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Ed Reed: “I always will be a Raven”

Posted on 19 September 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. — In typical fashion, former Ravens safety Ed Reed initially labeled his return to Baltimore as “another away game” as a member of the Houston Texans, but we all knew better.

Spending more time reminiscing about his 11 years with the organization that drafted him with the 24th overall pick of the 2002 draft, the 35-year-old’s true feelings shined through to no one’s surprise. It’s impossible not to be a little sentimental as Reed prepares to potentially play in his first game with another NFL franchise after missing the start of the season recovering from offseason hip surgery.

“Baltimore is family. I miss walking into ‘The Bank’ on Sunday,” Reed said in a conference call with the local media. “I have a lot of memories; I cherish that and always will be a Raven. That’s where I was raised in the NFL. I did a lot of growing; we did a lot of special things. That’s something that could never be taken away.”

The reactions from former teammates have been awkward but respectful this week as the thought of Reed wearing enemy colors at M&T Bank Stadium seems foreign. Some teammates have even joked that they hope Reed won’t be ready to return to action as he acknowledges being less than 100 percent after missing the entire preseason and the Texans’ first two regular-season games.

Even Reed doesn’t know exactly what to expect from the hometown fans, joking that it will depend on how the morning tailgating goes prior to Sunday’s 1 p.m. kickoff.

“It’s going to be weird with him being here such a long time,” defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. “It’s going to be weird seeing him in a different uniform. He moved on, and we moved on, and hopefully he cannot play so we don’t have to play against him.”

While Texans head coach Gary Kubiak has spoken positively about Reed’s status, the veteran defensive back was noncommittal about playing Sunday after practicing on a limited basis each of the last two days. It’s expected that Reed would only play on a part-time basis against the Ravens in his first game action since Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3.

It’s anyone’s guess what Reed will have to offer this season as he enters his 12th season and is coming off his second major hip surgery in the last four years.

“I’m not confident about [anything] but going day to day the way I’ve been,” Reed said. “There’s no confidence about it if I haven’t played. You can’t be confident if you haven’t been on the field.”

Even with Reed’s physical skills in decline, the Ravens are fully aware of his mental prowess in the secondary and know he is still able to take advantage of mistakes like he did when picking off an overthrown pass by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the Super Bowl. A ferocious Texans pass rush makes Reed’s stalking in the secondary even more dangerous for quarterback Joe Flacco.

Facing the man who challenged him on a daily basis in practices for years, Flacco understands how significant Reed’s return is for both Baltimore fans and his organization, regardless of what kind of player Reed will be in 2013.

“If he was in his fifth year, it probably wouldn’t be that big of a deal, because he wouldn’t have been here for that long,” said quarterback Joe Flacco, who teamed with Reed for five seasons. “But the fact that all the fans know him as a Baltimore Raven, and the fact that I was a fan of his at one point [before being his teammate], yeah, it probably makes it a little bit different.”

Reed’s decision to depart for Houston on a three-year, $15 milllion wasn’t the storybook ending many had hoped for after he finally raised the Vince Lombardi Trophy in February, but his return to Baltimore will still be memorable as fans will inevitably recognize one of the greatest players in franchise history.

The Ravens just hope Reed doesn’t make them pay with his play on the field.

“It’s like playing against your brothers again while I’m out there coaching,” said Reed, who insisted he holds no hard feelings over the way his exit from the Ravens played out. “I’ve been having this feeling for a long time. It’s different being here and coming to see my guys, who I’ve been fighting with for a long time.”

Lewis to speak or not to speak

Only adding to the emotion of Reed’s return to Baltimore will be the Ring of Honor induction of future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, who ended his remarkable 17-year career in February.

His presence on Sunday has sparked questions over whether Lewis will address the team prior to kickoff. Truthfully, it’s an awkward proposition for an organization that spent the offseason trying to move on from the era in which Lewis and Reed were the biggest faces of the franchise.

“I think we’ll leave that up to Ray, but I think he should just enjoy his moment,” Suggs said. “It’s his day. He’s going in [to the Ring of Honor], and if he feels he needs to say something to the team, he can say something. If anybody has the right of way, it’s him. If he just wants to enjoy it, take it in and be a fan of football, that’s fine, too.”

It would be nearly impossible for the Ravens to deny Lewis the opportunity to speak to his former teammates if he asks, but one wonders if it would be counterproductive to the leadership-by-committee approach that continues to be a work in progress in the early stages of the season.

Numerous members of the organization have made it clear throughout the offseason and summer that it’s a new era of Ravens football, so Lewis’ presence beyond the details of the halftime celebration could be considered a potential distraction.

“I don’t have a philosophical position on that,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Either way would be fine. If it happened and it felt right, it would be great. And if it didn’t happen because it didn’t make sense, that’d be fine, too.”

Watch out for Watt

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Ravens defense aiming to make expectations reality in post-Lewis era

Posted on 03 September 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. — The Ravens heard the questions, the concerns, and the doubts about their once-proud defense in the weeks and months that followed their win in Super Bowl XLVII.

How would they survive without the retiring Ray Lewis, arguably the greatest middle linebacker in NFL history and unquestionably the leader and face of the franchise for their entire 17-year existence? What would they do to replace future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed’s presence in the defensive backfield as well as in the locker room? And how could they afford to lose younger talents such as Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe, Bernard Pollard, and Cary Williams in a quest to rebuild an aging and frequently-ineffective defense?

Those who downplayed Lewis’ departure because of his declining play over the final seasons of his career couldn’t overlook the colossal void in leadership and identity that needed to be addressed for an organization that both empowered and depended upon his presence. And after years of watching former Baltimore defensive players escape Lewis’ shadow before finding that the grass wasn’t greener elsewhere, the Ravens themselves will now see how they fare without him.

“In the spring, everybody was hitting the panic button on us because of the guys we lost,” Pro Bowl linebacker and 2011 Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs said. “Even though we were very sad to see those guys go, the show must go on.”

The time for change was right as general manager Ozzie Newsome remembered what some had seemingly forgotten while basking in the image of confetti dropping in New Orleans in a storybook ending for the 2012 Ravens. Though praised for a “bend but don’t break” style that was good enough to complement quarterback Joe Flacco’s incredible postseason performance, the Baltimore defense finished 17th in total defense, tied for 12th in points allowed, 20th against the run, 17th against the pass, and tied for 15th in sacks.

Frankly, the defensive numbers and overall performance were un-Raven-like as Baltimore was weak along the defensive line as well as at safety, prompting Newsome to trade wide receiver Anquan Boldin and his $6 million base salary in 2013 to clear just enough salary cap space to rebuild the defense in terms of both talent and leadership. Defensive ends Chris Canty and Marcus Spears would provide improved depth upfront while free safety Michael Huff seemed like a good bet to, at worst, match the declining play of Reed for a fraction of the cost that the Houston Texans paid for the longtime Raven’s services in free agency.

The prize of the group, however, was Denver Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil, who was released due to a contract-restructuring snafu made by his former agent and joined the Ravens after signing a five-year deal worth a maximum value of $35 million. It appeared to be a bargain for a three-time Pro Bowl selection whose work ethic and leadership have been praised by everyone in the organization from the moment he stepped foot in Owings Mills in the spring.

“I think [it comes with] the way you play on the field and how you lead by example,” Dumervil said. “Leadership doesn’t come with talking or speech — it’s just how you carry yourself. I’ve always been a leader. That’s just natural for me, and I think I’ve learned how to follow before I can lead.”

After drafting four defensive players in the first four rounds of April’s draft, Newsome had one more trick up his sleeve in signing longtime Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Daryl Smith to a one-year deal on the same day the Super Bowl champs visited President Barack Obama at the White House. The 31-year-old has stepped in to play Lewis’ Mike linebacker position while looking like the team’s best player in the preseason, recording 14 tackles and a sack while showing steady ability in pass coverage.

Initially perceived as little more than an insurance policy for injured inside linebacker Jameel McClain, Smith has been praised by everyone in the organization, ranging from his new defensive teammates to quarterback Joe Flacco. Smith’s personality couldn’t be more different from Lewis, which might be a positive while handling such an unenviable task of replacing a legend.

“He doesn’t say a lot, because he’s just about business, and then you sit down and talk to him and realize the depth of his character and personality,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s a great family man, he’s a mature guy, he’s a man. And he’s also – I really believe – one of the most underrated defensive players in football over the last eight [or] nine years. We feel pretty fortunate that he’s here right now.”

The common threads among the five veteran newcomers were the leadership qualities they displayed with their former teams. It was clear the Ravens weren’t simply placing the defensive leadership crown on the heads of Suggs and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata alone.

There was no replacing Lewis or Reed, but the Ravens appear to be pleased with their by-committee approach as they enter Thursday night’s opener against the Denver Broncos. On paper and in the controlled environment of spring and summer practices, the transition has appeared organic and seamless.

Suggs will be viewed as the new figurehead, but the 30-year-old has acknowledged repeatedly that he’s not looking to be the next Lewis and has appeared more subdued than in past seasons. Overall, it’s a Baltimore defense that lacks the bravado of past units without the camera-friendly Lewis out in front, but the quiet confidence veteran newcomers and young players alike have expressed seems appropriate in a new era.

“It’s different like in any organization when you lose guys that have been there for so long that they kind of assume those roles,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “I think everybody else kind of sat back and just said, ‘Well, that’s really kind of not my role. That’s kind of Ed [Reed] and Ray’s [Lewis] role.’ Now those guys are stepping up, and I don’t think it’s any one particular guy who’s saying, ‘OK, I’m going to be the new Ray Lewis.’ It’s just a bunch of guys collectively stepping up and showing some leadership.”

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Flacco excited to see what rookie receivers bring to table

Posted on 01 September 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. — It wasn’t long ago that Joe Flacco joked about not knowing the names of most new teammates on the Ravens roster after an offseason filled with changes.

However, the Ravens quarterback isn’t saying that any longer about a pair of rookie receivers who could factor heavily into the Baltimore passing attack as early as Thursday’s opener against the Denver Broncos. Undrafted free agent Marlon Brown and seventh-round pick Aaron Mellette began the summer in relative anonymity in Flacco’s eyes but grabbed his attention after the pair combined to make 19 catches for 309 yards and four touchdowns in four preseason games.

“They’re big, they’re strong, they’re fast, and they’re physical,” Flacco said. “They obviously have some talent. I think they are going to be guys that help us out a lot — in the short term [and] long term. We still have to go out there and play and feed them the ball and see what they can do.”

Mellette entered training camp as the bigger household name among Ravens fans after being taken with a seventh-round pick back in April. Playing for FCS school Elon, the 6-foot-2 receiver made an astonishing 304 catches for 4,254 yards and 44 touchdowns in his college career and grabbed 97 passes for 1,398 yards and 18 touchdowns in his senior year alone.

The 6-foot-5 Brown didn’t live up to expectations as a prized recruit at the University of Georgia but could be an attractive option in the red zone with his statuesque frame. The Ravens have lacked a wide receiver of his height during Flacco’s career after 2012 sixth-round pick Tommy Streeter failed to pan out.

Brown finally appeared to be realizing his potential in his senior season with the Bulldogs when he caught 27 catches for 469 yards and four touchdowns before tearing the ACL in his left knee in a game against Ole Miss on Nov. 3, 2012. The 22-year-old is still working his way back to full strength — missing spring organized team activities and even a handful this summer — but his ability began to shine as he became more comfortable physically and mentally in the Ravens offense.

“I have a mindset where I wanted to make the team and ultimately make a difference on the team, whether it’s on special teams or offense,” said Brown, who was in the weight room when coach John Harbaugh personally informed him that he’d made the team. “That’s what I’m trying to do. They haven’t really told me my primary role or anything. I’m going to go out there and work hard and if they tell me to go in, I’m going to go in.”

The biggest compliment paid to both Brown and Mellette is the amount of polish they showed in practices and preseason games despite their lack of experience. Unlike an array of other young receivers that failed to show marked improvement over the course of the summer, Brown and Mellette climbed from the third-string offense and working with third quarterback Caleb Hanie to eventually receive opportunities with Flacco and the starters over the final two weeks of the summer.

It was this climb that contributed to the likes of Tandon Doss, David Reed, and LaQuan Williams being let go.

“They don’t feel like rookies out there,” Harbaugh said. “Marlon has had the advantage of playing at a big program in the Southeastern Conference, and I think that shows. Aaron has had the advantage of having caught hundreds of balls in his college career.”

With Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, and Brandon Stokley ahead of the rookies on the depth chart, it remains to be seen how big of a role each will play in the early stages of the season. During Sunday’s practice, Brown and Mellette were wearing No. 87 and 88 jerseys, which appeared to be a product of the pair playing the scout-team roles of Denver wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker in preparation for Thursday’s opener.

The Ravens only hope that Mellette and Brown will one day make their mark in a way similar to that talented pair with the Broncos, forcing opponents’ scout-team receivers to wear their No. 13 and 14 jerseys in preparation.

But a simple continuation of the improvement they showed over the course of the preseason would be an encouraging start for the Ravens.

“I would anticipate that those two guys will be a factor here going forward,” Harbaugh said. “How much they’ll play early, or how much they’ll be a part of the game plan and those kinds of things are really, really hard to say.”

Webb ready to go

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“America’s Game: 2012 Baltimore Ravens” debuts Monday on NFL Network

Posted on 27 August 2013 by WNST Staff

AMERICA’S GAME: 2012 BALTIMORE RAVENS DEBUTS EXCLUSIVELY ON NFL NETWORK

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 2 AT 9:00 PM ET

Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco, Linebacker Ray Lewis & Head Coach John Harbaugh Recount the Baltimore Ravens’ 2012 Super Bowl Winning Season

 

“We weren’t pretty. We weren’t perfect… But at least we were us.”

– John Harbaugh

 

Oscar-Nominated Actor Edward Norton Narrates

 

The Baltimore Ravens were 5-2 headed into their bye week. While most NFL teams would gratefully sign up for those circumstances, the Ravens were at a crossroads. Inside a tumultuous meeting room in Owings Mills, MD, a strong-minded head coach was facing his strong-minded team and the season hung in the balance.

 

While the meeting was described in the media as a mutiny, in actuality, a championship team was molded. The Ravens won their next four games, and despite struggling down the stretch, recovered to win the AFC North. Then, with three wins in the AFC playoffs and a 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans, the Baltimore Ravens were crowned Super Bowl Champions.

 

On September 2 at 9:00 PM ET exclusively on NFL Network, re-live the Ravens’ entire Championship journey through the NFL Films-produced America’s Game: 2012 Baltimore Ravens. The one-hour edition of the Emmy-Award winning series features exclusive interviews with Super Bowl MVP & quarterback Joe Flacco, linebacker Ray Lewis, and head coach John Harbaugh.

 

Oscar-nominated actor, Edward Norton narrates.

 

NFL Films captures the entirety of a Championship voyage which commenced in 2008 when the Ravens hired Harbaugh and drafted Flacco in the first round of the NFL Draft. The special takes viewers through the season with behind-the-scenes video and sound from Ravens team meetings, locker rooms, fields, and coaching booths.  It is an all-encompassing, inside look at the Super Bowl champions.

 

In addition to the infamous team meeting, events featured in America’s Game: 2012 Baltimore Ravens include:

 

  • ·         Ray Lewis’ last ride: The Ravens’ journey through the playoffs was anything but standard. From Lewis’ final home game, to the miracle comeback vs. the Denver Broncos, a rematch vs. the New England Patriots – all while John Harbaugh knew his brother, San Francisco head coach Jim Harabugh, had already clinched a trip to the Super Bowl – the Ravens journey to New Orleans was unique. Then, while the Ravens had a 28-6 lead, the Super Bowl suffered a 34-minute power outage delay in an unprecedented event. The three-week whirlwind is remembered in detail by Harbaugh, Flacco, and Lewis.

 

  • ·         Evolution of Ravens Offense: The relationship between Harbaugh and Flacco has grown in stages since 2008. America’s Game: 2012 Ravens documents Flacco’s frustration with the Ravens conservative approach and his desire to open up the offense more. Additionally, Flacco admits the burden he felt when offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was fired so late in the season. With a new philosophy and new understanding of how the offense needed to operate, Harbaugh explains how the transformation from a Joe Frazier-style into Muhammad Ali-style offense is what propelled the team to first an AFC Championship and then a Super Bowl.

 

  • ·         The Non-Tackle: The Ravens were one special-team tackle away from the Super Bowl Championship when Flacco had one last order for his teammates – make an illegal play. Was the quarterback joking? America’s Game: 2012 Baltimore Ravens provides the uncut audio and Flacco’s explanation.

 

  • ·         Ray Lewis’ final home game: From the polarizing entrance to his first ever appearance on offensive side of the ball, Lewis had an emotional and successful final home game of his career.

 

  • ·         The Ray Lewis entrance: A ritual in Baltimore for 17 years almost ended in 2008, Harbaugh’s first as a head coach. Why did Harbaugh and Lewis almost scrap the dance and for what reasons? Harbaugh explains.

 

  • ·         Brother vs. Brother Super Bowl: In a Super Bowl that was truly a family affair, hear the embraces that John Harbaugh had with 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh on the field before and after the Super Bowl. Additionally, hear what John said to his parents immediately after defeating his brother.

 

  • ·         Muhammad Ali’s inspiration: Any good coach digs deep for motivational tactics. After showing the team countless films of Muhammad Ali, the message of the prize-fighter hit home when Ali visited the Ravens.

 

 

Quotes from America’s Game2012 Baltimore Ravens:

 

–       “People get crazy every now and again. Guys get in arguments and that is what happened.”

– Joe Flacco on the bye week meeting which changed the course of the team

 

–       “It was challenging, it was tough. A bunch of strong-minded men, but the good news was they had a strong-minded head coach standing in front of them. So if there was going to be a fight, let’s have a fight.”

– John Harbaugh on the bye week meeting which changed the course of the team

 

–       “We probably got more accomplished in that half hour towards becoming the Champions that we were going to become than any half hour we had done all year. I couldn’t have been happier when we walked out of the meeting. I wasn’t too happy while it was going on. It was tough.”

– Harbaugh on the bye week meeting which changed the course of the team

 

–       “Sizzle was like ‘You need to get back, everything is out of order. As soon as the General leaves, it is all messed up. I have never had a meeting like that in my life.’”

– Ray Lewis on what he had heard from teammate Terrell Suggs regarding the bye week meeting which changed the course of the team

 

–       “I was in awe of the moment; for that to play out the way it did, that game was the marker to say that this team had what it takes. It was the key to the whole season.”

Harbaugh on the victory over the New England Patriots in which wide receiver Torrey Smith had a career game in the wake of the death of his brother

 

–       “Ali inspired us with that attitude – it is never pretty, but we can find a way to win.”

– Lewis on the inspiration the team drew from prize fighter Muhammad Ali

 

–       “We weren’t pretty. We weren’t perfect… But at least we were us.”

– Harbaugh on the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens

 

–       “It is an awkward question, but it is what you have to believe. I really believe if you are going to be any good in this league that is what you have to think about yourself.” –

Flacco on saying he believes he is the best quarterback in the NFL on a Baltimore radio station

 

–       “You feel somewhat responsible for that. You are the leader of the offense and what makes it go.”

– Flacco on the firing of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron

 

–       “I thought about the point that we’re going to have to beat Peyton Manning and Tom Brady to get to where we wanted to be. I think that makes it a little bit cooler.”

– Flacco on Ravens’ journey through the playoffs

 

About America’s Game

 

America’s Game, an Emmy Award-winning series, delves deep into the story behind the making of Super Bowl champions. Each episode is a 60-minute documentary, featuring key members of the winning team telling behind-the-scenes accounts from their championship season. With the signature NFL Films footage, combined with news clips and photos, highlights from team radio broadcasts, inside looks from team meeting rooms, sideline audio and other exclusive features, America’s Gameprovides an epic and intimate portrait of championship teams.

 

About NFL Network

 

Launched on November 4, 2003, NFL Network is celebrating its 10th Anniversary this season

 

Seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, fans turn to NFL Network to receive information and insight straight from the field, team headquarters, league offices and everywhere the NFL is making news. Launched in 2003, NFL Network gives fans unprecedented year-round inside access to all NFL events, including the Super Bowl, Playoffs, regular season, preseason, Pro Bowl, Pro Football Hall of Fame induction weekend, NFL Draft, NFL Scouting Combine, Senior Bowl, league meetings, minicamps and training camps.

 

Currently in more than 72 million homes, NFL Network has carriage agreements with each of the country’s largest television providers including Comcast, DirecTV, DISH Network, Cablevision, Cox, Charter, Time Warner Cable, Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-Verse.

 

For fans on the go, all NFL Network programming is streamed live on NFL Mobile from Verizon. For more information, log on to http://www.nfl.com/nflnetwork. NFL.com is the exclusive internet home of NFL Network.

 

– NFL MEDIA –

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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

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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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.

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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

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 spend 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 working 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 more of 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 the 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 at that notion 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 a 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

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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