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Guidelines beginning to fall into place for Ravens’ potential deal with Rice

Posted on 05 March 2012 by Luke Jones

Though a long-term deal is not expected to be completed any time soon, the Ravens and Ray Rice are beginning to see parameters take shape that could lead to the ultimate goal of keeping the Pro Bowl running back in Baltimore in the years to come.

After the Ravens placed the franchise tag on Rice on Friday, which will pay the 25-year-old an estimated $7.7 million during the 2012 season if a long-term deal is not reached, a pair of deals have been struck elsewhere in the last 24 hours to better define the market for running backs.

On Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks signed Marshawn Lynch to a four-year, $31 million deal that includes $18 million guaranteed. While there is no doubt Rice will command more money than Lynch, who has revitalized his career under head coach Pete Carroll in Seattle over the last two season, the reasonable payday does not upset the market for running backs in the way the deal reached between the Carolina Panthers and the inconsistent DeAngelo Williams (five years, $43 million) did last year.

A better gauge for establishing Rice’s market came into focus Monday when the Houston Texans and 2010 NFL rushing champion Arian Foster agreed to a five-year, $43.5 million contract that includes $20.75 million guaranteed. ESPN reports Foster will receive $18 million in 2012 and $30 million over the first three years of the contract.

Strictly looking at Foster and Rice from a production standpoint in 2011, the two compared favorably as Foster collected 141.61 total yards per game in 13 contests while Rice averaged 129.25 yards from scrimmage in 16 games last season. Foster has averaged 4.7 yards per carry in his three-year career (659 rushing attempts) while Rice holds a 4.6 yards-per-attempt average in 959 carries over four seasons.

While many will make the argument that Foster is the better player — and would presumably deserve to make more money — a deeper look at each situation suggests Rice and agent Todd France will likely command more in negotiations. While the Texans discussed using the franchise tag as the Ravens chose to do with Rice, Foster was only a restricted free agent and held less leverage as a result.

If a long-term agreement was not reached, Houston would have elected to place a first-round tender of an estimated $2.85 million on Foster, which would have forced potential suitors to not only sign the running back to an offer sheet but to forfeit a first-round pick to the Texans had they refused to match the offer. Given the affordability of a first-round draft choice under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement and the potential scenario of completing the heavy lifting of negotiating a deal only to have the controlling team decide to match the offer, many teams avoid dealing with restricted free agents.

In other words, if Foster’s side had balked at the long-term offer, he likely would have been playing for less than $3 million in 2012 before becoming an unrestricted free agent next year. The Ravens never held that luxury with the unrestricted Rice, leading to the franchise tag and the drawn-out negotiations that are sure to follow.

With Foster receiving just under $21 million in guaranteed cash, it will be interesting to see how serious France and Rice are about working out a fair deal. If Rice’s side is truly after Adrian Peterson money ($36 million guaranteed in a seven-year, $100 million contract) or even a deal comparable to Chris Johnson’s ($30 million guaranteed as part of a four-year, $53 million extension signed last September), general manager Ozzie Newsome will be more than willing to wait it out.

A contract slightly higher than Foster’s seems like a fair compromise for both sides. The Ravens will not overpay simply because the Minnesota Vikings and the Tennessee Titans handed out questionable contracts, and Rice’s agent France will have a difficult time convincing anyone that his client deserves to be paid significantly more than Foster.

One thing is certain despite continued suggestions to the contrary: the Ravens have made it clear they fully intend to keep Rice’s services for the long haul.

“As we have in the past, placing the franchise designation on a player allows us to keep negotiating on a long-term contract,” Newsome said on Friday. “Our goal is to keep Ray Rice a Raven. We’ve done this with other outstanding players through our history, including Haloti Ngata a year ago.”

Though plenty of work still remains, the means for making that happen appear to be a little clearer with Foster’s contract now settled.

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Moss

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Time is right for Ravens to consider risk (and reward) of adding Moss

Posted on 14 February 2012 by Luke Jones

When Randy Moss announced the news of his intention to return to the NFL in 2012, I tried to dismiss him as an option for the Ravens as quickly as I could.

I just didn’t want to consider him as a real possibility to come to Baltimore.

The poor attitude, playing for three teams in his final season, and his turning 35 on Monday are all strikes against him. Not being able to help himself, Moss took to his Twitter account on Tuesday to fire back at former Minnesota Vikings teammate Cris Carter, who called the seven-time Pro Bowl receiver’s “quit mechanism” unlike any other superstar he’s been around.

The character blemishes are there, and there’s no way to overlook them. The guy can be a clown, and that’s putting it kindly.

His eye-popping numbers worthy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame include 153 touchdowns and 14,858 yards in 13 seasons, but you’re not getting the Moss of 1998 or even 2007 when he made a league-record 23 touchdown catches in his first season with the New England Patriots. His 2010 season split between New England, Minnesota, and Tennessee resulted in just 28 catches, 393 yards, and five touchdowns while wearing out his welcome in two places and making little impact at his final destination before announcing his retirement last summer.

But the past images of watching him sprint by a helpless cornerback or leap over a defender to haul in another touchdown are still too bright in my mind to ignore. Call me a sucker, but people said Moss was finished before he escaped football purgatory in Oakland and went on to have the best season of his career.

The possibility of the 6-foot-4 veteran still having something left in the tank cannot be overlooked by a team that was only a few tenths of a second away  — in holding onto a catch in the end zone — from a trip to the Super Bowl three weeks ago. Eliminating all other variables, the mere subtraction of the disappointing Lee Evans and his near-$6 million cap number and the addition of Moss at a cheaper rate is enough to make you salivate at the possibilities.

Moss certainly can’t do any worse than four receptions in an injury-plagued season and failing to secure a championship-clinching catch in the final seconds in Foxborough, right?

The first order of business before coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens should even consider welcoming Moss to Baltimore is determining where he stands physically. Can Moss still run with the speed to blow the top off a defense and force safeties to play deeper than they normally would? Would opposing defenses still have to account for him on every play?

If not, you run the risk of dealing with a broken-down former star with an ego still in its prime. In other words, the reward wouldn’t be worth the potential headaches.

But unlike the other volatile veteran receiver who will be on the open market, Terrell Owens, Moss isn’t returning from a serious knee injury. Other than the potentially cruel reality of being 35 years old and the question of how well he kept himself in shape over the last calendar year, there’s no reason to believe Moss isn’t up to the physical task of once again donning the cleats and striking fear in the hearts of opposing secondaries.

If the 40-time is right, you now move to the more complicated piece of the equation. You sit down with the combative receiver, reminding him he’s no longer in a position of power after a year away from the game. You press him to see how serious he is about not just playing again but also being part of a winning organization like he was in New England for three years — quite harmoniously — before an expiring contract flushed the relationship down the drain in year four. And reminding him of that heartbreaking defeat in Super Bowl XLII and how he’s never won a championship probably wouldn’t hurt, either.

You allow Moss to explain exactly what happened in his disastrous 2010 season.

And you listen.

“A team like the Ravens would be perfect,” Steve Wyche of the NFL Network told WNST.net on Tuesday. “I work with [former Patriots fullback] Heath Evans, who played with Randy in New England, and Heath said, ‘If Randy’s in a situation where he’s winning, where everybody on the team has bought in, he’s fantastic.’

“I talked to people at the Patriots when he was there. He was the leader. He was the guy who organized a lot of meetings. He was the guy who broke down the huddle.”

Continue >>>

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Ravens Among Super Bowl XLVII Favorites

Posted on 06 February 2012 by WNST Staff

Courtesy of Bovada, (www.Bovada.lv, Twitter: @BovadaLV). Included below are 2013 Super Bowl odds, updated odds on where Peyton Manning ends up, and a quote from Bovada.lv Sportsbook Manager, Kevin Bradley on why next season’s SB odds where so tough to make.

2013 SUPER BOWL XLVII ODDS

 

Green Bay Packers                    6/1

 

New England Patriots                 7/1

 

New Orleans Saints                   8/1

 

Philadelphia Eagles                    12/1

 

Pittsburgh Steelers                    12/1

 

Houston Texans                         12/1

 

Baltimore Ravens                       14/1

 

New York Giants                        15/1

 

San Diego Chargers                   16/1

 

New York Jets                           16/1

 

San Francisco 49ers                  18/1

 

Dallas Cowboys                         18/1

 

Detroit Lions                              18/1

 

Atlanta Falcons                         22/1

 

Chicago Bears                           30/1

 

Arizona Cardinals                       30/1

 

Miami Dolphins                          35/1

 

Cincinnati Bengals                     40/1

 

Indianapolis Colts                       50/1

 

Tennessee Titans                       40/1

 

Oakland Raiders                        50/1

 

Carolina Panthers                      50/1

 

Denver Broncos                         50/1

 

Kansas City Chiefs                    50/1

 

Seattle Seahawks                      60/1

 

Buffalo Bills                               60/1

 

Washington Redskins                60/1

 

Minnesota Vikings                     75/1

 

St. Louis Rams                          75/1

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers             75/1

 

Cleveland Browns                       100/1

 

Jacksonville Jaguars                   100/1

 

What team will Peyton Manning be a member of for game 1 of the 2013 Regular Season?

 

Arizona Cardinals                       2/1

 

Washington Redskins                5/2

 

Miami Dolphins                          3/1

 

New York Jets                           7/2

 

Indianapolis Colts                       7/1

 

“With Peyton Manning’s situation it has made setting next year’s Super Bowl Odds very difficult and a reason you will see teams like Arizona and Miami at lower odds than what they would be in case Manning signs there.  As for the Colts, even though there is a slim chance he stays they are at 50-1 but if he does leave will shoot up to around 100-1 and if stays would drop down to around 15-1, just goes to show the importance of a guy like Peyton.”

 

-Kevin Bradley, Bovada.lv Sportsbook Manager

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Ravens C Birk Wins Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award

Posted on 04 February 2012 by WNST Staff

BALTIMORE RAVENS CENTER MATT BIRK NAMED WALTER PAYTON NFL MAN OF THE YEAR

MATT BIRK of the Baltimore Ravens was named the 2011 WALTER PAYTON NFL MAN OF THE YEAR, it was announced today.  The award recognizes a player’s off-the-field community service as well as his playing excellence.

The announcement was made during NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime awards special airing nationally on NBC Saturday night.

NFL Commissioner ROGER GOODELL and JARRETT AND BRITTNEY PAYTON, the late Walter Payton’s children, will honor Birk on-field tomorrow before kickoff of Super Bowl XLVI.

“I am honored and truly humbled to be named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year,” said Birk. “This award is not about the recipient, but rather a celebration of the decades-long tradition of NFL players using their unique platform to touch lives and make a positive and lasting impact in the communities in which they work and live. Walter Payton left a legacy that went beyond the playing field. He continues to be an inspiration and example of what a complete NFL player should aspire to become. I am grateful to have played for two organizations, the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens, which encourage and support their players’ community efforts. I have always considered it a privilege to play in the NFL and serve the communities that support our game.”

Birk, who just completed his in 14th NFL season, is the anchor of the Ravens offensive line and an undisputed leader on and off the field. The perennial Pro Bowl center has started 96 consecutive games, the NFL’s second-longest active streak among centers. In 2011, Birk helped pave the way for Ravens running back Ray Rice to score a franchise-record 15 total touchdowns and rush for a career-high 1,364 yards, also leading the league with 2,068 yards from scrimmage.

A family man and father of six with a passion for emphasizing the importance of education, Birk has focused a great deal of his energy on promoting literacy among the youth around him. The Harvard graduate’s “Ready, Set, Read!” program, an initiative of his H.I.K.E. Foundation (hope, inspiration, knowledge and education), reaches close to 100,000 children in the Baltimore area and motivates students to read at home through an incentive-based system. Birk’s work carries well past the many initiatives and successes of his own foundation. He is committed to bettering himself, his team, his community and the world. Birk has agreed to donate his brain and spinal cord tissue to the Center for Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University’s School of Medicine to help assist in researching the effects of repeated head traumas. Birk is an eight-time Man of the Year (seven with the Vikings, one with the Ravens), and was a finalist for the national award in 2008.

Birk joins an esteemed list of winners of the annual award, including 17 Pro Football Hall of Famers.  Recent winners of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award include MADIEU WILLIAMS, then of the Minnesota Vikings (2010), BRIAN WATERS, then of the Kansas City Chiefs (2009), and former Arizona Cardinals quarterback KURT WARNER (2008).

All 32 team nominees for the award receive a $1,000 donation from NFL Charities to the charity of their choice.  The three Man of the Year finalists received an additional $5,000 donation in their name. The selection panel is comprised of NFL Commissioner ROGER GOODELL, former NFL Commissioner PAUL TAGLIABUE, CONNIE PAYTON, Pro Football Hall of Fame members FRANK GIFFORD and ANTHONY MUÑOZ, Giants great and Executive Director of the NFL Alumni Association GEORGE MARTIN, 2010 winner MADIEU WILLIAMS, and Sports Illustrated football writer PETER KING.

The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award will receive the Gladiator statue, an original art creation by the noted sculptor, DANIEL SCHWARTZ.  In addition, the player’s favorite charity will receive a $20,000 donation in his name.

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Harbaugh Named Salute to Service Award Finalist

Posted on 30 January 2012 by WNST Staff

NEW YORK – With Super Bowl XLVI around the corner and the spotlight on the field, the NFL is recognizing excellence off the field by announcing today the two finalists for the League’s inaugural Salute to Service Award presented by USAA.

USAA, a leading provider of insurance and other services to members of the U.S. military and their families, is the NFL’s first Official Military Appreciation Sponsor.

Tennessee Titans owner K.S. “Bud” Adams Jr. and Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh were selected for their exceptional efforts to honor and support members of the military community. The first Salute to Service Award will be presented to one of the finalists at the inaugural NFL Honors event that will air on NBC Saturday, February 4 at 9 PM ET. In addition, a $25,000 contribution will be made by USAA in the winner’s honor to the aid societies representing all five military branches.

“We should never take for granted the tremendous sacrifices made daily by our nation’s military,” said Steve Speakes, executive vice president of USAA’s external affairs and a retired Army lieutenant general. “Together with the NFL, we are launching the Salute to Service Award as a way to recognize those in the NFL community who appreciate and honor that sacrifice, enrich the lives of military members and encourage others to do the same.”

An ardent backer of the military in his 52 years as owner, Bud Adams’ enthusiasm for the military began with his service in the U.S. Navy from 1942-46.  His commitment to supporting the military followed him and the franchise to Tennessee where he focused his efforts on recognizing the service men and women of nearby Fort Campbell, home to the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, as well as the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Night Stalkers) and the 5th Special Forces Group (Green Berets).

Since 1999, more than 11,000 Fort Campbell soldiers have been guests of Adams at Titans home games, and it’s very common for Adams to host military members in his suite and award game balls as a tribute to their service. Adams’ support at Fort Campbell includes directing the team to make several visits during the year where Titans players, cheerleaders, and staff can participate in autograph sessions at the PX, greet patients at the Blanchfield Army Community Hospital, provide programs to the on-base middle school and visit with the on-base high school football team.

Similarly, John Harbaugh’s dedication includes frequent base visits, and he relishes interaction with the military community. His passion for supporting the troops was felt immediately by the Ravens’ organization after being named head coach in 2008. Harbaugh was the main driver in the team’s decision to institute a Military Appreciation Day, an annual event which was established during his first training camp with the team. Since then, an estimated 2,000 service members have enjoyed preferred seating and opportunities to meet with players and coaches during Ravens’ camp.

Away from the field, Harbaugh often recruits Ravens players and coaches to join him during base visits, and even took members of his team to the Naval Special Warfare Center in Coronado, Calif., last December in the middle of the Ravens’ playoff run. He has also spent significant time and funds putting together care packages for soldiers overseas, and caches of school supplies for military families.

In December, 22 NFL clubs nominated for this award coaches, active and retired players, and team executives and personnel who best demonstrated support for the military community. The submissions were evaluated by a panel of judges based on the positive effect of the individual’s efforts on the military community, the type of service conducted, the thoroughness of the program and level of commitment.

The panel of judges, consisting of representatives from the U.S. military, the NFL and USAA, includes:

*         Roger Staubach, Naval Academy graduate, NFL Hall of Fame quarterback and Super Bowl MVP

*         Chad Hennings, Air Force Academy graduate, three-time Super Bowl champion

*         Rocky Bleier, U.S. Army veteran, four-time Super Bowl champion

*         Jim Mora, Sr., Marine Corps veteran, former NFL head coach

*         General Stephen Speakes, U.S. Army veteran, USAA executive vice president

*         Eric Grubman, Naval Academy graduate, executive vice president-NFL Ventures and Business Operations

“Bud and John’s efforts demonstrate how members of the NFL family can inspire us both on and off the field,” said Roger Staubach. “Their service to the military community is a reminder that we can never do enough to show our appreciation for all the men and women in uniform who defend and protect us.”

All Salute to Service nominees are listed below:

KS Bud Adams Jr. Tennessee Titans Founder, Owner, Chairman of the Board

Jared Allen Minnesota Vikings Defensive End

Jason Baker Carolina Panthers Punter

Tom Coughlin New York Giants Head Coach

Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders

Kris Dielman San Diego Chargers Left Guard

Mark Dominik Tampa Bay Buccaneers General Manager

Anthony Fasano Miami Dolphins Wide Receiver

Mike Flood Seattle Seahawks Vice President, Community Relations & Special Projects

Drayton Florence Buffalo Bills Defensive Back

John Harbaugh Baltimore Ravens Head Coach

Robert Wood Johnson IV New York Jets Chairman & CEO

Gary Kubiak Houston Texans Head Coach

Lonie Paxton Denver Broncos Long Snapper

Troy Polamalu Pittsburgh Steelers Strong Safety

Marco Rivera Green Bay Packers Guard (Retired)

Joe Thomas Cleveland Browns Offensive Lineman

Charles Tillman Chicago Bears Cornerback

Chad Walker Detroit Lions Community Affairs Coordinator

Washington Redskins Cheerleaders

Roddy White Atlanta Falcons Wide Receiver

Kurt Wisenbaugh Jacksonville Jaguars Manager, Events and Game Operations

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Rice, Suggs Make Bloomberg List of Most Powerful Athletes

Posted on 25 January 2012 by WNST Staff

New York, NY, January 25, 2012– The New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees (No. 1), Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers (No. 2) and New England Patriots’ Tom Brady (No. 3) top the Bloomberg Businessweek/Horrow Sports Ventures 2012 Power 100 ranking of the most powerful professional athletes in the U.S. To determine who the 100 most powerful athletes are on- and off-the-field going into 2012, Bloomberg Businessweek teamed up with Rick Horrow, host of Bloomberg TV “Sportfolio,” and CEO of Horrow Sports Ventures; CSE, a leading integrated marketing agency that created the Power 100 list for the third consecutive year using proprietary methodology; and the Nielsen/E-Poll N-Score.

As the business of sports continues to grow, endorsement contracts increasingly impact players, teams, and the industry. These contracts take into consideration many of the same factors as the Power 100 ranking – performance, name awareness, appeal, influence, trustworthiness and overall popularity, among other things. Social media, for example, played a role in boosting the rankings of such athletes as LeBron James (No. 4) and Shaquille O’Neal (No.7).  The Power 100 rankings are based 50 percent on these on “off-field” measurements, and 50 percent on “on-field” performance using a variety of industry statistics.

The most notable drops this year include injury-plagued Peyton Manning dropping from No. 1 to No. 51 and golfer Phil Mickelson dropping from No. 4 to No. 18. Due to the individual dominance of its top athletes, tennis commands ten percent of the spots on this year’s list, with the top female athlete on the list being American tennis stalwart Serena Williams (No. 25).

In addition, this year’s Power 100 rankings also emphasize the importance of team sports, with the NFL dominating the list with 26 players ranked in the top 100. The National Basketball Association came in second with the most athletes on the Power 100, with 20, followed by MLB baseball (16), tennis (10), golf (8), NASCAR (6), Olympics (4), soccer (4), hockey (3), boxing/MMA (2), and action sports (1).

“This is the third year of the Power 100, and it continues to be a cutting-edge tool to measure the power and value of athletes,” says Horrow, who will devote an entire “Sportfolio” episode to the special report on January 25.  “CSE’s consistent methodology provides the industry’s only analytics to provide integrated on field and off field attributes.”

Top 20:

1-Drew Brees-Football

2-Aaron Rodgers-Football

3-Tom Brady-Football

4-LeBron James-Basketball

5-Rafael Nadal- Tennis

6-Roger Federer-Tennis

7-Shaquille O’Neal-Basketball

8-Shaun White-Action Sports

9-Novak Djokovic-Tennis

10-Calvin Johnson-Football

11-Luke Donald-Golf

12-Tiger Woods-Golf

13-Kobe Bryant-Basketball

14-Dwight Howard-Basketball

15-Eli Manning-Football

16-Dwyane Wade-Basketball

17-Kevin Durant-Basketball

18-Phil Mickelson-Golf

19-Lee Westwood-Golf

20-Troy Polamalu-Football

All NFL players on list:

Rank

Athlete Sport

Pro Team / Hometown

1

Brees, Drew Football

New Orleans Saints

2

Rodgers, Aaron Football

Green Bay Packers

3

Brady, Tom Football

New England Patriots

10

Johnson, Calvin Football

Detroit Lions

15

Manning, Eli Football

New York Giants

20

Polamalu, Troy Football

Pittsburgh Steelers

23

Foster, Arian Football

Houston Texans

27

Peterson, Adrian Football

Minnesota Vikings

36

Turner, Michael Football

Atlanta Falcons

39

Jones-Drew, Maurice Football

Jacksonville Jaguars

41

Fitzgerald, Larry Football

Arizona Cardinals

43

Stafford, Matthew Football

Detroit Lions

44

Rice, Ray Football

Baltimore Ravens

47

Woodson, Charles Football

Green Bay Packers

50

Ryan, Matt Football

Atlanta Falcons

51

Manning, Peyton Football

Indianapolis Colts

57

Willis, Patrick Football

San Francisco 49ers

59

McCoy, LeSean Football

Philadelphia Eagles

61

Allen, Jared Football

Minnesota Vikings

67

Rivers, Philip Football

San Diego Chargers

72

Matthews, Clay Football

Green Bay Packers

77

Gronkowski, Rob Football

New England Patriots

91

Suggs, Terrell Football

Baltimore Ravens

95

Welker, Wes Football

New England Patriots

97

Anderson, James Football

Carolina Panthers

98

Wallace, Mike Football

Pittsburgh Steelers

 

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McKinnie just shy of Super Bowl for second time in three years

Posted on 24 January 2012 by Luke Jones

Many members of the Ravens lamented how close they had come to the Super Bowl following Sunday’s heartbreaking loss in the AFC championship, but left tackle Bryant McKinnie was feeling a sense of déjà vu.

It was only two years earlier that McKinnie, playing for the Minnesota Vikings against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC championship, found himself moments away from a potential trip to the Super Bowl. The Vikings were driving deep inside New Orleans’ territory for the potential game-winning score before quarterback Brett Favre threw an inexplicable interception in the closing seconds of regulation with the game tied, 28-28. The Saints then won the coin toss to begin overtime and won on a field goal, leaving the Vikings wondering what could have been.

With the Ravens wasting an opportunity to win the game with Joe Flacco’s pass to Lee Evans in the end zone and missing a chance to tie the game with Billy Cundiff’s field goal attempt from 32 yards two plays later, McKinnie found himself falling just short of the Super Bowl for the second time in three seasons.

“They’re kind of similar,” McKinnie said. “We lost both of them by three points. It’s just very tough because you’re so close to your ultimate goal, and you fall three points short.”

Just as he thought the Vikings were in position to beat the Saints in the closing seconds, McKinnie felt temporary elation as Flacco’s pass dropped into the hands of Evans before Patriots cornerback Sterling Moore poked the ball free. Two plays later, potential excitement transformed into devastation as Cundiff’s kick sailed wide left.

“[There was] the emotion up and down when I thought Lee caught the ball, just different stuff that pulled on you emotionally,” said McKinnie, who has one year remaining on his current deal with the Ravens. “Like I said, we just have to hopefully be able to pick up and get back there next year.”

Signed by the Ravens just over two weeks before the start of the regular season, McKinnie entered the year as the biggest — literally and figuratively — question mark on the offensive line. He finished the season as the only starter on the line not to miss a snap the entire season in what amounted to a solid campaign for the 32-year-old tackle.

Kicked to the curb by Minnesota after ballooning to nearly 400 pounds by the time the 132-day lockout ended, McKinnie worked himself into better shape before general manager Ozzie Newsome signed him to a two-year deal on Aug. 24. Eventually getting his weight down to roughly 360 pounds, McKinnie provided stability at the left tackle position and allowed third-year tackle Michael Oher to return to the right side where the Ravens did not have an answer during the preseason.

With a checkered off-field history and a reputation for being difficult with the media, McKinnie was the polar opposite, being a model citizen and accommodating interview requests on a regular basis.

However, the highlight of his season came in the opener when he dominated Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison and any other Steelers defender crossing his path in the Ravens’ 35-7 demolition of their hated nemesis.

“For me, personally, I feel like it was a great season coming from the situation in Minnesota and then coming in here and being part of a team that made it to the AFC championship,” McKinnie said. “So, I feel like it was a pretty good season.”

The Ravens may elect to address the tackle position this offseason with McKinnie set to turn 33 early in the 2012 season and not knowing whether Oher will be able to handle the left tackle position in the future. Of course, they will also need to make a decision on the future of Pro Bowl guard Ben Grubbs — who is an unrestricted free agent this offseason — and the center position with veterans Matt Birk and Andre Gurode both being free agents.

McKinnie showed fairly consistent ability as a pass blocker but did not show as much aptitude in run blocking, which was a criticism of the veteran in his final years with the Vikings. However, a motivated McKinnie with a full offseason to train at the Ravens’ Owings Mills facility might maximize his ability and allow the Ravens to delay the decision to acquire another left tackle for another year.

“I actually have an offseason this year where I can actually work on technique and not just kind of [being] out there kind of free-styling a little bit,” McKinnie said. “I feel like I’ll be better next year.”

And if the big tackle has it his way, he’ll earn the opportunity to finally get to the Super Bowl after falling painfully short in two of the last three years.

To hear McKinnie’s full comments from Monday morning, click HERE.

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Suggs To Receive NFL 101 AFC Defensive Player of the Year Award

Posted on 17 January 2012 by WNST Staff

Top Coaches and Players from AFC and NFC Selected in Nationwide Media Balloting as Winners of NFL 101 Awards for 2011 Season

Four Pro Bowl Selections and Two Outstanding Coaches to be Honored at Kansas City’s 42nd Annual Salute to Professional Football

KANSAS CITY, MO (January 17, 2012) – Two quarterbacks who direct the league’s most high-powered offenses will join two of the most formidable defensive players and two coaches who guided their teams to playoff appearances as the 2011 winners of the annual NFL 101 Awards – the nation’s premier awards event dedicated exclusively to professional football.

The 2011 season award winners will be presented with trophies at the 42nd Annual NFL 101 Awards gala in Kansas City Saturday, March 3, 2012, at the Westin Crown Center. The prestigious black-tie awards event was founded in 1969 and has evolved into what many sports insiders consider the finest awards event of its kind. This year’s event is presented by Perfect Output and ECCO Select. 

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been selected as the NFC Offensive Player of the Year after engineering one of the greatest offensive seasons ever recorded in the NFL. A first-time 101 Award winner, Rodgers established the best single-season passer rating in NFL history at 122.5. He passed for 4,643 yards with a 68.3 completion percentage and an incredible 45-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio.  Rodgers led the Packers to an NFL-best 15-1 record and the NFC North Division title. For the second consecutive year and third time in his career, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has been selected as the AFC Offensive Player of the Year. Brady led the Patriots to a 13-3 record and the AFC East Division title. He led the conference in passing attempts (611), completions (401), completion percentage (65.6), yards (5,235), touchdowns (39) and passer rating (105.6).

San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh has been named the NFC Coach of the Year in just his first year as an NFL head coach. Harbaugh guided the 49ers to a 13-3 record and the NFC West Division title after inheriting a team that finished 6-10 the previous year. Harbaugh, who was the AFC Offensive Player of the Year in 1995 as quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts, becomes the first person ever to win 101 awards as both a player and coach. Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak is the AFC Coach of the Year. Overcoming season-long adversity including the loss of his top two quarterbacks to injuries, Kubiak led his team to a 10-6 regular season record, the AFC South Division championship and the first playoff appearance in Texans franchise history.

Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen has been selected the NFC Defensive Player of the Year. Allen finished the regular season with a league-leading 22 sacks – one-half sack shy of the NFL single-season sack mark. He is 20th on the NFL’s all-time career sack list. The former Kansas City Chiefs player was selected to the Pro Bowl for the fourth time in his eight seasons. Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs is the AFC Defensive Player of the Year. Suggs recorded an AFC-best 14 sacks and forced a team-high seven fumbles. He holds the franchise record for sacks with 81.5. He was selected to the Pro Bowl for the fifth time in nine seasons.

A national media committee, comprised of 101 sportswriters and broadcasters who cover the NFL, selected the winners in each award category in a nationwide vote at the conclusion of the regular season.

In addition to these award winners, the Committee of 101 also selects the Lamar Hunt Award for Professional Football, which was created in 2007 to honor the life and legacy of the founder of the Kansas City Chiefs and given in recognition of visionary leadership that has helped the NFL become the preeminent pro sports league in America. This year’s Lamar Hunt Award for Professional Football award winner will be announced in February.

The awards show hosts for the evening will be NFL Network sportscaster Paul Burmeister and CBS football analyst Rich Gannon, a former NFL Most Valuable Player and two-time 101 Award winner.

Event proceeds this year will be directed to the Truman Medical Center Charitable Foundation through the Chiefs Children’s Fund, a 501(c)3 foundation that distributes funds to various children’s charities throughout the Kansas City area. TMC joined the Chiefs as the official Community Health Partner in September 2010. The Chiefs and TMC are working together to provide wellness education and promote healthier living for the people of Kansas City.  Both TMC and the Chiefs play a vital role in the Kansas City community and this partnership capitalizes on two well-established brands for the common goal of improving the health status of the community in general, and of the citizens in the urban core particularly.

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McKinnie joins Monday Night Live crew in Timonium

Posted on 22 November 2011 by WNSTV

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Gurode steps in at guard for Ravens, but what’s next for former Pro Bowler?

Posted on 04 October 2011 by Luke Jones

When the Ravens signed five-time Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode a week before the regular-season opener, many expected the former Cowboy to be the insurance policy — or potential replacement — for veteran center Matt Birk.

But Gurode has instead been forced to play left guard in place of the team’s best offensive lineman Ben Grubbs, who has missed the Ravens’ last three games with a right toe injury. After veteran Mark LeVoir was ineffective in a Week 2 loss to the Titans, Gurode has filled in admirably at left guard over the last two weeks despite having never played the position — he played right guard early in his career in Dallas. He’s been especially potent as a run blocker, getting a good push off the line of scrimmage to help open running lanes for Ray Rice and Ricky Williams.

“It has been difficult, but, at the same time, you need to do your best,” Gurode said. “Going from center to guard, you know you’re used to making calls, snapping the ball with your right hand, and then you find yourself getting comfortable..at the start of the play.”

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Gurode’s play is a major reason why the Ravens find themselves 3-1 at the quarter pole while dealing with a plethora of injuries. With Grubbs expected to return after the bye when Baltimore hosts the Houston Texans on Oct. 16, where does that leave the talented Gurode on the offensive line?

Is he again relegated to the bench, or would coach John Harbaugh consider working Gurode in at the center position despite the 35-year-old Birk playing solidly through the first four games?

“I think he’s another starter for us,” Harbaugh said. “And you have to have more than five starters; that’s been proven this year. You look all around the league, even [Sunday night] for the Jets. I think he’s a guy that can play as an extra lineman, he’s a guy that can play center, he’s a guy that should be able to play left guard or right guard for us. And that’s invaluable.”

Judging by Harbaugh’s comments, it appears Gurode will assume the duties formerly held by Chris Chester as the team’s interior swing lineman, capable of playing center and both guard positions. As the Ravens coach points out, it’s an important asset to have, but it’s also difficult to deem such a talented player a backup on a team priming to make a Super Bowl run.

In fairness, Birk has two-plus seasons working with Flacco and has played through chronic pain that forced him to have arthroscopic surgery to clean up the bursa sac in his left knee in early August. The rapport between a center and quarterback should not be taken for granted, and Birk is one of the most respected members of the Ravens locker room.

But many speculated Gurode would eventually replace Birk as the starter after signing a one-year, $3 million contract on Sept. 4. The 33-year-old has said all the right things since coming to Baltimore, but getting cut by the Cowboys in a cap-related moved before becoming a backup with the Ravens has to be a tough pill to swallow for a player coming off five consecutive Pro Bowl seasons.

“I’m a team guy,” Gurode said after signing with the Ravens in early September. “It’s whatever I can do for the team. Matt [Birk] is a guy who has taught me a lot over the years. He was actually at my first Pro Bowl, and we have been talking back and forth over the practice schedule and things of that nature. He has helped me fit into the offense, and I am here to do whatever I can to help the team win.”

Assuming Grubbs is ready to return to his left guard position against Houston, the smart money says Gurode remains the primary backup on the interior, at least for the time being. It’s hard to imagine the Ravens messing with the overall chemistry of an offensive line that’s gelled so quickly after the late addition of Bryant McKinnie and the shift of Michael Oher to the right side. Birk’s leadership is a major reason for that success, even if his individual play doesn’t match his body of work as a Pro Bowl center in Minnesota.

There’s no guarantee that Birk’s knee holds up over 16 games with the veteran regularly reporting to the facility early in the morning for treatment prior to meetings and practices. The chances are good that the Ravens will need to call upon Gurode to fill in at center at some point this season even if Birk remains the starter.

The potential drawbacks of moving Gurode to center and the difficult conversation you’d need to have with Birk might not be worth the trouble, but it’s an interesting discussion for Harbaugh, offensive line coach Andy Moeller, and the rest of the staff to have during the bye week — even if only briefly.

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