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Yanda practices as Ravens continue preparations for New Orleans

Posted on 20 November 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Right guard Marshal Yanda returned to the practice field Thursday as the Ravens continued preparations for their Monday night game against the New Orleans Saints.

The three-time Pro Bowl selection sat out Wednesday’s practice as Baltimore worked out in full pads. He had been nursing a knee injury prior to the bye week, but the Ravens did not have to release an injury report until Thursday. Yanda was listed as a limited participant on the first injury report of the week.

Wide receiver Michael Campanaro (hamstring) and offensive lineman Jah Reid (hand) both remained sidelined on Thursday, creating even more doubt for their availability in Week 12. Campanaro hasn’t played since the Oct. 26 contest against the Cincinnati Bengals while Reid broke his hand a few days before the Tennessee game.

Tight end Owen Daniels and linebacker Daryl Smith weren’t practicing after receiving the day off as they periodically do on Thursdays.

The Ravens are practicing inside their field house all week due to the cold temperatures outside and Monday’s game being played at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

The Saints continue to deal with injury concerns in their secondary as starting cornerback Keenan Lewis (knee) did not practice on Thursday. The former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back was limited last week before playing 10 snaps in the loss to Cincinnati.

Starting inside linebacker (ankle) and return specialist Travaris Cadet (hamstring) was also absent from practice on Thursday.

Below is the official injury report for Thursday:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Michael Campanaro (thigh), TE Owen Daniels (non-injury), T Jah Reid (hand), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: G Marshal Yanda (knee)

NEW ORLEANS
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB Travaris Cadet (hamstring), LB Kyle Knox (hand), CB Keenan Lewis (knee), LB Curtis Lofton (ankle), RB Khiry Robinson (forearm)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Robert Meachem (ankle), RB Pierre Thomas (rib/shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: RB Mark Ingram (shoulder), T Zach Strief (chest)

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Ravens hoping old foe brings out best in Steve Smith

Posted on 19 November 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Steve Smith wasn’t hiding his enthusiasm for playing on Monday Night Football as the Ravens are preparing to travel to the Big Easy this weekend to take on the New Orleans Saints.

He knows the entire country will be watching as this was the platform last year in which Smith uttered his now famous post-game phrase, “Ice up, son.”

“You get real excited,” Smith said on Wednesday. “Family members get to see you play. Ex-girlfriends that wished they wouldn’t have dumped you, they’re questioning themselves right now. It’s fun.”

The Ravens hope their top wide receiver will break a few more hearts Monday as he faces an opponent he’s very familiar with going back to his days playing in the NFC South. Entering 2014, his 99 catches, 1,493 receiving yards, and 10 touchdown receptions in 23 career games against New Orleans were more than he had produced against any other team. The Saints’ 24th-ranked pass defense could certainly lend a hand in a happy reunion as well.

The longtime Carolina Panther has continued his success against his old division this season, catching 15 passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns in three games against Carolina, Tampa Bay, and Atlanta. Baltimore would benefit from another huge game in trying to hand New Orleans a third consecutive home loss.

And it would be a comforting rebound for the veteran considering he caught only 11 passes for 88 yards and no touchdowns in the last three games prior to the bye — two of them losses to AFC North rivals.

“If we’re playing the way we want to, then he and everybody are going to be a big part of it,” said quarterback Joe Flacco, who downplayed Smith’s recent decline in production. “He’s had some pretty good games against these guys. Obviously, he’s played these guys for a long time, so hopefully when we get there, he feels comfortable and we get him another big game against these guys.”

After recharging from a physical standpoint last week, Smith has been all business returning to Owings Mills this week as he spent more than an hour with wide receivers coach Bobby Engram on Tuesday. The pair watched more than 100 plays together as Smith evaluated his own performance over the first 10 games of the season after posting four 100-yard games to tie a single-season franchise record.

Acknowledging he walked into the film room “kind of down” as he prepared to jot down his critique in a notebook, Smith said he felt encouraged after seeing so much positive while also identifying what he needs to do better. In the midst of his 14th NFL season, Smith leads the Ravens with 49 catches and 728 receiving yards.

“I need to be more dependable in certain areas,” Smith said. “And that falls on me. That doesn’t fall on Joe, doesn’t fall on [offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak], it doesn’t fall on [head coach John Harbaugh], or anybody. That falls directly on me. I’m a professional. I’ve been in this game for a long time. And if you can’t hold yourself accountable, you can’t expect anybody else to do it for you.

“I can’t expect Joe to believe in me that I’m going to win on a route if I haven’t done the proper technique, lined up, and run a route the way it’s suppose to be run for him to depend on me. That falls on me first. And that’s what I did in my bye week — enjoy my family — but I sat back and took some time and said, ‘What am I not bringing to the table, and why am I not doing it?'”

One of those areas to which Smith was referring could have been inside the red zone as the veteran has made just four receptions for 22 yards inside the opponent’s 20 this season. Of course, his 5-foot-9, 195-pound frame doesn’t make him the prototypical target for that area of the field, but one doesn’t accumulate 71 career touchdown receptions without at least some production near the goal line.

Despite Smith’s concerns and self-evaluation, the Ravens don’t appear overly concerned as Kubiak acknowledged last week that it falls on his shoulders to keep various weapons involved in the offseason while taking Smith’s recent production in stride with the overall ebb and flow of a 16-game schedule.

Needless to say, Smith and the Ravens are hoping he finishes the season with the same explosiveness in which he started, but some doubts will naturally linger about a 35-year-old receiver.

“I have to always find ways to get guys the ball,” Kubiak said. “I wish I could get them all the perfect amount every week, but those things usually don’t work that way. You have to get all of your play-makers the ball. Steve is doing a good job, and hopefully we get him back on the track that he was on earlier in the year. But he’s playing hard, working hard.”

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Campanaro, Yanda absent from Wednesday’s practice

Posted on 19 November 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens returned to their indoor field house in Owings Mills Wednesday to take part in their first practice open to media since returning from their bye week.

Making preparations for Monday’s prime-time game against the New Orleans Saints, Baltimore was without Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda (knee), rookie wide receiver Michael Campanaro (hamstring), and reserve offensive lineman Jah Reid (hand). The Ravens do not have to release their first injury report until Thursday with their Week 12 game on Monday night.

Yanda played all 62 offensive snaps of the Ravens’ 21-7 win over Tennessee on Nov. 9, but he had been nursing a knee injury for a couple weeks prior to that.

Campanaro hasn’t played since injuring his hamstring in the Oct. 26 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Head coach John Harbaugh expressed hope last week that the seventh-round pick would be close to returning after the bye as he’s missed the Ravens’ last two games.

Reid missed the Tennessee game after suffering a broken hand that required surgery. The Ravens have elected to keep him on the 53-man roster to this point instead of sending him to season-ending injured reserve.

The Saints appear to be in worse shape from an injury standpoint as talented rookie wideout Brandin Cooks (hand) and starting safety Rafael Bush (leg) were both placed on IR Tuesday. Cooks was New Orleans’ second-leading receiver behind All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham this season, and Bush had replaced injured Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd, who is also on IR.

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Harbaugh, Ravens feeling refreshed returning from bye

Posted on 17 November 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Returning from their latest bye since the 2001 season, the Ravens hope a week of rest is the perfect tonic to propel them to the postseason for the sixth time in seven years under head coach John Harbaugh.

At 6-4, Baltimore finds itself in the thick of the AFC playoff race, but next Monday’s trip to New Orleans will be a challenge for a team that’s just 2-3 on the road in 2014. Harbaugh hopes the late-season bye will allow the Ravens to finish strong as four of their final six games come against teams with records of .500 or better and that’s not including the 4-6 Saints who possess the NFL’s second-ranked offense.

“We’re going to have our hands full, and we better be ready to go,” Harbaugh said. “I like to believe that our guys understand that, but we’ll find out Monday night. I believe they do understand that.”

Players were off Tuesday through Sunday while Harbaugh gave his assistant coaches Thursday through Sunday to recharge for the final six games of the regular season. The Ravens are 5-1 in games returning from their bye week in the Harbaugh era and have won 10 of their last 12 post-bye games since the 2002 season.

Harbaugh hopes history is on their side as well as the benefit of a later bye as the Ravens are currently chasing first-place Cincinnati, who improved to 6-3-1 with an impressive win over the Saints on Sunday. Baltimore ranked ninth in the AFC playoff chase as a result of Pittsburgh’s Monday night win to conclude Week 11.

“You don’t realize how exhausted you are until you get a chance to take a deep breath and relax,” Harbaugh said. “The next thing you know, you’re like, ‘Wow, this has really been helpful.’ Everybody gets a bye week. We had ours this week, and we hope to make the most of it going forward for the rest of the season.”

Harbaugh doesn’t question penalty for Coffman

Asked about the NFL’s decision to fine Chase Coffman $30,000 for his malicious sideline hit on assistant coach Tony Coaxum in Week 10, Harbaugh chose to take the high road about the league not suspending the Tennessee Titans tight end.

The Ravens coach said he was told the collision wasn’t intentional, but it’s no secret that the organization was very unhappy about what happened late in the fourth quarter of the 21-7 win over Tennessee. Coaxum was not injured, but the FOX Sports video below leaves little debate about Coffman’s conduct.

“It’s really difficult to have a response to the level of punishment,” Harbaugh said. “I know the league has protocols, and they have standards and histories and things like that that they look really hard at. We don’t ever really question that part of it. That’s in their purview.”

Ravens wanted to keep Sunday night star Gray

Former practice squad running back Jonas Gray became the toast of the NFL Sunday night with his 199-yard, four-touchdown performance in the New England Patriots’ 42-20 win over Indianapolis.

Gray spent the 2013 regular season on the Ravens’ practice squad before electing to sign a reserve-futures contract with New England last offseason. Asked about the Michigan native rushing for a single-game high in the NFL this season, Harbaugh mentioned their respective in-state ties as a springboard to a good relationship, even mentioning that Gray’s mom brought food to the team during their Week 15 game in Detroit last December.

“We were disappointed to lose Jonas last year when we lost him. We really thought he had a lot of upside,” Harbaugh said. “He felt like that was an opportunity that he wanted to pursue, and obviously, it’s paid off for him. I wish him nothing but the best, but I was happy for him [Sunday] night to see him do that. That was great to see.”

Of course, no one could have predicted Gray’s breakout performance as even New England stashed him on the practice squad for a large portion of this season, but you do wonder if the Ravens regret not giving him a look last season while they were experiencing such drastic woes with the running game.

Conflicted coach

Harbaugh’s strong ties to the University of Michigan are no secret, making for a fun moment Monday when he was asked to predict the winner of this Saturday’s Maryland-Michigan game in Ann Arbor.

Neither team is exactly fighting for a Big Ten title this year as there has been plenty of debate about the future of Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke. Harbaugh paused and smiled before providing his answer to the question about who would prevail.

“May the best team win,” he said while laughing. “How’s that?”

Practice squad changes (again)

The Ravens made their latest change to their practice squad Monday, signing tight end Allen Reisner and cutting tight end Emmanuel Ogbuehi.

Reisner is in his fourth NFL season and has spent time with Jacksonville, Minnesota, and New England. He has registered seven catches for 58 yards in 15 career games split between the Jaguars and Vikings.

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Saints rookie receiver Cooks out with broken thumb

Posted on 17 November 2014 by Luke Jones

As if they weren’t encouraged enough by watching the New Orleans Saints drop their second straight home game Sunday, the Ravens learned a day later they won’t have to deal with standout rookie wide receiver Brandin Cooks in Week 12.

Cooks suffered a broken thumb that’s expected to sideline him at least for a few weeks, meaning the Saints’ first-round pick and emerging wideout won’t be available when Baltimore travels to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome next Monday night. Of course, New Orleans has a wide array of other weapons in All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham and wide receivers Marques Colston and Kenny Stills, but the Saints are coming off their lowest scoring output at home since 2006 and Cooks was emerging as their second-best playmaker behind Graham in recent weeks.

He leads all NFL rookies with 53 receptions for 550 yards and three touchdown catches, ranking second on the team behind Graham in all three categories.

The Saints are also banged up in the secondary after losing safety Rafael Bush to a broken fibula in the fourth quarter of their 27-10 loss to Cincinnati. This comes after New Orleans already lost Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd for the season last month.

Though their Monday night trip won’t be easy with an inexperienced secondary, the Ravens should be feeling much better about their chances with quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints off to an underwhelming 4-6 start and even experiencing inconsistency on the offensive side of the ball at times this season.

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Ravens add former Saints offensive lineman Marcel Jones to practice squad

Posted on 01 September 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens finished setting their 10-man practice squad Monday by signing former New Orleans Saints offensive lineman Marcel Jones.

A seventh-round pick in the 2012 draft, Jones has yet to play in an NFL game after spending his rookie season on injured reserve and the 2013 campaign as a member of the Saints’ practice squad. The 6-foot-7, 320-pound lineman was cut over the weekend after playing 25 snaps against the Ravens in the preseason finale last Thursday.

The Nebraska product has the ability to play tackle or guard and gives Baltimore more depth in the event of injuries to their current 53-man roster that includes nine offensive linemen.

The Ravens signed nine players to their practice squad on Sunday as offensive lineman Ryan Jensen, cornerbacks Tramain Jacobs and Deji Olatoye, defensive tackles A.J. Pataiali’i and Jamie Meder, linebacker John Simon, tight end Phillip Supernaw, running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, and quarterback Keith Wenning rejoined the organization after being waived at the end of the preseason.

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Ravens wouldn’t designate Pitta’s position if franchise tag comes into play

Posted on 26 February 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are less than a week away from needing to decide whether to use the franchise tag on tight end Dennis Pitta, but it appears that the potential conflict over the position at which he’ll be tagged won’t be up to them.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rappoport, when a team sends a letter to the league announcing its intention to name a franchise player, it does not designate that player at a specific position. In Pitta’s case, the league — not the Ravens — would then determine whether he is to be tagged as a tight end or wide receiver.

Much like New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, Pitta is expected to file a grievance through the NFL Players Association arguing that he should be tagged as a wide receiver after he lined up in the slot on 79.7 percent of his snaps in 2013. The collective bargaining agreement states that a franchise player is to be tendered at the position “at which [he] participated in the most plays during the prior league year.”

The 2014 salary cap hasn’t been officially set — with new reports surfacing that the cap may climb higher than $130 million — but the current estimated franchise tenders for the tight end and wide receiver positions are $6.89 million and $11.86 million, respectively.

Teams have until Monday at 4 p.m. to elect to name a franchise player.

This clarification serves to benefit the Ravens in two important ways while they continue negotiations to lock up the 28-year-old tight end to a long-term agreement.

First, it would seem to eliminate any argument that a player could be deemed an unrestricted free agent if an arbitrator were to find a team had incorrectly tagged a player and, thus, missed the March 3 deadline to designate him properly. There had been some speculation about Graham — and possibly Pitta — using this argument as a way to still be able to cash in on a monster free-agent contract in 2014, but with teams not being the ones to designate a franchise player’s position, it’s assumed that the franchise tender amount would simply be altered from one figure to another with the tag remaining in place.

Secondly, this process would appear to diminish animosity over a franchise-tag fight with the Ravens having no say over Pitta being tagged as a tight end or a wide receiver. Of course, contract negotiations can create plenty of tension already without the added element of a position squabble that could mean a difference of nearly $5 million in salary.

The Ravens are expected to use the franchise tag on Pitta if they can’t sign him prior to March 3, but coach John Harbaugh wasn’t ready to rule out the possibility of the organization allowing the fifth-year tight end to test the open market. Free agency officially begins at 4 p.m. on March 11.

“I think every scenario is possible here,” Harbaugh told reporters in Indianapolis last week. “The franchise tag is very vague right now, so anything could happen.”

Pitta’s age is something to consider as he’s older than most players entering their fifth season after he took a two-year mission trip during his college days at Brigham Young. And that, coupled with the confusion over the franchise tag, has made these negotiations more complicated than many anticipated.

Of course, the Ravens would prefer to get a deal ironed out sooner rather than later, but no agreement was considered imminent at the conclusion of the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis earlier this week.

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 07 January 2014 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: Women’s College Basketball-Wake Forest @ Maryland (Thursday 7pm Comcast Center); Boxing: Arash Usmanee vs. Juan Antonio Rodriguez (Friday 9pm from Tacoma, WA live on ESPN2)

10. Jimmie’s Chicken Shack (Friday 9pm Rams Head Live); Dirty Dozen Brass Band (Thursday 8pm Rams Head on Stage); Cracker (Saturday 6pm 9:30 Club); Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder (Friday & Saturday 7:30pm Birchmere); Peter Gabriel “Scratch My Back & I’ll Scratch Yours” available in stores/on iTunes (Tuesday)

JCS is celebrating the 15th anniversary of one of the most important records OF MY LIFE.

I would like to go see Dirty Dozen Brass Band, yes, thanks for asking.

Cracker does that one song you kinda remember.

And now here’s Ricky Skaggs.

9. Blue Man Group (Friday-Sunday France-Merrick Performing Arts Center at The Hippodrome); Jim Gaffigan (Friday & Saturday 7pm & 9:30pm Warner Theatre); Rob Schneider (Thursday-Sunday DC Improv); “Archer” season five premiere (Monday 10pm FX); Lone Survivor“, “Her” and “August: Osage County” out in theaters (Friday); Baltimore County Restaurant Week (Friday-Monday throughout Baltimore County)

Obviously the only thing that matters this week is the return of Archer. Enjoy the next eight minutes of your life. They won’t get better.

Also, this is great.

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“The Reality Check” Week 11 NFL Power Rankings

Posted on 13 November 2013 by Glenn Clark

Glenn Clark’s Rankings…

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (Last Week 32)

The good news? They won. The bad news? So did all of the other bad teams.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (31)

Same issue.

30. Oakland Raiders (26)

Pick up Rashad Jennings, they said.

29. Houston Texans (27)

I picked them to go to the Super Bowl. No. Really.

28. Atlanta Falcons (24)

28th, y’all. 28th.

27. Washington Redskins (23)

I mean, that’s just awful.

26. Minnesota Vikings (30)

So Jared Allen is still pretty good.

25. Buffalo Bills (21)

I’m sorry I ever got a good feeling about them.

24. St. Louis Rams (29)

I have no idea what to make of that. None.

23. New York Giants (28)

Totally in the NFC East mix.

22. Tennessee Titans (19)

So…does Jake Locker get another year?

21. Pittsburgh Steelers (25)

I think I’m going to say “Pittsburgher” out loud and giggle again.

20. Miami Dolphins (16)

But they might finish the season at Number 30.

19. San Diego Chargers (15)

Good news-Miami next.

18. Green Bay Packers (12)

J.R.R. Tolkien should make a hell of a quarterback.

17. Baltimore Ravens (22)

KNOCK IT DOWN!

(Continued on Page 2…)

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“The Reality Check” Week 7 NFL Power Rankings

Posted on 16 October 2013 by Glenn Clark

Glenn Clark’s Rankings…

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (Last Week 32)

When you watch the documentary about the 2013 Jags, the highlight will be halftime of last week’s game.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (31)

Does the MRSA outbreak even end up in the Top 5 worst things to happen to them this season?

30. New York Giants (30)

They’re on Monday Night Football because ESPN is dying for you to find out what “The Blacklist” is all about.

29. Minnesota Vikings (27)

Oh-also they really wanted you to see an episode of The Voice, too.

28. Oakland Raiders (26)

They beat the Chargers?

27. Washington Redskins (23)

But their Special Teams Unit is number 6.798,544,213.

26. Pittsburgh Steelers (29)

Please tell me this wasn’t the start of them becoming the Steelers again.

25. Carolina Panthers (28)

There’s no in between with them, is there?

24. Atlanta Falcons (24)

Please Harry Douglas. Please Harry Douglas. Please Harry Douglas. Love, former Julio Jones fantasy owner.

23. Buffalo Bills (22)

Matt Flynn will definitely throw for 400 yards at some point this season, right?

22. Houston Texans (21)

They actually can’t get worse, can they?

21. St. Louis Rams (25)

So wait, is Zac Stacy a thing?

20. New York Jets (19)

It would be SOOO Jets for them to beat New England Sunday.

19. Tennessee Titans (18)

Jake Locker’s injury will be an undernoticed major storyline to the season when it’s over.

18. Philadelphia Eagles (20)

Nick Foles definitely starts every game the rest of the way, no?

17. Arizona Cardinals (15)

The good news is that Seattle doesn’t have a Vernon Davis.

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