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Looking at former Ravens set to hit free agency

Posted on 12 February 2016 by Luke Jones

The start of NFL free agency is less than a month away.

This is the time of year when teams not only look at their own free agents, but they start to explore who else might become available. A full list was comprised by Pro Football Talk that included more than a few familiar names who could spark discussion among Ravens fans about a potential return.

Below is a look at ex-Ravens set to officially hit the open market on March 9:

OLB Jason Babin
2015 team: Arizona
Ravens-related thought: It’s tough to recall many players who received as much attention and produced as little as Babin did for the Ravens as he failed to register a defensive statistic in two October games.

WR Anquan Boldin
2015 team: San Francisco
Ravens-related thought: No, the Ravens shouldn’t bring back the 35-year-old as Kamar Aiken fits that skill set, but trading Boldin in 2013 was still one of Ozzie Newsome’s worst decisions in recent memory.

G Chris Chester
2015 team: Atlanta
Ravens-related thought: The 2006 second-round pick was disappointing in his first couple seasons in Baltimore, but he’s carved out a really nice career that includes 127 starts over a decade in the NFL.

C Gino Gradkowski
2015 team: Atlanta
Ravens-related thought: Denver cut him at the end of the summer and Gradkowski played in just three games this season, putting his career at a crossroads after struggling as a starter in Baltimore in 2013.

K Shayne Graham
2015 team: Atlanta
Ravens-related thought: Many fans forget that the Ravens signed the veteran to fill in for an ailing Billy Cundiff late in the 2011 regular season, just a few weeks before “you know what” happened.

SS James Ihedigbo
2015 team: Detroit
Ravens-related thought: If the Ravens had known Matt Elam would be such a disappointment, they likely would have kept Ihedigbo after his strong 2013 season, but Will Hill now plays the same position.

ILB Rolando McClain
2015 team: Dallas
Ravens-related thought: Inside linebacker is a potential need depending on what happens with veteran Daryl Smith, but Baltimore can’t be foolish enough to venture down this road again, right?

DT Haloti Ngata
2015 team: Detroit
Ravens-related thought: It will be interesting to see what market exists for an accomplished 32-year-old defensive tackle, but a reunion seems unlikely unless Ngata is willing to take a very team-friendly deal.

RB Bernard Pierce
2015 team: Jacksonville
Ravens-related thought: It’s hard to believe how quickly Pierce flamed out after averaging 4.9 yards per carry in his rookie season and being on the verge of threatening Ray Rice for the starting job.

RB Bobby Rainey
2015 team: Tampa Bay
Ravens-related thought: The undrafted free agent from Western Kentucky was a good story a few years ago, but he fell out of the Buccaneers’ backfield picture and the Ravens are set at the position.

RS Jeremy Ross (restricted)
2015 team: Oakland
Ravens-related thought: You can’t last as a return specialist in the NFL if you can’t secure the football, a lesson Ross learned with the Ravens as well as with a few other teams in his career.

CB Cassius Vaughn
2015 team: San Diego
Ravens-related thought: The veteran corner had two different stints with the Ravens in 2015, but it would be difficiult to view him as anything more than offseason roster depth at this point.

CB Cary Williams
2015 team: Washington
Ravens-related thought: Williams was better than some want to give him credit for during his time in Baltimore, but his struggles in Seattle last year will dim interest for his services this offseason.

CB Josh Wilson
2015 team: Detroit
Ravens-related thought: The former Terp will be 31 next month and played well for the Ravens in 2010, but his career appears to be winding down after he suffered a season-ending knee injury in November.

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Redskins OL Chester says experience with Ravens HOFers was something special

Posted on 30 January 2014 by WNST Audio

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Ravens receive two compensatory picks in April’s draft

Posted on 26 March 2012 by Luke Jones

With NFL owners congregating in Florida for their annual meetings this week, the league awarded 32 compensatory picks for April’s draft on Monday afternoon.

Based on last offseason’s free-agent movement, the Ravens were awarded fourth- and fifth-round compensatory picks, which will be the 130th and 169th overall selections respectively.

While the notable releases of wide receiver Derrick Mason, tight end Todd Heap, defensive tackle Kelly Gregg, and running back Willis McGahee were not taken into account, the free-agent losses of safety Dawan Landry (Jacksonville), guard Chris Chester (Washington), and cornerback Josh Wilson (Washington) factored into the Ravens receiving compensation in April’s draft after each received high-priced, long-term contracts and started 16 games with new teams.

After general manager Ozzie Newsome traded the Ravens’ fourth-round pick in the 2012 draft to Buffalo for veteran Lee Evans last August, receiving a fourth-round compensatory pick helps to ease the sting of that ill-fated move.

Under the rules of compensatory draft selections, a team losing more or better free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive picks. The number of picks a team receives is equal to the net loss of free agents up to a maximum of four. Compensatory free agents are determined by a formula based on salary, playing time, and postseason distinctions. Not every free agent lost or acquired by a club factors into the formula.

This year, the compensatory picks will be positioned within the third through seventh rounds based on the value of the compensatory free agents lost.

The Ravens have been awarded 33 compensatory picks over their 17-year history, most in the NFL during that time period. With their two fifth-round compensatory picks in 2011, they selected defensive end Pernell McPhee and cornerback Chykie Brown.

Here are the Ravens’ selections for next month’s draft:

Round 1: No. 29
Round 2: No. 60
Round 3: No. 91
Round 4: No. 130 (compensatory)
Round 5: No. 155
Round 5: No. 169 (compensatory)
Round 6: No. 186
Round 7: No. 218

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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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Ravens sign offensive lineman Casey Rabach to two-year deal

Posted on 02 August 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With concerns over 35-year-old center Matt Birk’s health and a lack of depth on the interior offensive line, the Ravens have agreed to terms on a two-year contract with offensive lineman Casey Rabach.

Drafted by the Ravens in the third round of the 2001 NFL draft, Rabach spent four seasons in Baltimore before being signed by the Washington Redskins in 2005. Rabach served his first three seasons with the Ravens as a reserve guard and center before starting all 16 games in 2004 as starting center Mike Flynn dealt with injuries.

With the departure of reserve Chris Chester via free agency and Birk entering his 14th season in the league, the 33-year-old Rabach provides a nice insurance policy for the interior line. The veteran center has missed only one game over his last seven seasons in Washington and Baltimore.

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Ravens 10-Pack: Baltimore feeling Super at 4-1

Posted on 12 October 2010 by Luke Jones

Even with the daunting task of traveling to Foxborough to take on the New England Patriots this Sunday, you have to feel good about the Ravens’ 4-1 start and the early lead atop the AFC North with the first month of the season already in the books.

With three of the first four on the road (two of them division games), you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who thought the Ravens would fare better than they have after road victories against the Jets and Steelers. And when you take a look around the rest of the league, the Ravens’ accomplishments look even more impressive.

Parity is a word all-too-familiar to NFL fans, but the notion seemed to be waning over the last few seasons with the regular-season success of the 2007 Patriots and extended runs at perfection by the Colts and Saints last year. However, with the 1972 Dolphins uncorking the champagne before Columbus Day — with no 4-0 teams in the NFL since 1970 — and only eight teams sporting one loss through the first five weeks of the season, 2010 appears up for grabs in mid-October.

Are the Ravens the best team in the NFL?

Being this early, who cares? But it’s difficult to argue any team has looked better than Baltimore.

If the Ravens can beat New England (3-1), it will mark just the second 5-1 start in franchise history, the other coming in the 2000 season.

However, for some perspective, at the time of the 5-1 start, Tony Banks was the starting quarterback and the Ravens had just won their second straight game without scoring a touchdown.

Things changed very quickly — in a bad way — before a historic run began and Trent Dilfer and the Ravens found themselves holding the Lombardi Trophy at the end of January.

1. Since taking over as head coach in 2008, John Harbaugh has shown the uncanny ability to take care of business against inferior teams, home or away.

In 37 regular season games under Harbaugh, the Ravens have never lost to a team that finished the season with a losing record. As unimpressive as that might sound to the casual observer, you’ll find a “bad” loss by a playoff-caliber team nearly every week in the NFL.

Of course, the opposite argument can be made that the Ravens have fallen short too many times against quality opponents — especially last season when they struggled to get to the playoffs at 9-7 — but winning the games you’re supposed to win and holding your own against winning teams will put you in an enviable position.

The postseason.

Time will determine whether their Week 2 loss in Cincinnati breaks the string, but the Harbaugh-led Ravens have managed to avoid the unwarranted defeats the team suffered in previous seasons.

2. All eyes will be on Bill Belichick and the Patriots in their first game since trading disgruntled receiver Randy Moss to the Minnesota Vikings and re-acquiring former Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks. The removal of Moss will undoubtedly impact the New England offense, but how much?

Expect a little gadgetry on Sunday as Tom Brady deciphers where everyone fits in the post-Moss era.

Of course, Belichick had an extra week to figure it out with the Patriots’ Week 5 bye, and his record in New England coming off the bye week is an impressive 8-2, including seven straight wins. But before we write off the Ravens at Gillette Stadium and bow to the genius of Belichick, we should remember that four of the last six have come against the Buffalo Bills.

Not to belittle an impressive feat, but game-planning against a team led in recent years by the likes of Dick Jauron and Mike Mularkey is a bit easier than facing the team that blasted you in the playoffs just nine months ago.

In the Harbaugh era, the Ravens are 2-1 when playing teams coming off their bye week. All three games were last season, which included wins against Cleveland and Denver as well as a road loss to Cincinnati.

3. Putting aside the obvious threat of Brady to Wes Welker, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison’s biggest concern might be a pair of rookie tight ends.

Through the Patriots’ first four games, Welker leads the team in receptions (26), but not receiving yards. That distinction belongs to Aaron Hernandez (18 catches for 240 yards) despite being the second tight end drafted (fourth round) by New England in April. Rob Gronkowski, a second-round selection, has posted modest numbers (six catches for 62 yards) but was an impressive talent eyed by the Ravens leading up to the draft.

The Ravens have struggled covering the intermediate middle of the field in recent years, so the inside linebacker corps of Ray Lewis, Jameel McClain, and Dannell Ellerbe will need to keep a close eye on these rookie targets.

4. As much as we lamented the absence of Matt Stover a season ago, let’s tip our caps to Billy Cundiff. His ability to boot the football deep into the end zone on kickoffs is an underappreciated factor in the Ravens being 4-1.

His four touchbacks against the Broncos on Sunday matched the total number by Baltimore kickers all of last year.

Whispers of Stover will not dissipate — if they ever do — until we see Cundiff make a 47-yarder to win a late-season game, but the distinct upgrade on kickoffs cannot be overlooked.

As great as Stover was with the game on the line, fans easily forget his kickoffs barely traveling inside the 10-yard line, often setting up the opponent with good field position.

5. Plenty has been said about Cam Cameron’s choice to use Haloti Ngata at tight end on Sunday’s opening drive and the near-disaster that followed with the defensive tackle down on the field.

I offer you three names: James Jones (1996), Herman Arvie (1996), and Jonathan Ogden (1996 and 2003), three linemen who all registered touchdown catches with the Ravens.

The difference in this case? Cameron and Harbaugh have too many offensive weapons at their disposal to risk losing one of the greatest defensive players in the game today. Why spend draft picks on two tight ends to complement Todd Heap and then risk your best defensive player trying to be too cute?

Ngata playing offense was a fun spectacle until we saw what nearly happened with the Ravens’ season flashing before the eyes of 71,000 people at M&T Bank Stadium.

Lesson learned — hopefully.

6. It was natural for questions to arise whether the Ravens had any interest in bringing back Antwan Barnes after he was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles last week, but  Harbaugh promptly shot down the idea on Monday. (Update: Barnes signed a contract with the San Diego Chargers on Wednesday afternoon)

In three years with the Ravens, the linebacker-defensive end managed only five sacks and sealed his fate last October when he whiffed on a tackle of Cedric Benson that led to a 28-yard touchdown run and an eventual loss to the Bengals.

Barnes is too small to provide help at defensive end, where the Ravens need a consistent pass-rush threat, and not athletic enough to play linebacker on every down. If they didn’t want him before the season, what would have changed a month later?

“I haven’t had a conversation with him,” Harbaugh said on Monday. “We don’t really have a roster opportunity right now for that. We wouldn’t be opposed to it. Antwan’s a good person, a good player. Obviously, he’s done some good things here. But, right now, there’s no way roster-wise we could pull that off.”

In other words, “Thanks, but no thanks — we’ve moved on.”

7. If all goes to plan and you believe the recent comments made by Harbaugh, Sunday will mark the final game before All-Pro safety Ed Reed returns to the 53-man roster after beginning the season on the physically unable to perform list.

During training camp, I said Tom Zbikowski would do an adequate job at free safety in Reed’s absence, and the third-year safety has done just that. So with the Ravens currently having the second-best pass defense in the NFL (behind only the New York Giants), the question must be asked:

How well will Reed fit into the secondary when he returns to the starting lineup?

The Baltimore defense no longer plays the exotic, aggressive schemes of Rex Ryan, but employs a conservative, “bend, but don’t break” style under Mattison. Reed has always gambled in the defensive backfield, at times leaving teammates out to dry in coverage while also making some of the greatest plays in NFL history.

With the 32-year-old returning from hip surgery, it will be interesting to see whether Reed takes a more conservative approach in coverage or returns with a bigger chip on his shoulder to prove he’s still one of the best defensive players in the league and deserving of the new contract he so desperately wants. If Reed proves to be a lesser player than he was prior to the hip procedure but plays with the same aggressive style, the secondary could be more vulnerable to the big play.

That said, it is hard to doubt a player who will one day be enshrined in Canton.

8. Speaking of injured players, you have to wonder how long the Ravens will continue to wait for Jared Gaither to return. Other than being a limited participant in one practice a couple weeks ago, the offensive tackle has been out with a thoracic disc injury since training camp.

With roster decisions looming with Reed and fellow PUP list members Brendon Ayanbadejo and Matt Lawrence, Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh may need to pull the plug on the projected starter at right tackle.

The improved play of Marshal Yanda at right tackle and Chris Chester at right guard has eased concerns on the right side of the line. Cohesion upfront is difficult to develop, so Gaither’s potential return would require another period of adjustment, something the coaching staff might be uncomfortable with later in the season.

Keep in mind, Gaither has not played right tackle regularly since the early part of his collegiate career at Maryland, so this isn’t a savvy veteran who can step right in to his regular position when healthy.

If Gaither does not make significant progress by the bye week, his season will likely come to a disappointing end.

9. Much has been said about the return of the three-headed running attack and the 2008-like feel to Sunday’s win over the Broncos, but don’t expect it to last.

Like it or not, the Ravens’ current profile is a pass-first team that runs the ball efficiently. The dominating 233-yard rushing performance against Denver was more the effect of a comfortable lead than some epiphany for Cameron.

Of Joe Flacco’s 97 completions through five games, 50 have been for under 10 yards, looking a little like the “running” game of the Patriots with Brady under helm. However, his 6.6 yards per attempt (the lowest of his career) needs to increase for the offense to continue growing.

Despite the profile change — which really began last season — the ability to pound the football looms large when the elements grow harsh, and the Ravens will use it when appropriate.

10. Ranking 19th in the league in total offense (328.2 yards per game) and tied for 17th in points scored (18.4 per game), the Baltimore offense has room for improvement with Cameron and Flacco trying to distribute the ball to keep a plethora of talented players — and egos — happy.

As well as the defense has played, it hasn’t done its counterpart any favors in the turnover department with only three takeaways and a -6 turnover differential, both last in the AFC.

Nothing gives an offense more confidence than starting drives on a short field, and a few more turnovers might be the serum the offense needs to excel. Fortunately, the defense and kick coverage has played well enough to win the field-position battle in most instances, but the turnover differential must improve if the Ravens are to take a step toward elitism, offensively and as a team.

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Live from Owings Mills: Webb a “game-time decision,” Cousins expected to play against Jets

Posted on 11 September 2010 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With an opening night encounter against the New York Jets only two days away, the Baltimore Ravens took the practice field on Saturday for a final tuneup before Sunday’s walk-through and train ride to East Rutherford, N.J..

Cornerback Lardarius Webb was practicing again on Saturday and is listed as probable on the official game status report released Saturday afternoon. Coach John Harbaugh,  however, labeled the second-year corner a game-time decision, which often means a player will be listed as questionable on the final injury report. Even if Webb does play, Fabian Washington and Chris Carr are expected to start against the Jets, with Josh Wilson working as the third corner.

“[Webb has] practiced 100 percent the whole week; he’s done everything,” Harbaugh said on Saturday. “We didn’t rule [him] out, and we haven’t said he was going to go. That’s kind of one we’re leaving up in the air for you.”

The Ravens are at least making it sound like Webb might play after defensive coordinator Greg Mattison claimed the second-year corner was “a lot closer” to returning following Friday’s practice. As he has said repeatedly since returning to the practice field last month, Webb will defer to the coaching staff to decide whether he plays in the opener,

“I think I can play if it came down to it,” Webb said. “I’m still leaving it up to coach  Harbaugh and [trainer Bill Tessendorf], but I am prepared and ready.”

Webb did not sound encouraged when asked about the potential chance of returning to the field for Week 1 after failing to receive any action in the team’s four preseason games. The cornerback missed training camp and the entire preseason as he rehabbed the surgically-repaired ACL in his right knee.

“It’s just all about the right timing,” Webb said following Saturday’s workout. “Me, [Harbaugh], and [Tessendorf will] come together and see what we want to do this week. We’re going to leave it to the game-time decision.”

The Ravens are keeping everyone guessing regarding the right tackle position with Jared Gaither already ruled out with the same back injury that has kept him off the practice field since early August. Oniel Cousins is listed as probable for Monday’s game and practiced on Saturday. Harbaugh’s comments following practice suggested all indications point to the young tackle being on the field against the Jets; however, it does not mean Cousins will be in the starting lineup. The third-year tackle said the symptoms from a concussion sustained in the final week of training camp have disappeared over the last few days.

“I don’t believe [Cousins] is touch-and-go,” Harbaugh said. “I would expect him to play. I shouldn’t speak for the doctors, but it looks to me like he’s ready to play.”

Cousins had made comments on Friday suggesting he may not be ready to go against the Jets. Tony Moll or starting right guard Marshal Yanda would be the most logical candidates to start should Cousins be held out. Moving Yanda to right tackle would force top reserve Chris Chester to move into the starting lineup at right guard, a position at which he split time last season with Yanda, who was still working his way back from a devastating knee injury suffered in 2008.

The preseason hype machine has been as loud as ever in Baltimore with expectations soaring for third-year quarterback Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense. The receiving trio of Anquan Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Derrick Mason appears tremendous on paper, but the question remains whether the young quarterback can keep all three former Pro Bowlers content by spreading the ball around in the passing game. The three possess similar traits, but none have a strong ability to stretch the field, making the trade of Mark Clayton a perplexing short-term decision with speedy receiver Donte’ Stallworth out with a broken foot until at least the bye week at the end of October.

Despite Houshmandzadeh being a Raven for less than a week, Harbaugh expects the veteran wideout to receive extensive playing time against the Jets. The former Bengals and Seahawks receiver wants to play as much as possible but is realistic about his limitations after only practicing four days with the team.

“That’s what I’m used to doing is playing the entire game,” Houshmandzadeh said following Saturday’s practice. “I’m not a fool, I know that’s not going to happen. But I want to play as much as I can.

All signs point to safety Tom Zbikowski returning punts against the Jets, as he is listed as the top returner on the team’s official depth chart and was again fielding punts in the portion of practice open to the media on Saturday. Webb has also fielded punts in practice this week, but one would think the coaching staff would prefer not to use Webb in the return game before he establishes himself as fit to contribute on defense.

There were no surprises among the players absent from practice, as Gaither, Stallworth, and defensive tackle Terrence Cody (knee) were absent from practice again on Saturday. All three have already been ruled out for Monday night.

NOTES: Ed Reed celebrated his 32nd birthday on Saturday and celebrated by working out on the side field at 1 Winning Drive. Several teammates wished the free safety a happy birthday during the portion of practice open to the media. Reed will miss at least the first six weeks of the season after being placed on the reserve Physically Unable to Perform list last week. … Walt Anderson will be the referee in Monday night’s game. His crew officiated the Ravens’ Monday night loss to the Packers last season in which a total of 23 penalties for 310 yards were called between the teams.

Check out the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from Harbaugh, Webb, Cousins, and Houshmandzadeh following Saturday’s practice in Owings Mills.

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Greatest Ravens by jersey number (61-80)

Posted on 30 August 2010 by Luke Jones

With Sports Illustrated releasing its list of all-time best NFL players by jersey number recently, we continue to look back at the 15-year history of the Baltimore Ravens to construct a list of the greatest players for Nos. 1-99.

Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 covered jersey numbers 1 through 60 if you missed them.

Part 4 (61-80) mostly looks at the trenches of the offensive line, with a few obvious choices and several where we need to look long and hard to find a representative.

61 Casey Rabach (2001-04)

Though in the shadow of Mike Flynn for three seasons before finally getting an opportunity to start at center in 2004, Rabach was a solid backup who has become one of the best centers in the NFC while playing for the Washington Redskins.

62 Mike Flynn (1997-2007)
Flynn

Flynn made 115 starts in his 11 seasons with the Ravens, most of them at center. He was the starting right guard on the Super Bowl XXXV team and moved to center after Jeff Mitchell’s departure for Carolina the following season. Undrafted from Maine, Flynn is one of the great underdog stories in franchise history.

63 Wally Williams (1996-98)

A versatile interior lineman who played center and both guard positions in his time with the Ravens, Williams became the team’s first franchise player in 1998 before departing for the New Orleans Saints in 1999.

64 Edwin Mulitalo (1999-06)
Mulitalo

In addition to coining the term “Festivus” for the playoffs in the Charm City, Mulitalo combined with tackle Jonathan Ogden to form an impenetrable left side of the offensive line in their eight seasons together.

65 Chris Chester (2006-present)
Chester

Though Chester came into the league undersized, he has made himself into an invaluable reserve with his ability to play all three interior positions on the offensive line. The former Oklahoma Sooner has made 33 starts in his career.

66 Ben Grubbs (2007-present)

1996 tackle Tony Jones and former guard Bennie Anderson both wore the same number, but Grubbs is the clear choice for No. 66. Though he has yet to make a Pro Bowl, Grubbs’ 44 career starts in three seasons puts him on the cusp of receiving the honor.

67 Quentin Neujahr (1996-97)

A backup for two years at center, Neujahr wins the honor, because there are no other candidates to consider.

68 Keydrick Vincent (2005-06)
Vincent

Largely considered a disappointment after coming to Baltimore from the Steelers, Vincent made 21 starts at right guard over two seasons and is the only legitimate player to have worn the number.

69 Jeff Blackshear (1996-99)

Though a forgotten name from the early years of the franchise, Blackshear made 60 starts at right guard in his four seasons with the Ravens and had a productive nine-year run in the NFL.

70 Harry Swayne (1999-2000)

The recently-departed long snapper Matt Katula can stake a legitimate claim to this number, but it is hard to overlook Swayne’s 13 starts during the Ravens’ championship season, even if he was past his prime by the time he came to Baltimore.

71 Jared Gaither (2007-present)
Gaither

Gaither’s work ethic has always been in doubt, but his raw size and talent makes him the obvious choice for the number. A fifth-round selection in the 2007 supplemental draft, Gaither has easily outplayed expectations, even if he has caused a few headaches on the Baltimore coaching staff.

72 Damion Cook (2002-04)

Fans would much rather have seen Leon Searcy as the choice here had he actually played a snap for the Ravens in 2001. As a result, Cook and his 13 games over three seasons earn the distinction.

73 Marshal Yanda (2007-present)

Despite suffering a devastating knee injury in 2008, Yanda has rebounded quickly to regain his right guard spot and is versatile enough to slide to right tackle in a pinch, where he started 12 games as a rookie in 2007.

74 Michael Oher (2009-present)
Oher

Already a celebrity before ever taking a snap in Baltimore, Oher amazingly had the ability to switch back and forth from right to left tackle as a rookie when filling in for the injured Gaither. He will now be in charge of protecting Joe Flacco’s “blind side” for many years to come.

75 Jonathan Ogden (1996-2007)

The indisputable choice for second-greatest Raven of all time behind linebacker Ray Lewis, Ogden anchored the left side of the Baltimore offensive line for 12 seasons and would have played longer if not for a toe injury. In addition to mauling defensive linemen every Sunday, Ogden also had an incredible amount of athleticism at 6-foot-9, 340 pounds, catching two touchdowns in his career.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgspNvFqRw4[/youtube]

76 Jarret Johnson (2003-present)
Johnson

Yes, Johnson is more commonly known for wearing No. 95, but he wore a different number his rookie season when he played 15 games and started once, good enough to grab the honor for this jersey number. A past-his-prime Erik Williams and defensive tackle Amon Gordon barely warrant a mention here.

77 Orlando Brown (1996-98, 2003-05)

Though his temper rivaled his massive size, “Zeus” was a powerful force on the right side of the offensive line in two different stints with the Ravens. His comeback from an injury that nearly left him blind in one eye—thanks to an errant penalty flag—is worth mentioning, and his career trumps reserve Ethan Brooks and only one season from current veteran center Matt Birk for the distinction at No. 77.

78 Adam Terry (2005-09)

Brown wore this number in the first two years of his second stint with the Ravens, but Terry did just enough in a disappointing career with the Ravens to grab the honor. Though he would never stabilize the right tackle position as the organization hoped, Terry proved to be a viable backup to Ogden at left tackle despite battling injuries throughout his time in Baltimore.

79 Larry Webster (1996-2001)

Right tackle Tony Pashos earns serious consideration here, but Webster was a key member of the defensive line rotation in his time with the Ravens. Though he faced multiple suspensions for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, Webster gets the nod over Pashos and Willie Anderson’s one-year stint in Baltimore.

80 Brandon Stokley (1999-2002)

He struggled to stay healthy and never realized his full potential until moving on to Indianapolis, but Stokley is famous for ending the 2000 team’s five-game touchdown drought with a touchdown catch in Cincinnati and catching the first score in the Ravens’ Super Bowl XXXV victory (see the 1:00 mark below).

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgzX1umIFfg[/youtube]

Next up: We wrap up our list of the greatest Ravens by jersey number by looking at Nos. 81-99 and an impressive group of players in the history of the franchise.

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The Real Key to the Ravens Success

Posted on 11 August 2010 by WNST Staff

There has been a lot of talk about what the Ravens have done in the offseason, as well as key personnel returning from injuries. The Ravens offense has been seriously upgraded due to the acquisition of wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Donte’ Stallworth as well as the drafting of tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson. Many people, including myself, are interested to see how Lardarius Webb and Fabian Washington will progress with their knee injuries. These have been the hot topics leading up to the first preseason game of the season tomorrow night against the Carolina Panthers. Personally, I feel that there is a more important set of players who will dictate the Ravens success this season. That group of players is the Ravens offensive line.

 

Michael Oher. Ben Grubbs. Matt Birk. Marshal Yanda. Jared Gaither. These five guys are the most important pieces of this Ravens team. Throw in a few key back-ups in Oniel Cousins and Chris Chester, and you have a group of the most important guys on this Ravens roster.

 

When the likes of Mike Flynn, Jason Brown, Adam Terry, Edwin Mulitalo, and Jonathon Ogden departed a few season ago, I got nervous. Ravens fans got nervous. Baltimore was losing a core of guys who helped keep Kyle Boller alive. I remember hearing a lot of negative press about how the Ravens would be able to replace Pro Bowlers and Hall of Famers. But once again, Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens front office came through again.

 

Last season, Joe Flacco was sacked 36 times. That’s just over two sacks a game on our beloved quarterback. This was about average in the NFL last year. The team who got sacked the least was the Colts with 13 sacks, followed by the Titans, Patriots and Saints. There is an easy explanation for why the Titans sack total was so low, and that is because they ran the ball more than anyone else, which was a good idea since it got the ball in Chris Johnson’s hands. But look at the other three teams on this list. Now think of their quarterbacks. There is a reason that Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady are considered the best quarterbacks in the NFL. And their offensive lines are keeping them for being hit.

 

Not to mention, the Colts and the Saints played one another in the Super Bowl. What I am trying to say is that if the Ravens can cut down on sacks on Joe Flacco, then they have a better chance of going further. I’ll say it right here. If the Ravens offensive line gives up less than 20 sacks this year, then the Ravens will make it to the Super Bowl. If Flacco is only sacked once a game, then there is an extremely good chance that he will be healthier, which he had a problem with at the end of last season. And if he is healthy, then our passing offense will be remarkable, which will consequently open up the running game as well.

 

I hope to see a lot of the Ravens offense selected to the Pro Bowl this year. Just be sure to watch the offensive line to gauge this year’s Ravens success.

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Live from Westminster: Cody passes conditioning test, vets checking into hotel

Posted on 28 July 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. — Good afternoon from McDaniel College as the Ravens have wrapped up their second day of partial-squad workouts with the biggest news being the debut of rookie defensive tackle Terrence Cody who passed his conditioning test earlier this morning and participated fully in the morning workout.

This was obviously good news to coach John Harbaugh, who expressed pleasant surprise when learning the 350-pound tackle had passed the test. Rookie cornerback Prince Miller also passed the conditioning test and practice while the status of the other members of the PUP list remained unchanged for the morning session.

As for action on the field, it was another light, non-contact workout with players practicing in shells and shorts. Harbaugh will give the afternoon off to selected veterans already in camp as we await the arrival of the remaining veterans this afternoon.

Check back here throughout the day for updates (time-stamped below) and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the quickest updates from the field.

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5:30 p.m. — The Ravens have wrapped up the afternoon practice as the veterans continue to check into Westminster for training camp.

Most selected veterans who reported on Monday were given the afternoon off with the exception of a few practice squad players and the four quarterbacks on the roster.

In what might qualify as the first minor injury issue occurring at practice, defensive tackle Terrence Cody appeared to be suffering from a cramp in his right calf at the conclusion of practice. Members of the training staff with icing his lower leg, and the big man eventually walked off the field, albeit gingerly.

Receiver Marcus Smith had an impressive afternoon, snagging a bullet from Joe Flacco in the back of the end zone during a red zone drill. Smith is recovering from a torn ACL sustained in the preseason last year.

Backup quarterback Troy Smith threw what would have been a “pick-6” to rookie linebacker Albert McClellan at the goal line during the same red zone drill. McClellan has been impressive in the first two days of non-contact practice but doesn’t figure to factor into the team’s plans with an already deep linebacker unit.

We’ll next see the Ravens in action on Friday morning with the first full-squad workout at 8:45 a.m. Thursday is a team administrative day with all activity closed to the media and public.

2:45 p.m. — We’re counting down the minutes until the 3:30 workout, and I’m getting ready to head out to the field. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the latest updates. Perhaps a few of the veterans will stop by the upper fields at McDaniel College for a brief visit?

2:40 p.m. — Updating the status of Matt Birk, the veteran center has been placed on the PUP list after a minor elbow procedure earlier this offseason. It had previously been speculated Birk was dealing with a neck issue.

He isn’t expected to be on the PUP list for very long.

2:15 p.m. — As we await the start of the afternoon practice at 3:30, the veterans are beginning to trickle into the team hotel. Some to arrive already include Rice, Donte’ Stallworth (who was given a ride by the Pro Bowl running back), Antwan Barnes, Chris Chester, Tom Zbikowski, Ben Grubbs, and new impact receiver Anquan Boldin.

The arriving veterans will take their physicals this afternoon after checking into the Best Western.

12:45 p.m. — Given his time in Philadelphia and the Bengals appearing to be the biggest roadblock to the division title, Harbaugh was asked about his thoughts on the Bengals signing Terrell Owens to a one-year contract on Tuesday.

“I really like T.O.,” Harbaugh said. “I think he’s a really good player. He’s a guy that we enjoyed being around for a couple years in Philly. I have a lot of respect for him. Obviously, it makes [Cincinnati] better.”

Marvin Lewis will have his hands full in Cincinnati with Owens joining flamboyant wideout Chad Ochocinco in the Bengals passing offense. It has the makings of a compelling reality TV show despite the headaches it may create for the former Ravens defensive coordinator.

“Marvin doesn’t need our sympathy,” said Harbaugh, drawing laughs from the media. “He’s not looking for it.”

12:40 p.m. — As mentioned before, it was another light day of practice this morning, but I thought I’d pass along a few notes of interest from the workout:

Matt Birk was on the field but did not participate as reports indicated he has been placed on the PUP list with a neck issue. He and Oniel Cousins (recovering from throat surgery) stood by the offensive linemen throughout practice.

During red zone drills (non-contact), rookie tight end Dennis Pitta was flagged for offensive pass interference after pushing off against Miller.

Receiver Mark Clayton—now battling for the No. 3 or 4 spot on the depth chart after starting for several seasons—caught a deep touchdown pass from Joe Flacco in the highlight play of the morning.

Backup quarterback Marc Bulger continues to be in more of a learning mode as he did not take too many reps during passing drills. Bulger, however, did work on plays later  during a walk-through portion of practice.

12:28 p.m. — Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice has just walked into the Best Western in Westminster, announcing his arrival at training camp.

12:25 p.m. — Though we’ve discussed the conditioning test for the last few days, Harbaugh finally explained what the test entails this morning after practice.

“It’s basically six [150-yard runs] in 25-yard intervals,” Harbaugh said. “Every position has a time, and then there’s a designated rest time that’s based on how long it takes to recover. It’s pretty well thought out.”

In other words, the time for a defensive tackle like Cody is not the same as the expectation for a defensive back such as Domonique Foxworth.

12:10 p.m. — Cody obviously expressed relief at the conclusion of his first practice after being cleared to play.

“It felt good [passing the test],” he said. “It was hard at first when I came in yesterday. I knew about the test, but I didn’t quite know how to run it.”

The 350-pound tackle failed the conditioning test on two occasions on Tuesday. Cody admits he still needs to improve his conditioning during training camp.

“It’s pretty good, but I can get better,” he said. “There’s always a lot of room for improvement. That’s what I had a talk with [Harbaugh], and it’s just I can get a lot better before the season starts.”

Despite some ribbing from defensive line coach Clarence Brooks and a few teammates on Tuesday, Cody received plenty of report as he prepared to take the conditioning test Tuesday morning.

“They weren’t too hard on him,” linebacker Jarret Johnson said. “That’s a tough task.”

11:55 a.m. — While John Harbaugh expressed a desire for rookie defensive tackle Terrence Cody—who claims to be right around his listed weight of 349 pounds—to shed a few more pounds before the start of the regular season, it was clear how pleased the head coach was with Cody passing the test early this morning before the 8:45 workout.

“I have to admit I was surprised this morning,” said Harbaugh, who rarely shows such candor when talking about a player’s health or conditioning.

Harbaugh reiterated this morning he wasn’t terribly surprised Cody had failed the test, admitting it poses a challenge to new players, veterans and rookies alike.

“It’s more demaning than most teams I’d say.”

As stated above, rookie free agent Prince Miller also passed the conditioning test, but veteran cornerback Walt Harris, who failed the test on Tuesday, did not practice on Wednesday morning, an indication he has yet to pass it.

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