Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Wild Card Weekend: Texans Coming to Baltimore, Denver Tebows Steelers

January 8, 2012

The Houston Texans succeeded in defending their home turf Saturday afternoon, winning their first playoff game in franchise history. Running back Arian Foster gashed the Cincinnati defense all day, rookie quarterback T.J. Yates made just enough plays, and fellow rookie defensive tackle J.J. Watt made perhaps the play of the postseason picking off Andy Dalton for a touchdown. The 31-10 Houston win sealed their fate in coming to Baltimore for the Divisional Round next Sunday at 1 P.M.

Had Cincinnati have won, it was widely assumed that it would be the Pittsburgh Steelers coming to B’More for round 3 of the rivalry.

Tim Tebow, though, had other plans.

Nobody gave them much of a chance, but Tebow’s Broncos managed to vanquish Pittsburgh in overtime Sunday night, with a thrilling 29-23 victory.

The Steelers were hobbled, with Ben Roethlisberger still nursing his injured ankle (though he looked fine scrambling around in bringing his team back from a two touchdown deficit to force the extra period), and starting defensive linemen Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel both leaving the game early in the first half. Still, that the 8-8 Broncos were able to overcome them for the victory is just as surprising as the Seattle Seahawks win over New Orleans a year ago.

Many Ravens fans had claimed that they were actually pulling for Pittsburgh on Sunday, due to the implications for a potential AFC Championship game. The thinking being that, Pittsburgh had the best chance of knocking off New England (a much better chance than Denver, anyway), in which case a Ravens victory over Houston would result in the AFC title game being Ravens-Steelers in Baltimore.

While that line of thinking is perfectly logical and defensible, I just couldn’t get behind it.

Sports calls for rooting with your heart, not your head, and I don’t have nearly enough control over my emotions to ever subdue them for three plus hours to allow me to root for the Steelers, even if it is “in my best interest.” I was jumping off my couch when Denver was building their lead, and I had that all-too-familiar feeling in the pit of my stomach as Big Baby Ben was mounting his comeback.

When Tebow sent Pittsburgh home losers on the very first play of overtime, I celebrated like it was Joe Flacco and Torrey Smith providing the heroics.

Now, Denver goes to New England. The Patriots beat the Broncos 41-23 in Denver in Week 15, so they’ll rightfully be double digit favorites entering the game. A Pats win would mean that the Ravens would have to travel to Foxboro if they are able to get by Houston.

But at this point, is anybody really ready to count out Tebow?

The good news is that Pats-Broncos will be next Saturday evening, so the Ravens will know their potential opponent before even kicking off. While they can hardly afford to think about it, Ravens fans making plans for AFC Championship weekend will be able to get a head start on things.

I’m of the opinion that the Ravens can beat the Patriots in Foxboro, should it come to that. While an AFC Championship game in Baltimore would have been incredible, I’m not sure my heart could handle another Pittsburgh-Baltimore match up with that much on the line. With the Steelers out of the way, there will be no black-and-yellow cloud hanging over purple town as the postseason euphoria continues, and I’m personally more than happy about that.

Now, let’s get down to focusing on the task at hand – beating the Houston Texans.


Eric DeCosta Staying in Baltimore

January 6, 2012

Ravens’ Director of  Player Personnel Eric DeCosta, whose name has been thrown around this week as a potential General Manager candidate for several teams, will not be going anywhere.

According to the team’s official Twitter account, DeCosta will be staying in Baltimore.

This comes as a great relief to Ravens fans. It’s no secret that DeCosta is the GM-in-waiting in Baltimore, prepared to take over whenever Ozzie Newsome decides to retire from the Ravens and (likely) head back to his Alma mater the University of Alabama. Eric is one of the great football minds in the game, and has been with the Ravens since graduating with a Master’s Degree from Trinity College in 1996.

The Ravens obviously have a great deal of confidence in DeCosta’s abilities to eventually be a successful GM, as they almost undoubtedly had to increase his pay to entice him to stay, with all these other teams requesting his services.

Seven Ravens Named to Pro Bowl

December 28, 2011

The Baltimore Ravens had seven players selected to the 2011 Pro Bowl, good for second most in the NFL. The New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers each had eight players named to the NFL’s version of the All-Star game, while the Ravens tied the Green Bay Packers with seven apiece.

Six of those Ravens selected were named starters; Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, and Haloti Ngata from the defense, and Ray Rice and Vonta Leach from the other side of the ball. Guard Marshal Yanda will be going to Hawaii as a back up.

Yanda was the only first-timer among the Ravens. It’s high time the former Iowa Hawkeye was recognized; since returning from tearing all three major ligaments in his knee during the 2008 season, Yanda has been one of the NFL’s top offensive linemen. He was forced to play tackle for B’More in 2010, but was able to return to his more natural position of guard here in 2011 – and he has been spectacular. Other than getting beat once Sunday for a sack, he has been nearly perfect in pass protection, and he has been a bulldozer opening holes in the running game.

Also, fishing

It’s a bit bittersweet for Yanda, as he receives the honor at a time when his status for the Ravens’ critical Week 17 match up in Cincinnati is very much up in the air. Yanda is dealing with contusions to both his rib area and thigh, and could be held out this week.

As for the other Ravens, they will all be making at least their second trip to the Pro Bowl. Lewis leads the way, being selected to the game for the 13th time, followed by Reed (8th), Suggs (5th, first back-to-back), Ngata (3rd), Rice (2nd) and Leach (2nd).

The biggest snub on this list is obviously cornerback Lardarius Webb. Webb has been the team’s best cornerback in 2011, and can hold his own with pretty much anybody in the AFC. Webb, though, will need to keep up this level of play for at least two consecutive seasons before people around the league start to notice enough to vote him to the Pro Bowl (unfortunately, the image most still have of him is from last year’s playoff in Pittsburgh, when he got beat on 3rd-and-18.)

Five Ravens were also selected as alternates to the game: Ben Grubbs (first alternate), Brendan Ayanbadejo (2nd), Joe Flacco (3rd), Bernard Pollard (3rd), and Michael Oher (4th).

While it’s a nice honor to be named an NFL All-Star, Suggs summed up the feelings of Ravens players and fans alike when he said, upon hearing the news “I have no intentions of playing in the Pro Bowl… I plan on being in practice with my teammates…getting ready for the Super Bowl.”

Anquan Boldin to Miss Two Weeks with Meniscus Tear

December 22, 2011

According to several reporters who cover the team (Aaron Wilson, Jeff Zrebiec, Luke Jones), Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin underwent surgery on Wednesday for a torn meniscus in his knee, and will miss the team’s final two games. He is expected back for the playoffs.

With Boldin out, Lee Evans and Torrey Smith become the team’s starting wide receivers. Tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta will be counted on even more than they have been to run the short-to-intermediate routes with Boldin sidelined.

After leading the NFL in receptions (26) and yards (405) from weeks 6-9, Boldin has seen his production drop dramatically. He has only 16 receptions for 260 yards and one touchdown over the past six games.

Still, the veteran WR is a key cog in the Ravens’ attack. I think they’ll be able to get along with Evans, Smith, and the young tight ends over the next few weeks, but a healthy Boldin will be crucial for the Ravens to accomplish what they’d like to in the postseason.

Ravens Sign Kicker Shayne Graham

December 21, 2011

According to a tweet from the team’s official account, the Ravens have signed veteran kicker Shayne Graham. The Ravens had Graham “on call” for the last several weeks, as regular kicker Billy Cundiff dealt with a left calf injury. Cundiff played both games, going 1/2  on field goal attempts against Indy and San Diego.

Cundiff, while perfect a perfect 26/26 kicking field goals at home since last November, has been dreadful on the road here in 2011, going 10/19 (53%). His miss early in the first quarter Sunday night sapped any momentum the Ravens may have had after a decent opening drive.

With the Ravens losing their inside track to the AFC’s #1 seed, they now face the very real prospect of playing at least one playoff game on the road. They can’t afford to have Cundiff and his 50% success rate going out there attempting a critical postseason field goal, so bringing in Graham is a very wise move.

Graham is also perfect because he is very familiar with the stadiums the Ravens could be playing in over the coming weeks. First off, their last road game of the regular season is in Cincinnati – the game will almost assuredly be a must-win for both clubs. Graham spent seven seasons in Cincy, so he’s used to kicking in “the jungle.”

If the current playoff seedings hold, the Ravens would have to travel to Foxboro if both of those teams win their Divisional Round matches. Not that kicking field goals is the way to beat Tom Brady, but you still have to have faith in your guy. Graham is also a bit familiar with New England; he kicked for the Patriots for eight games in 2010, going a perfect 5/5 in games played in Massachusetts (12/12 overall in 2010).

This year, Graham appeared in two games for the Miami Dolphins, going 4/5 on field goal attempts.

Graham lost out in the kicking competition to Billy Cundiff at Ravens’ training camp prior to the 2010 season.

Cundiff’s feel good story (the guy was selling insurance a couple years ago) could be coming to an end in the NFL. Though he signed a 5-year, $15 million contract with B’More last offseason, the new NFL kickoff rules make his strong touchback leg a bit less valuable. If he can’t rebound from this calf injury and figure out a way to start making field goals consistently (on the road as well as at home), the Ravens could very well move on from him permanently.

Of course, his leg could heal up this week, allowing him to practice and show the coaches that he is indeed fine. In that case, Graham would likely be inactive against Cleveland, and maybe even Cincinnati. For now though, the former Bengal and Patriot is waiting in the wings as a valuable insurance policy to Cundiff.

Lardarius Webb Becomes Third Raven Hobbled by Turf Toe

December 12, 2011

With the hapless Indianapolis Colts in town last week, the number one fear was that the Ravens would suffer another letdown against a poor opponent.

They vanquished Dan Orlovsky and company 24-10, so no issues there.

Next on the fan fear list was that an important player would suffer an injury. As of this morning, it looked like the Ravens had escaped the contest unscathed in that department as well.

Unfortunately, Vinny Cerrato of 105.7 the fan broke the news this morning that the team had indeed suffered a potentially devastating injury.

Lardarius Webb is reported to have suffered a hyperextended big toe, or “turf toe” as it has become infamously known.

Here’s Aaron Wilson of the Carroll County Times:

Baltimore Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb suffered a turf toe injury toward the end of a win Sunday over the Indianapolis Colts.

Under a best-case scenario, Webb is expected to miss one to a few games.

The worst-case scenario is Webb would be out until the playoffs.

Ugh. The only way this injury could have come at a worse time is if it had happened in Week 17, immediately preceding the postseason.

Webb has been far and away the team’s top cornerback in 2011, and leads the team in interceptions with four. He is also the primary punt returner, and after a slow start to the season had been really picking it up in that department as well, taking one back for a touchdown in Week 14 against Cleveland.

Entering this month, there were 15 cornerbacks in the NFL who had been targeted at least 70 times, and Webb was the only one to not allow a single touchdown. He didn’t allow any over the last two games either, so that streak is still alive.

When Webb wasn’t on the field for the Colts’ final series Sunday, it was assumed that he was simply taken out of the game because the score was so lopsided. Instead, it looks like his tackle of Austin Collie on the previous series is where the injury occurred.

If the reports are true, Webb would be the third Raven this season to miss time due to turf toe. Left guard Ben Grubbs missed six games earlier in the year, and Ray Lewis has missed the last four – though he hopes to return in Week 15 against San Diego – with the exact same ailment.

With San Diego next on the schedule, this is a terrible time for this injury to pop up. The Chargers are loaded at the wide receiver position, and the Ravens could have used all hands on deck in the secondary. Without Webb, we have to hope Chris Carr is able to come back from a back injury that has been bothering him of late. While Webb-for-Carr isn’t a 1-to-1 trade by any stretch, the veteran Carr is at least familiar enough with the Ravens’ system that the drop off should be less than if say, Danny Gorrer has to see extended playing time (though Gorrer, for his part, has been a pleasant surprise on the back end).

I would expect Tom Zbikowski to take over on punt returns. While he isn’t nearly as explosive as Webbie, I’d think the coaching staff trusts him more back there than a guy like LaQuan Williams in important games like the ones remaining on the schedule.

Rookie Jimmy Smith will be a guy that certainly sees more of the field with Webb out, and he will have his hands full against the Chargers’ talented WR corps.

Not to get all Football Outsiders on you, but if I were to try to quantify Webb’s absense, I’d have to guess it’s probably worth at least 4-6 points per game. That’s another touchdown or so that the Ravens’ offense is going to have to expect to have to make up for moving forward without Webb. The final AFC playoff seeding is far from set in stone, and the Ravens can’t afford to let this injury derail them down the stretch.

Hopefully Webb doesn’t miss more than a game or two. All teams are dealing with injuries this time of year, and there is no room for excuses as the season’s final weeks tick away. Let’s get Webbie rested up, and in the meantime it has to be “next man up” in the secondary.

Joe Flacco and Wife Expecting First Child

December 12, 2011

Aaron Wilson of the Carroll County Times confirmed with Joe Flacco that he and his wife are expecting their first child.

After a nine year relationship, Flacco and his high school sweetheart, Dana Grady, tied the knot with a private ceremony in Philadelphia last July.

Football fans got a sneak-peek into the life of the typically reserved Ravens quarterback. His wedding pictures were so unique that they went viral throughout major websites both sports and non-sports related.

Flacco has been making headlines as of late not only for his consistent play on the field but for his well manicured Fu Manchu mustache for charity. Mixing the popularity of the Flacco-stache’ along with the Ravens success, Flacco’s popularity may be at an all time high.

The gender of the child will not be revealed because the Dana and Joe want it to remain a surprise; however, it may not stop them from releasing sonogram pictures. Seeing how the couple already gave Ravens fans a glimpse into their wedding, should we assume the same could be said about Baby Flacco?

With the finest in high-definition cameras now available for sonograms, images of unborn children are as popular as family pets now on Facebook. If the picture is released, this futuristic image of Baby Flacco may be showing up on your wall…

Ravens Bidding Permanent Farewell to Westminster?

November 30, 2011

An article in The Baltimore Sun by Ravens columnist Mike Preston has people in Ravenstown all worked up this morning.

Nothing new there.

For once, though, our anger isn’t directed at Preston himself for some perceived shot at our favorite team. Rather, it is our team themselves who have us foaming at the mouths – and it has nothing to do with their play on the field.

Instead it has to do with the location of the field where they will be not playing, but practicing, come Summer 2012.

In the piece, Ravens training camp might stay in Owings Mills, Preston says that the Ravens might elect to hold their annual training camp activities at the facility in Owings Mills (as they did in 2011 due to the NFL lockout) permanently moving forward, ending the longstanding tradition of holding summer practices at McDaniel College in Westminster.

The Ravens are involved in negotiations with McDaniel College officials about returning training camp to the Westminster campus, but the early indication is that the team will continue to hold summer practices at the team’s facility in Owings Mills.

The Ravens have financial concerns. They have to move their offices, equipment, weight and training rooms to McDaniel, and that costs money. I don’t know the exact costs, but we can assume that some of it is offset by the corporate sponsorship displayed around the practice fields in Westminster.

The Ravens will also cite convenience. Why do they want to deal with temporary conditions when everything they need is right there in Owings Mills?

I understand their points. I also know that head coaches are control freaks, and John Harbaugh is no different. He can keep his eye on everything in Owings Mills instead of having to use makeshift conditions and go back and forth from the practice fields to the hotels. At Owings Mills, everything can be done inside The Castle.

Once the Ravens announced there would be no training camp in Westminster earlier this year, you sensed this might be the end.

Actually, it never even occurred to me that it would be the beginning of the end for Westminster. If it indeed is, though, it would be nothing short of a crime against the purple community.

Personally, training camp is no big deal – I’ve been twice in my life. Sure, it was cool, but I much prefer game day in the fall. However, I understand that my situation is not the norm among Ravens fans.

I live 20 minutes from M&T Bank Stadium.

I have no children.

For a family with two or three Raven-loving kids, that happens to live in Hagerstown or Frederick or somewhere else not convenient to M&T, training camp offers a very appealing family-outing alternative to paying the sky-high ticket and concession prices and dragging the whole clan down to Baltimore for an afternoon. In addition to that, the overall experience for a child can be at least as, if not more, exciting at training camp, where they can get autographs and see their favorite players up close, as opposed to from a seat in the upper deck.

Training camp in Westminster is a tradition that goes back to the old Baltimore Colts days, and the Ravens used that nostalgia to their advantage when they came to town.


Times change, and so do finances, but I remember the first couple of training camps in Westminster.

Back then, the Ravens were trying to recapture some of the glory from the old Colts who trained at what was then known as Western Maryland College. The Ravens wanted to salvage that pipeline.

Baltimore fans were initially lukewarm to the Ravens, some still feeling ashamed by the similar methods with which Indianapolis took the Colts from Baltimore and Baltimore took the Browns from Cleveland.

The Ravens did everything they could to get the community involved and practically begged fans to come to camp. But it’s a different game now because the Ravens are the top draw in Baltimore. If they want to alienate a few thousand, maybe even as many as 10,000 fans, so be it.

But I’m not sure top Ravens officials really understand the bond between a city, especially this one, and training camp.

It doesn’t happen often, but Preston and Ravens fans will be on the same page with this one.

Could this be another case of Mike unnecessarily rousing the fan base though?

For what it’s worth, this morning on 105.7 The Fan, Steve Davis said that his sources with the Ravens disputed Preston’s claim that Westminster costs the team money, saying instead that they actually MAKE money due to companies buying advertising space at the college facilities. In addition, Davis indicated that, at the moment, it’s not a matter of the Ravens leaning toward leaving as it is a matter of them not addressing the situation just yet.

Owner Steve Bisciotti has said in the past that some of his favorite childhood memories are of watching the Colts at training camp in Westminster, and the decision ultimately rests with him. I can’t see Bisciotti depriving a new generation of Baltimore football fans those same kind of memories.

We’ll see what happens, but permanently moving training camp from McDaniel, regardless of how many free practices the team may decide to hold at M&T, would be a public relations nightmare, and would alienate a lot of fans.

Ray Lewis Skips Media Session, Releases Statement

November 22, 2011

It’s not like Ray Lewis to give up an opportunity to step in front of the microphones.

Especially when his team is 7-3 and sitting atop the AFC.

And not when the Ravens are about to play in a nationally televised game that is being hyped in the media to no end.

These are the situations where Ray is usually more than happy to be front and center.

However, that’s not how it happened today in Owings Mills at the media session. Instead of giving an interview, Ray released the following statement:

I apologize for not being available as I normally am on a day like today, but I am taking every opportunity to get treatment on my foot to prepare to play on Thursday. Anytime you see your team on the field, you always want to be out there with them. As the leader of your team, it doesn’t sit well with me to be on the sidelines. But I was the biggest cheerleader out there on Sunday, and I was truly proud of the way we played as a team. I am doing everything in my power to get back as fast as I can, whether that’s this week, next week or whenever it is, I am doing everything I can to be out there with my team. I want to play Thursday night, and I am making some progress.

Ray was listed as a limited participant in practice on Monday. It will be interesting to see if he steps foot on the practice field this afternoon.

For now though, I’d say that the key part of that statement is the “whether that’s this week, next week or whenever it is” part. I wouldn’t hold my breath for #52 to take the field Thursday night.

We’ll see though. It’s still Ray.

Oh No. Ray Lewis to Miss Bengals Game, Maybe More

November 18, 2011

Oh, no. No no no no no no.

Bad news in Ravenstown, folks.

Aaron Wilson tweeted early Friday morning that the foot injury that has kept Ray Lewis out of practice this week isn’t nearly as trivial as all of us had thought, and hoped, it would be. It looks much worse, as Ray will miss Sunday’s crucial division clash with the Cincinnati Bengals, and could miss more:

This is potentially devastating news for our purple birds. Lewis hasn’t missed a game in the John Harbaugh era, last sitting out the last couple games of the 2007 season. His absence couldn’t come at a worse time for the Ravens, with the 6-3 Bengals and then the NFC West leading San Francisco 49ers both coming to M&T Bank Stadium in the next seven days.

If I’m fishing for some optimism, at least inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe returned to practice fully on Thursday, and should be ready to play this week. Ellerbe has missed the last several games, and his absence has been felt, especially last week in Seattle when Marshawn Lynch broke the 100-yard plateau on the ground.

Ray is the emotional leader of the defense though, as well as the coach on the field, and Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, and Haloti Ngata will all need to shoulder some of the load moving forward. Hopefully Ray won’t miss more than a game – two at most – but you can’t overstate how significant of a void there will be Sunday with no #52 on the field.