Tag Archive | "Shayne Graham"

Ranking the Ravens’ biggest special teams needs

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Ranking the Ravens’ biggest special teams needs

Posted on 17 February 2012 by Luke Jones

As the start of free agency moves closer and teams prepare for April’s draft, the Ravens continue to evaluate their needs in all three phases of the game.

Earlier in the week, I looked at Baltimore’s biggest needs on offense as well as essentials for the defense. In the conclusion of a three-part series, we finally take a long at the often-forgotten but always-important phase of the game: special teams.

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron undoubtedly receives the most criticism among the coaches on the Ravens staff, but special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg may deserve the most heat after a disappointing 2011 season. According to footballoutsiders.com, the Ravens’ special teams ranked 30th in the league in a percentage contrived from efficiency in field goals, kickoffs, kickoff returns, punts, and punt returns.

Looking from a more simplistic stance, Rosburg’s units struggled in both kickoff coverage (31st) and punt coverage (24th) and allowed three returns for touchdowns. In the return game, the Ravens ranked ninth in kickoff return average and 19th in punt return average, rarely getting a significant spark from either group as injuries and ineffectiveness forced them to shuffle returners in and out of the lineup.

Kicker Billy Cundiff converted only 75.7 percent of his field goal attempts, ranking 28th in the league. The 2010 Pro Bowl kicker made only one of six attempts from 50 or more yards and was only 11-for-20 away from M&T Bank Stadium — where he was perfect on 17 attempts. And that’s not even taking into account his heartbreaking 32-yard miss in the closing seconds of the AFC championship game that would have sent the Ravens into overtime against New England.

If you’re looking for a bright spot, punter Sam Koch ranked 10th in punt average (46.5 yards) but 19th in net average, which was affected by the Ravens’ suspect coverage.

While it’s difficult to target a laundry list of special teams’ needs from a position-by-position standpoint — the units simply need to improve across the board — but two positions stand out this offseason.

1. Kicker

Before you get carried away, this isn’t the pitchfork mentality we’re talking about here. Cundiff isn’t going anywhere for now. However, his disappointing season topped off by the most devastating moment in the 16-year history of the franchise can’t be forgotten as the Ravens assess their special teams.

To their credit, the organization and Cundiff have handled the miss with as much dignity as can be expected, with no one publicly questioning whether the Ravens should have kept veteran Shayne Graham to kick in the postseason. It’s been a credit to coach John Harbaugh and the family atmosphere in the locker room.

But what everyone is thinking privately is a different story. In his defense, Cundiff battled a left calf injury late in the season, but it doesn’t excuse what was a very inconsistent year after signing a five-year contract last January. For a kicker without a proven track record beyond his Pro Bowl season a year ago, Cundiff may have reverted back to the inconsistent performer seen early in his career.

The Ravens need to bring in another kicker to seriously compete against Cundiff during the preseason. The organization will keep Cundiff for now in hopes of avoiding the situation in which they found themselves in 2009 after parting company with Matt Stover. Neither Steve Hauschka nor Graham Gano were fit for the job, forcing the Ravens to scramble during the regular season until they settled on Cundiff.

It needs to be a serious competition, whether the Ravens elect to find a rookie coming out of college such as Randy Bullock of Texas A&M or a veteran on the open market. Graham wasn’t good enough to win the competition against Cundiff two years ago and has struggled with long-distance kicks in recent years, so it makes little sense to bring him back for the competition.

Even if Cundiff performs admirably in the preseason and wins the battle, the Ravens and their fans simply won’t know whether he’s recovered from the disappointment in Foxborough until he finds himself in another late-game situation. It’s difficult to envision the Ravens ever fully trusting Cundiff again, but they’ll at least give him a chance in the preseason before moving on for good.

2. Kickoff-Punt Returner

The Ravens had 10 different players return kickoffs — three of those only returned squibs or pooch kicks –  in 2011 and never found stability at the position. Second-year return specialist David Reed was demoted after two fumbles on returns against the Seattle Seahawks and then tore his ACL when he finally earned another opportunity to handle kickoffs.

While Reed will certainly find himself in the mix if he proves healthy in recovering from the knee injury this offseason, the Ravens must look to add an impact returner, preferably someone who can handle both kickoffs and punts to allow Lardarius Webb to focus solely on his duties at cornerback. Field position is critical, and the return units rarely aided the Ravens offense in setting it up on a shorter field.

Of course, the new kickoff rule limited many returners across the league, but the Ravens cannot settle for a returner downing the ball in the end zone constantly as they did down the stretch with reserve safety Tom Zbikowski this past season.

The Ravens could look to the draft for a returner such as Arkansas receiver Joe Adams in the middle rounds, who could add depth in both areas. One name to keep an eye on in the preseason is receiver Phillip Livas, who was signed to the practice squad in the final weeks of the season. Though only 5-foot-8, Livas was a record-setting return man at Louisiana Tech and could be a sleeper to watch in the preseason.

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With Cundiff healthy, Ravens part ways with Graham

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With Cundiff healthy, Ravens part ways with Graham

Posted on 03 January 2012 by Luke Jones

With kicker Billy Cundiff returning to action in Cincinnati on Sunday, it was only a matter of time for veteran Shayne Graham to find himself looking for a job.

The Ravens released Graham on Tuesday afternoon, a day after coach John Harbaugh said the team would keep Graham on the roster as long as they could. To replace the journeyman kicker on the 53-man roster, the Ravens promoted center-guard Justin Boren.

Wide receiver and return specialist Phillip Livas was signed to the Baltimore practice squad to assume Boren’s spot.

Plagued with a left calf injury since early December that forced him out of the Ravens’ Week 16 win over Cleveland, Cundiff made a 42-yard field goal and had two touchdbacks in the 24-16 win over Cincinnati that clinched the AFC North title. In making the move, the Ravens felt confident enough in the 2010 Pro Bowl kicker’s health to eliminate any lingering thought of a kicking controversey.

“As long as Billy is healthy, he’ll be our kicker,” Harbaugh said on Monday. “We were really fortunate that Shayne was available. We’ll hold on to Shayne as long as we can now, but if we have to make a roster move, obviously, that’s a direction we would go.”

Over the last two seasons, Graham has been unable to hold down a job but has filled in for injured kickers on several occasions, including Miami and Baltimore this season. Graham made field goals from 48 and 43 yards against the Browns on Christmas Eve.

“He did a great job,” Harbaugh said. “Why he’s not holding on to a job right now, I’m not sure, but we were very fortunate for him to be able to come in and fill that gap for us.”

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Ravens have plenty on their plate during bye week

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Ravens have plenty on their plate during bye week

Posted on 02 January 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With John Harbaugh giving his players two days off following their 24-16 win over the Cincinnati Bengals that secured an AFC North title and a first-round bye, the coach was surprised to see roughly half the team at the Ravens’ training facility on Monday morning.

Of course, many were receiving treatment in the training room as the Ravens deal with a laundry list of ailments and injuries after completing the regular season with a 12-4 record. Securing their first bye since the 2006 season, the Ravens enjoy the benefit of extra time to heal while feeling the accomplishment of advancing to the divisional round without having to endure another 60 minutes of football.

“[The bye] counts as a win,” Harbaugh said. “This win was kind of a one-for-two. We won one game, we got two wins. So, that’s big.”

All 12 playoff teams would reap the benefit of an extra week off after the rigors of a four-month season, but the Ravens’ large number of injuries made the accomplishment all the more important for their Super Bowl aspirations. Listening to Harbaugh run down the list of injuries made it clear.

The most serious of the injuries appears to be the MCL sprain suffered by linebacker Jameel McClain. The injury is not considered serious, according to Harbaugh, but the inside linebacker will likely be held out of practices on Wednesday and Thursday this week.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith and safety Tom Zbikowski were feeling no lingering symptoms on Monday from the concussions they sustained against Cincinnati. They will need to be cleared this week, but Harbaugh remained optimistic about a quick recovery time for both. Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe is also improving despite being sidelined against the Bengals from the concussion he suffered against Cleveland on Christmas Eve.

Safety Bernard Pollard is dealing with a sprained wrist and an elbow contusion while defensive tackle Haloti Ngata suffered an elbow laceration. Despite suffering a left hip sprain during Sunday’s game, defensive tackle Terrence Cody was able to return.

After one of the guttiest performances in the history of the franchise, guard Marshal Yanda is dealing with soreness but made it through Sunday’s game without re-aggravating rib and thigh contusions.

Harbaugh also confirmed kicker Billy Cundiff felt good after resuming kicking duties against the Bengals. He will remain the Ravens’ kicker as long as he is healthy, leaving veteran Shayne Graham’s future in doubt as the Ravens move into the postseason.

“We’ll hold onto Shayne as long as we can now, but if we have to make a roster move, obviously, that’s the direction we would go,” Harbaugh said. “He did a great job. Why he’s not holding onto a job right now, I’m not sure, but we were very fortunate for him to be able to come in and fill that gap for us.”

The Ravens will also look forward to the return of wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who practiced on a limited basis last Friday and was upgraded from “out” to “doubtful” on the final injury report released ahead of the Bengals game. Harbaugh confirmed last week that all swelling had subsided from the surgical procedure Boldin underwent to repair a partially-torn meniscus.

With six more to go before the Ravens even learn who they will be playing in the divisional round of the playoffs, they will primarily use this week to improve their overall health. However, players will also work on their strength and conditioning as well as a rare opportunity for self-evaluation without an opponent for which to prepare this week. The coaching staff is preparing for three potential opponents in the second round, but they will also use this week’s practices to continue to develop younger players, especially considering how many veterans are banged up.

Players will be off on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, but linebacker Jarret Johnson expressed the team’s mindset to Harbaugh on the flight home after one of the biggest wins in the regular-season history of the franchise.

“Their whole mindset right now is to be the best football team we can be a week from Sunday at 1:00,” Harbaugh said. “That’s what our team is thinking about right now. That’s kind of where we’re at.”

Even with a weekend off from playing a football game, it’s apparent the Ravens are maintaining a workmanlike approach with their eyes focused on taking the next step toward Indianapolis.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear Harbaugh’s entire Monday press conference from Owings Mills right here.

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Ravens-Bengals: Inactives and pre-game notes

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Ravens-Bengals: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 01 January 2012 by Luke Jones

With an AFC North title and a first-round bye staring them right in the face, the Ravens have the clear task of beating the Cincinnati Bengals to realize those possibilities.

It won’t be easy, however, as the Ravens are a banged-up group facing the sixth-ranked defense in the NFL and trying to win a game at Paul Brown Stadium for the first time since 2008.

The Ravens hold a 17-14 edge in the all-time series and are 6-9 playing in Cincinnati. They will be dressed in their white jerseys and black pants while the Bengals will go with their all-black alternate look on Sunday afternoon.

Despite being listed as doubtful with rib and thigh contusions, Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda is active and will play. The fifth-year lineman practiced on a limited basis on Friday, saying he needed to get back on the field to give himself any chance of playing against the Bengals.

Billy Cundiff will resume kicking duties for the Ravens as veteran Shayne Graham is inactive, a sign that they feel totally confident that Cundiff’s left call is at or close to 100 percent. With high winds expected to impact the game, Baltimore is pleased to have Cundiff’s stronger leg back in the lineup.

Cornerback Cary Williams is also active, meaning he was cleared for contact over the weekend as the Ravens anticipated happening. He will start opposite Lardarius Webb while rookie Jimmy Smith will see action in the nickel package.

With Anquan Boldin inactive as he continues to recover from knee surgery, both Tandon Doss and LaQuan Williams are active and will likely see some action at wide receiver. Veteran Lee Evans will take Boldin’s place in the starting lineup for the second straight week.

Here are today’s inactives …

Baltimore
K Shayne Graham
WR Anquan Boldin
RB Anthony Allen
CB Danny Gorrer
OT D.J. Jones
LB Sergio Kindle
LB Dannell Ellerbe

Cincinnati
S Taylor Mays
LB Dontay Moch
WR Armon Binns
TE Colin Cochart
DT Nick Hayden
G Otis Hudson
S Robert Sands

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Ravens without Yanda for Thursday’s practice

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Ravens without Yanda for Thursday’s practice

Posted on 29 December 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The prospects for right guard Marshal Yanda being available against the Cincinnati Bengals are growing dimmer as the Ravens’ Pro Bowl offensive lineman missed his second straight day of practice on Thursday.

Yanda is dealing with rib and chest contusions that forced him to miss the second half of the Ravens’ 20-14 win over Cleveland on Saturday. The fifth-year guard was named to his first Pro Bowl on Tuesday and has graded out with a “winning performance or better” in every game this season, according to the Baltimore coaching staff.

Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe was also missing from practice for the second straight day as he continues to deal with a concussion suffered against the Browns.

Safety Bernard Pollard was a new addition to the injury report as he missed practice with an illness. In contrast, defensive tackle Arthur Jones returned to work as a full participant a day after dealing with a stomach bug. Pollard’s absence might suggest the bug is moving through the locker room, so the Ravens will need to keep their fingers crossed over the next few days.

Billy Cundiff practiced on a limited basis for the second straight day, an encouraging sign that the Pro Bowl kicker may return to action in Cincinnati. Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said fill-in kicker Shayne Graham’s experience kicking at Paul Brown Stadium after seven years with the Bengals would not factor into the decision of who kicks on Sunday, instead declaring the decision will be based on Cundiff’s health.

“He’s had two good practices,” Rosburg said. “We’ll see what the trainers say [Friday].”

Cornerback Cary Williams and defensive end Cory Redding were limited participants for the second straight day as both appear on track to play against the Bengals. There have been conflicting reports whether Williams has been cleared for contact, but the Ravens are confident that he will pass his concussion test in time to play on Sunday.

BALTIMORE
OUT: WR Anquan Boldin (knee)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Dannell Ellerbe (head), S Bernard Pollard (illness) , G Marshal Yanda (chest)
LIMITED: K Billy Cundiff (left calf), DE Cory Redding (ankle), CB Cary Williams (head)
FULL: DT Arthur Jones (illness)

CINCINNATI
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DE Carlos Dunlap (hamstring), S Taylor Mays (hamstring), LB Dontay Moch (illness)
LIMITED: WR AJ Green (shoulder), DE Frostee Rucker (neck), T Andrew Whitworth (knee), S Chris Crocker (knee)

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Cundiff back at practice, hoping to return on Sunday

Posted on 28 December 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Though veteran Shayne Graham would love the opportunity to kick against his old team in Cincinnati, Billy Cundiff returned to practice on Wednesday in hopes of making his return against the Bengals in the regular-season finale.

Cundiff had not practiced since Dec. 7 and was limited in games against Indianapolis and San Diego before fully resting his injured left calf last week. The 2010 Pro Bowl kicker now appears confident in wanting to get back on the field.

“It’s come a long way,” Cundiff said. “Obviously, I needed the rest. I couldn’t even make it through the game, so now this is just a matter of trying to progress it and see if I can make it through practice. If we can do that, then hopefully we’ll be able to play on Sunday.”

Right guard Marshal Yanda, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, and defensive tackle Arthur Jones did not participate in Wednesday’s practice. Speculation persists about the severity of the rib and thigh contusions that forced Yanda out of Saturday’s game. Ellerbe is still waiting to be cleared to play after suffering a concussion against Cleveland.

Defensive end Cory Redding and cornerback Cary Williams returned to practice on a limited basis on Wednesday. Williams has been cleared for practice after being concussed on Christmas Eve.

Unsurprisingly, wide receiver Anquan Boldin has already been ruled out after undergoing knee surgery last Thursday.

For Cincinnati, wide receiver A.J. Green and defensive end Carlos Dunlap both practiced on a limited basis. The rookie Green has been dealing with a shoulder injury, but Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said he was “doing fine” in his teleconference with the Baltimore media.

BALTIMORE
OUT: WR Anquan Boldin (knee)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Dannell Ellerbe (head), DT Arthur Jones (illness), G Marshal Yanda (chest)
LIMITED: K Billy Cundiff (left calf), DE Cory Redding (ankle), CB Cary Williams (head)

CINCINNATI
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: S Chris Crocker (knee), S Taylor Mays (hamstring), LB Dontay Moch (illness)
LIMITED: DE Carlos Dunlap (hamstring), WR AJ Green (shoulder), DE Frostee Rucker (neck), T Andrew Whitworth (knee)

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Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7 Ravens for Week 16

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Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7 Ravens for Week 16

Posted on 27 December 2011 by Luke Jones

Below are our Tuesday Top 7 Ravens players in the 20-14 victory over the Cleveland Browns in Week 16. We’ll track our rankings throughout the 2011 season using the following point system:

No. 1 – 7 points
No. 2 – 6 points
No. 3 – 5 points
No. 4 – 4 points
No. 5 – 3 points
No. 6 – 2 points
No. 7 – 1 point

To hear our full explanation for our respective lists, click HERE.

Luke Jones’ Top 7 …

7) Ricky Williams
Williams

6) Ed Dickson
Dickson

5) Shayne Graham
Graham

4) Joe Flacco
Flacco

3) Brendon Ayanbadejo
Ayanbadejo

2) Ray Rice
Rice

1) Lardarius Webb
Webb

Drew Forresters’ Top 7 …

Continue >>>

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Our Ravens-Browns Pats on the Ass

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Our Ravens-Browns Pats on the Ass

Posted on 24 December 2011 by Glenn Clark

After every Baltimore Ravens victory, Ryan Chell and I take to the airwaves on “The Nasty Purple Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net to offer “Pats on the Ass” to players who have done something to deserve the honor.

We give pats to two defensive players, two offensive players and one “Wild Card”-either another offensive or defensive player, a Special Teams player or a coach. We offer a “Pat on Both Cheeks” to someone who stands out, our version of a “Player of the Game.” Ryan & I select five different players to receive pats.

Here are our “Pats on the Ass” following the Ravens’ 20-14 victory over the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium…

Glenn Clark’s Pats…

5. Joe Flacco

4. Vonta Leach

3. Ed Dickson

2. Brendon Ayanbadejo

1. Lardarius Webb

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Ravens-Browns: Inactives and pre-game notes

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Ravens-Browns: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 24 December 2011 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Needing victories in their final two games to win the AFC North and gain a first-round bye in the playoffs, the Ravens can move a step closer to realizing those goals as they welcome the struggling Cleveland Browns to town on Christmas Eve.

Baltimore can complete an 8-0 home record with a win over the Browns, which would be the first time the Ravens have accomplished the feat in the 16-year history of the franchise. The Ravens have won 17 of their last 18 games at M&T Bank Stadium, including a franchise-record nine straight. Baltimore is 26-5 at home in the John Harbaugh era.

Those numbers make it pretty clear why the Ravens desperately want as many home playoff games as possible, don’t they?

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Of course, the Ravens saw the Browns in Cleveland three weeks ago when they ran a franchise-record 55 times and collected 290 rushing yards in a 24-10 victory. The Ravens have won seven straight over the Browns and own a 9-3 record against the city from which they originally came.

The Browns will wear white jerseys with white pants while the Ravens are dressed in their purple home jerseys and black pants.

All eyes will be on veteran kicker Shayne Graham, who will be filling in for the injured Billy Cundiff after being signed earlier in the week. Many wonder how much range Graham will have as his last couple seasons in Cincinnati didn’t feature much success beyond the 46 or 47 yards.

The Ravens will also be without top receiver Anquan Boldin, who underwent knee surgery to repair a partially-torn meniscus on Thursday. He is out for the rest of the regular season, and Harbaugh projects him to return in two weeks. However, the coach acknowledged it would be challenging for Boldin to be ready for a first-round playoff game, creating even more urgency for a first-round bye in the Ravens’ minds.

Without Boldin sidelined, quarterback Joe Flacco will likely rely heavily on tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, but it will be critical for the Ravens to make veteran Lee Evans more of a factor. With a trip to Cincinnati next week against a good Bengals run defense, the passing game will need to produce and someone will need to divert some attention from rookie Torrey Smith.

The Ravens have also decided to activate rookie Tandon Doss over LaQuan Williams. Despite having not been active since Oct. 30, Doss’ skill-set is more in line with what Boldin normally brings to the passing game.

Defensive end Cory Redding had been expected to play today, but he was noticeably limping going through pre-game work with defensive line coach Clarence Brooks. The Ravens have decided to deactivate Redding and will start second-year lineman Arthur Jones at the other defensive end spot in coordinator Chuck Pagano’s base 3-4.

For Cleveland, veteran backup Seneca Wallace will start at quarterback for the injured Colt McCoy, who was ruled out on Friday as he continues to feel the effects of a concussion sustained against Pittsburgh two weeks ago.

Here are today’s inactives…

Baltimore
WR Anquan Boldin
K Billy Cundiff
DE Cory Redding
WR LaQuan Williams
RB Anthony Allen
LB Sergio Kindle
CB Danny Gorrer

Cleveland
QB Colt McCoy
WR Jordan Norwood
DB James Dockery
OL Steve Vallos
DL Kiante Tripp
OL Oniel Cousins
WR Rod Windsor

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Nothing surprising on final Ravens-Browns injury report

Posted on 23 December 2011 by Luke Jones

John Harbaugh eliminated most of the mystery regarding the injury situations of three key members of the Ravens when the coach spoke to the media on Thursday, making the final injury report of the week a mere formality.

With wide receiver Anquan Boldin already ruled out after undergoing knee surgery and ailing kicker Billy Cundiff being replaced by newly-signed veteran Shayne Graham, only defensive end Cory Redding’s status remains somewhat unclear. Redding is listed as questionable and practiced on a limited basis on Friday after missing three straight workouts this week. The defensive lineman told reporters earlier in the week he intended to play against the Browns on Saturday, and Harbaugh’s comments about Redding being a game-time decision were made with a positive tone on Thursday.

For the Browns, quarterback Colt McCoy, wide receiver Jordan Norwood, and safety T.J. Ward were officially ruled out on Friday, a day after Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur said McCoy and Norwood would not travel to Baltimore due to lingering concussion-related symptoms. Ward will be placed on injured reserve with a foot injury.

Starting in McCoy’s place against the Ravens will be veteran Seneca Wallace.

Standout cornerback Joe Haden and wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi are both listed as questionable for Saturday after practicing on a limited basis the last two days.

BALTIMORE
OUT: WR Anquan Boldin (knee)
DOUBTFUL: K Billy Cundiff (L calf)
QUESTIONABLE: DE Cory Redding (ankle)

CLEVELAND
OUT: QB Colt McCoy (head), WR Jordan Norwood (head), S T.J. Ward (foot)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Josh Cribbs (groin), CB Joe Haden (thigh), FB Owen Marecic (head/ankle), WR Mohamed Massaquoi (foot), T Tony Pashos (ankle), DT Scott Paxson (hand/calf)
PROBABLE: RB Montario Hardesty (calf), LB Ben Jacobs (head), G Shawn Lauvao (ankle), DT Brian Schaefering (ankle), S Usama Young (shoulder)

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