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Now Harbaugh, Ravens Have to Finally Get Past Roethlisberger, Steelers

Posted on 09 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — I’d love to tell you more about the 30-7 beatdown the Baltimore Ravens (13-4) handed the Kansas City Chiefs (10-7) in an AFC Wild Card playoff matchup Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, but there’s not too much to say.

The Ravens were really good. The Chiefs had one good play.

However, the Ravens win (coupled with the New York Jets’ stunning 17-16 win over the Indianapolis Colts Saturday night at LucasOil Stadium) sets up a storyline that is ABSOLUTELY worth writing about.

The Ravens’ road to a potential Super Bowl XLV berth will now take them directly to Heinz Field for a divisional round showdown with their heated AFC North rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4).

It’s going to be a fun week.

“I think every year (except last year) we’ve had to play Pittsburgh in order to advance” said WR Derrick Mason after Sunday’s game. “They got the best of us that first year, we didn’t get a chance to play them last year. What (a) fitting way to play them again to advance.”

The Ravens of course SHOULD have to go through the Steel City to reach the AFC Championship Game, right? What else could possibly define the success of a season?

Through 18 weeks, the teams’ season has been defined by a crushing 13-10 loss in Week 13 to the Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium. When they get together next Saturday, the Ravens will have a major opportunity to re-write the story of their campaign.

“It’s going to be just like it always is” said QB Joe Flacco. “It’s going to be a big, physical football game. It should be a lot of fun to play in and a lot of fun to watch. We’re excited about it.”

This of course brings us to the unfortunate part of the story. The part where we have to remind everyone that for all of the success the Ravens have had since John Harbaugh became Head Coach (this makes four playoff wins in three seasons), they’ve never beaten the Steelers when QB Ben Roethlisberger has played.

For this season to not end in heartbreak, that is obviously going to have to change.

“It seems like poetic justice” said Harbaugh. “Whatever we can pour into that game, whatever we can draw from, it’s going to important because they’re so good.”

The reality is that there’s a cosmic feeling about playing the Steelers in the postseason. There’s something a little more special about knowing everything will be on the line against the team most despised by football fans in Charm City.

With no offense to anyone in KC, but things were supposed to happen this way. A Chiefs-Steelers contest would have meant little for the “football gods.” Ravens-Steelers was just meant to be.

“It’s personal between the two cities” said LB Terrell Suggs. “It shouldn’t surprise you that these two teams (are) in the fight and at each others’ throats every year. This is the NFL at its best.”

If the Ravens are finally going to vanquish Big Ben and the Steelers; they’re going to need to continue their stout defensive play. They allowed just 161 yards against the Chiefs and forced five turnovers. Over their last three games (regular season wins at the Cleveland Browns and against the Cincinnati Bengals plus the playoff victory), the Ravens defense has given up just 24 points and forced 14 turnovers.

Of course, the Steelers are plenty capable of playing good defense as well, their unit finished the regular season as the top defense in the league.

This is how it was supposed to be all along. If the Ravens are going to get back to the Super Bowl, the Steelers were always going to stand in their path.

In the days following the Ravens’ Week 13 loss, I wrote about the dynamic between the two teams, sensing the urgency that surrounded Baltimore’s struggles in the rivalry.

“If John Harbaugh is going to succeed as the Head Coach of the Baltimore Ravens, he is going to HAVE to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers.”

Less than six weeks later, Harbaugh will get another crack.

There will be no hyperbole necessary this week. If Harbaugh and the Ravens don’t beat the Steelers, the season will end without a trip to the Super Bowl for a third straight year. Making matters worse, the Steelers get a chance to play for their second Super Bowl trip in three seasons and their third in six years.

It doesn’t take a football historian to understand the significance.

And this time, there will be an added level of emotion surrounding the game.

Following the win over the Chiefs, the organization presented S Ed Reed with a game ball-meant to be given to the entire Reed family.

Over the weekend, a search for Reed’s little brother (Brian Reed) was called off. The younger Reed had jumped into the Mississippi River while being pursued by police, leading many to presume he was dead.

Reed played with a heavy heart Sunday, but made an emphatic statement when accepting the game ball.

In postgame video captured by CBS, Reed told his teammates “my brother…he loved football. But he’d want to beat Pittsburgh.”

It had to be this way.

-G

NOTES: Hear from Harbaugh, Flacco, Reed, Mason, Suggs, TE Todd Heap and LB Ray Lewis now in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault at WNST.net……The Ravens will be off Monday due to the short week before Saturday’s game……C Matt Birk is scheduled to join Drew Forrester on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST Monday at 9:30am

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Live from Owings Mills: Jameel McClain to Appeal $40k Fine

Posted on 08 December 2010 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens (8-4) returned to 1 Winning Drive Wednesday, getting an extra day of practice ahead of their Monday Night Football showdown with the Houston Texans (5-7) at Reliant Stadium.

LB Jameel McClain informed members of the media Wednesday that he was going to appeal the $40,000 fine handed down to him by the NFL Monday. The league fined McClain for a hit on Steelers TE Heath Miller in a Week 13 loss to Pittsburgh at M&T Bank Stadium.

In a letter to McClain, the league said McClain “unnecessarily struck a defenseless receiver in the head and neck area.” The league determined McClain was in violation of Rule 12, Section 2. Article 8 of Rule 12, Section 2 in the NFL rule includes the following bylaw…

“(g) if the initial force of the contact by a defender’s helmet (including facemask), forearm, or shoulder is to the head or neck area of a defenseless player.”

“It’s a man going to try to make a play” McClain explained to reporters Wednesday. “I was within the strikezone, I was going the way that I was taught to proceed in the game throughout my whole life. If I let off on that play and he catches the ball and possibly streaks down the field for possibly 50 yards then it’s a different story what we’re talking about.”

McClain said he had not yet met with his agent to discuss the appeal process, and he said he didn’t expect to change the way he plays.

“You gotta play this game physical, you gotta play this game fast. I’m not out there trying to hurt (anybody).”

DT Haloti Ngata declined to comment Wednesday about the $15,000 fine the league gave him for a hit on QB Ben Roethlisberger in the loss to the Steelers.

HEAP “DAY TO DAY”: TE Todd Heap said his injured hamstring had “gotten better” since leaving the Sunday Night Football game during the team’s first offensive possession.

Head Coach John Harbaugh had expressed initially that Heap’s chances didn’t “look good” for Monday night’s game, but then said Tuesday on his weekly radio show that there was an “outside chance” Heap could see the field.

“We’re taking it day to day right now” said Heap. “We’ll see where it is come gametime.”

Heap appeared to be walking without a noticeable limp Wednesday, but told reporters he had not yet attempted to run or take part in football activity. Heap said he was relieved the injury wasn’t as significant as it appeared it could have been.

“It could have been worse. You never know with a hamstring injury what the timeframe is. Hopefully it’s sooner than later. My goal right is just to get out there as quickly as possible. We’ve got this stretch run we’re trying to make, all of these games are important for us. That’s my main focus, just trying to get on the field and help the team as soon as I can.

If Heap does miss Monday night’s game, rookie TE Ed Dickson is expected to start in his place. Dickson said Wednesday he’s been taking the majority of snaps with the first team offense in practice this week.

Dickson does not lack confidence in his ability to play when on the field.

“I know I’m gonna get a couple more rocks this week” said Dickson. “I came in like I was ready to play. I’m a competitor. I’m going to continue to grow and get better.”

NOTES: Hear from now J. McClain, Heap, Dickson, WR Derrick Mason, WR Anquan Boldin, DT Kelly Gregg and FB Le’Ron McClain NOW in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net……Dickson is scheduled to join Drew Forrester Thursday at 7:15am on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST……Bill Leavy’s crew will officiate Monday night’s game……The Ravens will return to practice Thursday, with Harbaugh, QB Joe Flacco, LB Ray Lewis, RB Ray Rice and others expected to meet the media. Wednesday’s practice was not open to the media, nor was an Injury Report released Wednesday

-G

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A Tale of Two Johns: Like Cooper Had to Beat Michigan, Harbaugh Has to Beat Steelers

Posted on 08 December 2010 by Glenn Clark

2-5 isn’t quite 2-10-1.

That being said, 2-5 might not be a totally fair representation.

Baltimore Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh has learned a tough lesson this week following his team’s heartbreaking 13-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday.

In Baltimore-much like in Columbus, Ohio-fans simply won’t accept rivalry losses.

John Cooper was a tremendous college football coach. During a head coaching career at Tulsa, Arizona State, and Ohio State that spanned from 1977-2000; Cooper posted a 192-84-6 record and tallied nine conference championships.

Cooper was the head coach of the Buckeyes from 1988-2000. He went 111-43-4 during that span, claiming three Big Ten titles. Cooper guided the Buckeyes to bowl appearances in 11 of his 13 seasons and finished with a losing record only once-his first season in Columbus. Cooper counted wins in both the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl during his time as the Buckeyes’ head man, and played in bowl games on New Year’s Day or later an impressive nine times.

Cooper had incredible success as the Head Coach at Ohio State. The type of success that might have earned him the right to determine his own fate. “Might have” if not for one glaring problem.

2-10-1.

As head man in Columbus, Cooper’s Buckeyes posted just a 2-10-1 record against the Michigan Wolverines, Ohio State’s biggest rival.

It wasn’t just that Cooper’s teams struggled in their regular season finale against the opponent alumni and fans despised the most. The bigger problem was that Ohio State’s battles with Michigan regularly determined the final outcome for the Buckeyes’ season.

In 1993, Ohio State entered the Michigan game with a 9-0-1 record, but a 28-0 loss in Ann Arbor cost them an outright conference title. In 1995, Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George lead the Buckeyes back to Ann Arbor with an undefeated record and national title dreams. After a 31-23 defeat, the Buckeyes were sent to the Citrus Bowl instead.

1996 provided the greatest heartbreak for the Buckeyes in the John Cooper era, as they entered the Michigan game again undefeated and ranked #2 in the country. The Buckeyes had a 9-0 lead at halftime against Lloyd Carr’s Wolverines, but ultimately fell 13-9 at home.

OSU would eventually win another game against Michigan under Cooper in 1998, but they never posted back to back wins in the series under his guide. Cooper was fired following an 8-4 campaign in 2000. While academic and off-field troubles surrounding the program played a role in his firing, his record against Michigan ultimately played a major role.

In fact, when new coach Jim Tressel took over in Columbus he made a point to put special emphasis on the Michigan rivalry. After the former Youngstown State head coach was hired by the Buckeyes, he made a memorable halftime speech at a Ohio State-Michigan basketball game, according to ESPN.com…

“I can assure you that you will be proud of our young people, in the classroom, in the community, and most especially in 310 days in Ann Arbor, Michigan on the football field.”

Following Sunday’s loss, Harbaugh now holds a 2-5 record against the Ravens’ heated AFC North rivals, including the 2009 AFC Championship Game.

(Every Ravens fan knows that both of Harbaugh’s wins in the rivalry came in games where Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was not on the field. That’s why the 2-5 record may not be such a fair representation.)

In 2008, Harbaugh’s second loss to the Steelers cost the Ravens a shot at the division title and forced them to hit the road in the playoffs. After a hard fought divisional round win over the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, the Ravens appeared flat when they hit the field for the conference title game at Heinz Field. Harbaugh’s third loss to the Steelers cost the Ravens a trip to Tampa Bay to face the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.

(Harbaugh’s first loss to the Steelers-a Week 4 Monday Night Football defeat early in 2008-was also a loss that could have earned the Ravens home field advantage had they won the game. Week 4 losses just don’t tend to be quite as agonizing as losses in Week 15.)

Harbaugh’s fourth loss to the Steelers wasn’t quite as crushing. Despite losing in the Steel City in late 2009, the Ravens held on to earn a Wild Card playoff berth via a tiebreaker after the teams finished with matching 9-7 records.

Harbaugh’s fifth loss in the series shapes up to be as crushing if not more than any of the others. Had the Ravens held on for a Week 13 win over the Steelers, they would have controlled their own destiny (and actually held a one game margin of error) to win the division, receive a first round bye and host a playoff game in the divisional round.

The Ravens were a home win over the Steelers away from having a significantly clearer path to Dallas and a chance to again play for the Vince Lombardi Trophy this season.

We know now that the path isn’t so clear.

Had Sunday’s loss been to the Cincinnati Bengals or Cleveland Browns, it would have been difficult for fans to stomach. Sunday’s loss was particularly costly, and it would have left a dark cloud hanging over Charm City no matter who the opponent had been.

Yet because it was a rivalry loss, because it was the Steelers, there is simply no doubt that the black cloud left by the defeat remains darker than anything that came from fires on The Block or in Mt. Vernon.

(As an aside, does anyone see symbolism in the fact that the city has dealt with multiple REAL black clouds after a Steelers loss?)

The fact is, this fanbase CANNOT stomach losses to the Steelers, especially not losses of such magnitude. Losses hurt, but losses to the Steelers are absolute gut punches.

As Drew Forrester and I opined last week on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST, this city doesn’t look at a Ravens loss to the Steelers as a NFL loss. The city tends to look at such losses as a loss to the city of Pittsburgh in general. There’s a natural feeling that it wasn’t a football team that won on Sunday night, but instead the entire Western Pennsylvania area.

It leads to frustration, pain and anger. As I wrote immediately following Sunday night’s game, the ability for fans to be rational goes completely out the window after a loss to the Steelers.

Harbaugh found that out Tuesday night during his radio show on WBAL.

A caller to the show questioned Harbaugh on the job status of DL Coach Clarence Brooks, one of the more respected assistants on the Ravens’ staff.

Harbaugh didn’t handle the question well, chiming back “Clarence Brooks does a great job. We will fight our tails off. If that’s not enough, then find another team to root for” according to the National Football Post.

It wasn’t the only time Harbaugh lost his cool during the show. Again according to NFP, Harbaugh also explained at one point: “if you’re not proud of this football team, then you don’t know football.”

Harbaugh probably didn’t handle the questions the best way he could have. There’s no doubt that his frustration reflected poorly with the fans who were listening, even if his answers were fair.

But the problem wasn’t the response. The problem was the result.

Ravens fans are NEVER going to be accepting of losses to the Steelers.

When the Ravens lose to the Steelers, the fanbase is going to respond poorly. This won’t be the last time a John Harbaugh-coached Ravens team plays the Steelers with major AFC North or overall playoff ramifications. In fact, the majority of the games the two teams will play against each other will be played with a lot on the line.

While college football and the NFL aren’t similar in many ways, this is an area where the rivalry is much like Ohio State-Michigan.

It isn’t just a rivalry because the two teams (or fanbases) don’t like each other. Ole Miss and Mississippi State don’t like each other, but their games rarely mean much of anything in the SEC. Ravens-Steelers games regularly mean a lot in the AFC.

The comparison is something John Harbaugh should really understand. John went to Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor. His father (Jack Harbaugh) was an assistant under Bo Schembechler at Michigan. His brother (Jim Harbaugh) was a quarterback for the Maize and Blue. (Jim’s teams were 3-1 against Ohio State.) Ohio State-Michigan is in John Harbaugh’s blood.

In that way, Harbaugh probably understands well what happened to Cooper at Ohio State. Hopefully that understanding can be transcendent.

If John Harbaugh is going to succeed as the Head Coach of the Baltimore Ravens, he is going to HAVE to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers.

There’s just no getting around that.

Harbaugh is not in jeopardy of being run out of town like Cooper was at Ohio State.

I repeat, Harbaugh’s job is NOT in jeopardy. Certainly not at this point anyway.

But if he’s going to succeed here long-term, he’s going to HAVE to beat the Steelers. If not, a few annoying calls to a radio show will turn into general discontent, and eventually a much more vitriolic fanbase.

That’s what happened to Cooper in Columbus.

Harbaugh doesn’t have to win EVERY game against the Steelers. Since taking over at Ohio State, Tressel has gone 9-1 against the rival Wolverines, which isn’t a realistic expectation for Harbaugh against the Steelers.

But he has to start winning SOME meaningful games against the Steelers, or the Ravens won’t accomplish the things they need to for Harbaugh to be successful as a Head Coach.

And if 2-5 is a pace that continues for Harbaugh against the Steelers, Harbaugh’s story will likely have a similar ending as Cooper’s.

-G

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Live From Owings Mills: Harbaugh Offers Good News on McClain, Bad News on Heap

Posted on 06 December 2010 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens (8-4) returned to 1 Winning Drive Monday, following a 13-10 defeat at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3) Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens began the process of shifting focus to a Week 14 Monday Night Football showdown with the Houston Texans (5-7) at Reliant Stadium.

Head Coach John Harbaugh offered good news Monday regarding injured FB Le’Ron McClain (ankle), who missed the loss to Pittsburgh.

Harbaugh said McClain was “close” to being ready to play in the Sunday Night Football contest, adding “maybe he could have got through it healthy.”

The head coach offered little doubt about McClain’s availability for the team’s upcoming contest against the Texans, saying “he’ll be back for sure this week.”

Reserve FB Jason McKie was also not active for Sunday night’s loss. His roster spot could be in jeopardy.

The news wasn’t nearly as good regarding TE Todd Heap, who was forced to leave the loss to the Steelers in the first quarter with a hamstring injury.

“I think Todd’s probably the one that we really are concerned about” said Harbaugh. “I don’t want to rule him out yet, but it doesn’t look good for next week. It’s one of those hamstring pulls that’s going to be tough.”

Harbaugh did not appear concerned that Heap’s injury would end his season.

“I don’t think so. That’s not something (Head Trainer) Bill (Tessendorf) told me today. We’ll just have to see. I think we’ll know probably (in) 3-4 days, just see how it responds over the next couple days.”

While Heap is out, the TE responsibilities will fall on rookies Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, who both played in the Ravens’ loss to the Steelers.

“The young guys are gonna have to step up” said Harbaugh. “They both played well last night. I’m glad we got them.”

JAMEEL MCCLAIN, NGATA FINED: LB Jameel McClain was fined $40,000 by the NFL Monday for a crushing hit on Steelers TE Heath Miller in the Ravens’ loss.

NFL spokesperson Greg Aiello had said earlier Monday via Twitter that a fine was coming.

Harbaugh said Monday he didn’t believe McClain deserved to be fined and was “absolutely not” concerned that McClain could be suspended for the hit. McClain was not penalized for the hit, although Aiello had previously confirmed NFL VP of Officiating Carl Johnson believed the hit should have drawn a flag

DT Haloti Ngata was also fined $15,000 for the early hit on Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger that broke Big Ben’s nose.

NOTES: Hear from Harbaugh now in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net……Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Ron Jaworski, Michelle Tafoya and Suzy Kolber will be the broadcast team for Monday night’s tilt with Houston……The Ravens have not finalized a practice schedule for this week, but players will be off Tuesday……CB Fabian Washington is scheduled to join “The Morning Reaction” with Drew Forrester Tuesday at 9:40am on AM1570 WNST

-G

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Live From Owings Mills: McClain-”I’m In For Sunday”

Posted on 03 December 2010 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens (8-3) held their final open practice of the week at 1 Winning Drive Friday before their AFC North showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3) on Sunday Night Football at M&T Bank Stadium.

FB Le’Ron McClain (ankle) returned to the practice field Friday for the first time since injuring his ankle in the Ravens’ Week 12 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. McClain’s had been considered a longshot to see the field Sunday night, but was listed as questionable Friday after returning to the practice field.

“I’m in for Sunday” said the two time Pro Bowl selection. “I’m gonna be ready Sunday-it just depends on the coaches, if they want to use me Sunday or not.”

If McClain is not active Sunday night, reserve FB Jason McKie would be expected to take his place. Head Coach John Harbaugh offered no more information about McClain, saying simply “I have no idea.”

OT Michael Oher (knee) did not participate in practice Friday and was also listed as questionable for Sunday night. If for some reason Oher isn’t able to go, OT Oniel Cousins would be expected to start for him. S Dawan Landry (head) practiced all week but was also listed as questionable for Sunday night.

WR Derrick Mason (illness) was not on the field during the open session Friday, but was also a late arrival. Mason said the illness that kept him out of Thursday’s practice was “just a cold.” Mason was listed as probable for Sunday night along with G Chris Chester (infection) and TE Ed Dickson (thigh).

All other Ravens were on the practice field Friday and are believed to be available for Sunday’s game.

PITTSBURGH INJURIES: Eight Steelers were listed on the team’s final injury report Friday.

QB Ben Roethlisberger (foot) was listed as questionable, but the news wasn’t quite as good for two other players.

DE Aaron Smith (triceps) and TE Matt Spaeth (concussion) were both listed as doubtful for Sunday night.

OT Flozell Adams (back), DE Nick Eason (knee), DE Brett Keisel (calf), CB Bryant McFadden (hamstring) and S Troy Polamalu (ankle) were all listed as probable for Sunday night’s game.

NOTES: Hear from Harbaugh, L. McClain, Mason and WR TJ Houshmandzadeh now in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net……Westwood One Play by Play Voice Dave Sims and Pittsburgh Steelers Play by Play Voice Bill Hillgrove joined “The Morning Reaction” with Drew Forrester Friday on AM1570 WNST, both conversations are available in the Audio Vault as well……DT Arthur Jones is scheduled to join Rex Snider & Nestor Aparicio at 4:45pm on “The Friday Football Frenzy” on AM1570 WNST……Weather.com/The Weather Channel predicts temperatures in the mid-30′s around gametime Sunday night in Charm City. The predict clouds and winds upwards of 20mph as well……NBC’s Cris Collinsworth and Andrea Kramer attended practice at 1 Winning Drive Friday in advance of Sunday night’s broadcast……The Ravens will hold a walkthrough Saturday before Sunday’s game, Saturday’s walkthrough will not be open to the media

-G

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Live From Owings Mills: Washington Believes Special Teams Ticket Back to Active Roster

Posted on 02 December 2010 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens (8-3) returned to practice Thursday at 1 Winning Drive, continuing preparations for Sunday’s AFC North showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3) at M&T Bank Stadium.

CB Fabian Washington has been a fixture during Special Teams practice this week. Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg said Washington has been playing full safety in kick coverage and holdup corner on punt return.

After being deactivated for the team’s Week 12 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington hopes Special Teams could be his ticket back to the active roster.

“I just want to get on the field by any means necessary” said the cornerback. “If I’ve gotta play Special Teams, I’ll play Special Teams.”

Washington said he hadn’t played Special Teams since his rookie year (2005 with the Oakland Raiders). He said it hasn’t been hard to get readjusted to playing Special Teams.

“Special Teams-to me-is just ‘want to.’ There’s guys out there that just fly around. That’s what Special Teams is.”

Washington has maintained a positive attitude towards playing Special Teams after beginning the season as a starting corner.

“I’m having a blast. The season didn’t quite go how I wanted it to go for myself but as a team we’re 8-3 and we’re winning. You can’t be too down about winning. This is my first time (being) 8-3. I’m trying to win a Super Bowl, whatever it takes to get to Dallas.”

PRACTICE REPORT: FB Le’Ron McClain (ankle) missed practice for a second consecutive day, further fueling speculation he will miss Sunday’s contest. McClain injured his ankle early in the second half of the Ravens’ win over the Bucs.

If McClain is unavailable Sunday, newly signed FB Jason McKie will be expected to play in his place. Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron thinks McKie will be ready to go.

“(General Manager Ozzie Newsome) went out there and found a veteran guy who picks things up quickly. (McKie) has the basic concepts down of what we do in our regular package.”

Cameron said he has no concerns about McKie’s ability to function in the Ravens’ offense.

“The minute you start worrying about it, you might as well not play the guy.”

McKie said the Ravens use “different terminology”, but he has been able to pick up the offense with the help of RB Coach Wilbert Montgomery.

All other injured Ravens were on the practice field Thursday. S Dawan Landry (limited participant-head), OL Chris Chester (full participant-infection), TE Ed Dickson (full-thigh) and OT Michael Oher (full-knee) took part in drills. WR Derrick Mason (illness) missed practice however.

Three Steelers missed practice Thursday. CB Keenan Lewis (illness), DE Aaron Smith (triceps) and TE Matt Spaeth (concussion) did not participate.  QB Ben Roethlisberger (foot) was a limited participant. OT Flozell Adams (back), DE Nick Eason (knee), DE Brett Keisel (calf), CB Bryant McFadden (hamstring) and S Troy Polamalu (ankle) were full participants.

NOTES: Hear from Cameron, Rosburg, Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison, Washington and McKie in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net……DT Arthur Jones is scheduled to join Drew Forrester Friday morning at 7:15 on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST……The Ravens have kept a left footed punter in the building this week as they prepare to face the Steelers’ Daniel Sepulveda……The Ravens will hold their final open practice of the week Friday, Head Coach John Harbaugh is scheduled to meet with the media following Friday’s practice

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Live From Owings Mills: Rivalry Week Excitement Builds in Ravens Locker Room

Posted on 01 December 2010 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens (8-3) returned to practice Wednesday at 1 Winning Drive with their sights set fully on Sunday’s AFC North showdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3) at M&T Bank Stadium.

Wednesday’s media availability session had the feel of a true “rivalry week”, with much of the discussion around the building surrounding the nature of the rivalry.

“The hairs on your back grow when you get a Baltimore-Steelers type game” said LB Terrell Suggs. “This is definitely hands down the most physical game in the National Football League. That’s why everybody is so crazy about it.”

LB Ray Lewis said he expected the atmosphere Sunday night to be “crazy.” Lewis added, “it’s one of those games that you have to be a part of. When your legacy is done, you look back at these games right here.”

Pro Bowl RB Ray Rice said the rivalry is based in respect.

“That’s first and foremost about the Pittsburgh Steelers. We respect them. That’s what the rivalry is all about. I’ve learned that this rivalry has less talk involved in it. It’s more with your pads.”

Rice couldn’t hide from his excitement about the rivalry though, adding “these are moments that you live for.”

Since 2008 (the first season in Charm City for Head Coach John Harbaugh and QB Joe Flacco), the Steelers have won four of their six matchups with the Ravens, including one in the 2009 AFC Championship Game (both Pittsburgh losses have come without QB Ben Roethlisberger). Harbaugh said he expected “a tight game”, noting that the series was “about as close as it can get.”

(Harbaugh said he believed the Ravens had been outscored 77-76 over the six games, but the Ravens have actually been outscored 113-100 during the stretch.)

LB Jarret Johnson probably summed up the nature of the rivalry best.

“It’s just really intense. We know each other, we’ve been playing against each other for years. You’re familiar with the guy across from you. It’s just a super competitive, physical game. It’s a lot of fun.”

PRACTICE REPORT
: Given the cold and rainy weather, the Ravens split practice time between their indoor facility and outdoor field. S Tom Zbikowski (foot) was again a participant in practice despite missing the Ravens’ Week 12 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Harbaugh said the Ravens were “confident (Zbikowksi) can go” Sunday, Zbikowski was not listed on the Wednesday injury report.

OT Michael Oher (knee) was also on the practice field after being forced to leave the Bucs game early. Oher told reporters Wednesday “I’m good” and “I definitely want to play.” Oher was listed as a full participant Wednesday.

OL Chris Chester (illness) returned to practice for the first time since being hospitalized November 18 with an infection stemming from cellulitis. Chester is expected to be available Sunday and was a full participant Wednesday.

FB Le’Ron McClain (ankle) did not participate in practice Wednesday and is not expected to be available Sunday. S Dawan Landry (head) was a limited participant Wednesday.

TE Ed Dickson (thigh) was a full participant in practice Wednesday after missing the Ravens’ win over the Buccaneers.

For the Steelers, S Troy Polamalu (ankle) and DE Aaron Smith (triceps) did not participate in practice Wednesday. OT Flozell Adams (back), DE Nick Eason (knee), CB Bryant McFadden (hamstring) and Roethlisberger (foot) were limited participants.

NOTES: Hear from Harbaugh, Lewis, Rice, Suggs, Oher, Johnson, Flacco and DT Haloti Ngata NOW in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net……DT Arthur Jones will join Drew Forrester on “The Morning Reaction” Thursday at 7:15am on AM1570 WNST……Terry McAulay’s crew will officiate Sunday’s game……The Ravens began the process of putting playoff tickets on sale Wednesday……The Ravens will return to practice Thursday; coordinators Greg Mattison, Cam Cameron and Jerry Rosburg are scheduled to meet with the media

-G

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Wednesday Morning’s Crabs and Beer

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Wednesday Morning’s Crabs and Beer

Posted on 01 December 2010 by Glenn Clark

Happy Wednesday!

It’s a Happy Wednesday for me because it’s time to name two new “Greatest Song(s) of All Time This Week.”

I’ll start with the Retro Version. The retro version is in honor of tonight’s start of Hanukkah. My personal favorite (half) Jew is the great Lenny Kravitz, so here’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way?” If you’ve seen Lenny recently, please tell him to come back. He was freaking AMAZING.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLhpHjmxNw8[/youtube]

The NEW version of TGSOATTW is a song heard prominently on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST. I hope that tonight’s Grammy Awards nomination announcement features the band Ra Ra Riot. “Shadow Casting” is quite good…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvcxieyeg4k[/youtube]

Let’s see what everyone has to say…

1. WNST.net’s Ryan Chell says Ravens waived S Ken Hamlin, signed FB Jason McKie

As I reported yesterday, the Ravens also tried out former Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans TE/FB Joel Gamble before going with McKie. I was told they made the decision because they felt McKie was more of a natural fullback while Gamble was more of a hybrid. Gamble is a Baltimore native (and Carver grad).

As far as McKie is concerned, I can’t imagine him being asked to do much more than block-but they’ll definitely need him to block. The likelihood is that Le’Ron McClain’s ankle will probably keep him out Sunday night, and the Ravens’ current roster options just aren’t particularly good. Dennis Pitta can help and Jalen Parmele could see the field; but in a game where running the ball will be important-the Ravens will need a true blocking back.

Don’t rule out Hamlin returning to Charm City at some point this season. He was cut once (to make room for Prince Miller humorously enough) but returned in favor of Trevor Pryce. The Ravens like the veteran presence that Hamlin gives them-but he hasn’t even been active much in recent weeks.

2. WNST.net’s Drew Forrester says Ravens not concerned about outcry regarding towel giveaway

During our “Cheap Shots From the Bleachers” segment before last year’s Ravens-Steelers game at M&T Bank Stadium, I really used up all of the venom I have on this subject.

OF COURSE it’s shameful that the Ravens are giving away towels the night of a Ravens-Steelers game.

OF COURSE it’s embarrassing to hardcore Baltimore football fans to see their own team use a “copycat” version of a rival tradition.

OF COURSE fans should chose NOT to waive the towels but instead to use their hands to clap, bang thundersticks, or otherwise make noise.

OF COURSE the Ravens should really know better in this entire situation.

Unfortunately, they’re still going to give the stupid towel away Sunday night even though there is no one excited about it.

Hey-it makes a nice dish rag. If they were giving them away on the way out-I’d be okay with it. And even ol’ Forrester thinks it makes a nice wall flag…

df

3. The AP’s Alan Robinson says Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger wearing protective boot, expected to play Sunday vs. Ravens

OF COURSE Ben Roethlisberger is going to play Sunday.

(I’ve said “OF COURSE” a lot today. Annoying anyone?)

Of course, if Sabrina Maree lived in the Steel City (or here in Baltimore); I’m not so sure Big Ben wouldn’t be too distracted to make it to the game Sunday night. (Thanks The Beer Goggler via Busted Coverage!)

sabrinamaree

4. ESPN.com drops Ravens to 4th in power rankings

Calm down. The only three teams ahead of the Ravens are the Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots and New York Jets; who are all 9-2. The Ravens are first amongst the 8-3 teams.

Before we move on from the Ravens, a few things…

-I’m all for the idea of a “No Means No” chant Sunday night. I think it has to start during TV timeouts right before the Steelers take the ball. If this happens, I will seriously OWE the city of Baltimore for being so freaking awesome.

-The Ravens return to the practice field at 1 Winning Drive in Owings Mills today. We’ll of course be out there to cover everything happening on and off the practice field. Make sure you remain tuned in to AM1570 WNST, checking out WNST.net and following us on Twitter (@WNST).

5. The Sun’s Dan Connolly says chances of Cesar Izturis returning to Orioles continue to improve

With no offense to Cesar Izturis, umm……..I’d rather not.

Connolly says Jason Bartlett will be dealt by the Tampa Bay Rays, but not to Baltimore. Miguel Tejada is headed to the San Francisco Giants, who lost Juan Uribe to the Los Angeles Dodgers. It could still be an option for the Minnesota Twins to deal JJ Hardy, but they’re not guaranteed to sign Tsuyoshi Nishioka or not move him to second base.

If all else fails, why not Maggi Caruthers?!?!? (Thanks Guyism!)

caruthers

6. D1scourse’s Patrick Stevens says Ralph Friedgen named ACC Coach of the Year, QB Danny O’Brien named Rookie of the Year

Both of these were sort of “no brainer” types of decisions.

The only other real options for Coach of the Year were Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer. As the Seminoles did basically what everyone expected them to do and the Hokies only started playing well after losing to Boise State and James Madison; it would have been hard to justify either being honored ahead of Friedgen.

And I’m not sure I have many more words to scribe regarding O’Brien. Maybe it’s best the Terrapins DIDN’T make it to Charlotte to play in the ACC Championship Game. I’m not sure what else I could have said about him.

He’s like Matt Wieters. You know, expect…he’s actually done something.

7. UMTerps.com previews tonight’s tilt with Penn State in ACC/Big Ten Challenge

I’ll say Terrapins 77, Nittany Lions 69.

I think it will be close for a while though, and I don’t doubt that Talor Battle will get his.

But there would be no excuse for Maryland to not roll up to State College and dominate inside with Jordan Williams. That should absolutely be the difference maker.

SHOULD be I say.

8. The AP says Justin Fry’s 16 points not enough as UMBC fell at Penn

Randy Monroe’s Retrievers MIGHT be better than last year; but it hasn’t resulted in a win yet.

And with a trip to UConn coming Friday night-I’m not sure a win is coming soon either.

Towson is in action tonight, the Tigers host Western Michigan at the Towson Center at 7pm.

9. The AP says Michael Harper scored 19 points to lead Coppin State past Lincoln (Pennsylvania) at CSPEC

Now they gear up for not only an early season MEAC showdown; but the ultimate rivalry game-as they visit Hill Field House for a date with the Morgan State Bears Saturday at 4pm.

But to celebrate the Eagles’ win, I offer a picture of Dani Thompson. (Thanks The Smoking Jacket!)

danithompson

10. The Sun’s Hanah Cho says Maryland officials maintain they will work to protect Preakness as future of horse racing in jeopardy

Did you miss Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association President Richard Hoffberger Wednesday morning with Drew Forrester on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST? Make sure you head over to the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net today to check it out! Other things you’ll find in the Audio Vault include…

  • Mike Bires (Beaver County Times)-who talked Steelers with Drew Wednesday
  • Rich Dubroff (Carroll County Times)-who talked Ravens with Drew Wednesday
  • Paul Cantabene (Mustangs Lacrosse Coach)-who joined Drew Wednesday for “The Stevenson Coaches’ Report”
  • A Birds starting pitchers game (courtesy of Sporcle.com) Drew and Glenn Clark (I know him) played Wednesday morning, as well as a call from “Steve M from Kingsville.”
  • Keith Booth (Maryland assistant coach)-who joined Thyrl Nelson Tuesday for “The Terrapins Coaches’ Report”
  • Scott Smith (Strikeforce Fighter)-who joined Thyrl and John Rallo Tuesday during “The MMA Report”
  • Gregg Doyel (CBSSports.com)-who went around the sports world with Thyrl Tuesday on “The Mobtown Sports Beat”
  • Allen McCallum (WNST MLB Analyst)-who joined Rex Snider Tuesday for “The MLB Report”
  • Gabrielle Dow (Ravens VP of Marketing)-who joined Nestor Aparicio Tuesday on “The Afternoon Drive” to discuss the towel fiasco
  • John Czarnecki (FoxSports.com)-who went around the NFL Tuesday with Nestor

And finally, I leave you with this.

So apparently the North Carolina A&T band plays a version of the Antoine Dodson “Bed Intruder” song. Awesome. Thanks WNST intern Barry Kamen courtesy of Ryan Chell’s Facebook page…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3UsvLyu3N0[/youtube]

Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…

-G

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With Bucs Behind Them, Ravens Can Now Place Entire Focus On Steelers Showdown

Posted on 28 November 2010 by Glenn Clark

BALTIMORE — Wasn’t this exactly how the script read?

After their 17-14 Week 4 win over a Ben Roethlisberger-less Pittsburgh Steelers team at Heinz Field, weren’t the Baltimore Ravens (8-3) destined for a rematch in Week 13 with the AFC North title likely on the line?

There was little drama in setting up the showdown Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, as the Ravens dispatched the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-4) with relative ease. The 17-10 final score says the game was not of the “blowout” variety, but the Bucs were hardly in it at all over the course of sixty minutes.

There was significantly more drama for the Steelers, as they needed a touchdown drop from Bills WR Stevie Johnson and a tremendous OT performance from RB Rashard Mendenhall to lock up a 19-16 overtime win in Buffalo and stay on pace with the Ravens atop the division.

But everything fell into place, and the Ravens and Steelers (also 8-3) now get to meet up on Sunday Night Football in Charm City with the division title still well in the balance.

Minutes after the Ravens had polished off the Bucs, the anticipation for the Week 13 showdown was already building.

“We’re looking forward to it” said Head Coach John Harbaugh. “We respect them. (It’s) going to be a rough, tough, physical game.”

Harbaugh claimed he wasn’t aware of what the Steelers had done Sunday until after their own game was over, but it became apparent that he (and other members of the team) had seen the result on the big screen at M&T Bank Stadium and knew what was ahead of them.

“Once we saw (Shaun Suisham’s game winner for Pittsburgh), we knew we had to take care of our business” said LB Ray Lewis.

Lewis was amongst a number of players who wouldn’t shy away from the significance of next Sunday’s showdown.

“It’s a beautiful thing to sit here right and be playing for the division next week at home. The season just (doesn’t get any) better than that.”

Ravens-Steelers matchups usually tend to carry a little more significance than average NFL contests, but this one certainly shapes up to mean a little bit more.

“We know what’s in front of us” said TE Todd Heap. “When the Ravens play the Steelers in December, it usually has a lot of meeting and this game coming up definitely does. It will be a statement game for us.”

That couldn’t be a more accurate statement.

Ravens fans and analysts who cover the Ravens have been uniform in how puzzled they’ve been by the 2010 team. It’s easy to tell that the Ravens are a GOOD team, but not so easy to justify just how good they are.

A Ravens staffer approached me after Sunday’s win and said “what do you think?”

My only response was “I’m not sure.”

It’s been a common theme throughout Charm City, as callers to talk shows, message board participants and those who only talk around water coolers seem to agree only that the Ravens are good, but appear to be uncertain of just how good they are.

One week the response will be “I don’t think (QB Joe) Flacco is good enough.” Another week it will be “the defense isn’t good enough.”

As Sunday’s win was winding down, participants in WNST.net’s “Purple Haze” live chat were split on their emotions. There were statements about “not enough killer instinct” and “they were lucky at the end.”

Yet the same folks who fault the team’s performance are still quick to point out that they know the team is good.

They ARE good. In fact, they’re VERY good.

Good enough to be atop the division as the calendar turns to December. Good enough to be just a game behind the teams with the best record in the NFL.

And in one week, we’ll know everything we need to know about just how good the Ravens are.

With a win over the Steelers, the Ravens will unquestionably be the best team in the AFC North. A loss to the Steelers would leave the Ravens vying to simply fit into the AFC playoff puzzle.

It’s a big game.

It won’t be the final determining factor in the division. If the Ravens win, they’ll still have to protect a one game advantage over the last four weeks of the season-but they’ll be able to keep the division tiebreaker in their pocket. If the Steelers win, they’ll have to protect a one game advantage over the last four weeks of the season with tiebreaking scenarios very much in the balance.

The most likely scenario is that the team that wins Sunday will go on to win the division-with a home playoff game and a first round bye in the playoffs very likely to come with it.

The question will undoubtedly come up this week.

“Just how good are the Ravens, really?”

And for now, we have an answer.

“We’ll see next week.”

-G

Hear from Harbaugh, Flacco, Heap, Lewis, LB Terrell Suggs, WR Derrick Mason and S Dawan Landry following the Ravens’ win NOW in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net!

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For Certain, Ravens Must Become Team That Holds Ball Last

Posted on 12 November 2010 by Glenn Clark

ATLANTA, Ga. — If you think I wasn’t tempted to write a column that came off as “I told you so”, you’re wrong.

In fairness, I DID pick the Falcons to win 24-20 and said it would be the type of game that would come right down to the final seconds before it was decided.

I’d have every right to say “you should have seen this coming.”

But if I’m being fair, I didn’t REALLY see this coming at all.

I mean, who could have ever seen the Baltimore Ravens (6-3) barely touching the ball for the majority of the first half of their 26-21 loss to the Atlanta Falcons (7-2) Thursday night at the Georgia Dome?

Who could have ever seen the Ravens being forced to respond from two different 13 point deficits in the second half only to forge ahead on a TD strike from QB Joe Flacco to TE Todd Heap with 1:05 to play?

And certainly, who could have ever seen the comeback foiled by a methodical drive from Falcons QB Matt Ryan that culminated in a 33 yard TD toss to WR Roddy White?

I mean, I guess the script could have been written in a SIMILAR way, but not that exact way.

It’s funny, because the first “parting thought” that came to my mind as the game was ending was one that I shared via Twitter (you can follow @WNST to see my thoughts on Twitter). I said “Everyone wants someone to blame for a loss. I think I’ll blame Matt Ryan and Roddy White.”

And while it wasn’t the FINAL thought that came to me, I still stand by that. Sometimes good teams just lose to other good teams on the road. The Ravens are a good team (they don’t need me to apologize for them, they’ve proven how good they are throughout the season); but the Falcons are a good team too. And they played at home.

As Ravens RB Ray Rice said postgame “that’s the NFL.”

But even that wasn’t really the most important takeaway I had after the game.

The most important takeaway hit me as I was getting ready to scribe this column.

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