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Ranking The Ravens: A Postseason Breakdown of 53(+) Man Roster

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Ranking The Ravens: A Postseason Breakdown of 53(+) Man Roster

Posted on 21 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

In their new song, “Waiting For The End”, the band Linkin Park offered a lyric that should be considered particularly fitting for Baltimore Ravens fans.

The hardest part of ending is starting again…

With their 31-24 defeat at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in the AFC Divisional Round, the 2010-2011 NFL season has ended for the Ravens.

It didn’t take long for the team’s offseason to begin. Even with owners and players apparently headed towards a lockout, GM Ozzie Newsome, Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta, Senior Personnel Assistant George Kokinis and Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz lead a front office hard at work in shaping what the 2011 Baltimore Ravens will look like…as long as there is a 2011 NFL season.

Members of the front office are already preparing for the NFL Draft, as they are scouting college seniors this week in Orlando at the East West Shrine Game. Next week they will be doing the same thing at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL.

As we enter the offseason, I’ll offer a variation of my preseason power rankings (you’ll remember my “Mocking the 53″ blogs) to review the team’s roster. This is a complicated review, as I factor in who had the best season, who has proved to a better player overall, the value of the position and contract status.

Players labeled as “UFA” are unrestricted free agents. Players labeled as “RFA” are restricted free agents. Players labeled as “ERFA” are exclusive rights free agents. Players labeled as “reserve/future” have reserve/future contracts.

Unique labeling on my part. I’m aware.

1. LB Terrell Suggs
2. DT Haloti Ngata (UFA)
3. RB Ray Rice
4. LB Ray Lewis
5. G Ben Grubbs

grubbs

While I said Tuesday Ngata was the team’s best player in 2010 (he also received my vote for/won the team’s Most Valuable Player award), his contract status leaves him second on the list.

Suggs was outstanding in 2010, proving his 2009 season was indeed a fluke after signing a big contract the proceeding offseason.

It is going to cost owner Steve Bisciotti a LOT of money to retain Ngata this offseason, but the Ravens are basically going to have to pay the price. Losing Ngata could absolutely WRECK the franchise’s plans defensively, as Ngata anchors what they do up front. It could only spell the end of Lewis’ career. If Ngata were to depart, Lewis could no longer be viewed as a Top 5 player on the roster for sure.

Rice’s fantasy football numbers were down in 2010, but his offensive impact certainly wasn’t. He remained the Ravens’ most dynamic playmaker and is expected to an offensive force for years to come.

It was interesting (for me) as I graded out players that I felt Grubbs was worthy of being a Top 5 player. Grubbs proved himself to be the team’s best and most reliable Offensive Lineman, and gives the team at least one more position they don’t have to worry about…for now.

6. WR Anquan Boldin
7. QB Joe Flacco
8. OT Michael Oher
9. K Billy Cundiff (UFA)
10. P Sam Koch (UFA)

koch

Everything at the receiver position has to be viewed as wide open right now…except for Boldin. He has to be viewed as the team’s top possession receiver no matter what Derrick Mason decides to do.

While Flacco is still a cornerstone for the franchise (and the suggestion made that the team should have him “compete” with Marc Bulger for the starting job is laughable), his move outside the Top 5 is a statement. He made SOME of the progress the team wanted him to make-but not all of it. There will be increasing pressure for that to happen next year.

Oher represents a tricky situation for the Ravens. While he struggled in 2010, he’s certainly not a BAD player. The team will have to figure out whether or not he has a long term future at LT. If he does (and he plays to that level), he’ll be a Top 5 player on this team for a long time.

Koch and Cundiff represent a unique problem for the team. During the 15 years of the team’s history, they’ve never been the type of organization that would spend a lot of money on a specialist. They’re going to have to pay two guys this offseason as top-tier specialists. These players were a SIGNIFICANT reason the team managed to win 12 regular season games and a playoff game this year.

11. TE Todd Heap
12. WR Derrick Mason
13. S Ed Reed
14. CB Domonique Foxworth
15. FB Le’Ron McClain (UFA)

mcclain

Heap, Mason and Reed are unique. If this list was based on ability and performance alone; there would be an argument they should all be in the Top 10. Their age leaves them on the outside looking in, as even if they return as expected the team will have to make decisions at their positions.

It might seem surprising that Foxworth is the highest ranked of the cornerbacks, but he was the team’s top guy before getting hurt and is the only guy (besides Lardarius Webb) in the group who actually has a contract.

The Ravens are in a VERY unique situation with McClain. He had a tremendous season at fullback; but doesn’t want to return as true fullback. To return, the two time Pro Bowler would have to be assured of more involvement in Cam Cameron’s offense. I’m not sure how likely that is.

16. CB Chris Carr (UFA)
17. LB Jarret Johnson
18. CB Lardarius Webb
19. CB Josh Wilson (UFA)
20. DE Cory Redding

redding

Carr had a great season and offered some legitimate stability to the team’s defensive backfield. That being said, there will be a question as to whether or not bringing him back will work monetarily. If he gets paid as a #1 corner, the Ravens might be in trouble. Wilson is in the same boat. The uncertainty surrounding those two corners helps Webb find himself ranked higher on the list.

My guess is that one of Carr and Wilson will be back, but not both.

Johnson and Redding are both solid contributors to the defense, and the Ravens can pencil them in for next season. They’ll need a healthier (or just somehow more effective) Johnson, and they’ll need to compliment Redding with a legitimate rush end.

21. S Dawan Landry (UFA)
22. WR TJ Houshmandzadeh (UFA)
23. TE Ed Dickson
24. DT Brandon McKinney
25. DT Kelly Gregg

kgregg

Like other players, the Ravens find themselves in a tricky spot when it comes to Landry. As a starter and solid contributor to one of the league’s better defenses over the last few years, Landry could find himself in position to make a lot of money on the free agent market. The Ravens may or may not be in a place to match that. He’s been good; but with restricted free agents Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura likely to return, it seems unlikely they would retain Landry at a high cost.

Houshmandzadeh almost seems to be in a “if Mason doesn’t come back” position. The Ravens can’t just retain all of their top three receivers and make progress offensively. If Mason retires, there would be a much greater likelihood of Houshmandzadeh returning.

Dickson showed signs of being a potential breakout performer in 2010, but never actually broke out. The team will look to expand his role as he continues to get more comfortable in the offense. He also represents the team’s best chance of limiting an aging Heap’s snaps in 2011.

It might look surprising at first to see McKinney listed ahead of a player like Gregg, but I think it represents an area where the Ravens can move forward. McKinney came on strong down the stretch, looking like a reliable cog on the defensive line. While Gregg made a fantastic play on Kansas City Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles in the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium, he showed signs of aging as the season wore on, and it would be difficult to assume he could continue playing the majority of downs in the future.

26. OT Jared Gaither (UFA)
27. OL Marshal Yanda (UFA)
28. DT Terrence Cody
29. C Matt Birk
30. S Haruki Nakamura (RFA)

nakamura

My only gut instinct with Gaither is that the team won’t give him the type of premium price tag a top tier OT would probably expect. There’s an argument as to whether or not ANYONE should pay Gaither that price, but my guess is that someone will. The Ravens don’t want to see Yanda depart, but there’s a chance another NFL team will choose to offer him legitimate tackle money because he played the position in 2010.

The Ravens likely can’t be in position to overpay a player like Yanda, but they certainly to solidify their O-Line. Birk could still decide to retire; but even if he doesn’t the team has to make future plans for the position.

Cody showed SOME signs of being a future contributor during the 2010 season, but probably not enough that the Ravens can feel comfortable with expecting him to play every down in 2011. Nakamura could be very important, as he would be the most likely to step into the role should Landry depart in free agency.

31. RB Willis McGahee
32. DE Paul Kruger
33. LB Jameel McClain (RFA)
34. LB Tavares Gooden (RFA)
35. LB Dannell Ellerbe (ERFA)

ellerbe

I’m going to guess that McGahee won’t be getting the $19.7 million owed to him over the last three years of his contract. The most likely scenario probably involves McGahee not returning to Charm City next season. But if he’s willing to take a pay cut, there’s still a chance he could be a solid compliment to Rice behind an improved O-Line.

Paul Kruger started to show some signs at the end of the season that he might be able to contribute in the future. Unfortunately, that’s probably not the level of progression the team had in mind for the 2009 2nd round pick. 2011 could be a “make or break” type of year for Kruger.

And then there’s McClain/Gooden/Ellerbe. Does anyone else want to try to figure this out? The team clearly hoped one player in this group would separate themselves out at McDaniel College in Westminster during Training Camp in 2010, but that clearly didn’t happen. They also hoped one would separate themselves during the 2010 season. That didn’t happen either.

Of the group, McClain has probably shown himself to be the most steady, but is equally vulnerable against the pass. Gooden is probably the best against the pass, but there’s a joke in there about being the prettiest girl at fat camp. Ellerbe showed some capability of making plays in the backfield, but looks lost against the pass.

It looks like all three will end up returning in 2011. It also looks like the Ravens will be in a very familiar position when (if?) the season begins.

36. WR/KR David Reed
37. CB Fabian Washington (UFA)
38. S Tom Zbikowski (RFA)
39. LS Morgan Cox
40. OL Chris Chester (UFA)

chester

Whether or not David Reed can someday contribute at receiver is still to be determined. But he clearly came on as a kick returner until a concussion and a wrist injury cut his season short. He’ll have to stay out of trouble off the field, but it looks like the Ravens have a solid piece of the puzzle in Reed.

Washington made it clear earlier this week he wouldn’t return to the team unless his role was expanded. There’s a chance his role could be expanded if Carr and Wilson depart. Otherwise, it doesn’t look good. Zbikowski will almost certainly be back, the organization will now have to determine whether or not he is capable of replacing Ed Reed on a full-time basis whenever the future Hall of Famer walks away from the game.

Cox did a nice job of solidifying the long snapper position after beating veteran Matt Katula out during the preseason. The only concern surrounding Cox is how quickly he’ll be able to return from the torn ACL he suffered against the Cleveland Browns, but it appears as though he’ll be ready to go.

Chester will be another tough decision for the Ravens. If another team is willing to pay him to be an every down linemen, the organization will have to think hard before matching. Chester has shown himself as being reliable, but I think he’s only a starter in Baltimore if Yanda were to depart…or the Ravens were forced to keep Yanda at Tackle.

41. CB Cary Williams (ERFA)
42. OL Tony Moll (UFA)
43. LB Jason Phillips
44. QB Marc Bulger (UFA)
45. WR Donte’ Stallworth (UFA)

stallworth

Williams could be in a good spot this offseason. As an exclusive rights free agent, he could be in a good position to come back and get more playing time should some of the corners ahead of him sign elsewhere. He’s 6’1″, and the team liked him at least enough to hold on to him through a suspension to start the 2010 season.

Moll looks like a solid option to return and give the O-Line important depth. He’s capable of playing multiple positions to at least a solid level. He’s not good enough to be an every down player and it’s unlikely that another team will choose to pay him that way.

Phillips showed signs in 2010, probably enough that he will enter the 2011 season on the “good” side of the roster bubble. He certainly can’t be considered a lock at this point however.

Bulger will likely only return to the team if he isn’t offered a starting job elsewhere. With Jim Harbaugh now in charge of the San Francisco 49ers, it wouldn’t be stunning to see him consider Bulger. If the options are for backup jobs-or even jobs where Bulger would have to “compete” for a starting gig, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him return to Baltimore.

Some of the fan frustration surrounding Cam Cameron certainly centers around Stallworth, who seems unlikely to return. The Ravens need a speed receiver option, but it has to be a player they’ll trust to send out and stretch the field.

46. TE Dennis Pitta
47. LB Brendon Ayanbadejo
48. DT Arthur Jones
49. WR Marcus Smith (UFA)
50. DT Lamar Divens (RFA)

divens

The lack of involvement from Pitta in 2010 was disappointing, but he was often a victim of only being able to dress 53 players. His role should expand in 2011.

Ayanbadejo and Smith are interesting cases. Both are special teams players only for the most part, and the team will have to determine how much value they have. Smith is unlikely to generate much interest elsewhere, Ayanbadejo isn’t getting any younger. Both could return, but I don’t think they’re guarantees.

Jones and Divens are both solid players who have the “look” of Ravens defensive linemen. The only issue for new Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano is that he’s inheriting a bunch of these type of players. They’re big, they move fairly well and they can control gaps. Jones will clearly be back in 2011, Divens is the question mark.

51. LB Prescott Burgess (UFA)
52. RB Jalen Parmele (RFA)
53. OT Oniel Cousins (RFA)
54. WR James Hardy (reserve/future)

55. TE Davon Drew (ERFA)

ddrew

Burgess was a solid Special Teams contributor who was also able to get a handful of positive snaps defensively. There’s a chance he could generate interest elsewhere, we remember the New England Patriots grabbed him when he was available in 2009.

Parmele could stand to benefit from a McGahee departure, but probably wouldn’t be a great option as the top compliment to Rice.

Cousins gives the team a cheap reserve tackle. I can’t fathom anyone will be hot after him, so he seems like a player that will at least make it to Westminster with a chance to retain his job.

Hardy is interesting. He climbed the list after comments by Newsome in the team’s Season Review press conference. There was a reason Hardy was once a second round pick by the Buffalo Bills. There’s also a reason why he was unemployed a season ago. Either way, he’s 6’5″. The Ravens don’t have any other receivers of that size right now.

Davon Drew is the fourth of four TE’s on the roster. That would be a problem in a lot of places, but when the General Manager is a former Tight End, it bodes well for the chances of sticking around.

56. LB Sergio Kindle (ERFA)
57. DT Kelly Talavou (ERFA)
58. RB Matt Lawrence (RFA)
59. QB Hunter Cantwell (reserve/future)
60. WR Justin Harper (reserve/future)

harper

Kindle is such a question mark (as he continues to recover from a fractured skull) that it really doesn’t matter how much talent he might have. Until there’s reason to believe he’ll be able to return next season, he can’t be an assumed part of the 53 man roster.

If Talavou is able to come back healthy, he’s highly thought of by the organization. He could be the insurance that allows the team to let someone like Divens go elsewhere.

Lawrence is a good Special Teams player if he’s healthy. It will be an uphill battle for him to make the roster in Training Camp, especially after missing the entire 2010 season.

Cantwell is the team’s 3rd quarterback, but has only a cup of coffee worth of experience on an active roster with the Carolina Panthers in 2009. If the Ravens decided to go with three QB’s again, he’d have a decent chance to make the roster.

Harper is tall. Harper has only ever been on the active roster briefly. The team’s website apparently doesn’t know Harper wears number 82. That’s where we’re at with Harper.

61. OL Ramon Harewood
62.
OL Bryan Mattison (contract status unknown)
63. OL Daniel Sanders (contract status unknown)
64. RB Curtis Steele (reserve/future)
65. DE Albert McClellan (reserve/future)
66. CB Danny Gorrer (reserve/future)
67. OT Brady Bond (reserve/future)
68. OT Andre Ramsey (reserve/future)
69. LS Kevin Houser (UFA)

I’d provide a picture of Kevin Houser here, but even the team’s official site doesn’t have one.

If they all return (and are healthy); Harewood, Mattison and Sanders will compete to try to provide depth along the O-Line. Harewood could give the team an insurance policy if they choose to cut ties with Cousins, Sanders could prove to be the team’s center of the future when Birk hangs up the cleats. A local writer joked with me that Mattison had been “on scholarship” in recent seasons-that would probably come to an end now as his father (former Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison) has departed for Michigan.

Steele has the look of a potential weapon at the next level. If he can work his way into the return game, he’d have a much better shot of making the roster.

McClellan is employed by the Ravens, as is Gorrer. I’m going to guess most of you didn’t know that. Neither has a realistic path to the active roster.

Bond and Ramsey are big. My guess is that both of them will find their way onto an active roster in the National Football League someday. It probably won’t be in Baltimore however.

It might not be fair for me to rank Houser last on this list. He’s a NFL player, which is more than anyone else in this final group can really say. But his ONLY chance of returning to the team is if Cox can’t return from his torn ACL. There’s a chance he might not be ready for the start of Training Camp, but it’s unlikely it will be a factor moving towards the 2011 regular season.

(Thanks to BaltimoreRavens.com for the pictures!)

-G

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Live From Owings Mills: Harbaugh Says Cameron Will Remain Offensive Coordinator

Posted on 17 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens (13-5) returned to 1 Winning Drive Monday, less than 48 hours after their season ended with a 31-24 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers (13-4) at Heinz Field in an AFC Divisional Round playoff game.

Head Coach John Harbaugh put to rest any rumors he would consider firing Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron Monday.

“Cam Cameron is our offensive coordinator” said Harbaugh. “That’s how we’re going forward. I know Cam is a tremendous coach.”

Harbaugh indicated no other coaches would be at risk of losing their jobs based on the team’s performance.

“I really like our coaching staff” said Harbaugh. “I think we have a great, great coaching staff. Top to bottom-that includes all three coordinators, that includes every one of our position coaches, there’s not a guy that I’m disappointed in.”

The Ravens finished just 22nd in the NFL in total offense in 2010, despite the additions of WR’s Anquan Boldin, TJ Houshmandzadeh and Donte’ Stallworth in the offseason, as well as the draft selections of TE’s Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta

Harbaugh said the statistics didn’t affect his decision process with Cameron.

“He’s the same guy that was the offensive coordinator three years ago when everybody said we (outperformed) our expectations, and even last year. We had a tough year statistically, but we did win a lot of football games with that offense. There are things we can do a lot better, and we’re going to go to work on those things.”

FOCUS ON FREE AGENTS: The Ravens enter an offseason which will be based in as much uncertainty as the league itself.

The team has 17 unrestricted free agents, eight additional restricted free agents and five exclusive rights free agents.

The team’s unrestricted free agents are Houshmandzadeh, Stallworth, DT Haloti Ngata, FB Le’Ron McClain, CB Josh Wilson, CB Chris Carr, OT Jared Gaither, OL Marshal Yanda, OL Chris Chester, OL Tony Moll, S Dawan Landry, CB Fabian Washington, K Billy Cundiff, P Sam Koch, QB Marc Bulger, LB Prescott Burgess and LS Kevin Houser.

The restricted free agents are S Tom Zbikowski, S Haruki Nakamura, LB Tavares Gooden, LB Jameel McClain, WR Marcus Smith, OT Oniel Cousins, DT Lamar Divens and RB Jalen Parmele. LB Sergio Kindle, DT Kelly Talavou, TE Davon Drew, CB Cary Williams and LB Dannell Ellerbe are exclusive rights free agents.

Harbaugh said Monday the team will focus offseason plans on retaining their own free agents.

“We’re going to try to get back as many of these guys as we possibly can” said the coach. “Because we like our players.”

Harbaugh said he had high hopes that many of the team’s free agents would return.

“Talking to the guys today, the vast majority of guys really want to be here.”

Coming off a second straight Pro Bowl selection and a season in which he was voted the team’s MVP, Ngata is the most important player to get back according to Harbaugh.

“I believe Haloti Ngata will be a Raven for life” said the coach. “That’s the goal. He’s told me he wants to be here. I believe the organization wants him here. It’s priority number one to have Haloti Ngata here.”

Houshmandzadeh said he’d like to return to Charm City, but admitted an expanded role would play a significant part in making his decision.

“I want to come back because I had fun here and I enjoyed myself” said the receiver. “I do want to be a starter. I do because that’s what I’ve been. It’s hard to adjust.”

Free agency cannot begin until owners and the NFLPA agree to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

NOTES: Hear from Harbaugh, Houshmandzadeh, L. McClain, Houshmandzadeh, Stallworth, Cundiff, Koch, Washington, Wilson, Kindle, Bulger, QB Joe Flacco, LB Ray Lewis, LB Jarret Johnson, C Matt Birk and WR Derrick Mason now in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net……L. McClain joined Rex Snider Monday on “The Afternoon Drive” on AM1570 WNST, that chat is also available in the Audio Vault……The Ravens will select 26th in the 2011 NFL Draft……A team source told WNST’s Drew Forrester a contract extension for Harbaugh should be considered “imminent”……The Ravens signed all seven practice squad players to reserve/future contracts. WR Justin Harper, RB Curtis Steele, CB Danny Gorrer, QB Hunter Cantwell, OL Andre Ramsey, OL Brady Bond and LB Albert McClellan joined former Buffalo Bills WR James Hardy in getting such contracts……Harbaugh, GM Ozzie Newsome, Team President Dick Cass and owner Steve Bisciotti will hold their season review press conference Thursday afternoon in Owings Mills

-G

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Ravens-Steelers “Purple Haze” Live Chat 4:30pm Today!

Posted on 15 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — Greetings from Heinz Field, where the Baltimore Ravens (13-4) will face the Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) in an AFC Divisional Round playoff game. Today’s game will air on CBS (WJZ 13 in Charm City) with Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf on the call. We will be chatting about the game in our “Purple Haze” live chat, which you can join HERE.

The winner of today’s game will advance to next Sunday’s AFC Championship Game to face the winner of tomorrow’s divisional round game between the New England Patriots and New York Jets.

Here are today’s inactives…

RAVENS:
DT Arthur Jones
DT Lamar Divens
TE Dennis Pitta
TE Davon Drew
OL Bryan Mattison
S Tom Zbikowski (back)
WR/KR David Reed (wrist)
LB Jason Phillips

STEELERS:
DE Aaron Smith (triceps)
RB Jonathan Dwyer
CB Crezdon Butler
OT Chris Scott
OT Tony Hills
DT Steve McLendon
LB Jason Worilds
QB Charlie Batch (3rd QB)

The Ravens will be in white tops and black pants. The Steelers will be in black tops and yellow pants.
Jeff Triplette will officiate today’s game (with much of Ed Hochuli’s regular crew).

Come chat with us!

-G

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Live From Owings Mills: Carr Misses Practice, Harbaugh Says He’ll Play

Posted on 13 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens (13-4) held their final open practice Thursday before Saturday’s AFC divisional playoff showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) at Heinz Field.

WR Donte’ Stallworth (illness) returned to practice Thursday and was a full participant, but the news wasn’t as good for two injured Ravens.

CB Chris Carr (thigh) did not participate in practice Thursday after being listed as a limited participant Wednesday. WNST.net learned from a source Carr pulled his hamstring during Wednesday’s practice.

When asked about Carr’s status, Head Coach John Harbaugh said simply “he’ll play” before announcing he wouldn’t field any further questions about injuries.

Carr wouldn’t confirm as quickly.

“I’m feeling allright” said the cornerback. “It’s later in the year, so nobody is feeling great; I guess. I’m planning on playing. I’m doing everything to prepare the same way. Hopefully I’ll be ready to go.”

Carr wouldn’t confirm the injury was a pulled hamstring when asked by reporters.

C Matt Birk (knee) did not participate in in practice for a second straight day Thursday.

All three Ravens who missed the Wild Card round win over the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium due to injury are expected to be available Saturday. WR/KR David Reed (wrist), S Tom Zbikowski (back) and LB Tavares Gooden (shoulder) were full participants for a second straight day Thursday.

For the Steelers, S Troy Polamalu (ankle) returned to practice and participated fully. CB Bryant McFadden (abdomen) was also a full participant.

DE Aaron Smith (triceps) was a limited participant.

NOTES: Hear from Harbaugh and WR TJ Houshmandzadeh now in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net……P Sam Koch joined Drew Forrester Thursday on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST, that chat is available in the Audio Vault as well…..TE Ed Dickson is scheduled to join Forrester Friday morning at 7:25……32 degrees and snow showers are expected in the Steel City for game time Saturday according to Weather.com/The Weather Channel……The Ravens will hold a walkthrough Friday before traveling to Pittsburgh Friday night. Friday’s walkthough is closed to the media

-G

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Live From Owings Mills: Suggs Takes Shot at Steelers With Shirt

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Live From Owings Mills: Suggs Takes Shot at Steelers With Shirt

Posted on 12 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens (13-4) returned to practice Wednesday at 1 Winning Drive, continuing preparations for Saturday’s AFC divisional playoff showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) at Heinz Field.

Unlike the other AFC divisional showdown this weekend, (New England Patriots-New York Jets), the buildup to the AFC North rematch had included little in the way of bulletin board material.

LB Terrell Suggs changed that Wednesday when he stepped to the podium.

suggs
(Photo property of WNST.netApologies for offensive imagery)

Suggs wore a “Hey Pittsburgh!” shirt during his media availability session Wednesday. The shirt was showing a purple bird giving the middle finger.

“(This) ain’t no message” said the Pro Bowl pass rusher. “Like I always say, I put on for my city. They rep their city and I’m repping mine.”

Suggs said the Pittsburgh-Baltimore rivalry holds a special place in his heart.

“To me, it’s definitely the best rivalry in sports. When it comes to football, it’s the most physical game of the year. It’s going to be a physical gang fight, just like the first two games were.”

According to Suggs, this wasn’t the first time the middle finger has been involved in the series.

“When we go down there, they always hit us with the ‘Number Ones’. I don’t know how they act here because I’ve been in the locker room by the time all the fans get here. I’m pretty sure we’ve been hitting them with the ‘Number Ones’.”

When asked if he was worried the shirt could give the Steelers some extra motivation, Suggs was confident in his answer.

“Do I seem worried? This game is going to be what it is regardless. It’s a physical dogfight. I’m not expecting (anything) different. This is the shirt I wore this morning, this is just the shirt I chose.”

Future Hall of Fame LB Ray Lewis was much more guarded when asked if he ‘liked’ the Steelers.

“I like pizza” said Lewis. “I like a lot of things, there’s a lot of things I don’t like. Are the Steelers in the ‘like’ or ‘don’t like’ category? Well since I’m a Baltimore person, I’m going to say ‘don’t like’.”

Lewis’ message when he saw Suggs’ shirt?

“You’re going to start a war.”

RAVENS SIGN HARDY: The Ravens have signed WR James Hardy to a reserve/future contract, per a FoxSports.com report.

Hardy was a 2nd round (41st overall) pick by the Buffalo Bills out of Indiana in the 2008 NFL Draft. He was cut by the Bills before the start of the 2010 season.

In his brief NFL career, Hardy has just 10 catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns. He was a first team All-Big Ten performer in his junior (and final) season with the Hoosiers.

As a reserve/future signing, Hardy does not go on the team’s 53 man roster and is not eligible to participate in the postseason. Instead, he will have the opportunity to make the team out of Training Camp this summer (should he remain on the roster through OTA’s).

Ravens Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron is also an Indiana alum.

PRACTICE REPORT: All Ravens who missed the Wild Card playoff win over the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium were on the practice field Wednesday.

LB Tavares Gooden (shoulder) and S Tom Zbikowski (back) were full participants. WR/KR David Reed (wrist) was not even listed on the injury report.

C Matt Birk (knee) did not participate in practice, neither did WR Donte’ Stallworth (illess). CB Chris Carr (thigh) was a limited participant with what is believed to be a pulled hamstring.

Suggs (knee) and S Ed Reed (ribs) were not listed on the injury report.

Multiple Ravens players again switched jersey numbers for Wednesday’s session. Among them was Suggs, who wore the #4 of punter Sam Koch.

For the Steelers, S Troy Polamalu (ankle) did not participate in practice Wednesday. CB Bryant McFadden (abdomen) and DE Aaron Smith (triceps) were limited participants.

NOTES: Hear from Lewis, Suggs, QB Joe Flacco, TE Todd Heap, RB Ray Rice, WR Anquan Boldin and DE Cory Redding now in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net……Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta & LB Dannell Ellerbe joined Drew Forrester Wednesday on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST, both chats are also available in the Audio Vault……Jeff Triplette will officiate Sunday’s game, his crew will include members of Ed Hochuli’s regular crew……The Ravens will hold their final open practice of the week Thursday, Head Coach John Harbaugh is scheduled to meet with reporters

-G

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Live From Owings Mills: Harbaugh, Ravens Face Short Week of Prep For Steelers Battle

Posted on 10 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Players from the Baltimore Ravens (13-4) took Monday off, but Head Coach John Harbaugh returned to 1 Winning Drive following a 30-7 AFC Wild Card playoff win over the Kansas City Chiefs (10-7) 24 hours earlier at Arrowhead Stadium.

Harbaugh met with reporters Monday to look ahead to Saturday’s AFC Divisional Round playoff battle with the Ravens’ AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) at Heinz Field.

The Steelers will come into Saturday’s game well rested, having not played since a Week 17 win over the Cleveland Browns January 2nd. The Ravens however will play Sunday just six days after their first playoff contest.

“There is definitely an advantage to having the time off from a rest perspective” the coach said Monday.

Harbaugh did argue that the Ravens could gain an advantage over the Steelers thanks to a solid performance in KC.

“There’s probably an advantage to playing from a ‘being sharp’ perspective. We’ll try to take advantage of the things that are strengths in our factor and hope the things that are strengths in their factor will be minimized by the way that we approach what we do. I’m very confident we can get our guys rested and recovered and ready to go on Saturday.”

Harbaugh also expressed his belief that the Ravens defense will benefit from having not been taxed much in the Wild Card playoff win.

“I think it’s a factor” said the Coach. “We had 40 plays. It’s better than playing 80 plays.”

The Ravens gave players off Monday (instead of the customary NFL Tuesday off-day) and delayed practice to 3:30 Tuesday afternoon to try to create more rest.

INJURY UPDATE
: Two Ravens who missed Sunday’s game probably could have been able to play, according to Harbaugh.

LB Tavares Gooden (shoulder) and WR/KR David Reed (wrist) both missed the playoff opener despite practicing in the week leading up to the game.

“We had some guys that were just more healthy” Harbaugh said Monday. “I think David can go. He’s getting better catching the ball, he made a lot of progress last week. Tavares could have played, but the more healthy probably gave us a little more at that point.”

Aside from Reed & Gooden, S Tom Zbikowski (back) also missed Sunday’s game due to injury. The Ravens reported nothing on their official postgame injury report, meaning no players left the game and were unable to return.

Harbaugh also noted the possibility S Ed Reed may miss some practice this week as he deals with the apparent death of his brother (Brian Reed) with family in Louisiana.

“We’ve left that up to Ed” said the coach. “I know that Ed knows this team inside and out. We haven’t talked to him yet today. So I think it’s going to kind of depend on the circumstances down there, what he feels he needs to do with his family. But we’ll give him a lot of leeway.”

NOTES: Hear from Harbaugh now in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault at WNST.net……C Matt Birk joined Drew Forrester Monday on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST, that chat is available in the Audio Vault as well……Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf will call Saturday’s game for CBS……The Ravens will return to practice Tuesday afternoon, Harbaugh is scheduled to meet with reporters following practice

-G

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Ravens-Chiefs “Purple Haze” Live Chat 1pm

Posted on 09 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Greetings from Arrowhead Stadium, where the Baltimore Ravens (12-4) will face the Kansas City Chiefs (10-6) in an AFC Wild Card playoff showdown. Today’s game will air live on CBS (WJZ 13 in Charm City) with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms on the call. We will be chatting about the game in our “Purple Haze” live chat, which you can join here.

The winner of today’s game will advance to face the Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) at Heinz Field next Saturday in the AFC divisional round.

Here are today’s inactives…

RAVENS
-
DT Arthur Jones
FB Jason McKie
TE Davon Drew
TE Dennis Pitta
LB Tavares Gooden (shoulder)
S Tom Zbikowski (back)
WR David Reed (wrist)
DT Lamar Divens

CHIEFS-
WR Quinten Lawrence
FB Mike Cox
S Reshard Langford
LB Charlie Anderson
C Rudy Niswanger
WR Chris Chambers
DT Anthony Toribio
QB Tyler Palko (3rd QB)

The Chiefs are in red tops and white pants today. The Ravens are in white tops and black pants.
Mike Carey’s crew will officiate today’s game.

Come chat with us!

-G

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Live From Owings Mills: Reed’s Brother Missing, Harbaugh Reacts to Jim’s Hiring, Suggs & Ngata Questionable

Posted on 07 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens (12-4) held their final open practice Friday at 1 Winning Drive ahead of Sunday’s AFC Wild Card playoff showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs (10-6) at Arrowhead Stadium.

The brother of Ravens safety Ed Reed (Brian Reed) went missing Friday in Louisiana, according to WWL-TV in New Orleans.

The younger Reed reportedly jumped into the Mississippi River in St. Charles, La. to elude authorities. Police attempted to stop Brian Reed Friday morning when his car matched the description of a car believed to have driven another car off the road.

According to the WWL report, police believe the younger Reed may have been driving a stolen car.

When reached for comment Friday by WNST.net, a source very close to Ed Reed said the Pro Bowl safety had no comment and was continuing to gather information.

Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said in a Friday night conference call he had not yet had a chance to talk to his star defender.

“I love Ed Reed” said Harbaugh. “Our thoughts and our prayers are with the Reed family. We’re just praying like crazy that Ed’s brother is okay.”

INJURY REPORT: After missing practice Wednesday & Thursday, DT Haloti Ngata (thigh) and LB Terrell Suggs (knee) both returned to practice Friday.

Harbaugh said Friday “I feel good about them” and added “I think they’ll be okay” for Sunday’s game.

Suggs was a bit more coy about his status for Sunday’s game, claiming he was “50-50″ to play.

Ngata and Suggs were both listed as questionable for Sunday’s game, as were S Tom Zbikowski (back), LB Dannell Ellerbe (head), LB Tavares Gooden (shoulder), CB Josh Wilson (head) and S Ed Reed (chest). Those six were all listed as limited participants Thursday.

Five Ravens were listed as probable for Sunday’s game; LB Jameel McClain (back), C Matt Birk (knee), WR Derrick Mason (abs/ankle), OT Michael Oher (knee/ankle) and WR/KR David Reed (wrist).

For the Chiefs, G Brian Waters (illness) and WR Quinten Lawrence (illness) were listed as probable for Sunday’s game.

HARBAUGH’S BROTHER JOINS NFL RANKS: Jim Harbaugh, the younger brother of John Harbaugh and a former Ravens quarterback; agreed Friday to a five year deal to leave Stanford and become the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

“I’m very happy he’s not in the AFC” the elder Harbaugh said Friday night in a conference call.

With the Ravens slated to face the NFC West next season, the two coaches will have a chance to face off in Charm City.

“My dad (former Western Michigan & Western Kentucky coach Jack Harbaugh) said he’s just going to take a walk during that one” John Harbaugh joked.

Harbaugh told reporters his younger brother consulted with Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti during his decision making process.

NOTES: Hear from Harbaugh, Suggs and Oher now in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net……OL Marshal Yanda joined Drew Forrester Friday on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST, that chat is available in the Audio Vault as well……The Ravens practiced indoors Friday after practicing outside Wednesday & Thursday. The Ravens were in good spirits; with many players wearing each others’ jerseys. LB Ray Lewis and LB Jarret Johnson swapped jerseys, as did S Dawan Landry and DT Haloti Ngata. S Ed Reed wore QB Joe Flacco’s jersey, Suggs wore P Sam Koch’s jersey……Suggs was fined $15,000 for punching Bengals WR Jerome Simpson in the team’s Week 17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium……Weather.com/The Weather Channel predicts 34 degrees and snow showers for Sunday’s game in KC……The Ravens will hold a walkthrough Saturday morning before traveling to Kansas City Saturday night. Saturday’s walkthrough will be closed to the media

-G

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Live From Owings Mills: Mattison Says Suggs, Ngata Will “Be Fine” For Sunday

Posted on 06 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens (12-4) returned to practice Thursday at 1 Winning Drive, inching closer to an AFC Wild Card playoff showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs (10-6) Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.

After missing practice Wednesday, S Ed Reed (chest) and C Matt Birk (knee) each returned to the practice field Thursday. Reed was a limited participant, Birk participated fully.

DT Haloti Ngata (thigh) and LB Terrell Suggs (knee) did not participate in practice for a second straight day. Ngata was forced to leave the team’s Week 17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium in the 2nd half.

“They’re boycotting, they don’t like the cold weather” joked Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison about the absence of the two Pro Bowl defenders. “It’s not a concern. They’ll both be fine. It’s us knowing where we are in the season, knowing we’ve had a lot of football games. Those two guys have played so well and they understand the defense so well that if they do have a little bump or bruise or something like that it’s best to get them 100% rather than running around.”

S Tom Zbikowski (back), was a limited participant in practice for the second straight day. He’s hoping to return to the field for the first time since leaving the team’s Week 14 win over the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium in the first half. Zbikowski was listed as a limited participant Wednesday.

Zbikowski told reporters Thursday he “feels better”, but wouldn’t commit to being ready to return to face KC.

LB Dannell Ellerbe (head), LB Tavares Gooden (shoulder), LB Jameel McClain (back) and CB Josh Wilson (head) were all limited participants in practice for a second straight day. WR Derrick Mason (abs/ankle), OT Michael Oher (knee/ankle) and WR/KR David Reed (wrist) were all full participants for a second straight day.

For the Chiefs, WR Dwayne Bowe (illness) returned to practice after missing Wednesday. Bowe was listed as a full participant. G Brian Waters (illness) missed a second straight day, WR Quinten Lawrence (illness) also missed practice Thursday.

NOTES: Hear from Mattison, Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron, Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg and LB Jarret Johnson now in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net……CB Cary Williams joined Drew Forrester Thursday on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST, that chat is available in the Audio Vault as well……OL Marshal Yanda is scheduled to join Forrester Friday morning at 7:15……Mike Carey’s crew will officiate Sunday’s game……The Ravens will return to practice Friday at 1 Winning Drive, Head Coach John Harbaugh is scheduled to meet with reporters following practice

-G

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Live From Owings Mills: Haloti Ngata Named Ravens MVP

Posted on 05 January 2011 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens (12-4) returned to practice Wednesday at 1 Winning Drive, continuing preparations for Sunday’s AFC Wild Card playoff battle with the Kansas City Chiefs (10-6) at Arrowhead Stadium.

DT Haloti Ngata was announced Wednesday as the Ravens 2010 Most Valuable Player award, as voted on by media members who cover the team on a daily basis. (This columnist was amongst those who voted for Ngata.)

Ngata set a career high with 5.5 sacks this season and tied career highs with 63 tackles and 5 pass deflections.

“That’s pretty cool” said Ngata after being informed he had won. “I felt like this year has been a little different just with my pass rush, I felt like I got a little better there. Hopefully I can continue to improve and just get better. Hopefully I can be around (Baltimore) more often, because I love being here, I love the guys, I love the fans.”

Ngata will be an important factor as the Ravens go up against the league’s top rushing offense (164.2 yards per game) Sunday in KC.

“(They’re a) great running team, I think everybody knows that” said Ngata. “Their O-Linemen (are) experienced, they’ve got a lot of guys who have been around and they do well moving guys around. Hopefully we can do what we want to do and stop the run first and make them a one dimensional team.”

Ngata was an important cog for a Ravens defense that was pretty good against the run (ranked 5th in the NFL), allowing just 93.9 yards per game.

“We love when teams like to run” added Ngata. “If we can take away their best thing, that’s an advantage for us.”

The Chiefs finished the year with two backs amongst the Top 20 in rushing in the league. RB Jamaal Charles (who finished 2nd in the league with 1,467 yards to go with give touchdowns) is somewhat similar to Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson according to Ngata.

“(He’s) just real shifty and quick to the hole. He’s just so fast and quick, he does a lot of things really well. He definitely is different from last year.”

Chiefs RB Thomas Jones also ranked in the Top 20 amongst the league’s rushing leaders; finishing with 896 yards and 6 TD’s.

“Jones is a little bigger” said Ngata. “I think he’s able to hit between the tackles a little bit better. He’s a little bit more patient than Charles.”

In their 2009 matchup at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens allowed the Chiefs just 29 yards rushing, including only 8 yards for Charles.

Ngata succeeds RB Ray Rice, who was voted the team’s MVP in 2009.

CARR NAMED “GOOD GUY”: In addition to Team MVP, reporters covering the team on a daily basis also voted a winner of the annual “Media Good Guy” award.

CB Chris Carr was announced as the winner of the award for the 2010 season Wednesday.

“If I won, everybody else must be pretty bad” Carr joked. “I understand that the fans want to hear truth. I try never to lie. Maybe I won’t say how I really feel, but I won’t go up there and give a lie to you guys. I always try to be insightful and truthful to everybody because fans want to hear stuff. They want to be honest and they want accountability as well. I just try to do that every week.

LB Jarret Johnson had received the award in 2009.

INJURY REPORT: Four Ravens did not participate in practice Wednesday.

C Matt Birk (knee), LB Terrell Suggs (knee), S Ed Reed (chest) and Ngata (thigh) were all held out. None are believed to be in serious jeopardy of missing Sunday’s game.

S Tom Zbikowski (back) returned to the practice field Wednesday for the first time since leaving the team’s Week 14 win over the Houston Texans early. He was one of five Ravens who were limited participants in practice. LB Dannell Ellerbe (head), LB Tavares Gooden (shoulder), LB Jameel McClain (back) and CB Josh Wilson (head) were also limited participants.

Head Coach John Harbaugh said he’s “optimistic” Zbikowski can see the field Sunday.

WR/KR David Reed (wrist/head) was a full participant in practice Wednesday; he hasn’t played since suffering a concussion in the team’s Week 15 win over the New Orleans Saints. WR Derrick Mason (abs/ankle) and OT Michael Oher (knee/ankle) were also full participants.

Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe (illness) missed practice Wednesday. Head Coach Todd Haley did not seem concerned about Bowe’s Sunday status during his Wednesday conference call with Charm City reporters.

Chiefs G Brian Waters (illness) also missed practice Wednesday.

NOTES: Hear from Harbaugh, Ngata, Carr, Rice, QB Joe Flacco and LB Ray Lewis now in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net……Jim Nantz will call Sunday’s game for CBS, he joined Drew Forrester Wednesday on “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST. That chat is available in the Audio Vault as well……CB Cary Williams is scheduled to join Forrester Thursday at 7:15am……The Ravens will return to practice Thursday, Coordinators Cam Cameron, Greg Mattison and Jerry Rosburg are scheduled to meet with the media

-G

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