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Harbaugh surprised by Bisciotti adding extra year to his contract

Posted on 25 March 2014 by WNST Staff

John Harbaugh transcript from coaches breakfast in Orlando, courtesy of the PFWA

On safeties: “To me, safeties are interchangeable these days. There are certain traits you look for. I’m looking at the safeties
now in the draft. You want tacklers and you want guys with range and you wants guys with ball skills.”

On contract extension: “I guess the first thing I said was, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘Because that’s the best I can do and I want to do as much as I can.’ It’s a big statement. Steve’s a great leader. We had a seminar yesterday on culture building and things like that, which was good, and listening and thinking about in our building, we have that every day. You couldn’t get a better leader, or a man that understands group dynamics, understands how to build people up, how to bring together people in a way that is necessary for success and for treating each other with respect. We have a great leader at the top of our organization and his influence runs through the whole organization. He has a strong hand on what we’re doing that way. He does it in a soft-handed kind of way. He inspired, he transforms and he builds. It goes to Dick and to Ozzie and right through our organization.”

On Zuttah: “We traded for Jeremy for him to be the starting center. That’s the plan. Had a conversation with Gino yesterday. It was good communication and he’s in a good place. Gino’s a solid young guy. Jeremy is a more experienced center/guard in this league. The thing I liked on tape – we studied him pretty hard – he’s a big, rangy guy. He’s got length, he’s got size in there, he’s got experience and he’s also got, we think, a knack for the scheme we’re going to run offensively. He’s a good fit for us.”

Done in free agency?: “No way. There’s always more to be done. I don’t know if Steve and Ozzie feel that way, but I sure feel that way. And I do think they feel that way. It’s a process for sure. I think we’ve made full use of the first couple phases of free agency, but you guys know there’s still more to it. There’s going to be some cap casualties, we still have some of our own players that we’re talking to, there’s still a couple free agents out there that we are involved with. Then will be the draft, then the June 1st cuts, then finalizing our roster throughout training camp. I think we’re actively engaged with a number of guys, some on our team and some who are free agents.”

On why Ihedigbo wasn’t re-signed: “It’s just this whole free agent process. There’s such a cycle there. He didn’t fit us financially like we wanted. It’s not just now. It’s when you look down the road and you structure your salary cap. It’s who you’re going to be able to hold onto and who you can’t. We went with a younger guy who was a little less expensive and who also fits us.”

What’s Osemele’s best position?: “He can do both. Right now, the plan is to play him at left guard. That’s where I see him playing next year. Could that change? Certainly, with the draft and that kind of thing. But let’s keep him in there at left guard. He’s got a lot of experience in there right now, he’s comfortable there, he likes playing on the left side. It provides us with some real size inside, some length inside, which is good. We can run all those twists and games and things in there, keep the pocket deep for Joe. That’s where we’re going right now and we’ll see how it plays out.”

Is right tackle a prominent spot to fill?: “Both. We are really confident in Rick and Jah. Those are two guys that will compete for the right tackle spot. As Steve mentioned, no glaring holes, that tells you we feel confident in our offensive line as it’s constructed right now. But that’s not to say we’re not going to try to get better. If we draft a guard, say, high, that would move Kelechi out to tackle. If we draft a tackle somewhere in there or someone comes in and wins the job then they’re the best player. But what we have been able to construct at this point is depth. We’ve got a nice front. We feel like we’ve got the right kind of players in there that can be the type of offensive line that we envision – tough physical, big strong, fast offensive line and smart too. We could play right now, but we also want to get better.”

How do you fill Arthur Jones’ spot?: “Brandon Williams is a big part of our plan. He is a guy that automatically comes to mind. Kapron Lewis-Moore is out a five-technique so he provides some depth there with Chris Canty, obviously. You’ve got Canty at defensive end, Haloti at nose guard. Look at it this way. You’ve got Haloti and Brandon as the two defensive tackles if you want to look at it from the 4-3 perspective. Those guys can both play the nose and three-technique. Kapron Lewis-Moore can probably play some of that three-technique. And I would say we’re not done yet. We’ve still got some work to do in there to build depth.”

What spots still need to be addressed?: “I think we need to bolster the defensive line a little bit. We need to bolster our inside linebacker position – at least one, maybe two guys. We need to bolster the corner position, like Steve said, build some competition for the third corner position and even push the other two guys. Chykie is part of that mix, Chykie and Asa. I’ve seen some of the work Chykie has been doing in the offseason. He’s been working very hard. Free safety, certainly. Darian Stewart is a guy we’re excited about. He’s a guy we know a little more about than most people because of Steve [Spagnuolo’s] experience with him. He’s a good, young player. I really liked him on the tape. When our fans see him play, they’re going to like the way he plays. One of his issues has been durability. He’s had some soft tissue issues over the years and hasn’t been able to play a full season. As soon as he gets here, we’re going to get to work on that. Now he just got married this last weekend, so we’re going to give him a little time. I think he’s coming in to sign his contract before he goes on honeymoon. We’re going to encourage a short honeymoon. Get back to work Darian.”

Jeromy Miles factoring in at FS?: “Yes, Jeremy has a chance to factor in. He’s tall and rangy and Jeremy has good ball skills. He might be another Corey Graham type of guy. Sometimes you play so well on special teams that you get labelled a little bit that way. The conversation he and I had was, ‘Hey, don’t lose that. You don’t trade that in. That’s something that you want to hold onto. That adds value to what you’re doing. Continue to be a dominant special teams player.’ But he’ll have a chance to compete for a starting spot, just like Brendon [Ayanbadejo] did as the starting dime linebacker when everybody said he was only a special teams player. Corey Graham became the starting corner for us and everybody said he was only a special teams player. Jeremy has the same opportunity with us.”

Spending some money: “It’s always nice to have money in your pocket right. And this is the first time we’ve had money. It’s been great. I think we’ve really been wise. … We’re going to try invest it really wisely. It’s going to be interesting to see where we can use it. Some of it might be with a couple guys that are still with us too.”

Ray Rice situation: “I’m very confident that he’s someone we want as part of our team. He will be a part of our team. He’s a person of character. The thing that’s really important is to be able to support the person without condoning the action. There’s no justifying what happened. When you drink too much in public, those kind of things happen. Really that’s what happened with Jah Reid as well. You can’t get drunk at a bar, you just can’t do it. You’re not a kid anymore and you’ve got responsibilities to not just yourself, but your family and your organization and your teammates and it’s unacceptable. You can’t be riding around in a car with marijuana in your bag. I don’t care what your reason or your excuse is for it. You can’t be riding around with guys that you have no business riding around with. Those are the core issues those guys had and we addressed them with those guys directly. It’s unacceptable, it’s disappointing. But you also separate the person from the activitiy and redemption is something we think is important as well. If there’s every a point in time when we feel like that person has lost value for our team, really it starts with football, or because of their character they’re no longer what we want to have be a part of us, then you move on from those guys. But those guys aren’t at that point yet.”

On Broncos, Pats spending: “I was disappointed with the moves that the Broncos and Patriots made in the offseason. What more can I say? I thought they did a great job and that disturbed me. We’ll find out. The proof is in the pudding. But obviously they’ve added some pieces. I think both of those teams do a great job. They make great decisions, they’ve very particular with who they add and they add the player they need in the spot they need. It seems they draft that way as well. You’ve got to applaud what they’ve done. But we’ll play games in the fall and see how it plays out.”

On adding a backup quarterback: “Well, you know, Tyrod’s only got one year left on his contract. We’ve been very happy with Tyrod, and we feel like he has a great future, but we have been a little disappointed how he’s played in games certainly. We feel like he’s a lot better than he’s showed. I know he feels that way too. We feel like Tyrod’s best football is by far definitely in front of him, but he’s only got one year left with us, so we need to add a quarterback into the mix, whether it be offseason or in the draft.”

On Steve Smith being a locker room distraction: “It’s always a concern, your chemistry. Chemistry is really important, and it’s something that
I think every team should be working really hard to try it build. It starts with the type of person that you bring in as a coach and then as a player.
But through our investigations I guess you can call it, we came away feeling really good about the impact Steve is going to have on our team that way.
He’s a tough competitor. He’s a mature grown man. He’s a family man. He’s a man of faith. I think the world of him. I always have. We have a relationship
that goes back to when he was a rookie, and we’ve kept in touch throughout his whole career in the NFL. And then when we came in for the visit, all of
the things he said unprompted were all the things that I wanted to hear, and I just think he’s going to be good for all of us, and he can play.
We’re excited about him.”

On what he heard from Smith that he liked: “I wanted to hear kind of his view on how he was going to fit in and what his role would be, and I think those
quotes are kind of public out there. I don’t want to speak for him, but I think he understands the culture’s in place and a way of doing things is in place,
and he wants to be a part of that. I didn’t have to explain to him and him go, ‘Oh ok. I get that.’ He was explaining to me how he saw us and how he saw his
role, and that was the same vision that I had for how he was going to fit in. He’s going to be great with our young receivers. He’s going to show them a
little bit of the way in practice and how to compete on Sunday. I’m excited about that. Plus, he’s a really hard worker.”

On the Panthers’ decision to let Smith go: “Everybody’s situation is different financially and where they’re at with building their team. We had to let
Anquan Boldin go last year, and that was very painful. These are tough decisions that you’re forced to make because we’re in a salary cap league. Not
just for this year but for future years down the road, I don’t know their situation, but they make wise decisions over there. They’re smart guys.”

On how Smith has evolved over the years: “I don’t know. I wasn’t around him every day, so I can’t speak directly to exactly how he was on a day-to-day basis.
I just always liked him. I just liked being around him and what he stands for as a competitor more than anything.”

On how Marlon Brown fits into the receiver rotation: “He’s competing for a starting spot. It’s not a two receiver league anymore. It’s not like you’ve got
your two starters and then your No. 3 guy is a slot receiver. That’s the way that people kind of want to label it. It’s just more complex than that. And with
Jacoby, you’ve got four guys right there that are going to play a lot of football. And one thing I think coach Kubiak does a great job of is he understands
how to put guys in a position to play to their strengths. He knows Jacoby very well, and Jacoby has only gotten better since he’s been here. He’s matured as
a player and a person. Steve Smith has certain things that he does extremely well. So does Marlon Brown, and Marlon’s going to obviously I would think make
leaps and bounds from Year One to Year Two. Aaron Mellette is still in the mix. And Torrey, Torrey has become a more complete receiver, so I think that
Gary’s got some guys that he’s excited to work with, so I can’t wait to see how he uses them.”

On Rolando McClain: “I have not had discussions with Rolando personally. We have spoken with him to my knowledge. I mean Ozzie may have talked to him at some
point because of Alabama and all that kind of stuff. To me, it all depends on a couple things. Who [is he] as a person right now? Has he grown up? He had a
lot of growing up to do obviously. And how hard he’s working, how hard he’s working at Alabama right now. If he’s working his rear end off, then I’m kind of
excited about him. If he’s not, then I’ve got no interest in him being on our team.”

On if there is a set time when the team would like to know Rolando’s plans by: “I don’t know. I’ll just wait and see what he does. If he unretires or whatever
the situation is, then we’ll decide whether he is going to be good for our team. And if we think yes, then we have the rights to him and he’ll have to come
back with us. And from what I’ve heard, he wants to come back — if he comes back — with the Ravens. But if we don’t think he’ll be good for our team, we’ll
let him go and play for somebody else. It’s all up to Rolando McClain. Who are you? How hard are you working? And how much do you want to play football?
Up to this point, he hasn’t really wanted to play football. That’s what I’m interested in as a coach.”

On what was the Ravens’ No. 1 issue heading into the offseason: “I don’t rank those things. I really don’t. I don’t have that list in front of me.”

On how he encouraged by the shape Ray Rice is in: “Very encouraged. Very encouraged by how hard Ray is working, just from a football standpoint. He’s got a
great trainer. We hired a guy, Billy DeLorbe. I don’t know if you saw that or not. We’re trying to expand our training methods. Our guys work really hard.
[Head strength and conditioning coach] Bob Rogucki and [assistant strength and conditioning coach] Juney [Barnett] do a great job in the weight room, but
we also felt like there were some things we could tie together a little better with core work, with conditioning, with proprioception and with different
types of training methods — more body weight-oriented training methods that don’t bulk guys up quite as much. We think there’s a couple guys — Ray being
one of those guys — that can really benefit from this type of training, so we’re going to incorporate that with our team this year, and Billy is going to
have a big impact on guys like Ray.”

On whether the team plans to move Matt Elam to strong safety: “Matt played a lot of strong safety last year. So like I’ve said, those guys are kind of
interchangeable. I like both safeties being able to play both positions. The free safety so to speak is really the weak safety, lines up on the weak side
of the passing strength. The strong safety lines up on the strong side of the passing strength. It’s not really a matter of a box guy and a deep guy. You
rotate weak and the free safety is down and the strong safety is back. If you play a split safety coverage, they’re both high. So they’ve got to be able
to do all those things well. So we’ll just have to see how it plays out. Darian [Stewart] can play the free safety spot. So if we’re starting out, Darian
would start out at free safety and the weak-side safety and Matt would start out as the strong-side safety, but that’s going to change as we line
up in different defenses.”

On how important it is for Joe Flacco to get throwing sessions together with his receivers: “Doing extra work is critically important as far as the strength
and conditioning — balance-, body control-, foot quickness-, athleticism-type things because they’re with us so little. The management council and the players
association have got to get together and help us as organizations and coaches help our young players develop as people and players. I mean come on. You hold
us responsible and want us to be a factor in their lives like the mentoring program and things like that. Give us a chance. We don’t see these guys until
April 21. Our guys are chomping at the bit to be in the building. They’re in the building working out. We can’t have a conversation with them other than
‘Hi, how are you doing,?’ This is not the NCAA. This is not recruiting. These are our guys. We want what’s best for our players. That’s what’s good for
the league. That’s what good for these young men. And that’s what they want. Young guys want a chance to compete in the National Football League for a
job. They want to go see their position coach. They want to learn football. It’s their craft. And we’re saying, ‘No, you can’t do it?’ Why? Because of
the collective bargaining agreement that makes no sense? Because somebody wanted to get their little win here vs. their little win over there? Get
together and do what’s best for these players, and it’s about time that somebody stepped to the plate and realized that and [took] the politics out of it.”

On Flacco getting the throwing sessions together: “From my understanding, he’s doing that. They’ve got some things planned, a throwing session. I’m not sure
where. I’ve heard different sites. Joe’s got to get that worked out. That’s up to him to do. But I’ve heard they’re doing that. Joe has kind of communicated
that through texts, and Torrey has told me that they have a session planned and are trying to work out the dates and all that. I’ll be happy when I read
about it in Pro Football Talk and NFL.com. I’ll be looking forward to seeing how it goes. It is important. It’s big.”

On where Steve Smith is physically: “I think Steve Smith can still play. We watched the tape — not just from last year but previous years. Numbers are part
of it. He’s not the same jet that he was when he was younger. I was at Disney with my daughter and stuff like that, and some of those roller coasters are
pretty fast. They just explode off the rails now. I think he’s not quite that. After the catch, what he used to do is he would make a catch and he’d run
a wide arc and just outrun the defender. That’s the one thing that you don’t see anymore. He’ll usually get tackled on an angle now. But that’s something
he’s even talked about improving and making a tighter transition after the catch and getting upfield after the catch more quickly, so that’s something
he’s probably going to adapt. But he’s still got plenty left. He makes tough catches in traffic. He makes tough catches outside. He catches nine-routes.
He catches comebacks. He catches stop 9s. All of the tough catches outside, he makes. He’s still a tremendous competitor, and I think he’s going to
bring some grit to our offense. He’s going to help us.”

Why Steve Smith didn’t catch as many deep balls?: “I don’t have any observations on their offense. I just haven’t watched them enough to say and I wouldn’t.
But I saw him catch the deep balls. When he had a chance, when he was running a nine-route or an eight-route and he was even with the defender, he was
leaving still. He was able to accelerate and go make the catch. If he does it, that means he still can do it and that’s all we really need to see.”

Expectations for Joe Flacco: “The expectations are high for Joe. They always are. They were high last year. Yeah, they are.”

How will more familiar faces help Flacco?: “It doesn’t matter about last year. Joe’s responsibility is to learn from it and he learned from every mistake,
he learned from every game. Joe improved in some ways last year that I really haven’t seen you guys write about too much for whatever reason. Because of what
we went through last year, Joe became a better playmaker on the extended play. He scrambled around and made some huge plays for us that won us some games.
I like the fact that he’s going to take that step that he took last year into next season on top of all the things that you’re talking about. I’m excited
about the kind of year that Joe can have next year, but really, it’s not just Joe. It’s all of us. We all have to be better. We all have to be the best
that we can be. So adding players, changing scheme, trying to build around Joe’s strengths but also all the other guy’s strengths, that’s really what you do.”

What happened last year with Ray Rice?: “It’s too complex just to give you the bullet points off the top of my head. I probably wouldn’t do a good job of it
because I don’t have my notes. But the biggest thing was he got hurt early. He strained his hip, a hip flexor. He tried to come back and re-strained it.
He tried to fight through it the whole year and he was probably good enough to play, but not good enough to excel. And he got a little bulked up and he put
on some weight. I’ve seen reports that he got up to 225. I never saw that number on the scale. 217 was the highest I saw on the scale. Ray has come out and
said that’s too big for him. We talked about some of the stuff that we’ve done with our training program to try and lean him up a little bit. He’s under 210
right now. I’d like to see him around 207, 205, 207. That’s where he was his first couple of years and then he crept up to about 212 in the Super Bowl year.
IT was still good for him, he was still very explosive. And then last year through the injury, he got up to at least 217, which was just too big.”

Other areas where Flacco improved: “I don’t have that list in front of me. Guys always improved. He improved with mechanics, he improved with progressions,
he improved with understanding protections. I think his overall knowledge of the game is getting into that neighborhood where you want to see that veteran
quarterback, a six, seven, eight-year guy. His understanding of defenses and how they work, all those things. Now, he’s got to take that knowledge and apply
it to our offense and to the system that Coach Kubiak is going to bring in. Having a chance to sit down and study the system now for the last couple of months,
I think it’s going to really fit Joe very well. That was part of the excitement of hiring Gary. Gary’s a great teacher, he has a system that he understands
and believes in and is a very straight forward system. I think Joe is going to benefit from that.”

Is the playbook done?: “Right. I don’t know how long they’ve had it but they have it now, though. Recently they got it. They have their books now.
It’s been at least a week.”

How did Rick Wagner play in his rookie year?: “Rick played well. He didn’t play well early. I think he was kind of overwhelmed by it. Rick’s the kind of guy
that it seems like his personality is where he really needs to know what he’s doing before he really can cut it loose. We put him in that role as a move tight
end with the extra offensive lineman down at the goal line in short-yard situations and he was very bad at it early and he became very good at it toward the
end. You start to learn how a guy things so you learn how to teach him a little bit. I think he’s going to be a guy that’s going to need a lot of reps to gain
his confidence. And once he gains confidence in his techniques, he’ll be really good at it. Juan [Castillo] is a great trainer of offensive linemen, one of
the best in the league if not the best at training guys in techniques. We think that Rick’s going to really benefit from that.”

Any scenario where Rick Wagner starts at right tackle?: “Oh yeah. Rick probably goes in as the starting right tackle right now. That’s the way I see it.
We aren’t playing a game right now so it really doesn’t matter. He and Jah [Reid] will be competing and Jah is very determined right now as he should be.
It’s going to be a good battle and we’ll see if we add somebody in the mix.”

Will you pick up fifth-year option on Jimmy Smith?: “We have no doubt that we’ll be investing the option in Jimmy when the time comes. We are hopeful that
we can sign Jimmy long-term. That will be our goal. I would say the same thing about Torrey. Torrey Smith wasn’t a first-round pick but we are really happy
with that draft class and those guys. We want those guys to be Ravens for a long time.”

Your take on instant replay?: “We’re on record in Baltimore the last four or five years of being in favor of putting everything in instant replay that can
be put in instant replay. It’s our feeling that the technology has caught up with the game in a lot of ways. Sometimes, we lag behind the technology a
little bit and you should. You should come to change slowly and you should do things for the right reasons. I think the league is right in doing that, but
it’s about time now to recognize that when the fans have a better view of the game than the referee does, then it’s time to put the referee in the same
playing field as the fans and you do that through the technology. They have great ideas and ways to do it. I tend to agree with Coach Belichick. I think
everything should be reviewed. If not, work back from what shouldn’t be reviewed. Don’t work out from what should be reviewed because right now, all we
do every year is we add things for review cause a play happens like the San Francisco play. You say, ‘Oh boy, that’s a loophole that should be reviewed,’
so we add it. That’s the tail wagging the dog. Everything that can be reviewed should be reviewed and what those specifically would not include, we
could decide. We could have that conversation. How to do it – whether it goes back to the NFL office which we’re in favor of, I’m in favor of – that
sounds like a great plan. It’s already being worked in hockey. Let’s make sure the outcome is right so when the game is all said and done, the fans
aren’t blaming the officials for the outcome of the game one way or another. They’re blaming or patting the players and coaches on the back. That’s
where the outcome of the game should be and technology now gives us the opportunity to do that. Don’t put the referee in a situation where real time
and the fans have a better view of the play than he does. That makes no sense. That’s our view.”

Need more challenges: “I don’t know. I’d be for more challenges. I think the time argument is bogus. College does it very quickly. I like the coach having
the challenge. I think it adds some excitement to the game and some strategy to the game that is fun and I feel like would give us an advantage because I
feel we would be good at that. However, they decide to do it, it would not slow down the game and it would not take the game out of the referee’s hands.
He would still control the game. It’s just a matter of time before it comes to that.”

Thoughts on expanded playoffs: “I agree with Steve [Bisciotti] on that. I think Steve is right about that. It’s going to be good for the game. It’s good
for players, good for fans. It’s going to be exciting. I don’t know about the Monday night game. It’s going to be interesting to see how that plays out.’

Looking back at last year, anything you wish you did differently: “Lots of things. We try every year to overhaul everything we do, to put everything under
a microscope. I don’t think we’ve had much of a chance to do that last year and honestly, frankly, when you win a Super Bowl, you’re less inclined to do that.
Not because you don’t think you have things to correct, but you really don’t have time to do it. We’ve had more time than we really want and need to do it
this year and we’ve made a lot of changes to a lot of things we’re doing – more mechanical, structural, methodology as opposed to principal-based stuff.
We always say our principals are written in stone, our methods are not. We got methods that we’re changing.”

Thoughts when heard the reports about Browns’ interest in brother: “I laughed. First, I was ticked off because he hadn’t told me about this.
I’m his brother. I’m supposed to know. I called him, and he just laughed about it.”

Thoughts about playing against Jim twice a year: “Only briefly, until I found out there was nothing to it. Nah, I never really thought about that
because I didn’t hear about it until after the fact. I was at the combine when it all broke. I may have been sitting next to him when it all
broke. That would be very, very tough.”

Jim’s reaction to news: “He was kind of incredulous. I’m sure there was some conversation. I think everybody said there was a dialogue. But how
serious it was … I guess it was fun to talk about. On our team, you always try to make your team better. So, I guess the Browns were
trying to make their team better.”

Training camp plans: “We’ve always had a training camp. Our training camp this year will be more physical that it was last year. We’re younger
than we were two years ago, and we need it more. But we’ll always gauge it for individual players. The young guys are going to get more of that than
the veteran guys. Chris Canty, for instance, is not going to line up in two-on-one combination block drills. But Brandon Williams is. He needs it.
It’s going to be a tough, physical training camp. We’re going to wring everything we can out of every single second. We’re going to become the best
team we can possibly become. Our guys know how to work. Ask a guy like Terrell Suggs, our guys know how to work.”

Chykie Brown: “The biggest thing with him is attention to detail. He’s way more detail-oriented than he used to be. That’s been the key for him.
If he’ll be a detailed press corner – if he’ll put his hands on people and stay squared and be physical at the line of scrimmage and communicate with
the safety on every single play –Chykie can play. It’s the lapses that he has to get out of his game. He knows that. He’s working hard at that.”

Progression for Chykie: “Huge steps last year. When he played, he played really well. Chykie’s ready. We’ll see how ready. He’s ready to make a
run with a lot more playing time.”

Free safety prospects in draft: “I just started looking at the safeties this week. It’s a good group. It’s a really good group. How good?
How deep? I haven’t been through them all yet, so I don’t know. I saw Clinton-Dix yesterday on tape and he looks good. He’s going to go high. We’ll see where.”

Is Owen Daniels on your radar: “We’re looking at Owen Daniels. We’re looking at Ed Dickson. There are a couple other tight ends we’re looking at.
We just have to see how it plays out. It’s got to be a fit for everybody. There’s a lot to it financially and other things. He’s in our conversation.”

Eric Winston: “Not so much Eric. We’re not talking to Eric right now. That’s not to say it couldn’t change, but that’s not a guy we’re talking to right now.”

Draft pick for McKinnie, is it 2015: “Yes, that’s my understanding.”

Surprised by compensatory picks: “I was pleased that they were that high. We knew that was a possibility. It just goes to show you the quality of
the players that we lost. We led the league since 2008 in terms of losing players and having success through that. We’re pretty proud of that.
Compensatory picks go with losing good players. We try to make good use of those picks. That was really good news.”

Torrey Smith extension talks: “I know nothing. I know the coach wants him long term.”

Corey Graham: “He was hugely valuable to us, and we were very disappointed to lose him. In the end, we couldn’t compete with Buffalo’s offer and the
fact that he was going back home. That means a lot to Corey and his family. He’s a really good football player. They paid him accordingly. He’s a great
special teams player. But, like we said before, sometimes these players who are great special teams players get labeled and people assume they’re not
good defensive players. He got the opportunity with us to demonstrate how well he could play corner.”

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Harbaugh addresses slew of topics at NFL owners meetings

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Harbaugh addresses slew of topics at NFL owners meetings

Posted on 25 March 2014 by Luke Jones

Speaking to reporters gathered in Orlando for this week’s NFL owners meetings, Ravens coach John Harbaugh touched on an array of topics ranging Tuesday morning, from the status of running back Ray Rice to the backup quarterback position.

A day after owner Steve Bisciotti made it clear that Rice would remain with the organization despite his legal trouble, Harbaugh reiterated his support for the troubled 27-year-old while acknowledging the obvious embarrassment felt over the Ravens’ three arrests this offseason that have prompted many to question team leadership. Wide receiver Deonte Thompson and offensive lineman Jah Reid were also arrested in a three-week period that started with Rice’s domestic violence incident in Atlantic City last month.

Harbaugh confirmed what many assumed in stating that newly-acquired veteran Jeremy Zuttah projects to be the Ravens’ starting center in 2014, replacing incumbent and 2012 fourth-round pick Gino Gradkowski.

“We traded for Jeremy for him to be the starting center. That’s the plan,” Harbaugh told reporters in Orlando. “[I] had a conversation with Gino yesterday. It was good communication and he’s in a good place. Gino’s a solid young guy. Jeremy is a more experienced center/guard in this league. The thing I liked on tape – we studied him pretty hard – he’s a big, rangy guy. He’s got length, he’s got size in there, he’s got experience and he’s also got, we think, a knack for the scheme we’re going to run offensively. He’s a good fit for us.”

The coach added that the organization would prefer to keep Kelechi Osemele at left guard and views second-year lineman Rick Wagner as the current starting right tackle among players under contract. Of course, the Ravens are expected to continue the search for more help in free agency and the draft, so the offensive line remains fluid beyond the four known starters: left tackle Eugene Monroe, right guard Marshal Yanda, Zuttah, and Osemele.

After recent reports that the Ravens were interested in quarterback Brandon Weeden before he signed in Dallas, Harbaugh confirmed that the organization is exploring the possibility of adding another quarterback. Current backup Tyrod Taylor has one year remaining on his rookie contract, but the head coach confirmed that the Ravens haven’t been overwhelmed with how the 2011 sixth-round pick has played in limited opportunities. Baltimore has carried only two quarterbacks on its 53-man roster in each of the last four seasons.

“We’ve been very happy with Tyrod, and we feel like he has a great future,” Harbaugh said, “but we have been a little disappointed how he’s played in games certainly. We feel like he’s a lot better than he’s showed. I know he feels that way too. We feel like Tyrod’s best football is by far definitely in front of him, but he’s only got one year left with us, so we need to add a quarterback into the mix, whether it be offseason or in the draft.”

The tight end position remains a point of discussion as Harbaugh confirmed interest in re-signing Ed Dickson while acknowledging interest in former Houston Texans tight end Owen Daniels, who obviously has strong ties with new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and new tight ends coach Brian Pariani. Dennis Pitta and University of Maryland product Matt Furstenburg are the only tight ends currently under contract.

Reporters asked Harbaugh about the status of retired linebacker Rolando McClain, whose rights are still owned by the Ravens. The coach didn’t completely rule out a return for the 24-year-old but added that he hasn’t spoken to McClain and remains skeptical unless he receives proof that the former Oakland Raider is working hard and is serious about returning to football.

“Who [is he] as a person right now? Has he grown up?” Harbaugh said of McClain. “He had a lot of growing up to do obviously. And how hard he’s working, how hard he’s working at Alabama right now. If he’s working his rear end off, then I’m kind of excited about him. If he’s not, then I’ve got no interest in him being on our team.”

Harbaugh confirmed that the Ravens will pick up the contract option for 2011 first-round cornerback Jimmy Smith as this is the first year we’ve seen this part of the rookie system come into play after the collective bargaining agreement that went into effect in 2011 standardized four-year contracts for all drafted players. The system does present teams a fifth-year option to use for first-round picks entering the final year of their rookie deals. The Ravens hope to sign both Smith and wide receiver Torrey Smith — also entering the final year of his rookie deal — to long-term extensions to keep them in Baltimore.

Baltimore is still looking to draft a safety despite last week’s signing of Darian Stewart, and Harbaugh offered praise for Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who is projected to be a first-round pick and regarded as the top safety in the draft. General manager Ozzie Newsome said at the start of the offseason that the Ravens would be looking to add a more athletic safety with 2013 first-round pick Matt Elam expected to play closer to the line of scrimmage.

“Safeties are interchangeable these days,” Harbaugh said. “There are certain traits you look for. I’m looking at the safeties now in the draft. You want tacklers and you want guys with range and you wants guys with ball skills.”

The Ravens would also like to add depth on the defensive line following the free-agent departure of Arthur Jones, but 2013 third-round pick Brandon Williams is the current favorite to take Jones’ starting spot.

According to the coach, Kubiak recently put the finishing touches on the Ravens’ new offensive playbook before it was then distributed to players. Harbaugh was also told that quarterback Joe Flacco has plans to get together with his wide receivers for informal throwing sessions before the start of the offseason training program next month.

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Bisciotti vows troubled running back Ray Rice not going anywhere

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Bisciotti vows troubled running back Ray Rice not going anywhere

Posted on 25 March 2014 by Luke Jones

Echoing the sentiments offered by head coach John Harbaugh and general Ozzie Newsome in recent weeks, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti offered his support to running back Ray Rice and reiterated that he will be part of the team in 2014.

Speaking to The Baltimore Sun as the league meetings commenced in Orlando on Monday, Bisciotti described the incident as “disappointing” and one that the running back will live with for the rest of his life, but Rice’s future with the organization — at least for the upcoming season — isn’t in jeopardy regardless of how the legal situation is resolved. Rice and Janay Palmer were arrested and charged with simple assault-domestic violence in mid-February after the two allegedly struck one another with their hands.

“Ray will be here,” Bisciotti said. “This is a singular moment six years after we drafted him. It’s embarrassing for him and his fiancée. It is especially hard to see somebody that is proud of his reputation have to take this kind of public-relations hit.”

Atlantic City police referred the case to the county prosecutor’s office for review, but there’s been no update if any additional or different charges have been filed.

NOTES: The Ravens awarded Harbaugh with an extra year on his current contract, extending him through the 2017 season. Bisciotti said he offered an extra year to his head coach as a show of support that nothing has changed in his mind despite Baltimore missing the postseason last year for the first time since 2007. … Bisciotti also confirmed the Ravens will honor future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis with a statue planned to be unveiled outside M&T Bank Stadium before the start of the 2014 season. The likeness of Lewis will stand in Unitas Plaza.

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The latest #WNSTSweet16 is a laughing matter

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The latest #WNSTSweet16 is a laughing matter

Posted on 25 March 2014 by Luke Jones

Championship trophies tarnish and the details from box scores fade from memory over the years, but the way our sports figures made us feel is never forgotten as this week’s #WNSTSweet16 examines some of the biggest sports personalities to grace the Charm City with their presence.

This week’s list is not only open to local athletes but managers, coaches, broadcasters, and even super fans who gained notoriety from their unique personalities. Many were known as goofballs because of their naturally-comedic traits while a few may have qualified through actions that merely came across as humorous in the eyes of others.

There are no statistics for humor on which to rate these individuals, but there’s no shortage of goofballs who still resonate with the local community years after their time in the public eye — and even on this earth, in some cases — has come to an end.

With April Fools’ Day only a week away, we honor the #WNSTSweet16 local sports goofballs who were as memorable for their personalities as anything else they accomplished:

Continue to next page for No. 16

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Former Raven Ihedigbo inks two year deal with Lions

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Former Raven Ihedigbo inks two year deal with Lions

Posted on 25 March 2014 by WNST Staff

Nearly two full weeks into the new league year, one of the Baltimore Ravens’ top free agents has finally found a new home.

Safety James Ihedigbo, a notable contributor to the Super Bowl XLVII championship team made the announcement about his future Tuesday night via Twitter.

Ihedigbo inked a two year deal in Detroit according to multiple reports. The safety had visited Motown early in the free agent process and the team hosted two other free agent safeties before a deal was reached.

The former UMass standout joins former Ravens secondary coach Teryl Austin in Detroit, Austin was named Defensive Coordinator in January after former Ravens Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell replaced Jim Schwartz (Mt. St. Joseph) as the team’s head coach.

Ihedigbo was a very pleasant surprise during his tenure in Charm City, signing just before the start of the 2012 season after being released by the New England Patriots. He immediately made an impact on Special Teams and later on the defensive side of the ball en route to playing in his second straight Super Bowl.

The former undrafted free agent was extremely valuable for the Ravens’ secondary in 2013, starting all 16 games at strong safety after the team’s acquisition of former Oakland Raiders S Michael Huff proved fruitless. Ihedigbo tallied 101 tackles, his first three career interceptions and forced two fumbles.

After the 2013 season, Ihedigbo told WNST.net he played for the league minimum in Baltimore and felt he had “outplayed his contract”. Both he and the Ravens admitted rookie Matt Elam likely played out of position last year at free safety, making it logical for Ihedigbo to end up finding work elsewhere and the 2013 first round pick to shift to the strong safety position.

The Ravens have thus far failed to find a new starting free safety although they did add depth to the position by signing former St. Louis Ram Darian Stewart last week. Other safeties on the roster include younger players who have mostly been special teams contributors like Brynden Trawick, Jeromy Miles, Omar Brown and Anthony Levine.

New Ravens secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo has also lost cornerback Corey Graham to Buffalo via free agency.

The only unrestricted Ravens free agents remaining on the market are TE Ed Dickson, DL Terrence Cody, RB Bernard Scott and TE Dallas Clark. WR Brandon Stokley announced his intention to retire at the end of the 2013 season. Of the group, only Dickson has reportedly been offered a deal to return to Baltimore.

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Ravens awarded four compensatory picks at Owner’s Meetings

Posted on 24 March 2014 by WNST Staff

Last year’s off-season after the Super Bowl was painful for Ravens fans, but now the team is being rewarded for its troubles and patience in free agency.

At the NFL Owner Meetings today in Orlando, the Baltimore Ravens learned more about their off-season approach in May as they received the league maximum number of compensatory picks possible for free agent losses.

The team received a third (99th overall),  two fourth-round (134th, 138 overall), and a fifth-round pick (175th overall).

The picks were rewarded for the losses of DE Paul Kruger (Cleveland), MLB Dannell Ellerbe (Miami), CB Cary Williams (Philadelphia), and FS Ed Reed (Houston) in free agency.

Because the Ravens did not sign any unrestricted free agents in the 2013 off-season, the team was not docked any picks from their total.

DE Elvis Dumervil, DL Chris Canty, DL Marcus Spears, S Michael Huff, and MLB Daryl Smith were all signed after teams cut them or late into training camp.

All-in-all, the Ravens will have eight picks as their disposal in May.

Follow all your Ravens news on @WNST on Twitter! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Sports!

 

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This week’s #WNSTSweet16 isn’t a goof, just a celebration of them

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This week’s #WNSTSweet16 isn’t a goof, just a celebration of them

Posted on 23 March 2014 by Glenn Clark

Maybe you’ve heard, but we’re celebrating our 16th year as Baltimore’s sports media leader here at WNST. And since we’ve been leading the way in sports media, we figured we should follow suit by leading the way in celebrations. With that in mind, we’re celebrating all year long. That’s right. ALL YEAR LONG.

To mark the occasion, we’re taking a look at some of the bigger “water cooler” topics that have been discussed during the course of the WNST era. We’re already eleven lists into the year, here’s a look back on them if you’ve missed any.

Week 11: Glenn Clark-Sweet 16 local sports saints-athletes who gave back
Week 10: Nestor Aparicio-Sweet 16 events a Baltimore sports fan must attend
Week 9: Drew Forrester-Sweet 16 greatest Baltimore college basketball players
Week 8: Luke Jones-Sweet 16 Orioles who didn’t live up to the hype
Week 7: Glenn Clark-Sweet 16 most underappreciated Maryland basketball players
Week 6: Drew Forrester-Sweet 16 local sports “Heartbreakers”
Week 5: Luke Jones-Sweet 16 local Olympic sport athletes
Week 4: Drew Forrester-Sweet 16 local athletes who deserved to win a championship but didn’t
Week 3: Nestor Aparicio-Sweet 16 local sports people who “had a dream”
Week 2: Luke Jones-Sweet 16 local sports playoff moments
Week 1: Glenn Clark-Sweet 16 “debuts” in local sports history

Luke Jones begins a “residency” of sorts in terms of Sweet 16 honors, as he’ll have both this week’s list and next week’s compilation as well. This one sets up to be one of the more fun lists we’ll tackle all year.

We’re not far from the start of April (frightening, yes) and with the first of the month comes not only an upcoming schedule shift here at WNST but of course also April Fool’s Day.

We thought about making a list of local sports fools, but the connotation is certainly much more negative and doesn’t reflect the positive nature of the list we had hoped to create. Our list is meant to celebrate those who are silly-not necessarily foolish.

The topic this week is Sweet 16 “Local Sports Goofballs and Personalities”.

We’ve certainly been blessed to have quite a few of these types over the years in Charm City. Once again, I fear this is a race for #2-as I cannot fathom there being anyone on top of the list other than the incomparable Artie Donovan. But this is not “my” list, it belongs to the WNST community and will simply be posted by Luke.

Luke has expanded the criteria for this week’s list to include not only athletes but also coaches, front office personnel and even sports media types. Based on that criteria, I would imagine former Orioles skipper Earl Weaver and Charley Eckman (how would you even begin to describe Charley Eckman?) would also have to end up somewhere near the top of the list.

But who else needs to make the cut? Does Billy “F*ck Face” Ripken get a spot over Sopranos star and part time Ravens Super Bowl champion Tony Siragusa? Is there room on the list for former Loyola coach and Maryland assistant Jimmy Patsos-who was once so crazy he coached a game while sitting in the crowd? And let’s not forget that perhaps the greatest goofball in baseball history-Roger McDowell-pitched for the 1996 O’s team that would get back to the postseason for the first time since 1983.

There are probably hundreds of solid candidates to make Luke’s list, but he can only pick 16 from this incredibly broad field.

Luke wants your ideas. Leave them here in the comments or email him via luke@wnst.net. We will be discussing the list throughout the day Monday on AM1570 WNST.net. We’d love to have you Tweet with us or discuss the topic via Facebook by using the hashtag #WNSTSweet16.

On Tuesday morning, Luke will unveil the “official” list here at WNST.net and then discuss it with Drew Forrester on “The D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction” at 8am. He will then re-visit the list at 4pm Tuesday with me on “The Reality Check Driven by Jerry’s Toyota Scion”.

Much like last week, stats won’t help Luke much in putting together this week’s list. Help remind him of some of the biggest “characters” in local sports history or weigh in on how those all of us remember should end up being ranked. Let your voice be heard!

-G

 

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Ravens acquire Tampa Bay center Zuttah for 2015 draft pick

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Ravens acquire Tampa Bay center Zuttah for 2015 draft pick

Posted on 23 March 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have addressed another need by upgrading the center position through a trade for Tampa Bay Buccaneers center Jeremy Zuttah.

The deal was announced Sunday as Baltimore will send their 2015 fifth-round draft pick to complete the deal, pending a physical.

“We said at the beginning of the offseason that we would be adding quality players to our line and Jeremy fits that description,” Newsome said in a team statement. “We are getting a player who has started at both center and guard, and played well at each position. We’re excited to have him as a Raven and believe he can play a significant role for us.”

Zuttah has played both center and guard in his six-year career but is expected to become the Ravens’ new starting center after 2012 fourth-round pick Gino Gradkowski struggled in his first year as the replacement to the retired Matt Birk. The Buccaneers had been rumored to be shopping Zuttah as they rework their offensive line under new head coach Lovie Smith and signed free-agent center Evan Dietrich-Smith earlier this month.

He has started 30 games at center, 41 at left guard, and five at right guard but made 15 of his 16 starts at center last season. According to Pro Football Focus, Zuttah was the league’s 22nd-ranked center while Gradkowski was rated 35th in 2013. The Ravens are expected to award the 6-foot-4, 308-pound Zuttah with a long-term deal after he was originally signed through the 2015 season in Tampa Bay and was set to carry a $4.5 million cap number — all in base salary — in 2014.

The 27-year-old was a third-round selection out of Rutgers in the 2008 draft and has started 76 of 90 games in his NFL career. He was a college teammate of Ravens running back Ray Rice.

With the acquisition of Zuttah, the Ravens now have four of their five projected offensive line spots set for 2014 with only left guard or right tackle remaining as a question mark. Third-year lineman Kelechi Osemele is expected to man one of those spots as he returns from season-ending back surgery.

The Ravens have now used three draft picks in trying to find the heir apparent to Birk as they also dealt a seventh-round pick to Indianapolis for A.Q. Shipley in addition to spending a 2012 selection on Gradkowski and trading a 2015 pick for Zuttah. Baltimore also used a 2013 sixth-round pick on Colorado State-Pueblo product Ryan Jensen, who is regarded as an intriguing interior-line project to monitor in the preseason after he was injured for a large portion of his rookie year.

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Steve Smith making great impression after signing with Ravens

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Steve Smith making great impression after signing with Ravens

Posted on 22 March 2014 by Luke Jones

It remains to be seen how much a 35-year-old Steve Smith will bring to the field this September with the Ravens, but it’s difficult to dispute the great number of fans he’s already made in his first week with his new team.

Despite his reputation as an intense competitor who’s occasionally gone too far, Smith has shown his softer side over the past week in saying goodbye to the Charlotte community he’s called home for the last 13 years. The longtime Carolina Panther has already said he plans to continue living in the Queen City but went out of his way to cheer up a seven-year-old Panthers fan who reacted sadly to the news of Smith’s release in a video that went viral.

Smith used his official Twitter account to get in touch with the boy’s father and surprised him on ABC’s “Good Morning America” with an invitation to his camp and the gift of a new Ravens jersey:

In addition to his television appearance, Smith took out an ad in Saturday’s edition of The Charlotte Observer (below) to express his thanks to Panthers fans and to share his desire of one day retiring with the organization that gave him his start in 2001.

It’s clear that Smith isn’t feeling warm and fuzzy about Carolina general manager Dave Gettleman and his decision to part ways with the veteran receiver at the start of free agency, but his affection for Charlotte and the Panthers is reminiscent of the many Ravens players who’ve expressed great thanks when leaving Baltimore. And it makes him easy to root for as he brings his talent and experience to the Ravens.

Even if his new city will only be viewed as a temporary home.

To hear Steve Smith’s interview earlier this week with Drew Forrester on The D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction, click HERE.

Letter

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Ravens agree to one-year deal with former Rams safety Stewart

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Ravens agree to one-year deal with former Rams safety Stewart

Posted on 21 March 2014 by Luke Jones

Concluding a quiet week after their last free-agent signing of veteran wide receiver Steve Smith, the Ravens added another piece to their 2014 plans by agreeing to a one-year deal with strong safety Darian Stewart on Friday.

The former St. Louis Rams defensive back is familiar with Baltimore secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo, who was Stewart’s head coach in the first two years of his NFL career. Stewart started six games and played in 13 overall for the Rams last season, making 36 tackles and breaking up five passes.

Stewart is scheduled to arrive in Baltimore to take a physical before signing his contract.

It’s likely that Stewart’s signing is more of a depth move as the Ravens aren’t expected to retain starting strong safety James Ihedigbo, who is reportedly mulling over offers from a few NFC teams. With 2013 first-round pick Matt Elam expected to shift to strong safety, general manager Ozzie Newsome said at the beginning of the offseason that upgrading the free safety spot would be his top defensive priority.

“I talked about a free safety [and] maybe getting a free safety that can be a playmaker,” said Newsome when asked in early January what improvements needed to be made to the defense. “When tipped balls are in the air, guys that can come away with that.”

Stewart received the most extensive playing time of his career during the 2011 season, Spagnuolo’s last year as head coach of the Rams. The University of South Carolina product started 13 games and collected 84 tackles, three sacks, 11 pass breakups, and one interception.

For his career, the 5-foot-11, 214-pound safety has amassed 147 tackles, four sacks, and one interception.

The free safety market has few remaining options as veterans Chris Clemons and Thomas DeCoud could be viewed as reasonable choices but neither profiles as the playmaking safety Newsome covets. Former Bills free safety Jairus Byrd was the best free safety to hit the market earlier this month, but he was quickly signed to a lucrative $56 million contract with the New Orleans Saints on the first day of free agency.

The Ravens may have no choice but to look toward the draft for their answer at free safety with the likes of Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville’s Calvin Pryor potentially available in the first round and others such as Ed Reynolds of Stanford or Florida State’s Terrence Brooks serving as Day 2 possibilities. Should the Ravens not acquire a free safety, they would likely be forced to move Elam back to free safety and look at the possibility of Stewart at the starting strong safety spot.

An undrafted free agent in 2010, Stewart reportedly visited the Carolina Panthers earlier this week.

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