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Scouts,Inc. Player Ratings for the Ravens

Posted on 20 August 2009 by Derek Arnold

Scouts, Inc. has released their player rankings for pretty much every player in the NFL. I thought I would take a closer look at their ratings for the Ravens, and also give those of you who don’t subscribe to ESPN’s insider a chance to view them.

The highest ranking any player received was a 94 (out of a supposed 100).

Two players tied with these high scores, DeMarcus Ware and Tom Brady.

Meh, no arguments there, I suppose.

At a point lower, at 93, there were 10 players, including two Ravens.

Haloti Ngata – 93

They gave this scouting report on #92:

“Ngata is one of the best defensive players in the NFL and possibly the most important member of an excellent Ravens defense. He is a massive and incredibly strong. Ngata also has rare athletic ability, quickness and closing burst for such a huge force in the middle of the defensive line. He is extremely versatile and can shoot gaps while holding the point and absorbing double teams. He can also effectively line up in many spots along the defensive line. Ngata can be a force rushing the passer, but he could stand to develop a wider variety of moves. His effort also has been somewhat of an issue here and there, but that problem has progressively improved as he has matured. Ngata is an elite player.”

Pretty high praise for a guy that has yet to even make his first Pro Bowl appearance. Now -I’m not arguing, just pointing out the deficiencies of the Pro Bowl voters. I will argue with the “effort” knock, though. We heard a lot about this (cough, Mark Schlereth, cough) when Ngata was drafted out of the University of Oregon, but I sure can’t remember hearing one peep about Ngata taking plays off since he has been in the NFL. Can any of you?

To compare, the rankings for the top five defensive tackles in the NFL were:

1. Albert Haynesworth – 93

2. Haloti Ngata -93

3. Shaun Rogers – 91

4. Kevin Williams – 90

5. Casey Hampton – 87

The other Raven scoring 93 was, of course –

Ed Reed – 93

“Simply put, Reed is one of the best in the business. He has elite range and is one of the few backend defenders who opposing signal-callers truly fear. Reed is a game-changer from his deep center field position and allows the Ravens to be very aggressive with their schemes. Not only is he a supreme ball hawk with rare anticipation and ball skills, but he is also an extremely dangerous weapon with the ball in his hands and is an immediate threat to score. He is also a superb kick and punt blocker when used in that capacity. Finding negatives on Reed is a difficult thing to do, but in 2008 — while playing with a neck/shoulder injury — he did take care of his body more than usual and wasn’t as violent with his collisions.”

Everyone knows how great Mr. Reed is. Although they count his only “negative” as his less violent collisions, I have to commend them for remembering that Ed was, at one point, a huge hitter from the safety position (something the Troy Polamal-who? fanatics are quick to forget).

Speaking of Troy-Boy, he also scored a 93, adding yet another to the list of analysts who find it impossible to choose between the two.

Top five safeties:

1. Reed – 93

2. Polamalu – 93

3. Adrian Wilson – 90

4. Bob Sanders – 87

5. Kerry Rhodes – 80

Terrell Suggs – 86

T-Sizzle was the next Raven on the list, scoring an 86.

“Suggs has been a mainstay on the Ravens’ defense. He has been a solid pass-rusher in the base 3-4 scheme. He has excellent quickness and speed off the edge with enough burst to close to the quarterback. He understands leverage and how to get his opponent off balance as a pass-rusher, while using his strength and quickness to counter back inside. He uses his hands well to disengage as a run-defender and work the edge of blockers. He is a versatile player who can drop effectively in coverage and is best in underneath zone schemes. He isn’t extremely fast in pure man coverage and is rarely used in that way. Suggs is an instinctive player who reacts quickly as plays unfold, which enables him to be active to the pile. He is a tough hard-nosed player who wins with effort, intelligence and athleticism.”

We would add that, in addition to making him “active to the pile,” Suggs’ great instincts also lead to some other big plays, as he showed with his two interception-return touchdowns in 2008.

Suggs came in at #6 on the list of linebackers, behind Ware, James Harrison, Shawne Merriman, Patrick Willis, and Karlos Dansby.

Kelly Gregg – 84

A bit of a surprise (at least to those who don’t follow the Ravens and/or don’t know football), was seeing Kelly Gregg next on the list. Always under-appreciated by the fans and talking heads, Gregg gets plenty of recognition by opposing coaches and others who know the game (in this case, scouts).

“Gregg is built low to the ground and very powerful. He is an exceptional hands player who plays with excellent overall aggression. His motor never stops and his hustle can be infectious on his teammates. Gregg consistently wins one-on-one matchups and can handle a double-team while also making plays in the backfield. Although he offers little as a pass-rusher and rarely disrupts passing lanes or bats down passes, Gregg is the type of player who would make any defense better regardless of scheme.”

It will be a welcome sight to see #97 putting his hand in the dirt (or Field Turf, as the case may be) again in 2009, after missing all of 2008 with knee injuries.

Ben Grubbs – 84

Grubbs, the Ravens’ 2007 first round draft selection, came in as the #3 ranked guard, behind Steve Hutchinson and Leonard Davis.

“Grubbs is one of the best young guards in the league today and should only be getting better. He is both powerful and athletic. He can move big-bodied defensive tackles off the ball in one-on-one situations and can pull or combo block to the second level. He is not a liability in space and also can recover laterally when initially beaten off the snap. Grubbs has heavy hands and can stun his opponent, while also showing the ability to finish plays.”

Derrick Mason – 81

Again reminding us how grateful we are that Mason decided to “Favre” his retirement this year, he was easily the Ravens’ highest scorer at WR.

“Mason is the consummate pro and remains one of the most reliable wide receivers in the game today. Mason catches just about everything thrown to him and has superb natural hands. His route-running skills are even better with very fluid movement skills and a very good burst out of his break. However, Mason is not a big-play guy and doesn’t stretch the field. He is more agile and quick than fast, but also is a top-notch student of the game who takes his craft very seriously. His size is a bit of a problem and he isn’t a physical presence with the ball in his hands.”

Joe Flacco – 80

“Flacco burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2008, leading Baltimore to the AFC Championship Game. He showed the ability to digest what was given to him and obviously is quite intelligent. He has elite arm strength and can threaten the entire field. He has excellent size and the ability to scan the entire field clearly. Flacco could stand to add more bulk to better handle the rigors of playing the position at this level. Flacco is a surprising athlete who can make plays with his feet and throw well on the move. Flacco has a ton of upside and was very impressive in 2008, but he also had the benefit of having a grind-it-out rushing attack and an elite defense to help his cause.”

Joe Cool actually tied for the #7 best QB after only one season in the league. Also scoring 80 were Donovan McNabb and Kurt Warner.

I’m guessing QB is the position on this list that will trump up the most controversy. Along with tying with the two listed above, Flacco was also rated higher than Tony Romo (79), Matt Ryan (78), Phillip Rivers (77), Jay Cutler (75), Aaron Rodgers (74), and a host of others.

We love Joe Cool, of course, so we love seeing him get so much respect. However, this one is taken with a grain of salt, as they also had Matt Cassel (81) above everyone we just listed.

Would anyone really rather have Cassel on their team than Rivers or Cutler?

Interesting barstool debate. Thanks, Scouts, Inc.

Rounding out the Top 10 Ravens on the list were:

Ray Lewis – 80

“Lewis continues to be one of the most dominant run defenders in the league at the linebacker position. He is a powerfully built player with outstanding tackling power between the tackles. His ability to wrap up and tackle with jolting force is still evident in his 13th year. He has excellent instincts and vision to react quickly to the run and pass. He has outstanding football intelligence and is able to make all the checks and adjustments needed in the complex Ravens scheme. He uses his hands well to work through trash as well as having natural power to run through blockers. He is a crafty veteran who takes great angles in pursuit and maintains leverage on the ball-carrier. He has lost a step, but still has enough speed and quickness to be effective inside-out to the ball. He is a solid pass-defender primarily due to excellent anticipation and route recognition.”

Trevor Pryce – 80

“Pryce is a king-sized defensive end who can be a penetrating one-gap end or can hold the point in the run game an allow those around him to make plays. He is powerful with long arms and excellent hand usage. He keeps blockers well off his body and is quick to shed. Pryce is also a powerful tackler who can jolt ball carriers. As he ages, his leverage becomes more and more of a problem. Pryce shows more stiffness and his pads can get too high at times. Also, while a crafty pass-rusher, he doesn’t offer much from a speed off the edge.”

Matt Birk – 76

“Birk is a crafty veteran who understands angles and leverage as an interior blocker. He is an excellent technician who uses his hand well to maintain body position. He has good pop and power on contact and is effective with combination blocks. He is athletic enough to slam and chip to the second level and stay connected with his target. Matt is effective in space and keeps his pads over his feet well when down-field blocking. Birk can anchor in the middle agaisnt powerful bull-rushers and has the quickness and range to make blocks on the perimeter. He is an experienced player who could play other positions along the offensive line in a pinch.”

Birk actually scored a point lower than the man he replaced, Jason Brown. As much as we were sorry to see ol dancin’ JB go, it is pretty much universally agreed around B’More that the Ravens had a net gain at center this offseason. Apparently these guys have a different view.

Anyway, feel free to argue for/against any of these rankings in the comments. And let me know if there is any other specific player you are curious about, and I’ll do my best to find their score and report to fill you in.

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Getting down to 53: The final days of training camp

Posted on 18 August 2009 by Luke Jones

We’re in the final week of training camp in Westminster, but the Ravens do not need to make any cuts until Sept. 1, when they must trim the roster to 75 players.  The team must then narrow down to the regular season number of 53 by Sept. 5.

For those begging for help at the wide receiver position, the late cut dates mean any veteran receiver that could possibly shake free and help the cause in Baltimore probably won’t be available until right before the regular season.

I’ve listed the number of players I predict the Ravens to keep at each position in parentheses. This list does not include the practice squad of eight players the Ravens will keep in addition to the 53-man roster.

QUARTERBACKS (3)
LOCK: Joe Flacco, Troy Smith, John Beck
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Cleo Lemon, Drew Willy
Skinny: It’s been an interesting week regarding quarterbacks, but Cam Cameron made it clear the Ravens are still committed to Beck as the No. 3 guy.  Smith’s play in the preseason has further cemented his status as the backup to Flacco.

RUNNING BACKS (5)
LOCK: Ray Rice, Willis McGahee, Le’Ron McClain
BUBBLE: Jalen Parmele, Matt Lawrence, Cedric Peerman
LONGSHOT: Jason Cook
Skinny: Parmele is a favorite of Cameron, and Lawrence impressed during the preseason opener last week.  Peerman appears to currently trail these two on the depth chart.  Despite being the only other fullback behind McClain on the roster, Cook appears to be a candidate for the practice squad at this point.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)
LOCK: Derrick Mason, Mark Clayton, Demetrius Williams, Kelley Washington
BUBBLE: Justin Harper, Yamon Figurs, Jayson Foster
LONG SHOT: Biren Ealy, Bradon Godfrey, Eron Riley, Ernie Wheelwright
Skinny: Losing Marcus Smith for the season is a major blow to the special teams units, an area in which the second-year receiver thrived.  Williams’ inability to remain healthy continues to frustrate the staff.  Harper has a ton of potential but is very inconsistent.  Foster has put his name into consideration with a good performance against the Redskins and an ability to make plays during practice.

TIGHT ENDS (3)
LOCK: Todd Heap, L.J. Smith
BUBBLE: Edgar Jones, Davon Drew
LONG SHOT: Isaac Smolko
Skinny: Drew continues to be very quiet on the practice field.  Jones is a good special teams player and has played some H-back during camp.  His ability to play linebacker if needed makes him a valuable commodity on the 53-man roster.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
LOCK: Jared Gaither, Ben Grubbs, Matt Birk, Chris Chester, Michael Oher, Marshal Yanda, Oniel Cousins
BUBBLE: David Hale, Tre Stallings, Joe Reitz
LONG SHOT: Robby Felix, Stefan Rodgers, Bryan Mattison
Skinny: The team should definitely look to add a veteran tackle, because Cousins is too inconsistent as the third tackle, but he’s improved from last season. Hale’s ability to play both guard and center will likely land him on the roster.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (6)
LOCK: Kelly Gregg, Haloti Ngata, Trevor Pryce, Justin Bannan
BUBBLE: Dwan Edwards, Brandon McKinney, Kelly Talavou
LONG SHOT: Will Johnson, Nader Abdallah
Skinny: Edwards and McKinney are the favorites to land the final two defensive line spots on the roster.

LINEBACKERS (10)
LOCK: Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Jarret Johnson, Tavares Gooden, Antwan Barnes, Jameel McClain, Paul Kruger, Brendon Ayanbadejo
BUBBLE: Jason Phillips, Dannell Ellerbe, Prescott Burgess
LONG SHOT: Tony Fein, Will VanDeSteeg
Skinny: Ellerbe’s knee sprain was a disappointment considering how much he’s impressed over the last two weeks.  Burgess has been around for a couple years, but will it be enough?

CORNERBACKS (6)
LOCK: Domonique Foxworth, Fabian Washington, Chris Carr, Lardarius Webb, Samari Rolle, Frank Walker
BUBBLE: K.J. Gerard, Evan Oglesby, Derrick Martin
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: Rolle’s health continues to be a concern.  Walker is probably safe because his physical style is much different than the other pure cover guys in the secondary.  Considering how many talented, young linebackers are currently on the roster, I predict the Ravens will go with 10 backers and only six corners.  If they go with seven corners, Gerard, Oglesby, and Martin are all in the mix.  Martin has seen reps at both safety and corner this summer.

SAFETIES (4)
LOCK: Ed Reed, Dawan Landry, Haruki Nakamura, Tom Zbikowski
BUBBLE:
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: No drama at this position.  These four are locks.

KICKER (1)
LOCK: None
BUBBLE: Graham Gano, Steve Hauschka
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: It’s been a very close race so far, with Hauschka possibly holding the slightest of edges.  There are still three preseason games to clarify the picture.

PUNTER (1)
LOCK: Sam Koch
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: Koch practiced some field goals this week to be prepared in an emergency situation.

LONG SNAPPER (1)
LOCK: Matt Katula
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: Ngata is the backup field goal snapper, and McGahee is the No. 2 long snapper for punts.  Let’s hope neither has to be called into action.

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Live from the Purple Crab Cake: Ravens blank Skins, 23-0

Posted on 13 August 2009 by Luke Jones

11:11 p.m. — Just a few injury notes to pass along.  John Harbaugh confirmed that Marcus Smith sustained a severe knee injury in tonight’s game, speculating that it could be an ACL.

Troy Smith re-entered the game late in the fourth quarter after John Beck had an undisclosed injury.  Harbaugh does not believe the injury is serious.

Safety Haruki Nakamura suffered a “stinger” but should be fine.

10:35 p.m. — Gano misses a 28-yard field goal as time expires.  Tough break for the rookie in the kicking competition.  Final score:  Ravens 23, Redskins 0.

10:28 p.m. — Troy Smith is back in at quarterback.  This is definitely an interesting development.

After Jason Cook recovered a fumble, Matt Lawrence just picked up 14 yards and a first down.

10:26 p.m. — The Redskins continue to look terrible offensively and are in danger of being shut out.

Ernie Wheelwright nearly blocked the punt.

10:24 p.m. — Paul Kruger just picked up the sack on Brennan, showing great speed off the edge.

I’ve been singing his praises during training camp, so it’s nice to see him deliver in his first preseason game.

10:19 p.m. — Beck just completed a 64-yard pass to little Jayson Foster.

Peerman scores the touchdown from seven yards out, as he made a nice cut to get into the end zone.

Ravens 23, Redskins 0

10:12 p.m. — Just to give you a picture of how much better the depth in the secondary is, Frank Walker, a starter in the AFC Championship game, is playing in the fourth quarter of a preseason game.

This is no knock on Walker, but it shows how deep the secondary is, and the team still awaits the return of Samari Rolle.

10:06 p.m. — On first down, Beck is nearly picked off by defensive end Jeremy Jarmon.

He then hits Peerman on second down for a gain of six yards.

Harper just dropped another pass on third down.  He needs to use his hands to catch the ball instead of trying to trap it with his body.

The Ravens go for it on fourth down, and Beck throws one at the feet of Ernie Wheelwright.  Washington takes over at their own 38-yard line.

10:00 p.m. — Beck just completed a 13-yard pass to sixth-round pick Cedric Peerman, but it’s seven yards shy of a first down.

Sam Koch punts it down to the six-yard line, leaving the Redskins with poor field position to start another drive.

9:58 p.m. — We’ve reached the end of three quarters, and the Ravens hold a comfortable 16-0 lead over the hated Redskins.

9:55 p.m. — Cousins was just called for a holding penalty and continues to have a tough night.

The Ravens definitely need to explore a veteran option at the tackle position to back up Jared Gaither and Michael Oher.

9:54 p.m. — John Beck is now at the helm for the Ravens offense.

Smith finished 12 of 28 for 188 yards and a touchdown.  While the completion percentage isn’t very good, Smith did a great job running the two-minute drive on the team’s lone touchdown of the night at the end of the first half.

9:51 p.m. — Colt Brennan is sacked by Tom Zbikowski on third down, forcing a Redskins punt.

9:44 p.m. — Derrick Martin just picked off Colt Brennan.  The former corner is adjusting to the safety position, and the interception will certainly help his case for a spot on the 53-man roster.

9:41 p.m. — Cam Cameron was not satisfied with his starting offense settling for field goals instead of touchdowns.

“The three penalties in the first half hurt us.  We can correct those.  We held the ball and moved the ball early, but we have to score touchdowns, not field goals.  Ball security was very good, and we’ve worked hard on that.”

9:39 p.m. — Greg Mattison had some halftime thoughts on his defense.

“The turnover at the end of the second quarter was big, and our offense took it right down the field for the touchdown.  Before that, we were sound.  We need more pressure on the quarterbacks, especially in passing situations.”

9:36 p.m. — The action is moving quickly in the second half, as the Ravens begin a drive at their own 23-yard line.  Jalen Parmele is shaken up, and we have an injury timeout.

9:33 p.m. — Here are a few quotes about the Ravens’ performance in the first half:

Flacco:  “It felt great to be out there.  As an offense, everything felt really good.  I was happy with the way our receivers and running backs were moving.  Our line did a heck of a job for being their first time out there.”

Kelly Gregg:  “It was a little nerve-racking, but it’s really great to be back.  I was just soaking everything up.  There were a few butterflies, but it was a lot of fun to be out here pounding again with the guys.”

Ray Rice talking about Michael Oher:  “He’s ready to play.  He’s physical.  He got out there and got a jump on people.  He just needs to continue to get better each game.”

9:24 p.m. — On 3rd and 15, Smith throws it away.

Graham Gano makes the 39-yard field goal, making the score 16-0.

9:22 p.m. — Smith with a 37-yard completion to Yamon Figurs who keeps his feet in-bounds.  Figurs will need more plays like that to solidify a spot on the 53-man roster.

On 3rd and 5, Smith hits Lawrence for a gain of 11, moving the chains and setting the Ravens up at the Skins’ 16-yard line.

9:20 p.m. — The second half is underway, and the Ravens begin the drive deep in their own territory.

Smith has really been impressive and just threw a first-down completion to Harper.  It’s clear these two have a solid chemistry.

Oniel Cousins gets called for holding, pushing the ball back to the 15.

9:09 p.m. — We’re still trying to find out more about Marcus Smith

Flacco was 9 of 15 for 103 yards.  A solid outing and hopefully enough to sil

9:01 p.m. — Cartwright rushes for 5 yards to close out the half.  Ravens lead, 13-0.

8:58 p.m. — Smith with a great pump fake and throws the 19-yard touchdown pass to Harper.  These two have hooked up repeatedly in Wesminster, and they find the same magic tonight.

Hauschka’s extra point makes the score 13-0.  The Ravens have thoroughly dominated this one.

The drive covers 10 plays, 69 yards, and lasts 107.  You have to be impressed with Troy Smith’s work in the two-minute drill.

8:57 p.m. — On 3rd and 4 from the 32, Smith hits a slant to Harper who makes the catch for the first down and takes it to the 19.  Smith spikes the ball with 19 seconds remaining.

On the next play, Smith tries to hit Harper in the end zone, but it falls incomplete.

8:55 p.m. — Orakpo gets in there again and hits Smith as he tries to throw.  I’m very impressed with the rookie from Texas.

Smith then completes a 14-yard pass to Lawrence, and the Ravens have the ball at the Washington 38 yard-line.

8:54 p.m. — After Smith completes passes to Edgar Jones and Matt Lawrence, the Ravens are all the way up to their own 48.  The Ravens use their final timeout with 59 seconds remaining in the half.

8:53 p.m. — On 3rd and 6 from the 30, Collins does not get the snap off in time and is called for a delay of game.

Now, 3rd and 11 from the 35, Collins completes a pass to Keith Eloi who then gets stripped by Tom Zbikowski.  The ball is recovered by Dwan Edwards.

8:47 p.m. — Fred Davis fumbles the ball after making the catch.  Prescott Burgess forced the fumble.  The Redskins recover at the Baltimore 34, and we’ve reached the two-minute warning.

8:43 p.m. — The Redskins are finally moving the ball after Malcolm Kelly makes a nice catch on third down with Chris Carr defending.  Kelly again snatches one for a gain of seven, setting up 2nd and 3 from their own 48.

8:41 p.m. — Thank goodness we can finally stop talking about the silly Michael Vick to Baltimore rumors.  Vick has signed a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles.

8:39 p.m. — Harper fails to bring another pass in on third down.  The Redskins are getting some heavy pressure on Troy Smith.  Cousins is having a difficult time blocking Orakpo, the Redskins’ first-round pick.

The Washington offense takes over at their own 11-yard line.  You know Jim Zorn wants to see a positive drive here.

8:36 p.m. — It’s nice seeing Michael Oher back in the game after suffering a nasty gash to the forehead.

Smith just lofted a nice touch pass to L.J. Smith for a gain of 35 yards.  A healthy L.J. Smith would give the Ravens a nice duo at the tight end position.

8:34 p.m. — The Ravens force the Redskins to go three-and-out, as the second-team defense is now in for the Ravens.

Lardarius Webb returns the 55-yard Hunter Smith punt to the 24.

8:31 p.m. — On third down, Cousins had a difficult time trying to block Brian Orakpo and gets called for holding.  The pass falls incomplete, and the Redskins decline the penalty.

After the punt, the Skins will start at the 22.

8:27 p.m. — Justin Harper can’t come up with a low—but catchable—pass from Smith.  He has blazing speed but needs to show the ability to catch the ball in traffic.

On second down, Smith throws high but Harper cannot rein it in with a defender ready to unload on the young receiver. It certainly isn’t a good start for Harper, a guy whose praises I’ve been singing over the last few weeks.

The Ravens take their second timeout on 3rd and 10.

8:26 p.m. — Troy Smith is your new quarterback.

Flacco finishes 9 of 15 for 103 yards.  A steady preseason debut that hopefully silences some critics.

Campbell was 3 of 6 for 38 yards.

8:25 p.m. — Barnes and Ellerbe combine on the tackle on the kickoff.

Todd Collins is the new Redskins quarterback.  Barnes almost picked off a pass in the flat intended for Eddie Williams.

On third down, Haruki Nakamura punches the ball away from Hagans, forcing another Washington punt.

Carr has some trouble fielding the punt but recovers and returns it to the 32-yard line.

Injury update: Washington’s Lorenzo Alexander has an abdominal strain, and his return is questionable.

8:21 p.m. — After a short pass to McGahee fails to pick up the first down, Hauschka makes the 36-yard field goal.  He’s 2-for-2 tonight.

Not a bad drive from the Ravens, but the Smith drop really hurt.  The drive lasts 14 plays and spans 71 yards.  It took 6:36.

8:19 p.m. — Flacco completes a third-down play to Marcus Smith, picking up the first down.

McGahee displays some nice moves in the open field as he picks up 16 yards.

Flacco with a beautiful pass over the defender that’s dropped by Smith.  That’s a ball that needs to be caught.  After another incompletion to Williams, it brings up 3rd and long from the 26-yard line.

8:13 p.m. — The quarter ends with a five-yard completion to Rice coming out of the backfield.

At the end of the first quarter, Ravens lead the Skins, 3-0.

8:12 p.m. — Flacco’s screen pass to Rice is blown up for a loss after Ben Grubbs could not block Byron Westbrook in the open field.

On 3rd and 9, Flacco hits Washington for a gain of 15 and a first down.  Nice start for the new Raven.

8:09 p.m. — On first down, Flacco hits Mason for a seven-yard gain on the quick out.  Le’Ron McClain lining up in the slot two plays in a row.

Kelley Washington catches a 16-yard pass, moving the chains.  The former Bengal and Patriot has been impressive in camp.

Rice picks up seven yards on first down, as the Ravens are all the way up to their own 40.

8:04 p.m. — On 3rd and 7, Antwan Barnes nearly sacks Campbell, forcing the incompletion.

During the punt return, Jameel McClain is called for holding and will move the Ravens back to their own 10-yard line.  You just know special teams penalties drive Harbaugh crazy.

8:02 p.m. — The Redskins will begin their second drive at their own 23.  Campbell completes a 15-yard pass to Antwaan Randle El.  The Ravens didn’t get much pressure up front on the play.

Ray Lewis and Ed Reed already appear finished for the night.

8:01 p.m. — Flacco’s pass is broken up by DeAngelo Hall on third down, intedned for Mason.

Steve Hauschka hits the 21-yard field goal, and the Ravens take the 3-0 lead with 6:15 remaining in the first quarter.  The highlight of the drive is the 34-yard completion to Rice coming out of the backfield.

You have to be pleased with the Ravens’ opening drive.  It lasted 13 plays, covered 67 yards, and took 5:47 off the game clock.

8:00 p.m. — Oher has been taken to the locker room with a gash on his forehead.  It appears he will need stitches after taking a shot to the head just a few minutes ago.

Joe Reitz has checked in at right tackle for the Ravens in Oher’s absence.

7:58 p.m. — After the timeout, the Ravens give it to McGahee straight up the middle for the first down.  Michael Oher comes off the field bleeding.

On 2nd and goal, Flacco cannot connect with Mason and throws it out of the end zone.  On 3rd and goal from the 3, Washington takes their first timeout.

7:52 p.m. — Willis McGahee has checked in at running back and takes the hand-off for a gain of five yards.  Despite Rice’s strong showing in training camp, the coaching staff is pleased with McGahee’s work in Westminster also.

Flacco keeps it on 3rd and 3 and takes a pretty good hit but comes up just short of the first down.  It will be 4th and 1, and John Harbaugh will use a timeout to ponder what to do.

7:48 p.m. — Rice just caught a short pass over the middle and galloped 34 yards to the Washington 17.  The 5-7 back provides so much versatility in the backfield, and it’s easy to see why the Ravens are so high on the former Rutgers star.

After Rice rushes for two yards, Kedric Golston is slow to get up for Washington.

7:46 p.m. — Flacco’s first-down attempt is batting in the air at the line of scrimmage by Andre Carter.  The ball helplessly falls incomplete.

On second down, Ray Rice shows good speed getting to the edge and picks up six yards.

Kelley Washington lines up as the No 3 receiver on third down before Demetrius Williams catches a slant for an 11-yard gain.  It’s nice seeing Williams on the field and contributing.

7:44 p.m. — The Ravens’ offense will start their first drive of the season from their own 30-yard line.  It will be interesting to watch how well Oniel Cousins performs in Jared Gaither’s absence.

Cousins has had a strong training camp so far.

7:43 p.m. — On 3rd and 6, the Ravens bring the pressure as Campbell throws incomplete, intended for Marques Hagans.

Chris Carr is back deep to return the punt.

7:39 p.m. — The Redskins’ opening play results in a first down in a swing pass to Ladell Betts.

Two plays later, Jason Campbell completes an 11-yard pass to Cooley.  Skins moving the ball well early.

7:39 p.m. — Dannell Ellerbe immediately makes his presence known by bringing down Rock Cartwright.

7:37 p.m. — The Redskins win the toss and elect to receive.

Steve Hauschka will handle all kicking duties in the first half.

7:36 p.m. — Ravens’ captains are Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Kelly Gregg, Matt Birk, Justin Bannan, and Trevor Pryce.

7:27 p.m. — The starting offense is being introduced to the customary U2 song “Where the Streets Have No Name.”

Ray Rice is the first player announced, and Micheal Oher received a nice ovation from the home crowd.

Derrick Mason is the last player announced, and it’s clear the Ravens’ faithful are glad to have him back after a brief retirement.

7:18 p.m. — Tonight’s referee will be Walt Anderson.  Rounding out the officiating crew is Scott Dawson, Phil McKinnely, Byron Boston, Jimmy Buchanan, James Coleman, and Billy Smith.

7:12 p.m. — Looking around the lower bowl of M&T Bank Stadium, there’s a sprinkling of Skins fans but not as many as I thought there would be.

The Ravens are going back to their locker room after warming up.  Fifteen minutes until kickoff!

7:08 p.m. — I’m a bit surprised to see Ed Reed out there tonight after wearing the red jersey for most of training camp.  I figured the Ravens would hold him out until the second or third preseason game.

Mason will play despite dislocating a finger only two days ago.

I’d be surprised if we see Reed or Mason for longer than a series or two.

7:02 p.m. — Oniel Cousins will start at left tackle in Gaither’s place.  Defensively, Paul Kruger will take Terrell Suggs’ spot with the first defense.

Ladell Betts will get the start at running back and Devin Thomas will line up at receiver for Washington.  On the defensive side of the ball, Fred Smoot will start at corner and Kedric Golston will take Haynesworth’s spot at defensive tackle.

6:58 p.m. — The Ravens announced they have waived receiver Thomas White.

6:56 p.m. — The Ravens have released their inactives for this evening, and they include Terrell Suggs, Mark Clayton, Jared Gaither, Marshal Yanda, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Samari Rolle (PUP), Lamar Divens, and Biren Ealy.

Sitting out for the Redskins will be Carlos Rogers, Clinton Portis, Anthony Alridge, Reuben Riley, Jeremy Bridges, Randy Thomas, Santana Moss, and Albert Haynesworth.

6:40 p.m. — The Ravens specialists are out on the field, and Ed Reed is dressed and appears to be playing.

Reed’s status throughout training camp has been a mystery with him sporting the red non-contact jersey for most practices.

6:16 p.m. — Still no word on the scratch list.

The Ravens will be dressed in all white tonight.

5:46 p.m. — Tonight marks the first time the Ravens have opened the preseason at home since 2007 when they defeated the Philadelphia Eagles, 29-3.

This will be the fifth preseason meeting between the Ravens and their hated neighbors to the south.  The preseason series is tied, 2-2.

In the series that really matters, the regular season, Baltimore enjoys a 3-1 all-time lead.  The most recent meeting was last season’s 24-10 victory for the men in purple on a cold Sunday night in December.

5:24 p.m. — Derrick Mason is out on the field working out and catching passes.  It seems like Mason may attempt to play, but I still suspect we won’t see him for long.

5:19 p.m. — I’m live at M&T Bank Stadium, watching a handful of players warm up—kicking around a soccer ball, no less!—after a heavy rain just passed through the area.  The sun has just peaked out as I type this.

Kickoff is just over two hours away, and we’ll update you on the injury report as soon as we get word.  At this point, Mark Clayton (hamstring) and Terrell Suggs (heel) are the only players ruled out for the game, but there are several players whose status is unknown including Marshal Yanda, Derrick Mason, Demetrius Williams, Todd Heap, Jared Gaither, Ben Grubbs, Trevor Pryce, and Brendon Ayanbadejo.

Stay with us throughout the game, as we’ll be offering analysis, providing injury updates, and answering your questions here at WNST.net!

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Ravens-Redskins Preview: Conservative will be the Theme

Posted on 12 August 2009 by Luke Jones

For the first time since coming up short in the AFC Championship in Pittsburgh last January, the Ravens will take the field at M&T Bank Stadium in their preseason opener against the Washington Redskins on Thursday night.

While doubts surround the wide receiver position and an elite defense adjusts to a new coordinator at the helm, expectations run high for a team that finished 11-5 a year ago under first-year coach John Harbaugh.  Second-year quarterback Joe Flacco will look to build upon a remarkable rookie season that included two road playoff victories and is expected to take a larger role in the offensive game plan.

Thursday will be the first—albeit small—step in gauging Flacco’s progression from  rookie to incumbent starter.

“In the preseason, I want [Flacco] to throw completions,” offensive coordinator Cam Camerson said.  “That could be up the field [or] underneath.  I want to see completions inside the numbers, up the field, sideline to sideline. That’s what we’re going to try to do this preseason. For us to improve our offense, we’ve got to throw the football better. Obviously, it starts with the quarterback.”

It will be difficult to get an accurate picture of the passing offense considering the injuries at the wide receiver position.  Starting wideout Mark Clayton (hamstring) will not play, and Derrick Mason (dislocated finger) and Demetrius Williams (hamstring) are questionable for the preseason opener.  These injuries could mean newcomer Kelley Washington and second-year camp standout Justin Harper will line up in the starting offense—not exactly a duo that will strike fear in an opposing secondary.

Coupled with the injuries at receiver is a battered offensive line.  Center Matt Birk, guard Chris Chester, and rookie tackle Michael Oher are the only sure bets to play Thursday as tackle Jared Gaither (trapezius) and guard Ben Grubbs (ankle) have recently battled injuries and are questionable.  Guard Marshal Yanda has made great progress in returning from a horrific knee injury last season, but the team plans to bring Yanda along slowly in the preseason.

These factors likely mean a conservative approach from the Ravens’ offense against Washington.  The team figures to use a heavy dose of Ray Rice and Willis McGahee and plenty of max-protect blocking schemes in the passing game.

“It’s an opportunity to keep growing as a football team and growing as individual players,” coach John Harbaugh said.  “We’re not game-planning for the Redskins. They’re not game-planning for us.  We’re just going to come out and run our basic stuff—see how guys play, how they play together and how they execute.”

Of course, the first preseason game is hardly the time to open up the playbook, so a conservative game plan is not a poor approach, but what should we expect from new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison’s defense?

Much of the same, apparently.

Pointing to the depth of the defensive line, Mattison suggests we’ll see less blitzing than what we saw for years with Rex Ryan’s defenses.  The return of Kelly Gregg will bolster an already impressive line that includes Haloti Ngata, Trevor Pryce, and Justin Bannan.  The biggest question will be whether this group can pressure the quarterback without the aid of blitzing—something Ngata and Gregg have not done consistently in the past.

“Our philosophy is we think that this year we can play base,” Mattison said.  “You know, I feel like we’ve got the players that if they play like they can—and they will—you don’t have to be real exotic all the time. You should be able to get pressure with a four-man front, and with our secondary [and] the way they’re practicing, you feel confident that we should be able to cover people without bringing overloads and pressures all the time.”

The defense will be without linebacker Terrell Suggs (heel) and may not have Pryce (foot) and safety Ed Reed—whose status for the preseason is unknown as he battles the same shoulder and neck issue from last season.  Cornerback Domonique Foxworth (former Maryland Terp and Western Tech grad) has had an impressive training camp and will be expected to play at a high level after signing a four-year, $28 million contract to join the hometown team.

While most football fans tend to focus on the offense and defense, the Ravens’ kicking situation might be the most intriguing story of the preseason.  With Matt Stover currently a free agent and not a part of the Ravens’ plans, the organization now looks for a placekicker for the first time in its 14-year history.

Last season’s kickoff specialist Steve Hauschka and rookie Graham Gano will compete for the job, and both players have impressed during training camp.  However, the Ravens will tell you the competition will ultimately be decided by how well each performs in the four preseason games.

The Ravens plan to use Hauschka in the first half for all kicking duties, with Gano kicking in the second half.

Regardless of the likely conservative nature of the preseason opener, players are eager to take a break from the rigors of training camp and compete against another NFL team.  It’s the first step in building upon a promising 2008 season.

“I’m definitely excited,” Rice said.  “Football is football.  If you get out there and see another color and don’t get excited, I don’t think you should be playing this sport.  I’m excited just to get out there again.”

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Jonathan Ogden chats with Kelly Gregg

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Live From Westminster: Mason dislocates finger, causes a scare

Posted on 11 August 2009 by Luke Jones

4:06 p.m. — With Harbaugh not revealing any plans on which injured players will suit up and play on Thursday, here are some thoughts on the players in question.

Demetrius Williams will play if he feels good during the team walk-through tomorrow.  He’s pushed through a hamstring issue for most of camp.

Todd Heap’s lower back has tightened up over the last couple days, but there’s still a chance he’ll play.  Heap had not missed a practice before sitting out yesterday.

Jared Gaither is still bothered by the shoulder/neck issue, but he took part in plenty of live reps yesterday morning.  He wants to play on Thursday, but it’ll depend how he feels during the walk-through.

Derrick Mason suffered a dislocated finger this morning during practice.  I’d be surprised if he plays, and if he does, I’ll predict he’s nothing more than a decoy.

Ben Grubbs continues to battle an ankle issue dating back to the offseason.  He participated in the early portion of practice today, but David Hale took his place at left guard.  He’s questionable.

Marshal Yanda was given the day off today and is far ahead of schedule compared to where most people predicted he’d be at this point.  However, the team has emphasized they want to take it slow with Yanda.  He’s questionable.

Trevor Pryce has a foot issue, and his status is unknown.  It did not appear serious, so we’ll see how the veteran defensive end is feeling by Thursday.

Terrell Suggs (heel) and Mark Clayton (hamstring) will not play and have not practiced since Aug. 2.  Clayton has been on the field the past two days doing some light conditioning work.

Honestly, the only injury to really be concerned with at this point is Clayton’s.  As much as Ravens fans want to beat Washington, a preseason game on Aug. 13—even against the hated Redskins—is meaningless in terms of wins and losses.  The goal is to get these players ready for Sept. 13.

I suspect that most of these players would be playing if it were the regular season.

4:00 p.m. — In preparation for their preseason opener against the Washington Redskins on Thursday night, the Ravens will hold their walk-through on Wednesday.  The walk-through is closed to both the media and general public.

3:30 p.m. — Chris Carr is still listed as the No. 1 punt and kick returner and looks very fluid while returning kicks.  After watching him work in Westminster, it’s easy to see how he became the Oakland Raiders’ all-time leader in kickoff returns.

3:27 p.m. — The special teams practice lasted an hour and 15 minutes, and the focus of the afternoon was the punt and kick return teams.

Sam Koch was booming his punts and looks to be in mid-season form.  He continues to use the rugby-style kick for placing punts inside the 20-yard line.

Steve Hauschka did an outstanding job kicking off, consistently kicking the ball inside the 5 with great hang time.

Rookie Paul Kruger received praise from John Harbaugh on several occasions.  It looks like the second-round pick will be a major part of the special teams units this season.

1:56 p.m. — As expected, Derrick Mason’s injury appears to be a dislocation and not a broken finger. He’s probably doubtful for Thursday night at this point and it looked painful when it happened.

1:46 p.m. — Today was Baltimore football alumni day at training camp, and we saw a number of Baltimore Colts including Art Donovan, Lenny Moore, Jim Mutscheller, and John Mackey.

Among the former Ravens was wide receiver Michael Jackson (taking us back to the early days of the purple!) and future Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden.  We had a chance to chat with J.O. for a short time, and you can check that out in the WNST.net audio vault.

Ogden spent some time catching up with his former teammates on the sideline during practice.
Jonathan Ogden chats with Kelly Gregg

1:38 p.m. — It’s been a very quiet camp for Ray Lewis, but the 34-year-old linebacker has been very active on the field, talking to the offense and competing as he always does.  Lewis came into camp trimmer this season, wanting to maintain his speed as he begins his 14th season with the Ravens (hard to believe, isn’t it?).

Here’s a shot of No. 52 working on his hands at the jugs machine.
Ray Lewis

12:51 p.m. — Graham Gano appeared to have a much stronger leg this morning and kicked with much more confidence.  Unofficially (there were no officials underneath the goalpost, so it was difficult to confirm a few), Gano hit field goals from 35, 43, 47, and 51 yards.  He did appear to miss one from 38 yards, but it was very close—again, no official underneath the goalpost.

Steve Hauschka appeared to have the morning off after taking most of the reps yesterday.

12:48 p.m. — With the finger injury to Derrick Mason, there’s a good chance Harper will be starting on Thursday night, and the young receiver made another long catch this morning.  Troy Smith lofted a 30-yard pass to Harper who beat Walker on the play.

12:31 p.m. — Despite all of the injury updates, there were some highlights this morning I wanted to share.  Domonique Foxworth had an impressive pass breakup in the end zone as Mason tried to make the catch.  Foxworth has been very steady in the secondary, and I am eager to see him play on Thursday night.

Chris Carr picked off Troy Smith this morning during passing drills.  Carr continues to work as the Ravens’ nickleback in passing situations.  He’s only 5-10, but he tends to play with a pretty physical style—a good thing as long as it’s within the rules of the game.

Yamon Figurs beat Evan Oglesby for a long completion from John Beck.  In order for Figurs to make the 53-man roster, he will need to show the same playmaking ability in the four preseason games.

Figurs also got into an altercation with Frank Walker on the sideline during 11-on-11 drills.  Figurs hauled in the pass and was then thrown to the ground by Walker.  The two players took swings at one another, but the fight was quickly separated and cooler heads prevailed.

12:29 p.m. — Ed Reed once again tossed away the red jersey this morning and was sporting the white one like his fellow defensive mates, but don’t read too much into it.  When asked about it, Harbaugh said Reed wears the white during non-contact days, so quarterback Joe Flacco cannot pick him out in the secondary as easily as he does in the red shirt.

Harbaugh would not reveal any new information on Reed’s status, so it’s a mystery whether he’ll play against Washington on Thursday night.

12:24 p.m. — The Ravens continue to run single-back sets with Le’Ron McClain lined up on the wing as a tight end and often going in motion.  I imagine we’ll see this look on Thursday night, especially with Heap’s uncertain status.  McClain has also shown an improved ability to catch passes coming out of the backfield so far this summer.

12:17 p.m. — Harbaugh was very tight-lipped when asked which injured players would play on Thursday night, saying the media could probably figure it out.  With that being said, I would predict we’ll see an offensive line (going left to right) of Oniel Cousins, David Hale, Matt Birk, Chris Chester, and Michael Oher.  Gaither had returned to practice yesterday, but it appears the shoulder/neck is still bothering him, and the team will also bring Yanda along very slowly.  Grubbs may see some reps, but I would think Hale gets most of the time with the starting unit at left guard.

Defensively, we’ll have to wait and see on Pryce’s status, but Dwan Edwards took his place on the defensive line today.  Rookie Paul Kruger will take Terrell Suggs’ spot in the starting lineup, but we’ll see Antwan Barnes get some time at the position.

12:15 p.m. — Despite several players missing practice this morning, linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo once again practiced and took reps with the second-team defense.  He has been slowed by a toe injury since the beginning of camp and just recently began working out with the team.  While he’s still not 100 percent, he looks much better moving around on the field than he did last week.

12:11 p.m. — Ravens fans will continue to hold their collective breaths as we wait for further news on Derrick Mason.  Harbaugh did not sound too concerned, but Mason will have an x-ray taken on the finger, and I’ve heard some rumblings about it possibly being dislocated.

If Mason and Williams cannot play on Thursday, the Ravens would likely start Kelley Washington and Justin Harper at wide receiver—a scary proposition if it were the regular season.

12:00 p.m. — If Tuesday’s practice is any indication of who will be suiting up for the Ravens on Thursday night, quite a few players will be missing from the starting lineup.  Jared Gaither, Marshal Yanda, Trevor Pryce, Todd Heap, and Demetrius Williams did not practice this morning.  Heap and Williams were dressed to practice, but they did not participate in any team drills and observed most of the practice from the sidelines.

Cornerback Fabian Washington sat out the latter portion of practice with Frank Walker taking his place in the lineup.  Washington has battled tendinitis in his knee for the last week.

Left guard Ben Grubbs practice and took reps in the early portion of practice, but David Hale took his place on the line, and Grubbs was not present at the end of practice.  It will be interesting to see if Grubbs plays on Thursday night, as he continues to deal with the same ankle issue that landed him on the PUP list at the start of training camp.

11:04 a.m. — John Harbaugh just met with the media and said that Derrick Mason will get his hand X-rayed but he didn’t seem too concerned. More to come…

10:15 a.m. — Derrick Mason just left the field with trainer Bill Tessendorf. He appears to have jammed some fingers on his right hand. More to come…

10:01 a.m. — David Hale also getting reps at left guard. Ravens are going to be careful with Ben Grubbs’ ankle.

9:53 a.m. — Yamon Figurs and Frank Walker get into a little altercation on the sideline after the catch.

9:31 a.m. — Art Donovan, Lenny Moore and some other Baltimore Colts are at camp today. Jonathan Ogden also!

9:18 a.m. — L.J. Smith is taking the first team reps. Todd Heap is dressed to practice but not doing much.

9:10 a.m. — Demetrius Williams is not doing much so far.



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Live from Westminster: Practicing in the heat, no celebs in the morning

Posted on 10 August 2009 by Luke Jones

4:53 p.m. — Harbaugh was wearing what appeared to be a new shirt this afternoon at practice.  The phrase “Mighty Men of Baltimore” appears on the front.  This was a phrase Harbaugh began using last season, and I’ve even seen one or two players wearing the same shirt walking through the hotel lobby this afternoon.

4:22 p.m. — The team will hold their last full day of workouts tomorrow (8:45 a.m. full squad and 2:00 p.m. special teams) before the first preseason game against Washington on Thursday night.  Both practices are open to the public.

The Ravens will have a walk-through on Wednesday, but it is closed to both the media and the general public.

The team will then be back to practice in Westminster at 8:45 a.m. on Saturday.

4:19 p.m. — Ed Reed again sported a white jersey in the afternoon session, as he did yesterday, but I wouldn’t read too much into it since there was no contact.  Reed was wearing the red jersey this morning.

4:17 p.m. — Jerry Rosburg and the special teams spent a good portion of practice working with the hands team unit.

While we’ve mainly focused on the field goal side of the kicking game, kickoffs and onside kicks will clearly factor into the competition.

4:16 p.m. — In Williams’ absence, Justin Harper took most of the reps starting opposite of Derrick Mason with the first offense.

When the Ravens ran three-receiver sets, Mason, Harper, and Kelley Washington lined up with the first team.

4:09 p.m. — The afternoon practice was a brief, hour-long workout, as the coaching staff tried to keep the exposure to the Westminster heat at a minimum.

The players practiced in helmets, shells, and shorts with Todd Heap (back), Demetrius Williams (right hamstring), Jared Gaither (left shoulder/neck), Willis McGahee, and Ernie Wheelwright getting the afternoon off.

Mark Clayton (hamstring) walked out to the field near the end of practice, but I did not observe him doing any running.

Prescott Burgess left the field early in practice and was holding the right shoulder/chest area.  There was no real contact this afternoon, so it’s unclear what happened to him.

Another player to watch on Tuesday morning is Trevor Pryce.  He appeared to have some type of issue with his foot for a brief time in the morning, but he then returned to practice.  I don’t want to call it an injury at this point, but we’ll see if the veteran defensive end is out there tomorrow.

2:01 p.m. — Being brand new to the Baltimore media, it was an absolute honor talking to Vince Bagli this morning.  He was out in the sweltering heat watching the Ravens practice this morning, but he was in good spirits as always.  At 82 years old, Vince still looks great and was excited for the new football season to kick off.

1:43 p.m. — The afternoon’s full-squad practice will take place at 2:45 p.m. and is open to the public.  If you’re coming out to McDaniel College, please bring plenty of fluids and sunscreen.  I just looked at the updated Westminster forecast, and they’re predicting temperatures in the low- to mid-90s.  It actually looks a little better than this morning when they were predicting triple-digit temperatures.

1:24 p.m. — Le’Ron McClain will undoubtedly remain a big part of the running game despite being moved back to fullback. In the first live play of the morning, McClain rushed for 6 yards against the starting defense and looked quick hitting the hole. The coaching staff wants to see him drop a few more pounds by the start of the regular season, but he has looked good in the first two weeks of camp.
Le'Ron McClain warms up on Monday morning

1:22 p.m. — Despite the brutal heat this morning, the Ravens continued to show why they’re one of the finest organizations in the NFL, staying after practice to sign autographs for the Ravens fans in attendance.  Here’s a shot of Chris Carr talking to some of the Ravens Rookies this morning:
Chris Carr signs autographs in the heat

1:15 p.m. — Ray Rice spoke to the media after practice—available in the audio vault at WNST.net—and talked about his increased role with the starting offense.  Rice took most of the starting offense’s reps this morning with Willis McGahee mostly working with the second offense.

Rice continues to look smooth catching passes out of the backfield, but McGahee continues to work hard.  Cameron complimented McGahee’s work ethic—quite a change from last season when the coaching staff was questioning his dedication.

1:12 p.m. — Fabian Washington had the defensive highlight of the morning, picking off a Joe Flacco pass inteded for Kelley Washington.

Despite some concerns over Flacco’s interceptions during training camp, Cameron defended his quarterback, even saying he’d be concerned if Flacco wasn’t throwing interceptions.  This is the time for Flacco to experiment, with his own limits and his receivers’ abilities.

Cameron even shared a story dating back to his time in San Diego with quarterback Philip Rivers.  He recalled Rivers throwing interceptions on four consecutive throws but assured head coach Marty Schottenheimer that Rivers was fine.  The Chargers quarterback then threw a touchdown pass and has had a very promising start to his NFL career.

1:07 p.m. — Steve Hauschka received most of the field goal attempts today, as it was obvious Graham Gano was dealing with a tired leg on Saturday.  Hauschka was unofficially four out of six this morning, missing attempts from 40 and 54 yards.  Hauschka made field goals from 49, 44, and 39.

Gano made field goals from 40 and 49 yards but also missed from 54 yards.  Both kickers came up short from 54 yards, as previously reported.

12:45 p.m. — Marcus Smith had a rough morning, dropping a few passes, as he continues to fight Justin Harper and Kelley Washington for playing time with the starting offense.

With Mason and Williams lining up as the starting receivers, Washington and Harper are receiving most of the reps at the No. 3 spot with Smith mostly working with Troy Smith and the second team offense.

Smith will surely get plenty of opportunities in the preseason games, but, for right now, he appears to trail Harper on the depth chart.

12:40 p.m. — With Heap sitting out practice, L.J. Smith and Edgar Jones shared reps at tight end with the starting offense.  Smith continues to work his way back from the hamstring tweak he sustained at the beginning of camp.  He’s looking more comfortable in the offensive system and has been more active in the passing game in recent days.

An unlikely player to line up at tight end was offensive linemen David Hale.  The Ravens were working on some tackle-eligible plays this morning, and Hale even ran a pass pattern at one point.  Flacco did not throw it to him.

I would expect the Ravens to continue to show many of the unbalanced line looks we saw throughout the 2008 season.  Michael Oher has lined up next to Jared Gaither on several occasions, and it will be interesting to see how well these two can open up the running lanes while working side-by-side.

12:22 p.m. — With Demetrius Willliams sidelined for a good portion of practice, it gave Kelley Washington and Justin Harper a chance to line up with Derrick Mason in the starting offense.

Washington continues to impress, as he is able to play any of the receiver positions.

The key for Harper is his ability to catch the football in traffic.  He has proven over and over that he can stretch the field against any defensive back on the roster, but the coaching staff wants to see him go over the middle and catch the football.  This will be one of the more interesting players to watch during the four preseason games.

12:16 p.m. — One of the more positive notes from the morning was the improving health of the starting offensive line.  Jared Gaither, Ben Grubbs, and Michael Oher all practiced without incident, a good sign with the preseason opener against the Redskins just three days away.

Cameron spoke glowingly about new center Matt Birk, calling him an outstanding leader.  The young offensive linemen have really responded to Birk’s veteran presence.

Considering Chris Chester is the next longest-tenured linemen on the roster—and only in his fourth season himself—Birk’s presence is an absolute necessity.  And, oh yeah, the six Pro Bowl appearances are also a plus.

12:13 p.m. — Players resting on a knee was a common scene this morning, as you can see here with Domonique Foxworth and Dawan Landry.
Foxworth and Landry rest in between reps.

11:55 a.m. — Todd Heap sat out practice with what Cam Cameron described as some tightness in his lower back.  Heap battled a back injury—sustained against the Titans in the playoffs—for most of the offseason.  I spoke to Heap after practice, and he did not seem concerned and described it as more of a precautionary measure taken by the coaching staff.

Heap had not missed any practice time before this morning and has looked healthier than he did last season.

As reported earlier this morning, Demetrius Williams was seen with an ice pack on his right leg and sat out the second half of practice.  Williams has pushed through a hamstring issue for most of camp, and Cameron gave him credit for playing through it.  The offensive coordinator said they wanted to give Williams some rest in the conditions and wanted to be careful with the receiver’s health.

11:51 a.m. — The morning practice has concluded as the players are certainly trying to escape the heat for a few hour before getting back on the field at 2:45 this afternoon.  Hydration was the buzz word for this morning, as John Harbaugh built in a few water breaks into the morning practice.

The overall pace was slower than normal, but that’s to be expected with the sweltering conditions.

10:48 a.m. — Much to the dismay of the local media, there were no celebrity sightings at this morning’s practice.

10:14 a.m. — It looks like Todd Heap has an ice pack on his back. He’s resting on one knee.

9:58 a.m. — Shaky day of long-field goal kicking:  Steve Hauschka and Graham Gano both come up short from 54 yards.

9:45 a.m. — Demetrius Williams resting on the cart. He looks to be getting ice on his right leg.

9:26 a.m. — The notable missing players today are Mark Clayton, Brendon Ayanbadejo and Terrell Suggs. Also, Todd Heap has not been very active so far this morning. He’s been resting on one knee with L.J. Smith and Edgar Jones taking the reps at tight end with Joe Flacco and the first unit.

9:19 a.m. –The heat is already taking its toll. Several players are doing the “one knee” thing between plays. Also, Ed Reed is back in the “red” no contact jersey this morning.

8:51 a.m. –Cam Cameron, Greg Mattison and Ray Rice will meet the media at the end of the practice today. It’ll be interesting to hear their thoughts about the progress of the team over the first two weeks of camp, especially given the defense’s daily domination of the offense.

The entire offensive line is dressed and ready to practice today. It’s toasty out here!

8:42 a.m. — It’s a boiler out here in Westminster this morning and the morning practice is closed to the public and open only to the sponsors and suite holders. There have been a myriad of rumors regarding more celebrities appearing at McDaniel College today but nothing could top Snoop Dogg’s appearance in the mist last week. (Or could it?)

With the Michael Oher movie trailer making the rounds and Sandra Bullock’s involvement, there have been rumors about an appearance. Others have opined that Tim McGraw could be involved. They are the co-stars of the Oher movie “The Blind Side,” which is set to be released Nov. 20.

Obviously, at this point these are just rumors and we’ll keep you in the loop as to the facts.

What’s more important is hydration out here today as the temperature is expected to get to three digits on the main field. As you know if you’ve been to Westminster, there’s not much shade out here.

Follow our Tweets and we’ll continue to keep you in the loop via our live blog.

Just two more days of practice and the Redskins will be here on Thursday night.

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Live from Brawl-minster: Ravens get chippy in heat, Harbs cancels p.m. practice

Posted on 08 August 2009 by Luke Jones

1:47 p.m. — As fans continue to wonder about the status of Terrell Suggs and Samari Rolle, Harbaugh is not providing much clarity on either player.

“No, nothing really new on that.  They’re both just rehabbing, and that’s where we’re at.”

Suggs injured his heel on Sunday, and Rolle is the only player remaining on the physically unable to perform list.

1:41 p.m. — Harbaugh did not seem upset nor surprised with the morning practice skirmish.  He simply reiterated his preference for the battles in between the whistles.

“We’ve had a lot of scuffles before the whistle gets blown, I can tell you that,” Harbaugh said.  “Those are the scuffles we’re most interested in.  The other ones are irrelevant.  We don’t mind them.  We don’t want them.  We don’t not want them.  We don’t care about them.  The ones before the whistle gets blown—those are the ones that matter.  Our guys have had plenty of those.”

Here are Harbaugh’s comments on the Michael Oher calf situation:

“It doesn’t look serious.  He pinched it, as Bill [Tessendorf] put [the injury report] in there.  It may be a little bit of a calf sprain.  It will be a rehab issue for a little while.”

12:32 p.m. — A few reminders if you’re planning on heading out to Westminster in the next few days.

This afternoon’s practice has been cancelled.  The next practice will take place tomorrow afternoon at 2:45 p.m.  It is open to the public.

Monday morning’s practice is CLOSED to the general public.  The team will have an open practice at 2:45 p.m.

Monday morning’s practice will be open to the media, so WNST.net will have all of the Ravens updates you want and need.

12:30 p.m. — Brendon Ayanbadejo was working out on the other field during practice.  He’s still recovering from a sprained toe.

Suggs walked out to the field for the final moments of practice, wearing sneakers and still limping slightly.

12:27 p.m. — We saw our daily long touchdown to Justin Harper this morning, as Troy Smith threw a deep one to the second-year receiver.  Harper beat Evan Oglesby on the play.

While Harbaugh is pleased with Harper’s ability to stretch the field, he still wants more consistency out of the 6-3 receiver.  He wants Harper to make the tough catches in traffic, an area in which he’s struggled.

12:24 p.m. — Ray Rice continues to show great moves in the open field.  This morning, Rice caught a pass in the flat and put a tremendous move on Jason Phillips, leaving the rookie in the dust.  Rice continues to get the majority of the first-team reps at running back, but McGahee is still right behind him.

McGahee was seen with an ice pack on his left knee yesterday morning, but he was back out there today with no apparent problems.

12:21 p.m. — Tight end L.J. Smith appears to be finding his way in the Ravens’ offense.  He caught several passes today and seems to be regaining his speed after tweaking a hamstring at the beginning of training camp.

If healthy, Heap and Smith have the potential to be a pretty formidable duo at tight end, a major help to Flacco with the uncertainty at the wide receiver position.

12:16 p.m. — As previously reported, it was an ugly day offensively.  Dropped passes and interceptions were the story of the morning before the big fight.  In addition to Walker, Chris Carr also picked off Flacco.

Despite the rough morning, Flacco did have some nice throws including a nice 17-yard out pattern to Marcus Smith (who was playing Mason’s position with the starting offense) and a long, beautiful touchdown to Smith later in practice.  Considering Smith has had a quiet starting to training camp, it was good for him to make some plays this morning.

12:14 p.m. — Cornerback Frank Walker had another good day, breaking up several passes and picking off Joe Flacco during 11-on-11 drills.  Walker is the most physical corner on the roster and has the ability to play bump-and-run coverage, unlike most of the Ravens’ cover corners.

12:09 p.m. — It was an “over 30” day off for Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Derrick Mason, Kelly Gregg, Trevor Pryce, and Matt Birk.

Harbaugh gave a few injury updates after practice.  Oniel Cousins sustained a sprained left ankle, but the head coach said he should return soon.  Terrell Suggs (heel) and Samari Rolle (shoulder/neck) continue to rehab their respective injuries, but Harbaugh did not update when the two will return.

Oher suffered a right calf strain or “pinch” as Harbaugh described it.  The coach did not seem concerned about the injury, but Oher did not return to practice.

12:03 p.m. — It was a difficult day for Gano, but his morning ended in triumph.  After missing kicks from 35, 48, and 53 yards, Gano had a 36-yard attempt with the afternoon off riding on it.  The rookie kicker hit it, and Harbaugh cancelled the afternoon practice to reward his team for all of its hard work.

Gano’s leg was tired today, according to Harbaugh.  He came up short from 53 yards, a distance he had easily been making throughout training camp.

Gano did make field goals from 43, 47, and 51 in addition to his 36-yarder at the end of practice.

10:49 a.m. — John Harbaugh cancelled the afternoon practice today in his post-practice comments. More to come…

10:38 a.m. — Well, we had our first skirmish/melee of training camp in the heat this morning as the offense and defense knocked heads in a team-wide shove-around (apparently started by Paul Kruger and Joe Reitz) with various players involved, including Chris Chester, Jameel McClain & Jared Gaither. It’s hard to say what caused it, but the defense was shoving the offense around pretty good for the second day in a row.

Other morning notes: Michael Oher had a right calf cramp and left practice early. In general, the offense was sloppy and unproductive through much of the morning practice, in front of the usual large weekend crowd here in Westminster. Lots of dropped passes and interceptions.

Perhaps the fight helped matters. After the mini-brawl, the offense looked more focused and was more productive.

Tavares Gooden got limited reps early but didn’t participate later in practice. Jared Gaither was back and took plenty of live reps.

Graham Gano struggled early in the practice (plenty were talking about Matt Stover) but he hit a 36-yarder to end the morning session.

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Getting down to 53: An early projection

Posted on 05 August 2009 by Luke Jones

We’re a week and a half into training camp, so I thought I would give my VERY early look at the 53-man roster.  Keep in mind, injuries are bound to occur and will change the makeup of the roster considerably.

The first preseason game will take place against the Washington Redskins next Thursday night, but here’s my roster projections based on my early observations in Westminster.

I’ve listed the number of players I predict the Ravens to keep at each position in parentheses. This list does not include the practice squad of eight players the Ravens could keep in addition to the 53-man roster.

And, remember, I’m not John Harbaugh, nor will I ever claim to be.

QUARTERBACKS (3)
LOCK: Joe Flacco, Troy Smith, John Beck
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: Though Smith and Beck will continue to battle for the No. 2 job, there are no other quarterbacks currently in camp to even compete.

RUNNING BACKS (4)
LOCK: Ray Rice, Willis McGahee, Le’Ron McClain
BUBBLE: Cedric Peerman, Jason Cook
LONGSHOT: Jalen Parmele, Matt Lawrence
Skinny: It will most likely come down to special teams in determining whether Peerman and Cook find their way on the roster. Cook would give the Ravens a backup fullback, but Cam Cameron could elect to use the tight end as a fullback in certain packages. The team could obviously choose to keep both, but we’ll see how it plays out in the preseason.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
LOCK: Derrick Mason, Mark Clayton, Demetrius Williams, Marcus Smith
BUBBLE: Kelley Washington, Justin Harper, Yamon Figurs
LONG SHOT: Biren Ealy, Thomas White, Eron Riley, Ernie Wheelwright, Jayson Foster
Skinny: The team still could elect to sign another veteran receiver, especially with Mark Clayton out with a hamstring injury. Washington probably makes the team since he’s a strong special teams player, and Harper has been very impressive in the early stages of camp. Considering Figurs is no longer a lock to return kicks, his roster spot is in serious jeopardy. Riley could be a candidate for the practice squad.

TIGHT ENDS (3)
LOCK: Todd Heap, L.J. Smith
BUBBLE: Edgar Jones, Davon Drew
LONG SHOT: Isaac Smolko
Skinny: The fifth-round pick Drew has been a disappointment so far after failing the initial running test at the beginning of camp and then injuring his ankle. Drew has returned to practice, but he’s currently behind Jones on the depth chart.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
LOCK: Jared Gaither, Ben Grubbs, Matt Birk, Chris Chester, Michael Oher, Marshal Yanda, Oniel Cousins
BUBBLE: David Hale, Tre Stallings
LONG SHOT: Robby Felix, Stefan Rodgers, Bryan Mattison, Joe Reitz
Skinny: The Ravens will likely bring in a veteran tackle to replace Adam Terry who will miss the season with a knee injury. Hale has backed up Birk at center during camp, but Chester has the ability to play center in the event of an injury.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (6)
LOCK: Kelly Gregg, Haloti Ngata, Trevor Pryce, Justin Bannan
BUBBLE: Dwan Edwards, Brandon McKinney, Kelly Talavou, Lamar Divens
LONG SHOT: Will Johnson
Skinny: This unit is very deep, and the Ravens will inevitably have to part ways with a very talented player.

LINEBACKERS (9)
LOCK: Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Jarret Johnson, Tavares Gooden, Antwan Barnes, Jameel McClain, Paul Kruger, Brendon Ayanbadejo
BUBBLE: Jason Phillips, Dannell Ellerbe, Will VanDeSteeg, Prescott Burgess
LONG SHOT: Tony Fein
Skinny: This is another deep unit. I could envision the Ravens finding a mysterious “injury” with one or two of these young guys and stashing them on injured reserve.

CORNERBACKS (7)
LOCK: Domonique Foxworth, Fabian Washington, Chris Carr, Lardarius Webb, Samari Rolle
BUBBLE: Frank Walker, K.J. Gerard, Evan Oglesby
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: Are you noticing a theme here at the defensive positions? Once again, the Ravens will have to part ways with some talented corners, but the numbers won’t allow them to keep everyone.

SAFETIES (4)
LOCK: Ed Reed, Dawan Landry, Haruki Nakamura, Tom Zbikowski
BUBBLE: Derrick Martin
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: Martin is giving himself a chance to make the roster by shifting over to work at safety, so the team could conceivably carry him on the roster if he proves effective at his new position. Otherwise, he’s squarely on the bubble at the cornerback position, too.

KICKER (1)
LOCK: None
BUBBLE: Graham Gano, Steve Hauschka
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: This battle will last through the entire preseason. Numerous Ravens officials have told me the four preseason games will carry the most weight. Both kickers have hit 50+ yard field goals during camp, but Westminster is a far cry from a Sunday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium or Heinz Field.

PUNTER (1)
LOCK: Sam Koch
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: Koch is one of the better punters in the league, and his ability to place the ball inside the 20-yard line is a major asset. He also runs a mean fake punt play. Just ask the Cowboys.

LONG SNAPPER (1)
LOCK: Matt Katula
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: Katula is one of the most anonymous players on the team, because he does a great job. The Ravens hope it stays that way.

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Live from Westminster: Fabian Washington sits out, ‘Over 30 Club’ gets morning off

Posted on 05 August 2009 by Luke Jones

7:23 p.m. — The Ravens have signed a defensive tackle to the 80-man roster.  Nader Abdallah was out on the field during the afternoon special teams practice, wearing No. 61.

Abdallah is a rookie out of Ohio State and is 6-4 and 292 pounds.

5:09 p.m. — Another player slowed by injury is special teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo.  The linebacker has battled a toe injury but is now walking around without a protective boot.  He has not tested the toe in cleats, so it’s anyone’s guess when he’ll return to the field.

Ayanbadejo said the toe is very sensitive, and he will take it slow in getting back.

5:05 p.m. — The Ravens will hold practices at 8:45 a.m. and 2:45 p.m.  Both workouts will include the full squad and are open to the public at McDaniel College.

5:03 p.m. — Harbaugh will not be present for Friday afternoon’s practice as he attends the memorial service for former Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. The two men coached for a decade together in Philadelphia, and Harbaugh has referred to Johnson as a “football dad” to him.

Special teams coach Jerry Rosburg will run practice in Harbaugh’s place.

3:42 p.m. — Punter Sam Koch had quite a few reps this afternoon, and he was absolutely crushing the ball.  He continues to use the rugby-style kick to place the ball inside the 20-yard line.  On the last play of the practice, Koch put one inside the 5, but Derrick Martin could not catch the ball cleanly in the air, and it rolled into the end zone for a touchback.

3:27 p.m. — While special teams practices lack the excitement of the full-squad workouts, you will get to see some unique drills from time to time.

The Ravens practiced blocking field goals today by using volleyballs.  The rusher would come around the end with a coach throwing a volleyball from seven yards behind the line of scrimmage–the distance at which the holder will place the ball on a field goal try.  The object for each player was to either catch the volleyball or block it like a football.

Another interesting drill related to blocking kicks involved the use of towels.  The speed rusher coming around the edge on a kicking situation always wants to accelerate in a low position.  To practice this, special teams coach Jerry Rosburg has his players grab a towel on the ground as they accelerate around the edge.

3:23 p.m. — The afternoon practice lasted about an hour with the team working on a variety of drills.

The most compelling part of practice was the fun debate between members of the media, Ray Lewis, and Todd Heap over which sport has the best athletes.

Heap and Lewis logically argued for football, but they also gave credit to basketball, boxing, and hockey.  It was fun hearing the two players’ thoughts on sports other than football.

1:32 p.m. — Lardarius Webb continues to impress the coaching staff with his athleticism and coverage ability in the secondary.  The third-round selection picked off two passes this morning, one from Troy Smith and the other from John Beck.

When also considering his potential in the return game, expect Webb to be a significant factor for the Ravens in 2009.

12:50 p.m. — Rookie Paul Kruger continues to impress as he fills in for Terrell Suggs (heel) with the starting defense.  He’ll undoubtedly struggle when matched up with bigger offensive linemen, but he shows great speed off the edge.  I anticipate Kruger being a major part of the pass rush on third-down situations this season.

12:48 p.m. — Defensive back Evan Oglesby missed the morning practice after sustaining a concussion yesterday.  Oglesby is trying to win a job in a very crowded secondary.

12:45 p.m. — With Graham Gano getting the morning off from kicking, it was Steve Hauschka’s turn to shine, and he did not disappoint.  Hauschka was perfect on his attempts, including two 50-yard attempts.  The highlight of the morning was his 55-yard field goal that easily would have been good from 60+ yards.

For all of the talk about Gano’s strong kicking leg, Hauschka made a pretty strong claim today.

12:43 p.m. — Tackle Oniel Cousins and tight end Davon Drew returned to practice today.  With Adam Terry scheduled to undergo knee surgery and miss the entire season, Cousins now becomes the top reserve tackle behind Jared Gaither and Michael Oher.

12:27 p.m. — One of the best signs from the morning practice was seeing Samari Rolle working out individually during practice.  The veteran cornerback is still on the physically unable to perform list, but John Harbaugh said he could be returning in the near future.

Rolle has groin and shoulder issues dating back to last season and has been seen on the field with electronic stimulation mechanisms on his shoulder.  Today was the first time I recall him doing any real physical activity on the field.

With a healthy Rolle, this Ravens’ secondary might be as deep as it’s ever been.

12:07 p.m. — This morning’s practice lacked the intensity of yesterday’s extensive live hitting, but there were several nice plays during 11-on-11 thud action.  Joe Flacco threw a beautiful corner route to Todd Heap, hitting the tight end right over the shoulder for a touchdown.  It was definitely one of the prettier plays of camp.

Flacco also threw a nice slant to Demetrius Williams earlier in the session.

Backup quarterback Troy Smith threw an interception to safety Derrick Martin and had a difficult morning.  Smith just seemed out of sync but did have a nice sideline completion to Williams.

Not to be outdone, John Beck threw a long completion to receiver Justin Harper, as the young receiver continues to make plays in the deep passing game.

11:57 a.m. — Another morning practice is complete, and the most unexpected absence was cornerback Fabian Washington.  The starting corner has a sore knee and sat out this morning.  The injury is not expected to be serious.

The Ravens’ “Over 30 Club” sat out this morning, which includes Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Derrick Mason, Trevor Pryce, Kelly Gregg and Matt Birk.  The veteran Birk got his morning lift out of the way early, so he could join his fellow offensive linemates on the field.  Justin Bannan is technically part of the club, but his off-day is staggered due to the team needing him on the defensive line.  He will presumably get tomorrow morning’s practice off.

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Live from Westminster: Derrick Mason ends retirement, returns to Ravens

Posted on 01 August 2009 by Luke Jones

8:39 p.m. — I had to chuckle when I came across this on JOCKlife, the site that broke the news about Mason retiring on July 13.

While Baltimore will undoubtedly welcome back Mason with open arms, the way this “retirement” was initiated will leave a black mark on Mason’s great career.

8:00 p.m. — Earlier I had said the Ravens would need to make a roster move in order to place Mason back on the active 80-man roster, but they will not have to do this since they were at 79 players on the roster.

Sunday’s practices will take place at 8:45 a.m. and 2:45 p.m.  Derrick Mason is expected to be on the field and practicing Sunday morning.  He will talk to the media after the morning session.

2:29 p.m. — The Ravens will take Mason off the reserve-did not report list and place him back on the active roster.  The Ravens placed Mason on the list in order to gain the roster spot on the 80-man limit.

We’ll let you know what that move is as soon as we find out.

2:16 p.m. — There will be no press conference today, but Mason will speak to the media after the morning practice tomorrow, according to Kevin Byrne.

2:03 p.m. — Mason will play under his existing contract, a significant note considering he was clamoring for a new contract earlier in the offseason.  The 35-year-old has one year remaining on the original five-year deal he signed with the Ravens in 2005.

1:56 p.m. — Mason made a statement to the Ravens’ official site saying this:

“It was a tough decision, but I think it was a good decision for me to come back,” Mason said. “I needed to evaluate my life, football and my career. The last several weeks thinking about it and talking with my family was an important time for me and them.

“I still have an intense fire inside me, and I want to play. My family and I wanted to finish it out the right way. I felt like I had left something undone, and I wanted to finish it. I believe this is a good example for my son and my daughter on how to be thoughtful and also follow through.

Mason’s return was anticipated by many, but it solidifies the Ravens’ concerns at the wide receiver position.  He will undoubtedly reclaim his spot as the No. 1 receiver with everyone else sliding down a spot on the depth chart.

1:47 p.m. — Derrick Mason will send a letter to the NFL today stating his intentions to return to the Baltimore Ravens.  According to the Ravens, Mason is very enthused to rejoin his teammates and play football.  He has been working out and will take the physical and conditioning test today, because he wants to practice tomorrow morning.

Mason called Steve Bisciotti this morning to tell the owner that he wants to return to the Ravens.

1:44 p.m. — It’s official.  Derrick Mason is back.

1:34 p.m. — Jamison Hensley is reporting Mason will end his retirement, according to a league source.

Mason is in Westminster and met with Newsome earlier.

1:25 p.m. — According to Mike Duffy’s Twitter account, Mason will give Ozzie Newsome an answer by the end of the day.

1:20 p.m. — Interesting Tweet from Jared Gaither:  “Ohh he back like jordan in 45.”

Could he be referring to No. 85?

1:18 p.m. — Reports are flying that Derrick Mason is in Westminster, as you received via the WNST text service.  According to The Sun, he met with Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh.

12:39 p.m. — The best news for Ravens fans from the morning practice is that there were no apparent injuries.

12:37 p.m. — While I’m passing on some funny moments, I thought I’d add one about Terrell Suggs.  With some NFL officials currently at camp to get some work, T-Sizzle thought he would lend a hand when Gano and Hauschka were kicking field goals.

He joined the two officials underneath the goal posts and helped them signal whether each kick was good or not.  The move drew major laughs from the large crowd on hand in Westminster.

12:35 p.m. — The funniest moment of the morning came after practice when Ray Lewis was signing autographs for the Ravens Rookies section filled with kids.  As he was signing, Flacco was doing an interview.  When several kids started yelling for Flacco, Lewis joined in, yelling for his quarterback to come over and sign with him.

Lewis really enjoyed interacting with the young Ravens fans and was one of the last players to leave the field in terms of signing autographs.  Flacco came over to give Lewis relief.

12:29 p.m. — Ray Rice continues to show excellent moves in the early going, and though Willis McGahee has looked strong in his reps, it appears the Ravens are really trying to establish Rice as the feature back.

Despite this, Cam Cameron emphasized yesterday that it will be a by-committee approach, much like last season.

12:27 p.m. — Both kickers are adjusting to the slope of the field at McDaniel College.  It’s causing kicks to hook left, according to Gano.

12:25 p.m. — The kicking battle gave a slight edge to Steve Hauschka this morning, as both Graham Gano and Hauschka for 3-for-4 in a series of consecutive kicks.  Gano’s miss came from 39 yards, and Hauschka missed from 48.  Later in the practice, Gano missed a 50-yard attempt wide left.

Special teams coach Jerry Rosburg said after practice that he sees the competition coming down to the final preseason game.  According to Rosburg, Hauschka has refined his technique considerably while Gano shows outstanding athleticism and foot-eye coordination.

Gano showed that athleticism when he caught returner Lardarius Webb at the 10-yard line on a long kickoff return.  I asked Gano about his speed after practice, and he claims to have run a 4.5 40-yard dash at Florida State.  Sounds like the making of a trick play there if Gano does win the placekicking job.

12:23 p.m. — We saw our first near-fight take place this morning when Haruki Nakamura picked off a Troy Smith pass.  As Nakamura returned the ball down the defensive players’ sideline, Smith gave him a little shot out of bounds.  Antwan Barnes and Terrell Suggs got up in Smith’s face, but the players were quickly separated and cooler heads prevailed.

12:17 p.m. — The Ravens have concluded their morning practice and made it through the session without any apparent injuries.  Trevor Pryce returned to the practice field after a scare yesterday morning.  L.J. Smith sat out again, still feeling the effects of a strained hamstring.  Defensive linemen Will Johnson also missed a second-straight practice.

The passing game was the focal point of the practice, with both the offense and defense turning in sterling plays.

The star of the morning was Dawan Landry who picked off Joe Flacco twice during 11-on-11 passing situations.  The second interception came after a poor decision by Flacco to throw off his back foot.

The morning was not a complete disappointment for Flacco as he completed a 50-yard pass to Demetrius Williams, beating Domonique Foxworth on the play.  Williams continues to show no ill effects from the Achilles issue that ended his 2008 season.

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