Tag Archive | "suggs"

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Suggs continues his double talk over camp

Posted on 15 July 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Today is the day. Either Terrell Suggs agrees to the deal the Ravens have put forth and becomes a long-term signee or he’ll be franchised at 4 p.m. and will have to suffer with a second year of detainment and a $10.2 million payday in 2009.

After telling The Los Angeles Times that training camp is “overrated” two weeks ago, Suggs told Jamison Hensley this in this morning’s fishwrap: “The fans want to see me in training camp on time, and I want to be there on time.”

A change of heart? Perhaps…but who can blame him about training camp? Not many are fond of the necessary evil.

But here’s the key fact for the day: there’s a contract for about $30 million in guaranteed money sitting on the table awaiting his wet signature. Of course by signing the current multi-year deal the Ravens are offering, it would indeed mean that he’d need to be in Westminster in 12 days.

Suggs told the world two weeks ago that the deal was “close” to a long-term agreement.

One thing is for sure: the deadline is now close and we’ll know more by the end of the day.

Either way, Suggs will be in uniform on Sept. 13 when the Chiefs come to town to start the Festivus season. So I’m not sweating it. Apparently, neither is Suggs.

If you want to be the first to know if Suggs inks a long-term deal, you can join our WNST Text Service here.

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Just Say No To Anqaun Boldin

Posted on 22 April 2009 by Neal Bortmes

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Ghns37TLUY[/youtube]The Ravens should not trade for Anquan Boldin. Yes he is a dynamic receiver who can score touchdowns, I know because he helped me win my fantasy league last year.  Boldin suffered a broken jaw and came back to play last season, so we know he is tough, and he accumulated 89 grabs for 1,038 yards and 11 TD’s despite missing time due to the gruesome injury.  He hasn’t proven to be a malcontent like other big name receivers, but he is very envious of his teammate Larry Fitzgerald’s contract and thinks he should be similarly compensated.  Boldin is a strong guy with a lot of YAC potential and I am sure that Cam Cameron could use him in very creative ways.

 

 

The crux of the situation is the Cardinal’s price tag for acquiring him.  Somehow they have decided that every general manager in the league is as foolhardy as Jerry Jones and they are seeking a 1st and 3rd round pick similar to what the Cowboys gave up last year in their trade for Roy Williams.  That move may pay dividends for the ‘Boys this year but the returns are not in as of yet, and I think that a similar move by the Ravens may be unpredictable as well.  The Ravens made it to the AFC Championship game last year with the core group of guys currently on the roster, and Ozzie Newsom has actually hit on more first round picks than he has missed during his tenure with the Ravens.  Which is something very few, if any executives can say during that same time.  Personally I would rather take the chance that Ozzie will find a gem, regardless of position, at 26 who will play for the team for ten years, than trade for Boldin who has about five high level years left.  Boldin is approaching 30 which is generally the start of decline in many players.

 

 

There are other potential hurdles in the Ravens’ quest for Boldin, including their current salary cap situation.  If the Ravens do trade for him they will have to cut some other players in order to sign him to the extension worth the type of money he desires.  This will reduce the depth that Ozzie has worked hard to build in the off-season through free agency.  If the Ravens could somehow sweet-talk the Cardinals into accepting a second round pick and either Willis McGahee or Todd Heap (or even better both and a lower pick) then they could clear enough cap space to sign Boldin.  Trading these players however also has potentially negative salary cap implications.

 

 

If the Ravens were to sign Boldin for the money he expects than it will surely create problems in the locker room.  Terrell Suggs has wanted a contract extension for what he perceives as his market value for two years now.  During that time he has never complained or whined openly to the media, asked to be traded, or become a distraction in any way to his team, the same cannot be said for Boldin.  In my estimation if the Ravens trade for Boldin and give him what he is asking for then Suggs will have a legitimate beef with the organization.  He has done everything asked of him but if he is slapped in the face like that I feel a divided contentious looker room may result.

 

 

Suggs will not be the only Raven veteran who will be dismayed by this course of events.  Derrick Mason will also assuredly be upset because he too would like a contract extension, and like Suggs he has been a consummate professional in his time here.  Mason also played through a significant injury last year having suffered a torn labrum and scapula in week 10; however he was sill able to total 80 receptions for 1037 yards and 5 TD’s.  Mason’s age (35) and his injury may soon catch up with him but he has seemed to improve each year of his career with the Ravens. 

 

 

The Ravens need to upgrade their receiving corps, preferably with a go-to-guy who can stretch the field, but Anquan Boldin is not the answer.  The problems I have enumerated weigh heavily in the favor of his acquisition as a negative prospect going forward and unless things change in the very near future it is simply a bad idea.  The Ravens should continue to build through the draft and see how things transpire before they go all willy-nilly and trade away their future for a bunch of potential problems.  Last but certainly not least remember that Haloti Ngata is going to also need a new contract soon and he will surely command top dollar.

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Ray-Week, Day 3 – “Money too tight to mention?”

Posted on 25 February 2009 by Drew Forrester

Hang in there gang, we’re almost to Friday.

That’s when the fireworks REALLY begin.

Beginning this Friday, if Ray Lewis really does reach 12:01am without a signed contract in Baltimore, he’ll hit free agency for the first time in his career.

I assume, by the time I make it to the air at 6:07 for a Friday morning edition of the wildly popular “Comcast Morning Show”, Ray will already be in the news somehow, someway.  Even if no team makes him a bonafide offer in the wee hours of the morning, I’m quite certain someone from his camp will float one out there.

Yesterday, reports circulated that Ray was offered a significant amount of money from the Ravens on Tuesday.  

The only issue with that?  The Ravens might not have “significant money” available to them at this point. 

Why let that important fact get in the way, though, right?

Last August when the Ravens rebuffed Ray’s counter-offer of $20 million, they might have known then that they’d be tight-against-the-cap in February/March of 2009.  

They’re not able to be free spenders this off-season.  They’ve already shelled out $10,170,000 to Terrell Suggs.  They’ve handed over a little more than $1.5 million to defensive lineman Brandon McKinney and a million bucks to Dwan Edwards for 2009.

The Ravens have roughly $123 million to play with (cap-wise) in 2009.  Right now, they’re closing in on $113 million, by my estimation, give a million or so either way.  

If, in fact, they’re $10 million to the good under the cap, what do they do with it?

I know what they CAN’T do with $10 million.  Sign Ray, Bart, Jason and Jim.  In fact, with $10 million, it’s likely they can’t even sign TWO of those guys, unless it’s Leonhard and Brown, the most likely combination that could be pulled for $10 million in cap expense for 2009.

OK, then, who goes in order to make more room under the cap, if that’s even necessary?

And, remember, you can’t be over the salary cap after this Friday at 12:00 am.  In other words, by Thursday at 11:59pm, you need to be under the cap and STAY under the cap throughout 2009.  

So, between now and Friday, the Ravens would have to part company with some significant players – and salaries – in order to fit a few of the “most-wanted” into the 2009 scheme.

Who goes, then?

Trevor Pryce ($1.75 million saved if released before 6/1)?  Samari Rolle ($4.1 million)?  Is it right to release Kelly Gregg after he spent ’08 on the injured list ($1.1 million)?  Frank Walker ($1.6 million) could be expendable but with CMac’s departure, every veteran defensive back could be valuable in ’09.

That eight million sure would help.

Where’s the defensive end pass rush going to come from in ’09?  There’s no Trevor Pryce waiting in the wings, with all due respect to Marques Douglas.

And, with the departure of Chris McAlister, the Ravens are already somewhat hamstrung experience-wise in the defensive backfield.  Losing Rolle wouldn’t HELP the situation back there, that’s for sure.

But, that $8 million would sure help.  

Or, do the Ravens just go ahead and sign Jason Brown, and Jim Leonhard and squeeze the two signings into the roughly-$10 million they have to left to play with?  They could probably get Brown for a $7 million signing bonus over four years and another $2.5 million per-year…and Leonhard would cost them roughly $1.5 million a year for three years.  In other words, they could sneak those two in for ’09 and fit them under the $10 million they have left.  Keep in mind, too, my numbers are more rounded off than they probably should be…the Ravens might be working with $8,882,019 dollars for all I know. In other words, every dollar counts.  

By the way, the Ravens need $5 million or so to sign their draft picks.  Anyone know how they’re going to do that?  Yeah, me neither.

Keep in mind, the Ravens haven’t even perused the free agent list yet to see who might be available on Friday morning.  And they have their own contributors hanging out there as well:  Matt Stover is wondering if he’s coming back – and getting paid.  Same for Dan Wilcox.  And Kyle Boller.  Let’s take a truth-pill here.  As hard as it is to swallow, if there’s no money for Jason Brown and Bart Scott (not to mention Ray Lewis), there’s certainly no money for Stover, Wilcox and Boller.    

It’s all coming clear now:  Unless Ozzie and DeCosta make some dramatic moves over the next 72 hours, they aren’t going to have enough money for their own players, let alone guys parading around the league for a new deal.  

I’m glad I’m not making the decision(s).

And, it’s not Fantasy Football either.

Most fans just say, “Give Ray and Bart the money and get it over with already, would ya?”

It’s just not that easy.

Sports is weird.  

The Orioles have gobs of money to spend and don’t want to spend it.

The Ravens would love to have an unlimited amount to spend, but they can’t.

It sure is fun to talk about, though.

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Is the sun setting on Ray’s purple career?

Posted on 17 February 2009 by Drew Forrester

The first public volley in the “Ray Lewis Battle” was fired by the Ravens this afternoon.

But, it didn’t involve #52.

The initial blow to Ray’s hopes of landing one more mega-millions lottery ticket from the Ravens comes in the form of an announcement that the club will place the franchise tag on Terrell Suggs for the 2009 season if he doesn’t sign a new contract by February 19 (Thursday).

The tag will cost the Ravens $10,170,000 for another season of Suggs’ services.

Look at it like this:  That’s $10 million-plus that Ray WON’T be getting.

It’s not a huge shock that the Ravens are franchising Suggs again.

I remarked on today’s edition of The Comcast Morning Show that the secret-blackboard in Ozzie’s office has Suggs as the team’s #1 off-season priority, followed by Ray Lewis at #2.

It’s not such a secret anymore, is it?

The Ravens decided today that the player they can least afford to lose is NOT the franchise player, Ray Lewis, but the franchise-tag-designee, Terrell Suggs.

I can’t argue with them on this one, either.

Suggs is a beast.  He’s 26.  He has a lot of good football left in his shoes.  ”Sizzle” is in the June of his career calendar.  Ray’s career calendar says, “Thanksgiving is next week, here are some tips on how to cook a great turkey.”

There is a chance, of course, that Newsome could construct and sign-off on a new contract with Suggs in the next 48 hours and avoid the $10,170,000 price tag that goes with the franchise designation.

Perhaps Suggs won’t cost the Ravens over $10 million in ’09.  Maybe he’ll cost a million or two less.

There’s certainly a chance they can still sign Ray Lewis.  I’m sure from the beginning the Ravens were hoping to have both #55 and #52 on the sidelines in purple for ’09 and beyond.

Today, they made it clear they’re going to get one of them.

Today, they also made it clear that Ray’s value to the team might not be as high as Ray thinks it is.

After all, they were NOT willing to let Suggs test the free agent market.

The first shot has been fired.

Stick around, there’s plenty more where that came from.

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So lemme guess: you skipped the Pro Bowl again?

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So lemme guess: you skipped the Pro Bowl again?

Posted on 09 February 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

I spent the afternoon yesterday at Sylvia’s house in Parkville watching the Pro Bowl, eating chicken wings and pizza and drinking Miller Lite. Honestly, I’m glad we did make a date to watch the game with her many Ravens buddies and waiting for a random big play from a guy in a purple helmet or to get a look at the many Ravens staffers donning Don Ho-style red Hawaiian flowered print shirts. The entire coaching staff from John Harbaugh and Cam Cameron right on down looked like Peter Schmuck at Camden Yards on a summer night.

But the Pro Bowl sucks even when you’re with people you like in a really cool basement (Sylvia won our “Miller Lite Purple Palace” contest last month). We all know that. Vanilla defenses. Lots of “no shows,” including our own Ed Reed. Even the quarterbacks stunk yesterday, with everyone from Peyton Manning to Kerry Collins to Drew Brees to Kurt Warner throwing these wobbling dying duck passes all over the Honolulu turf. Brendon Ayanbejdo played more base defense in the Pro Bowl yesterday than he did during the entire NFL season. LeRon McClain missed at one shot at the endzone and got in on his second chance. Terrell Suggs and Ray Ray looked regal in their red jerseys making a few random tackles and missing others.

And there’s no doubt about it: NO ONE wants to get hurt. Everytime Ray Lewis went toward the ball we were all holding our breath and he STILL might wind up on the Steelers in six weeks for all we know? Or, this might’ve been the final time he strapped on a purple chinstrap. That thought definitely crossed my mind.

Next year, the Pro Bowl will move back to the mainland for the first time in more than a generation, and will be played the week before the Super Bowl in Miami, which will probably allow me to attend. But what’s to see when you actually watch the game?

Guys kinda going through the motions. The NFL marketing its various “Pro Bowl official game jerseys.” And all of the stars in one place at one time in a game that should probably be changed to a flag football game. Even the announcers kinda make fun of how the game is an “exhibition” that borders on a joke as far as a competition goes.

It was a great chance to honor our “Miller Lite Purple Palace” winner and talk football. All of Sylvia’s friends were buzzed up about all the same stuff all of the WNST listeners have on their minds.
Sylvia's Purple Crew

What’s going to happen with Ray Lewis?

Are the Terps going to make the tournament?

The Orioles are going to suck again.

But there’s something poignant and “final” about seeing the last snap of the football season and knowing we have to wait until August for the next round of crappy football that doesn’t matter and until after Labor Day for the first meaningful games again.

Today, the offseason begins in the NFL. The combine is next weekend in Indianapolis. The owners meetings happen in late March. The 2009 schedule will be released in early April. And then cometh the draft, which is one of my favorite weekends and events of the year.

Hang in there. We’ll try to make sense of the offseason and the Terps and Gary Williams and of course, we’ll be following the Orioles with the only objective coverage in the marketplace.

I’ll chat with you more at 2 p.m. today with a major announcement.
Nestor and Sylvia

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Midweek Musings

Posted on 04 February 2009 by Mark Suchy

Random thoughts from the local sports scene that are bouncing around the cranium this week…

*  I don’t know about you, but this current Maryland men’s basketball team is probably the most forgettable group ever assembled during Gary Williams’ tenure in College Park.  No inside presence, very little depth, a repeated inability to play cohesive team defense and a lack of a true “go-to” player all add up to the debacles like last night’s in Chapel Hill and the embarrassment in Durham two weekends ago.  For a guard-dominated team, there sure aren’t many good ones on this roster.  In my opinion, Adrian Bowie has to play 30 minutes a game at point guard and settle that position once and for all.  That would allow more freedom off the ball for Greivis Vasquez to come off of screens and play a little closer to the rim (because, Lord knows, he’s just not very good from way outside).  More Sean Mosely can’t hurt either.  But unless and until Braxton Dupree and Dino Gregory contribute much more significantly, this Terps team is doomed to finish with a maximum of 6 ACC wins.  Just look at the remaining schedule and tell me how they can finish the second half of conference play at 6-2 (which is what it will taje to go 9-7 and be a legitmate “bubble” team come NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday).  Wake, Duke, UNC, Clemson and Virginia Tech are all significantly better than Maryland and will assure the Terps another NIT trip.

As for the status of Gary Williams, it appears he will at least get another year to straighten out the current problems in the program.  At least as it regards recruiting, this is a positive development.  Any appearance of internal conflict could easily chase away potential Terps, no matter how highly or lowly regarded they may be.  And right now, this program needs all the talent it can possibly unearth.

*  So Ty Wigginton is a Baltimore Oriole?  I guess I’ll upgrade from that 13 game plan to a 29 game plan now.  I mean really.  How much more of this type of mediocrity are all lifelong Oriole fans supposed to swallow?  I understand that every major league team needs depth and versatility for the rigors of a six month season, but exactly how does having Wigginton fit in?  Is this a preliminary move that clears the way later this year to trade Melvin Mora (assuming he waives his no-trade clause, which I would imagine he’d be happy to do by mid-July when they’re 22 games out) or even, perhaps, Brian Roberts?  There simply appears to be an overabundance of utility players on this current roster.  Wigginton, Chris Gomez, Ryan Freel.  Awfully inspiring.

*  Speaking of the Orioles, I brought this up on-air the other day while filling in for Nestor.  Why wouldn’t the team have any interest in Manny Ramirez?  I know the answer already ($$$$), but why wouldn’t you at least explore something along the lines of two years?  He could be the everyday DH, hit a ton in Camden Yards, stick it to Boston and New York 38 times a year, and show some of the younger players how to be a complete major league hitter.  And don’t give me the argument about Manny taking away at-bats from Felix Pie or Luke Scott.  Really, who cares?  If you’re telling me that people wouldn’t be much more inclined to go see the Orioles on a Tuesday night in June against Seattle because Manny’s in the lineup, I’d tell you you’re lying.  The guy is the best right-handed hitter available, a certain Hall of Famer and a draw.  Oh, right, I forgot, who cares about selling tickets when MASN is lining the hallways of the Warehouse with cash.  Silly me.

*  Money, money, money.  We’ll be hearing plenty of talk about it over the next month as the Ravens map out their future with the pending free agents.  My guess is that Ray Lewis has played his final game as a Raven; he will simply take the highest offer, and the Ravens will choose not to match.  The two most critical pieces to retain are Terrell Suggs and Jason Brown.  After that, it will be “right player, right price” as the team rebuilds for ’09.  And every one of us that cares about the team should not go insane about any of the moves this front office makes until the season is played.  As I recall, there was an awful lot of yammering and Ozzie bashing last April, May, etc. about his draft manueverings and picks, free agents, trades, etc.  Be patient, everyone, and give this entire front office a little credit as the off-season plays out.  More often than not, the moves work.  Which is the most critical reason behind the franchise’s success over the past decade.

*  Early Final Four hunch: Duke, Marquette, UConn, Michigan State

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Ravens will sport a new look in ’09

Posted on 20 January 2009 by Drew Forrester

Where will we be this time NEXT year?  

The Ravens’ playoff run for the 2008 season hasn’t been over for 48 hours and they are already forging ahead at Owings Mills in preparation for 2009.

A suggested theme:  ”Let’s play one more game”.

After all, in 2008, the MAXIMUM amount of games a team could have played — 20.  The Ravens played 19.

If only they could have played one more game.

Maybe next year.

But, there will be a lot of action, a lot of news and a lot of changes next year in Baltimore.  Those changes are both obvious and subtle, but equally important.  Some might be changes for the better.  Some might not.  

We won’t know until this time next year.

The most glaring of the changes will be the departure of Baltimore’s long-time defensive coordinator Rex Ryan.  Rex was not only a fixture here, but he takes with him to New York the one intangible that every coach in any sport craves to own — his players enjoyed playing for him.

Forget about the money.  Forget the “contract year” stuff.  Dismiss styles, schemes, etc.  

Almost to a man in Owings Mills, the players played for Rex Ryan first and foremost.

He will be missed.  The players knew his departure was inevitable.  But that won’t make it any easier when training camp rolls around next July.  Will the new defensive coordinator command the same respect as Rex?  Only time will tell.

When a coach leaves, other’s follow.  Players look around the room and say, “that was MY guy…maybe the next coach won’t appreciate me the way Rex did.”  Some might head out of Baltimore with that thought in mind.  A few players have openly talked about Rex in New York and wondered aloud if perhaps their career trail might lead them to the Jets and a stint in the Big Apple.  

While the Rex decision didn’t fall at the feet of the Ravens, the Ray Lewis decision most certainly will be one they make on their clock.

It will go down as the hot-button topic of the off-season, without a doubt.

It appears as if Ozzie’s summer of ’08 gamble to let Ray play out his contract is going to come back to haunt Steve Bisciotti where it hurts the most – at the bank.  Ray kept his mouth shut all year and played football.  At a high-level.  And when Baltimore trotted out of the locker room on Sunday night in Pittsburgh, they took to the field in large part because of #52′s fearless competitive streak and his Hall-of-Fame performance in 2008.  

Ray deserves to get paid.  

Someone in the league WILL pay him.

It would be grossly unfair if it weren’t the Ravens.

But that’s THEIR decision now.  They have a variety of options.  They can re-sign Ray and give him some sort of staggering signing bonus in the vicinity of $20 million for a 4 or 5 year deal.  They can slap the franchise tag on him and extend him one more season – but Lewis will most likely bristle at that option since he’ll say he played 2008 “in good faith” and the franchise tag is looked upon by most players as a method the club uses to duck out of their obligation to reward a player.  They can also apply the little-used transition tag on Ray and allow him the chance to go out on the open market and secure his best deal – and then the Ravens can match it, and keep him, or let him wander off to (insert team here).

As Ray goes, so will the rest of the off-season.

Baltimore has a number of key players getting to roam around sniffing for a new deal.  If Ray signs, where does that leave Terrell Suggs?  What about Bart Scott?  Jim Leonhard?  Jason Brown?

Who is going to catch the football for Baltimore in 2008?  Isn’t it time for the franchise to make a dedicated commitment – like they did with the QB position last April – to the passing game by adding a couple of quality, reliable, wide receievers who can endure the tough AFC North?  It would appear that the triple threat of Mason-Clayton-DWilliams isn’t going to get the job done.  That’s not to say that one or two of those players can’t fill a role on next year’s team, but Baltimore needs an upgrade at the receiver position. No hard feelings.  

The secondary is in need of an overhaul and a move toward youth.  Perhaps no department on the team battled injuries like this year’s secondary and on the “heart meter”, it zooms past 10 and goes straight to the top.  But, as we saw Sunday night in Pittsburgh, you can have all the heart in the world but that doesn’t matter to Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes.  The Ravens need to add experience, speed and strength in the secondary.  Better ball hawks.  Better tacklers.  Better players.  That’s what they need back there if they want to beat the Steelers next year.  

George Kokinis will be heading off to Cleveland to take over as the Browns’ GM and the Ravens will lose a high-quality front office mind.  He’s a behind-the-scenes guy at Owings Mills that very few people know. I’ll sum up Kokinis for you in about 50 words.  Do you like Jim Leonhard as a player? Justin Bannan? Fabian Washington?  Those are three important parts of the ’08 team that were all signed off on by Kokinis and handed over to Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh.  Kokinis will be missed.

There’s little doubt that chemistry and personal affection for one another – to a man – had as much to do with Baltimore’s success in ’08 as any element of on-field play with perhaps the exception of the new quarterback from Delaware.  

There’s an old saying:  ”you can’t catch lightning in a bottle…twice.”

How will this team come together next year?  New people.  New personal agendas.  New philosophies.

It might be better, of course.  

But, it might not be.

Joe Flacco will be better.  So will Jared Gaither.  Most of the young players who played a role this year have plenty of upside.  It’s the team experienced corps of veterans who are starting to show the inevitable wear and tear.  But those veterans also comprise the heart and soul of the locker room.  Dan Wilcox is a lion and a player that every man in that locker room looks up to — and he might be moving on if the Ravens elect to not sign him to a new contract.  What happens if Ray Lewis doesn’t get rewarded like he believes he should? Who steps in for him and becomes the team’s beating heart?  

That’s why losing on Sunday was so damaging.

This team – this exact gathering of men – will not be back for a second go-round next season.

These chances don’t come along very often.  

And that’s why Sunday’s loss hurts.

But, teams lose coaches and players every year and they all stay in business and they all do their best to rebound and move on to the next challenge.

For the Ravens, though, the next challenge will come with different people in place.

We trusted the folks in charge of the challenge this year.

It will be hard to replace those that have departed or will move on in the next month or so.

Let’s hope we don’t learn a hard lesson in 2009.

2008 was just too much fun.

And, after all, we’re only asking for the team to play one more game next year.

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Harbaugh gives lock of week, Suggs and Reed win award, Flacco speaks out

Posted on 23 December 2008 by caseywillett

-Coach Harbaugh gave his lock of the week for this week,”New England is going to win a football game. We know that. Everybody knows that. So we’re going out there to win our football game. That’s what we need to take care of, and we don’t need anybody else to get us in the playoffs. That’s our job to take care of that.”

He was then asked if the Patriots were the lock of the week, “the lock of the week. Book it.”

 

The media that cover the team on a daily basis, submitted their votes for team MVP and media good guy awards. The media good guy award goes to the player who is always media friendly and provides good quotes. After a couple of years of campaigning for the award, Terrell Suggs walked away with that title this year. For winning Suggs received a roll of Bounty paper towels. The year that Bart Scott won, he received a bottle of hot sauce.

Ed Reed ran away with the MVP award as he received 12 of the 17 votes. Ray Lewis received two votes while Joe Flacco, LeRon McClain, and Derrick Mason, all got one vote.

- The Ravens will be doing some scoreboard watching leading into their game on Sunday while the Bills and Patriots play their game. The Ravens mindset here is that they have to focus on beating the Jaquars and not get worried about what the Patriots are doing. However, I think it is safe to assume that once they find out if the Patriots have lost, they will pull some guys out of the game.

-I asked Joe Flacco today if the Jaguars can use trying to upset the Ravens playoff chances as motivation for going into the game. Here is Joe’s response,”yea, for about the first quarter, but as long as we come out and play like we want to and let them know that we came here to play. Hopefully we can do that and let them know that they have no business coming to Baltimore and trying to ruin our chances.”

-Derrick Mason is dealing with issues in his shoulder involving the muscles now more than anything else. Derrick said he will see how the week goes, but is feeling a lot better than he was on Monday. He is hoping things will progress and he will be ready for Sunday. As far as sitting out a game, he said that if he is healthy he will play, if he can not play he will not be out there.

-Terrell Suggs pointed out that this week for the Jaguars is the first week of their new season. He said the Jags winning the game would be a great way for them to get their new season off to a good start.

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Getting a grip on the Festivus activities

Posted on 23 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

So, it looks like we’re getting into the playoffs. Well at least we can talk that way for a few more days and as a 10-point favorite against Jacksonville this weekend (and please note the gametime change to 4:15 p.m., which means the coldest possibilities for us) the Ravens should win. Heck, if they don’t win they don’t deserve to be in the playoffs, really.

So, assuming that the Ravens are going to win this week and advance to the playoffs I started putting together playoff possibilities onto a cocktail napkin on Sunday and this is what I came up with…and I can’t imagine the NFL scheduling gods could have cooked this weekend up with a whole lot more drama than what they have – several cool matchups and playoff spots on the line in both conferences.

Indianapolis can now pack their bags for Denver or San Diego. But that Sunday night game is gonna be a good one. You gotta think that the Chargers have all of the momentum and the home field. What a story that would be, digging out from 4-8 to make the playoffs. Kinda unheard of…

Clearly, Nasvhille and Pittsburgh are just sitting tight, taking a “bye” week before their official byes. And as we saw two years ago, that extra slacker time isn’t always the best route. Two of the last three Super Bowl champs (Pittsburgh 2005 and N.Y. Giants 2007) have come from the No. 6 hole and not only won three in a row on the road but also overcame the extra game and the lack of a bye. You’d figure that being a higher seed would be a good thing but the recent history doesn’t support it.

And the Ravens (or the eventual No. 6 seed) will be headed to the AFC East winner. If Miami beats the Jets, we’re headed to South Florida. If the Jets beat the Dolphins, we go to New England provided they win in  Buffalo (hardly a given).

And such begins any legitimate Ravens fan’s aspirations of catching fire and making January 2009 one helluva memorable month. Here are my thoughts:

1.    Miami is the Ravens’ best first-round path. While the flights are jam-packed (good luck trying to get to South Florida next weekend if the Ravens make it there!), the weather and a matchup where the homefield won’t be so unkind is favorable for the Ravens. It certainly beats going to frosty New England, which is the worst scenario for the Ravens. If the Jets win and the Patriots flop this weekend and we wind up at the Meadowlands against Brett Favre, I still like our chances. Just FYI: if the Ravens go to New England or New York, we’ve already got “Miller Lite Roadtrips” ready to go! If the Ravens play in Miami, we will not be offering a trip.
2.    A Ravens win at the AFC East champion would take them to a path that’s well-traveled and familiar to Ray Lewis, Matt Stover and any real Ravens fan: Nashville. Clearly, the Titans would rather not see No. 52 coming back into the former Adelphia Coliseum in January. And assuming another Tennessee road miracle win…
3.    The AFC Championship Game could be in Pittsburgh (assuming they don’t choke the weekend of Jan. 10-11) or San Diego, Denver or even Indianapolis, if they could win two in a row on the road and take down the Steelers at Heinz Field.

Of course every fan of every team is plotting their own pathway through their respective conference playoff possibilities. This is the joy of having a Festivus celebration – the possibilities and hope that even being a “potential” No. 6 seed affords. And, we still have to win a game at home this weekend against a feisty Jacksonville team to do that.

As we’ve seen over and over again in the NFL: NO ONE LAYS DOWN late in the season. Well, no one but the Arizona Cardinals, any way…

The lowly Seahawks, Redskins and the Bills all pulled off upsets over playoff-inspired favorites last Sunday. The Jaguars played the Colts extremely tough last Thursday night and they’ll have two extra days of rest before coming here this Sunday. Maurice Jones Drew got dinged up very late in the game against Indy, so it’ll be interesting to see how effective he’ll be this week but he’s an explosive threat, like a human pinball or a poor man’s Barry Sanders. He’ll present speed issues for the Ravens defense in the middle of the field.

There’s no “counting chickens” as a Ravens fan. This Jaguars game is hardly a walkover in my mind. But a win this week opens all sorts of doors of possibilities for 2009 and dreams of an improbably Super Bowl run with a rookie coach, a rookie quarterback and a veteran Hall of Famer inspiring the troops in the September of his career.

The storylines for the Ravens are obvious:

Ray Lewis in a walk year trying to win another Super Bowl…

Trevor Pryce going for No. 3…

Derrick Mason and Samari Rolle, who both came up one-yard short almost a decade ago, getting another chance…

A first chance for Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Todd Heap and other Pro Bowlers to win a championship…

Will it start in Miami?

Or New England?

Or a trip to the Meadowlands for Favre and the Jets?

Can the Ravens avoid an upset at the hands of the Jaguars – who were truly Kyptonite to this franchise in the early years when they won the first eight matchups of the rivalry – to earn the No. 6 seed. For better or worse, the playoffs come to Baltimore at 4:15 this Sunday in what amounts to a “play in” game for the franchise and the city.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, indeed…

Happy Festivus to all…

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2008 Ravens tribute: “Harmony Reigns”

Posted on 23 December 2008 by Drew Forrester

With only one week remaining in the regular season, the Ravens are on target to return to post-season play for the second time in three seasons.  The only thing standing in their way: a visit from downtrodden Jacksonville this Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

Get ready to celebrate.  There’s no way the Jags come here and beat the Ravens with everything on the line for Baltimore and nothing at stake for J’ville.  If, somehow, Jacksonville does win on Sunday, it goes down as the most disappointing defeat in Ravens history.  Period.  That Indy home playoff loss was a downer, but it WAS a playoff game and the team that beat the Ravens on January 13, 2007 went on to win the Super Bowl.  It wasn’t like a 5-10 team came limping in here ready to mail it in and suddenly found a win to pull the upset of all upsets to keep us out of the playoffs.  That’s the scenario the Jags face on Sunday.  I don’t see it happening.

So, when the Ravens win this Sunday and scoot in as the surprising 6th seed in the AFC, the reflective question of the day will be this: “How’d we do it?”

How did the Ravens go from 5-11 a year ago, with a locker room in complete disarray and a group of mouthy, disgruntled players, to an 11-5 team just 12 months later?

There are some easy answers and some complicated ones, but they all fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.

First off, last year’s team might have finished 5-11, but they weren’t really a 5-11 club.  They lost three games in memorable, completely unexpected (some would say “fluky”) fashion.  One of the losses came at home when Cleveland’s kicker booted a game-tying field goal that hit the goal-post and bounded onto the back stantion, where it promptly bounced forward and was ruled no good.  A review (of sorts) of the play resulted in a change of the call (rightfully) to “good” and the Browns went on to win in overtime.  A few weeks later, Baltimore beat then-undefeated New England except Rex Ryan called a time-out in the game’s final minute…just as the Ravens were stopping the Patriots and their winning streak on 4th down.  Moments later, after New England capitalized on 4th down opportunity #2, Tom Brady threw the game-winning TD and the Pats won a game they had already lost.  And in week #14, ultra-reliable Matt Stover missed a 43-yard field goal in overtime that would have given Baltimore a win at Miami.  

So, a 5-11 team really played more like an 8-8 team.  But 5-11 it was.

Also last year, injuries played havoc with Baltimore’s starting 22 and the depth of the team was fully exposed in the latter stages of the season.  At one point in 2007, 8 of their best players missed at least 20% of the campaign, some even more.  McAlister (knee), Ogden (toe), McNair (everything), Lewis (hand), Rolle (health), Heap (ankle), Pryce (hand) and Wilcox (toe) were all sidelined and their replacements were not only inadequate, but in some cases, liabilities.  Who can ever forget that Indianapolis home game?  Peyton Manning torched the Ravens’ depth-less secondary so much the Baltimore City fire marshal showed up at halftime and issued #18 a citation for outdoor burning.

This year’s team battled injuries early on, but their BEST players, with the exception of Rolle, McAlister and Kelly Gregg, have all played the entire schedule to date: Ray, Flacco, Ngata, Suggs, Reed, Mason (banged up but playing every game somehow…what a warrior), Gaither, Brown, Grubbs, Scott, Pryce…none of those guys have missed extensive time.  It helps when your best players are playing. This year, for the most part, the Ravens best players have been available.

And it also helps when the organization learns from its mistakes.  Depth (lack thereof) was a major reason for last year’s failure, but depth is a big reason why the ’08 version is winning.  When Dawan Landry went down in week #2 with a season ending spinal injury, safety Jim Leonhard stepped in and did the job and then some, earning the respect of everyone with his week-in, week-out hard-nosed style of play.  And when Rolle and McAlister both missed time, newcomer Fabian Washington stepped in admirably at cornerback and even the oft-criticized Frank Walker has been decent enough to warrant a respectful tip of the cap.  Kelly Gregg’s absence hasn’t been felt at all, thanks to a monster year from Ngata and a breakthrough campaign for erstwhile back-up Justin Bannan.  And the triple-threat at running back has given the team different looks and different strengths all season long.  

“Players play, coaches coach” – that’s the old adage.  And it’s true.  But, when dissecting this year’s success, you’d be unfair if you didn’t mention the off-season front office work of George Kokinis, Eric DeCosta and, of course, Ozzie Newsome.  Via the draft and free agency, those three added depth in the secondary and on the offensive and defensive lines.  

John Harbaugh came in a with no-nonsense style that ruffled a feathers at the outset, but as he settled down, so did the discontent.  Coodinators Cameron and Ryan are well respected by the players and they quietly mirror Harbaugh’s confidence that this roster of players is capable of winning big games right away – even with a first-year quarterback at the helm.

But the two main components that contribute to the ’08 Ravens success are the complicated pieces that complete the puzzle.  I’ll call them “Peace and Quiet” for lack of a better term. 

First, and most obviously, it’s at quarterback, where Joe Flacco (“Peace”) has done the unthinkable. He’s gone from leading a Division 1AA school to its post-season to leading an NFL team to the brink of its post-season — all within 12 months.  And he’s done it with a quiet, reserved, hardly-a-pulse manner that has made his teammates believe in him almost from day one in Westminster last summer. Kyle Boller NEVER had the faith of his entire team in five seasons.  Joe Flacco gained it all in about five weeks. 

And without that distraction at quarterback and with the team in harmony both on and off the field, this year’s Ravens have been able to focus on playing football.  And good football, at that.

It’s been awfully “Quiet” this season.  Have you noticed how much bickering has gone on this year? Even when the team stumbled in October and dropped three straight, do you remember any public whining and moaning?  McAlister was involved in a fortnight of controversy with the coach over some misbehaving in Miami, but he suddenly suffered a season ending knee injury (*ahem*) that saved Harbaugh a tough mid-season talk.  And, other than Ed Reed dropping a “we don’t like the way Harbaugh talks down to us…” hint at mid-season, you heard no other negative whispers from the locker room.

No more complaints about the quarterback.  No crying about playing time.  No public campaigning for new contracts, extensions, etc.  No controversies, even on the occasion when results and fortune could have allowed for it.  

When the Ravens got pounded by the Giants in New York, they simply said, “we got beat by a better team today…” – Early in the year they lost a heartbreaker at home to the Titans when Tennessee orchestrated a late drive that was aided in large part by a phantom “blow to the head” call against Terrell Suggs…”we shouldn’t have been in that position…can’t let a good team like that stay in the game” was what the players said afterwards. – And last Sunday after losing to Pittsburgh in dramatic fashion with a goal-line TD call leaving everyone in America wondering about the effectiveness of instant-replay, the Ravens refused to bite: “we just have to go to Dallas and win a football game…we didn’t do the job on that last drive…can’t win many games if you don’t score touchdowns.”  No complaining this year.  No bellyaching about the referees, bad luck, bad coaching, etc.  

This team stayed positive all season long.

Looking for the BEST example of all?  Willis McGahee.  Essentially benched in the late stages of the season for lack of production, #23 took the chance to support his coach by saying, “If I were the coach, I’d bench me too…I’ve played like dog doo-doo.”  Gone are the days of hearing a guy chastising the coaching staff for not getting enough touches on the ball — McGahee took his demotion like a pro and put the team first. It’s been a while since I felt better about a player scoring a touchdown than I did on Saturday night when Willis broke off that 77-yard TD run.  He deserved that more than anyone else on the team.

The topper, though, has to be the unwavering championship play of Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Bart Scott. All three are seeking a new deal and all three are – for the most part – competing with one another for that big cash cow at season’s end.  If Ray gets all the money, Suggs and Scott might not. If Suggs cashes in, Ray and Scott might be looking at giving a purple discount or moving on to another team. Yet, there hasn’t been one – not one – moment where any of those three took the opportunity to bellow about a new deal either here or elsewhere.

It’s a happy house in Owings Mills these days.

The team has won.

The players have played hard.  Injured players have been replaced by guys performing at unexpected levels. And certain players have battled ailments to the extent that it almost looks unhealthy for them to be out there in the first place.

The Ravens have come together as men and played for one goal.

And their focus has been on winning football games.  Nothing else.

Playing time, personal friendships, money, feelings about the coach and his staff…it’s all been put on the side in exchange for trying to win.

It’s been their ’08 success formula.

Let’s hope it carries over for just one more Sunday.

Then everyone starts at 0-0 again and it’s suddenly a 4-game season.

And, based on what I’ve seen over the last four months, I like the Ravens chances in January.

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