Tag Archive | "terrell"

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With Big Ben & Polamalu out, no excuses for Ravens tonight

Posted on 29 November 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

As we all now know, the Steelers will play tonight’s game here in Baltimore without their two best players, with the late subtraction of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger joining safety Troy Polamalu in the black and gold infirmary.

It is not lost on any Ravens fan that tonight it’s clearly: advantage Baltimore.

Big Ben, as ‘yins from ‘donton affectionately call him, has been poison for anything in purple since he entered the league. He is the Ravens kryptonite. Polamalu’s interception of Joe Flacco in Pittsburgh last January must be considered the most heartbreaking play in the history of the franchise.

I don’t think I need to remind you that the Ravens are on a three-game losing streak to our friendly neighbors from the northwest.

Or that this is their first appearance on Baltimore turf since hoisting a second Lombardi Trophy to the Tampa skies last Febuary.

Or that, at 5-5, a loss to the Steelers tonight will effectively end the Ravens season.

I hate the Steelers. You hate the Steelers.

Let’s hope that attitude — and a few first downs and quarterback pressures along with some goofy white towels we’ll all be waving — are enough to keep the Ravens season alive tonight.

I get the feeling we’ll be feeling the loss of Fabian Washington more than we realize — just like when Chris McAlister went away two years ago — but there are no excuses for a Ravens loss tonight.

We can’t cry about Terrell Suggs not suiting up (of course, John Harbaugh has played the cat and mouse injury report game all week with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.)

Flacco needs to be crisp and sharp. Billy Cundiff can’t miss field goals. Matt Katula needs to snap straight. The offensive line can’t create pre-snap penalties. The defensive front seven must make Dennis Dixon run for his life like the rookie quarterback he is tonight.

The game is on national television. It can’t be a coming out party for some guy from Oregon we’ve never heard of.

The only thing worse than losing to the Steelers at home to effectively end our season with leftover turkey from Thanksgiving would be the thought that it happened at the hands of some guy named Dennis Dixon putting on a black and gold cape.

A disturbing thought.

Let’s hope we don’t go there…

The Ravens must win tonight.

My updated prediction: Ravens 34, Steelers 9

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Don’t ask…just click! Very, very funny…

Posted on 30 October 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

I’m not one for cartoons, jokes, chain letters or general web stuff that I refer to as “spam.” (And for the 1000th time, NO, I don’t want to play Mafia Wars with you on Facebook! Stop sending me that manure!)

However, I got this link forwarded to me on Facebook (thanks, Tom!) and, well, it’s pretty freaking good.

It’s PG-13, don’t worry…thank me later!

Just click here…

Be ready to laugh…

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Live From Westminster: Cousins carted off field in AM practice

Posted on 07 August 2009 by Luke Jones

6:39 p.m. –The Ravens will hold two practices tomorrow, a morning session at 8:45 a.m. and an afternoon workout at 2:45 p.m.  Both practices are expected to be full-squad.

Just a quick note to anyone planning to head out to Westminster on Monday to watch the Ravens in action.  The morning practice will be closed to the public.  The afternoon practice scheduled for 2:45 p.m. will be open for fans to attend.

3:24 p.m. — Despite the defense thoroughly dominating this morning, there were a few highlights for the offense.  Flacco threw a long touchdown pass to Mason during a 7-on-7 drill, beating Frank Walker in coverage.

Justin Harper also made another spectacular one-handed catch.  Harper must still prove he can hold onto the ball when getting hit, but he certainly has shown an ability to stretch the field.  He continues to share time at the No. 3 receiver spot with Kelley Washington with Mark Clayton sidelined with a hamstring injury.

3:17 p.m. — The special teams practice lasted about an hour, as the team focused on kick return and punt team alignments.

Chris Carr, Lardarius Webb, Ray Rice, and Jayson Foster worked on returning kicks.  Punt returners included Carr, Yamon Figurs, Rice, and Foster.

Tavares Gooden was present but did not participate in the special teams workout.

1:20 p.m. — Here’s a fun story from today’s practice:  Derrick Mason had joked during his return press conference on Sunday that the team did not have a marching band or the girl scouts come out to celebrate his return.  A local girl scouts troop from Westminster came out to practice this morning, and Mason greeted them and even conducted an interview with the girls after practice.

The audio is up in the WNST vault if you’d like to take a listen.  Mason also talked about his health and the other wide receivers in camp.

1:19 p.m. — We did see our first “fight” of the camp this morning.  Frank Walker and Evan Oglesby mixed it up a little bit, but it wasn’t exactly Ali-Frazier.  With the first preseason game still six days away, these players are definitely getting tired of hitting each other and are ready to hit an opponent.

12:51 p.m. — I just saw Oniel Cousins walking around the hotel.  He was walking with a limp, but there was no apparent wrap or support or anything of that nature on his left leg—definitely a good sign.

12:49 p.m. — The kicking battle was fairly even again, as it has been for the better part of camp.  Graham Gano made two kicks beyond 40 yards but missed from 53.  Steve Hauschka missed from 42 but hit from 45 and 53 yards.

I continue to be impressed by both kickers.

12:46 p.m. — Domonique Foxworth is really starting to settle in with his new team.  On a deep pass attempt to Demetrius Williams, Foxworth was step-for-step with him as the pass fell incomplete.  Ray Lewis was heard praising the new cornerback, the calling card of knowing you belong in the Baltimore defense.

12:28 p.m. — One of the more intriguing stories of the morning was the player lining up next to Ray Lewis in Gooden’s absence.  While most would have expected Jameel McClain, rookie free agent Dannell Ellerbe was running with the first team.  I mentioned Ellerbe earlier this week, but he is clearly making an impression with the coaching staff.

McClain was lining up at inside linebacker with the second unit, so it appears Ellerbe has passed McClain on the depth chart—for now.  It will be interesting to see what happens if Gooden is out for any extended period of time.

12:22 p.m. — Prior to sitting out with an ice pack on his left knee, McGahee displayed some nice moves in the open field after catching a screen pass from Flacco in 11-on-11 thud.  McGahee has had a solid camp, so hopefully the ice pack is just a precautionary measure.

Speaking of running backs, Le’Ron McClain displayed some nice cuts during live action this morning.  Despite the fact that McClain will be used as a fullback this season, I still expect him to receiver his fair share of carries along with Ray Rice and McGahee.

12:09 p.m. — With Gaither not participating in any live drills, Michael Oher once again lined up at left tackle with Marshal Yanda shifting to right tackle on the starting offensive line.  David Hale took Ben Grubbs’ place at left guard.

The Ravens are incredibly thin on the offensive line right now with Grubbs and Gaither out and the left leg injury to Cousins this morning.  They’re fortunate to have Chester, who can play both guard positions and center, and Yanda to play both guard and tackle.  If not for the versatility of these two, a bad situation would be even worse.

Considering the Ravens were in need of another tackle before Cousins’ injury, you would have to think the Ravens will bring in another tackle to camp.

10:39 a.m. — Morning highlights were ALL defense. Todd Heap dropped one into the hands of Ed Reed who returned it for a TD. Ray Lewis rocked Jalen Parmele at the line of scrimmage that got a big “ohhhh” out of the crowd. And — either good or bad news depending on your view — the defense sacked Joe Flacco three times when going live for a series. It’s been quite the defensive show, but the Cousins injury was bad news this morning. We’ll see how he progresses.

10:34 a.m. — Oniel Cousins just went down on the field. He walked over to the cart and is now being carted off the field. There will certainly be more to come…We just sent a WNST Text on this. Join our text service here…

10:10 a.m. — Frank Walker has been subbing in for Fabian Washington this morning.

10:06 a.m. — Willis McGahee has now joined Jared Gaither in the “ice club.” McGahee is icing his left knee.

10:01 a.m. — Jared Gaither is on the field with an ice pack on his neck and shoulder. We’ll know more when the practice is over. John Harbaugh is NOT speaking to the media today. He will be leaving immediately following the morning practice for Philadelphia to attend the memorial service for his good friend and former Eagles defensive coordinator Jimmy Johnson.  More with Bob Haynie in a little bit…

9:17 a.m. — Jared Gaither appears to be limited on the field this morning, not participating in the 11-on-11 right now. But he is on the field and looks to be mostly fine.

8:46 a.m. — Jared Gaither is back on the field practicing this morning. Demetrius Williams is also on the field this morning, a beautifully cool summer day.

There are three noticeable Ravens missing today: Terrell Suggs, Ben Grubbs and Tavares Gooden.

I’ll be tweeting today (Twitter seems to be down or slow again today) as well as checking in at 9:30, 10:30 and all day at WNST AM 1570 with Drew and Bob.

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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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Happy 90th Birthday to my Pop!!!

Posted on 05 March 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

On a morning when the coffee buzz is about Ray Lewis and Matt Birk getting signed and Terrell Owens getting released — and I can’t believe any serious or rational Ravens fan would think signing T.O. is a good idea — my thoughts have been about my father on what would’ve been his 90th birthday. As many of you know, I dedicate each March 5th broadcast on AM 1570 to my dad and in 2006 I wrote a book about my father and his influence on my life and what it’s become. I’ve said it many, many times: my father is really the one responsible for building WNST. My career and my passion for sports and Baltimore is all a result of those trips on the No. 23 bus from Dundalk through Highlandtown and the connection to the No. 22 over to 33rd Street.

It has now been 30 months since our “Free The Birds” march on Camden Yards. I’ll save the report card for the changes it enacted for closer to Opening Day. But I wanted to “reprint” the book here online over the next few weeks. There are 19 chapters about how I was raised, my love of baseball and more than anything, why all of this exists. Feel free to read it or ignore it (or re-read it). You can even “comment” on the chapters if you wish. I haven’t changed a word in it since I wrote it in September 2006. It’s presented “as is” (or in this case, “as was.”)

When we launched the new WNST.net back in October, I disbanded the www.freethebirds.net site because I felt like it had pretty much run its course. So, this book hasn’t been available and many people have asked me about it or dropped me an email and I really didn’t have the time or occasion to “re-present” it. On the day of my Pop’s 90th birthday and with the Orioles illegally having banned me from the franchise essentially because of this book and the actual Free The Birds event on Sept. 21, 2006, I thought the timing is right to honor my father and make the book public once again.

I’ll post a chapter every morning for the next 19 days. The pictures will be gone (I just don’t have the time to upload them all). Maybe one day, I’ll find the time to re-post all of those and put them back into the story.

Either way, it’s a tribute to my Pop on what would’ve been No. 90 for him. I lost my Pop on July 11, 1992.

I wonder what he’d make of the internet, every baseball game on TV every night and what WNST has become for Baltimore, a true open forum for free speech and sports communication. I wonder what he’d think of Brian Billick being my business partner and this site being the No. 1 place in Baltimore for sports news, information, audio and video.

But mostly, I wonder what he’d think of the Ravens because he loved football as much as he loved baseball. I can’t imagine how much fun we would’ve had over these last 13 years with the week to week drama of the franchise each fall and the Super Bowl win and the AFC Championship Game loss and the Colts games and the roadgames and all of the memories we’ve all created since 1996.

Hope you enjoy the book. I worked pretty hard on it!

And I hope you tune in at 2 p.m. today and contribute a good story or two about your dad.

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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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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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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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