Tag Archive | "ray lewis"

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Have you heard Ray Lewis team up with Pharrell yet?

Posted on 25 August 2013 by Glenn Clark

If you missed it, late last week a mixtape hit the interwebs under the title “Natural Born Hitters”. The concept is simple. Grammy award winning producer Pharrell Williams (Neptunes, N.E.R.D. and the man behind the biggest mega-hits of the summer-Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”) “collaborated” with former Baltimore Ravens LB (and future Hall of Famer) Ray Lewis. The producer laid beats underneath Ray Lewis speeches to make them sound like songs.

The entire mixtape is roughly only 4:30 and includes three tracks-”Training”, “Practice” and “Pregame”. You can listen to all tracks in the video below.

You can listen to the tracks individually here via Soundcloud. The collaboration cannot be considered surprising, as football players in recent years have admitted to have Lewis speeches on their iPods. It does humorously come on the heels of Ravens QB Joe Flacco telling ESPN The Magazine he didn’t always understand Lewis’ speeches.

“I love Ray, and I love how he always spoke from the heart, but if you listened to those speeches, a lot of them didn’t even make sense. He meant everything he was saying, but I didn’t know what he was talking about 90 percent of the time.”

Maybe Flacco will understand better when he listens to them over Pharrell’s beats?

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Suggs not ready to stare own football mortality in face

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Suggs not ready to stare own football mortality in face

Posted on 24 July 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs has never experienced a training camp quite like this as he enters his 11th season in the NFL.

Longtime teammates and mentors Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are no longer in the building, not to mention several other veteran leaders of the defending Super Bowl champions as the Ravens have undergone a more substantial makeover than any past champion in league history.

Those departures coupled with an injury-plagued 2012 season that limited the five-time Pro Bowl selection to just eight games and a career-low two sacks would make just about anyone ponder his own football mortality. But Suggs quickly dispelled any notion that he’s rapidly approaching the same age bracket as the retired Lewis or Reed, who will turn 35 in September.

“I’m 30, so I’m alright,” said Suggs, cracking a half-smile. “A lot of these guys were a lot older than me, but I’m 30. If you ask me, I’m probably entering my football prime right now. I’m not going to think about that this year definitely. At the end of the year, probably — I don’t know. It depends on how the year goes.”

And it might be a more important year for Suggs than most realize as he tries to show he is 100 percent after suffering a torn Achilles tendon on the weekend of the 2012 draft and a torn right biceps in a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Dec. 2 of last year. The 2011 Defensive Player of the Year played courageously through significant pain, but he will be out to prove he remains closer to that award-winning performer he was two years ago than the pass rusher who struggled to make a consistent impact last season.

Suggs does have another year remaining on the six-year, $62.5 million contract he signed in the summer of 2009, but that deal carries a $12.4 million cap number in 2014, which is projected to account for roughly 10 percent of next season’s total cap. Unlike this season when cutting Suggs would have netted the Ravens only $1.8 million in cap savings to go along with $11.2 million in dead money, general manager Ozzie Newsome would gain $7.8 million in cap space if he decided to part ways with the 2003 first-round pick next winter.

Knowing the way in which Newsome and the front office view every player as a commodity with an appraised monetary figure, it’s likely that the Ravens will attempt to address that 2014 number in any number of ways — regardless of how Suggs performs this season.

Asked what he expects of himself this season, Suggs wouldn’t offer specifics, saying only that he plans to continue working hard while hoping to stay healthy. Noticeably slimmer this year, the elder statesman of the Baltimore defense is happy to just be able to take part in training camp this year, a notion he wouldn’t have expressed in the past. At this point last year, Suggs was more than two months away from even returning to the practice field.

“It put a lot of things in perspective with things I took for granted,” Suggs said. “Just like the opportunity to go to work and play with my teammates. Every football player will tell you reporting to camp is not really our happiest time, but it’s definitely needed to get our bodies in football shape. I wish I had the opportunity to do training camp last year.”

Dealing with a plethora of personnel changes to the defense has been made easier by the free-agent addition of fellow Pro Bowl linebacker Elvis Dumervil. Suggs paid compliments to former teammates Jarret Johnson and Paul Kruger but recognized Dumervil as the most talented outside linebacker he’s ever played with. The two have combined for a remarkable 148 sacks in their careers.

Asked how effective the pass-rushing tandem can be for the Ravens defense this season, Suggs paused and smiled before offering his answer.

“We can be pretty good,” Suggs said, “if everything goes according to plan and we keep everybody healthy. It’s going to take more than just us two though for the duo to work. There are other guys in the front. It’s a collaborative effort of everybody doing their job in the back end.”

It’s a task that won’t be easy as the Ravens will feature their first defense of the post-Lewis era and could feature as many as nine different starters from the starting defensive unit we saw in Super Bowl XLVII.

With the iconic leader affectionately known as “Mufasa” — a reference to the Disney movie “The Lion King” — and Reed now gone, Suggs admits feeling more responsibility as the longest-tenured player on the roster. However, he plans to remain his playful self in the locker room and on the practice field while acknowledging that the massive shoes of Lewis can’t be filled by any one player individually.

“It’s definitely going to be interesting to see what it looks like,” Suggs said. “I’ve said it before [about] his legacy. He has left a standard here, and every man on this defense will be held accountable in playing to that standard.”

The biggest question for Suggs is whether he can live up to his own impeccable standards that existed prior to the torn Achilles tendon, an injury from which many veterans are unable to regain their full explosiveness. Judging him too harshly on last year’s performance would be unfair after a remarkable — even unprecedented — recovery time of under six months, but the Ravens will be watching closely, hoping the Suggs who collected a combined 25 sacks in 2010 and 2011 resurfaces to lead a revamped defense in 2013.

His future — at least in Baltimore — depends on it.

“You can always do better, especially with this city,” Suggs said. “This is a league of, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ so I don’t want to rest on those laurels. I’m good with those mountains that I’ve climbed, but I’m into climbing more. That’s what we’re in this business for, so I’m looking for my next obstacle. We’ll just determine what that is in the near future.”

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Ravens to add retired linebacker Lewis to Ring of Honor

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Ravens to add retired linebacker Lewis to Ring of Honor

Posted on 15 July 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

The last time we saw Ray Lewis at M&T Bank Stadium, he was dancing a final time while holding the Vince Lombardi Trophy just two days after the Ravens’ Super Bowl XLVII victory.

The retired inside linebacker won’t have to wait long to enter the team’s Ring of Honor as the Ravens announced Monday that Lewis will be inducted on Sept. 22 during a Week 3 contest with the Houston Texans. Of course, that means former Ravens safety and Lewis’ longtime teammate Ed Reed will be on the opposing sideline in his first visit to Baltimore since departing via free agency this offseason.

Owner Steve Bisciotti has already said the organization plans to build a statue in honor of the 17-year linebacker, who retired after helping lead the Ravens to their second Super Bowl championship. The statue will not be ready for Lewis’ Week 3 ceremony.

Lewis becomes the seventh Ravens player to receive the honor, joining 2013 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Jonathan Ogden, Peter Boulware, Jamal Lewis, Michael McCrary, Matt Stover, and Earnest Byner. Late owner Art Modell and eight Baltimore Colts are also members of the Ring of Honor.

A two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and 13-time Pro Bowl selection, Lewis is eligible for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018.

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Baltimore Ravens 2013 Season Preview Part One

Posted on 05 July 2013 by jeffreygilley

Baltimore’s victory in Super Bowl XLVII was bittersweet. The Ravens had a reason to celebrate but it must also be put into perspective. Ray Lewis will never play for the Baltimore Ravens again. Neither will Ed Reed.

Many fan favorites are gone from Baltimore. Guys like Bernard Pollard, Carry Williams, and Anquan Boldin weren’t just great players. They were tempo setters. They brought intangibles to the team that personified the Ravens playing style and can’t be replaced.

Even with all the departures, the Ravens still stand a chance to repeat as Super Bowl Champions. Don’t forget, they still have number five and 27 in the backfield. The Ravens offense will live and die by Flacco and Rice this season. Both are highly regarded by their peers and are a dangerous duo when Rice is involved in the passing game.

Even though Rice remains, the heart and soul of the offense is gone. Anquan Boldin will be wearing a 49ers jersey this season and will be greatly missed. In my opinion, the Ravens received too little for Boldin who is worth much more than a sixth round draft pick. Experts say he was getting old and could not separate but what does it matter if he still catches everything thrown his way?

In the coming season, the Ravens will replace Boldin’s production with Dennis Pitta. Pitta should play a hybrid position in 2013 between tight end and wide receiver. He will line up in the slot more often, which will allow more opportunities for Ed Dickson to be a pass catching threat. Don’t forget that Dickson can be a dangerous weapon when utilized. Before Pitta broke out in the 2012 season, Dickson had nearly 60 catches and 528 receiving yards.

Having Pitta in a hybrid role would also allow the Ravens to utilize versatile rookie fullback Kyle Juszczyk. Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell could have a lot of fun with Juszczyk who played fullback, running back, and tight end at Harvard last season. His versatility will cause matchup, spelling, and pronunciation nightmares.

Speaking of nightmares, the Ravens defense will cause many of them this season. This defense has the ability to be one of the best in franchise history. Possibly the best Baltimore has seen since 2006. If you have followed the team closely, that must be music to your ears.

The main point behind my argument is this. The Ravens are younger, faster, more athletic, and extremely versatile.

The trio of Elvis Dumervil, Terrell Suggs, and Haloti Ngata will be a lethal combination. All three players are elite at their respective positions and can take over games by themselves. Just think of all the fun they will have!

Ngata is so dominant that he will occupy blockers on the inside. In turn, other defensive lineman like Arthur Jones and Chris Canty will have an easier path to the quarterback. Suggs and Dumervil will then face less blockers on the outside but will also open things up for Ngata, Canty, and others when offenses are forced to put more attention on them. So in a way, offenses will have to pick their poison when facing the Ravens defense.

Despite the promise I see for the Ravens, a tough season still lies ahead. Thanks to the Orioles, the Ravens are forced to open on the road against Denver. Unless Jacoby Jones and Joe Flacco have another miracle up their selves, I don’t see this game ending well.

Following a tough opening game, the Ravens return home to face the Browns and Texans in consecutive weeks. If the Ravens do not perform well, the season could easily start with two losses to the Broncos and Texans. Following the Texans, the schedule gets progressively tougher. There are weaker teams on the schedule but the Packers, Steelers, Bears, Vikings, and Patriots will test Baltimore to their limits.

The Ravens have many factors in their favor for the 2013 season. Their recent dominance over the AFC North indicates they should win the division yet again. In addition, Joe Flacco is better than most of the quarterbacks the Ravens will face this year. The only quarterbacks better than Flacco on the Ravens schedule are Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Peyton Manning. Flacco is also very good in clutch situations so the Ravens will have an advantage over 13 teams they will face at the most important position on the field.

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Ray Lewis cancels Mount Kilimanjaro climb due to illness

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Ray Lewis cancels Mount Kilimanjaro climb due to illness

Posted on 05 July 2013 by WNST Staff

Former Ravens LB Ray Lewis tackled a lot of opposing ball-carriers in his 17-year career.

But now, it appears like his first hurdle in his post-NFL life may have slipped his grasp.

Sickness, including a swollen foot and a high fever, hit the future Hall of Famer hard Thursday in Tanzania as the linebacker lent aid to those in need in East Africa for TackleKili and WorldServe International and Pros for Africa.

Lewis, who along with former Bears DT Tommie Harris, was scheduled to ascend Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to benefit the clean water effort in East Africa.

Lewis and the TackleKili Twitter page chronicled the relief effort on the part of the Ravens LB over the last couple days, and when news came out about Lewis’ misfortune regarding his mountain climb, the foundation was quick to thank the linebacker for all the help he gave.

“Ray stood all day yesterday doing a hearing mission,” trip organizer Frank Gamble said to the Sun. “Last night, he had a bad night, fevered and really rough. So this morning, when he woke up, the foot was killing him, years of injuries and all of that. So we’re going to miss him.”

Lewis described the setback on his own Twitter page as well.

“Foot pain grew worse after yesterday’s hearing mission,” Lewis said. “The team goes on; I will serve otherwise for clean water.”

The injury, which also hampered Lewis at times during his football career in Baltimore, may require surgery.

Follow WNST on Twitter for your Ravens news! WNST- We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!


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Why the Ravens will survive offseason purge

Posted on 01 July 2013 by jeffreygilley

I just finished celebrating the Super Bowl victory when the Ravens began losing players. Some were to retirement while others were just released or traded. The losses include Carry Williams, Paul Kruger, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard, Ma’ake Kemoeatu, and Dannell Ellerbe. At first, this was troubling but Ozzie Newsome had a plan and executed it to perfection.

Overwhelming, yes. But the Ravens are set up for long term success at the right price. That is something I have always admired about Ozzie Newsome. Newsome doesn’t get attached to players and approaches football from a business aspect at all times.

I guarantee you Newsome and the Ravens front office were laughing their you know whats off when players like Kruger and Ellerbe signed with other teams. Not to say Ellerbe and Kruger are bad players but they are not worth $75 million combined. Not to mention Ellerbe has struggled with injuries his entire career and Kruger had one good season.

Replacing Kruger and Ellerbe will be Arthur Brown and Elvis Dumervil. The Ravens also have replacements lined up for Williams, Pollard, and Kemoeatu. But notice how I didn’t mention replacements for Boldin, Lewis, or Reed. No one can replace those players.

Boldin is the only loss that truly concerns me. The roster is filled with young receivers with high ceilings and raw ability but that only takes you so far. Boldin brought intangibles to the offense that personified the Ravens playing style. He was also the guy Flacco looked for in clutch situations. None of the young receivers like Deonte Thompson, Tandon Doss, or Tommy Streeter can replace Boldin but maybe Dennis Pitta can.

Look for the Ravens to use Pitta in more of a slot receiver role in 2013. With Pitta in the slot, they can utilize Ed Dickson who is a dangerous weapon when given the chance. Versatile rookie fullback Kyle Juszczyk could also line up across from Dickson as a second tight end.

In a way, while they have lost Boldin, the offense has a chance to be more versatile. Replacing Boldin with a wide range of young fast receivers to stretch the field which fits Flacco’s skill set.

Expect the Ravens to make the playoffs once again. The defense has improved and Flacco can carry this offense. In addition, I dont trust the Bengals to make much of an improvement and the Ravens have owned the Steelers lately.

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D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction Five Questions for Friday

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D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction Five Questions for Friday

Posted on 20 June 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

As we try out a new segment “Five Questions for Friday” on The D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction, I wanted to pick readers’ brains on the following topics.

(Update: Thanks to those who chimed in via Twitter, Facebook, and in the comments section below. You can catch Friday morning’s segment HERE.)

I’ve offered my own thoughts on each question and invite you to offer your answers in the comments selection below and I’ll share your insights on Friday morning.

1. If you’re only able to keep two moving forward, who would you choose among Manny Machado, Matt Wieters, and Chris Davis?

This question was brought up during Thursday morning’s show by Jonathan in Essex and it’s an intriguing one to ponder, particularly when you acknowledge the potential cost that each of these three young players will carry in the future.

Wieters and Davis are both scheduled to become free agents after 2015 while Machado isn’t currently scheduled to see free agency until after the 2018 campaign.

Machado is the easy first choice and Wieters would have been my second pick in spring training, but my answer may be changing as the season progresses and we see Chris Davis continue an MVP-caliber season. Even if this is Davis’ career year and he settles in as a first baseman capable of simply hitting 30 to 40 home runs in the typical year, he brings the type of power only a handful of players in the major leagues can provide.

However, Wieters’ defense and ability to handle a flawed pitching staff is a major reason why the Orioles have become a winning franchise over the last two years. He never did become Johnny Bench offensively, but he’s still a good offensive catcher with exceptional defensive skills, a rare combination among backstops in the game today.

If I’m choosing now, I’ll keep Machado and Davis, but a big reason why is the Orioles’ window for signing Wieters to a long-term extension continuing to close. The catcher will be 29 when he hits free agency after 2015 and will be looking for an expensive and lengthy contract, which is something I’m not crazy about doing for a catcher who will have much tread worn away from the tires by then.

2. After Torrey Smith and Dennis Pitta, which player currently on the roster will be the most productive receiver for the Ravens in 2013?

Smith and Pitta are the easy choices for seeing a spike in production following the departure of Anquan Boldin, but it remains to be seen who else will emerge to become a bigger part of the passing game.

I’m not sold on Jacoby Jones suddenly become a consistent wide receiver in his seventh year despite the big-play ability, so I’ll go with Tandon Doss finally figuring it out in his third year to become a respectable contributor. Anyone in the media will tell you how well Doss has practiced over the last couple years, but limited opportunities and nagging injuries have prevented him from becoming a household name.

Many have written him off after being targeted only 20 times in his career and his disappointing showing in the wild-card round against Indianapolis, but he fits the closest profile to what the Ravens received from Boldin over the last three years. And he’s gotten stronger and quicker since entering the league as a fourth-round pick out of Indiana.

Of course, don’t forget the possibility of Ray Rice becoming an even bigger factor out of the backfield as a receiver, especially with the power-running ability of Bernard Pierce likely cutting into his total number of carries.

3. Of the four Orioles currently in line to be starters in July’s All-Star Game, how would you rank them in order of being most deserving? Which Orioles belong in the Midsummer Classic and which ones don’t?

Of the four players slated to be starters as of the last voting update, Davis is clearly the most deserving. After that, I’d be inclined to go with Adam Jones, J.J. Hardy, and Nick Markakis in order from most to least deserving of the nod.

Jones continues to be very productive in a down year for American League outfielders. Meanwhile, Hardy is hitting .311 with 11 home runs and 28 RBIs since May 1 and continues to be an excellent defensive shortstop.

Markakis is a pick based mostly on the outstanding voting efforts of Orioles fans, but little about his solid-but-unspectacular season really screams All-Star starter if you’re looking at his numbers objectively. He ranks 15th among AL outfielders with a .761 OPS this year.

Aside from Davis, no Orioles player is more deserving of an All-Star nod than Machado, who leads the major leagues in hits and is on pace to set a new major-league record for doubles as he already has 33 in 73 games. It’s understandable that he ranks second behind 2012 Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera for third basemen, but it will truly be a shame if he’s left off the All-Star team.

Wieters currently ranks second among AL catchers and will earn consideration because of his defense and reputation, but his offensive numbers don’t hold up as well this year with a .702 OPS, which ranks behind Joe Mauer, Carlos Santana, Jason Castro, Ryan Doumit, and Salvador Perez among AL backstops.

4. Because everyone else has asked the question and I want to address it once before moving on, so who would be your four choices for the Ravens’ hypothetical version of Mt. Rushmore?

I suppose Pro Football Talk should receive the blame for getting this discussion rolling for the 32 NFL teams this spring, but I find it difficult to come up with a definitive foursome for a franchise that only has 17 seasons of history to its name.

The first three are elementary with Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, and Ed Reed, but choosing a fourth feels forced. Super Bowl XLVII most valuable player Joe Flacco would be my tentative selection for now, but Flacco has too much football ahead of him to definitively etch him in stone as one of the four greatest in franchise history.

Still, I’d include him before the likes of Ray Rice, Jamal Lewis, Matt Stover, and Terrell Suggs based on the first five years of his NFL career.

The truth is these types of exercises work much better for teams with extensive histories and it feels artificial for even successful teams with shorter histories such as the Ravens, let alone teams lacking any substantial prosperity like Jacksonville or Carolina.

5. What is your favorite superhero movie?

Yes, I realize this isn’t a sports-related question, but I thought I’d throw in a non-sports topic to discuss and I plan to see “Man of Steel” over the weekend.

The newest attempt at a Superman movie has received mixed reviews, but I’ll freely admit to being a nerd for superhero movies such as the Batman trilogy and saw “Iron Man 3″ in the theater earlier this spring.

“The Dark Knight” goes down as my all-time favorite superhero movie, but I also found “The Dark Knight Rises” to be much better than many gave it credit for as I thoroughly enjoyed Tom Hardy’s portrayal of Bane. It was impossible to match the psychotic performance of the late Heath Ledger as the Joker in the previous movie, but Hardy gave a more than respectable effort playing the homicidal man behind the mask.

How would you answer the five questions posed? Comment below and see if your answers make the cut for Friday’s show.

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You couldn’t ask for a better year for Dad

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You couldn’t ask for a better year for Dad

Posted on 16 June 2013 by Luke Jones

“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person; he believed in me.” – Jim Valvano

As we spent the day honoring our fathers, grandfathers, or any man who’s embraced the enormous responsibility of being called “Dad,” it’s easy to reflect on what was a great year for Dad if he’s a Baltimore sports fan.

Perhaps you were lucky enough to cherish the Orioles’ first playoff appearance in 15 years with the man who held your hand as he walked you through the gate at Memorial Stadium or Oriole Park at Camden Yards countless times or sat down to watch with you on TV or just happened to put the ballgame on the radio as he drove you nowhere in particular. Witnessing a raucous and packed Camden Yards wave rally towels for Games 1 and 2 of the American League Division Series was as good as it gets after 14 seasons largely filled with misery and eventual apathy.

The Ravens’ second Super Bowl championship undoubtedly meant more if you can remember your father crying when the Colts skipped town in the middle of the night or you spent a large portion of your childhood wondering with Dad if Baltimore would ever get another NFL team as autumn Sundays were all too quiet for far too many years. Whether you made the once-in-a-lifetime trip to New Orleans or celebrated at home with the rest of Charm City as Joe Flacco, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and John Harbaugh raised the Vince Lombardi Trophy, the feeling accompanying that bear hug, high five, or glowing smile will never be forgotten by those fortunate enough to share them with their fathers.

It was the perfect way to bid farewell to Lewis, who was the omnipresent figure teaching Baltimore to “raise the roof” and to remember what it felt like to have an NFL team in the infancy of the franchise and making an improbable return from injury for the “last ride” of his career, entering the pantheon of the city’s all-time best sports figures over the last 17 years.

The last 12 months have been a wonderful time to spend with Dad, but many weren’t able to share those special memories with the man holding so much influence over not just their Baltimore sports fandom but in other aspects of their lives. For those individuals, his presence may no longer be here physically, but his spirit lives on through every pitch and each snap, the cheers and moments of disappointment, and with each breath his son or daughter takes.

I once heard someone say that when you lose your father at a young age, you spend the rest of your life trying to make him proud. Truer words have never been spoken if you’ve found yourself in that unenviable position, regardless of how old you might be.

Sunday marked the ninth Father’s Day I’ve spent without my dad, but his smile and embrace were felt as strongly as ever while watching what transpired on the Baltimore sports scene over the last year.

Many landing in this wonderful but difficult business of sports media will point to the influence their father had in sharing a love for sports, writing, or both at an early age. My dad didn’t live long enough to see me take the unique path to where I am today that began with five rewarding years in public education, continued with a unique media competition at WNST.net, and eventually turned into a full-time opportunity to cover the local teams with which I grew up. But he’s the biggest reason why I’m doing what I love today and he – along with my mom, of course – was my biggest fan in whatever I tried to accomplish.

I miss his physical presence and voice every day after nearly nine years without him, but I know he’s been right there with me along the way, starting with the first Ravens game I attended without him in 2004 when I sobbed uncontrollably just six days after he died – the emotion came immediately after Reed returned an interception 106 yards for a touchdown in the closing seconds to wrap up a victory against Cleveland — and continuing each time I walk into the press box or cover another training camp practice in the sweltering heat of Owings Mills in August.

Your perspective changes when you work in media as you get to know athletes and coaches – for better or worse – and remember the obligatory rule of no cheering in the press box. You have a job to do, so the manner in which you watch and enjoy games changes from your previous experiences as a fan. What was once only a passion becomes a profession, with responsibilities that accompany such an awesome job.

But it doesn’t change how you feel inside, especially when you had the kind of relationship I enjoyed with my father through the first 21 years of my life. There isn’t a time that I’m walking to my car after a late night at Camden Yards or an afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium in which I don’t think of Dad, silently asking him what he thought of the game.

I can almost hear his opinions on Flacco, Harbaugh, Adam Jones, and Manny Machado even though each of those individuals came along years after his passing. And I know I’m not alone in sharing the sentiment that my late father has enjoyed the best seat in the house over this last year in particular.

What a year it was, Dad.

As the Orioles were on the verge of clinching their first postseason berth since 1997, one of the most unique scenes of the year occurred on the final home date of the regular season. Moments after a win over the Boston Red Sox, manager Buck Showalter and his club of talented but unproven players mixed with a few journeymen stood on the field watching a game between the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels on the video board, with the outcome determining whether the Orioles would officially clinch a spot that afternoon or would need to wait a little longer.

It was a unique scene in which players and coaches transformed into fans just like the 41,000 gathered at the ballpark that afternoon. And it was a moment that brought a lump in my throat and moisture in my eyes as I thought of the countless games at the ballpark with my dad, who served as an usher for nine years at Memorial Stadium and was with me for virtually every game I attended through 2004.

I could remember the many times talking to him when I was away for college at Syracuse and how he’d inevitably fit into every conversation, “The Orioles still stink.” Truthfully, the language was a bit more colorful, but it was a running joke to mask the annual disappointment we both held.

In that moment sitting in the press box on that Sunday afternoon, I thought to myself, “Not anymore.”

Lucky enough to be at Yankee Stadium to cover the ALDS last October, I wore my favorite shirt to Game 5, a maroon polo that belonged to my dad and my grandfather before him. The color has faded to a light salmon and it has a few more holes around the collar and shoulders than I’d like to admit, but the shirt was the only garment of choice as the Orioles were unfortunately eliminated in a highly competitive series in which fans could still be proud of the club’s remarkable season.

A few months later, I wore the same shirt as I settled into my seat in the auxiliary press box at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for Super Bowl XLVII. Coincidence or not, there was something fitting about the seat to my left somehow remaining empty throughout the game as I thought back to 12 years earlier and the giant hug shared with my dad as we watched the closing seconds of Super Bowl XXXV on TV. I remembered the many conversations about our dream of one day attending a Super Bowl together and hoping we would get another chance.

As the confetti fell and I quickly made my way downstairs for post-game interviews, I felt the same lump in my throat and moisture in my eyes that I did on that final day of September in Baltimore a few months earlier.

I suppose it wasn’t exactly how we pictured it, but we did make it to a Super Bowl, Dad.

It would be difficult to ask for a better sports year as we spent Sunday honoring our fathers in various ways. Whether you took him to the ballpark or got together to watch the Orioles on TV, shared a meal, called him on the telephone, or simply spent a few moments lost in memory, I can only wish and pray you’re as lucky as I was – and still am — to have had such a wonderful dad.

His love of Baltimore sports and, more importantly, the valuable life lessons he offered about what it meant to be a man, a compassionate friend, a devoted husband, and a father are ones I remember and still try to fully grasp as I approach my 30th birthday and dream of one day having a family of my own.

Whenever someone who knew him tells me how much I resemble him, I smile proudly after once cringing when I was a teenager — though I’ll promise to refrain from growing his trademark mustache.

I feel his presence at every game, imagining him chomping on peanuts or popcorn while making an absolute mess, and it makes me smile far more often than I cry all these years later.

I’ll never stop trying to make him proud, hopefully experiencing a few more years like this past one along the way.

I hope you enjoyed it, Dad.

I know I did.

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Bisciotti anoints Flacco new leader of Ravens at ring ceremony

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Bisciotti anoints Flacco new leader of Ravens at ring ceremony

Posted on 10 June 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

If there were any remaining doubts about who the new leader of the Ravens would be after the retirement of Ray Lewis and the free-agent departure of Ed Reed, owner Steve Bisciotti made it elementary during Friday’s ring ceremony.

Addressing the entire organization before unveiling the much-anticipated jewelry commemorating the Ravens’ Super Bowl XLVII victory, Bisciotti confirmed that sixth-year quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco will assume the role left behind by the two future Hall of Fame defensive players. No longer will Flacco just be entrusted to lead the offense but the 28-year-old will now be the principal figure of the entire roster, according to the owner.

“You are the leader now, like it or not,” said Bisciotti to Flacco, according to the team’s official site. “Not many guys do what you did in five years. Not many did it your way. Not many like the way you do it. But I said at the end-of-the-year press conference after last year’s [postseason] defeat that I think the fans of Baltimore will be rewarded by your low-key presence, and it will stand the test of time.”

It certainly has to this point as Flacco became just the second quarterback in NFL history — joining Joe Montana — to throw 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions in a single postseason. The 2008 first-round pick is also the only signal-caller in league history to not only advance to the postseason in each of his first five years but to win at least one playoff game per postseason.

Of course, no one should expect any dramatic changes in the quarterback’s personality or the camera-friendly flare of Lewis, but Flacco himself has acknowledged becoming more vocal over the years because he naturally feels more comfortable in his surroundings. Many have pointed out that Flacco is more vocal behind the scenes than what we see on game day and in interviews when he is often accused by critics of being too passive.

Flacco was rewarded with a six-year, $120.6 million contract this offseason, becoming the highest-paid player in NFL history at the time. Speaking to reporters after receiving his first championship ring on Friday night, the Baltimore quarterback expressed how touched he was to have been singled out with praise by Bisciotti during the speech.

“It was pretty cool,” Flacco said. “Steve is an awesome dude, a great owner, and this is a great organization. You can see how special of a night this is and how over the top they went for it. I think that just says a lot about him, and obviously, I’m honored that he would bring me up.”

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Your Monday Reality Check: Celebration over, preparation in full force this week

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Your Monday Reality Check: Celebration over, preparation in full force this week

Posted on 10 June 2013 by Glenn Clark

As Nestor Aparicio, Luke Jones and I were sitting at the Baltimore Ravens’ facility in Owings Mills Friday night, we were discussing the finality of the Ravens’ Super Bowl XLVII season/celebration. Luke pointed out the team would still have the ability to hang a Super Bowl championship banner at M&T Bank Stadium before their home opener Week 2 against the Cleveland Browns, but that’s about all that’s left for this team.

With the White House visited and the rings handed out, the Baltimore Ravens are now-in the words of now NFL agent Jay-Z-”on to the next one.” It was nice to have Ray Lewis and Ed Reed around Charm City for a week. It was nice to reflect once more on this particular era of Ravens football.

But as of today, that’s over.

As of today, the relationship between Ed Reed and the Baltimore Ravens is once again severed. He won’t be back in the building again until his career comes to a close. As of today, Ed Reed is nothing more than a player the Ravens will have to go up against when they play the Houston Texans…if he’s healthy enough to play.

It has been remarkably fun to celebrate a Super Bowl title for Baltimore Ravens players (and coaches and staffers who also received rings Friday night) and fans alike. It’s been a wild four months of player movement, late-night talk shows, Dancing With The Stars, accolades and high-fives.

It’s all in the past now.

The Ravens open their only mandatory mini-camp of the offseason tomorrow in Owings Mills. While a number of players have taken part in voluntary OTA’s and strength programs, this will be the first gathering of what will make up the overwhelming majority of the 2013 version of this team. There will still be a few lingering injuries that will prevent players from taking part in practice, but it will most certainly be the closest thing we’ll see to the first look at the Ravens in the post Lewis/Reed era before Training Camp.

While you’re scrambling to make sure you have your copy of “Purple Reign 2″ before Father’s Day (and that isn’t a bit-you REALLY need to make sure this is the gift you’re giving), the Purple Birds will spend their week taking the best look they can at the team that will take the field this year to try to protect their Lombardi Trophy.

For the World Champs, there are a number of questions as always. None will be fully addressed in minicamp; because no NFL issue has EVER really been fully addressed during the course of a minicamp. But many will be viewed closely with the understanding that this is the best opportunity to set the tone for how the team handles both Camp and preseason games.

The Ravens will have to plan a depth chart before Training Camp gets underway. While all players will get reps, determining who gets which reps with which unit and how many are necessary is something that will happen between now and the start of Camp. At no position is that determination more difficult than wide receiver.

The Ravens know what they have at the top of the depth chart at wide receiver. Torrey Smith (or “Samson” as LB Terrell Suggs joked Friday night) is expected to lead the group and appears to be on the verge of breakout stardom. His exceptional speed was combined with better route running and improved catching consistency last season, leaving many to believe he could become a 1,000 yard type of receiver in his third year out of Maryland.

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