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Pollard’s locker room antics draw the ultimate penalty flag

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Pollard’s locker room antics draw the ultimate penalty flag

Posted on 14 March 2013 by Drew Forrester

The house cleaning continued in Owings Mills on Wednesday, as Bernard Pollard was handed his walking papers after two seasons in purple.

This departure, unlike that of Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe, was clearly and comfortably the choice of John Harbaugh and the Ravens organization.  In simple terms, Pollard’s constant complaining and locker room blow-ups finally caught up to him.

That Pollard leaves a champion is a testament to his intensity and competitive fire.  He was an important part of the team that captured the Super Bowl in New Orleans on February 3.  Few players in the league hit with more tenacity.  The term “play like a Raven” was seemingly created with players like Bernard Pollard in mind.

With the good, though, came a lot of bad.  Pollard was a troublesome figure in the clubhouse, which is why he won’t be around in Baltimore next season.

“This wasn’t all about quality of play,” a source said on Wednesday after the news about Pollard’s termination went public.  ”It was about locker room tranquility and chemistry.”

While there wasn’t one single incident that doomed Pollard, a series of friction-filled events contributed to the club finally saying “enough is enough”.  The most notable of those was a post-game blow-up in Washington where the hard-hitting safety openly bashed linebacker Josh Bynes in front of the entire team and within earshot of several media members who were in the vicinity of the locker room setting up for post-game interviews.

“It was completely uncalled for,” said a 2012 teammate.  ”From a team standpoint, the last thing we needed that day was to have one guy pitting himself against someone else.  And to pick on Josh like that?  It was wrong.”

Pollard’s role in the bye-week practice fiasco is well known by now.  When Harbaugh suggested the team practice in pads on Wednesday before letting the team have off for the rest of the week, Pollard reacted angrily and rallied several teammates to demand a lighter, easier practice session.  To his credit, Harbaugh took the high road and gave in, deciding, apparently, that the battle wasn’t worth winning when the season was still very much in the balance.

“He was always complaining about something,” the teammate remembered.  ”Nothing was ever right in Bernard’s eyes.  After a while it got kind of old.  And a lot of guys in the locker are John Harbaugh fans.  Bernard was very anti-John and open about it. He didn’t really hide it.”

It’s one thing for a player to butt heads with the coach.  That happens all the time.  But, in this case, players – lots of them – were worn out by Pollard’s locker room antics and in-game reckless play that appeared to be more about the safety just doing things “his way” and not fitting in with the rest of the team.

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Boldin’s departure really isn’t that hard to figure out…but it’s tough to digest

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Boldin’s departure really isn’t that hard to figure out…but it’s tough to digest

Posted on 11 March 2013 by Drew Forrester

There’s an old Chris Rock comedy bit in which he jokes about O.J. Simpson seeing his ex-wife, Nicole, and her new boyfriend, Ron Goldman, driving around Los Angeles in the expensive automobile Simpson once purchased for his spouse.

Rock then opined that seeing Goldman cruise the town in those wheels was just too much for O.J. to handle.  It was the ultimate sign of disrespect from both the new boyfriend and the ex-wife.

“I ain’t saying O.J. shoulda killed her,” Rock said.  ”But I understand…”

Well, that brings me to today’s news that the Ravens have shipped wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the 49′ers for the equivalent of a box of athletic tape and a year’s supply of deer antler spray.

And I’ll sum it up the way Rock summed it up:

“I ain’t saying the Ravens shoulda traded Anquan Boldin…but I understand.”

The Ravens position on Boldin and the deal to the 49e’rs is simple:  They don’t think he’s a seven million dollar football player anymore.  That’s not Drew saying that…that’s the Ravens saying that.

That much is clearly evident when you realize the Ravens are under the salary cap as of today.  In other words, they weren’t being forced to do anything with Boldin by Tuesday’s start of free agency.  Last Friday, they asked him to take a paycut, but they did so simply because they felt he was no longer a player capable of playing up to the level of the seven million-plus he was going to “cost” them (salary cap wise) in 2013.

A Ravens staffer confirmed to me on Monday the Boldin-to-San Francisco deal was all about money and the perceived value of a player now entering the October of his career.

Boldin’s contract for 2013 is six million, with the remaining monies connected to the salary cap coming as a result of his signing bonus back in 2010.

So, that’s that.  The Ravens decided, as an organization, that Anquan Boldin is no longer a player who can command a six or seven million dollar salary.

At least not in their eyes.

My guess is plenty of teams around the NFL would pay Boldin that kind of money, including, perhaps, the team he was traded to on Monday.  There are whispers that the Browns were interested in the veteran wide receiver, but Ozzie Newsome isn’t in the business of helping his AFC North rivals.

It does, however, say something about Boldin’s value when the only thing the Ravens could get for him was a 6th round draft pick.

I like Boldin as a player.  I thought he was a smart pick-up back in 2010.  He was a good regular season performer who seemed to be more productive when the post-season rolled around, notwithstanding a crucial end-zone drop in the fourth quarter of the January 2011 playoff loss at Pittsburgh.  He was a gamer.  The bigger the game, the better Boldin seemed to play, particularly in this most recent playoff run when he was superb in the AFC title game and the Super Bowl triumph over San Francisco.

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Of course ticket prices are increasing for the Ravens

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Of course ticket prices are increasing for the Ravens

Posted on 20 February 2013 by Drew Forrester

Complaining about the Ravens raising ticket prices is like moaning about a yellow light that suddenly turns to red.

What, you thought it was going to stay yellow forever?

I’m not a ticket buyer, so naturally it’s easy for me to just sit back and say, “deal with it”.  But, honestly, ticket prices have to go up every couple of years, particularly in a market like Baltimore where the team’s new revenue sources are few and far between.

The team defended themselves on Tuesday by citing “player costs” as a reason for the increase.  A couple of folks e-mailed me to complain, using the argument of “but the salary cap isn’t going up in 2013″ to justify why the Ravens were wrong for raising the prices.  No, sirs, you’re wrong.

When the Ravens are forced to fork over forty or fifty million to Joe Flacco sometime in the next two weeks, where do you folks think that money comes from?

What about the ten million they’ll have to give Dannell Ellerbe if they keep him around?

If Ed Reed stays, who ponies up his five million signing bonus?

Hint:  You know the guy.

It’s you.

Yes, sure, Steve Bisciotti owns the team.  And he might literally be forced to “loan his company” forty million to appease Flacco and his agent.  But that money goes right back to the owner when it’s in and available for repayment.  Steve Bisciotti himself doesn’t pay Joe Flacco or any player out of his own pocket.  He might initially be involved in a transaction because he has that kind of cash availability, but once all the team monies are collected and deposited, the owner eventually gets repaid the dough he shelled out.

When the Ravens cite “player costs” as a reason for increasing their ticket prices, an increase in the salary cap isn’t necessarily part of the equation.  Some people just assumed that was the case.  It’s not, though.

I also had to LOL on Tuesday when I heard a couple of geniuses say something like this on the radio: “Bisciotti makes so much money on the team it’s sickening.  Every team in the league is making fifty million a year.”

No, gentlemen, they are most certainly NOT making fifty million a year.

In fact, over the last two seasons – prior to 2012 – the Ravens have made a little more than sixteen million in profit.  Yes, the owner of every NFL team draws a one million salary from the club.  That’s a fact.  But in 2010 and 2011, the team combined for slightly more than sixteen million in profit.  ”That’s it?” you’re asking.  Yes, that’s really it.  Steve Bisciotti, if you believe him – and I do – told some of us in the media a couple of Januarys ago that it’s not at all rare for the Ravens to break even or generate very little profit in a given season.  If you just do the simple match, it’s easy to believe him.  The football team has $120 million in expenses before a ball ever gets kicked off.  This season, the TV money ($118mm) and the salary cap ($120mm) were nearly identical. You haven’t employed a staff member, flown a plane or bought insurance for anyone yet, let alone pay the light bill at the team’s facility.  I have no idea what the Ravens made in 2012, but I bet it wasn’t much.  Maybe twelve million bucks?

That will all change in 2014, though.  Given the new TV monies coming into the league, each NFL team stands to receive $200 million from the pool of money paid to the league.  Not surprisingly, the salary cap is expected to rise by potentially as much as $18 million per-team — but that’s not until NEXT season.

And, oh, by the way, aren’t football teams allowed to make a profit?  Remember, I’m the guy who has told you this little secret for about ten years now:  Owners of sports teams don’t REALLY own the club — the community owns the club.  They merely own the right to make a profit off the team.

Any economist would tell you that a company worth $700 million (Ravens) generating a profit of only $7mm to $10mm a year is doing something woefully wrong.  Yes, the football team is a winning business proposition for the owner, but it’s not returning nearly as much as you think it would based on the overall value.

Steve Bisciotti has every right to make a profit off the team.  That’s why he paid $600 million for it.  And despite what anyone might think, how much of a profit he makes while he owns the team really isn’t anyone’s business AS LONG AS HE’S RUNNING THE CLUB IN A MANNER THAT REWARDS THE INVESTMENT MADE BY THE FANS AND THE SPONSORS.

I’d say, based on that game the Ravens just won in New Orleans three weeks ago, Mr. Bisciotti is doing a pretty fair job of running the football team.

Ticket prices going up?

You bet they are.

The Ravens just won the Super Bowl, pal.

If you can’t raise the prices after you’ve won the world championship, when CAN you raise them?

 

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Today in Baltimore sports history: The greatest moment we’ve ever witnessed

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Today in Baltimore sports history: The greatest moment we’ve ever witnessed

Posted on 05 February 2013 by Drew Forrester

On a chilly October evening in 1983, I packed myself into a car with four other friends from Glen Burnie and we drove through the city to Memorial Stadium.  There, along with maybe 5,000 other crazies, I waited well past midnight for the Baltimore Orioles to return from Philadelphia in the afterglow of their World Series-clinching win over the Phillies.

I was one of the fence-climbers that night, scaling the fence that bordered the player’s entrance and literally hanging on for dear life just to catch a glimpse of Eddie, Cal and my favorite player of that season, pitcher Mike Boddicker.

I remember the night like it was yesterday.  And we thought it was a big deal back then for 5,000 people to gather and welcome home the team.

For a long time since, Baltimore has been cast as a “baseball town”.

That changed — officially — on February 5, 2013.

Today, as if this statement needed a notary public, it was stamped: Baltimore is a football town now.

Yes, as last season’s successful baseball campaign proved, the folks in Charm City will rally around the local nine if they put together an improbable six months of baseball and work their way into the post-season.

Baltimore still loves baseball.  But more than that, they love winning baseball.

Today in Baltimore, at least 75,000 fans made it into the stadium and another 250,000 or more coated the downtown streets to welcome home their championship football team.

It was a remarkable showing.  Historical, in a lot of ways.

This city has done a lot of things over the years as it pertains to sports.  But they’ve never, ever pulled off anything like they did on Tuesday afternoon.  And there might not be another city in America who would have showed up like Baltimore did both at City Hall and M&T Bank Stadium.

Mark it down until something else surpasses it:  Today, February 5, 2013, is the greatest day in the history of Baltimore sports.

Never before has a Baltimore team been showed that much love from the city they call home.

 

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Ravens enjoying AFC Championship moment, but thinking ahead for more

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Ravens enjoying AFC Championship moment, but thinking ahead for more

Posted on 21 January 2013 by Ryan Chell

Owings Mills-It’s been a crazy 24 hours for the Baltimore Ravens, the media covering the team, and for the fans cheering on the team in Charm City.

Less than a day after coming back from a 13-7 halftime deficit to beat the New England Patriots in Foxboro to win the AFC Championship and earn a chance to win Super Bowl 47 in New Orleans on February 3rd, the Ravens were back at work Monday working as if they would be taking on the next opponent-in this case the San Francisco 49ers.

“We’re going to work,” Ravens center Matt Birk said in between meetings today. “With all the side stories- if you’re not playing in the game, you can enjoy all that. I think as players we’re just going to hunker down and focus in on the task at hand.”

“We’re going out there as a team trying to get where we’re at,” quarterback Joe Flacco said, who threw for three touchdowns in the Ravens’ 28-13 victory over last year’s AFC Champion Patriots. “We’ve got to win one more. ”

Despite the workmanlike attitude, Flacco however still says some of what happened Sunday night feels like a dream.

“I think we’re still on a little high from the game,” he said. “I don’t think anyone’s quite believed it yet.”

His companion on the offensive line agreed.

“I’m just kind of numb to the whole thing. Slowly it’s coming, but hopefully you realize and appreciate the moment,” Birk noted.

But Birk couldn’t say enough about all the hard work and persistence the Ravens have shown over the season  pay off for a chance at a Super Bowl title.

“It’s great. That’s your goal,” Birk noted.  “That’s your dream. That’s why you play…with the closeness of this team and how far we’ve come my last four years getting close and finally breaking through, it’s pretty special.”

Certainly for the 15-year veteran in Birk, he admitted that he wouldn’t be in this situation if he felt like didn’t have a shot at reaching the Super Bowl, which is the first appearance for the 36-year old center.

“At this stage in my career, losing takes a lot out of you. When I came back, I thought there was a legitimate chance that I felt like I could help the team.”

Meanwhile, Flacco, who is in his fifth year in his journey as an NFL quarterback, has hurdled Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, and now Tom Brady in the quest for his first Super Bowl.  It seemed as if overnight, he made himself one of the best quarterbacks in the league, put himself on the map as an elite quarterback in the NFL, and has been the topic of discussion across many football circles.

But what has Joe Flacco been asked the most since winning the AFC Championship?

Super Bowl Tickets.

“Tickets are going to be limited,” Flacco joked. “There’s been a lot of text messages, and everyone’s really excited about it.”

Flacco said the quicker he can put those distractions behind him, the better he’ll be going up against Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith, and the rest of the San Francisco defense.

“You have to get all the mayhem that goes with the game out of the way and take care of that first,” Flacco said, “so when you focus on the 49ers, they have your full attention.”

Bernard Pollard reacts to Tom Brady slide and kick

One day after calling Patriots QB Tom Brady’s leg kick into Ravens safety Ed Reed, “bull-crap”, fellow Ravens safety Bernard Pollard backtracked a little saying that the NFL needs to call flags “both ways.”

Right before the end of the first half Sunday night with the Patriots up 10-7 with 0:26 seconds left before the break, the Patriots were knocking on the Ravens door threatening to score.

Brady, flushed out of the pocket by Paul Kruger, scrambled down to the Ravens’ 7-yd line with Reed barreling down on him. Deciding to give himself up, he took a slide-but not before sticking his right leg up, hitting Reed in the groin and tripping him up.

No flag was called with the side judge standing right next to the play, but several Ravens defenders petitioned for Brady to be penalized. A fine could be coming.

Pollard told CSNNE and other outlets Sunday night, “You’ve got to keep those legs down. We all know and understand what’s going on there. As a quarterback, when you go to slide, we’re taught we can’t do anything. When you come sliding, and your leg is up in the air, trying t kick someone, that’s bull crap.”

Today, Pollard was a little bit more reserved, but kept the same message.

“He knew what he was doing,” Pollard said. “I’m the kind of player where it has to go both ways. Hopefully the NFL will do something about it. If not, that’s fine if they do. For me as a player with all the emotions on the field, we’re going to say and do things. But when it’s all said and done,  if you want the game clean and you want everything to be moving forward in the right direction, everyone needs to be penalized for their actions.”

Follow WNST on Twitter for your Ravens Super Bowl News! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

 

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