Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The buzz around Owings Mills and the NFL...might ticket prices soar?

Something to think about as the Ravens prepare for a series of upcoming mini-camps…

Fans of Musa Smith and Gerome Sapp are in mourning. The Ravens’ activity on draft day (acquiring two RB’s and two safeties) has all but ended their careers in purple and black…Terrell Suggs has the same agent as Dwight Freeney. His name is Gary Wichard. Wichard will push for Freeney-type money for his client but a more interesting and perhaps a more appropriate measuring stick for the costs to sign Terrell Suggs is the new deal that Jared Allen recently struck with the Minnesota Vikings. Allen’s new contract is for 6 years and $73.26 million according to The deal is said to include $31 million in guaranteed money and is structured like a four year deal for all intents and purposes. Allen’s scheduled salaries for 2012 and 2013 ($11.6 million, $14.3 million) scream for restructuring. Expect Wichard to spin this in Suggs’ favor by pointing to Allen’s off the field issues. Allen is one .08 on the breathalyzer away from a one year suspension. Comparatively speaking on the field, the 26 year old Allen has 43 career sacks over 4 seasons while Suggs has 45 over 5…

The 2008 NFL Draft was relatively short on blue chip prospects yet most NFL execs would suggest that it was a rather deep draft and that in part explains the Ravens trading activity this past weekend. The philosophy is rather simple – more picks in a deep draft equates to more hits at the NFL level…One hit Ravens’ fans hope Ozzie & Co. made exists in the form of QB Joe Flacco. While most in the Ravens war room favored Matt Ryan over Flacco, the same cannot be said about the team’s new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. SI’s Peter King would have you believe that the Ravens offered the Rams 2008’s first, second and fourth picks along with next year’s No. 3 to move up 6 spots. That deal seems so unlike anything the Ravens would consider particularly when Flacco was very available and favored by an established developer of quarterbacks in Cameron. By the end of the day Sunday, Matt Ryan v. Joe Flacco-Ray Rice-Tavares Gooden-Fabian Washington looks like a win for the Ravens. Time will tell. But back to Peter King, you have to wonder where he gets his info and something tells me this tale may have been that of Matt Ryan’s agent trying to create leverage for his client. Moving him up one spot in the draft means more money for Ryan and of course more Benjamins for his agent Tom Condon.

“Measurables” is a term often used to describe the stats of NFL draft eligible prospects. Ravens’ new RB Ray Rice has been timed at roughly 4.4 seconds in the 40 yard dash. And while that may seem impressive even more impressive is his ability to accelerate rapidly from the moment he accepts a handoff. Rice’s ability to quickly get into gear coupled with his listed 5’8” frame while standing behind behemoths averaging 6’5” will be a challenge for opposing linebackers looking to take down the diminutive ball carrier. Rice also brings an outstanding work ethic and a passion for football all suggesting that he could become a hometown favorite.

Sooner or later the NFL will have to address the out of control upward spiraling of rookie salaries and the solution won’t be simple. Jamarcus Russell has already earned over $30 million yet he’s done absolutely nothing in the NFL. Those dollars make it more difficult for clubs to extend healthier contracts to valuable veteran reserves – players who have paid their dues. Look for the owners to try and emulate what the NBA does with their drafted players and expect Gene Upshaw and his collection of incompetent yes men to push back. It’s going to get ugly…Negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement will get even uglier after the 2010 season. Upshaw has warned that if the owners can’t get it together and the league enters any season without a cap, that the cap will be gone forever. Some small market owners may not care if the cap goes away. If increases in the cap approach or exceed the increases in team revenues, small market teams will resist and the cap will fall apart. The collateral damage of a fallen cap will leave an NFL that resembles Major League Baseball – a system that rewards the rich. You can then look for the Cowboys and Redskins to become the Yankees and Red Sox of the NFL.

Locally the Ravens really have nowhere else to go to expand their market. With an ocean to the east, the Steelers to the west, the Eagles to the north and the Redskins to the south, there’s little room for growth for the Ravens. Given that they don’t have a deep and rich history Steve Bisciotti is boxed in a bit. Reaching outside of the region is difficult and would probably require a QB on par with the Peyton Mannings and Tom Bradys of the world. That might help with the sale of merchandise and when you think about it, it might explain the business side of why the Ravens owner fancies a stud QB. But other than that and milking local radio stations for all they’ve got, perhaps the only way for the Ravens to increase revenues is by increasing ticket prices.

Enjoy the hold on 2008 ticket prices while it lasts…

2008 NFL Draft Grades are useless

It absolutely cracks me up how the average fan or average talking head for that matter, can sit back and grade a draft less than 24 hours after it is completed. Most who follow the game even semi-casually would agree that a draft truly can’t be measured until two to three years down the road. These immediate grades are about as useful as mock drafts and the existence of both is further proof of our nation’s insatiable appetite for the NFL.

And that’s a good thing if you ask me…

But placing value on these draft grades and mocks makes about as much sense as placing a down payment on an engagement ring before a blind date.

Recently’s Todd McShay served up this beauty and I kid you not – a first round mock draft for 2009 NFL Draft which by its very nature inherently possesses speculation, predictions and shot in the dark forecasts on where each team will finish in 2008 in order to formulate a draft order. And that's before McShay populates that order with players. What a waste of time! Only a couple of months ago Kentucky's Andre Woodson was projected as a top 15 selection. Anyone see where he went in the draft?

Yet people are buying this stuff. I guess it gives us more NFL to talk about over a pint at your friendly neighborhood tavern.

But back to the draft grades…

How can any of us criticize Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta today for what they did a little over 72 hours ago? Did any of you study film on the 200 prospects that comprised their draft board? Did any of you spend 200 nights per year on the road, travel from campus to campus and watch college players practice and/or play? Anyone speak to collegiate head coaches and positional coaches about those players? Anyone interview the parents to gauge a candidate’s character and upbringing? Anyone sit down with the Ravens new coaching staff – a staff that has spent countless hours evaluating the team’s talent to determine the proper missing pieces? Anyone know what style of offense Cam Cameron has in mind for the Ravens or the apparent increased emphasis on the importance of special teams with John Harbaugh?

My guess is you’ve answered no to all of these somewhat rhetorical questions.

That doesn’t mean Newsome and DeCosta are above criticism. If you want to criticize, go back to 2004-2006 and look to see how those players have performed so far as professionals. Grading that makes more sense because you have a body of work to actually grade at the NFL level. But to grade them today? That's like the average layman critiquing the performance of a world reknown neurosurgeon.

Let’s face it, young athletes mature at different paces and some peak earlier than others. Some have work ethics that allow them to improve at a faster rate than others. Freed from the college classroom, they can devote their studies to the NFL classroom and improve their understanding of plays, schemes and tendencies. This might improve the reaction times of athletes so they don’t have to think as much because their recognition skills are sharper due to dedication off the field. And perhaps all of this enables a player to perform better as a pro player than they did as a collegiate player – think Tom Brady.

Conversely, some that were once dominant as college players fall back to the pack. Perhaps they were part of a system that ensured their success and outside of that system their effectiveness diminishes. Maybe the talent catches up to them, their effectiveness tumbles as does their confidence and promising futures are shattered – think Tim Couch.

On draft day, it’s up to Newsome and DeCosta to consider the team’s roster, goals and objectives, coaching staff wishes, desires and teaching abilities, team direction, strengths and weaknesses, prospects’ mental and physical upsides and then project how hundreds of athletes might fit in and complement the current personnel on their football team.

Isn’t it ridiculous to critique their decisions now?

It’s the equivalent of measuring the aesthetic beauty of your new front lawn when you just planted the seed yesterday.

Put away your red pens for now and let’s talk in a couple of years about the Ravens draft class of 2008. Until then, it's best to just have a little faith in a Ravens front office that as outperformed 90% of the other clubs on draft day.

Chances are they've done it again.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Harbaugh shakes things up...Ravens' Nation loses one of its own

Last year while hosting The Bart Scott Show on ESPN Radio, one question that I often asked myself after digesting the things I heard from Bart and his guest teammates was, “Who is really running the Ravens?”

I heard from the players just as you have about how Brian Billick treated them with respect and treated them like men. I heard it so often, it became rather boring.

Then one day when Bart was joined by Terrell Suggs I posed the question as they prepared for their bye week, “What if Brian Billick decided to make you guys practice during the bye?”

The look on their faces said it all – there was no way that they would allow Billick to do that and to do so would incite the equivalent of a mutiny. When I reminded them that Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin had the Steelers practice during their bye despite a then impressive record, Bart said, “Well that’s because he’s new. When you’re new you can do those things.”

With that response I knew who was running the team and it wasn’t Brian Billick. The veteran players ran the team. It was a slow process but Billick’s philosophies and the liberties he extended to his players eventually came full circle to the point where he was merely a puppet and a mouthpiece not too unlike Bud Selig is to baseball.

That’s not a slight to Billick. It’s just an opinion on how his administration evolved. It was a slow death that rightfully ended with a mercy killing that in the long run will benefit all involved, including Billick.

Today there’s a new sheriff in town as evidenced by the energy and activity in the gym at One Winning Drive.

"There is a lot of positive energy in the building," Bart Scott said. "Coach is young and enthusiastic. He is visible and in your face. He seems like a player, but he has something to prove. He has to prove he can become a successful head coach.”

So like Tomlin was to Pittsburgh in 2007, John Harbaugh is to the Ravens in 2008 – new and capable of implementing a new attitude and work ethic. The players don’t own Harbaugh like they did Billick and in retrospect Harbaugh’s arrival seems almost past due.

"He is in the same situation as the players," Scott continued. "We're all in this green mile together. Was last year the end of our run? Are we too old to make another run? Do they blow this thing up after this season? We're all trying to find the right answer, but right now, I like what I see.”

Winning over the players with a more hard-nosed philosophy than his predecessor was a battle that Harbaugh needed to win. Early indications are that he’s well on his way. It is important for him to stay the course and not buckle to the veteran pressure as a rookie head coach, something that in part did in Brian Billick.

Ironically, Harbaugh’s first game will come against the same team that delivered Brian Billick to the Ravens back in 1999 -- the Minnesota Vikings. Until that time it will be interesting to see how the players continue to respond to Harbaugh in mini-camps and ultimately summer camp which promises to be light years apart from anything many of the Ravens’ vets have ever experienced.

And that’s a good thing!

Speaking of good things, one of the great byproducts of having an NFL team in town is the friendships that blossom as a result of a common interest. Many have re-acquainted themselves with family and friends as a result of the Baltimore Ravens. Many have forged new friendships for the very same reason. One Ravens’ fan who did exactly that is Ron Cucina. Ron fell after a valiant battle against lung cancer.

I never had the privilege of meeting Ron but from what I can gather his strength, perseverance and gritty determination when defending against this mighty foe was not unlike that of his favorite defense. The Ravens' Nation is down one decorated soldier.

Ron, aka Sock Dolager, one of the original members of Extreme Ravens will be greatly missed by those who were fortunate enough to have known him. Ron died at the age of 66 at home and in the presence of his devoted wife. Our deepest condolences go out to all those who knew Ron, particularly his family, friends and co-members of Extreme Ravens.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Should the Ravens consider WR Chris Henry?

I don’t care how hard up the Ravens or any team for that matter are for a wide receiver, no one should consider hiring Chris Henry.

Let’s face it, Chris Henry is an idiot. Here’s a guy who is one of the relatively privileged few who get to play in the NFL. Here’s a guy who has repeatedly abused that privilege after being caught speeding, driving under the influence, possession of illegal substances, playing hanky panky with minors and assault and battery amongst other things. After all of that and an eight game suspension in 2007, this clown is given yet another chance and he’s blown that too.

When is enough, enough?

Well for the Cincinnati Bengals the answer is “Now!”

To which I say, “It’s about freakin’ time!”

Look if you have a kid that works at McDonald’s, does he get a second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth chance to go back to work after five arrests. Five arrests! And folks these are the times when he has been caught. How about all the broken laws he’s likely gotten away with?

At some point, doesn’t an employer reach the point when they realize that all the compassion and understanding and sob stories about upbringing in the world are never going to change the colors of this rotten maggot of a human being?

The most recent allegations against Henry suggest that the 24-year-old punched an 18-year-old man in the face and then broke his car window with a beer bottle. Now I know that at times these athletes are targeted and baited into situations, especially dumb ones like Henry. But after all he’s been through and for the most part gotten away with, and even if he is 100% innocent of the latest charges, why in the world is he even out in the company of near-minors? I think it’s safe to say that Henry just doesn’t get it and he shouldn’t get it! And the “it” in this equation is the privilege of playing in the National Football League.

Naturally Henry’s attorney Perry Ancona disputed the charges by saying, "We have a different set of facts we ask the court to consider.”

Facts? The only fact here is the Bengals finally did the right thing by releasing Henry. Mike Brown and the Bengals’ organization did all they could to help Henry and this is the respect that he extends to the organization and to his teammates?

Now I understand that the league has to be careful in what they say and do at this time regarding Henry but NFL spokesman Greg Aiello’s statement that it is premature to speculate on wide receiver's future in the league at this time is almost comical, particularly with all of the emphasis by the league’s owners on the integrity of the game at the recently completed owners’ meetings in Florida.

Aiello was joking right? I mean to reinstate Henry would suggest that all of the talk about integrity was nothing more than lip service. I don’t care if Henry did it or not. Just being remotely near such a situation is enough for me to boot the guy from the league forever.

Ironically, with these latest shenanigans Henry did little to help his former college roommate Pacman Jones and his hopes for reinstatement in the league. If anyone thinks that Jones knows that his potential reinstatement is his last chance and that realization will inspire him to toe the line of decency, forget it! If you think that Jones can’t possibly be that stupid, think again! Henry is proof that rotten apples don’t suddenly become sweet ones just because they’ve been given a reprieve. Henry is proof that dumb athletes don’t suddenly become smart ones.

Hopefully those who have even remotely considered Pacman Jones will let the idiocy of Chris Henry convince them that giving Jones another chance is the equivalent of sticking their head in the sand and their money in the incinerator. Certainly that should get the attention of profit driven NFL owners even if they are foolishly intoxicated by Jones’ athletic prowess.

Ban Henry permanently and keep Jones on the shelf perpetually. These thugs were once roommates. If they keep it up, maybe one day they’ll be cell mates too.

But maybe that’s just wishful thinking…

Thursday, April 03, 2008

NFL Rule Ch-ch-ch-changes

The NFL owners approved a few rule changes that will be in force the next time two teams tee it up and put the ball in play. The approved changes are as follows along with my initial reaction to said changes...

1. A recommendation to eliminate force-out decisions on pass completions near the sidelines. Now, officials will have to decide only whether a receiver landed inbounds or not. The intended result is more consistency.

TL’s View: On the surface this might appear to simplify things for the officials but what is to prevent a defender from literally catching and carrying a receiver out of bounds to have a caught pass ruled incomplete? It doesn’t take an overactive imagination to see many would be touchdowns negated after a pass is caught near the back of the end zone in heavy traffic. This could also change the way scouts look at defensive backs. Perhaps an even higher premium will be placed on the size and strength of corners and safeties.

2. The "Phil Dawson field goal rule." Now, certain field goals can be reviewed by instant replay, including kicks that bounce off the uprights. Under the previous system, no field goals could be reviewed.

TL’s View: It’s about time. I’m sure the 1965 Colts would have appreciated this rule after a kick by Packers’ placekicker Don Chandler was ruled good although even to the kicker himself the boot appeared to be wide right. Nevertheless Jim Tunney signaled the kick good to force the game into overtime – one that the Colts lost enabling the Packers to capture the Western Conference Title and go on to win the NFL Championship.

By the way, how many of you left that game against the Browns last season only to find out the Ravens did not in fact win the game in regulation?

3. Deferring the opening coin toss. This is similar to the college rule. Previously, the winner of the coin toss could choose only to receive or to kick off.

TL’s View: This could have helped the Ravens many times during the Billick Administration. How many of you wanted the Ravens to defer particularly at home, get the Ravens defense on the field and immediately begin winning the battle for field position while having the advantage of getting the ball to start the second half? Yeah, me too!

4. A direct snap from center that goes backward will now be treated as a fumble. Previously, it was ruled a false start.

TL’s View: Quarterback’s will need to leave their skirts in the locker room. Rule makes sense to me. Let’s hope Chris Chester has big hands, develops a nice touch and has a great memory. Remember the snap count Chris.

5. Eliminating the 5-yard face mask penalty. Now, only the serious face mask will be called (and will be assessed as a 15-yard penalty). The major foul will involve twisting or grabbing the face mask.

TL’s View: On the surface, this rule makes sense. Too many times it seemed that defenders were penalized 5 yards for ticky-tacky fouls keeping drives alive for the opponent. Now officials will call only those penalties that are blatantly obvious fouls. At least that is the goal. I’m a bit concerned now though that fouls that used to get a 5 yard flag and might not have been significant enough to move the chains will now give the offense an even greater advantage. And speaking of offensive advantages, why is it that a ball carrier can throw a vicious stiff arm into the face of a defender without consequence?

6. A player on defense, similar to the quarterback, can now wear a radio helmet to accept defensive play calls from the sidelines or coach’s booth.

TL’s View: Ground control to Major Tom…what’s fair is fair.

A proposed rule change to prohibit hair hanging over the back of jerseys to the nameplate has been tabled. The proposal was championed by Herm Edwards and the Kansas City Chiefs. Herm apparently has trouble not only managing the game clock but also remembering players’ names. Salons across America featuring hair extensions breathed a collective sigh of relief upon learning of the tabling decision.

Photo by Sabina Moran

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Ravens need to be careful when negotiating with Ray Lewis

So finally the seeds to the much expected and long awaited Ray Lewis contract discussions have been planted, they’ve taken root and the person responsible for it is none other than Ravens’ owner Steve Bisciotti.

At the owners’ meetings in Florida Bisciotti had this to say when asked if 2008 could be Ray Lewis’ last with the team.

"If he becomes a free agent next year, I think the Ravens would probably outbid other teams. We know Ray's value more than the other teams. We know the leadership he brings to the team. We know the commitment and the effort he gives to winning."

Now on the surface you might think that Bisciotti’s statement may have opened up Pandora’s Box for Ozzie Newsome. Ray and his representatives now may want to ride out the season, find a suitor elsewhere in the league next February and bring that offer back to Bisciotti and say, “Now is your chance to outbid!”

The perfect place for Ray to start would be Cleveland. Phil Savage certainly is well aware of Ray’s importance to the team, ownership and the city. He could throw an insincere yet inflated number at Ray with the hope that he can paint the Ravens into a corner using Bisciotti’s words as the paint brush.

If he could do it with Chester Taylor, he can certainly do it with Ray Lewis.

But did Bisciotti really tip his hand? Using the word “probably” probably leaves him an out. Bisciotti also hinted that reasonability would be part of discussions with Ray when he said during the same owners’ meetings, "Like all negotiations, there will be a gap between what we think we're willing to pay and what they think he is worth."

What the Ravens are willing to pay is very key here. They’ve shown in the past that they are willing to pay handsomely. The truth be told, the club appears to get too attached to their No. 1 picks and they give too much credence to sentimental value. Add it all up and the Ravens far too often are guilty of overpaying. They’ve done it with Ray in the past, J.O., Reed, Heap and McAlister.

They also seem to be enamored with aging stars who are looking to cash in on what they’ve done instead of what they will do and when those players are deemed to be no longer useful they become a drag on the team’s salary cap (see Steve McNair and Samari Rolle).

“Probably” gives Bisciotti an ore to backstroke with. And if Ray does hit the open market and someone wants to overpay for him, the Ravens need to be ready to say goodbye. Think Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott – the 49ers let them go and managed to stay competitive for awhile, even winning a Super Bowl in 1995.

Paramount to any discussions about a Ray Lewis extension is gauging the balance of his career. Clearly Bisciotti is delusional if he thinks Ray has 4-5 good years left. The man hasn’t completed a full season since 2003 and he does not take on blockers nor does he punish ball carriers behind the line of scrimmage the way he once did in part because he is trying to preserve his scarred shoulders.

The best thing the Ravens can do right now with Ray is absolutely nothing and therein possibly lays the silver lining. In that scenario you may see Ray Lewis more determined than ever to prove the world wrong and turn in a banner 2008. Then he can hold the Ravens ransom, provided they let him.

Let’s see what Ray brings in 2008. Let’s see what he brings in December when the wear and tear of another season tests the will of players. Let’s see what an aging yet highly motivated Ray Lewis can do. Even then, the Ravens hold the winning cards provided they don’t allow emotion into the negotiating mix.

Ozzie could point to Ray’s age, his beaten shoulders and the eroding value of players who don’t touch the ball or the quarterback in order to keep the declining superstar’s demands in check. Perhaps other teams will take note and conclude that if Baltimore isn’t offering Ray big dollars, why should we? Others might also take note of what former Ravens defenders have done in other systems. Usually they aren't as effective as they were in Baltimore.

Who knows, maybe the club has learned. They had no problem watching Adalius Thomas head out of town despite being a fan favorite. The team rightfully decided then that they were not going to pay AD going forward for what he had already accomplished. They wanted to pay for production going forward.

It all comes back to Ozzie’s mantra – “Right player, right price.”

With Ray Lewis that mantra will be put to the test like never before.

Photo by Sabina Moran

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

THE RUMORMILL: In Owings Mills and around the NFL

Pacman Jones and his agent have failed to create much interest in the trade market for the services of the talented but troubled corner of the Tennessee Titans. The Titans are open to any reasonable or even unreasonable offer for Jones but so far only the Dallas Cowboys have had any mildly serious conversations with Jeff Fisher & Co. – until now.

Word is that the Ravens have secretly met with Pacman and the discussions are said to have gone well. We could not confirm what Ravens’ representative met with Jones but we did hear some unconfirmed reports that the meeting took place at a small club on Broadway in Fells Point. If a Pacman Jones trade happens it will likely take place just after the Ravens first selection in the ’08 draft.

Many believe that the Ravens’ first pick will be Matt Ryan if he’s available. However recent reports suggest that the Ravens interest in the Boston College quarterback has cooled. Apparently while doing an exhaustive background check on Ryan which included a careful tracing of his genealogy, it was discovered that Ryan’s great, great grandmother was a second cousin of Kyle Boller’s great, great uncle. No one from the Ravens would confirm or deny this discovery.

Should the Ravens ignore Ryan’s not so flattering heritage and select him anyway, it would leave the team with four quarterbacks – a number the Ravens are apparently comfortable with. John Harbaugh as you well know is a special teams coaching ace and he’s had discussions with Kyle Boller about contributing to Jerry Rosburg’s unit. Early signs point towards Boller being assigned to the all hands team and he could spell Yamon Figurs as the punt returner, a move very reminiscent of Joe Theismann early in his career.

New NFLPA president and Titans center Kevin Mawae is doing battle these days for his long-haired constituents. The league’s owners are considering measures that would place limitations on the length of a player’s hair. Mawae isn’t keen on the idea and he has hired the creators of American Crew to design a comfortable clip that players could insert into their helmets. The clip would evenly distribute the long locks in such a way that they would actually serve as an additional cushion inside the helmet, providing more protection against blows to the head. If successful Mawae believes that the clip could mitigate many career ending concussions and it could influence more players to emulate the styles of Troy Polamalu, Ricky Williams, Steven Jackson, Lawrence Maroney, Bob Sanders and Mike McKenzie.

Phil Savage is known to be a rather sensitive guy who takes to criticism the way a vampire takes to sunlight. Recently Tony Grossi from the Cleveland Plain Dealer questioned Savage about dealing away the team’s entire Day 1 of the 2008 NFL Draft. Grossi pointed out that Savage headed up one of the league’s worst drafts back in 2004 just before he left Baltimore for Cleveland. Now that the Browns have no picks until the fourth round, Grossi insinuated that Savage could be moving on from Cleveland during or after the 2008 season, leaving the Browns with a mess of a draft class comparable to that of the Ravens in ‘04. Savage abruptly ended the presser with the Cleveland media and was later seen in his office with puffy red eyes. When asked about the disturbing development Savage claimed that it was simply an allergic reaction to some cupcakes that his mother dropped off earlier in the day.

Brian Billick
was a very vocal detractor of the 45 man roster and rightly so. If you pay 53 players, why can’t you play 53, right? Well apparently the league has finally seen the light and they are about to correct this egregious error. Beginning in 2008 all teams can suit up 53 players. Coaches must designate the first 45 players and of the remaining 16 players on the roster (8 from the active roster and 8 from the practice squad), 8 will be voted on to the 53 man game day roster submitted 90 minutes prior to kick off.

In a move made by Commissioner Roger Goodell to give fans a say in their team, the 16 players not among the first 45 will be posted on the official website of each team every Friday morning in the form of a poll. The 8 players receiving the most votes will be activated on the following Sunday. John Harbaugh is said to be delighted with this development because he’s heard that Ravens fans are among the league’s most astute and this gives his club a competitive edge.

Speaking of an edge, Steve Bisciotti is said to be leaning towards a move that might give paying customers at M&T Bank Stadium and edgier and more entertaining vibe during commercial breaks. Bisciotti wants to replace the Ravens Marching Band with local legendary rock band The Ravyns. Rob Fahey and Dave Bell of the Ravyns apparently convinced Bisciotti at a benefit party that fans would prefer their classic rock and roll sounds during breaks to those of a marching band. Financial advisors to Bisciotti also calculated the revenues that the team could generate by filling the seats occupied by the band with paying customers. Word is that Bisciotti will give the Comcast Center crazies who support the Terps first dibs on those newly available seats just behind the east end zone. This could upset Ravens fans on the PSL waiting list.

The Ravens could conceivably be without their entire starting linebacker corps in 2009. Terrell Suggs could be a free agent if he doesn’t sign a new contract with the Ravens. Bart Scott is in the last year of a three year pact he signed in 2006 and Ray Lewis’ deal expires after the 2008 season.

That said, don’t expect Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti to let Lewis get away without a fight. Commenting on the possibility of this being Lewis’ last season as a Raven while at the owners’ meeting in Florida Bisciotti said, "If [Lewis] becomes a free agent next year, I think the Ravens would probably outbid other teams. We know Ray's value more than the other teams. We know the leadership he brings to the team. We know the commitment and the effort he gives to winning."

Expect the Ravens to overpay Lewis and also don’t be surprised if he is granted a say in personnel matters. Lewis has made it very clear to Ozzie Newsome that should the Ravens draft Keon Lattimore he would take it as a goodwill gesture and an acknowledgement of Lewis’ devotion to the organization.

Apparently Peter Angelos is making life difficult again for WNST. Drew Forrester for the second consecutive year has been denied a full season media credential despite the fact that he’s on air at the station no less than 20 hours per week. Word is this denial could be just the tip of the iceberg. Rumors are running rampant that indicate Angelos could buy WNST and apparently Nestor Aparicio who claims to own the controlling interest in the station is listening. But then again, Aparicio may have no choice but to listen. The building and the land upon which WNST operates is not owned by the station. Angelos is said to be in discussions with the owner of the building and real estate and if the O’s owner gets his number, some strongly believe that the property will become a development of single family homes and put WNST out of business.

Meanwhile at the station, The Fight Ungers bring their unique combination of sports and humor to the airwaves from 6-8 PM Monday through Friday. Our very own Scot Kleinfeld, aka The Media Watchdog, was asked to be the Ungers’ very first guest. Being the good sports they are, The Ungers invited Kleinfeld on to the program despite some not so flattering remarks made about The Ungers in an earlier edition of The Media Watchdog. Kleinfeld was willing to join The Ungers but the idea was nixed by the controlling fingers of Aparicio.

Spygate won’t go away. It remains a topic of conversation much to the chagrin of the Patriots and Commissioner Roger Goodell. Owners are said to be very perplexed over Goodell’s decision to destroy evidence and they are considering a move that would force Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick to wear a wire during each game so that the league is satisfied that the cheating has in fact ended.

The Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals were awarded the most compensatory picks in this year’s NFL draft, each receiving four picks. Interestingly enough, the Bengals compensatory picks come with a condition. The league is very eager to maintain its integrity and clean up whenever and wherever it can. The compensatory picks have not escaped scrutiny. Apparently the Bengals have been told that should they choose any player with the compensatory picks who has a criminal offense of any kind, even relatively harmless misdemeanors, that compensatory pick will be forfeited. The move doesn’t seem to bother Marvin Lewis who said after learning of the league’s condition, “We have learned our lesson and it is the consensus within our organization to draft choir boy types.” It will be interesting to see how such “types” mesh with the Bengals locker room.

Jonathan Ogden is in town and the topic of retirement lingers. Talk about beating a dead horse. But there is some news on the pending decision from the perennial Pro Bowler. Sources indicate that Ogden will return if he isn’t required to participate in training camp and if he is given veto power over Cam Cameron’s play selection. The Ravens are holding off on granting these concessions to J.O. until after the 2008 NFL Draft.

As you know the NFL is trying to brand its product as an international one. In 2009 the Ravens will be visiting the San Diego Chargers. We have been hearing that this desirable road trip contest will not be played in San Diego but instead, it will be played in Mexico City. More to follow on that when details become available, but in the meantime start stocking up on Aquafina.

Seattle is known for its coffee, rain, Microsoft and grunge music. They might now be known as the home of the Hock-a-burger. Apparently a Seahawks fan working at an area burger joint, got into a heated exchange with a Steelers fan over Super Bowl XL. While preparing the Steelers fan’s order, the proud member of Seattle’s 12th man added a little spice to the burger that originated from deep inside his left lung. To his surprise the Steelers fan ordered another burger done the same way.

Most would agree that Angelina Jolie is a gorgeous woman. Most would also agree that her elevator doesn’t make it to the top floor. We’ve seen her often in entertainment news usually stemming from her burgeoning desire to mother the world. Now she wants to reach out and touch the NFL and word is she’s hand picked Tony Romo to father a child. Romo is denying the rumors but a source close to Jessica Simpson said that Romo is indeed considering it and the idea has infuriated Simpson. She’s said to be open to Jolie’s request provided Simpson can engage in similar arrangements with Brad Pitt. All of this is yet another major distraction in Dallas and it could sway Jerry Jones away from further consideration of Pacman Jones.

And finally, many Ravens fans have asked about Dan Cody and his availability for the 2008 season. Once again, Cody is a workout warrior and participates more than any of his teammates in the vast strength and condition regiment created by Bob Rogucki. One Ravens official said that he happened to be in Owings Mills late on a Sunday night when power in the building failed. When guards were summoned to check the facility’s circuit breakers, they found Cody in the auxiliary generator room getting ready to hook the massive back up unit up to his stationary bike.

All indications are that Cody will give it a go again. He’s been practicing several unique spin moves that originate from the ground level. Defensive line Coach Clarence Brooks believes that if Cody can stay off his knees and disrupt the line of scrimmage by submarining offensive lineman, he’ll see the field more and he could clear the way for Terrell Suggs and Trevor Pryce to get to the quarterback with increasing regularity. Cody is open to anything that will let him play and has even suggested giving back some of the money that he’s been paid during his first three seasons. Ravens Capologist Pat Moriarty is said to be looking into the impact of such a reimbursement on the team’s cap situation. Moriarty was quoted as saying, “To not take advantage of this opportunity would be totally foolish and this organization doesn’t suffer fools very well.”