Monday, July 30, 2007

RAVENS TRAINING CAMP UPDATE

July 30, 2007, Morning Session
The Ravens opened Summer Camp 2007 this morning under hazy conditions which helped to keep temperatures tolerable. Two things that were immediately different and noticeable: the practice location and the color of the teams’ jerseys.

Due to damp conditions on the upper field, the team practiced on the stadium field where they found the familiar momentum turf like that at M&T Bank Stadium. The field was a bit crowded and to a certain degree it limited what all units could do during their respective breakouts.

Whether it’s a permanent thing or not, the offense and defense changed jersey colors. The defense donned the purple previously synonymous with the offense.

The practice was scheduled for 8:15 although most of the team warmed up before the clock struck 8. Their collective approach was workmanlike and efficient and it led to what Brian Billick described as a “crisp” practice.

The practice was devoid of drama with everyone in camp and ready to go save for the growing P.U.P. list with its probable new members observing in shorts (Justin Green, Mike Smith and Dan Cody). Jonathan Ogden was not in attendance.

Cody, sporting black shorts and a black t-shirt seemed to be slightly favoring his right knee which was bandaged as he watched the defensive unit work out.

Although Brian Billick described the practice as crisp, it was hardly exciting for the few thousand who attended. The offense ran through a balanced mix of run and pass, most of the later being the controlled short passing game. Probably the highlight of the day was provided by Prescott Burgess who delivered a jarring hit to Willis McGahee who coughed up the football prior to hitting the turf.

It’s a bit difficult to steer the full team drills that aren’t labeled “live.” One player’s less than full speed is different than the next. The rookie Burgess’ eagerness to impress certainly had something to do with what the vets would describe as a bit of overzealousness.

Many sets of eyes were planted on Jared Gaither. The towering tackle looks very agile for a man of his size and given the steep learning curve that he’s just begun to take on, he held up well today. Terrell Suggs admitted to being impressed and speedy rookie pass rusher Antwan Barnes found the going tough against Gaither as the former Terp’s reach and punch neutralized Barnes during a couple of plays.

The one on one drills are often exciting for the fans but even the electricity that normally accompanies such exercises was absent from this morning's practice. For a recap on one-on-ones, 7 on 7's, 11 on 11's and other observations click HERE
July 30, 2007 Afternoon Practice
The conditions were a bit less comfortable during the afternoon practice session which started at 4:00 PM and finished at 5:30 PM. The team wore their shells and shorts and for the first half of the practice they focused on individual drills designed to improve and sharpen the skill sets required most by their respective positions.

As was the case in the morning session, the majority of the team was already limbering up well before the opening horn sounded. Evan Oglesby and Derrick Martin spent time with the pitching machine, both dancing in place in a manner reminiscent of Muhammad Ali as they fielded fastballs from the machine. D-line Coach Clarence Brooks ribbed both players saying that they couldn’t catch. Later on in practice, Oglesby would prove Brooks right.

The afternoon crowd by my estimate was about 1,500 strong and they were energetic despite the heat and humidity. "HEAP" was chanted often prompting Daniel Wilcox to mutter jokingly to teammates that he should change his name to one that might be chanted more readily.

During some passing drills Brian Billick and Rick Neuheisel coached up the receivers while stressing proper spacing to allow the quarterbacks an ample window to lead receivers properly. Comeback routes were run frequently as Coach Mike Johnson encouraged his unit to “run through it” on the comeback.

Other observations…Kyle Boller flat out rips his intermediate throws. Routes that require 15 to 20 yards particularly from the hash marks in were delivered as accurate lasers to their intended targets this afternoon…McNair’s arm seems to have much more life and zip in it than at this time last season. While his arm still can’t match Boller’s pound for pound, the veteran’s passes are tighter and he’s hitting the receivers on intermediate routes and deep routes in stride more regularly…Sam Koch was flat out crushing some punts this afternoon hitting majestic spirals that carried 50, 52 and 60 yards from the line of scrimmage. He also hit a soaring bomb from the opponent’s 40 yard line to gunner Evan Oglesby who sat down at the one foot line and then dropped the punt, watching it bounce into the front left pylon…Camp backup punter Brendan Carney is simply just another leg in camp. His wobbly punts were flat and averaged 44 yards…Punt returners B.J. Sams, Yamon Figurs and Cory Ross all fielded their chances cleanly. After practice Sams and Figurs were seen catching punts from the pitching machine one handed while cradling another football in the opposite hand.

As players walked off the field, Chris McAlister spotted former Raven Bennie Thompson and kidded Thompson that the buzzards circling overhead were there for him…Jonathan Ogden was seen in a t-shirt and shorts exiting the McDaniel College gym after practice…As mentioned this morning the Ravens offense wore white today. I jokingly said to Rick Neuheisel that he bargained for white to keep his unit cooler. He jested, “You got that right!” As he walked away, he explained that since the team opened on the road, the starting QB got to choose which color jersey the offense would wear in camp…Mark Clayton sat out the PM practice. Mike Johnson explained that he tore a finger nail in the morning session and he didn’t want to aggravate it in the PM. He’s expected back tomorrow.

More from the PM Session HERE

HISTORY STARTS TODAY FOR '07 RAVENS


The Ravens will take the field at McDaniel College this morning with a quiet businesslike approach to the new season. If the OTA’s are any indication, gone is that loud, cocky swagger. Welcome in the new 2007 Ravens brimming with confidence yet balanced by a burning desire to take care of some unfinished business courtesy of a bitter loss to the Colts last January.

Most fans and observers agree that the odds are against the Ravens to repeat the 13-3 record from a season ago given that they will play a first place schedule – a schedule that includes the player-dubbed “murderers row” beginning with a road game in San Diego on November 25 followed by back to back home games against the Patriots (MNF 12/3) and the Colts (SNF 12/9).

But that doesn’t necessarily mean the Ravens will not advance further into the post season in ’07. A look at recent history provides clues that it isn’t just about where your regular season finishes, but more about the momentum a team carries into the playoffs.

In 2004 the Pittsburgh Steelers finished with a remarkable 15-1 record only to lose to the Patriots in the AFC Championship game at home. The following season they caught lightning in a bottle winning their final four games to finish at 11-5 and then advancing into the playoffs as a wild card where they ran the table with four consecutive wins culminating in a Super Bowl XL Championship.

In 2005 the Indianapolis Colts finished the regular season at 14-2 only to lose their first post season game to the Steelers at home. In 2006, after flirting with a perfect season early on, the Colts struggled and then collected themselves behind a surging defense to finish 12-4 and like the Steelers the previous season they ran the post season table with four consecutive victories.

Even the Ravens remarkable 2000 campaign had plenty of ups and downs before they road their own championship wave.

The point is, it’s quite possible, some might say even likely that the Ravens won’t enjoy the same regular season success in 2007 that they did only a year ago. But at the end as we’ve witnessed, that doesn’t matter. It’s not about how you start. It’s all about earning a ticket to the post season dance and then finishing strong.

The season isn’t a sprint. It's a marathon and it begins today.

History starts now!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

RAVENS PONDERINGS PRIOR TO CAMP...J.O. TO THE PUP LIST


As fans of the Baltimore Ravens we have for years yearned to have our own Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Then we settled for our very own Steve McNair.

But the years of incompetent play at the position has left us all with a burning desire to anoint our quarterback of the future. We want to somehow find that diamond in the rough, that black swan, that 6th round pick that can lead us to a handful of Lombardis. And because of that pang in our collective heart we are all too willing to overlook flaws and focus on the positives of a young quarterback.

Many fretted the departures of Josh Harris (now in the AFL) and Derek Anderson. Now some have their knickers in a twist over the release of the great Cullen Finnerty.

There’s a name for QB’s like Finnerty – fodder.

Finnerty was nothing more than an extra arm during OTA’s. He enabled the Ravens to execute their practice schedule. All those receivers and tight ends need arms to throw to them. Could the part-time OTA participant McNair, Boller and Troy Smith fill the air with enough footballs to satisfy?

Maybe but why deaden their arms so early in the season? There is a purpose for the Cullen Finnertys of the world and his purpose was served in Baltimore. Good luck Cullen. Enjoy Cleveland.

Another quarterback that could be on his way after the 2007 season is Kyle Boller. Some here in Charm City have written to me and asked if I thought the Falcons might be a good trading partner for the Ravens and Boller since Mike Vick might be caged and Joey Harrington has not been the answer for the Lions or Dolphins. Plus the Falcons are the proud owners of a few draft picks courtesy of their deal with the Texans that sent Matt Schaub on his way to Houston.

In a perfect world such a deal might make sense for the Ravens. But the world isn’t perfect and the last time I checked the Ravens starting QB isn’t exactly the iron man that Brett Favre is. The Ravens have high hopes for the 2007 campaign and if McNair is unavailable for a game here and there, Boller in a pinch certainly gives the club a better chance to win than Troy Smith.

Ah but you say Daunte Culpepper is available. Please put such delusions of grandeur up on the shelf never to be dusted off again. If Culpepper was still capable, would the Dolphins have let him go so easily after investing so much in him? Of course not! Look they replaced him with a washed up, twitchy deer-in-headlights QB in Trent Green and they spent their No. 2 pick on BYU QB John Beck.

Let Culpepper go somewhere else and play for a season – that is if someone even wants him, and then prove to us all next year that he’s fully recovered and ready to be the quarterback he once was. That said, I seriously doubt he’ll ever be the QB we watched in 2004. By the start of the 2008 campaign, he’ll be more than 3 seasons removed from that 39 touchdown season. No one asked me but I think he’s permanently removed from such a season.

Speaking of being removed, Jonathan Ogden will start summer camp on the P.U.P. list. It’s not a big deal really. For precautionary reasons Ogden hasn’t been an active participant in OTA’s and he missed nearly all of the preseason last year before going on to have one of his best seasons in the last three. And I can tell you now that his conditioning at this time compared to last year is vastly better.

Placing him on the P.U.P. list allows the Ravens to bring in another player to participate in practice. Keep in mind roster sizes are limited even during summer camp. It’s important to have bodies available so that all players get their required reps (hence the previous need for Cullen Finnerty).

Repetitions at right tackle are exactly what Adam Terry needs during camp. Last year Terry was supposed to compete with Tony Pashos for the right tackle job. That didn’t happen in part because Terry had to move over to assume Ogden’s position while he grieved the loss of his Dad. The Ravens won’t make that same mistake again. Expect Terry to be a fixture at right tackle while Mike Kracalik and even Jared Gaither take reps normally assigned to Ogden.

The acquisition of Gaither through the supplemental draft was in a way a perfect storm of sorts. While Gaither is far removed from a Rhodes Scholar, he was immediately and automatically labeled a flunky when he applied so late for the supplemental draft.

Keep in mind that Gaither did not have a very good workout for the scouts and some have said that his inability to do more than 17 reps of 225 pounds on the bench was in part due to his recovery from a shoulder injury. Yet some scouts overlooked that and added laziness to the list of strikes against Gaither.

Now when you take into consideration the tight window resulting from Gaither’s relatively late application for the supplemental, coupled with the injury and the flunky tag and the need to get him in for a physical, teams were reluctant to even take a mid round flyer in the supplemental draft on a player some thought might be a second round pick if he had played another season with the Terps. Factor in the pipeline to Maryland that starts with the philanthropic Steve Bisciotti on one end and Ralph Friedgen on the other, it’s no wonder that Gaither is now a Raven.

The Ravens relationship with the university coupled with favorable logistics that enabled Gaither to get into Owings Mills for a physical in a timely fashion worked in the Ravens favor. I’ve been told that Gaither’s workout in agility drills graded out better than any other Ravens lineman ever.

The physical tools are there. Let’s hope the Ravens have caught lightning in a bottle and not their answer to Sidney Ponson.

Regardless of what happens, the potential upside was clearly worth the blue light special price tag.

Monday, July 23, 2007

24x7 Voted "Baltimore's Best"


Yesterday Mike Duffy from BaltimoreRavens.com joined me and Dev Panchwagh on GAMETIME. A few close associates wondered why I would invite Mike to join us since in their opinion Mike represents the “enemy.”

“Enemy?”

How about “friend”?

I don’t even view the official site as a competitor. You see, Mike has access to the team that I can only dream of. I won’t be on any team charter flights. I don’t have an office at 1 Winning Drive. I don’t get to work out at the team facilities or dine with the coaches and players.

As a result, Mike will have some features that we will likely never have and he will serve as the mouthpiece of the team on the information highway, aka the internet. And that is a good thing for all of us and that’s a great thing for Mike. Personally I look forward to his future contributions.

But what Mike Duffy can’t do really, is be critical. The official site is a tool to promote the team and if a distant observer who didn’t pay close attention to the Ravens read the official site during the middle of the season, that observer would probably conclude that the season was going extremely well even if the Ravens were 0-8.

Look if sales for a consumer products company were a bit off, that company’s website wouldn’t be pointing out a given product’s inefficiencies now would they? Of course not! So why should Mike do that for the Ravens?

That’s where we come in.

Admittedly we lean towards being pro-Ravens and we search for the silver lining in their failures. But at the same time, we need to be objective and openly critical when the circumstances demand it. That’s a luxury we have that Mike Duffy doesn’t have. Hence there will always be a need for Mike’s services and those that we provide and we sincerely thank the Baltimore Ravens for the access that they’ve provided us – access that greatly aids our efforts.

Recently such efforts were recognized in the newest “Best Of” issue of Baltimore Magazine. We were voted by the B-Mag staffers as the “Best Ravens Blog.” Here’s what they had to say:

"It's their almost disturbing obsession with every aspect of the Baltimore Ravens (down to the atomic level) that sets Ravens24x7.com head and shoulders above the other sites. In addition to the sort of compulsive discussion of team minutiae that we like, they actually provide some journalistic-ish coverage of the city's other (some would argue "only") great sports franchise."

Of course none of this would be possible without you our loyal, frequent and casual visitors. Thank you for your support over the years and thank you for your patronage of our great sponsors. Without them we would not be possible.

I hope you keep coming back. We will do our very best to maintain your respect and to earn that of others. We have some exciting and fun things planned for the 2007 season – one that promises to be a rewarding one for the team we know and love – the Baltimore Ravens. We will be announcing those things during the summer weeks ahead.

Until then thank you very, very much, keep bleeding purple and RAVE ON!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

SICK OF VICK


I wish I had a penny for each time radio, TV, the internet and all major print publications have mentioned this name in the last three days – Michael Vick.

What a quandary that Vick and the Falcons find themselves in. First of course there is Vick – the player, the man, the thug in the making who had no idea that dog fights were taking place at his home in Virginia. Yeah right, and his brother Marcus was auditioning for STOMP when he “accidentally” tried to put a fire out on Elvis Dumervil’s leg in the 2006 Gator Bowl.

The lies, cunning deceit and spin doctoring has hardly even begun for Vick and his yet to be named merry band of attorneys which will surely be on par with the Johnny Cochran crew that defended O.J. Simpson. The intent of course will be to create reasonable doubt.

Until the case is tried, and that likely won’t happen during the 2007 NFL season, the court of public opinion will be unmerciful with Vick. Yet the talented quarterback claims to be ready to focus on football and play this season. And if that happens, you and I will be sick to death of hearing the name of Michael Vick, assuming of course you aren’t already.

One has to wonder if Vick will get that chance to play given the heavy fisted rule of Roger Goodell. Goodell is in a tough spot. If you believe that he needs to be consistent in the way he punishes the NFL repeat offenders, then clearly Vick is looking at a suspension.

Recently on ESPN, reporter Len Pasquerelli who lives in the Atlanta area was asked if he thought that Vick would be suspended. Pasquerelli said no. He believes that Goodell would not rule on Vick until the trial was completed because Vick is not a repeat offender.

Really?

What about the Ron Mexico incident? What about the water bottle incident at the airport? What about Vick flashing that disparaging digit at the hometown fans? Were those just random acts of kindness there Len?

But back to Goodell, his ruling on Vick is a bit more complicated because it clearly will have a huge affect on the Atlanta Falcons season and that affects the entire league. To borrow from Brian Billick, the dynamics change. Vick was the face of the Falcons. He was the marketing lever for Arthur Blank’s team and one of the marquee players featured in the league’s promotional campaigns. That has come to a screeching halt. Vick is not even the featured player on the Falcons’ official website. In fact you have to dig a bit to find him now.

Clearly Blank is in a tough spot. The due process available to Vick in a way ties Blank’s hands. Is there any doubt that he would like to suspend Vick himself for the season? But then he’d alienate the players’ union and that sweetheart of a guy Gene Upshaw.

Blank’s Home Depot business could also suffer and pressure from shareholders could influence Blank’s thinking. What if Lowe’s suddenly becomes the home improvement superstore of choice instead of Home Depot? Might picketers begin to harass Home Depot customers? It doesn’t take an overactive imagination to envision P.E.T.A. pacing back and forth at Home Depots across the country.

Perhaps Gene Upshaw would support a Vick suspension but again, the due process has to unfold or Upshaw’s constituents might get a little edgy and that could jeopardize his cushy little job that includes selling out his former contemporaries, i.e. the retired players.

At the end of the day, Vick needs to be punished but the legal due process won’t be swift enough for Goodell and the league. They will have to take action because it could cost them money and that almost always will get the attention of the league and the league owners. (See NFL Europe)

What if the auto makers pull back on advertising? How can the networks air compelling and heartfelt ads for the United Way and then return to a game with Vick front and center?

The NFL has too much going for it to allow one player’s appalling cruelty to animals to cost them. If Vick had any class, he’d volunteer to sit out the season for the benefit of fans everywhere and his teammates who will be saddled with the incessant media coverage of Vick and the accompanying collateral damage.

But I won’t hold my breath waiting for Vick to do the right thing. He has 6 million reasons influencing his desire to play in ’07.

Let’s hope he doesn’t get the chance.

Monday, July 16, 2007

ONE WAY OR ANOTHER SUGGS WILL BE A RAVEN IN '08


The Terrell Suggs contract extension negotiations should be very interesting for all parties involved.

First there’s Suggs himself who is seemingly carefree regarding the subject and more concerned about how he can improve his coverage skills and how he can help the Baltimore Ravens advance beyond the first round of the playoffs.

“[The new contract is] not something that’s on my to-do list. I’m not worried about it. I’m not going to play softer because I’m trying to get a contract. You know how we’re aggressive on this defense. If you don’t bring that, you lose everything about yourself.”

We’ll see if those are just words or if Suggs will cut corners until an extension has been completed. A significant injury could jeopardize even more significant dollars. A peek at Dwight Freeney’s new deal could influence Suggs’ aggressiveness or lack thereof on Sundays.

And speaking of Freeney’s new deal, there’s the master behind that plan, agent Gary Wichard who just happens to be not only Freeney’s agent, but Suggs’ too.

Our own Mark Considine recently compared Freeney to Suggs and another high profile defender who will soon be up for an extension, Julius Peppers. Their respective statistics are remarkably similar but given Suggs’ relative youth Wichard might argue (and with good reason) that Suggs’ growing versatility and age suggest that he’s at least as deserving as Freeney. Wichard might also point out that the Ravens’ stout defense has some aging parts that won’t be around much longer and Suggs’ presence could sustain the solid defensive nucleus that has been a staple of Ravens football.

One of those aging parts and clearly the epicenter of that defensive nucleus has been and continues to be Ray Lewis. Lewis finished 2006 strong and claims to be in his best shape ever but the Ravens perennial Pro Bowler hasn’t played a full season since 2003. Lewis’ contract is up for renewal after the 2008 season and it will be interesting to see how he responds to a record busting contract for Suggs.

Ozzie Newsome will also obviously be front and center and one has to wonder how the departure of Adalius Thomas places additional pressure upon Newsome to get a new deal with Suggs done perhaps even before the season starts. The loss of AD and Suggs could send the Ravens’ faithful into a vengeful frenzy.

When all is said and done Suggs will be a Raven in 2008. He wants to be here, the Ravens want him here and Suggs’ agent Gary Wichard is motivated to make that happen sooner than later. The personal stakes for him are too high particularly in the event of injury.

And if things don’t go well with Wichard, the Ravens will likely do or at least threaten to do something that they prefer not to do – use the franchise tag.

Suggs is a core player and the team can’t afford to let him go.

When the Ravens target one of their own, they usually get their man.

Suggs will be no different.

GAITHER PICK HAS LITTLE DOWNSIDE

The Jared Gaither supplemental pick has very little downside and enormous upside. At 6’9” and 350 pounds he is an imposing behemoth possessing great speed for a man of his size, clocking in at around 5.1 in the 40.

However the pick is a bit out of character for the Ravens. Typically the team seeks out players who are tough, smart, possess a thirst to compete and are good citizens who have shown solid leadership skills. Gaither may be tough but if his grades are any indication, he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed and his 16 bench press reps of 225 pounds during his workout might indicate a questionable work ethic. He was also benched at Maryland after pouting about being switched from left tackle to right tackle.

Gaither is hardly the prototypical Ravens’ prospect.

Before selecting the former Terrapin, the Ravens have never dipped into the supplemental pool of talent to forego a future draft pick. Yet despite going against the grain, this pick makes sense for the Ravens.

The first thing you have to take into consideration is the Ravens roster. Given its depth in many areas (offensive tackle being perhaps the sole exception), the team will be hard pressed to find a fifth round ’08 draft eligible player that can make an impact next year. That player might not even make the final ’08 roster. It would have been no surprise to see the Ravens take a flyer on a player like Gaither at that draft position in ’08 and if you accept that as a possibility, why not get the player in your camp a year earlier?

The Ravens also have a decent pipeline to Ralph Friedgen given the relationship that Ravens’ owner Steve Bisciotti has with the University of Maryland. Undoubtedly the Ravens did their homework given that pipeline and obviously they gained a degree of comfort with Gaither that persuaded them to take this calculated risk.

The Ravens have a need for depth at tackle and with Gaither the price was right. It will be interesting to see if Gaither makes the final 53 man roster. Given that Gaither was a supplemental pick, one would think his chances are decent to make the final cut since sneaking his not so svelte frame through waivers and on to the practice squad are slim.

But there may be another way for Gaither.

If you recall Tony Pashos, coincidentally a fifth round pick in ’03, spent his rookie season on IR with a mysterious hand injury. Pashos spent that season basically building a new body to prepare him for the NFL. Don’t be surprised to see something similar with Gaither. Gaither’s athleticism is superior to Pashos’ and one would hardly question the way the Ravens developed Pashos.

Gaither is a relative bargain for the Ravens. He’s a bit like a penny stock that you hope will surprise you one day but you don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen.

If it fails, no worries.

If Gaither fails, live and learn but again, no worries.

Monday, July 09, 2007

A MID-SUMMER CLASSIC SNOOZER


All-star games have become a joke! Take a look around at all the majors. The NBA and NHL all-star games for the most part penalize players that actually play defense. The NFL Pro Bowl is a slight upgrade from watching the all-stars play touch football upon the sands of Waikiki Beach.

Perhaps the one major that provides an all-star game that is somewhat true to the integrity of their respective sport is Major League Baseball.

At least that used to be the case.

I can remember as a kid, neighbors would gather around in backyards and watch the Mid-Summer Classic on portable TV sets that featured the proper angle of rabbit ears antennae coupled with just the right positioning of aluminum foil in order to efficiently accept the heavenly sent signals.

Players played with pride. They battled to represent their league and they willingly accepted the honor bestowed upon them – a spot on their league’s all-star roster.

Today the MLB all-star game is watered down considerably and it will be next to impossible to restore the passion and interest that once brought neighbors together in backyards, around picnic tables and in front of dozens of spiced up crustaceans.

Not many care enough any more.

There are too many games on. There are too many unfamiliar players on too many new teams. The interleague play highly diminishes the allure of this one time must see television event.

Today players want bonuses to participate. When I was a kid, participation was the bonus. Now in order to get them jazzed up about the game, Einstein’s opposite came up with this incentive of all incentives – let’s let the winning league have home field advantage in the World Series.

Gee, that ought to pump up Brian Roberts and the Devil Rays’ Carl Crawford, don’t you think?

Baseball certainly has its fair share of issues and the all-star game isn’t anywhere near the top of that list. The pace of the game is choking it. Kids today want immediate reward and they are adrenalin junkies. A 4 hour baseball game to the X-box generation is like a gumball to a crack head. It lacks the juice and it doesn’t feed the craving.

Today the Mid-Summer Classic is no different than the game itself or the other major all-star games. They are no more than cures for insomnia.

There was a day when football games were nearly an hour longer than baseball games. Today you are more likely to finish a Ravens game before an Orioles game. That’s like getting a much better entrée at a much better restaurant with far more efficient service at a lower price.

No wonder they don’t gather in backyards the way they used to.

Monday, July 02, 2007

RAVENS FANS IN KEY WEST


Key West lies…at least when it comes to the weather. I am far from a meteorologist but how is it that the high temp in June can be 87 degrees during the day and the low that night 82? What do they do, take the daytime temp under the chair under a shady tree? Every day the forecast is pretty much the same…high in the upper 80’s, lows in the lower 80’s, chance of afternoon thundershowers.

Did they have to go to meteorological school for that?

No way is it just 87 for a high – not when I was there.

Regardless, it wouldn’t change the way I’m drawn to the place. It was hot here in June too so where would you rather be?

Speaking of the heat, Lucky Lund went along with me to Key West this trip and he spotted a Ravens fan in a McNair jersey. Now I’ve got to tell you, wearing a jersey in those tropical conditions while walking Duval Street is a gamey proposition. Kudos to that Ravens fan! Kudos to his wife!

We didn’t see another fan of any other team wearing a replica jersey. Bleed purple!

We did do some parasailing and the guy who hooked us up was a former Navy Seal from Buffalo. I had a 24x7 t-shirt on (I always like to wear tees from home to spark conversation) and the Navy Seal (John Michael) commented that he took it pretty hard when the Ravens lost to the Colts and that he thought the Ravens were going to win it all. He compared it to the feeling he had when the Bills blew that one Super Bowl against the Cowboys.

Whether near or far, the consensus is that McNair picked a bad time to have his worst game of the year. I’m here to tell you though that that loss will bring value to the team in ’07. And that loss didn’t stop that Ravens’ fan from wearing his McNair jersey in the heat of America’s southernmost point.

Now about that trip….

First I need to give a shout out to Al Brown who hooked me up with a Conch Republic castaway named Bob Chaney. Both are local firefighters who frequent the Keys and I’m not sure how he pulled it off (actually I do know but I’m not telling) but Bob Chaney owns a home in Key West situated in a perfect spot nearby all the Duval Street and Old Town Key West action but still far enough away to serve as a retreat – an oasis of sorts. The house was very reasonably priced as well so if you want a hook up, give me a shout.

I’ve detailed many things on my previous trips to the Keys and my loosely assembled travel guide remains a work in progress. Here’s what I’ve provided in the past along with some feedback from others. Today, I’ll add to it.

Some things that we tried this time around…

1. That new spray on sunscreen is great. Just don’t spray it on while driving a convertible. It only ends up sunscreening the sun glasses of the person in the back seat.

2. If you drive down from Ft. Lauderdale or Miami, stop at Mile Marker 85 on the left and take a pit stop at Hog Heaven. No hogs when we were there but the scenery out back was Heavenly.

3. Do try Louie’s Backyard on the Atlantic side of the island (Key West).

4. Roger that for Blue Heaven on Petronia. (Notice a lot of heaven here?) Terrific breakfast with great ambience. I hear the lunch and dinner menus are excellent as well. Baltimore is represented well there…you just have to look a bit. The chickens rule at Blue Heaven and they aren’t very bashful. Unless of course a 3 year old is hell bent on catching one which was the case during our visit.

5. Down in Old Town there is a place called Dante’s which is a big pool that allows guests in for free provided they eat and/or drink there. No worries there. Nice place to kick back and enjoy the scenery. Kids are welcomed.

6. The Southernmost Hotel offers a great pool as well up on the Atlantic side. It overlooks the ocean and the cover is $5.00 which is offset with a drink coupon. Where I come from we call that a no-brainer. Over the course of our 3 hour stay we met a couple from York, PA, 2 couples from Lancaster, PA and 2 couples from Annapolis. Most were Ravens fans except one guy from Annapolis who was a transplant from…yep, you guessed it…Pittsburgh.

7. Looking for a nice adventure? Check out the Danger tour down at the Gulf side near Mallory Square (adjacent from the Hyatt timeshares). It was an 11-5 tour and it included a sail on a schooner plus snorkeling, a crash course in the history, geography and ecology of Key West plus some kayaking, a great lunch and of course adult libations served up after the snorkeling. Well worth the $99 tariff.

8. Meteor Smokehouse was recommended to me and as I made my way towards it I realized I had been there before after an afternoon on Duval. I have no idea why I didn’t recall having been there ;-)~

9. I wanted to recommend this great little internet café…I can’t seem to remember the name but I do believe I have a card from there so when I sort through my stuff (still not completely unpacked) I’ll post it on here.

More on the Keys to come…I think