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THE COMPLETE ART MODELL PRIMER & FAQ REGARDING HIS HOF CANDIDACY

Posted on 03 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

Here is a primer on all things Canton, Pro Football Hall of Fame voting, the politics, the rules, the history and most importantly “Where Art Modell stands” in his lifelong quest to be bronzed and rightfully enshrined amongst the greats of the NFL game. You can also listen to Tuesday’s interviews with Peter King and Len Shapiro in our audio vault for more discussion about the reality of Art’s bid. Shapiro wrote a huge piece yesterday in The Washington Post pimping Modell’s candidacy and calling it a “travesty” that he’s not in Canton. It’s a must read!

(Incidentally, I’d love to link to a story in The Baltimore Sun regarding Modell’s candidacy, but once again our friends on Calvert Street are asleep at the wheel. Nice job of sticking up for your own, boys!)

This getting into the Hall of Fame business is more about politics and less about achievements these days if my research and the people I’ve chatted with who are in the room are really being honest.

The “clear cut” guys – this year it figures to a slam dunk for Rod Woodson, Shannon Sharpe and Bruce Smith as inductees – are mere formalities in many ways. Wide receiver Cris Carter is a bit of a holdover from last year, and figures to be a major factor with his gaudy stats. So, for the sake of argument, let’s just make them automatic and play for the bottom of the card, which appears to be the remaining one or two inductees. No one needs to make any strong argument for the non-bubble guys. It’s always the fringe people or the overlooked people who create the emotional stirs and long, heated debates in the minds of the voting committee.

There are 43 men and 1 woman who vote for the inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. There are 12 at-large members plus one representative from each of the 32 NFL cities/teams on the committee. Scott Garceau is Baltimore’s local rep. Mike Preston was formerly on the committee until 2004, when the Tribune Company decided to make it “against company policy” to vote on such committees because of “conflict of interest” concerns.

The 2009 list of 25 candidates will be pared down to 15 before Dec. 17th, when all 44 members must have their ballots and recommendations received. On Jan. 31, 2009 – the day before the Super Bowl – this group of 44 will enter the same room in Tampa and arguments will be given for all 15 candidates, plus the two senior committee nominees (this year it’s Claude Humphreys and Bob Hayes up for induction).

Let’s be straight: Virtually none of the candidates have anything left to “give the game” outside of Art Modell and Ralph Wilson, whose legacies and franchises live on in Baltimore, Cleveland and Buffalo. Paul Tagliabue is the only other “non player” on the current ballot of 25 names. All 22 of the others will be judged by their play on the field over the years, and virtually everyone on the HOF committee of 44 feels that “players” trump “contributors” when it comes time for voting. So, at best, Modell’s candidacy could be derailed by most anyone who actually stepped between the lines and played the game.

For the record, Tagliabue has many supporters among the 44, who all came in direct contact with His Commissionership many times over the last 20 years as he was the ultimate power broker in the sport for nearly a generation.

SO, HOW DOES ART MODELL GET INTO THE HALL OF FAME?

Good question. At this point, I believe it’s simply a matter of someone in our community (us?) making a stir and making it a viable, public outcry of support for Modell. Trust me, no one in Cleveland and not many amongst the 44 people in the room feel inclined to “jump on the table” for Art Modell. Other than Garceau, who is a staunch supporter of Modell (but who admits that having worked for the club as a play-by-play voice for a decade appears as a conflict of interest in that room), only Len Shapiro of The Washington Post has shown any partiality or inclination to grandstand on behalf of Modell. Another retired former voter and proponent of Modell is former USA Today columnist Gordon Forbes, who sends information to the current panel each year on behalf of Modell.

Here is the official “selection process” from the Pro Football Hall of Fame site.

I don’t think it’s as much about the facts of Modell’s contributions since 1961 to the NFL at this point. I think there’s some clear politicking – or lack thereof – going on. I’ve been told there are two major factors at play:

1. The move from Cleveland has created a “he’ll never get in because of that” mentality amongst some in the room and all of his other accomplishments have been diminished like Pete Rose’s sin of gambling on the game in baseball or Mark McGwire’s “not here to talk about the past” confession. For some, Modell is a lifelong pariah never to be recognized after “kicking the dog” on the cover of Sports Illustrated in Nov. 1995.

2. Over the years, some of Modell’s detractors have minimized his role and the legend of his involvement in the basic tenet of the merit of his candidacy: his role in the television negotiations and growth of the game with the networks and revenue. Time and the death of his contemporaries has definitely hindered Modell’s bid for Canton as much as anything because the very people who knew, felt, respected and lived through his many contributions are not the ones making a case for him at this point. Pete Rozelle, Wellington Mara, George Preston Marshall and Lamar Hunt are not here to be involved in the discussion although all of them no doubt believed in Modell’s Hall “worthiness.”

It’s now in the hands of the storytellers and some on the committee have heard conflicting reports as to whether Rozelle was the “smart one” and Modell was simply a guy who was the “No. 2” and simply got the credit of associating with the league. Of course, the mere fact that Modell came from a background of New York television in the late 1950’s would tell you that his network expertise was a key factor in the exponential growth of the league and its revenue during his tenure on the “television committee” for nearly 30 years.

From the Thanksgiving doubleheader to Monday Night Football, from winning an NFL Championship in Cleveland to winning a Super Bowl in Baltimore, from being involved at the game’s highest level since 1961 and being a massive part of shaping the sport for longer than most of us have been on the planet, Modell certainly deserves a better fate in Canton during the September of his life.

Certainly, most on the committee must believe that if Art is going to live long enough to see his own induction, the time is NOW for some action here in Baltimore.

We plan on creating some noise this week and hope that you’ll join our Facebook effort to help Art and raise awareness in Baltimore this week in anticipation of having a national audience here on Sunday night for the Redskins game.

WHO ARE THESE 44 GUYS ANYWAY AND HOW DID THEY GET ON SOMETHING AS IMPORTANT AS THE HALL OF FAME VOTING COMMITTEE?

Below is the list of the Hall of Fame voting committee, as selected by a board at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio:

Bernie Miklasz, Bob Gretz, Bob Oates, Charean Williams, Charles Chandler, Chick Ludwig, Clare Farnsworth, Cliff Christl, Dan Pompei, Dave Goldberg, David Climer, David Elfin, Don Pierson, Ed Bouchette, Edwin Pope, Frank Cooney, Howard Balzer, Ira Kaufman, Ira Miller, Jarrett Bell, Jeff Legwold, Jerry Green, Jerry Magee, Jim Trotter, John Clayton, John Czarnecki, John McClain, Kent Somers, Len Pasquarelli, Leonard Shapiro, Mark Gaughan, Mike Chappell, Mike O’Hara, Nancy Gay, Paul Domowitch, Paul Zimmerman, Peter Finney, Peter King, Rick Gosselin, Ron Borges, Sam Kouvaris,  Scott Garceau, Sid Hartman, Tony Grossi, Vinny DiTrani and Vito Stellino are the list of people.

Obviously, some of these names are more familiar than others. Some are frequent contributors to WNST. Some of them you know from television. And two of them – Miklasz and Stellino – were journalists here in Baltimore and covered the Colts leaving for Indianapolis. So, there’s plenty of perspective here on the NFL and plenty of expertise.

WHO ARE THE 25 NOMINEES ON THE CURRENT BALLOT?

Cris Carter Wide Receiver 1987-89 Philadelphia Eagles, 1990-2001 Minnesota Vikings, 2002 Miami Dolphins

Roger Craig Running Back 1983-1990 San Francisco 49ers, 1991 Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-93 Minnesota Vikings

Terrell Davis Running Back 1995-2001 Denver Broncos

Dermontti Dawson Center 1988-2000 Pittsburgh Steelers

Richard Dent Defensive End 1983-1993, 1995 Chicago Bears, 1994 San Francisco 49ers, 1996 Indianapolis Colts, 1997 Philadelphia Eagles

Chris Doleman, Defensive End-Linebacker 1985-1993, 1999 Minnesota Vikings, 1994-95 Atlanta Falcons, 1996-98 San Francisco 49ers

Kevin Greene, Linebacker-Defensive End 1985-1992 Los Angeles Rams, 1993-95 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1996, 1998-99 Carolina Panthers, 1997 San Francisco 49ers

Russ Grimm Guard 1981-1991 Washington Redskins

Ray Guy Punter 1973-1986 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders

Charles Haley, Defensive End-Linebacker 1986-1991, 1999 San Francisco 49ers, 1992-96 Dallas Cowboys

Lester Hayes, Cornerback 1977-1986 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders

Cortez Kennedy, Defensive Tackle 1990-2000 Seattle Seahawks

Bob Kuechenberg Guard 1970-1984 Miami Dolphins

Randall McDaniel Guard 1988-1999 Minnesota Vikings, 2000-2001 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Art Modell, Owner 1961-1995 Cleveland Browns, 1996-2003 Baltimore Ravens

John Randle, Defensive Tackle 1990-2000 Minnesota Vikings, 2001-03 Seattle Seahawks

Andre Reed Wide Receiver 1985-1999 Buffalo Bills, 2000 Washington Redskins

Shannon Sharpe, Tight End 1990-99, 2002-03 Denver Broncos, 2000-01 Baltimore Ravens

Bruce Smith, Defensive End 1985-1999 Buffalo Bills, 2000-03 Washington Redskins

Ken Stabler, Quarterback 1970-79 Oakland Raiders, 1980-81 Houston Oilers, 1982-84 New Orleans Saints

Paul Tagliabue Commissioner 1989-2006 National Football League

Steve Tasker, Special Teams-Wide Receiver 1985-86 Houston Oilers, 1986-1997 Buffalo Bills

Derrick Thomas Linebacker 1989-1999 Kansas City Chiefs

Ralph Wilson, Owner 1960-current Buffalo Bills

Rod Woodson, Cornerback-Saftey 1987-1996 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1997 San Francisco 49ers, 1998-2001 Baltimore Ravens, 2002-03 Oakland Raiders

HOW SIGNIFICANT IS TONY GROSSI OF THE CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER?

Six years ago, when Modell’s candidacy had its best chance – while Art still owned the team and was fresh off of the Super Bowl XXXV victory – it was shot down in a legendary way when Tony Grossi, Cleveland’s representative and outspoken hater of all things Modell on behalf of the greater Cuyahoga and Northern Ohio area, gave an impassioned speech about how what Modell did to his hometown should forever forbid his enshrinement to Canton. This much is public record.

Now, what influence that actually had on the other committee members is debatable. My sources tell me that there are “anti” candidate guys all over the room. As an example, I have a feeling Scott Garceau, who was the reporter told by Tagliabue to “build a museum,” won’t be voting the former Sun King commish into bronzeness anytime soon on behalf of Baltimore’s  shoddy treatment in 1993.

Over the years, my mentor John Steadman lobbied against John Mackey’s induction. It’s just the way these things go. Some people have an axe to grind. Some just legitimately look at a candidate like punter Ray Guy and say: “I’m not putting a punter in the Hall of Fame.”

In the case of inducting Modell, there is obviously plenty of precedent given Al Davis and Lamar Hunt and other contemporaries have long been inside the walls of Canton. There are also several owners in the Hall of Fame who have moved franchises from one city to the next.

If these 44 people entrusted to “get this right” are going to hold a business decision (and one that many of them couldn’t possibly understand) against inducting Modell into the Hall of Fame when that business move made a community like ours whole is preposterous.

I will be writing more later in the week about Art’s specific contributions here in Baltimore since 1996.

Feel free to comment and please spread the word about our plans for Sunday night and the Baltimore fans’ ability to affect this vote and get Art rightfully inducted into Canton.

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Eagles - Ravens preview

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Eagles – Ravens preview

Posted on 23 November 2008 by caseywillett

Here are some things to look for in the game today:

Keep Joe standing–  The Eagles, much like the Giants are going to come after Joe Flacco. Currently the Eagles are second in the NFL with 36 sacks on the season. Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson likes to bring exotic blitz packages teams at teams. Out of the 11 starters on defense for the Eagles, 10 of them have at least one sack. For the Ravens offensive line, most of that pressure comes from the front four of the Eagles. With the Ravens without the services of Jared Gaither, and Willie Anderson’s status up in the air, the Ravens could be looking at Adam Terry and Oneil Cousins or Chad Slaughter at the tackle positions. Keep an eye on the Trent Cole (#58) and Darren Howard (#90) for the Eagles defense, they have a combined 14 sacks.

Who do you cover ? – While DeSean Jackson has become the number one target of Donovan McNabb, after him McNabb and the Eagles have several different guys that can catch the ball. This could be a big key in the game today if they do not have Brian Westbrook. The Eagles could be able to stretch the Ravens defense out by going 3 or 4 wide at the receiver position. Plus his back and tight ends are also threats to catch the ball.

Here are the Eagles players stats when it comes to pass catching : Jackson– WR(42c 1TD), Brown -WR (13c 1TD), Lewis -WR (16c), Curtis-WR (19c 1TD),Avant – WR( 18c 1TD) ,Baskett – WR (22c 3TD), Smith – TE (18c 3 TD), Celek – TE (17c), Westbrook -RB (32c 2TD) ,Buckhalter (21c 1 TD)

Who can make the play on 3rd down – This might be the biggest element in deciding who wins the game today. The Eagles and the Ravens defense are two of the best in the NFL on stopping teams on 3rd down. Both teams have only allowed 33.1 % of third downs to be converted, Eagles(41-124) Ravens(49-148). Whichever team can covert on third down today could go a long way in deciding who wins this football game.

Which trend survives- People always talk about trends in the NFL, well here are two of them going into today’s game. Since 2000, the Eagles have the second best record in the NFL following a loss, owning a 30-15-1 record (.663). In 2008, they are 2-1-1, so far. The Ravens are 0-2 coming off of a loss this year and are coming off of a loss on Sunday to the Giants.

 

This will be a close game, probably with out a bunch of points being put on the board, but I will say the Eagles squeak out at 19-16 win over the Ravens today.

 

Also, if you see Kendra Wilkinson in the stands today, be nice to her, and tell her to return my phone calls please.

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Ravens vs. Eagles – Your Predictions

Posted on 20 November 2008 by Alex Thomas

Finally, the Ravens return to Baltimore and get to play in front of the home crowd. Coming off an embarrassing performance in the Meadowlands, the Ravens defense is poised to play their best game of the season.

Brian Westbrook is battling an ankle injury and has not yet participated in practice this week. Westbrook is the support beam for the Eagles offense. If he doesn’t play, the Eagles offense takes a totally different shape. Donovan McNabb did not play well last week against a rather pathetic Bengals defense.

Unfortunately, on the other side of the football, things aren’t looking so good. It looks like Jared Gaither won’t play, and Willie Anderson has been limited in practice all week. With the Eagles defense leading the NFL in sacks with 36, Joe Flacco could be running for his life on Sunday. When I last saw Derrick Mason he was in a sling, and he told reporters earlier this week that he is uncertain about whether or not he’ll play.

I think that if the Ravens were completely healthy, this would be an easy Baltimore victory. But the banged up offensive line creates some severe personnel match-up problems. Oneal Cousins trying to block Trent Cole and Darren Howard? Yeah…right…

The Ravens need this win with Miami and New England breathing down their neck in the AFC wild card race. Baltimore, Miami, and New England all have 6-4 records, but at this point the Ravens hold the tie-breaker. And either the Dolphins or the Patriots will pick up a win this week as both teams will square off in Miami.

My prediction: The Ravens know what’s at stake and will find a way to win this week, but Joe Flacco must be protected in order for that to happen. Look for more Troy Smith this week.

Ravens – 23

Eagles -16

Pivotal match-up: Ravens Offensive Line vs. Eagles Defensive Line.

Where it could all go wrong: The old adage: protect the football and protect the quarterback. If both of those things happen, the Ravens will win this game. I don’t see the Eagles doing much on offense with an unhealthy Brian Westbrook.

Surprising statistic: The Eagles are 37-1 when McNabb has a passer rating over 100.

Last Week’s winner would have been Ravenator if he would have picked the Giants to win, but the check mark goes to Johnny Rocket, who predicted a 31-11 Ravens loss. My pick: 23-20 Giants. Actual score: 30-10 Giants.

Week 10 Winner: My man Franchise gets the check mark, predicting a 31-10 Ravens victory. Remember when Ozzie Newsome was getting verbally crucified on the airwaves? I guess all of us should trust the Franchise. My pick: 29-12 Ravens. Actual Score: 41-13 Ravens.

Week 9 Winner: Johnny Rocket picked the closest score, predicting a 22-16 Ravens win. I don’t think anyone could have predicted the Ravens to put up 37 points on the road. My pick: 23-17 Browns. Actual score: 37-27 Ravens.

Week 8 winner: Nestminder is our first back-to-back winner, picking the Ravens to win 24-6. We had a record-low in the number of predictions received, but we can rebound this week. We’ll chalk that one up to the new website. My pick: 27-6 Ravens. Actual score: 29-10 Ravens

Week 7 winner: Nestminder picked a 20-13 Ravens victory and Polostat was a close second. My pick: 24-16 Ravens. Actual score: 27-13 Ravens.

Week 6 winner: Johnny Rocket correctly picked against the Ravens, per usual, predicting a 32-8 Colts victory. My pick: 28-23 Colts. Actual score: 31-3 Colts.

Week 5 winner: Columbia Ken picked the closest score, predicting a 17-13 Titans victory. My pick: 17-9 Ravens. Actual score: 13-10 Titans

Week 4 winner: Jon R. reluctantly picked a 24-20 win for the Steelers. My pick: 13-10 Ravens. Actual score: 23-20 Steelers (OT)

Week 3 winner: EazyE picked a 23-13 win for the Ravens vs. Cleveland. My pick: 23-13 Ravens. Actual score: 24-10 Ravens.

What are your predictions this week?

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The Wednesday Wheelhouse – Ruminations on All Things Sports and Otherwise

Posted on 19 November 2008 by Alex Thomas

What’s on your mind today on this chilly Wednesday in Baltimore?

-On Monday night I attended the annual Baltimore Ravens All-Community Team Auction to benefit several of the Ravens charities. I always hype these events because the Ravens do such a great job catering to their sponsors and fan base. It was another well-run event, with great food, even better company, and a chance to socialize with players like Ray Lewis, Troy Smith, Matt Stover, Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, Jason Brown, and several others. Senior VP Kevin Byrne and Troy Smith were the MCs and guided the players on stage to talk to the community. Each player told us what they were doing to benefit the City of Baltimore, and it was refreshing to see so many high profile players doing all that they can to help others. Jason Brown was the life of the party. He certainly knows how to work a crowd and should make a great broadcaster someday.

-It will be interesting to see how the Ravens respond against the Eagles this week. I think the Ravens took this loss to the Giants personally. Not because they lost, but because of HOW they lost. I’d be surprised to see Brian Westbrook get more than 50 rushing yards this week.

-I was working at Conrad’s Crabs this past Sunday, filleting fish and talking sports with the customers, which is definitely one of the highlights of the job. Around 7 o’clock the place was packed (as usual), and most people were sitting around waiting for a bag of delicious steamed Maryland crabs. During that time, the TV was tuned to the Steelers/Chargers game. Toward the end of the game, one of the customers uttered a famous line from the movie Anchorman. I’ll give you a hint (because I can’t actually type the line into my blog): it was the famous line that Ron Burgundy said on-air that inevitably got him fired from the TV station. Remember: “Ron Burgundy will read anything you type into the teleprompter.” The PG version: Thanks a lot, San Diego. I’m still laughing about that…

-I hate the Eagles as much as I hate the Redskins. It’s because of one thing and one thing only, and this applies to both teams. Their fans hold this arrogant sense of accomplishment as if they’ve won something recently. Not to mention I’ve heard stories of Eagles fans cursing at children that wear the opposing teams’ jersey. Classy. In a past blog, I’ve mentioned that many of my life-long friends are Eagles fans…we just don’t hang out on Sundays.

-Entering the rumor mill, it looks like the Orioles are going to make a strong play for both Mark Teixeira and AJ Burnett. It’s fish or cut bait time for Andy MacPhail. Time to use some of that MASN “revenue.” Some may call it revenue. I call it loot because they basically stole money from Comcast subscribers, and the only way to rectify such a crime is to make an Andre The Giant-sized cannonball splash in the free agent market. If we see more of the same, i.e. Brad Hennessey and Donnie Murphy, maybe it’s time for a “Free The Birds 3”. And this time, let’s do it in the off-season by picketing in front of the Warehouse. I dunno, just a thought…

-Unfortunately Drew Forrester beat me to the punch on blogging about the Towson/Navy opener, otherwise I would have posted a blog about it myself. I was there too, donning my WNST polo, and I met a lot of WNST fans. I spent the majority of the time with Jimmy the Usher and Mike, who took his son to the game. We stood on the baseline near the Towson bench and watched Pat’s Cats punch the Midshipmen in the mouth. The Tigers won 86-68, but the score would have been much more lopsided if the Tigers weren’t taking stupid shots early, which Pat Kennedy addressed during a timeout with about 8 minutes to go in the first half. Troy Franklin looked great in his limited playing time against Navy (he was limited because of early foul trouble). He has great court vision, shooting ability, and inside toughness for a smaller guard. Brian Morris also played well, and Josh Thornton led the scoring attack with 24 points.

-The first snow flakes of the year fell on Baltimore yesterday afternoon, as Mother Nature yielded some sporadic flurries. With all of this talk about global warming, I’m pretty sure Baltimore weather will never change, because weird stuff like this happens all of the time. Snow before Thanksgiving? Last year, I came home for Christmas break and wore flip flops and shorts on December 27th…it was 64 degrees that day.

-HBO should pay me because I keep hyping season five of Entourage, and rightfully so. Did anyone else see that episode on Sunday night? It was more shockingly dramatic than comical, which was a different spin for the Entourage fan base in a good way. It drew me into the actual storyline instead of the debauchery, drinking, and naked girls (which are highly entertaining in their own right). This season has truly been the best yet, and I hope HBO renews the Entourage contract. Do yourself a favor and check out the new season with Comcast On Demand if you haven’t done so already.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section.

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Great Tight Ends

Posted on 15 November 2008 by Brian Billick

Tomorrow we may see a substantial achievement by one of the great tight ends to play this game. With one more TD reception Antonio Gates can get to 50 TD receptions in a career faster than any other tight end in NFL history. Not withstanding injury, Gates may well be on the way to the first of many feats to establish himself as one of the great tight ends of all time.

The year 1963 saw the beginning of a major shift in the NFL with the use of the tight end. The evolution of the tight end position has been constant since Mike Ditka changed the definition of the position as the 5th selection overall in the NFL Draft that year by the Chicago Bears when he caught 56 passes for 1076 yards and a still-record 12 TD’s by a tight end (tied by Todd Christensen twenty years later). Ditka, Baltimore’s John Mackey and St. Louis Cardinals Jackie Smith (all drafted in I963) began to shift the tight end position to one from primarily as a blocker to one who could be a major part of an offensive passing attack. All three would go on to have Hall of Fame careers.

These great players were followed by the likes of Charlie Sanders (Detroit) and Raymond Chester (Oakland) in 1968 and 1970, respectively. Dave Casper (Oakland) followed in 1974, our own Ozzie Newsome then came along in Cleveland in 1978, Kellen Winslow (San Diego) and Todd Christensen (Oakland) in 1979. Christensen was actually drafted as a running back by the Dallas Cowboys, moved on to the New York Giants before settling in Oakland and igniting his career as a tight end.

In the mid-1980’s Mark Bavaro (New York Giants) and Jay Novacek (Dallas) came along to prove invaluable parts of Super Bowl winning teams.

Shannon Sharpe started the 90’s off right with the Denver Broncos followed by Tony Gonzales (Kansas City Chiefs) in the later part of the decade.

Looking at this group one thing become readily apparent. If you want a great one you will probably have to use a high draft choice to do it. The chart below shows that you will probably have to expend a first day pick to get a TE of this caliber.

Mike Ditka

1963

Chi

1961, 1st round (5th overall) by Chicago

Kellen Winslow

1980

SD

1979, 1st Round (13th Pick) by San Diego Chargers

Tony Gonzales

1998

KC

1997, 1st Round (13th Pick) by Kansas City Chiefs

Ozzie Newsome

1979

Cle

1978, 1st Round (23rd Pick) by Cleveland Browns

Raymond Chester

1972

Oak

1970, 1st Round (24th Pick) by Oakland Raiders

John Mackey

1964

Bal

1963, 2nd round (19th pick) Baltimore

Dave Casper

1975

Oak

1974, 2nd Round (19th Pick) by Oakland Raiders

Todd Christensen

1980

Oak

1978, 2nd Round (28th Pick) by Dallas Cowboys

Charlie Sanders

1970

Det

1968, 3rd rond (74th pick) By Detroit

Shannon Sharpe

1991

Den

1990, 7th Round (27th Pick) by Denver Broncos

Jackie Smith

1965

StL

1963, 10th round (129 pick) St. Louis

Antonio Gates

2004

SD

2003, Not drafted

Obviously, Antonio Gates may end up as one of the great-undrafted free agent stories of all time. A basketball player at Kent State in Ohio, Gates, if he can stay healthy may break virtually every TE record.

Having said that it is hard to not recognize the accomplishments of Tony Gonzales: (those in RED are current Hall of Fame players. The only HOF missing from this list is John Mackey whose numbers don’t rate in the top ten).

RK

NAME

Year

Rec

Yds

Avg

Lg

TD

1

Tony Gonzales

12

870

10426

12.1

73t

71

2

Shannon Sharpe

14

815

10060

12.3

82t

62

3

Ozzie Newsome

13

662

7980

12.1

74

47

4

Kellen Winslow

9

541

6741

12.5

67t

45

5

Jackie Smith

16

480

7918

16.5

81

40

6

Todd Christensen

10

461

5872

12.7

50

41

7

Mike Ditka

12

427

5812

13.6

76t

43

8

Jay Novacek

11

422

4630

11

49

30

9

Dave Casper

11

378

5216

13.8

52t

52

10

Antonio Gates

6

378

4831

12.8

72t

49

Kellen Winslow is considered by many to be the best based on the numbers he generated even though he was a part of an offense with such great receivers as Charlie Joiner, Wes Chandler and John Jefferson. With all this talent outside, it is truly amazing that he was able to generate this much offense.

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Houston and good health

Posted on 07 November 2008 by joeflacco

We’re in a really good groove right now and it’s a lot of fun for us.  Not only have we won three straight games but we’re practicing hard and everyone is very focused on what we have to do on a week-to-week basis.

I know this was supposed to be our bye week but maybe it’s good for us that we just keep
on rolling along and keep up the momentum we’ve established.  Obviously we are going to need to go to Houston and play well to sustain that momentum but it’s been a lot of fun the last few weeks and it seems like we’re in a real good rhythm.

Every week the coaching staff just reminds us to keep our heads down, study the game plan, practice hard and have fun on Sunday.  And everyone is doing that.

Personally, I feel very good right now.

We played 15 games at Delaware last year (12 regular season, 3 playoffs) so it’s not like I haven’t gone through a long schedule before.  One of the reasons I feel so good at this point in the season is because the offensive players have done such a great job protecting me all year. They’re a big reason why I’m healthy and feeling fresh early in November.  Believe me, I don’t take it for granted and I appreciate them.

So it’s off to Houston on Saturday.  I’ve never been there so I’m looking forward to getting to a new city, even though we don’t do much on the road except get ready to play the game.  That’s one thing I can say for sure about life in the NFL.  You go on the road, you get to the city where you’re playing at 3 or 4 in the afternoon on Saturday and then you start getting ready for the game.  Meetings, game plan reviews and all that stuff.  My road roommate is fellow-rookie Marcus Smith.  He’s a really good guy and we are just taking it all in and enjoying our first year in the league.  But a win in Houston would make the trip better, that’s for sure!

Hope you all have a great weekend and I’ll catch up with Drew at 8:30am on Tuesday to chat about the game and get ready for the Giants next week.

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Will the Ravens extend Ray Lewis?

Posted on 04 November 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

Ever since Drew Forrester posted his blog here at WNST.net yesterday about Ray Lewis and his pending return to the Ravens next year, folks have been talking.

I’ve received several calls from inside the organization (and around the NFL) and the reports are mixed. Many think it’s a “done deal” and others, perhaps closer to understanding the business acumen of Ray Lewis circa 2008, think this is “part of the game.”

Let’s start with the absolute obvious here: Twice this year Steve Bisciotti has publicly said what Drew wrote yesterday: Ray Lewis will remain a Raven for life.

Bisciotti did this while appearing with the new Miami sidekick on a bad radio show in August and before that poolside at the Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla. at the owner’s meetings.

(It’s kinda crazy that NFL Network was reporting that “WNST is reporting Lewis deal imminent,” etc. when it was simply Drew’s blog saying that he believes it’ll “get done.” We didn’t send a text. We didn’t write a headline screaming “Lewis signs 5-year deal with Ravens.” Drew simply put up an informed, sourced blog with good inside information.)

But today – somewhat for sheer argument though I actually do feel this way — I will play “Devil’s advocate” and take the other position.

This is defending the “part of the game” theory of where we are with Ray Lewis in the “walk” year in his 13th season in the league at the age of 33 on a surprisingly good team and playing at a high level.

“Playing the game” would be that Lewis is finally taking all of the quality advice he’s been given – “shut up, play hard, be a good guy, try to win” – and using his play on Sundays to “cash in” with another huge payday. And, I’m sure, his better advisors told him that he’d “get paid” by someone at a very high rate of return, whether it’s the Ravens or not.

Ray Lewis is playing his ass off. While he might not be what he used to be in pass coverage when he was the best player on the planet, he’s still a pretty damned good middle linebacker. He’s the franchise player, the face of the organization and anything good that’s ever happened to the Ravens has his signature on it.

His leadership — when he’s leading EVERYONE — rubs off on his teammates and he makes them all better. Quick: name one player who LEFT the Ravens’ defense and got better somewhere else? Ed Hartwell? Kim Herring? Adalius Thomas? Jamie Sharper?

And that’s not disrespect to any of the aforementioned. It’s just a fact. Ray Lewis makes his teammates better.

For some the Ravens ARE Ray Lewis.

He’s also a very, very complex man. He’s got lots of children, relatives, advice, friends, business associates, etc. and many have had his ear over the years with mixed results. He’s jettisoned and offended enough people over the years to create two distinct camps, much of it unnecessary, really.

They should be building statues for the guy in Baltimore. I’m not sure that’s ever going to happen and I’m not really sure Ray Lewis cares if he’s an icon in Baltimore. And he’ll never actually live full time in Baltimore, so does it really matter?

But he does care about the money and he clearly cares about the integrity in which he earns it. He wants to be great. We all see that and respect it.

But make no mistake about it: No one says it’s NOT about the money with Ray Lewis. It’s ALWAYS about the money with Ray.

So, while Drew thinks he’s solved this mystery and it’ll be a “no brainer,” I’m not so sure that I feel the same way. I’ve heard the same stuff from many people in the building: he’s not going anywhere and the contract is a “formality.”

(Again. See: Owner, Bisciotti, Steve for comments about this point.)

I’m here to say that it’s not a formality until it’s, well, FORMAL. Like a signed deal, a healthy Ray Lewis and a signing bonus and deal that he doesn’t feel is insulting to him. Word is, they already made one significant foray into signing No. 52 back in August and the signing bonus number was around $12 million and it wasn’t attractive enough to get Lewis’ attention. One person told me, No. 52 all but laughed at it.

But that’s Ray Lewis’ way. He wants to be the best and be paid like he’s the best. If Dwight Freeney got $30 million, surely Lewis will want to play and get paid beginning at $31 million.

So, with all due respect to Drew Forrester, it’s gonna take two to tango in Owings Mills.

Sure, the Ravens WANT Ray Lewis back. There’s more at stake for Bisciotti in this deal than meets the eye. First, he has a tremendous affinity for Lewis and his complexities. Bisciotti LOVES Ray Lewis. He admires him! And he’s said at least twice publicly – like in the “legitimate” media – that Ray is going nowhere.

Where were the headlines then?

Think Ray Lewis and his agents haven’t read those quotes? Think they won’t be used as a weapon come the end of the season? Especially if the season ends well into January…or even later (OK, so I’m dreaming here, but that’s what I do! Incidentally, so does Ray Lewis! He thinks we’re winning the Super Bowl in February! Just ask him!)

So, then, what will the price be if Ray Lewis leads to the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory in Tampa in February?

The stock is already pretty high and rising, but this entire “game” is akin to Wall Street. It all depends on where the “futures” market is heading.

An injury over the next two months, and Lewis might get nothing. If the team tanks over the last half (not absurd given their schedule and relative inexperience in key areas), his stock drops.

But if they win…

Riiiiiiight…

Skies the limit!

But Ozzie Newsome will have his price. And Steve Bisciotti’s might be higher. And Ray Lewis probably knows that.

“You can’t pay a guy for tomorrow based on what he did yesterday,” is a credo wise general managers of NFL teams stick with pretty consistently. So I can assure you where Ozzie Newsome’s stance will be no matter how much he admires Ray Lewis.

Ozzie answers to the “eye in the sky” and the salary cap. Newsome won’t want to pay Ray Lewis for “all he’s done over the years” but Bisciotti might.

Next September he’ll be a 34-year old linebacker with fading coverage skills and a heart as big as the state and a Hall of Fame bronze statue awaiting him in Canton at some point.

And we all know what happens to players in their twilight, right?

Here’s the general scenario (and there’s no reason in the world to think it won’t play out this way for Ray Lewis if he wants to gauge his “market” value):

Ozzie: “Ray we love you. But we think you’re worth $16 million.”

Ray’s agent: “We’ll shop elsewhere.”

Like Junior Seau. And Emmitt Smith. And Joe Montana. And Jason Taylor. And Bruce Smith. And Brett Favre. etc.

Of course the biggest wild card here is the pending bust-up of the collective bargaining agreement and the chance of a rich guy’s free-for-all in the league with an uncapped season coming during the life of whatever deal Lewis will get from any team in the offseason.

So, my guess is that it ain’t over yet by any stretch.

There’s a lot of football left to be played and a lot of “off the field” politics and accounting to be done.

And a lot of “the game” has yet to play out.

Stay tuned. This soap opera could be as thick as Luke and Laura on General Hospital back in 1980.

Or it could all get done quietly behind closed doors, but that’ll definitely cost Bisciotti and the Ravens a little more than they originally thought. And they’re apparently OK with that as long as it’s not too absurd.

But Ray won’t take the “friends and family deal” to stay with the Ravens. Like he says, “It’s just business.”

At least if the plan is working and the team continues to win it makes all the sense in the world to “take care” of Ray a little. Theoretically, he’s worth more to the Ravens then he is to any other team.

But don’t kid yourself: it’ll cost more to sign Ray Lewis if the prosperity continues.

One thing we know for sure: no matter how much they pay him they’re going to get the same results from a 34 through 38-year old linebacker.

As Bill Parcells would say: “He is what he is.”

Then the question becomes: How much tread do the Ravens and Steve Bisciotti think is left on the old tire?

And what’s the price of poker in Baltimore?

I’ve always maintained that it’ll probably “end badly” with Ray Lewis, like it does for most NFL stars who want to essentially be overpaid for their contributions earlier in their career.

One way or another, we’ll find out in the coming weeks whether Bisciotti and Lewis are on the same page as to the value of a mid-30’s linebacker in the NFL.

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No “I” In Team

Posted on 26 October 2008 by roblong

Throughout the Ravens’ game, I received several texts and e-mails about the Ravens use of Troy Smith. The majority of the messages expressed they felt Coach John Harbaugh gave in to Terrell Suggs’ comments by using Smith in the offense on “certain” packages.

Let me remind you that there’s no “I” in team. While I am paid to give my opinion and I welcome yours, this is Harbaugh’s team. He has to do what’s best for the organization.

I’m sure Harbaugh feels he did exactly that. He’s the new coach with someone else’s players. With that, he’s in a situation where he can actually make a move in the AFC.

Today, the Ravens ran some offensive plays that were, worst case scenario, harmless to the offense. A couple turned out to be highly productive. Harbaugh’s not giving in to players, he’s creating the best situation for this team to be successful, now. If there are several players voicing their support for Smith to get some playing time, he put it to rest without sacrificing the team’s future. And they all looked like they were having fun.

Oh, it was by design that Joe Flacco got involved in a unique way. Now, he walks away feeling that he’s a part of the new “wrinkle” in this offense with his first career reception.

In the end, everyone wins. Harbaugh shows he can be “flexible” in the midst of the crossroads. Now, if he permanently benches Chris McAllister, he has Smith in his back pocket. It’s all about give and take. If McAllister is not in the team’s future, he can always say, “Guy, I have your best interest at heart.”

Today, John Harbaugh did a very good thing. I believe he may have won over a few players in the process. He proved there’s no “I” in team. That even includes the Head Coach.

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Ravens-Raiders blog

Posted on 26 October 2008 by caseywillett

This will be interesting to see how much the Raiders go after Frank Walker with Chris McAlister out today.

1:05 – Hard to throw the ball when you are being chased. Suggs with the pressure Pryce with the sack.

Jarret Johnson is having a monster of a year. He is making plays all over the field.

Jim Leonhard was  shoe string tackle away from taking the punt the distance.

1:15 – So three and outs for both teams. I think we could be seeing a lot of this today. I still stick with the Ravens winning 20-17. Sam Koch does not get the credit he deserves, he is very good about pinning teams deep.

1:25 – We have a Troy Smith sighting…and that did much for nothing.Did you think you would see the Ravens steal something from the Dolphins playbook ? Also saw the Ravens with 4 wideouts in one of their formations. Great day so far for Jameel McClain who got credit for the sack and safety on JaMarcus Russell.

1:34 – So I put in a request for Red Bull energy drinks in the press box cafateria.  This could be a long day watching this game. The Ravens should throw those trick plays away, twice they have tried some razzle dazzle play and had to call a timeout to avoid play clock from running out.

2:00 – The Ravens have pulled out several of the crazy formations such as using Troy Smith again and putting Haloti Ngata on the offensive line and Willis McGahee going in behind him for the touchdown run. I am still not ready to kick the dirt on the Raiders for the day.

2:15 – Sitting behind some of the officials for the Raiders, you can tell it has been a long season and may be even longer. They can not get out of their own way. De Angelo Hall keeps talking trash to the Ravens sideline for some reason. The Ravens have run the “wildcat” offense three times so far, two of them have been Troy Smith runs, while the other was a Ray Rice run.

2:45 – A great ceremony here at half time putting Jonathan Ogden into the Ravens Ring of Honor. JaMarcus Russell threw an absolute laser to Chaz Schilens for 60 yards. That was more yards on one play than the Raiders had the entire 1st half. The Ravens will have to start throwing the ball out of the wildcat formation if they want to continue to use it.

3:00 – Once again the Ravens try to come out with Troy Smith under center and have to call a timeout to avoid the play clock from running out. Ray Rice has made a lot of big plays and has put up over 100 yards of total offense today. Ed Reed must be really cold, because ever time he comes to the sideline he puts on sweatpants. The Troy Smith to Joe Flacco pass might be the greatest play in Ravens history, and to think it might end up with a field goal. Derrick Mason almost got knocked out by Wilbert Montgomery when he was going back out on the field. Mason was behind Coach Montgomery who flailed his arms in disgust and landed an elbow right on Derrick Mason who stumbled for a second then made his way onto the field.

3:15- I have to be honest, I did not see how Justin Griffith broke the plane of the end zone with the ball. It appeared that he went up and cam right back down with out the ball breaking the plane. That might be the only think that the Raiders have gotten right today. Thomas Howard of the Raiders might want to look at the scoreboard before he makes a tackle when his team is trailing 19-3 and celebrates like he just made the game saving tackle.

3:30 – Here is where the Ravens have to be able to put a team away. They dodged a pretty big bullet that the Raiders were not able to pick up that first down on their last drive. Now the Ravens have to put the Raiders away and turn the lights off on any dim hope they have of getting back into this football game…..Scratch that as McGahee fumbles, this could get interesting.

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Coach Harbaugh speaks on Chris McAlister’s status and Terrell Suggs comments

Posted on 24 October 2008 by caseywillett

Here are some news and notes as it relates to Ravens on Friday:

-Chris McAlister took 11 reps on Wednesday and has not practiced the last two days. So do not look for him to start on Sunday.

-Derrick Mason missed the last two days of practice with a severe headache. Mason attended meetings this morning but did not practice.

-Coach Harbaugh said that all of the talk about Terrell Suggs, Troy Smith, and Chris McAlister, has not been a distraction for the team. Some of the guys have joked with Suggs about it, but that is about as far as is it goes.

-Terrell Suggs and Coach Harbaugh have discussed his statement about Troy Smith should be the starting quarterback and that it is a non issue and he takes Suggs at his word when he said he just thought they both should play.

Here is the statement released by Terrell Suggs about the statements that he made about the bounty:

I’ve got to set the record straight about what I said about so-called bounties. I tried to explain this on Wednesday, but it keeps coming back up.

“We, the players, don’t pay each other to take another player out of the game. And you know coaches don’t do that. As I said before, we prepare to stop the other team’s best players every week. Those are the players who can beat you with big plays. For example, we’ve focused all this week on stopping the Raiders’ running backs. We’ve focused on them in practice and in meetings. They are marked men by our defense – we have to know where they are on every play, and we can’t let them get rolling on Sunday.

“When I did the radio show in Atlanta, that’s what I meant and I thought that’s what I said. I did repeat the word bounty early in the interview after the guy asking me the question used the word. That was a mistake. I misspoke, and I’m sorry for that.

“I hope that clears this up.”

Jim Leonhard  took some reps as the backup holder for Matt Stover. He is doing this because he would be the guy if something was to happen to Sam Koch. This is because Todd Bouman will be the 3rd string emergency quarterback.

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