Tag Archive | "Sergio Kindle"

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Live from Owings Mills: Ravens thrilled with Kindle’s return to field

Posted on 28 July 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A year ago at this time, Ravens linebacker Sergio Kindle was in a hospital bed, uncertain of his future quality of life, let alone whether he would ever be able to play football again.

But as the Ravens returned to the practice field for the first time since the end of the 134-day lockout, coaches and players alike couldn’t help but take satisfaction in seeing Kindle’s smiling face as he stepped on the practice field for the first time in over a year. Coach John Harbaugh even noted that Kindle smiled as he took — and passed — the dread conditioning test to which every player is subjected.

None of it means Kindle will approach the potential he once had when the Ravens selected him with the 43rd overall pick of the 2010 NFL draft, but it’s a large step forward from where the 23-year-old was 12 months ago. Another test will take place over the weekend when the Ravens can go live in practice for the first time.

“It’s great for him as a person,” Harbaugh said. “That’s the No. 1 thing — what he’s overcome and to be out there. He looked good. Obviously, that’s one step, but I’m just happy for him. He had joy written all over his face.”

Keeping in mind Thursday’s workout was not a live practice with players dressed in helmets, shells, and shorts, Kindle was a full participant, running mostly with the second defense. He lined up with his hand in the grass — rushing around the edge — and dropped back into coverage at other times.

“He practiced well, so it’s going to be fun to see how he progresses,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve got high hopes for him right now.

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For a 16-year veteran like linebacker Ray Lewis, it was a moment he enjoyed watching a “young kid” regain his future. Lewis spoke to Kindle before the lockout ended and heard the news directly from the former Texas product that doctors had cleared him to play.

“He can really go ahead and pursue what he wants to pursue,” Lewis said. “Now, to see him out there running around, to see the smile on his face just to be back on a football field, there’s just nothing more rewarding than just being around that right now.”

Kindle’s conditioning is not a concern, as the former second-round pick went through a combine workout in January and matched his numbers from the 2010 rookie combine that took place months before his fall down two flights of stairs last July. However, how he responds to live contact and potential blows to the head remains to be seen.

Reid ready

Third-round pick Jah Reid came to terms on a new contract as the Ravens’ first practice was beginning. Instead of rewarding himself with a relaxing afternoon, however, the offensive tackle signed his four-year contract, took (and passed) his conditioning test, and joined his teammates on the practice field.

Reid took plenty of reps at right tackle with the first offense, with many believing he could be the starter this season with a strong training camp.

“He is one of the few lineman to make it through practice, so I think that says a lot about him,” Harbaugh said. “He is an athlete. For a man his size, he can really bend and move his feet, and he is picking up fast. We don’t want to overstate it. How many weeks are we behind with these guys? And it’s only one practice, but so far, so good.”

The Ravens could very well explore veteran options through free agency, but Reid’s current competition at right tackle includes the likes of maligned fourth-year tackle Oniel Cousins and second-year player Ramon Harewood.

Can’t take the heat

With a three-hour practice on a Thursday afternoon, numerous players were dealing with cramping issues, including rookie receivers Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss, receiver James Hardy, and fullback Jason McKie. Smith was taken into the training room halfway through practice but returned. McKie was taken inside during the latter portion of practice and did not return.

Others leaving the field with potential injuries included linebacker Jason Phillips and offensive tackle Eric Vanden Heuvel. Rookie receiver Terrell Zachery had an ice pack on the back of his knee in the latter portion of practice.

A number of veterans were present at practice, but did not participate, including left guard Ben Grubbs, receiver David Reed, and offensive tackle Ramon Harewood. They would appear to be candidates for the active physically unable to perform list, which allows a player to be eligible for the reserve PUP — where Ed Reed landed for the first six weeks of the 2010 regular season. Players on the active PUP list can return to practice at any time.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs sat out with a sore hamstring as a precautionary measure.

Veterans signing new contracts such — which includes unrestricted and restricted free agents as well as exclusive-rights players are not eligible to practice until Aug. 4 under the new collective bargaining agreement. This date signifies the start of the new league year.

This means a number of veterans were absent from the field, including Tom Zbikowski, Haruki Nakamura, Jameel McClain, Tavares Gooden, and Dannell Ellerbe. This would also include the newly-signed Marshal Yanda as well as Prescott Burgess.

Safety Ed Reed, who is under contract, was not present for practice.

Rookies getting up to speed

With eight draft picks and 26 rookie free agents not having the opportunity to undergo a typical offseason at the Ravens’ training facility, the learning curve of grasping the playbook is as difficult as it’s ever been for players hoping to make the 53-man roster or practice squad.

For example, rookies Mana Silva and Nate Williams received extensive time at safety with the first-team defense since Reed, Nakamura, and Zbikowski were not present on Thursday. The Ravens’ defensive leader Lewis views rookies as having the biggest challenge with no offseason to prepare mentally.

“They don’t have the time and the opportunity anymore to really grasp those things,” Lewis said. “Everything is fast. If you’re not a great studier, then you fall behind. If you’re not a quick learner on the field, then you fall behind. You find those diamonds in the rough sometimes through going through that process. Every team is dealing with it though.”

Quick as a Fox

With Kindle’s return to practice grabbing so much attention, it was easy to forget about Domonique Foxworth’s first action since a torn ACL injury ended his 2010 season during a walk-through the night before the first full-squad practice of training camp.

The seven-year veteran cornerback did not wear a brace or wrap on his surgically-repaired right knee and appeared quick to the ball on several repetitions during passing and team drills. Foxworth labeled himself 100 percent healthy when he reported on Tuesday despite an “up and down” offseason rehabbing the injury.

“He didn’t seem to be hesitant at all,” Harbaugh said. “He seemed confident and looked strong, so that was a pleasant thing to see.”

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Jan 5, 2010; Newport Beach, CA, USA; Texas Longhorns defensive end Sergio Kindle at the 2010 BCS National Championship media day at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa. Photo via Newscom

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Sergio Kindle’s problems are more than “mistakes” …..

Posted on 27 December 2010 by Rex Snider

Well, we had about a full sixty minutes to absorb the Ravens latest win and third consecutive berth into the playoffs, before the sobering reality of everyday life and the dangers of temptation crashed the party ….

While news of Sergio Kindle’s DWI arrest, early Sunday morning, does not totally undermine or extinguish the sense of accomplishment, it does send a souring note to everyone: THE RAVENS MAY END UP REGRETTING THEIR FIRST SELECTION OF THE 2010 NFL DRAFT.

And, it has nothing to do with his football playing skills …..

According to Howard County Police, Kindle was arrested shortly after 4:09am and subsequently charged with Driving While Intoxicated, Driving Under The Influence of Alcohol and various traffic-related infractions.

Obviously, this is not Kindle’s first brush with law enforcement, and more significantly it’s not his first arrest for charges related to operating a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol. In 2007, he was arrested, in Texas, for offenses similar to Sunday’s incident.

And, as we’ve known, additional circumstances of questionable behavior exist, as well …..

In 2009, he crashed his vehicle into a building, at around 2am, while supposedly TEXT MESSAGING. Immediately following that crash, he pushed the car back into the street and fled the scene – while not reporting the incident until the following day.

Smell fishy? It should ….

Kindle never faced any criminal charges in relation to the 2009 incident, and he was not suspended from the Texas Longhorns football program. It should be noted that he was suspended three games for the 2007 incident.

Jan 5, 2010; Newport Beach, CA, USA; Texas Longhorns defensive end Sergio Kindle at the 2010 BCS National Championship media day at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa. Photo via Newscom

I suppose many assumptions and conclusions can be drawn from the news of Sunday morning’s arrest. For me, none of these opinions should be related to football or the perceived future of the Baltimore Ravens organization.

I’ll be blunt …. Sergio Kindle obviously has a problem. I’m not saying, nor suggesting he has a dependence upon alcohol. I don’t know him and any such assessment would be made from an uninformed and ignorant standpoint.

However, I do think it’s quite fair to say this young man has a propensity to make some very poor decisions, while drinking. And, for such indiscretions, he must be held accountable . At the same time, it’s the burden of Howard County prosecutors to ensure Kindle finally gets IT; driving a vehicle, while influenced by alcohol, has serious ramifications.

If convicted, should he be incarcerated? I don’t know …. I don’t know the magnitude of this latest incident, nor do I know the intimate details of his arrest, in Texas.

But, I do know this …..

Whenever someone drinks alcohol, their ability to drive a vehicle is impaired. Such hindrances can lead anyone to make the poorest reactions – in just a split second’s time.

Those “mistakes” can lead to the impaired driver killing themselves and any passengers. Or, more significantly, they can kill a few members of a family in that minivan they just hit in a head-on collision, as they drove home from visiting loved ones on the Christmas holiday.

Don’t tell me I’m being dramatic or sensationalizing an incident, because I’m not even scratching the surface of the hell and sorrow that follows when somebody’s life ends at the hands of a drunken driver.

In fairness, I’ll disclose that I’ve met Sergio Kindle on one occasion and he seemed like a genuinely kindhearted man. He gave me every indication that he loves and cares about people and was openly friendly to everyone who approached him.

But, he was also sober …..

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Ngata

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The ‘fall’ of the Ravens defense started many Aprils ago

Posted on 17 November 2010 by Luke Jones

If you’ve been wearing out your Greg Mattison dartboard over the last several weeks, you’re probably not alone.

After all, the current Ravens defensive coordinator is solely responsible for the fall of a once-dominant unit all the way to 10th in the NFL, right?

(As an aside, how spoiled are we to be frustrated with a unit still better — statistically — than 22 other defenses in the league?)

From eliminating the submissive three-man rush to playing tighter, press coverage in the secondary, Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan, or Rex Ryan would be coaching this defense to the elite level it enjoyed over the last decade instead of the mortal status it currently holds.

If only it were that simple.

Placing blame on a few individuals is common practice (Mattison, maligned cornerback Fabian Washington, and, until recently, “overrated” linebacker Terrell Suggs are popular targets these days), but the defensive problems run far deeper.

Personnel issues, aging stars, a key injury (anyone remember Domonique Foxworth?), and — perhaps — coaching shortcomings have left the Ravens with an above-average defense pursuing ghosts of dominance on the M&T Bank Stadium turf.

Truth be told, the current deterioration of the Baltimore defense began years ago, even while the unit was enjoying perennial elite status.

Anyone who’s followed Ozzie Newsome’s 15 years in Baltimore knows organizational success begins and ends in April. Shrewd trades and a sprinkling of free-agent signings have contributed over the years, but the Ravens have traditionally made their money with the NFL Draft, especially on the defensive side of the football.

Ngata
(Photo courtesy of ESPN.com)

And herein lies the problem with the current defense.

Since the Ravens drafted Suggs with the 10th overall pick in the 2003 draft, Newsome has used only one first-round pick on a defensive player, tackle Haloti Ngata in 2006.

By no means is that an indictment of Newsome, director of player personnel Eric DeCosta, and the scouting department in Owings Mills. The Ravens had no choice but to address the offensive side of the football in hopes of reaching the pinnacle of the NFL.

If defense alone truly wins championships, the Ravens would have a showcase full of Vince Lombardi Trophies in the lobby at 1 Winning Drive, but Baltimore has fallen short with a number of elite defenses, all because of offensive units that couldn’t get out of their own way.

As a result, the team has used five of its last six first-round picks on offensive players, including quarterback Joe Flacco (2008) and current starting linemen Ben Grubbs (2007) and Michael Oher (2009). Meanwhile, the defense largely maintained the status quo, carrying the mantra of dominance for years.

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Perhaps seeing leaks last season, the front office emphasized defense in April, drafting Sergio Kindle from Texas and the mammoth Terrence Cody from Newsome’s alma mater of Alabama. Ultimately, a draft’s success cannot be gauged for a few years, but the short-term return has been negligible halfway through the 2010 season.

In fairness, if you could have predicted Kindle’s fall down two flights of stairs in late July, forget about running an NFL front office; I’m asking you for this weekend’s winning lottery numbers.

Cody, on the other hand, still has time to contribute in the short-term and has played better in the Ravens’ last two games after a slow start to his professional career.

But one draft was not going to fix a philosophical shift in recent years that focused on offense with defensive upgrades taking a backseat. A simple look at the defensive picks in the Ravens’ first three rounds since 2004 shows the underwhelming results (the round in which the player was selected is noted in parentheses):

2004: DE Dwan Edwards (2nd)
2005: LB Dan Cody (2nd)
2006: DT Haloti Ngata (1st), CB David Pittman (3rd)
2007: None
2008: LB Tavares Gooden (3rd), S Tom Zbikowski (3rd)
2009: DE Paul Kruger (2nd), CB Lardarius Webb (3rd)
2010: LB Sergio Kindle (2nd), DT Terrence Cody (2nd)

Far more alarming than the lack of first-round selections is the volume of players who failed to make an impact as higher selections. Dan Cody (injuries) and Pittman (ineffectiveness) barely made it on the field in their brief time in Baltimore, and it remains unknown whether Kindle will ever play again, let alone contribute at a high level.

Other players, such as Edwards before signing with Buffalo last offseason, Gooden, and Kruger, have been little more than role players, contributing at times but failing to make a significant impact, though recent draft picks deserve more time to develop.

In contrast, a look at the Ravens’ defensive selections in the first three rounds from 1996 to 2003 shows a much different picture:

1996: LB Ray Lewis (1st), CB DeRon Jenkins (2nd)
1997: LB Peter Boulware (1st), LB Jamie Sharper (2nd), S Kim Herring (2nd)
1998: CB Duane Starks (1st)
1999: CB Chris McAlister (1st)
2000: None
2001: CB Gary Baxter (2nd)
2002: S Ed Reed (1st), DE Anthony Weaver (2nd)
2003: LB Terrell Suggs (1st)

The number of players chosen is similar (11 defensive players chosen in eight years compared to the 10 defenders selected in the seven drafts since 2004), but every player on the latter list started multiple seasons — many of them at elite levels — except Jenkins, who was largely considered a bust in his four years with the Ravens. Of course, the six first-rounds selections paid the largest dividends, but their other picks made significant contributions as well.

Looking at their draft record since 2004 and comparing it to the franchise’s first eight years in Baltimore reveals that in addition to the front office using fewer first-round picks on defensive players, it hasn’t been nearly as successful finding defensive talent in the second and third rounds, especially at cornerback where the unit currently struggles.

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Ed Reed to begin season on PUP, miss first 6 weeks

Posted on 03 September 2010 by Luke Jones

After months of speculation regarding his status for the start of the 2010 season, Ed Reed will be placed on the reserve physically unable to perform list, meaning the Ravens will be without their All-Pro safety for at least the first six weeks of the regular season. The decision was first reported by the NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora on Friday night.

The soon-to-be 32-year-old Reed missed all of training camp and the preseason after undergoing hip surgery to repair a torn labrum in the offseason. Despite occasionally doing agility and conditioning work in Westminster, Reed described his surgically-repaired hip as only “35 percent” in late July before training camp started.

Given the Ravens’ depth at the safety position with Tom Zbikowski performing well in Reed’s place in the preseason and reserve Haruki Nakamura also making plays in the secondary, the organization will choose the safe route despite Reed reportedly campaigning to play sooner.

“This is a slow process,” Reed told WNST.net’s Drew Forrester on The Morning Reaction in early July. “I don’t want to come back and have another injury and then be out for the whole season, maybe even a career. I’m going to take my time with this one and hope everyone can bear with me on this one, and we’ll see what happens.”

Reed injured the hip last season, forcing him to miss four games before returning to the field for the final week of the regular season and the playoffs. The safety made 50 tackles and had three interceptions in 12 games, earning his sixth invitation to the Pro Bowl.

The decision to place Reed on the reserve PUP list likely means the team will elect to keep veteran safety Ken Hamlin or young defensive back K.J. Gerard — or possibly both — to join Nakamura as the backup safeties. Zbikowski will now be expected to occupy the free safety position next to Dawan Landry in the starting lineup for at least the first six games of the season.

When placed on the reserve PUP list, a player must miss the first six weeks of the season but does not count against the 53-man roster. After this time, there is a three-week window during which the player may return to practice (without counting against the 53-man roster) and can be activated as early as Week 7. A decision must be made within the frame of the three-week period to either activate the player or keep him on the PUP list for the remainder of the season.

The earliest Reed could return would be against the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 24.

Reed becomes the third player on the roster to be placed on PUP to begin the regular season, joining linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo and running back Matt Lawrence, who were given the same designations earlier this week.

Injured rookie linebacker Sergio Kindle remains unsigned after fracturing his skull a few days prior to training camp. He would be eligible for the PUP list when he agrees to terms on a contract with the Ravens.

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Optimistic Ravens exit Westminster as stakes begin to grow

Posted on 19 August 2010 by Luke Jones

Optimism percolated from every route leading to Westminster as the masses flooded to McDaniel College over the last four weeks to take a glimpse at a team with its sights set on a date in Dallas on the first Sunday in February.

The Ravens set an all-time training camp attendance record of 112,051 despite a new kid-friendly autograph policy that many thought would temper the masses.

Even with the uncertain status of Ed Reed and the unfortunate losses of rookie Sergio Kindle and Domonique Foxworth, the Ravens have practiced with a swagger indicative of a team fully expecting to be playing deep into January or—with some good fortune—even later. A workmanlike demeanor from third-year coach John Harbaugh has muzzled some of the flamboyant comments uttered by players in past anticipated seasons, but the goal is clear, even under the hot sun of Westminster.

“[Camp has] just been tremendous,” Harbaugh said. “First of all, we’ve gotten a lot of work done. Our guys have worked really hard, and it’s a grind. Football training camp is hard work.”

Despite injury concerns in the secondary (Reed and Lardarius Webb) and offensive line (Jared Gaither), the Ravens managed to avoid any more catastrophic injuries after the deflating loss of Foxworth on July 29.

Breaking camp marks the next step in the quest for a Super Bowl, but the stakes rise much higher from this point forward. Optimism and good vibes are easily found in the secluded confines of an NFL training camp.

Despite the open nature of practices in Westminster, coaches and players work within a cocoon of order. Distractions are at a minimum as players live with curfews and are away from everyday responsibilities related to family and friends.

It was football and only football for four taxing weeks, but players return to a sense of normalcy on Friday.

Now, Joe Flacco and a much-improved offense—on paper anyway—have three more preseason games to fine-tune their work to determine if the vision of becoming an elite unit comes to fruition.

As much as we analyze every play and every day of the summer, picking on cornerbacks like Doug Dutch and Chris Hawkins shows little in terms of how explosive the Baltimore offense will ultimately be. The pressure gets that much heavier, even if the workload of practice decreases.

An unsettling situation at the right tackle position might derail that optimism as quickly as Ray Rice can take it 83 yards to the end zone. The physical and mental health of Gaither is critical with unproven players in Oniel Cousins and Tony Moll—who have also been hindered with injuries—waiting behind him.

An even shakier atmosphere exists with the defense, a perennial top-5 unit in the NFL for over a decade. Even before the loss of Foxworth due to a torn ACL, the Ravens were light on quality at cornerback and occasionally-promising showings from the likes of Travis Fisher, Cary Williams, and Prince Miller in Westminster will not get it done against the Cincinnatis and New Englands of the world.

Fabian Washington has progressed nicely in his recovery from a torn ACL last season and will see his first game action against the Washington Redskins on Saturday. Chris Carr, the nickelback a season ago, will be relied upon to hold down the other starting spot as Webb will presumably be getting back to the practice field in the coming days.

And, oh yeah, the six-time All-Pro Reed still has no timetable for a return despite making progress in rehabbing his surgically-repaired hip. Tom Zbikowski has competently held his spot at free safety with the Ravens showing cautious optimism that Reed might be able to play Week 1. However, only the enigmatic safety really knows when he will be ready.

“We feel like the guys that we have are going to be able to go in there and get the job done,” said Carr, who reminded reporters the Ravens finished with the eighth-ranked pass defense last season despite late-season injuries. “We feel like we’re experienced, and we have a lot of potential to get better. We feel like we can do a lot of things back there.”

Easy feelings to have within the sheltered atmosphere of Westminster, but Ozzie Newsome knows better. The front office clearly wants—and needs—to upgrade the cornerback position, even if  it’s only a quality third or fourth defensive back from another team.

The most critical component to enhancing the suspect pass defense is improving the pass rush, as the Ravens produced their second lowest sack total (32) in franchise history in 2009.

Despite the absence of the rookie Kindle, Antwan Barnes and Paul Kruger have impressed in that area, both in camp and against the Carolina Panthers last Thursday. The emergence of these two coupled with a healthy and motivated Terrell Suggs might just mask a weaker secondary.

However, we’ve seen strong preseason performances from countless young players in years past—Barnes being one of them—only to see them forgotten by mid-September.

When the Ravens put Westminster in the rear-view mirror on Friday, they leave training camp behind and return to the cozy confines in Owings Mills, but the summer sun rapidly transforms to the white-hot expectations created—locally and nationally—over the last seven months.

“Hopefully, we’re the best football team we can be coming out of this training camp at this time, but we still have work to do,” Harbaugh said. “Next week we’ll be right into training camp again, and it’ll be one-a-days, more of an in-season type schedule, but we’ll still be in camp as far as we’re concerned.”

Cutdown dates loom for players trying to secure a roster spot, the clock ticks on whether Newsome can find another piece to enhance the secondary, and the New York Jets and Monday Night Football await in less than four weeks.

Thankful players say goodbye to the team hotel in Westminster and return to their own beds on Friday, but with that come the more restless nights as a season of lofty expectations quickly approaches.

Training camp is in the books.

From here on out, it gets a little more real.

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How Much Is The Fox Worth ?

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How Much Is The Fox Worth ?

Posted on 02 August 2010 by Rex Snider

On Friday morning, I packed up a week’s worth of wares and officially brought my vacation to an end, as I departed Dewey Beach. While driving north, thru Rehoboth, my Blackberry sounded with a message from the trusted WNST Text Service …..

“Ravens CB Domonique Foxworth tears ACL in his knee”

While I certainly expected the obvious medical diagnosis – GONE FOR THE YEAR – I did not expect the onslaught of doom and gloom, and occasional panic, that would ensue throughout the afternoon. As much as many Ravens fans have chosen to feast upon the pre-season hype, a proportionate number also greeted Foxworth’s injury with a feeling of insurmountable loss.

Really?

While I’ll agree he was the best cornerback on the active roster, as Friday’s full camp opened, I’ve never really considered Domonique Foxworth to be among the irreplacable realities of a Ray Lewis, Joe Flacco, Michael Oher and Haloti Ngata. Indeed, if one of these players tears his ACL, you can push the PANIC BUTTON.

Let me start by saying I liked Foxworth’s play during the final stages of the 2009 season and he was certainly going to be relied upon for carrying a more significant role as a season opening matchup with the New York Jets neared. But, irreplacable? Sorry, I just don’t see it.

Some optimists might point out his perceived lackluster coverage in the early stages of last season. Indeed, Foxworth appeared to struggle against bigger, physical receivers. Does anyone recall the game in San Diego …..
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However, in true fairness it’s also quite rightful to point out the Ravens’ surprisingly substandard pass rush, last season. In fact, it’s just an absolute truth. Domonique Foxworth had very little support from Terrell Suggs and company, when it came to pressuring the likes of Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, Brett Favre and Carson Palmer.

And, as we all know, pressuring the quarterback, consistently, can make ROCK STARS out of formidable cornerbacks. Conversely, failing to achieve that same attack can make the same cornerbacks look like they’re not doing their jobs.

Welcome to the NFL.

So, as we look back on 2009, did we really have so much of the upcoming season’s potential and promise vested upon the shoulders of Domonique Foxworth? Sure, the injuries to Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb have compounded and magnified the value regarding a player of Foxworth’s caliber.

But, can he be satisfactorily replaced? While Washington and Webb move closer to regained form, can someone step up and cover?

Is it Cary Williams or Travis Fisher? Will Chris Carr play even BIGGER? Who knows …. but a group of collective players have undoubtedly hungered for THAT CHANCE to prove themselves. And, this is that chance …..

After all, who was talking about the potential impact of Danelle Ellerbe, at the beginning of last season’s camp?

Does the Foxworth injury impact other facets of the Ravens defense? Sure. And, one particular name comes to mind …..
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So long as Terrell Suggs doesn’t spend another season producing like a member of the Orioles, the pass rush is likely to improve. Given the increased vulnerability of the secondary, I’ll imagine Greg Mattison is already formulating a way to make his attack more dynamic.

The reality is the season-ending injury to Domonique Foxworth just sucks. He’s a damn good cornerback and obviously committed to the “team first” philosophy. But, his injury an ultimate loss is a defining factor of everyday life in the National Football League.

He won’t be the last member of the Ravens lost to injury. And, don’t worry about the bad luck abstaining from other franchises. Every NFL team gets a bite of this sandwich. It’s already hit the Steelers (Willie Colon), Cowboys (Dez Bryant) and Broncos (Knowshon Moreno). The Patriots, Colts, Jets and Chargers will suffer their losses, too.

Speaking of the Patriots and Colts, what will they do if faced with the loss of a vital player? We keep saying the Ravens must beat the great teams, if they’re going to rise to the next level. Well, those great teams lose FRANCHISE players, like Tom Brady and Bob Sanders to injury, yet, they still find a way to win.

And, that’s the challenge facing the Ravens.

There are no “silver linings” to the loss of Domonique Foxworth. Yet, his injury could’ve occured at a more inconvenient time. The Ravens have six weeks to address it. Last season, they had less than six days to address the loss of a starting cornerback …..
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Injuries, while detrimental, also create opportunities ….. especially in training camp. I don’t think the value of such a competition can be overlooked. A handful of young, marginal players are going to be afforded the chance to prove they’re more talented than the depth chart suggests. And, some “old dogs” are out to prove they can still hunt.

I suppose Friday’s bad news really serves as a reminder that pre-season predictions aren’t worth a bag of rotten crab shells. Who could’ve guessed Domoniqe Foxworth would tear his ACL or Sergio Kindle would be in a Texas hospital, while recovering from a fractured skull? You can’t …..

Of course, every purple-blooded loyalist couldn’t resist the accolades. The Ravens have been lathered with a layering of “favorite” in the AFC-North. And, while this supposed indestructible Baltimore football machine has spent the past week proving there is no such distinction, a divisional rival has been stealing headlines, for positive reasons, since last Tuesday.

Meet the new AFC-North favorites …. the Cincinnati Bengals.

The good news is their hype is every bit as fragile as the Ravens. They, too, haven’t played a single game, yet. But, that hasn’t stopped the World Wide Leader and others from forecasting a lethal passing attack – especially with the addition of a soon-to-be 37 year old wide receiver.

As a sports community, we’re so damn fickle. On one hand, we wanted nothing to do with Terrell Owens, because he’s known to be a cancerous plague within a locker room – and he’s beyond his most productive years. On the other hand, we fear the addition of the GREAT T.O.’s arrival, in Cincinnati. Remember, he’s the same exact guy nobody wanted in a Ravens uniform.

Yet, we figure up the loss of Domonique Foxworth, coupled with the addition of Owens, in Cincinnati, and the result is DOOM & GLOOM.

The crippled Ravens secondary will never stop these guys …..
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Don’t forget Antonio Bryant, Jermaine Gresham or Jordan Shipley. Heck, don’t forget Cedric Benson – who really bulldozed his way thru the Ravens defensive line, twice, last year.

Yet, it’s Owens that instills this uneasiness in Ravens fans, while also rallying those in media to annoint the Bengals as the team to beat. Don’t buy into it. There is a distinct reason why the Ravens didn’t want him, along with 30 other teams.

In fact, don’t get caught up in any of the extreme impressions, one way or another, caused by injuries, additions or anything else.

The Ravens lost Domonique Foxworth for the season. That’s a fact. If their aspirations and Super Bowl hopes were tied to one player of Foxworth’s caliber, then this 2010 team really isn’t as good as many people might think.

Relax.

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2010 Ravens Training Camp Preview: 10 Purple Questions

Posted on 27 July 2010 by Luke Jones

As the Ravens begin their 15th training camp at McDaniel College in Westminster, expectations are as high as they’ve ever been for a team with serious Super Bowl aspirations in 2010.

From the acquisition of impact receiver Anquan Boldin to the continued maturity of quarterback Joe Flacco, prognosticators across the country have earmarked the Ravens as serious contenders to raise the Lombardi Trophy at Cowboys Stadium in early February.

Despite the loud optimism for this Ravens team, many questions remain unanswered, as is the case with any of the 32 teams in late July.

In honor of this year’s 10th anniversary of the Ravens’ Super Bowl XXXV victory, I pose 10 questions as the men in purple report to McDaniel College this week:

1. What’s the deal with Ed Reed?

Reed’s name has created buzz throughout the offseason dating back to his uncertainty of whether he would return following the Ravens’ playoff loss in Indianapolis. Since then, the All-Pro safety has declared his intention to return, but when we’ll see him on the field is anyone’s guess.

After undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip, Reed declared himself at only “35 percent” as late as last week in comments to various media outlets. Speculation persists that Reed will begin the season on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list and miss the first six weeks of the regular season.

In addition to his health, Reed’s relationship with the organization is on shaky ground after the veteran safety expressed his displeasure with the team’s amount of support during his recovery. Reed also shared his desire for a new contract several weeks ago when he spoke to Drew Forrester on The Morning Reaction and has repeated the sentiment several times since.

Regardless of Reed’s shaky standing with the team, his uncertain health with the hip and lingering nerve impingement in his neck and shoulder may force the Ravens to turn to newly-acquired veteran Ken Hamlin or third-year safety Tom Zbikowski to fill Reed’s void in the defensive backfield.

His health will be monitored closely over the next four weeks, as has been the case during the last two summers at McDaniel College.

2. Will Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb be ready to go on September 13th?

Reed’s status will grab the headlines, but the health of Washington and Webb could prove equally critical as the two corners—both recovering from ACL injuries—will compete for the starting job opposite Domonique Foxworth in the Baltimore secondary.

Washington appears to be further along in his recovery, but both are candidates to begin training camp on the active-PUP list (eligible to come off the list at any point during camp). In the meantime, Chris Carr will receive reps as the other starting corner.

Slow recoveries for either Washington or Webb would open the door for new acquisitions Travis Fisher and Walt Harris to compete with Cary Williams (suspended for the first two regular season games) and Marcus Paschal for the final cornerback spots on the 53-man roster.

3. Is Joe Flacco ready to take the next step into stardom in his third season?

Entering his third season as starting quarterback and fully recovered from leg injuries that hampered him last season, Flacco is expected to take the next step in developing into one of the finer quarterbacks in the league.

The offseason acquisitions of Boldin and Donte’ Stallworth and the re-signing of veteran Derrick Mason give Flacco a plethora of weapons in the passing game in addition to the dependability of Ray Rice coming out of the backfield.

Flacco was criticized last season for checking down so often and avoiding the middle of the field, but the excuse of not having sufficient weapons will no longer be in play.

In order for the offense to grow, he will be expected to do even more in the passing game.

4. How quickly can Sergio Kindle recover from his accident in Austin?

While the details surrounding the accident remain sketchy, Kindle’s injury on Thursday night creates a nightmarish start to his NFL career with the Ravens, as the young linebacker will miss all of training camp with a fractured skull.

Kindle was expected to back up linebacker Jarret Johnson and provide a legitimate pass rushing threat on third down for the Baltimore defense, so the Ravens can only hope he makes a speedy recovery and eventually contributes to a pass rush that struggled to pressure the quarterback in 2009.

Unfortunately, it sounds more like a matter of if—not when—he can return to contribute before season’s end. It’s a major blow to the Baltimore defense but paves the way for Antwan Barnes, Jameel McClain, and Paul Kruger to become bigger factors in passing situations.

5. How prepared is Terrell Suggs to rebound from a disappointing 2009 campaign?

It was no secret that the organization was unhappy with Terrell Suggs’ 2009 campaign after he signed a $62.5 million contract last July. The linebacker arrived in Westminster out of shape and injured his heel on the third day of full-team workouts, sidelining him for the duration of training camp.

This translated into a sluggish season for the talented linebacker, which included a career-low 4.5 sacks and an MCL injury due to a low block from former Browns quarterback Brady Quinn.

Harbaugh voiced his displeasure with Suggs’ absence through much of the OTA schedule, so it will be interesting to see what kind of shape the linebacker is in when he reports to McDaniel College this week. A healthy, motivated Suggs is needed if the Ravens hope to pressure the quarterback and help mask would could be a depleted secondary to begin the season.

With Kindle’s unfortunate accident, it becomes even more crucial for Suggs to return to his previous Pro Bowl form.

6. Can Michael Oher and Jared Gaither pull off the flip-flop at offensive tackle?

There’s little doubt that Oher can handle the left tackle spot after filling in for an injured Gaither last season, but questions remain over the health and mental state of the new right tackle.

It’s no secret that Gaither wants a new contract, as the tackle delayed signing his restricted free agent tender until early June. Gaither also battled a foot injury through much of the OTA schedule, missing valuable reps as he makes the transition to right tackle—a position he hasn’t played since his days at the University of Maryland.

Should Gaither struggle to adjust to right tackle, it may force the Ravens to shuffle around other players into the right tackle spot or force them to abandon the switch and return Oher to the right side of the offensive line.

7. Will Shayne Graham (or Billy Cundiff) be able to silence the memories of Matt Stover?

The Ravens inked former Bengals kicker Graham to a one-year contract in hopes of finally silencing fans who clamored for Matt Stover last season as the Ravens struggled in the kicking game with Steve Hauschka.

Cundiff returns after being signed mid-season to replace Hauschka, but most believe Graham has the inside track for the job despite missing two critical kicks against the New York Jets in a playoff loss last season.

We’ll inevitably be tracking every kick from the fields of McDaniel College as we did last season with Hauschka and Graham Gano, but the kickers’ performance in the four preseason games will hold the most weight in determining who’s kicking for the Ravens in September. Unlike last summer, however, both Graham and Cundiff bring more experience to the table, providing more confidence that special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg can choose a viable solution in the kicking game.

8. How much longer will Troy Smith be a Raven after the acquisition of Marc Bulger to back up Flacco?

Several players, including Flacco and Reed, have voiced their support for Smith as the backup, but the fact remains Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens have invested $3.8 million in Bulger to be the backup behind Flacco.

While Smith has said all the right things to this point, he has to see the writing on the wall as he’s now relegated to No. 3 quarterback duties. The problem for Smith is none of the other 31 teams have shown a strong interest in acquiring his services after he expressed a strong desire to start for another team at the end of last season.

As of now, Smith will compete with John Beck for the third spot, but it remains very possible that Smith finds himself on another roster before training camp ends.

Needless to say, the Ravens don’t want an unneeded distraction in the locker room, but it appears Smith’s supporters will continue to sing his praises, likely contributing to his departure at some point.

9. Can “Mount” Cody help form a brick wall in the middle of the Baltimore defense?

The 350-pound rookie will need to keep his weight at a manageable level, but the coaching staff was thrilled with his athleticism and strength during OTAs. Coupled with Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, it’s no secret Newsome envisioned a brick wall in the middle of the Ravens defense reminiscent of the tandem of Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams.

Cody will begin his rookie season backing up Kelly Gregg, but if the big man is as good as advertised and maintain his conditioning, it won’t be long before Ngata and Cody form a 700-pound monster on the inside—that will also keep blockers away from Ray Lewis.

With Kindle’s rookie season now in serious doubt, Cody becomes the most likely (and needed) draft pick to make a serious impact in 2010.

10. Will the aging Ravens defense continue to fight off Father Time?

While three defensive starters over the age of 30 may not sound like a big deal, it is when two of them are Ray Lewis (35) and Reed (31). The other starter Kelly Gregg (33) will battle Cody for playing time while Trevor Pryce (35) remains a key member of the defensive line rotation.

Reed’s health issues are well-documented (see question 1) and may not have much time left despite his desire for a new contract.

Lewis continues to be an enigma at the inside linebacker position where even the greatest of all time typically retire by their early 30s. He lacks the speed he had in the prime of his career, but his cerebral approach and leadership are invaluable to the Baltimore defense.

Newsome has drafted young talent to supplement the veterans on the defensive side of the ball, but injuries to these key veterans likely prevents this unit from being great as it has been for so many years.

Of course, the Ravens are banking on having a more explosive offense, so simply having a good—not great—defense might be enough to take Baltimore deep into the playoffs. If the defense’s elder statesmen can fight off Father Time for one more season, they’ll have a chance to play for a ring in early February.

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Live from Westminster: Ravens agree to 3-year deal with “Mount” Cody

Posted on 26 July 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. — Good afternoon from the Best Western in Westminster as the time has finally come for the Ravens to report for training camp and begin preparation for the 2010 season. Rookies, quarterbacks, and select veterans will trickle in throughout the day with their first workout scheduled for Tuesday morning at 8:45 a.m.

We’ll hear from coach John Harbaugh at 3:00 p.m. this afternoon as we hope to get an update on the condition of rookie linebacker Sergio Kindle who is hospitalized after suffering a fall in Austin, Texas on Thursday night. Kindle and fellow second-round pick Terrence Cody remain unsigned, as only six of the 32 players from the second round have inked contracts with their respective teams as of Monday morning.

In addition to our live reports every hour (on the :30s) on AM 1570 WNST (and streaming live on the web at WNST.net), check right here for our daily “Live from Westminster” blog and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the quickest updates from McDaniel College throughout the summer. As always, please remember to join the WNST Text Service to have training camp news sent directly to your mobile device.

All updated information will be time-stamped below as we’ll let you know when news breaks and the big names arrive here in Westminster.

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1:15 p.m. — We had a chance to catch up with rookie defensive tackle Arthur Jones a little bit ago. Head to the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault at WNST.net to hear his thoughts on his first NFL training camp.

12:50 p.m. — If you’re on the WNST Text Service, you already know the Ravens have come to terms on a three-year deal with defensive tackle Cody, leaving only Kindle unsigned.

“Mount” Cody is on his way to Westminster and will sign his deal with the Ravens and be ready to go for Tuesday morning’s first workout.

12:38 p.m. — I can gladly report that Joe Flacco has arrived safely at the Best Western in Westminster and is ready to go for training camp.

12:00 p.m. — We have a Haruki Nakamura sighting in Westminster.

A healthy Nakamura really boosts the special teams and adds depth to a beat-up secondary to begin training camp.

11:45 a.m. — Ravens fifth-round pick Arthur Jones has checked into the Best Western as the players are beginning to trickle in just in time for lunch.

Imagine that.

10:50 a.m. — Just caught up with new quarterback coach—and former head coach of the Washington Redskins—Jim Zorn. He was having some internet trouble here at the Best Western to which I replied my MacBook Pro was running just fine.

Of course, I just jinxed myself for the duration of training camp.

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Live from Owings Mills: Ravens conclude 2010 NFL Draft

Posted on 24 April 2010 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens have concluded their participation in the 2010 NFL Draft after selecting seven players, including two defensive tackles and two tight ends.

The Ravens added to Friday night’s haul of linebacker Sergio Kindle, defensive tackle Terrence Cody, and tight end Ed Dickson by adding tight end Dennis Pitta, receiver David Reed, defensive tackle Art Jones, and offensive lineman Ramon Harewood in rounds 4 through 6 of the draft.

After speaking to the media following their final selection of Harewood—the first player from Barbados, according to Eric DeCosta—it’s clear the Ravens brass is thrilled with the work its done over the last three days.

Head to the WNST.net Audio Vault right now to hear from Ozzie Newsome, John Harbaugh, Eric DeCosta, and Joe Hortiz.

Here are the highlights:

Ozzie Newsome
– “The initiative that Roger Goodell had of making this a three-day event has been very successful.”
– On the organization’s draft preparation: “This year I think we’ve topped what we’ve done in the past.”
– “This has been a very productive three days for the Baltimore Ravens.”
– On the organization not drafting a corner and the possibility of future movers: “You have to get after the passer … As we move forward, the roster’s still fluid.”
– Newsome admitted there was interest for certain corners but weren’t slotted on their board where the team was drafting: “We don’t feel like we have to reach.”
– On the kicking situation: “I don’t think we’ll be signing a rookie kicker.” Newsome did say there will be competition by the time training camp rolls around.
– On the drafts of AFC North opponents: “They all improved themselves.”

John Harbaugh
– On the work of the scouting department: “This board, we can trust it.”
– “Picks don’t mean anything until they become players.”
– After not selecting a player on Day 1: “We were all a little bit edgy.”
– On the two tight ends: “They fit our depth chart very well.”
– On draft’s impact on special teams: “Sergio Kindle’s going to be able to run down the field on kickoffs.”
– On not selecting a corner: “I don’t think it was a real deep corner class myself … We’ll find a way to add a corner.”
– Harbaugh acknowledged Frank Walker’s return was “a possibility.”
– On tight end position: “Todd Heap is our tight end. We expect a great year from him.”

Eric DeCosta
– On undrafted free agent possibilities: “We have a list of guys we want to go after.”
– DeCosta said the organization benefited from not having a seventh-round pick as it relates to undrafted free agents: “You can start early in the process.”
– On Harewood’s intelligence: “He actually does want to be a rocket scientist someday.”
– On tight end position: “We felt like it was a very deep tight end pool.”
– On tight ends Dickson and Pitta: “These guys have done a lot of different things. They’re versatile.”
– On the trade’s tone for rest of the draft: “It ended up being the beginning of a great draft.”
– On organization’s excitement for all seven players: “That sense of ownership is really what you strive [for].”

Joe Hortiz
– On Pitta: “He’s got outstanding hands, really savvy route runner.”
– On Reed: “Crafty route runner; excellent toughness.” Hortiz also said he’s a capable kick returner.
– On Jones: “Big body defensive tackle … He’s a leverage player like Goose, Kelly Gregg.” Hortiz also noted he was a much better player his junior season at Syracuse.
– On Harewood: “He’s raw. He needs a lot of developmental work … He’s got the passion and drive to get better.”

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