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Ravens-related thoughts from wild-card weekend

Posted on 11 January 2016 by Luke Jones

Some have perceived a softer culture for the Ravens since Super Bowl XLVII, but Cincinnati’s Vontaze Burfict reminded us Saturday that there’s a fine line between attitude and recklessness.

Baltimore may lack the big personalities and swagger that it once had on the defensive side of the football, but the Bengals linebacker has proven time and time again that you simply can’t trust him. His personal foul on Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown on Saturday was just the latest example of a player lacking any regard for others on the field and playing too recklessly in a critical spot. This came after replays showed him driving his knee into the right shoulder of Ben Roethlisberger on the sack that took the Steelers quarterback out of the game.

The Ravens are no strangers to Burfict’s antics as offensive lineman John Urschel pointed out the hit on rookie tight end Maxx Williams in Week 17 on Sunday. Former Baltimore wide receiver Torrey Smith called Burfict a “dirty” player last season, and ex-Ravens Ray Rice and Bobbie Williams had issues with the Bengals linebacker in his rookie season.

To be clear, the Ravens would benefit from having more attitude on the defensive side of the ball. They certainly would like to have the play-making ability demonstrated by Burfict on his late interception that looked like it would seal the Bengals’ first playoff win in a quarter-century before Jeremy Hill’s fumble.

But the famous rant from Mike Singletary describes Burfict perfectly: “It is more about them than it is about the team. Cannot play with them, cannot win with them, cannot coach with them. Can’t do it. I want winners.”

Intimidation and ferocity have been traits of many great players over the years, but only when those qualities can be harnessed, something Burfict was incapable of doing when it mattered most.

Was Mallett watching?

A fake Ryan Mallett Twitter account garnered some attention during the Houston Texans’ embarrassing 30-0 loss to Kansas City on Saturday, but you hope that the real Mallett did reflect as Brian Hoyer turned in one of the worst playoff performances by a quarterback in recent memory.

It’s fair to point out that Hoyer posted a solid 91.4 passer rating this season, but Mallett had a golden opportunity in Houston that he completely squandered as he’s more physically gifted than the Texans’ current starter. There’s no way to know for sure if Mallett would have fared any better against the Chiefs, but Houston was a much better opportunity for him than Baltimore in terms of playing time if he’d simply been more of a professional.

To his credit, Mallett has done all of the right things since signing with the Ravens, but Saturday should have been a reminder to him of what might have been. Now, he plays for a team that strictly views him as a backup behind an entrenched franchise quarterback.

He’ll be lucky to receive another opportunity like the one he had in Houston, but you hope he’s learned his lesson if that day does come.

Thankful for Tucker

While many thought of Billy Cundiff when Minnesota’s Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard chip shot that would have won the game for the Vikings, the reliability of Justin Tucker also came to mind.

To be fair, Walsh is a former Pro Bowl kicker and had missed just one kick inside 30 yards in his four-year career, but the 2012 sixth-round pick had also failed to convert four extra points this year, showing he hadn’t been as reliable from shorter distances. Meanwhile, Tucker has never missed from inside 30 in his NFL career and has missed just one field goal try inside 40 yards in his four seasons.

A miss such as Walsh’s could happen to anyone — these guys are human, after all — but Sunday likely reminded general manager Ozzie Newsome how lucky he’s been to have Tucker and how the Ravens can’t afford to let him go this offseason despite his issues from beyond 50 yards this past year.

Winning trumps all 

With John Harbaugh and the injury-ravaged Ravens speaking so much about their heart and resiliency at the end of the season, you hope that they take some notes from the Chiefs as they won their 11th consecutive game on Saturday.

At one point, the Chiefs were 1-5 and had lost their best player — four-time Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles — to a season-ending knee injury in October, but Andy Reid’s team did more than just to keep fighting and to play teams close every week. Of course, the Ravens weren’t as talented as Kansas City and lost the likes of Joe Flacco and Steve Smith as the season progressed, making a turnaround of that magnitude virtually impossible.

But you also don’t want players to take too much satisfaction from a 5-11 record, no matter who was on the field by season’s end.

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Harbaugh silent on status of Lewis — and everyone else — for Sunday

Posted on 31 December 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens have played their cards close to the vest when it comes to their plans for veteran linebacker Ray Lewis and his improbable comeback.

If Monday was any indication, we should expect much of the same this week as they turn their sights toward a wild-card meeting with the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. Lewis began practicing on Dec. 5 and was moved from injured reserve to the 53-man roster last week but hasn’t played in a game since tearing his right triceps on Oct. 14.

Asked what it would take for Lewis to finally return to game action this Sunday, Harbaugh offered no indication whether he expected the 37-year-old to play against Indianapolis. However, it’s difficult to envision the 17th-year linebacker not giving it a go with Sunday potentially being his last game in Baltimore.

“It will take me not putting his name on a piece of paper for the [inactives], and you will find out an hour-and-a-half before the game whether or not that takes place,” Harbaugh said. “It’s all going to be a game-time decision as far as anybody knows. That’s where we’re at. This is the playoffs.”

The Ravens have been more tight-lipped than usual in recent weeks regarding their slew of injuries, and it will only get worse as Harbaugh tries to keep their plans under wraps.

Sixteen players were listed on last week’s injury report and six starters were ruled inactive for the final regular-season game.

“We’re not talking about injuries, we’re not talking about activations,” Harbaugh said. “We really don’t care what you or anybody else thinks about that — as much as we love you — and we’re getting ready to play a football game.

Critics question whether Harbaugh’s tactics — which are, in fairness, becoming more common across the league — really provide any tangible advantage over opponents, but the Baltimore coach was unconcerned with anyone questioning him on Monday.

“I don’t think it really matters,” said Harbaugh when asked if the team truly benefited from hiding injury information. “I think that’s what we’re doing.”

No more shenanigans

Asked to revisit a pair of frustration penalties committed against Bengals rookie linebacker Vontaze Burfict, Harbaugh offered an understanding tact but a matter-of-fact stance in responding to fouls committed by running back Ray Rice and guard Bobbie Williams.

The Ravens committed 10 for 102 yards in Week 17 and finished 31st in the league with 111 penalties this season.

“We don’t need any of that. We don’t need any penalties,” Harbaugh said. “We certainly don’t need any post-snap shenanigans. I don’t care what they do. I don’t care what they say. We don’t need a flag thrown. [We need to] be smart enough to make sure the flag is thrown on the other guy. It’s just that simple.”

In the first quarter, Rice was flagged for unnecessary roughness after pushing Burfict to the ground following a chop block and said after the game the rookie linebacker talked trash throughout the day.

“Ray was trying to finish a block. I thought it was more of an aggressive foul than anything else,” Harbaugh said. “I would counsel him not to do that in the future, but he felt like the play was still on. He didn’t know the play was over; he thought he was getting up to go rush the passer. Not that we excuse that. We don’t want any personal foul penalties.”

Williams’ infraction occurred in the second quarter when he retaliated after Burfict kicked him, according to the veteran offensive lineman. It was an uncharacteristic moment for the 36-year-old, who is regarded as one of the nicest guys in the Baltimore locker room.

“There wasn’t much there, but there was enough to be called, obviously, because it was called,” Harbaugh said. “We counseled him not to get involved in any of that.”

Black Monday

With seven head coaches receiving their walking papers on what’s become the annual “Black Monday” around the NFL, Harbaugh saw his good friend and mentor Andy Reid join the list of dismissed after 14 seasons as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Harbaugh and Reid spent nine years together as the former served as the Eagles’ special teams coordinator for eight seasons and secondary coach in 2007 before being hired to become the third head coach in the history of the Ravens on Jan. 18, 2008.

Joining Reid on the unemployment line were Chicago’s Lovie Smith, San Diego’s Norv Turner, Arizona’s Ken Whisenhunt, Cleveland’s Pat Shurmur, Kansas City’s Romeo Crennel, and Buffalo’s Chan Gailey.

“The toughest thing is on the families,” Harbaugh said. “As coaches, we all understand the nature of the business. Players, too, understand the nature of it. That’s part of the challenge, but it’s hard on families. It’s hard on kids who have to change schools, pick up and move and start in other cities and things like that. That’s what you feel for the most, and that’s kind of where your prayers go out towards.”

Of the seven coaches fired on the day after the conclusion of the 2012 regular season, three were hired — and have now been dismissed already — after Harbaugh took the Baltimore coaching job.

DeCosta staying put

In what should come as no surprise, teams have already contacted the Ravens with requests to interview assistant general manager Eric DeCosta regarding potential openings.

However, the longtime Ravens executive isn’t going anywhere. DeCosta was awarded a long-term, high-priced contract last year and is the heir apparent to general manager Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore. The Ravens reaffirmed that reality once again on Monday.

“I love being a part of the Ravens and plan to stay here and help them win championships,” DeCosta said in an official statement released by the Ravens. “I have no intentions of leaving this team.”

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