Tag Archive | "Ravens"

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2017 Ravens training camp preview: Linebackers

Posted on 24 July 2017 by Luke Jones

With training camp beginning this week, we’ll take a look at a position group for the 2017 Ravens every day as they aim to return to the postseason for the first time since 2014.

Quarterbacks
Defensive line
Running backs
Cornerbacks
Wide receivers

LINEBACKERS

Projected depth chart:
RUSH – Terrell Suggs, Za’Darius Smith, Tim Williams, Randy Allen
MIKE – C.J. Mosley, Albert McClellan, Boseko Lokombo, Bam Bradley
WILL – Kamalei Correa, Patrick Onwuasor, Lamar Louis, Donald Payne
SAM – Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser, Brennen Beyer

Why to be impressed: Suggs remains the heart of the Baltimore defense, but Mosley made two Pro Bowls in his first three years and is positioned to become the long-term leader of the unit. Aiming to revamp the pass rush this offseason, Ozzie Newsome drafted Bowser and Williams to give the Ravens a total of four edge candidates under age 25 — Judon and Smith being the others — to work with Suggs.

Why to be concerned: The Ravens have not added a veteran inside linebacker to help fill the void left behind by Zach Orr and will be counting on Correa, who played a total of 48 defensive snaps as a rookie. So much youth looks great on paper, but Baltimore edge defenders not named Terrell Suggs have combined for 13 1/2 career sacks with the versatile McClellan accounting for three of those takedowns.

2017 outlook: There is plenty of intriguing upside in this group, but the Ravens need Suggs to continue fighting off Father Time in his 15th season and Judon and Smith to be productive while the likes of Bowser and Williams get their NFL feet wet. The presence of new strong safety Tony Jefferson could factor into the equation if Correa isn’t up to the challenge of being a three-down inside linebacker.

Prediction: The Ravens won’t have a single player with double-digit sacks for the third straight season, but four linebackers will record five or more in 2017.

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2017 Ravens training camp preview: Defensive line

Posted on 19 July 2017 by Luke Jones

With training camp beginning next week, we’ll take a look at a position group for the 2017 Ravens every day as they aim to return to the postseason for the first time since 2014.

Quarterbacks

DEFENSIVE LINE

Projected depth chart:
DE – Brent Urban, Bronson Kaufusi, Chris Wormley
NT – Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce
DT – Carl Davis, Willie Henry, Patrick Ricard

Why to be impressed: Williams is one of the best run-stopping nose tackles in the NFL, evident by Ozzie Newsome’s decision to give him a five-year, $52.5 million contract in March. Pierce was one of the surprises of the 2016 season as the undrafted rookie free agent ranked second among NFL defensive tackles in run-stop percentage, according to Pro Football Focus.

Why to be concerned: Offseason departures Timmy Jernigan and Lawrence Guy were solid contributors against the run and as interior rushers in passing situations. Urban was underrated in his 150 defensive snaps last year, but Davis, Henry, and Kaufusi were all injured and combined for zero snaps in 2016 and — along with the rookie Wormley — will be expected to make meaningful contributions.

2017 outlook: The Ravens ranked fifth in the league in holding opponents to 3.7 yards per carry last year and should remain stout against the run with Williams staying put for the long haul. There is plenty of talent in this group on paper, but the lack of overall experience is a concern entering the preseason and the Ravens need some combination of young players to emerge as impactful inside pass rushers.

Prediction: Given more extensive opportunities to get after the quarterback this season, Williams will collect a career-high five sacks.

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2017 Ravens training camp preview: Quarterbacks

Posted on 18 July 2017 by Luke Jones

With training camp beginning next week, we’ll take a look at a position group for the 2017 Ravens every day as they aim to return to the postseason for the first time since 2014.

QUARTERBACKS

Projected depth chart: Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett, Dustin Vaughan

Why to be impressed: Coming off a season-ending knee injury in 2015, Flacco started all 16 games and recorded the first 4,000-yard season of his career after coming within 200 yards three previous times. The 2008 first-round pick also completed a career-high 64.9 percent of his pass attempts, improving in that department for the third straight season.

Why to be concerned: Despite the Ravens expressing a desire to run the ball more, Flacco threw a career-high 672 passes, which ranked behind only Drew Brees (673) for most in the NFL. His yards per attempt mark (6.42) was the second worst of his career and ranked 27th among qualified quarterbacks while he threw just 20 touchdowns, illustrating how inefficient the high-volume passing game was.

2017 outlook: The additions of Jeremy Maclin and Danny Woodhead will help offset the departures of Steve Smith, Dennis Pitta, Kamar Aiken, and Kyle Juszczyk, but Flacco attempting 600 passes per year isn’t a winning formula. The 10th-year veteran is never going to put up huge numbers, but an improved ground game would allow him to be more efficient and to push the ball downfield more effectively.

Prediction: Flacco will throw more touchdowns and fewer interceptions than he did last season in 100 fewer passing attempts as the Ravens find more offensive balance under Marty Mornhinweg.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts counting down to training camp

Posted on 14 July 2017 by Luke Jones

With the start of Ravens training camp now less than two weeks away, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The addition of Brian Billick to the preseason broadcast team is a good move and the latest step that should lead to his induction into the Ravens’ Ring of Honor. Nearly a decade after his dismissal, it’s time for the Super Bowl XXXV champion coach to be recognized.

2. Darren Waller was hardly a sure thing to become a major contributor in 2017, but he brought the most athleticism of any tight end on the roster. I’m concerned with this group, especially if Maxx Williams’ return from knee surgery doesn’t go smoothly.

3. I wish Zach Orr nothing but the best in his attempt to play football again, but his claim late last month that he’d taken the advice of only one doctor to retire completely contradicted his comments in January and made the Ravens look bad. That wasn’t a good look.

4. The hiring of Greg Roman has probably been undersold with much of the criticism and concern expressed for the offensive line, but he also had Pro Bowl running backs Frank Gore and LeSean McCoy at his previous stops. He’ll have a chance to cement his genius with this offensive personnel.

5. Lorenzo Taliaferro could have the opportunity to be a meaningful offensive piece, especially early in the season with Kenneth Dixon’s suspension. A Le’Ron McClain-type role at fullback wouldn’t be out of the question, but he must first prove he can stay on the field.

6. The hype for the defensive backfield is through the roof, but the re-installation of Chris Hewitt as secondary coach is worth monitoring. The talent wasn’t as good when he was in charge in 2015, but communication was a total mess. Of course, the cerebral Eric Weddle should alleviate that concern.

7. This will mark the third straight summer in which Jerry Rosburg will field questions about the return specialist job. I understand the desire not to have a one-trick pony filling the role — Devin Hester didn’t work out anyway — but this offense needs all the field position it can get.

8. Brandon Williams is a beast and Michael Pierce impressed as a rookie, but the Ravens need several unknowns to fill larger roles on the defensive line. Stopping the run shouldn’t be a problem, but the pass rush is a different story with interior rushers Timmy Jernigan and Lawrence Guy gone.

9. The addition of Jeremy Maclin certainly helps, but it’s still tough to feel dramatically better about this offense than last year’s group. Despite the efforts of some to skew the narrative, the defensive struggles late in 2016 shouldn’t mask how inadequate the offense was all year.

10. Breshad Perriman’s development may not be as critical for 2017 with Maclin’s addition, but he needs to play well enough to look like a slam-dunk starter for 2018. As we recently witnessed with Matt Elam, it can take years — and many dollars — to recover from a first-round bust.

11. This is a pivotal time for Joe Flacco. A poor season from the 32-year-old could cost people jobs and bring a new coaching regime that wouldn’t be as invested in him. His contract makes him bulletproof through 2018, but he must be better than he’s been the last two years.

12. My final thought isn’t on the Ravens, but I thoroughly enjoyed seeing their old foe Peyton Manning host the ESPY Awards, a show I hadn’t watched in years. I never would have imagined that kind of comedic timing watching the often-robotic quarterback work early in his career.

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Former Ravens linebacker Orr considering NFL comeback

Posted on 28 June 2017 by Luke Jones

Less than six months after the discovery of a rare congenital spinal condition that pushed Zachary Orr into retirement, the former Ravens inside linebacker is exploring a comeback.

The 25-year-old told NFL Network that additional medical opinions in recent weeks have countered the original determination that he would be at serious risk for paralysis or even death by continuing to play football. A CAT scan at the end of last season revealed that the top of Orr’s spinal column never developed fully, a condition he was told less than one percent of the world had. He has apparently been told by several doctors since then that he would be at no greater risk playing with the condition than any player with a normal spine.

Former Baylor quarterback Seth Russell advised Orr to visit Dr. Sanford Emery, a West Virginia orthopedic surgeon who treated Russell when he suffered a neck injury two years ago.

“It’s actually been documented that there was a college player who had the exact same thing that I had who returned to play with no problems,” Orr told “Good Morning Football” on Wednesday morning. “My range of motion, my muscle functions, everything is normal. I’m feeling good and ready to go and willing to sit down to talk to whoever about whatever. It’s a real exciting time that there is a chance for me to come back and everything, and I’m ready to do that.”

An interesting wrinkle to this story is Orr’s current status as an unrestricted free agent, which would allow him to sign with any team. He entered the offseason as a restricted free agent, but the Ravens did not tender the linebacker since he had retired. Before the surprising discovery of the spinal condition in January, Orr was likely to receive a second-round restricted tender worth $2.746 million for the 2017 season. He never filed any retirement paperwork with the league.

Of course, the real question now is whether the Ravens — or any other team — will clear him to play football again. Orr finding outside medical opinions giving him the green light to play is one thing, but doctors the Ravens trust did not believe in January that it was safe for him to continue his NFL career.

With the league’s ever-increasing public emphasis on player safety, any potential organization clearing Orr would face scrutiny after the severe nature of the original diagnosis. According to ESPN, the former undrafted free agent from North Texas will visit the Detroit Lions on Thursday with other teams already reaching out to express interest.

“I just want to play football. Perfect scenario, of course, [would be] Baltimore,” Orr said. “I have a great relationship with everybody in that organization and teammates that I’ve gotten to know really well that I’ll talk to the rest of my life. Baltimore would obviously be favorites, but I just want to play football.

“At the end of the day, that’s what I want to do. I love ball, and I’m ready to give whoever my all out there on the field.”

The Ravens broke their silence on Orr’s announcement late Wednesday morning.

“I spoke with Zach yesterday and he informed me that he would like to continue to play football,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement. “He is a free agent.”

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Gilman grad remains invested in Baltimore despite NFL success elsewhere

Posted on 26 June 2017 by Luke Jones

(Photo courtesy of Brandon Copeland)

At a time when NFL players often go off the grid to relax and prepare for the start of training camp next month, Brandon Copeland is counting tables in a cafeteria at the Gilman School on a hot June afternoon.

The Detroit Lions defensive end has enlisted more than 130 volunteers to help with his second annual Beyond the Basics camp being held at his alma mater on Saturday, July 8, but that doesn’t mean the self-described micromanager isn’t doing much of the heavy lifting before the big day — even down to making sure there are enough tables for campers to eat lunch. It isn’t surprising considering what Copeland has already accomplished, whether going from struggling undrafted free agent to playing in all 32 games for Detroit over the last two years or finding success in the investment world in the offseason.

When it comes to trying to master an NFL defensive playbook or evaluating stocks and companies, the details matter.

Copeland, a graduate of the prestigious Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, doesn’t want to be known solely as a football player. That’s a message he wants to convey at his free camp that uses football as its hook while introducing young people ages 12 through 17 to individuals from many walks of life and different career paths.

“They genuinely look up to these people because they’re good people,” said Copeland, who was originally signed by the Ravens in 2013 and also spent time with Tennessee before eventually finding his NFL footing with the Lions. “Then, [campers] find out that, ‘Oh, this guy’s an engineer, this guy’s a doctor, this guy’s in law school right now.’

“It makes them say, ‘OK, I’d love to be Torrey Smith [or] Haloti Ngata, but if not, let me pursue this because I can be cool and down to earth and work on becoming an investment banker or whatever.’”

Having spent only a few months with the Ravens before being waived from the practice squad in Week 4 of the 2013 regular season, Copeland knows he’s not a household NFL name in Baltimore, but he draws inspiration from others such as the late Keion Carpenter who have made an indelible mark on the city over the years despite finding football success elsewhere.

At least 18 current and former NFL players — many with deep roots in Baltimore – are scheduled to appear at the camp, a list that includes the former Raven and University of Maryland standout Smith, a few of Copeland’s Lions teammates, former Gilman teammate and Tennesee wide receiver Darius Jennings, and his grandfather and former Baltimore Colts defensive end Roy Hilton. The 25-year-old dreams of one day holding camps in additional cities, but he says giving back to the place that helped shape him is of the utmost importance.

“Guys like Keion, they definitely had a huge influence on me and what I want to do and the imprint I want to leave on the city,” Copeland said. “When I was planning the camp last year, the one thing I thought was I’m not the biggest name in the world — I’m not any name if you ask me. I don’t have that at all, but I’ve been good to people throughout my life and I can get good people — great people — to come here and help. People like him make you want to have an imprint on this city.”

In addition to the on-field activities and fun one would expect from a football camp, Copeland is pleased to be able to give away some laptops, tablets, and headphones to attendees. However, he’s even more excited to pass along the lesson of helping others to the campers themselves, who will put together 500 book bags and hygiene kits to be distributed through the Franciscan Center in Baltimore.

“It teaches the kids a lesson that it took me longer than I would have liked to learn in terms of you can give back at any age,” said Copeland, who credits his fiancée, Taylor, as his greatest inspiration for being so active in helping others. “While climbing up your own respective ladder, you can pull other people up as well. I’m hoping that by us instilling this in the kids young, that trickles throughout their life.”

Copeland is hardly satisfied with his accomplishments to this point as he faces the challenge of making the Lions’ 53-man roster as a special-teams standout and defensive contributor for the third straight summer. His lofty goals include having a lengthy NFL career and using his investment prowess to make even more money off the field than on it through a variety of channels, whether using traditional means like real estate or perhaps even diving into the movie industry.

He wants to continue helping others and even has designs of sharing his investment strategies along the way, quipping that others can join him in becoming rich or going broke 10 or 15 years from now. Of course, Copeland cautions to be smart and to save — evident from his plan to live off just 10 to 15 percent of his current NFL salary — but he doesn’t intend to shy away from taking measured risks after coming this far in life.

The details of his journey haven’t always gone according to plan and he’s excited to see what the future holds both on and off the field, but being able to return to where it started to give back next month is a humbling opportunity.

“Whether it’s the Detroit Lions or the NFL or no NFL, I’m going to find a way to provide for myself and my family,” Copeland said. “But to be able to literally come back to Gilman and to see my former teachers, coaches, kids that are working out the way I used to back in the day, this is a dream come true.”

Register online for the second annual Beyond the Basics camp at www.bcopeland.com/camp

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Sizing up the post-minicamp 2017 Ravens roster

Posted on 20 June 2017 by Luke Jones

With mandatory minicamp in the rear-view mirror and training camp several weeks away, the Ravens now turn their sights toward the preseason and eventually paring the 90-man offseason to 53 by the start of the regular season.

Few conclusions should be drawn from voluntary organized team activities and three mandatory practices — without live contact — but my still-too-early look at the roster suggests as many as 38 players would be considered locks if the deadline to trim the roster took place now. My rough assessment of the 90 players currently on the roster lists 24 on the bubble. Not all bubble players are on equal footing, of course, with some positions lacking enough quality depth and others enjoying an abundance of talent and likely falling victim to the numbers game.

Though general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh, and the rest of the coaching staff and front office are cognizant of the numbers at each position, trying to pinpoint a specific number of tight ends or cornerbacks or wide receivers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting a roster. The Ravens are looking for reserves who will excel on special teams, so coaches will look carefully at players’ other abilities and overall athleticism in addition to what they bring to their specific position when filling out the bottom of the roster.

Of course, this breakdown can change at any point with owner Steve Bisciotti even expressing his desire earlier this month to add a veteran to an offensive line that lost two starters in the offseason.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players currently on the roster at that given position. As we move into the preseason, I’ll provide updated looks as well as projections of who’s in and who’s out at different stages of the summer.

QUARTERBACKS (3)
LOCK: Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Dustin Vaughan
Skinny: All eyes will be on Flacco to provide more consistent play being another year removed from his 2015 knee injury. The fact that the Ravens didn’t even give Vaughan a special non-contact quarterback jersey this spring suggests he’s not a real threat to Mallett for the backup job.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (7)
LOCK: Terrance West, Danny Woodhead, Kenneth Dixon
BUBBLE: Lorenzo Taliaferro, Buck Allen
LONG SHOT: Ricky Ortiz, Taquan Mizzell
Skinny: Taliaferro is an intriguing option at fullback if he stays healthy, but keep an eye on Ortiz if that doesn’t happen. Allen is the most interesting bubble name to watch in this group as he could have a tough time sticking on the roster, especially once Dixon returns from a four-game ban in October.

WIDE RECEIVERS (13)
LOCK: Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Chris Moore
BUBBLE: Michael Campanaro, Keenan Reynolds, Chris Matthews
LONG SHOT: Tim White, Kenny Bell, Tim Patrick, Aaron Bailey, C.J. Board, Quincy Adeboyejo
Skinny: The top four are clearly defined, but there will likely be one or two more spots up for grabs, making it a big summer for the likes of Campanaro and Reynolds. Special teams will be a major factor here, and it’s worth noting that White showed some ability as a returner this spring.

TIGHT ENDS (7)
LOCK: None
BUBBLE: Nick Boyle, Darren Waller, Benjamin Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams
LONG SHOT: Vince Mayle, Ryan Malleck
Skinny: Depending on whom you ask, the lack of a lock here is a reflection of a deep and talented group or of an inventory having too many question marks. Health will be the biggest determining factor, and Williams is a strong candidate to start the summer on the physically unable to perform list.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (16)
LOCK: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Alex Lewis, John Urschel, Ryan Jensen, James Hurst, Nico Siragusa
BUBBLE: Jermaine Eluemunor, De’Ondre Wesley, Matt Skura, Stephane Nembot
LONG SHOT: Brandon Kublanow, Jarell Broxton, Jarrod Pughsley, Roubbens Joseph, Maurquice Shakir
Skinny: The addition of a veteran center or right tackle could push any combination of Urschel, Jensen, and Hurst to the bubble line, but those three of easily received the most first-team reps in trying to replace Jeremy Zuttah and Rick Wagner. It’s difficult to trust this group as it’s presently constructed.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
LOCK: Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Chris Wormley, Bronson Kaufusi, Brent Urban
BUBBLE: Carl Davis, Willie Henry
LONG SHOT: Patrick Ricard
Skinny: Davis was lining up as the starting 3-technique defensive tackle to begin OTAs, but a pectoral injury once again leaves you wondering about his ability to stay on the field. Urban is a surprising lock at this stage of the offseason, but he handled virtually all 5-technique reps with the first team.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (8)
LOCK: C.J. Mosley, Kamalei Correa, Albert McClellan
BUBBLE: Patrick Onwuasor, Lamar Louis
LONG SHOT: Boseko Lokombo, Bam Bradley, Donald Payne
Skinny: Onwuasor would be a good bet after shining on special teams as a rookie, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Ravens add a veteran to the mix if Correa struggles in the preseason. There’s a clear opportunity here for the lesser names in this position group to earn a roster spot.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (7)
LOCK: Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser, Tim Williams
BUBBLE: Za’Darius Smith, Brennen Beyer
LONG SHOT: Randy Allen
Skinny: This is a critical summer for Smith after he disappointed in his second season and fell behind Judon in the pecking order, but playing time is up for grabs off the edge, especially with Suggs turning 35 in October. Beyer has worked some as an inside linebacker to improve his roster chances.

CORNERBACKS (10)
LOCK: Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey
BUBBLE: Maurice Canady, Brandon Boykin, Sheldon Price
LONG SHOT: Robertson Daniel, Jaylen Hill, Al-Hajj Shabazz
INJURED RESERVE: Tavon Young
Skinny: Canady could be viewed as a lock based on the way he practiced in the slot in place of the injured Young, but many corners have stood out in the spring before fading and Boykin isn’t far removed from being a solid nickel in the NFL. Despite the improved depth outside, don’t sleep on Price.

SAFETIES (7)
LOCK: Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Lardarius Webb, Anthony Levine
BUBBLE: Chuck Clark
LONG SHOT: Daniel Henry, Otha Foster
Skinny: The Ravens may have the best safety group in the AFC, which will make it challenging for the sixth-round rookie Clark to make the team. There’s potential to be creative with Weddle, Jefferson, and Webb all on the field at the same time, so it will be interesting watching their usage this summer.

SPECIALISTS (4)
LOCK: Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Kenny Allen
Skinny: There’s no roster intrigue with this group, but Allen only needs to look at the success of Wil Lutz with New Orleans last year as evidence to soak up as much knowledge and experience as he can from special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg and the incumbent specialists this summer.

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Suggs remains strong presence in new era for Ravens defense

Posted on 16 June 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Rookie second-round outside linebacker Tyus Bowser was 7 years old when the Ravens selected Terrell Suggs with the 10th overall pick of the 2003 draft.

First-round cornerback Marlon Humphrey was 6.

Having years ago referred to former teammate and soon-to-be Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis as Mufasa — a reference to the sage leader of the Pride Lands in “The Lion King” — Suggs understands he’s the last of his kind and he’s embraced that, even referring to himself as the Darth Vader of a new era.

“I like having fun with the younger guys,” said the 34-year-old, now entering his 15th season in the NFL. “They tell me how old they are, and I’m like, ‘Holy s–t.’ It’s weird, but I like it. It feels good.”

This spring was different for Suggs, who had always skipped the voluntary offseason workout program in the past and would work out on his own before showing up for mandatory minicamp in June. His weight and conditioning levels varied from year to year, sometimes sparking criticism when he wasn’t in the best of shape.

But after hearing rave reviews from those teammates who worked with Ravens director of performance Steve Saunders last offseason, the six-time Pro Bowl selection elected to give it a try. Having gone through spring workouts in Owings Mills — head coach John Harbaugh chose to hold him out of the voluntary spring practices open to the media — Suggs says he hasn’t felt this good in June in many years.

“It’s funny seeing him die in workouts and doing the running, lifting,” said safety Eric Weddle, who was one of the first to embrace Saunders’ rigorous methods. “It’s great for him. I think he knows that at this point in his career, he needs to be in the best shape of his life. He needs to be as strong as he can so he can get through the season. We need him.”

Suggs enjoyed a fine 2016 in his return from the second Achilles tendon tear of his career — especially considering he played with a torn biceps for much of the season — but his eight sacks marked his lowest total in a year not substantially abbreviated by injuries since 2009. He may no longer stand among the elite defensive players in the NFL, but the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year is still an above-average starting linebacker who plays the run very well and can conjure up a big play in a critical spot.

His boisterous behavior is evident at practices when he’s hooting and hollering at someone or taking owner Steve Bisciotti’s golf cart for a joyride on his way out to the back fields at the team facility, but Suggs does much more than keep the mood light in the locker room and in the huddle. Having learned from obsessive students of the game like Lewis and nine-time Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed early in his career, Suggs is constantly praised by those who know him best for his football intellect.

The Ravens hope he continues passing down those lessons to young players such as Bowser, 2016 fifth-round pick Matt Judon, and fourth-round rookie Tim Williams to rebuild a pass rush that had markedly declined over the last couple years.

“You can really tell a difference in our types of practice when he is here and when he is not here,” said defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who added that Suggs looks like he’s 25 years old again. “It’s more fun for me when he is here, too. But when it is time to be serious, there’s nobody more serious. There is really nobody smarter on this defensive football team than Terrell Suggs.”

Suggs was noncommittal when asked how much longer he hopes to play or whether he has any visions of trying to match Lewis’ 17 years with the Ravens, but he made it clear that he doesn’t feel like it’s his time to “cross that bridge” to retirement yet. His contract runs through 2018 and is scheduled to pay him $4 million in base salary for each of the next two years.

His commitment to be in the building this spring hasn’t gone unnoticed as the Ravens made a conscious effort to get younger this offseason after missing the playoffs for the third time in four years. Seeing general manager Ozzie Newsome show the door to five-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Elvis Dumervil likely served a reminder to Suggs about his own football mortality as he turns 35 in October.

“What I am so impressed with is the leadership by example that he has demonstrated in this offseason,” Harbaugh said. “He is out there doing it, and he is out there competing with the guys every day in the conditioning program. It is impressive to watch, and that is a great way to get guys attention if you want to be a leader.”

Fun and camaraderie aside, Suggs wants to win. He hasn’t gone through a down period like this from a team standpoint since the end of the Brian Billick era and is counting on an extensive batch of defensive additions to help him get back to the playoffs.

Suggs may not have expressed any clear intention of trying to surpass Lewis for most years spent with the Ravens, but he did mention the way his former leader was able to go out on top with a championship.

“We can’t fall short anymore,” Suggs said. “It’s a terrible thing when you don’t capitalize on your potential. We’ve always had a capable team; we’ve just haven’t always capitalized on it. I think it’s time to cash in and don’t be one of the odd teams looking in when it becomes the second season in January.”

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Injury picture relatively clear for Ravens going into training camp

Posted on 15 June 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It was a trying spring for the Ravens from a health standpoint with both cornerback Tavon Young and tight end Dennis Pitta sustaining season-ending injuries.

However, the overall status report has stabilized with most currently-injured players expected to be ready for the start of training camp next month. Linebacker C.J. Mosley (shoulder), wide receiver Michael Campanaro (toe), tight end Crockett Gillmore (hamstring), and defensive tackle Carl Davis (pectoral strain) all missed this week’s mandatory minicamp, but each is expected to be back on the field in late July, according to head coach John Harbaugh.

Six-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda has also been sidelined throughout the spring while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. The 32-year-old is a candidate to begin camp on the active physically unable to perform list, but he made it clear Wednesday that he’ll be ready to go ahead of the season opener in Cincinnati on Sept. 10.

“We’ll see what happens. As you know with injuries and dates, you can talk to coach Harbaugh on that one,” Yanda said. “I’ll be working out hard every day, and I’ll be ready to go. I can just tell you [for] Week 1, I’m going to be out there. How about that?”

A bigger question mark than Yanda could be tight end Maxx Williams, who missed most of the 2016 season with a knee injury. The 2015 second-round pick was held out of spring workouts while continuing to work his way back to full strength from a mysterious knee surgery that had never been performed on an NFL player, according to the Baltimore coach.

With a deep inventory of tight ends that also includes Gillmore, Nick Boyle, Benjamin Watson, and Darren Waller, the Ravens could elect to slow-play Williams’ return to the field as they did with running back Lorenzo Taliaferro last summer. Watson (Achilles tendon) and Waller participated in minicamp after sitting out voluntary workouts earlier this spring.

“I think Maxx will be interesting, whether he will be there for the first day or not,” Harbaugh said. “He is going to push it. Knowing Maxx — I guarantee you one thing — if it is humanly possible, he will be ready. But he had that new surgery, so that is a little bit of a gray area for us knowing how he is going to respond.”

Veterans will now disperse for some time away from the training facility while rookies will remain in Owings Mills for two more weeks to continue workouts with director of performance Steve Saunders and strength and conditioning coach Juney Barnett.

The annual message to all players this time of year is to make good choices in preparing for the start of the 2017 season.

“Let’s keep an eye focused for what is ahead,” said Harbaugh, who will attempt to lead the Ravens back to the playoffs for the first time since 2014. “Let’s get ourselves ready emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Let’s take care of our families, and let’s not lose any ground to our conditioning and our training. All those things are talked about.

“Take care of yourself, be smart — all of those kind of things — and let’s get ready to roll.”

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Pitta “not delusional” about future after latest devastating hip injury

Posted on 15 June 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Dennis Pitta hasn’t lost his dry sense of humor less than two weeks after suffering his third devastating right hip injury to end his seven-year run with the Ravens.

Using crutches to stand before the media after Baltimore concluded its three-day minicamp, the 31-year-old immediately sparked laughter in what could have been a sobering “farewell” press conference.

“They asked me to do podium and I said, ‘I don’t even work here. Why do I have to come up?'” said Pitta, referencing the Ravens releasing him on an injury waiver last week. “But here I am.”

It was a surreal scene after he had quipped to media only three weeks ago how nice it was to no longer be fielding so many questions about his hip.

Pitta made no retirement announcement on Thursday, but he’s “not delusional” after dislocating and fracturing his hip for the third time in the last four years. The 2010 fourth-round pick spoke about his career in the past tense, but he wants to focus on making a full recovery before facing the finality of his playing days being all but officially over.

For Pitta, being on his feet and back at the Ravens’ training facility was gratifying enough after his horrific injury on June 2 and the surgery that followed. Being driven around by Steve Bisciotti in the owner’s golf cart during Wednesday’s practice, he was greeted by head coach John Harbaugh and many teammates happy to see him.

Unfortunately, this is familiar territory for the man who caught three touchdowns in the 2012 postseason run that culminated with a win in Super Bowl XLVII.

“More of a nightmare, I would say, other than déjà vu,” said Pitta, who had told his wife, Mataya, that he was feeling better than ever just days before re-injuring his hip. “It is what it is. It’s something I’ve gone through before. It’s weird being out here and not being part of things. Just over a week ago, I was out here practicing and feeling really good, so things change in an instant. But I’m positive and staying in a good mind frame.”

We’ll always wonder where Pitta could have ranked on the franchise’s all-time receiving list as he appeared to be emerging as one of the top tight ends in the league when he sustained his first hip injury on July 27, 2013. He missed nearly three full seasons due to the first two injuries and played in a total of just 19 games after signing a five-year, $32 million contract in 2014 that included $16 million guaranteed.

His story is a reminder of how fragile an NFL career can be.

“It’s heartbreaking. I talked to him. He understands it. I understand it,” said veteran linebacker Terrell Suggs, who years ago nicknamed Pitta “American Express” for his reliability in being everywhere you want him to be. “It’s part of the game. Some of these guys look and say, ‘Dang, Sizz, 15 years?’ You know some people don’t have that long. That’s definitely something to be fortunate about. But I talked to him, and he’s in good spirits about it. It’s just one of those things. We play a very brutal sport.”

Pitta said his improbable return to the field in 2016 means even more to him now as he was the only Ravens tight end to appear in all 16 games and led all NFL tight ends with a career-high 86 receptions. He isn’t second-guessing his decision to come back last year despite previously contemplating retirement because of the slow rehab process that came with the 2014 injury.

Expressing gratitude for the support from both his family and the organization over these last few challenging years, Pitta sounded like a man at peace with his fate.

Even if he wasn’t quite ready to to use the “retirement” word.

“I think it’ll be a little bit more cut and dried this time,” Pitta said. “I certainly don’t regret coming back and playing last season. I felt great all year. I think I would have regretted it more being at home and feeling as good as I did and not playing. It was a tremendous year for me personally, just being able to overcome what I did and prove a lot to myself, and I don’t regret it one bit.

“I’m happy I played and fortunate that I was able to get another year in.”

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