lead an NFL franchise at some point in the next few weeks. Of course, he might be enjoying his quality of life watching football on Fox and doing radio shows and writing a blog here at WNST.net while building his life on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

But 363 days later, you would be hard-pressed to make the argument that Billick might’ve gotten this team to 11-5, with or without a quarterback like Flacco. Or maybe not. But at this point, that’s not an argument anyone in Baltimore wants or needs to make. In reality, we’re all in a better place 52 weeks later.

The NFL job carousel will get crazy this week. I’m glad we’re on the other side of this one this season covering a playoff team instead of a job search and all of the messiness involved. Phil Savage is the first of many fired friends of mine this week.

For now here in Baltimore, it’s Festivus for the rest of us.

Bring on the Fish…

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Great Tight Ends

Posted on 15 November 2008 by Brian Billick

Tomorrow we may see a substantial achievement by one of the great tight ends to play this game. With one more TD reception Antonio Gates can get to 50 TD receptions in a career faster than any other tight end in NFL history. Not withstanding injury, Gates may well be on the way to the first of many feats to establish himself as one of the great tight ends of all time.

The year 1963 saw the beginning of a major shift in the NFL with the use of the tight end. The evolution of the tight end position has been constant since Mike Ditka changed the definition of the position as the 5th selection overall in the NFL Draft that year by the Chicago Bears when he caught 56 passes for 1076 yards and a still-record 12 TD’s by a tight end (tied by Todd Christensen twenty years later). Ditka, Baltimore’s John Mackey and St. Louis Cardinals Jackie Smith (all drafted in I963) began to shift the tight end position to one from primarily as a blocker to one who could be a major part of an offensive passing attack. All three would go on to have Hall of Fame careers.

These great players were followed by the likes of Charlie Sanders (Detroit) and Raymond Chester (Oakland) in 1968 and 1970, respectively. Dave Casper (Oakland) followed in 1974, our own Ozzie Newsome then came along in Cleveland in 1978, Kellen Winslow (San Diego) and Todd Christensen (Oakland) in 1979. Christensen was actually drafted as a running back by the Dallas Cowboys, moved on to the New York Giants before settling in Oakland and igniting his career as a tight end.

In the mid-1980’s Mark Bavaro (New York Giants) and Jay Novacek (Dallas) came along to prove invaluable parts of Super Bowl winning teams.

Shannon Sharpe started the 90’s off right with the Denver Broncos followed by Tony Gonzales (Kansas City Chiefs) in the later part of the decade.

Looking at this group one thing become readily apparent. If you want a great one you will probably have to use a high draft choice to do it. The chart below shows that you will probably have to expend a first day pick to get a TE of this caliber.

Mike Ditka

1963

Chi

1961, 1st round (5th overall) by Chicago

Kellen Winslow

1980

SD

1979, 1st Round (13th Pick) by San Diego Chargers

Tony Gonzales

1998

KC

1997, 1st Round (13th Pick) by Kansas City Chiefs

Ozzie Newsome

1979

Cle

1978, 1st Round (23rd Pick) by Cleveland Browns

Raymond Chester

1972

Oak

1970, 1st Round (24th Pick) by Oakland Raiders

John Mackey

1964

Bal

1963, 2nd round (19th pick) Baltimore

Dave Casper

1975

Oak

1974, 2nd Round (19th Pick) by Oakland Raiders

Todd Christensen

1980

Oak

1978, 2nd Round (28th Pick) by Dallas Cowboys

Charlie Sanders

1970

Det

1968, 3rd rond (74th pick) By Detroit

Shannon Sharpe

1991

Den

1990, 7th Round (27th Pick) by Denver Broncos

Jackie Smith

1965

StL

1963, 10th round (129 pick) St. Louis

Antonio Gates

2004

SD

2003, Not drafted

Obviously, Antonio Gates may end up as one of the great-undrafted free agent stories of all time. A basketball player at Kent State in Ohio, Gates, if he can stay healthy may break virtually every TE record.

Having said that it is hard to not recognize the accomplishments of Tony Gonzales: (those in RED are current Hall of Fame players. The only HOF missing from this list is John Mackey whose numbers don’t rate in the top ten).

RK

NAME

Year

Rec

Yds

Avg

Lg

TD

1

Tony Gonzales

12

870

10426

12.1

73t

71

2

Shannon Sharpe

14

815

10060

12.3

82t

62

3

Ozzie Newsome

13

662

7980

12.1

74

47

4

Kellen Winslow

9

541

6741

12.5

67t

45

5

Jackie Smith

16

480

7918

16.5

81

40

6

Todd Christensen

10

461

5872

12.7

50

41

7

Mike Ditka

12

427

5812

13.6

76t

43

8

Jay Novacek

11

422

4630

11

49

30

9

Dave Casper

11

378

5216

13.8

52t

52

10

Antonio Gates

6

378

4831

12.8

72t

49

Kellen Winslow is considered by many to be the best based on the numbers he generated even though he was a part of an offense with such great receivers as Charlie Joiner, Wes Chandler and John Jefferson. With all this talent outside, it is truly amazing that he was able to generate this much offense.

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The Young and Restless

Posted on 14 November 2008 by Brian Billick

As I prepared for my game this week between the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs I had a chance to see first hand what the Chiefs are going through with their purging of their roster and building anew this franchise. Trading away their best defensive player (Jared Allen to the Minnesota Vikings) and loading up on draft choices this year you can clearly see the commitment the Chiefs have made to the future, and the growing pains they are experiencing at 1-8.

Seeing Herm Edwards and Carl Peterson put this plan in motion, I can’t help but think back to the 2002 season when Ozzie Newsome and I were faced with the same task.

As much as we as coaches would like to think otherwise, our jobs (particularly that of a head coach) are inexorably linked to the finances of any given situation. In 2000 the Baltimore Ravens reached the top of the professional football pyramid winning Super Bowl XXXV and then returning to the divisional round of the NFL playoffs in 2001. The price was unavoidable, however.

In 2002, the Ravens fielded the youngest team ever (19 rookies) in the history of the NFL. The decisions made in the preceding years to the “Cap Purge” of 02’ were all made with the consensus agreement that the team would have to be gutted after the 2001 season. With every signing leading up to the Super Bowl year General Manager Ozzie Newsome would make the obligatory observation, “Now we all know the piper has to be paid in 2002, right.” It was an acknowledgment by all involved that the expenditure “over the cap” had an unavoidable consequence in today’s NFL. That for every dollar “over the cap” you spend you will be devoid of those dollars in subsequent years.

At the heart of the Ravens’ Championship year were players like Shannon Sharpe, Priest Holmes, Rob Burnett, Duane Starks,Tony Siragusa, Qadry Ismail, Sam Adams. Jeff Mitchell, Jamie Sharper, Jermaine Lewis and even future Hall of Fame Rod Woodson would all be victims of the financial “balancing of the books” that every team must come to recon with.

It was only fitting that the cover of the 2002 Ravens’ Media Guide adorned the oil portraits of myself and Ozzie. Indeed, we where left with the task of rebuilding a championship team with our “financial” hands tied behind our backs. We did so in the only way left to a team in this situation and that is to draft and draft well.

Draftees like Jamal Lewis, Adalius Thomas, Todd Heap, Gary Baxter, Casey Rabach, Edgerton Hartwell, Ed Reed, Anthony Weaver, Dave Zastudil and Chester Taylor would team with holdovers Chris McAlister and future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Jonathan Ogden to form an AFC North Division Championship team in 2003. They key was the franchise’s willingness to take the dramatic steps to “purge” their championship team of older and more expensive talent and replace it with younger more affordable players.

The problem lies in being a victim of your own success. When you draft well, even though the young player comes cheaper, they play themselves into the higher priced market that makes it increasingly tough to keep all of your good players. Ultimately, the successes of drafting Ed Reed, Todd Heap and Terrell Suggs then forced the Ravens to let go of Jamal Lewis, Adalius Thomas, Gary Baxter, Casey Rabach, Edgerton Hartwell, Anthony Weaver, Dave Zastudil and Chester Taylor. It has become a vicious cycle, in a reverse of nature, the “young eating their old.”

In training camp of the 2002 purge year Todd Heap had a humorous, but acute observation. We had long had a tradition on our team that the most veteran players got to sit in first class when we traveled. Typically that would be seven or eight players, usually with 10+ years in the league. Todd Heap, who was just entering his third year in the league, at our first OTA with this young group observed, “Coach, looks like I am going to be in first class this season.”

Having spent the day with Herm Edwards, it’s clear he is finding the same things I did in 2002. Though tough getting through the loses, it was one of the most enjoyable years I have had coaching. Working with and developing the young talent is what being a coach is all about. Herm will also find that by having to play so many young players you are going to learn a great deal more about them than you might otherwise have a chance to do. Next year when he looks at his roster and sees a bunch of 2nd and 3rd year players he will not have to worry about how they will play in their first starts. They will all have 10 to 16 games of playing experience.

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Will the Ravens extend Ray Lewis?

Posted on 04 November 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

Ever since Drew Forrester posted his blog here at WNST.net yesterday about Ray Lewis and his pending return to the Ravens next year, folks have been talking.

I’ve received several calls from inside the organization (and around the NFL) and the reports are mixed. Many think it’s a “done deal” and others, perhaps closer to understanding the business acumen of Ray Lewis circa 2008, think this is “part of the game.”

Let’s start with the absolute obvious here: Twice this year Steve Bisciotti has publicly said what Drew wrote yesterday: Ray Lewis will remain a Raven for life.

Bisciotti did this while appearing with the new Miami sidekick on a bad radio show in August and before that poolside at the Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla. at the owner’s meetings.

(It’s kinda crazy that NFL Network was reporting that “WNST is reporting Lewis deal imminent,” etc. when it was simply Drew’s blog saying that he believes it’ll “get done.” We didn’t send a text. We didn’t write a headline screaming “Lewis signs 5-year deal with Ravens.” Drew simply put up an informed, sourced blog with good inside information.)

But today – somewhat for sheer argument though I actually do feel this way — I will play “Devil’s advocate” and take the other position.

This is defending the “part of the game” theory of where we are with Ray Lewis in the “walk” year in his 13th season in the league at the age of 33 on a surprisingly good team and playing at a high level.

“Playing the game” would be that Lewis is finally taking all of the quality advice he’s been given – “shut up, play hard, be a good guy, try to win” – and using his play on Sundays to “cash in” with another huge payday. And, I’m sure, his better advisors told him that he’d “get paid” by someone at a very high rate of return, whether it’s the Ravens or not.

Ray Lewis is playing his ass off. While he might not be what he used to be in pass coverage when he was the best player on the planet, he’s still a pretty damned good middle linebacker. He’s the franchise player, the face of the organization and anything good that’s ever happened to the Ravens has his signature on it.

His leadership — when he’s leading EVERYONE — rubs off on his teammates and he makes them all better. Quick: name one player who LEFT the Ravens’ defense and got better somewhere else? Ed Hartwell? Kim Herring? Adalius Thomas? Jamie Sharper?

And that’s not disrespect to any of the aforementioned. It’s just a fact. Ray Lewis makes his teammates better.

For some the Ravens ARE Ray Lewis.

He’s also a very, very complex man. He’s got lots of children, relatives, advice, friends, business associates, etc. and many have had his ear over the years with mixed results. He’s jettisoned and offended enough people over the years to create two distinct camps, much of it unnecessary, really.

They should be building statues for the guy in Baltimore. I’m not sure that’s ever going to happen and I’m not really sure Ray Lewis cares if he’s an icon in Baltimore. And he’ll never actually live full time in Baltimore, so does it really matter?

But he does care about the money and he clearly cares about the integrity in which he earns it. He wants to be great. We all see that and respect it.

But make no mistake about it: No one says it’s NOT about the money with Ray Lewis. It’s ALWAYS about the money with Ray.

So, while Drew thinks he’s solved this mystery and it’ll be a “no brainer,” I’m not so sure that I feel the same way. I’ve heard the same stuff from many people in the building: he’s not going anywhere and the contract is a “formality.”

(Again. See: Owner, Bisciotti, Steve for comments about this point.)

I’m here to say that it’s not a formality until it’s, well, FORMAL. Like a signed deal, a healthy Ray Lewis and a signing bonus and deal that he doesn’t feel is insulting to him. Word is, they already made one significant foray into signing No. 52 back in August and the signing bonus number was around $12 million and it wasn’t attractive enough to get Lewis’ attention. One person told me, No. 52 all but laughed at it.

But that’s Ray Lewis’ way. He wants to be the best and be paid like he’s the best. If Dwight Freeney got $30 million, surely Lewis will want to play and get paid beginning at $31 million.

So, with all due respect to Drew Forrester, it’s gonna take two to tango in Owings Mills.

Sure, the Ravens WANT Ray Lewis back. There’s more at stake for Bisciotti in this deal than meets the eye. First, he has a tremendous affinity for Lewis and his complexities. Bisciotti LOVES Ray Lewis. He admires him! And he’s said at least twice publicly – like in the “legitimate” media – that Ray is going nowhere.

Where were the headlines then?

Think Ray Lewis and his agents haven’t read those quotes? Think they won’t be used as a weapon come the end of the season? Especially if the season ends well into January…or even later (OK, so I’m dreaming here, but that’s what I do! Incidentally, so does Ray Lewis! He thinks we’re winning the Super Bowl in February! Just ask him!)

So, then, what will the price be if Ray Lewis leads to the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory in Tampa in February?

The stock is already pretty high and rising, but this entire “game” is akin to Wall Street. It all depends on where the “futures” market is heading.

An injury over the next two months, and Lewis might get nothing. If the team tanks over the last half (not absurd given their schedule and relative inexperience in key areas), his stock drops.

But if they win…

Riiiiiiight…

Skies the limit!

But Ozzie Newsome will have his price. And Steve Bisciotti’s might be higher. And Ray Lewis probably knows that.

“You can’t pay a guy for tomorrow based on what he did yesterday,” is a credo wise general managers of NFL teams stick with pretty consistently. So I can assure you where Ozzie Newsome’s stance will be no matter how much he admires Ray Lewis.

Ozzie answers to the “eye in the sky” and the salary cap. Newsome won’t want to pay Ray Lewis for “all he’s done over the years” but Bisciotti might.

Next September he’ll be a 34-year old linebacker with fading coverage skills and a heart as big as the state and a Hall of Fame bronze statue awaiting him in Canton at some point.

And we all know what happens to players in their twilight, right?

Here’s the general scenario (and there’s no reason in the world to think it won’t play out this way for Ray Lewis if he wants to gauge his “market” value):

Ozzie: “Ray we love you. But we think you’re worth $16 million.”

Ray’s agent: “We’ll shop elsewhere.”

Like Junior Seau. And Emmitt Smith. And Joe Montana. And Jason Taylor. And Bruce Smith. And Brett Favre. etc.

Of course the biggest wild card here is the pending bust-up of the collective bargaining agreement and the chance of a rich guy’s free-for-all in the league with an uncapped season coming during the life of whatever deal Lewis will get from any team in the offseason.

So, my guess is that it ain’t over yet by any stretch.

There’s a lot of football left to be played and a lot of “off the field” politics and accounting to be done.

And a lot of “the game” has yet to play out.

Stay tuned. This soap opera could be as thick as Luke and Laura on General Hospital back in 1980.

Or it could all get done quietly behind closed doors, but that’ll definitely cost Bisciotti and the Ravens a little more than they originally thought. And they’re apparently OK with that as long as it’s not too absurd.

But Ray won’t take the “friends and family deal” to stay with the Ravens. Like he says, “It’s just business.”

At least if the plan is working and the team continues to win it makes all the sense in the world to “take care” of Ray a little. Theoretically, he’s worth more to the Ravens then he is to any other team.

But don’t kid yourself: it’ll cost more to sign Ray Lewis if the prosperity continues.

One thing we know for sure: no matter how much they pay him they’re going to get the same results from a 34 through 38-year old linebacker.

As Bill Parcells would say: “He is what he is.”

Then the question becomes: How much tread do the Ravens and Steve Bisciotti think is left on the old tire?

And what’s the price of poker in Baltimore?

I’ve always maintained that it’ll probably “end badly” with Ray Lewis, like it does for most NFL stars who want to essentially be overpaid for their contributions earlier in their career.

One way or another, we’ll find out in the coming weeks whether Bisciotti and Lewis are on the same page as to the value of a mid-30’s linebacker in the NFL.

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Ravens crush woeful Raiders, 29-10

Posted on 26 October 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

The Raiders have played an interesting foil in the annals of Baltimore football history.

There was the “Ghost To The Post” thriller on Christmas Eve in 1977. The Raiders were the first team to come to Baltimore to play the Ravens in 1996. And, of course, it was a trip to Oakland and a win in the AFC Championship Game in 2001 that took the Ravens to Tampa and a Super Bowl title.

Today, however, the Raiders look to be a shadow of their famed black and silver pirate crest, a hapless franchise with second-rate talent and an owner that makes Peter Angelos seem sensible.

What the hell happened to the “commitment to excellence”?

We’ve seen some bad football teams roll into Baltimore since the Ravens came to town 13 years ago challenging the great Billy Jo Hobert, but today’s effort by the Raiders might’ve been one of the worst we’ve ever seen in the Charm City. That’s about as bad of a football team you’re gonna find with the red, white and blue NFL crest on it.

Their offense was hopeless, the special teams were poor – making Jim Leonhard look like Dante Hall in his prime – and the defense was good enough to allow a slow, 6-foot-6 quarterback to spread wide and catch bombs from the backup quarterback. And who Tom Cable and where is Lane Kiffin?

If Al Davis were in his right mind, he’d be ashamed of what a cruel hoax this is on the Raider Nation and the Black Hole. Next week, they might want to try to show up against the Falcons.

Sure, the Ravens looked great today and we’ll all gladly take this 29-10 win. At 4-3 on Halloween, this 2008 season has some real life and some real promise as the purple heads to Cleveland next week where a win puts them on a fast track for a potential playoff berth. It would be time to bust out the “P” word (or is it still Festivus?). No one could argue with 5-3 at the turn, even if the second half appears to be helluva challenge with so many potential playoff teams on the slate in November and December, including the entire firing squad of the NFC East.

But I can’t fathom how the Raiders are going to win another game with that band of ragamuffins.

Let’s take it around the victorious purple locker room:

Joe Flacco wasn’t brilliant today (12 of 124 for 140 years) but he threw a TD, ran for one and damn-near CAUGHT one. The maturation of Flacco as a rookie is going swimmingly well for the team, with him getting all sorts of initiations to victories, defeats, road and home games and all sorts of looks from defenses around the NFL. I’m glad we bought the stock months ago.

Terrell Suggs, for all of his stupid bluster and idiotic pronouncements, certainly showed up to play today and made his presence felt anywhere around JaMarcus Russell, who looks like the next No. 1 QB bust of this decade.

Ray Lewis continues to dazzle in his contract walk season, making play after play and I’m still not sure that Justin Griffith made it anywhere near the goal line on that lone touchdown, but he’ll no doubt still be feeling that hit on Wednesday.

Let’s hear it for Jim Leonhard, who has become a fan favorite with these “little guy” efforts on defense and special teams. He’s MY SIZE for crying out loud, but he plays like a giant on the field.

The running game was effective all day, racking up 192 yards on 46 carries as the Ravens controlled the clock and exhausted the Raiders’ defense. The three-headed monster of Ray Rice (8-64), Willis McGahee (23-58) and Le’Ron McClain (7-32) has been more effective than any of us realized back in training camp. And let’s give the offensive line some props as well — even with Adam Terry and Marshal Yanda out, they’re still protecting Flacco pretty well and allowing the backs to move the ball.

Even Matt Stover had a perfect day, which we’ll need more of as the weather turns and the games become tight enough that his foot will surely play a major role in deciding the season.

But the biggest game ball goes to John Harbaugh and the coaching staff, who have held the team together through several crises this season, not the least of which was the notion that the team didn’t have enough talent to compete:

•    The quarterback carousel during training camp and prepping and winning with a rookie signal caller in the NFL.

•    The horrendous injury/age situation on the defensive side of the ball, with Chris McAlister, Samari Rolle, Kelly Gregg and Dawan Landry all out of the lineup. And that’s not to mention various dings to Willis McGahee, Terry and the loss of Yanda on offense.

•    The bad, ugly, brutal loss in Indianapolis and a three-game losing streak and the bounce back in Miami and again today. Good teams rebound. The Ravens have nicely. That’s good coaching and a lot of heart.

•    The difficulty of navigating and covering for the stupid comments and actions by some of his childish players (this was essentially what got Brian Billick fired). Not only did Chris McAlister not play today, no one even bothered asking where the hell he was. (Disciplined? Absolutely. But will they say it was his leg? Absolutely. They should just come clean and tell the truth, instead of this silly gameplaying that went on last week.)

One more game ball might go to the Ravens’ still-stellar front office acumen in picking talent. Jameel McClain, Willie Anderson, Evan Oglesby and Brandon McKinney all made plays today and none of them were on the team in August. Hats off to George Kokinis and Ozzie Newsome, who have improved this team coming out of Westminster.

The real test, of course, comes in January when the team’s 2008 record is public.

But so far, at 4-3 with winnable games on the horizon in Cleveland and Houston, the Ravens are far more interesting, entertaining and enjoyable than any of us thought possible eight weeks ago.

And if crappy teams like the Raiders are on the schedule (and there’s at least one left with Cincinnati) we’ll take them every week.

As long as the Ravens show up and beats them in the fashion they did today, it’s fun for all of us.

I’ve never been more excited about a trip to Cleveland…

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O-Line Biggest Surprise of 2008

Posted on 28 September 2008 by Vince Fiduccia

The biggest surprise for the Ravens in this young season is the play of its equally young offensive line. Remember during preseason when injuries had wrecked the unit and undaunted defenders came along the perimeter against a guy who was pouring concrete for a living?   We were all wondering if any of our quarterbacks could make it more than two or three games. Thanks to the return of Jared Gaither and Adam Terry, the line has come together much quicker and effectively than any of us thought.   After two games the Ravens lead the NFL in time of possession and rank second in the league in rushing with an average of 190 yards per game.
More importantly, they are completely dominating the line of scrimmage. Witness the performance in the fourth quarter in each of the first two games. Everyone in the stadium knew what they wanted to do–kill the clock and pound the ball.  How did the o-line respond?  With punishing grinding drives that left the other teams’ offenses on the bench for long stretches of time. They have allowed just two sacks, have given rookie quarterback Joe Flacco plenty of pass protection, and have owned short yardage situations.
Who gets the credit? Offensive line coach John Matsko probably deserves most of the credit along with assistant offensive line coach Andy Moeller. They have done a great job of teaching technique and working with the each player.   Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has made great calls and put the line in great situations. Plus the addition of fullback Lorenzo Neal, the best lead blocker of his generation, has made this unit elite.
Whoever, decided to move Marshal Yanda to guard and Adam Terry to right tackle (a move I thought was doomed) deserves kudos–especially the decision to make Terry a right tackle.  Last year he looked like he was on roller skates at that position. Someone is coaching this group up or scheming right to protect him.
Give the players credit as well.  They have observed and learned the lessons taught. They worked hard during the off-season both in the weight room and on the field.   The one thing we know about this group is they are talented and young, and their future is limitless. If this level of play continues, general manager Ozzie Newsome is going to have to think of ways to keep this group together under the salary cap.

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Kyle Boller’s status

Posted on 27 August 2008 by caseywillett

So, Ozzie Newsome says that Kyle Boller could play again this year, which for the Ravens would be a good thing. I however still wonder if we will see Kyle this year. While Kyle may not need surgery right now, you have to wonder how healthy he will be for the rest of the season. Ozzie did also say “things could change”, which if I am guessing is the more likely scenario. I still think we will see a quarterback coming in at some point and time over the next couple of days just as an insurance policy with the uncertainty of Boller’s shoulder.
 
So, now as the Kyle Boller situation start to play out and we get some news as it relates to him, I am still way more interested in the Ed Reed situation. Again, I have said all along that I do not think Ed will be ready to start the season. How long he is going to be out, I think is still up in the air, but hopefully we will find out more next week. Ed is still the one injury that I think this team can really not afford to have.
 
One think you can say about football under Coach Harbaugh’s watch, is that it has been very interesting to say the least.

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Ravens Camp 7-29-08

Posted on 29 July 2008 by caseywillett

5:20

Dan Cody who was out of the morning practice, was seen at the team hotel with a walking shoe on his right foot. Dan had a slight limp as he walked through the lobby of the hotel.

No word on the amount of time he will miss.

 

4:25

 
At afternoon practice, Ozzie Newsome was working the phone a lot. Ozzie was talking on the phone and having conversations with John Harbaugh, and Dick Cass, during and after the practice this afternoon.
 
          There is no news on Adam Terry as of now. Adam has been around the team hotel for most of the afternoon and said that he has no news on his injury status.
 
          Trevor Pryce was wearing a brace on his left wrist at the afternoon practice. Trevor missed time last year with a wrist injury.
 
 
          Here is more information as it relates to the injury status of Ed Reed: “you’d have to ask John Harbaugh that and Bill Tessendorf. I really don’t know. I know one thing is that Ed is working his tail off out here. He took David Pittman under his wing and he is working just as hard as he can possibly work. But whenever we get him. Ed will be ready. Mentally, in the meeting rooms he’s really taking that leadership over. He’s making all the calls and he’s sharp. It’s just about when he can return due to physical play.”

 

1:45

 
Adam Terry was walking around on crutches with his left leg heavily wrapped and putting no weight at all on it.
 
Patrick Carter (WR, Louisville) was absent from the morning practice, but is walking around the team hotel with his left arm in a sling.
 
Derrick Mason had his right knee wrapped this afternoon after a morning collision with Haruki Nakamura. Derrick does not expect it is something that will keep him out for a long period of time.

12:15

 
To say the morning practice was not interesting would be an understatement. Adam Terry went down in the early part of full team contact drills and immediately began to clutch his left leg and ankle area. This has been the same leg that he has had heavily taped during camp. Adam was quickly carted off the field and taken into the training room.
 
Here are some other notes from the morning session:
 
          Kelly Gregg was at practice and participating in all of the team drills after being seen at the team hotel late yesterday evening with his left leg heavily wrapped
 
          Several players were missing from practice this morning: PJ Daniels, Dan Cody,and Aaron Walker. Several of the guys who have not been at practice ths last couple of days were absent again today: Haloti Ngata, Jared Gaither, Dan Wilcox, Demetrius Williams, and Ed Reed
 
          Here is my take on Ed Reed. I think Ed Reed being out of practice is a reason for concern. Ed has not participated in any team activities since camp has opened. Ed shows no sign of an injury when he walks around at practice or the team hotel goes, he has no taped up leg or arm or anything else. Ed runs drills on the side with some of the other injured players while the team practices. At this point it makes you wonder if it is a neck injury or something related to that since he does nothing related to contact.
 
 
          With Adam Terry and Jared Gaither being out, O’Neil Cousins took the snaps at right tackle while Mike Kracalik took the snaps at left tackle. The Ravens only have Joe Reitz, Marshal Yanda, and David Hale, left as tackles
 
          Right as the offensive line was about to go over to team drills after individual drills, Ben Grubbs pulled the offensive lined together and gave them a pretty good pep talk. It was impressive to see and caught a lot of people’s eye.
 
 
          Right as practice was ending and the team was stretching in the individual units, Edgar Jones walked off the field with the team trainers.

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Ravens Camp Day 5

Posted on 25 July 2008 by caseywillett

5:10
 
The first day of full team practice concluded this afternoon with the team in soft shell shoulder pads. Here are some notes from practice:
 
          There were several scuffles this afternoon that featured guest appearances from Jason Brown, J’Vonne Parker, Edgar Jones, Mike Kracalik, Joe Reitz, and Gary Stills
 
          Dan Cody who was banged up this morning but returned for special teams practice this morning was out on the field for practice this afternoon
 
 
          P.J. Daniels who left the practice this morning with a injury was at practice this afternoon in shorts and shirt watching practice
 
          Kyle Boller took the snaps with the first team offense this afternoon
 
 
          On one on one drills, Antwan Barnes schooled Mike Kracalik several times with a rip and swim move which lead to Kracalik being very upset
 
          Other highlight from one on one drills was a strong performance by Jared Gaither against Dan Cody
 
 
          Haruki Nakamura had a nice afternoon when he picked off both Joe Flacco and Kyle Boller. While returning one of them one of the coaches yelled out “that is the Bearcat in him.” Referring to Haruki’s days at Cincinnati.
 
          With no Chris McAlister or Samari Rolle to play in the secondary, Frank Walker and Corey Ivy filled in at that position.
 
 
          Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton took turns returning punts in the afternoon practice.
 
          Adam Terry was favoring his left ankle during practice today, but stayed out for the majority of the plays
 
 
          Derrick Martin left practice around 4:25p.m. with the trainers but did not return
 
          Yamon Figurs also left practice at 4:35 p.m. with the trainers and did not return
 
 
          Practice ran for a little over 2 hours this afternoon
 
          Kyle Boller does some extra running after practice from sideline to sideline after the afternoon practices
 
 
          Former Ravens running back coach Matt Simon was at practice and the team hotel this afternoon
 
          Several of the Ravens players will board a plane tomorrow morning here in Westminster and head to south Florida to attend the funeral of Samari Rolle’s father. Ozzie Newsome will lead a contingent of players that will include Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Chris McAlister, and a couple other players to attend the funeral. The players will leave tomorrow morning and not return till tomorrow evening. No word yet on when Samari will report to camp.

12:25

 
It was a hard hitting fast paced first practice for the Ravens here are couple of notes from this morning:
          Kyle Boller had a good morning with several of his passes , but then had a couple of fumbles on the exchange from the center
 
          Troy Smith took the reps this morning as the first quarterback out with the offense
 
 
          Chris McAlister, David Pittman, Dan Wilcox, Demetrius Williams, and Ed Reed all did not participate in practice today
 
          P.J. Daniels left the field with the trainers after taking a hit during the contact drills and did not return to the field. No official word on his injury status.
 
 
          Jim Leonhard and Dawan Landry were the safeties on first team defense with Ed Reed not practicing
 
          Jonathan Ogden was here at practice along with Mike Flynn, Spencer Folau, and Wally Williams. Ogden even stepped in and showed some technique and gave some pointers to O’Neil Cousins and Jared Gaither
 
 
          Ray Rice had a tremendous day running the ball. You see his explosiveness and he can make defenders miss him. Ray Lewis pulled Ray Rice to the side and gave him some pointers about running the ball north and south. One of the defensive coaches went on a very profane tirade at defensive players after a couple of the runs by Ray
 
          Joe Reitz got his welcome to training camp today when he started a scuffle with the defense which was quickly equaled him being out numbered.
 
 
          Sam Koch ran a fake field goal when he was the holder and completed a pass to Todd Heap who was covered by Corey Ivy. Todd tipped the ball in the air and came down with it.
 
          Yamon Figurs took some reps with the second team offense at wide receiver
 
 
          O’Neil Cousins,and Jared Gaither, had rough days at practice. Dan Cody man handled Cousins on 1 on 1 drill.
 
          The Ravens retrun to the field at 2:45 this afternoon
 
 
          The Ravens want everyone to know that there was an issue today with single ticket sales, and the plan is that they will go on sale tomorrow at 11 a.m. through ticketmaster. The Ravens said there are single tickets remaining to all of the home games.

8:05

 
Today is the day where the full team will practice for the first time for the media and public as the 2008 Ravens. It looks like they will be in full pads when they hit the field this morning. It will be interesting to see how the rookies will act now with the veterans out at practice.
 
I will be back after practice with a report.
 
Former Raven Mike Flynn and Jonathan Ogden are here picking up credentials to go watch practice.

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