Tag Archive | "Ray Rice"

Concern growing over Ravens cornerback Webb’s lingering back injury

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Concern growing over Ravens cornerback Webb’s lingering back injury

Posted on 29 July 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — What initially appeared to be a minor back issue continues to linger for cornerback Lardarius Webb, who missed his third straight practice Monday as the Ravens shifted training camp to M&T Bank Stadium for a public workout.

Head coach John Harbaugh acknowledged the back spasms he deemed as “nothing serious” on Friday have caused concern as the sixth-year cornerback remained sidelined, leaving third-year defensive back Asa Jackson to take the reps opposite Jimmy Smith in the starting defense. Webb left the field midway through the second full-squad workout of training camp and hasn’t practiced since.

“We’re going to see about Lardarius,” Harbaugh said. “He has some back things that we’re looking at right now, and backs are a little weird. At first it was no big deal. It’s lingering a little bit, so we’ll find out what’s going on with him.”

Fellow cornerback Chykie Brown returned to practice after missing Sunday’s workout due to a tweaked hamstring. He worked with the second-team base defense and played outside in the first-string nickel package with Jackson sliding inside when the Ravens used three cornerbacks.

Defensive end Chris Canty missed his second straight practice on Monday and was excused to deal with a family matter, according to Harbaugh. With Canty absent, second-year defensive lineman Kapron Lewis-Moore filled in at the 5-technique spot with the starting unit.

Other players remaining absent from practice included offensive linemen Will Rackley (concussion-related symptoms) and Parker Graham (groin) and defensive tackle Terrence Cody (hip), who remains on the active physically unable to perform list as he recovers from offseason surgery.

Lewis pays surprise visit

With a statue of Ray Lewis expected to be unveiled before the start of the regular season, the future Hall of Fame linebacker paid a surprise visit to the public training camp practice, easily drawing the loudest ovation on Monday night.

Lewis’ statue will stand next to the one of Johnny Unitas that was completed outside M&T Bank Stadium in 2002. Fans have customarily rubbed the high-top shoe of the Unitas statue for good luck on game days, but it remains to be seen if a new tradition will emerge when the second statue makes its debut next to the image of the Baltimore Colts legend and Hall of Fame quarterback.

“Most of the time, I’m never lost for words, but that’s a very humbling thing,” said Lewis, who implied his statue will be an image of his famed pre-game dance routine. “”For me to share that [honor with the late Unitas], that’s awesome.”

Rice greeted warmly by Ravens fans

As has been the case for with the select few selected for the opportunity to attend training camp practices in Owings Mills, fans greeted running back Ray Rice warmly whenever he was shown on the video board at the stadium.

Upon receiving his first loud ovation of the evening, Rice tapped his chest to acknowledge an announced crowd of 28,323.

The three-day window for Rice to appeal the two-game suspension handed down by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell passed on Monday with the 27-year-old electing not to try to have the discipline reduced.

Monday highlights

Wide receiver Torrey Smith made the play of the night with a leaping, one-handed catch inside the red zone with Jackson trying to stick with him in coverage.

Matt Elam turned in the most bizarre play of the evening when he picked off a Joe Flacco pass before nearly being run down by the golf cart of owner Steve Bisciotti, who claimed the second-year safety had seen him all the way and nearly tipped the vehicle over.

Defensive end Pernell McPhee was the defensive standout of the evening, collecting two quarterback sacks and making another tackle for a loss during team drills.

First-round inside linebacker C.J. Mosley got his first taste of M&T Bank Stadium and responded by knocking away a Flacco pass in the end zone during 11-on-11 red-zone work. Mosley lined up next to veteran Daryl Smith in the starting defense.

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Glenn’s Drew’s Morning Dish: Rice issue complicated, dropping celebration shouldn’t be

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Glenn’s Drew’s Morning Dish: Rice issue complicated, dropping celebration shouldn’t be

Posted on 28 July 2014 by Glenn Clark

As you’ve probably already heard, I’m in for Drew Forrester on “The D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction” all this week on AM1570 WNST.net. Drew is in Ocean City-presumably doing enough golfing for him, myself, Luke Jones and the entire European Tour.

I have no idea if Drew is planning on writing daily posts himself this week, but I’m going to try to do my best to write my own. Drew’s Morning Dish is brought to you by Koons Baltimore Ford. Glenn’s Drew’s Morning Dish can be brought to you by Koons Baltimore Ford…unless of course they think I’m a big dummy and don’t want to put their name on it.

This will be about the most simple opinion I will have ever shared on-air or online. Sometimes I say things that people argue with or yell about, but I can’t fathom there being much in the way of dissent here.

The issue surrounding Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice is complicated, to say the least. I have shared a number of opinions about the topic over the course of the last few days and have no doubt that those topics will re-appear throughout the week and throughout the rest of Rice’s tenure in Charm City. I’m on the record about thinking the punishment was too light and that the NFL has a major “perception issue” at best when it comes to women, while the team has failed woefully to address the issue of domestic violence.

But Ray Rice is going to be a Baltimore Raven moving forward. Barring injury, he’ll return to the field Week 3 and will look to help the Ravens make a push towards winning the AFC North again. Before that, he’ll be on the field for preseason games (probably three of them) and will make his first major public appearance Monday night when the team holds a public Training Camp practice at M&T Bank Stadium.

There are a lot of things Ray Rice should do moving forward in his NFL career. He should be humble and appreciative of whatever amount of support fans choose to give him. He should work hard in his marriage and personal relationships. He should stay out of trouble. He should be willing to answer questions openly and honestly when he addresses the media for the first time Thursday in Owings Mills (I say “first time” because I am expecting he will actually answer questions this time). He should attempt to work hard in his professional career-playing football-and re-stock an inventory of appreciation among those who will likely be uncomfortable watching him play.

There’s one thing in particular he absolutely should not do-probably ever again.

Until his trip to Atlantic City, perhaps this celebration was the single most synonymous image of the three time Pro Bowler. Rice’s touchdown celebration has been completely sensical. Given his 5’7″ frame, the former second round pick has been doubted throughout his career, with skeptics wondering whether a player could succeed at a high level in the league at that size.

The celebration-which involved Rice flexing his ample biceps (or sometimes pointing at them)-was his way of saying his toughness and strength more than made up for what he lacked in size.

Rice’s touchdown celebration has been re-enacted by many in Charm City who have looked up to Rice. If you have attended a game at any level-from Pop Warner to college-in this area over the past few years, you have undoubtedly seen a young football player impersonating their idol.

But as the former All-Pro returns to the field after being the first of five Ravens to be arrested in the offseason, it’s time for the celebration to go.

There’s multiple reasons why Rice should abandon the muscle flexing. The most obvious is the visual created by the celebration. While those in Baltimore might recognize the flex as a celebration he’s used for his entire career, those around the country will immediately see a connotation between the flex and the incident with his wife. At best, it’s not worth the headache for Rice to have to try to defend himself. More realistically, it would represent an alarming lack of awareness.

Additionally, struggling Ravens fans don’t deserve to have to defend it. The player and team have already put fans in an awkward position for multiple reasons. Undoubtedly, Ravens fans will be asked “how does it feel do root for a wife beater” for the rest of Rice’s tenure in Purple and Black. The situation doesn’t need to be worsened every time the running back does something significant on a football field.

Someone in this area will inevitably make some sort of “PC Police” claim in response. I won’t bother to try to explain to someone that doesn’t understand why it isn’t a good idea for someone who was arrested for domestic violence to publicly flex his muscles as a form of celebration. If you don’t get it, you won’t get it. But consider that even if you cling to the rights of speech, perhaps dropping the celebration would simply be the best way for Rice to show humility at this point.

As a player, Rice shouldn’t treat it as something someone is taking away from him, he should instead treat it as an opportunity to show how much he’s grown as a man from the lowest moment of his life.

When he made his statement in Owings Mills weeks ago, Rice made it clear he wanted to try to make things return to normal as quickly as possible. You hope he understands that even a gesture like this wouldn’t POSSIBLY get him there.

But it would go a long way in starting the process.

-G

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B&B Big Story Banter: Ray Rice Suspension & NFL Cultural Issue

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B&B Big Story Banter: Ray Rice Suspension & NFL Cultural Issue

Posted on 26 July 2014 by Brett Dickinson

It was bound to be a much talked about topic, but the NFL, the Ravens, Ray Rice and even sports media could not have expected the backlash after the two game suspension everyone has waited for.  The idea of this punishment being accepted in society, let alone in a private multi-billion dollar corporation, is downright appalling to anyone that has a functioning brain and a television.  But where does the real problem lie here? Obviously Rice has a major issue he should handle, which has been covered since day 1 of this incident. But this whole situation reeks of a much grander cultural issue in the NFL and sports in America.

To start, the main excuse for such a lenient reaction by  Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Ravens organization is that “he has never done anything wrong before” is blatantly asinine. All CRIMINALS HAVE A CLEAN TRACK RECORD BEFORE THEIR FIRST CRIME! Why does his past “good behavior” allow Rice to strike a woman? Why is anyone looking at his charitable endeavors as a reason that he should be given more leniency towards such a heinous act? Because he has performed well in the most popular sport in the country, all the while being a stand up citizen for his first six seasons, does not give him (or anyone) a pass on judgement.

Yet the NFL powers decided that knocking a woman unconscionable is only worthy of half the punishment for taking Adderall without clearance from the the league offices. Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Lane Jonhson was the last to receive a suspension by a league before Rice; four games for not reporting to the league that he was taking a prescription drug that contained a banned substance.

Any defense of Rice’s actions shows immaturity and undermines the moral fabric of the entire NFL fan base. The statement has arisen, “We don’t know if he did anything in that elevator.” Well we all certainly know what the police report says. It states that Rice struck his girlfriend using his hands. We all know that Rice himself felt the need to publicly apologize for his actions. I can’t remember the last time I apologized for not doing anything wrong. We all know that the NFL Commissioner had enough evidence to suspend Rice. There would certainly be a ensuing legal battle if he were innocent, yet still receive punishment.

Yet Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh wants to state that “[Ray Rice] is a good guy.” I’m sorry but when you find it necessary to use physical force against a woman than NO HE IS NOT! This simply proves the team (like the rest of the league) is just worried about winning and not HUMAN DECENCY. We have seen this in the past as the Ravens publicly backed the likes of Ray Lewis, Jamal Lewis, Chris McAlister and Terrell Suggs during their legal troubles. I guess that is why the team did not have the gumption to take action when they were handed all of the same evidence that led to this suspension. 

But in the end it is not Rice’s fault that the league office felt some sort of sympathy on his case.  And that is where the real issue comes to the forefront. The NFL has stood by its players to a fault; where well known and reported criminals can get away with breaking the law because they can play football.  The players have no recourse knowing that the league will let them back in with open arms no matter how despicable the act.

There were 19 arrests this off season (5 of which by those who play in Baltimore), yet many of those players will be allowed to go back to there daily lives and daily earnings without any repercussions what so ever.  Has anyone even mentioned throwing out a suspension for Deonte Thompson or Jah Reid or Lorenzo Talliferro or Jimmy Smith? NO!

And just maybe, if the NFL did put in a policy TO NOT GET ARRESTED or you will lose out on your livelihood, like they have with their substance abuse and performance enhancing drug policies, players would be less inclined to act like delinquents off the field. Maybe it is time for the NFL to take a stand against their EMPLOYEES ACTING AS CRIMINALS. Roger Goodell certainly had a chance to prove a point with Ray Rice and he missed terribly.

Now the court of public opinion is weighing down on the league and rightfully so, as the NFL’s culture of protecting its product has proven to outweigh the importance HUMAN DECENCY.  I dare anyone to go out, hit their wife in public or get arrested with multiple DUIs or get caught with illegal narcotics on several different occasions or any other crime and still be allowed to show their face at their place of business the next day.  So why does the most powerful sports league in the world just deem these actions as acceptable or commonplace?

After Goodell laid down this “punishment” on Ray Rice, I personally felt ashamed to consider myself a diehard fan of the NFL. It is an embarrassment for the NFL to consider its fan base so neanderthalic and stupid to not understand what is fair and just.

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CBS Sports’ Doyel thinks Ray Rice should have received at least an 8 game suspension

Posted on 25 July 2014 by WNST Audio

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SI Legal Analyst McCan says Rice’s Suspension On Par With Other First Time Offenders

Posted on 24 July 2014 by WNST Audio

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Goodell says Rice’s conduct “unquestionably inconsistent” with league policies

Posted on 24 July 2014 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

COMMISSIONER ROGER GOODELL notified Baltimore Ravens running back RAY RICE today that he will be suspended without pay for the first two 2014 regular season games and fined an additional game check for conduct detrimental to the NFL in violation of the league’s Personal Conduct Policy for his February arrest.

In May, Rice resolved the charges by entering into a pretrial intervention program. Under this program, he will not be prosecuted and is not required to serve jail time or pay any fine. After one year, the charges will be expunged and will not be part of Rice’s record.

Following this agreement, Goodell met with Rice and his wife. Despite the court’s decision not to impose criminal punishment, the Commissioner determined, as he advised Rice, that the conduct was incompatible with NFL policies and warranted disciplinary action.

In a letter to Rice, Commissioner Goodell stated:

“As you acknowledged during our meeting, your conduct was unquestionably inconsistent with league polices and the standard of behavior required of everyone who is part of the NFL. The league is an entity that depends on integrity and in the confidence of the public and we simply cannot tolerate conduct that endangers others or reflects negatively on our game. This is particularly true with respect to domestic violence and other forms of violence against women.

“You will be expected to continue to take advantage of the counseling and other professional services you identified during our meeting. As you noted, this additional assistance has been of significant benefit to you and your wife, and it should remain a part of your practice as appropriate.

“I believe that you are sincere in your desire to learn from this matter and move forward toward a healthy relationship and successful career. I am now focused on your actions and expect you to demonstrate by those actions that you are prepared to fulfill those expectations.”

Rice’s suspension will begin on August 30. He will be eligible for reinstatement on Monday, September 12 following the Ravens’ game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Rice may participate in all aspects of training camp and preseason games.

Rice may appeal this decision within three days.

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Rice to be suspended for first two games of 2014 season

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Rice to be suspended for first two games of 2014 season

Posted on 24 July 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After months of speculation with varying opinions about his fate, Ravens running back Ray Rice will be suspended for the first two games of the 2014 season as punishment for a domestic violence incident that occurred in an Atlantic City casino in February.

The league officially announced its decision on Thursday afternoon as Rice was punished for “conduct detrimental to the NFL in violation of the league’s personal conduct policy.” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a letter that Rice’s conduct “was unquestionably inconsistent with league polices and the standard of behavior required of everyone who is part of the NFL.”

Rice was fined a game check — which is reportedly calculated from his 2013 base salary of $1 million — in addition to the salary he’ll lose during the two-game suspension without pay, bringing his total lost compensation to roughly $529,000. He will be unavailable as the Ravens open their season against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium on Sept. 7 and welcome the Pittsburgh Steelers to Baltimore four days later for a Thursday night game.

“It is disappointing that I will not be with my teammates for the first two games of the season, but that’s my fault,” Rice said in a statement released by the Ravens. “As I said earlier, I failed in many ways. But, Janay and I have learned from this. We have become better as a couple and as parents. I am better because of everything we have experienced since that night. The counseling has helped tremendously.”

“My goal is to earn back the trust of the people, especially the children, I let down because of this incident. I am a role model and I take that responsibility seriously. My actions going forward will show that.”

Baltimore will be able to replace Rice on the 53-man roster while he’s suspended. The running back will be allowed to participate in all aspects of training camp and in preseason games before beginning his suspension on Aug. 30.

The 27-year-old running back and his wife met with Goodell in New York last month, leading many to assume a ruling on a potential suspension would come before the start of camp as the Ravens try to rebound from an 8-8 season that saw them miss the postseason for the first time since 2007. In the spring, Rice pleaded not guilty to a third-degree charge of aggravated assault and was accepted into a pretrial intervention program after allegedly striking his fiancee and rendering her unconscious at the Revel Casino on February 15.

“We appreciate the thorough process the league office used to evaluate the incident with Ray Rice,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement. “The time the commissioner spent with Ray and Janay is typical of the extra steps the NFL takes when making decisions regarding discipline issues. While not having Ray for the first two games is significant to our team, we respect the league’s decision and believe it is fair.

“We also respect the efforts Ray has made to become the best partner and father he can be. That night was not typical of the Ray Rice we know and respect. We believe that he will not let that one night define who he is, and he is determined to make sure something like this never happens again.”

The news was met with much criticism on Thursday as many believed the NFL is taking too soft of a stance on domestic violence. The Ravens have stood firm in their support for Rice throughout the process and never wavered in expressing their positive feelings toward him, regularly pointing out his pristine record and reputation prior to the February incident.

Head coach John Harbaugh said earlier in the week that Rice’s suspension would not impact his team’s preparations in training camp until after the second preseason game. He reiterated that idea on Thursday, adding that the organization has already moved on from a football standpoint.

“It’s really not a big deal. It’s just part of the process,” Harbaugh said. “We said from the beginning the circumstances would determine the consequences. There are consequences when you make a mistake like that. I stand behind Ray — he’s a heck of a guy. He’s done everything right since. He makes a mistake; he’s going to have to pay a consequence. That’s good for kids to understand that it works that way. That’s how it works. That’s how it should be, and we’ll move forward.

“Ray will be back when the time comes. It’s not something that we’re dwelling on; it’s just that we’re not worrying about it. [We're] moving forward.”

Primary backup Bernard Pierce, veteran newcomer Justin Forsett, and 2014 fourth-round pick Lorenzo Taliaferro are expected to compete for more reps while Rice serves his suspension.

 

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Ravens still awaiting official word on Rice discipline

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Ravens still awaiting official word on Rice discipline

Posted on 22 July 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens officially welcome veterans back to their Owings Mills facility for the start of training camp on Wednesday while continuing to remain in the dark on the status of running back Ray Rice.

The 27-year-old running back and his wife met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on June 16, leading many to assume a ruling on a potential suspension would come before the start of camp as the Ravens try to rebound from an 8-8 season that saw them miss the postseason for the first time since 2007. Head coach John Harbaugh said Tuesday he was unaware of when a decision or announcement would be made regarding Rice’s standing for the start of the 2014 season.

The seventh-year coach wouldn’t say whether he was surprised not to already know Rice’s fate at this late stage of the summer.

“I’d rather not get into that. It’s not for me to say,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not my decision to make or any of us here. It’s in other people’s hands. I’m sure there are a lot of complications in making those kinds of decisions. There are many sides to every story, and there are a lot of factors. There are other people involved; there are other disciplinary situations involved around the league. That has to be weighed and taken into context.

“They’re going to have to sort through that and be fair about the whole thing. I know the league is very judicious about that. I think they work really hard to do the right thing. I don’t think they worry about public opinion too much. I think they want to do the right thing by the people involved, and we’ll see how it goes.”

Rice took part in organized team activities and mandatory minicamp in the spring after pleading not guilty to a third-degree charge of aggravated assault and being accepted into a pretrial intervention program. His legal trouble stemmed from a February incident in which he was arrested and charged for allegedly striking his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, in an Atlantic City, N.J. casino.

According to Harbaugh, the Rice suspension will not impact preparations for the start of the regular season until after the second preseason game. Third-year backup Bernard Pierce, veteran Justin Forsett, and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro are expected to compete for more reps while Rice serves his expected suspension.

“We’ll just be business as usual until then,” Harbaugh said. “We’re installing for the first six days [of camp] and working situations through the first two preseason games. Once we get past the second preseason game, then we’ll need to know that. Whenever they’re ready to let us know, we’ll be ready to hear it.”

The Ravens coach didn’t have much to offer in response to the arrest of cornerback Jimmy Smith earlier this month.

The fourth-year defensive back was arrested and charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct after an incident at a Towson bar on July 12. Smith became the fifth Ravens player to be arrested this offseason.

“I understand what happened,” said Harbaugh, who reiterated that the message about off-field conduct has been delivered to his players extensively. “I heard it from a lot of different sources, and I haven’t thought about it since. I think I’ve given it the amount of attention that it deserves.”

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Five questions entering 2014 Ravens training camp

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Five questions entering 2014 Ravens training camp

Posted on 21 July 2014 by Luke Jones

John Harbaugh enters new territory this summer in trying to guide the Ravens to a bounce-back season after missing the playoffs for the first time in his tenure a year ago.

The seventh-year head coach is coming off his most difficult offseason in not only revamping his offensive coaching staff but dealing with the arrests of five different players, painting the organization in a more negative and embarrassing light than it’s faced in quite some time. Of course, the Ravens are hopeful they’ve made the necessary changes to rebound from an 8-8 season and return to the postseason playing in what appears to be a wide-open AFC North.

As rookies, quarterbacks, and select veterans coming off injuries officially take the practice field in Owings Mills on Tuesday, here are five questions — of many others, quite frankly — to ponder:

1. Will different automatically translate to better for the Ravens offense? If so, how much better?

The easy answer is the 29th-ranked offense in 2013 couldn’t be much worse, so it’s no profound statement to say the unit will be improved under new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, who will bring a stronger emphasis on running the football. The real question is how much better the Ravens will be after averaging a league-worst and franchise-worst 3.1 yards per carry.

Kubiak has an excellent reputation dating back to his days with Mike Shanahan in Denver, but quarterback Joe Flacco’s adjustment to a West Coast offense centered around timing, excellent footwork, and shorter throws — not regarded as his biggest strengths — will be interesting to watch after he showed encouraging improvements as spring workouts progressed. Of course, the Ravens hope the free-agent signings of wide receiver Steve Smith and tight end Owen Daniels in addition to a fully-recovered Dennis Pitta will provide the quarterback with consistent weapons he sorely lacked beyond wideout Torrey Smith last season.

Steve Smith was the standout acquisition of the offseason and has been praised for the leadership and swagger he’s already brought to the offense, but he has plenty to prove as a 35-year-old receiver whose yards per catch average has dropped in three straight years. Daniels figures to be a clear upgrade as the No. 2 tight end behind Pitta, but he played in only five games last season and must prove he can still gain separation entering his ninth NFL season.

The ultimate factor in determining how high the offense can climb will be the improvement of the offensive line with new center Jeremy Zuttah and the return of left guard Kelechi Osemele from season-ending back surgery. Zuttah will be an improvement over Gino Gradkowski with his physical style of play and will be a leader by example in the trenches, but you wonder if there will be some growing pains in making line calls with the veteran having spent more time at guard during his career. Osemele was impressive during spring workouts, but the Ravens need to see his surgically-repaired back hold up during the daily rigors of camp and the third-year lineman had to alter his workout practices as a result of the procedure.

And, of course, the Ravens still aren’t sure who will line up at right tackle, with Rick Wagner the favorite entering camp.

The offense will look quite different, but will there be enough improvement for the Ravens to climb back among the AFC’s elite?

2. How does maligned offensive line coach Juan Castillo fit with the Kubiak system?

After all the hand-wringing over Castillo and calls for him to be dismissed after the offensive line’s woeful 2013 campaign, the hiring of Kubiak all but eliminated that chatter. However, his seat will heat up again very quickly if his unit doesn’t produce immediately in 2014.

Players have dismissed any notion of growing pains last season, but it was clear the coexistence of Castillo and former offensive line coach Andy Moeller wasn’t a good fit. The bigger question this year will be how effectively Castillo implements Kubiak’s brand of stretch outside zone blocking that has produced a plethora of 1,000-yard running backs over the years.

Castillo demands a lot from his his unit before, during, and after practices, which made him a favorite in Philadelphia for so many years, but Harbaugh will have a difficult time sticking with his longtime colleague if the offensive line gets off to another slow start in 2014.

3. How many younger players are ready to make the jump to become standouts?

It’s no secret that the Ravens have undergone quite a transformation since winning Super Bowl XLVII, but a major key in rebounding from last year’s 8-8 finish will be the emergence of younger impact players, something there wasn’t enough of in 2013.

Torrey Smith and cornerback Jimmy Smith took sizable leaps last season, but others such as Osemele, safety Matt Elam, linebacker Courtney Upshaw, running back Bernard Pierce, and defensive tackle Brandon Williams must become more dynamic players if the Ravens are going to bounce back in a significant way.

Entering 2014, how many great players — not good or solid ones — do the Ravens currently have? Linebacker Terrell Suggs and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata might still be considered great around the league but are on the wrong side of 30 and not as dominant as they were a few years ago.

Yes, the Ravens will lean on the likes of veterans Steve Smith, Daniels, and Zuttah to upgrade their respective positions, but substantial improvement in 2014 will only come if the draft classes of 2012 and 2013 are ready to make a larger impact than they did a year ago. And if the likes of linebacker C.J. Mosley and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan can bring immediate impact as rookies, Baltimore will be that much more dangerous.

Simply put, the core of this roster needs younger and more dynamic talent to emerge.

4. What can we expect out of Ray Rice?

Even putting aside the ongoing saga of when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will finally make a ruling on a suspension for the embattled running back, it’s difficult to project what kind of player Rice will be entering his seventh season and coming off the worst year of his career.

The 27-year-old was noticeably leaner and faster during spring practices, but it’s difficult to measure elusiveness — or any ability to break tackles — when players aren’t participating in full-contact drills. Much like we ponder about the entire offense, it’s not difficult to envision Rice being better at a lighter weight and with a better offensive line in front of him, but it’s fair to ask if his days as a game-changing back are over.

It will also be fascinating to see if Kubiak views Rice as an every-down back or is more eager to continue to hand opportunities to the likes of Pierce, veteran newcomer Justin Forsett, or rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro even after the sixth-year back returns from his anticipated suspension. Rice split time with Forsett working with the starters this spring — Pierce was still limited returning from offseason shoulder surgery — but it’s difficult to gauge how much of that was Forsett’s experience in Kubiak’s system as well as the Ravens preparing for the suspension.

5. Is the commitment to winning strong enough top to bottom on the roster?

You never like to make generalizations about what’s currently a 90-man roster when referencing five specific players being arrested during the offseason, but it’s fair to question the overall commitment when your players make up more than 25 percent of the NFL’s total number of reported arrests since last season.

Most already expected Harbaugh to have a tougher training camp following the first non-playoff season of his tenure in Baltimore, but the poor off-field behavior lends even more credence to the head coach working his players harder than in past summers.

Make no mistake, there are countless individuals on the roster who are fully dedicated to winning, but a chain is only as strong as its weakest link and the Ravens will be under the microscope in not only how they conduct themselves off the field but how they perform on it this season. The poor choices of several individuals unfortunately drew that scrutiny for the entire roster as critics question the organization’s leadership and overall character.

“We have good, really good guys,” Harbaugh said on the final day of mandatory minicamp last month. “Football matters to them. The more it matters to you, the less inclined you are to do anything to jeopardize that.”

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Flacco offseason noise meaningless in big picture

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Flacco offseason noise meaningless in big picture

Posted on 02 June 2014 by Luke Jones

In case you haven’t heard by now, quarterback Joe Flacco didn’t organize offseason workouts with teammates and has apparently doomed the Ravens’ 2014 season almost two months before training camp begins.

At least that’s what some might have you believe as critics have used this revelation to question the seventh-year quarterback’s commitment to the organization after the worst season of his career in 2013. Or, maybe it’s just the latest example of the overkill of NFL coverage when there simply aren’t enough topics of substance to discuss in the offseason.

I’ll take some level of responsibility for the overreaction to Flacco not organizing informal workouts with teammates after I initially asked Dennis Pitta in early March if he’d talked to his best friend on the team about the tight end’s new contract and whether they planned to get together with other teammates to throw in the offseason. It was a question stemming from sheer curiosity and an effort to spice up what was otherwise a relatively mundane press conference following the announcement of Pitta’s five-year, $32 million contract five days earlier.

The reaction snowballed from there as many used Pitta’s initial response as a springboard to criticize Flacco for not eating, breathing, and sleeping football for all hours of the day and all days of the year.

Truthfully, the outcome of Flacco and his teammates refraining from getting together does nothing to significantly move the meter on where the Ravens’ fate will fall during the 2014 season. Yes, an argument could be made that it could provide a stronger rapport away from the Owings Mills facility, but the lack of any working knowledge of new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s system as well as an inability to contact coaches would have resulted in little tangible productivity.

Flacco must play better than he did in 2013 as the quarterback acknowledged again last week that he did a poor job of protecting the football in throwing a career-high 22 interceptions for the league’s 29th-ranked offense. Should that improvement come, it will be about putting in extensive preparation with Kubiak and taking advantage of better offensive personnel.

If he plays well in 2014, no one will remember that Flacco didn’t toss around the football with teammates at an undisclosed location in late March or early April. And if the quarterback plays poorly, heavy criticism will be there no matter what he did or didn’t do in the offseason.

In the same way that some critics squawk about veterans skipping voluntary organized team activities in the spring, these stories are only discussed when we’re more than three months away from real games being played and have little bearing on wins and losses by season’s end.

Reed back in Baltimore

Sunday was just another reminder of how good it is to see former Ravens safety Ed Reed maintain a strong relationship with Baltimore as he participated in cornerback Lardarius Webb’s charity softball game at M&T Bank Stadium.

There easily could have been hurt feelings when the Ravens allowed Reed to depart via free agency last year without even putting up a fight to keep him, but the sides remained amicable as the veteran safety returned for the visit to the White House as well as the Super Bowl ring ceremony last summer. It’s only a matter of time before the Ravens honor Reed with a one-day contract — if that’s what he wants, of course — to allow him to retire with the organization that drafted him in 2002, and we’ll see him in the organization’s Ring of Honor as soon as his playing days are over.

Many have called for the future Hall of Fame safety to retire, but there’s no reason why the 35-year-old shouldn’t try to continue playing if there’s a team who wants him and he’s healthy enough — a big question — with the nerve impingement in his neck and past hip issues. His play on the field is a far cry from what it once was as one of the greatest safeties in NFL history, but his leadership and football intelligence could still be assets for a team envisioning the right role for him at this late stage in his career.

As for Reed having a position in the Ravens organization after his playing days are over, it might be too soon to immediately hire him as an assistant coach, but the reputation he gained for mentoring young players late in his career as well as his vast knowledge for the game are talents the organization would be wise to use in some capacity.

Offensive line depth chart crowded

The development of the offensive line will continue to be a major storyline in the preseason as the Ravens decide who will be lining up at right tackle, but a simple look at the depth chart suggests some household names could be on the chopping block at the end of the summer.

The Ravens currently have 11 offensive linemen who either have extensive NFL experience or were drafted by the organization in recent years, a list that includes Eugene Monroe, Marshal Yanda, Kelechi Osemele, Jeremy Zuttah, John Urschel, Gino Gradkowski, Jah Reid, A.Q. Shipley, Rick Wagner, Ryan Jensen, and Will Rackley. That group does not include rookie free agent tackle James Hurst, who is held in high regard and was considered a sure draft pick by many experts before he fractured his leg in North Carolina’s bowl game in late December.

Of course, depth doesn’t mean quality depth as the Ravens will determine whether Wagner or Jensen can cut it at right tackle or elect to move Osemele from left guard to tackle and explore the possibility of a veteran like Rackley at the left guard spot. General manager Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh have also left open the possibility of adding another veteran tackle such as Eric Winston.

Regardless of how it plays out, holdovers from recent years such as Reid, Gradkowski, and Shipley should be looking over their shoulder this summer as it’s clear there is plenty of competition in an effort to improve what was an awful line a year ago.

Elam praised

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