Tag Archive | "Travis Fisher"

Before You Push The Purple Panic Button ....

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Before You Push The Purple Panic Button ….

Posted on 23 August 2010 by Rex Snider

My highly anticipated “Sports Saturday” started off on a positive note, thanks to the Orioles 8-6 victory over Cliff Lee and the Texas Rangers. The game was full of pleasant surprises …..

Who would’ve ever predicted that Josh Bell would connect more often than Joe Flacco on a simultaneous gameday? Ahh …. the magic of the unexpected in sports, huh?

By the time I hit the Lazy-Boy for the Ravens vs. Redskins preseason showdown, I was convinced it was going to be a GREAT night. I can’t say it turned out badly, but I did go to bed knowing John Harbaugh’s bunch still has A LOT of work on its hands before reuniting with Rex Ryan and his Jets.

While I can readily admit Saturday night’s game left me agonizing over a few areas of concern with this team, I’ve chosen to take a more sensible look at the overall picture of the 2010 Baltimore Ravens …..

For the past few weeks, we’ve heard the gloomy forecasts from those who invested a significant portion of their collective hope in Domonique Foxworth’s presence at cornerback. From callers to on-air hosts and even occasional guests, some sobering words have been spoken.

However, in all fairness, there has also been a fairly respectable amount of us who believe the team will be just fine, while downplaying any real handicap to the secondary. And, we’ve had answers for our continued positive outlook, right?

The common rationale in defending the stubborn optimism has been along the lines of “THE RAVENS ARE GONNA HAVE TO BLITZ MORE OFTEN AND GET AFTER THE QUARTERBACK.”

This certainly seems like a logical solution, right? Heck, it’s Football-101 …..

But, we’ve also heard the fairly warned potential ramifications to this solution, too.

As many realists have concluded, if you’re blitzing, you MUST get to the quarterback. If not, guys like Donovan McNabb are gonna make plays. And, the Ravens will be facing a host of ‘slingers better than the former Philadelphia Eagle, in 2010.
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At times during Saturday’s game, McNabb looked like he was doomed, only to fool all of us by stepping up or rolling out of the pocket to buy an extra tick. He succeeded in some crucial situations, including a couple opportunities from the Redskins endzone.

By the way, does anyone know if Travis Fisher made the trip to DC?

The good news is we still have three solid weeks remaining before action on the field really counts. That’s 21 days for Lardarius Webb to get healthier. That’s 21 days to shop for better options on the rosters of other teams. And, that’s 21 days for Greg Mattison to assert some Rex Ryan and Marvin Lewis “PURPLE MAGIC” into his defense.

I’m certain a proportionate amount of this week’s WNST phone calls will be directed at finding a way to help the crippled cornerback unit. That’s the way it always is with the fan base. Among our consistent reactions, nothing is stronger than the tendency to PANIC.

Well, I’m telling you to relax.

Absorb the preseason for what it is – PRESEASON.

John Harbaugh and Greg Mattison weren’t really worried about stopping Chris Cooley, Santana Moss or Anthony Armstrong. Indeed, I’ll guarantee you they were more interested in seeing how their patched up secondary would fare against them – for better or worse.

For some players, like Joe Flacco, Ray Lewis and Derrick Mason, this game was simply about finding their rhythm and getting back into the flow of established gameplans.
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For some others, like Anquan Boldin, Donte Stallworth, Cory Redding and Ken Hamlin, this game served as a prime opportunity to become intimate with their surroundings and a whole new playbook, at fullspeed.

And, yet, for some guys, like Travis Fisher (really …. did he play?), Prince Miller, Jason Phillips and Cary Williams, this was a vitally significant opportunity to prove they can play at this level and for this team.

You can bet a few sets of discerning eyes were cast on Flacco and his cohorts, as well as Boldin and his gang. But, I’ll bet the house nearly every eye that matters was watching that final group, as they danced upon the bubble …..

So, while you’re worried about the Ravens cornerbacks being able to cover the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals, I’m urging you ….. LET IT GO.

Unless he suddenly finds some of Ronnie Lott’s natural ability deep within his soul, Travis Fisher will not find a spot on this Ravens team. Greg Mattison surely suspected it going into Saturday night’s game. Fisher, himself, only confirmed it.

Perhaps, that’s why Mattison emphasized on a blitz-happy defensive attack. I can see that strategy. Think about it …. they might as well test the unproven or unlikely guys in an ideal situation, right?

Thus, they blitz and leave “Fisher Island” all by itself.

The preseason is partly about bringing the obvious back into focus, while also helping the truly qualified to learn a new system. But, it’s equally apportioned to testing the untested, to see if they can be part of a championship-caliber organization.

This trip to FedEx Field was nothing more than the second step in John Harbaugh’s FOUR-STEP preseason process. This team is in a self analyzation stage. They must find out who can contribute, even in the most mitigating ways, to this team’s immediate future.
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While we love and savor those summer days in Westminster, it won’t be revealed there. Harbaugh and company cannot determine their 53rd man at McDaniel College. The survival process does not surround the practice field.

Two meaningless games are in the books and two more still remain. I don’t mean to undervalue the meaning of playing the New York Giants and St. Louis Rams over the next couple weeks. But, these games really don’t matter.

Let me rephrase that ….

The next couple games don’t matter UNLESS you’re standing in the shoes of Fisher, Miller, Williams and a few others. For them, these games are every bit as important as Super Bowl XLV.

These are the biggest games of their lives.

As I suggested, relax. This team will be just fine. Ozzie Newsome didn’t spend more than six months agonizing over a kick ass opportunity, just to be totally derailed by losing a cornerback in the early stages of training camp.

He’s obviously not panicking, why should we?

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Optimistic Ravens exit Westminster as stakes begin to grow

Posted on 19 August 2010 by Luke Jones

Optimism percolated from every route leading to Westminster as the masses flooded to McDaniel College over the last four weeks to take a glimpse at a team with its sights set on a date in Dallas on the first Sunday in February.

The Ravens set an all-time training camp attendance record of 112,051 despite a new kid-friendly autograph policy that many thought would temper the masses.

Even with the uncertain status of Ed Reed and the unfortunate losses of rookie Sergio Kindle and Domonique Foxworth, the Ravens have practiced with a swagger indicative of a team fully expecting to be playing deep into January or—with some good fortune—even later. A workmanlike demeanor from third-year coach John Harbaugh has muzzled some of the flamboyant comments uttered by players in past anticipated seasons, but the goal is clear, even under the hot sun of Westminster.

“[Camp has] just been tremendous,” Harbaugh said. “First of all, we’ve gotten a lot of work done. Our guys have worked really hard, and it’s a grind. Football training camp is hard work.”

Despite injury concerns in the secondary (Reed and Lardarius Webb) and offensive line (Jared Gaither), the Ravens managed to avoid any more catastrophic injuries after the deflating loss of Foxworth on July 29.

Breaking camp marks the next step in the quest for a Super Bowl, but the stakes rise much higher from this point forward. Optimism and good vibes are easily found in the secluded confines of an NFL training camp.

Despite the open nature of practices in Westminster, coaches and players work within a cocoon of order. Distractions are at a minimum as players live with curfews and are away from everyday responsibilities related to family and friends.

It was football and only football for four taxing weeks, but players return to a sense of normalcy on Friday.

Now, Joe Flacco and a much-improved offense—on paper anyway—have three more preseason games to fine-tune their work to determine if the vision of becoming an elite unit comes to fruition.

As much as we analyze every play and every day of the summer, picking on cornerbacks like Doug Dutch and Chris Hawkins shows little in terms of how explosive the Baltimore offense will ultimately be. The pressure gets that much heavier, even if the workload of practice decreases.

An unsettling situation at the right tackle position might derail that optimism as quickly as Ray Rice can take it 83 yards to the end zone. The physical and mental health of Gaither is critical with unproven players in Oniel Cousins and Tony Moll—who have also been hindered with injuries—waiting behind him.

An even shakier atmosphere exists with the defense, a perennial top-5 unit in the NFL for over a decade. Even before the loss of Foxworth due to a torn ACL, the Ravens were light on quality at cornerback and occasionally-promising showings from the likes of Travis Fisher, Cary Williams, and Prince Miller in Westminster will not get it done against the Cincinnatis and New Englands of the world.

Fabian Washington has progressed nicely in his recovery from a torn ACL last season and will see his first game action against the Washington Redskins on Saturday. Chris Carr, the nickelback a season ago, will be relied upon to hold down the other starting spot as Webb will presumably be getting back to the practice field in the coming days.

And, oh yeah, the six-time All-Pro Reed still has no timetable for a return despite making progress in rehabbing his surgically-repaired hip. Tom Zbikowski has competently held his spot at free safety with the Ravens showing cautious optimism that Reed might be able to play Week 1. However, only the enigmatic safety really knows when he will be ready.

“We feel like the guys that we have are going to be able to go in there and get the job done,” said Carr, who reminded reporters the Ravens finished with the eighth-ranked pass defense last season despite late-season injuries. “We feel like we’re experienced, and we have a lot of potential to get better. We feel like we can do a lot of things back there.”

Easy feelings to have within the sheltered atmosphere of Westminster, but Ozzie Newsome knows better. The front office clearly wants—and needs—to upgrade the cornerback position, even if  it’s only a quality third or fourth defensive back from another team.

The most critical component to enhancing the suspect pass defense is improving the pass rush, as the Ravens produced their second lowest sack total (32) in franchise history in 2009.

Despite the absence of the rookie Kindle, Antwan Barnes and Paul Kruger have impressed in that area, both in camp and against the Carolina Panthers last Thursday. The emergence of these two coupled with a healthy and motivated Terrell Suggs might just mask a weaker secondary.

However, we’ve seen strong preseason performances from countless young players in years past—Barnes being one of them—only to see them forgotten by mid-September.

When the Ravens put Westminster in the rear-view mirror on Friday, they leave training camp behind and return to the cozy confines in Owings Mills, but the summer sun rapidly transforms to the white-hot expectations created—locally and nationally—over the last seven months.

“Hopefully, we’re the best football team we can be coming out of this training camp at this time, but we still have work to do,” Harbaugh said. “Next week we’ll be right into training camp again, and it’ll be one-a-days, more of an in-season type schedule, but we’ll still be in camp as far as we’re concerned.”

Cutdown dates loom for players trying to secure a roster spot, the clock ticks on whether Newsome can find another piece to enhance the secondary, and the New York Jets and Monday Night Football await in less than four weeks.

Thankful players say goodbye to the team hotel in Westminster and return to their own beds on Friday, but with that come the more restless nights as a season of lofty expectations quickly approaches.

Training camp is in the books.

From here on out, it gets a little more real.

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Live from Westminster: Ravens limping through final days of camp

Posted on 18 August 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. — With injuries continuing to hinder the training camp roster, John Harbaugh and the Ravens are probably thinking they cannot get away from McDaniel College fast enough and back to the cozy confines of 1 Winning Drive as the injury list continues to grow daily, particularly on the offensive line.

Right tackle Oniel Cousins was carted off the field after suffering from a headache on Wednesday morning. Cousins, already filling in for the injured Jared Gaither (back tear), appeared to be laboring earlier in practice and stood on the sidelines for a considerable time before leaving the field. The training staff will test Cousins for a possible concussion.

Tony Moll filled in on the right side in Cousins’ absence while Chris Chester continues to handle the center position in place of Matt Birk (neck). Other linemen missing practice included Stefan Rodgers (arm) and Daniel Sanders (arm).

It was an “over-30 club” day in Westminster, meaning the likes of Ray Lewis and Derrick Mason were given the day off. With veterans receiving a respite and so many others not practicing, fans could be forgiven if they didn’t recognize all players running with the starting units at times.

New absences from practice included fullback Le’Ron McClain (back/thigh) and linebackers Tavares Gooden (neck) and Prescott Burgess (undisclosed). McClain appeared to be dealing with an upper thigh issue over the last few days, even having the hip and thigh region wrapped during Saturday afternoon’s practice. The starting fullback was in street clothes, walking with a limp during the morning session, but the injury is not believed to be serious.

Gooden continues to deal with neck spasms after sustaining an awkward hit to the neck in the preseason opener. Despite practicing the last two days, the team will use caution the rest of the week in hopes that Gooden will be able to play against the Redskins on Saturday.

“[The neck] just keeps tightening back up on him,” Harbaugh said. “We need to just sit him down and settle him down.”

Gooden’s health clouds what has been an intriguing competition at inside linebacker after Jameel McClain lost his stronghold at the position with a poor performance in the preseason opener. McClain has received more work at the “Sam” outside linebacker with the second unit this week. Harbaugh hopes to get extended looks at all three with the starting defense over the final three preseason games.

“We’ll kind of move those guys around the next two weeks, and we’ll know where we’re at.”

In addition to the “over-30” club—which includes Lewis, Mason, Birk, Todd Heap, Travis Fisher, Trevor Pryce, and Kelly Gregg (Ed Reed and Brendon Ayanbadejo are still on the PUP list)—defensive tackle Brandon McKinney (knee), tight end Davon Drew (hamstring), and defensive back Marcus Paschal (leg) joined the aforementioned players as non-participants in the morning practice.

Stay right here for updates (time-stamped below) and visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear Harbaugh, rookie receiver David Reed, and safety Tom Zbikowski’s conversation with Thyrl Nelson following practice.

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1:40 p.m. — Both Billy Cundiff and Shayne Graham missed from 45 yards on Wednesday morning. Cundiff pulled his attempt wide left while Graham was wide right on his try.

Each kicker connected from 19, 40, and 51 yards as both continue to produce similar results day in and day out in Westminster.

12:45 p.m. — With Thursday being the last two-a-day of the summer, coaches and players are laboring through the final workouts in Westminster and toward the remainder of the preseason schedule. John Harbaugh has been pleased with the team’s work during camp, evidenced by his cancellation of three practices (one on Saturday and two on Sunday) over the last week.

“You get to this point and it’s time to [go],” Harbaugh said. “You’re looking into the next phase of camp. Going into this practice [on Tuesday morning], we wanted to make sure that we have five good practices before we leave here, to make the most of it, and we did a good job today.”

The Ravens will conduct a walk-through on Friday before breaking camp and continuing their preseason preparation at their practice complex in Owings Mills.

12:35 p.m. — As mentioned yesterday, rookie David Reed has struggled to catch the ball consistently after a strong beginning in Westminster. Reed, a fifth-round pick in April, was expected to battle for the fifth receiver job but has fallen out of contention with Demetrius Williams having such a strong—and injury-free—training camp.

With three preseason games remaining, Reed will need a strong showing at receiver and on special teams to avoid being cut or stashed away on the practice squad—or Injured Reserve with a mysterious injury.

“You want consistency,” Harbaugh said about the young receivers following Tuesday’s practice. “For whatever reason, we dropped a lot of balls out here today. I thought the quarterbacks were just a little more in rhythm with their throws [and] a little quicker versus the pressure, which is what we want, and maybe it caught the receivers a little bit off guard.”

Hale acknowledges he has struggled to catch the football in camp, something he has not experienced previously in his career.

“I don’t drop too many passes [typically],” Reed said. “That’s one thing I carry myself [with], I don’t drop passes. I’m getting it back.”

12:20 p.m. — Cornerback Chris Carr and receiver Mark Clayton suited up to practice but were limited participants throughout the morning session. Carr has taken part in individual drills the last two days but continues to sit out team portions of practice as he continues to recover from a left hamstring injury sustained on Aug. 7.

With Carr sitting out 11-on-11 drills and the 30-year-old Travis Fisher not practicing, Fabian Washington and Cary Williams were the cornerbacks with the first defense.

Clayton had his right ankle taped before walking out to practice, but the receiver stood on the sideline without a helmet and gloves for much of practice. Demetrius Williams and Donte’ Stallworth split reps at receiver opposite of Anquan Boldin with Clayton out and Mason receiving the day off.

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Live from Westminster: Ravens honor military at McDaniel

Posted on 17 August 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. — With hundreds of military personnel on hand, the Ravens were back on the practice field Tuesday afternoon in preparation for the second preseason game against the Washington Redskins.

Players such as defensive tackle Kelly Gregg (below) signed autographs for uniformed military and their families for nearly an hour following a practice that lasted over two hours in the sweltering heat.

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“It’s just a real special day,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We’re real proud of what all the personnel in the military all across the country and overseas has done for us. We just can’t thank them enough for their service, for the sacrifices the families make.”

Offensive lineman David Hale was absent from practice with a “bruised” tailbone sustained after defensive tackle Haloti Ngata landed on top of him in a pass-rushing drill during Monday’s morning practice. The key reserve lineman has not yet undergone an MRI or CAT scan to determine whether the tailbone is fractured, according to Harbaugh.

Concerns exist that it might be a long-term injury, a potential damaging blow given Hale’s versatility for an offensive line already dealing with the absence of Jared Gaither for the remainder of the preseason.

“I really don’t know,” said Harbaugh when asked if Hale’s injury might be season-ending. “We haven’t gotten an MRI yet, so I wouldn’t be writing that yet.”

Center Matt Birk missed his third straight practice with tightness in his neck. The 13-year veteran has not practiced since the preseason opener last Thursday. Birk started training camp on the physically unable to perform list after undergoing an elbow procedure in the offseason.

“[Birk’s] going to be a guy we’re going to be very judicious with throughout training camp and even throughout the season,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t think a lot of practice is what he needs. He’s up there [in years]. When you play on the offensive line that many years, you want to be smart with those guys and how many contact reps they take.”

Ngata returned to practice after sitting out the latter portion of Monday’s practice following the collision with Hale. The Pro Bowl tackle appeared to be favoring his left wrist but showed no signs of injury on Tuesday.

Also back at practice was offensive tackle Oniel Cousins, who walked off the field with a member of the staff toward the end of practice after a skirmish with linebacker Jameel McClain earlier in the Monday morning workout. Cousins managed to get into another scuffle Tuesday, this time with linebacker Edgar Jones despite it being a lighter shells-and-shorts workout. The third-year tackle, who continues to fill in for Gaither at right tackle, has earned a reputation for mixing it up with teammates in his brief career.

“I don’t know, they might be coming after me,” said Cousins, drawing laughter from media members. “For some reason, everybody’s always trying to fight with me, I don’t know why. We’re just out there having fun. I don’t know, it’s just a practice. It’s hot and everybody’s out there getting after it.”

Cornerback Chris Carr was a limited participant during Tuesday’s practice, doing individual work but sitting out full-team drills. In addition to Hale and Birk, tight end Davon Drew (hamstring), defensive back Marcus Paschal (leg), defensive tackle Brandon McKinney (knee), offensive linemen Daniel Sanders (arm) and Stefan Rodgers (arm), and offensive tackle Jared Gaither (back) did not practice.

Stay right here for more (time-stamped below) and visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear more from Harbaugh, Cousins, quarterback coach Jim Zorn, and tight end Todd Heap’s conversation from the field with Rex Snider.

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8:45 p.m. — The daily installment of the kicking competition brought similar results to what we’ve seen throughout the summer.

Billy Cundiff and Shayne Graham were each perfect on five attempts, with both men connecting from 48 and 51 yards. The Ravens will likely alternate kicks between the two as they did in the preseason opener against Carolina.

8:35 p.m — The star of Tuesday’s practice—on and off the field—was veteran tight end Todd Heap, who made three spectacular catches while looking like the tight end who made consecutive Pro Bowls in 2002 and 2003.

Heap made a leaping, one-handed catch over the middle early in practice and beat cornerback Travis Fisher on a sideline route for a long gain. The 10-year veteran finished off his finest practice of the summer with a catch in the back of the end zone over cornerback Brad Jones.

Following practice, Heap signed autographs for military personnel for nearly 45 minutes before joining Rex Snider on AM 1570 WNST. You can hear the conversation in its entirety in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault.

While Heap shined on Tuesday, rookie David Reed’s struggles continued as the receiver dropped two passes, one of them leading to a Cary Williams’ interception on a pass thrown by Troy Smith.

After an impressive start in Westminster, Reed has struggled to catch the ball consistently, leaving his status in doubt with Demetrius Williams performing well in his efforts to grab the fifth receiver spot on the roster. Expected to be a contender to return kicks, Reed has not received many opportunities during special teams practices.

8:15 p.m. — Tuesday’s practice provided more confirmation for a possible shift in the team’s depth chart at inside linebacker.

Tavares Gooden—practicing without the red non-contact jersey—lined up next to Ray Lewis in the starting defense, another indication that Jameel McClain has lost the stronghold he enjoyed through the first three weeks of training camp. Dannell Ellerbe took reps with the starting defense on Monday as McClain worked at outside linebacker with the second unit.

Much of the defensive work, however, came in nickel and dime packages, and Gooden is considered the strongest of the three in pass coverage.

Needless to say, it will be interesting seeing who lines up with the starting unit in the team’s second preseason game against the Redskins on Saturday night.

8:05 p.m. — John Harbaugh responded to cornerback Lardarius Webb’s comments from Monday that expressed he did not want to play in the preseason and wants to be cautious in returning from an ACL injury sustained late last season. Webb’s rehab is ahead of schedule and could be activated from the PUP list in the near future.

“I think we are going to be cautious with [Webb],” Harbaugh said. “If he can play in the preseason and we feel very comfortable there’s not going to be a setback, we’ll do it. If we think there’s any possibility of a setback—reasonable possibility—we’ll probably just save him [for the regular season].”

Webb has worked out regularly on the side field during training camp, working on conditioning and agility to strengthen his surgically-repaired right knee.

Running back Matt Lawrence (knee) and linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (quadriceps) remain on the PUP list but were running on the side during Tuesday’s practice. Neither player has been very active during practices in Westminster, and Ayanbadejo was just recently cleared to begin running full-speed.

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Ravens notebook: Carr, Mason leave practice as record crowd attends

Posted on 07 August 2010 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — A record crowd of 17,861 watched a Ravens training camp practice at M&T Bank Stadium, but they couldn’t have felt any better about the team’s cornerback problems after Saturday afternoon’s workout.

Cornerback Chris Carr, now a starter after the loss of Domonique Foxworth, left practice with an undisclosed injury, which appeared to be a hamstring issue. Carr would not comment on the injury, deferring questions to coach John Harbaugh.

“I’m not sure,” said Harbaugh when asked about the defensive back’s status. “I don’t have a report yet on that. I’m not sure.”

That clears things up.

Fellow starting cornerback Fabian Washington also sat out despite being dressed to practice. Washington has been in and out of practice over the last week as he continues to work his way back from an ACL injury a season ago. With both projected starters—along with Lardarius Webb who is still on the Physically Unable to Perform list—sidelined on Saturday, the Ravens had Travis Fisher and Cary Williams working with the starting defense.

Wide receiver Derrick Mason also left practice with what he described as a bruised knee. The 36-year-old missed two days of practice with a right ankle injury earlier this week before returning on Friday.

“I just banged my knee a little bit,” Mason said. “It wasn’t critical [that] I came back in.”

Mason iced the knee after leaving practice and expects to participate in the Ravens’ next workout on Sunday afternoon.

Gaither absent again

Offensive tackle Jared Gaither failed to practice for the second straight day as he continues to deal with back spams between his shoulder blades. The Ravens sent him to a back specialist, with the initial feedback indicating the injury is not serious. Gaither was limited in practice on Thursday before sitting out the last two days.

The right tackle, who lost approximately 30 pounds before training camp began, is having difficulty lining up in a three-point stance, according to Harbaugh.

“It’s just something he’s got to fight through,” Harbaugh said. “It’s unfortunate because he’s competing for that spot, and you’ve got to stack practices. That’s what the competition is all about.”

Despite Gaither’s tepid relationship with the organization and his desire for a new contract, Harbaugh stood by the tackle’s work ethic and desire.

“[Gaither’s] a hard worker. We just have to get him on the field and get him going and he’s going to be fine. That’s what we’ve got to try to do right now.”

Kicking Contenders

Billy Cundiff and Shayne Graham moved the kicking competition to M&T Bank Stadium after mostly going kick for kick in their first week of practices in Westminster.

Cundiff was unofficially 7-for-9 on field goals while Graham was a masterful 10-for-10 on Saturday afternoon.

The battle has been extremely even to this point in camp, with both performing consistently unlike the up-and-down battle between Steve Hauschka and Graham Gano last summer.

“We know it’s going to be a tough decision,” Harbaugh said. “We just kind of put it on the back burner. We don’t have to make that decision yet, so we don’t want to. You see them everyday, they’re both kicking very well.”

Harbaugh expects teams to contact the Ravens later in the preseason in hopes of acquiring one of the two. The coach believes the decision will be a difficult one.

“My gut feeling is [the choice is] going to be a gut feeling.”

Walking Wounded

In addition to Carr, Mason, Washington, and Gaither, others not participating in the Saturday afternoon workout were guard David Hale (undisclosed), tackles Tony Moll (concussion) and Stefan Rodgers (ankle), defensive backs Marcus Paschal (leg) and K.J. Gerard (hamstring), and tight end Davon Drew (hamstring).

Running back Willis McGahee returned to practice after sitting out with swelling in his right knee on Friday.

The four players on the Physically Unable to Perform list (Webb, safety Ed Reed, linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, and running back Matt Lawrence) did not participate.

Ayanbadejo told WNST.net there is still no timetable for his return from a torn quadriceps injury sustained last season.

Changes at M&T Bank

While rookies benefited most from the special practice at M&T Bank Stadium, young players and veterans alike had to get used to some changes at their home stadium.

This was the first time the Ravens have played on the new field turf installed in the spring. Initial feedback from players was positive, as veterans cited how much softer it was than the turf that had been used since 2003. Several players commented on how hot the turf felt to their feet, but a warm August day certainly contributed to that.

“When I first got on it, I wondered if it was going to be supportive enough, but it felt pretty good,” quarterback Joe Flacco said about the new playing surface. “Your feet were a little bit hotter than they are out in Westminster, but it was good. I enjoyed it.”

The fans in attendance also enjoyed the brand new high-definition video boards displaying a far crisper picture than the original screens.

“They were sweet,” Harbaugh said. “They looked very good. I caught myself looking up there every now and then.”

A New Tradition

The record crowd attending practice left a lasting impression on owner Steve Bisciotti and Harbaugh as both were pleased with the turnout and believe it will become an annual event in August.

“[Bisciotti] came out on the field there when we were doing one of our drills and he basically said, ‘This is a tradition now. We’re doing it because it was so good,'” Harbaugh said. “You felt it out there. It’s great for our team to get out there on the field, but it’s so good for the fans.”

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Live from Westminster: Gaither misses practice as first fight breaks out

Posted on 31 July 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. — The Ravens were back on the practice field Saturday morning, but two key starters were absent.

After being carted off the field with back cramps Friday afternoon, Jared Gaither was absent from both sessions on Saturday. We didn’t hear from John Harbaugh after practice, so we’ll assume it’s a precautionary measure at this point. However, given the Ravens’ propensity for hiding the severity of injuries, it’s certainly worth monitoring in the coming days.

Cornerback Fabian Washington did not practice after returning to the field wearing a red non-contact jersey on Friday afternoon. He did, however, return to the field in the afternoon wearing the same non-contact top. With the fragile state of the defensive backfield after the loss of Domonique Foxworth for the season, there’s no reason for the Ravens to rush Washington’s return to the field with three weeks remaining in training camp.

We also witnessed our first fight of the summer as rookie defensive tackle Art Jones mixed it up with offensive lineman Bryan Mattison after a play during passing drills. A dogpile quickly followed but order was restored and the two shook hands after the scrum.

You can hear more from Jones about the morning rumble as well as special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg and backup quarterback Marc Bulger in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault.

Check back right here for updates (time-stamped below) throughout the day.

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5:15 p.m. — The afternoon session has wrapped up with Fabian Washington returning to the practice field sporting the red non-contact jersey.

Jared Gaither was absent from practice again, though he walked out for the latter portion of the workout in a t-shirt and shorts. I’m beginning to wonder if the back cramps for which he was carted off on Friday afternoon are actually spasms.

Offensive tackle Tony Moll sat out in the afternoon after lining up with the first-team offense at right tackle (with Gaither’s absence). Rookie Ramon Harewood received the reps on the right side with the first team.

Cornerback Walt Harris did not practice but was out on the field with his teammates.

As for the practice itself, coach John Harbaugh was very angry with the team’s tempo during the 11-on-11 portion, verbally chastising his players and making them run off the field. The Ravens coach voiced his displeasure with some words unsuitable for this blog, but it was clear he wanted to send a message.

Workouts will resume on Sunday morning at 8:45 a.m. and an afternoon session at 2:45 p.m.

2:10 p.m. — While several of his teammates were outspoken after Marc Bulger signed a one-year, $3.8 million contract to back up starter Joe Flacco, the veteran was complimentary of his teammates’ help in learning the Baltimore offense, a system similar to what he had in St. Louis.

What remains to be learned is the different terminology and verbiage that comes with a new team.

“Troy [Smith] and [Flacco] and John [Beck] have been great to me, making some cheat sheets,” Bulger said. “I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m getting there.”

Bulger had opportunities to play elsewhere with a better opportunity to start, but his last few seasons with the Rams made him desperate to play for a winning organization. St. Louis went a combined 6-42 over the last three seasons.

“I love the [Rams] organization, but we just hadn’t been winning,” Bulger said. “It takes a lot of the fun out of it, and I wanted to win somewhere. Not that I couldn’t win other places, but I think that this team, after talking with [John Harbaugh] and his philosophy really intrigued me. … I see why they’re so proud about the organization.”

Bulger was also asked about the man who replaced him in St. Louis—rookie Sam Bradford—and the guaranteed $50 million he’ll receive from the Rams before ever taking a snap in the NFL. He didn’t have any advice for the former Oklahoma quarterback.

“No suggestions, just congratulations,” the former Rams quarterback said while laughing, “and his agents did a heck of a job. I’ve got the same ones.”

I’d say.

1:45 p.m. — With the hectic nature surrounding the Domonique Foxworth injury on Friday, I failed to provide an update on the kicking competition between Shayne Graham and Billy Cundiff.

During the morning session on Saturday, Graham connected from 30, 39, 44, and 51 yards but missed from 50 yards away. Cundiff made field goals from 30, 39, 44, 51, and 46 yards.

Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg talked about the competition between Graham and Cundiff and how different it is than the one between Steve Hauschka and Graham Gano in training camp a season ago.

“The way it’s different is we have two experienced, veteran NFL kickers in here doing that competition,” Rosburg said. “It’s going to be day to day, kick to kick, and then preseason games obviously. It’s important—as we all know—that you’re able to go kick in game environments.”

While we’ll continue to track each kicker’s daily performance in Westminster, the real key to the competition will be the four preseason games.Though Cundiff has an edge having been on the team last season, most insides believe Graham will ultimately prevail and be the team’s kicker by Week 1.

“My thinking on that is—it’s much like quarterbacks—practice is really good and it’s valuable and you learn a lot by watching guys play in practice,” Rosburg said. “For kickers, game environments are really valuable, too. That is part of the whole formula.”

12:50 p.m. — Highlights from the morning included a gorgeous pass from Joe Flacco to Derrick Mason for a long, 40-plus yard touchdown. Mason looks very sharp as he begins his 14th season in the league.

Donte’ Stallworth continues to impress in the early stages of training camp. He’s shown impressive speed with a quick burst. It’s clear he’s taking this opportunity very seriously as he tries to put the events of the last two years behind him and get his career back on track. If he can remain healthy—not a given when you look at his NFL career—he could really develop into the deep threat the Ravens have sorely lacked in their passing game for years.

The team scrimmaged live for the first time on Saturday morning with the defense doing an admirable job against the first-team offense. Ray Rice broke a Prescott Burgess tackle and gained eight yards on one play but found little running room overall in the live session.

During skeleton passing drills, Marc Bulger found a wide-open Dennis Pitta over the middle for a huge gain.

The secondary also missed an interception opportunity as Burgess and new safety Ken Hamlin battled for the ball. Neither came up with it as the football dropped harmlessly to the turf.

Despite the secondary currently being in disarray, injuries have created an opportunity for Travis Fisher, who looked more comfortable on Saturday morning after some shaky early sessions. The 30-year-old Fisher brings eight years of experience in the NFL and can really impress with Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb continuing to work their way back from knee injuries.

12:40 p.m. — After receiving the question from Nick below, I wanted to pass along a couple of number changes. Ed Dickson is now wearing No. 83, trading with Davon Drew who will now sport No. 80.

Dickson wore the number in college and will compensate his teammate an undisclosed amount, according to Drew.

Hope I cleared up some confusion if you were out in Westminster the last two days.

12:25 p.m. — With Jared Gaither sidelined this morning, reserve Tony Moll worked out at right tackle with the starting offense as Michael Oher worked exclusively on the left side.

With Fabian Washington sidelined again, the starting corners were Chris Carr and Travis Fisher. Tom Zbikowski received most reps as the starting free safety with Ed Reed continuing to rehab from offseason hip surgery.

It was a worrisome sight seeing Washington, Reed, and Lardarius Webb—three of the four projected starters in the secondary—standing on the sidelines together and not wearing the pads. Thankfully, it’s only July 31 and not Sept. 13.

In other injury news, tight end Davon Drew did not practice this morning. He said after practice on Friday he was suffering from a slight hamstring strain but didn’t seem concerned about missing a significant amount of time.

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Live from Westminster: Foxworth gone for season, Gaither provides scare in afternoon

Posted on 30 July 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. — The excitement was palpable as the Ravens took the field for their first full-squad practice on Friday morning, but the mood changed dramatically with the absence of starting cornerback Domonique Foxworth and WNST.net learning he tore the ACL in his right knee on Thursday evening during an “orientation” practice.

The Ravens will now piece together a secondary for the start of training camp as they await the returns of Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb, both returning from ACL injuries last season. With all three cornerbacks currently out of practice, Chris Carr and Travis Fisher lined up with the first-team defense.

Not exactly a tandem that inspires confidence.

Be sure to head to the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from Domonique Foxworth, John Harbaugh, Ray Lewis, Anquan Boldin, and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison regarding the Foxworth injury and the first day of full-team workouts.

Check back right here for updates (time-stamped below).

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6:30 p.m. — The Ravens have confirmed Jared Gaither was merely dealing with back cramps this afternoon when he was carted off the field. Definitely good news on a day when it’s much needed.

The team has also brought in former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Nashville Dyer, presumably for a tryout. Dyer has also spent time in NFL Europe.

5:20 p.m. — Ed Reed did some conditioning and strength work on his own this afternoon as he continues to recover from offseason hip surgery.

Rookie defensive tackle Terrence Cody showed a very impressive bull rush against starting guard Ben Grubbs, pushing him deep into the backfield during 1-on-1 linemen drills. However, right guard Marshal Yanda held his ground against the 350-pound rookie later in the drill.

And the Baltimore defense looked to be in midseason form when K.J. Gerard intercepted a pass and attempted to lateral the football to a teammate. Gerard nearly fumbled but managed to maintain possession.

A nice play, but one that makes fans pull their hair out.

5:15 p.m. — In a day filled with disappointing news, the status of Fabian Washington provides a small beacon of light as the cornerback returned to the practice field this afternoon. He sported a red mesh top over his white practice jersey, indicating no contact for the starting corner.

With the loss of Domonique Foxworth for the season, any progress by Washington or Lardarius Webb is a great piece of news.

5:00 p.m. — If you’re on the WNST Text Service, you just received the news that Jared Gaither was carted off the field with an apparent back injury. There didn’t appear to be an exact moment of injury, as he stood in pain for a few minutes before going to the ground.

He remained on his stomach for a few minutes before taking off his shoulder pads as the training staff applied ice packs to his back. He then gingerly walked over to the cart before laying on it and being taken off the field.

This could simply be a minor issue of some spasms, but with the events of the last 24 hours, it’s hard not to think the absolute worst if you’re a Ravens fan.

2:20 p.m. — Ray Lewis started his 15th training camp with the Ravens on Friday morning, the only player left from the inaugural 1996 season.

The 35-year-old linebacker emphasized the need for the team to move on from the Foxworth injury despite his disappointment and sympathy for his fallen teammate.

“I think every team is going to—one way or another—face some type of adversity through the course of the year,” Lewis said after practice. “It just so happens for us, it came on Day 1. Losing a guy like Foxworth, do you try to replace that guy? No, but the next guy has to step up, and that’s what teams are built by. The bottom line is figure it out, move whatever pieces you have to move around, and just keep moving.”

You can catch the full interview with Ray Lewis in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault.

2:10 p.m. — Other highlights of the morning practice took place during 7-on-7 passing drills when Troy Smith connected on a long touchdown pass to Eron Riley. Chris Carr later picked off a Marc Bulger pass and returned it for a touchdown.

The biggest cheers of the day were drawn when Joe Flacco connected with new standout receiver Anquan Boldin for a short touchdown.

“[Flacco’s] a great young talent, and I only see him getting better,” Boldin said after his first training camp practice as a Raven. “This year, they went out and got weapons to put around him, so hopefully he goes out and has a killer year.”

2:00 p.m. — The team spent a good portion of practice in an 11-on-11 “thud” scrimmage (contact without taking anyone to the ground). The first play of the session was a completion from Joe Flacco to Derrick Mason.

Imagine that.

Other highlights included a Marc Bulger strike to Mark Clayton in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. Bulger is still in a bit of a learning mode but saw his participation level increase on Friday compared to the earlier workouts of the week.

Surprisingly, Jameel McClain received extensive reps at the other inside linebacker spot next to Ray Lewis during the 11-on-11 portion. Most expect Dannell Ellerbe and Tavares Gooden to compete for the starting job next to the 35-year-old Lewis, but McClain received the reps on the first day.

1:55 p.m. — With the disappointing news of Foxworth’s injury dominating the media’s attention this morning, I’ll remind you a practice actually took place this morning as well.

Offensive tackle Jared Gaither participated fully despite dealing with a foot injury during the OTA schedule. While he’s projected to be the starting right tackle with Michael Oher being shifted to the left side, both players took their turns at each position throughout the morning workout.

In fact, Gaither seemed to receive most reps on the left side as the practice wore on Friday morning. We’ll continue to monitor each young tackle to see if perhaps the Ravens are wavering on the decision to flip-flop the two.

1:35 p.m. — In addition to Heap, cornerback Fabian Washington did not practice on Friday morning despite coming off the PUP list on Thursday. With the injury to Foxworth, the team may choose to be extra cautious with throwing Washington back into the mix full-go.

Walt Harris came off the PUP list and practiced this morning.

Free safety Ed Reed, running back Matt Lawrence, tackle Oniel Cousin, center Matt Birk, cornerback Lardarius Webb, and linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo remain on the PUP list. Heap is on the non-football illness list.

In other injury news, running back Willis McGahee lost a tooth and left the field with a member of the training staff in the middle of practice. He was seen walking around the team hotel in good spirits after practice.

1:00 p.m. — As we learned Thursday evening, Todd Heap has been placed on the non-football injury list as he is reportedly suffering from flu-like symptoms. He was dressed in shorts and a jersey and observed practice from the sideline.

12:50 p.m. — Domonique Foxworth just spoke with the media in the lobby of the Best Western and was clearly distraught over the loss of his season before the first day of full-squad workouts. He tore the ACL in his right knee in a non-contract drill on Thursday evening in a workout closed to the media and public.

“I was just running and tried to change directions,” he said. “It’s something I’ve done a million times in my career. This time it just didn’t work.”

Foxworth did not know it was a serious injury as he said the most serious injury of his career had previously been a sprained ankle. He learned the results of the MRI on the right knee during Friday morning’s workout.

“It’s a ton of emotions,” he said. “The biggest one I’m feeling—and I know it’s probably unfounded—but I just feel like I’m letting people down. I know everyone’s excited about this team and excited about this season and my teammates—I know how excited they are—and the fans.”

The Ravens will now explore all external options to add depth with veteran Frank Walker being a logical candidate to return after spending the last two seasons with the team. Walker has been contacted by the team but no offer has been made at this time.

With Foxworth’s injury, the focus will shift even more heavily on the status of Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb, the new projected starters.

“We’re going to be fine, with or without me,” Foxworth said. “They’re going to be fine. I’m going to do what I can to help them. [Secondary coach Chuck Pagano’s] going to do an incredible job. I promise you if there are any shortcomings on this team, it won’t be in the secondary. I can guarantee that.”

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