Friday, June 27, 2008

Gas prices soar into the 4's while the Ravens will soon drop 4's

So, I’m driving along Long Green Pike yesterday afternoon and notice that I’m in dire need of gas. In fact my need to refuel was so acute that I had to pull into this little Mom & Pop gas station near the corner of Long Green Pike and Fork Road.

I knew it wouldn’t be cheap.

But then again when it comes to gas these days is it ever cheap?

Anyway, as I’m pumping gas and feeling like there was a gaping hole in my pocket, I looked up at the sign displaying the gas prices. And I had to laugh. Neither Mom nor Pop ever expected fuel prices to reach into the four dollar per gallon range.

You see the dollar digit on the sign displaying the number 4 was made of white adhesive tape strips. Apparently Mom & Pop were out of 4’s.

Go fish!

Maybe Mom & Pop can borrow a few 4’s from the Ravens…

Well there is No. 4 Sam Koch. Surely he will be around. Justin Harper wears No. 14. He’s got a shot at making the team despite being a seventh round pick. David Pittman wears No. 24. I don’t expect him to be around. Cory Ross wears No. 34. I’m not rushing out to get one of his jerseys any time soon.

Fullback Jake Nordin sports No. 44. Uh, don’t let the door…well you know.

Frank Walker wears No. 41 and he’ll stick; No. 46 is plastered on the back of TE Joe Reitz and No. 47 on the back of TE Scott Kuhn; the incomparable LB Jameel McClain wears No. 48 and then there’s promising third round pick Tavares Gooden who sports No. 49 – for now.

My guess is that Gooden won’t stick with No. 49. Besides, it looks a bit strange on a linebacker. The guess here is that he’ll be wearing No. 51 when the season starts, making yet another “4” number available.

Why No. 51?

Well Gooden is a self professed worshipper of Ray Lewis. He may even see himself as Little Ray. So shouldn’t Little Ray have a number just a bit less than No. 52? Of course it all makes sense except for one thing. That number belongs to Mike Smith – for now.

Mike Smith is a good guy and a hard-nosed player with a great work ethic. But he’s slow and he can’t get back on the field because of a bum shoulder. Not exactly a good combination for a NFL linebacker. My bet is that Smith won’t be with the team and there will be some sort of injury settlement.

And that will lead to one less “4” on a Ravens’ back freeing up another for Mom & Pop.

Photo by Sabina Moran

Thursday, June 26, 2008

No news is good news during NFL's Dead Zone

NFL executives, coaches and players usually use this down time – the Dead Zone during the NFL calendar year to be with their families, get away from football a bit and prepare mentally and physically for the rigors of the NFL season that awaits them.

League news and stories are relatively thin during this period. The welcome break from the silence can arrive in the form of a rookie or free agent signing. The silence can also be broken by unwelcomed news which far too often originates from a police blotter.

This Dead Zone appears to be no different.

First up is the story of Javon Walker. Now according to reports Walker was robbed and beaten in Las Vegas by a thug named Arfat Fadel and an accomplice who allegedly stole $3,000 in cash and another $100,000 in jewelry.

A $100,000 in jewelry!

Now Walker supposedly joined these two men willingly before he was beaten and literally kicked to the curb. This is the same Javon Walker who just signed a 6 year, $55 million deal with the Raiders this offseason. This is the same Javon Walker who was with the late Broncos’ cornerback Darrent Williams who was gunned down after an altercation in Denver.

Stories have surfaced that the altercation in Denver started with players spraying champagne on nearby patrons during a New Year’s Eve celebration. Recent reports suggest that Walker was guilty of the same prank in a Vegas club.

How dumb is Javon Walker?

Jevon with an “e” as in Kearse was arrested and charged with DUI and a violation of Tennessee's implied consent law for failing to take the breathalyzer test. Kearse, aka “The Freak” didn’t have his freak on when he was stopped early Sunday morning after Vanderbilt University campus police reported seeing Kearse’s SUV weaving across the road.

Some of you may recall that prior to Kearse signing with the Eagles in 2004 the Ravens entertained the idea of signing the pass rush specialist. Negotiations hit a road block when Kearse refused to take a physical prior to any contract offer. Kearse has had trouble staying on the field since playing in just 46 of the Eagles 64 regular season games over the course of 4 seasons, registering 86 tackles and 22 sacks.

“I’m a freak of nature,” Kearse said when he signed with the Eagles. “I do a lot of things ordinary people wouldn’t be able to do. As far as performance and playing my position, I’m a freak out there.”

Jevon got one thing right. A lot of ordinary even extraordinary people couldn’t make $476,744 per tackle or put another way, $1.86 million per sack. Kearse signed an eight year, $66 million deal with Eagles in ’04 that included a $16 million signing bonus.

Not all of the offseason legal issues are police blotter items. Former Raven Michael McCrary hit paydirt when Judge Paul Albert awarded the retired defensive end $33 million in an insurance fraud case in Baltimore Circuit Court. McCrary said the judgment "feels refreshing", according to the (Baltimore) Daily Record.

One Raven who could be on the short end of a judge’s stick is none other than Ray Lewis. Profession Events, LLC in Arizona is said to be suing Lewis, claiming he never paid for hostesses he hired for a Super Bowl party back in February. The company claims that Lewis failed to keep repeated promises that they would be paid the $5,780 owed.

Speaking of Ray, someone recently emailed me and asked my opinion on the five toughest Ravens. Interesting question I thought because it’s pretty easy to spout off the obvious. Here’s my Top 5 along with a few honorable mentions(some may surprise you) in no particular order…

1. Ray Lewis ~ How could he not be?
2. Peter Boulware ~ Played one season with his arm in a sling and still was a Pro Bowler
3. Michael McCrary ~ Never said, “Die.”
4. Gary Stills ~ Ask any Ravens’ player…
5. Kelly Gregg ~ See above

Honorable mention: Sam Gash, Kyle Boller, Eric Turner, James Trapp, Adalius Thomas, Corey Ivy, Ed Reed, Bart Scott, Jarret Johnson, Chad Williams

On the flip side, I decided to take my answer a step further and list my Top 5 softest Ravens which I will collectively label my All-Ravens Charmin Team:

1. Clarence Moore ~ T-Rex, Alligator Arms and other anatomical descriptions come to mind
2. Elvis Grbac ~ There’s no crying in football!
3. DeRon Jenkins ~ Melba Toast for denture wearers
4. David Pittman ~ All too happy to sit on the sidelines
5. Chris Chester ~ Apparent lack of motivation has him on the brim of BUST-dom.

Photo by Sabina Moran

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ravens see green in red?

If you’ve read this blog before you know that I often wondered why the Ravens never dressed their quarterbacks in red during practice while the rest of the league dressed their QB’s in red or another off color. John Harbaugh came along and changed that. All QB’s now wear a stop sign shade of red during all organized team activities.

Fair enough and it’s about time.

Now the Ravens’ opportunistic marketing department has chosen to take the change and capitalize upon it by selling replica red Joe Flacco practice jerseys to impressionable Ravens fans for the “modest” sum of $85.00.

It’s a free country built upon capitalism and certainly I’m down with that. But why sell these red jerseys? Do you think the Packers ever sold red Brett Favre jerseys?

Do we really want M&T Bank Stadium littered with red jerseys? Will Harbaugh change the QB practice jersey from red to yellow next year to create another marketing opportunity? C’mon folks, step right up and get your Ravens’ yellow Joe Flacco practice jersey.

Gee won’t the visiting Steelers’ fans love that?

Seriously though, don’t we want more purple or black or white or a great combination thereof in those stands at M&T? Aren’t those chairs molded in purple for a reason?

The team claims to be marketing these jerseys on a limited basis. I hope that’s true and just not some end-of-the-month sales tactic to create short-term demand.

I don’t know, perhaps this is some ado about nothing. But it just seems to me that the Ravens aren’t seeing red at all with their opportunism. It’s more like they are blinded by green.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

So now we know why Mike Anderson didn't play much in Baltimore?

Mike Anderson was recently suspended by the NFL for a full season apparently due to another violation of the substance-abuse policy. This might come as a surprise to some because Anderson has generally been considered to be a good guy and upstanding citizen in the NFL.

But clearly the free agent running back has been caught with his hand in the cookie jar before (four game suspension in 2003), hence the one year suspension – one that probably will serve as a very sad end to a productive career.

His career in Baltimore was hardly productive. Many blamed Brian Billick for not giving what most fans believed was a deserving Mike Anderson more playing time. The fans seemed to base that collective opinion on his yards per carry when he did enter the game. But let’s be real here folks. How impressive is it really to run for five or six yards on 3rd and 13 against 5 or 6 defenders in the box?

After the news of Anderson’s suspension, defenders of Brian Billick have suggested that the club was aware of Anderson’s off-the-field issues and that influenced playing time. Hello McFly!

If that was the case, why sign Anderson in the first place? Why give a player a four year deal and a $2million signing bonus if they were afraid the guy was going into the cookie jar again?

Maybe, just maybe Anderson wasn’t that good anymore and the mistake wasn’t really that of Brian Billick but rather Ozzie Newsome.

Many players in the NFL commit this time of the year to their families. Some go the extra mile and give part of their down time back to the community. Such is the case with Dwan Edwards, Bart Scott, Justin Green and Troy Smith.

Edwards is directing a free football camp for Montana area high school athletes in Billings on July 11-12. Props to each of these players for trying to make a difference in the life of impressionable high-schoolers.

In more good guy news former Giants’ defensive lineman George Martin has completed his walk from New York to San Diego to raise money for health care for 9/11 rescue workers. Martin began his journey September 16 in New York after making a halftime appearance at the Giants v. Packers game. All tolled the trek covered 3,003 miles and raised $2 million. Pledges are still being accepted at

The economy has taken a bite out of all of us. Seemingly everything is going up except salaries and as a result, sacrifices are being made and sometimes those sacrifices include season tickets. Personally speaking I must admit that the thought momentarily crossed my mind and I have to wonder if Brian Billick was returning to man the Ravens’ sideline, how many others might not only have considered it but actually done it.

But the thought begs the question, “Is the game more enjoyable at the stadium, a neighborhood sports pub or in the comfort of your own living room?”

Those who argue that there’s no replacement for the atmosphere at M&T have a valid point. But they also have to contend with an unruly fan here and there along with expensive parking, concessions, the weather and other inconveniences.

Those who prefer the pubs enjoy the benefit of less expensive libations, little to no parking expense, easier access to rest rooms and they still can share in the excitement of the game with a relatively large gathering of other pub patrons.

And then there are those who prefer the quiet of their living room save the usual emotional outbursts associated with rooting for the hometown team. Clearly this is the most convenient and least expensive way to enjoy a football game and no one would argue that you can see and hear more of the game from your favorite easy chair, particularly with TiVo or DVR.

After 12 years as a season ticket holder you have to really love the team and love seeing your friends at tailgate parties. If not, there are far better options for you particularly in this modern economy.

Speaking of which, Wayne Huizenga thinks such an economy is impacting his ticket sales in Miami.

“A lot of people are on the fence of whether they want to renew their season tickets or not,” Huizenga said recently according to the Palm Beach Post. “Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a huge number. But you’re going to see a difference.”

Huizenga has a point but then again without a marquis quarterback and on the heels of a 1-15 season why bother when there are so many other things to do in South Florida?

I can tell you from personal experience that you can easily walk up to Dolphins Stadium and get tickets at face value or less. Last season when the Dolphins won their only game against you know who, the place was packed with purple and on whole the stadium was half full at best.

There’s a little more to it than just the economy there Mr. Wayne…

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Countdown to Ravens' summer camp begins...32, 31, 30...

While the Orioles are doing their collective best to maintain our interest this summer, many of us are counting down the days until the start of training camp. For the record camp is 32 days away.

Not much will happen between now and then for the Ravens or the NFL for that matter and that’s exactly what the league wants. A cooling period to re-charge, re-set and reinvigorate the appetite of the viewing public is what Dr. Goodell has ordered. Pac-Man, are you listening?

Outside of the signing announcements which should pick up some steam shortly, no news is good news.

On Tuesday we learned that Jonathan Ogden and Steve McNair have officially retired. The move creates $6.5 million in cap space for the Ravens but it does carry forward $10.226M in dead money ($4.9M from McNair, $5.326M from JO) against the team’s 2009 cap.

Now that might seem like a heavy load but look at this way; the cap for all teams will increase in 2009 by roughly that same $10 million – perhaps more and the team does have a little ace in the hole that they can play with to carry forward unused cap money from 2008 into 2009 through a convenient little mechanism of phony incentives.

In the past, Matt Katula has had incentives written into his contract that are next to impossible for a long snapper to earn but because they are added during the season, they count immediately against the cap. After the season when a reconciliation of sorts takes place and it is obvious that the incentives have not been earned, they are carried forward into the next season.

Creating the space today gives the team some wiggle room to augment their roster and perhaps to sign Terrell Suggs to an extension – an extension that won’t come easy.

Suggs has the same agent (Gary Wichard) as Dwight Freeney and he will argue that their numbers are comparable and that Suggs is younger and more versatile. Wichard will also conveniently point to the new contract of Saints’ DE Will Smith who recently signed a seven-year, $63 million contract extension that includes $25 million in guaranteed money, according to NFL Network's Adam Schefter.

In four seasons the 26 year old Smith has accumulated 33 ½ sacks (8.4 avg.), 220 tackles (55), 13 forced fumbles (3.3), 14 passes defended (3.5), and no interceptions.

The 25 year old Suggs during his five year career has 45 sacks (9), 298 tackles (60), 14 forced fumbles (2.8), 22 passes defended (4.4) and he has 3 interceptions.

Ozzie, if Smith is the measuring stick and you want to keep Suggs long-term, get the check book ready.

Speaking of check books, here’s a sobering thought for those inclined to wager as we count down the days to summer camp…

According to the Ravens are 125:1 long shots to win Super Bowl XLIII. Now on the surface that might not seem so unreasonable given the team’s uncertainties at quarterback. But when measured up against the odds for other teams, you might be taken back a bit.

Only the Falcons and Dolphins have been assigned longer odds to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in Tampa come February. Both are listed at 150:1 while the Raiders and 49ers have been assigned the same odds as the Ravens. The over/under for Ravens’ regular season wins is six.

In case you were wondering listed the Giants at 30:1 to win Super Bowl XLII and the Giants’ over/under for regular season wins in 2007 was eight.

Let the debates begin on a beach, boat or poolside near you.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ravens turn back the clocks on NFL Network: Jaguars @ Ravens

Don’t know about you but I DVR’d the 2000 classic, Jaguars @ Ravens played on September 10 of that year and won in nail biting fashion by the Ravens, 39-36. I watched the game last night instead of the NBA Finals (for me it’s NBA Finally Over).

Anyway, fully knowing the outcome of the game, it was great to revisit some of the more subtle nuances of that game that time has had a way of erasing. In no particular order they are:

1. Brian Billick ~ I will miss Brian because of his tremendous effort in lifting the status of the Baltimore Ravens franchise. I will not miss his in-game coaching. In all of those years manning the Ravens’ sideline, not only did he never master his management of the game clock, he never showed improvement. None! Nada! This game serves as proof. Arguably his clock management worsened over time.

2. The Assistant Coaches ~ It was nice to see Marvin Lewis and Jack Del Rio on the Ravens sideline. Little did Del Rio know that he would be the Jags head coach and then have a relatively volatile relationship with the quarterback that was helping to carve up his defense on this hot September day – Mark Brunell.

3. Tom Coughlin ~ There has never been a call made against his team that Coughlin even remotely agreed with. Not then, not now, probably not ever.

4. Starks Wears Bullseye ~ If I was Coughlin or Brunell, I would have chosen to go after Duane Starks on every single play. Brunell was on fire with laser precision and Smith owned Starks.

5. Pretty Ball ~ Tony Banks really threw a nice ball. Too bad that too often the defenders thought the same.

6. Double 3 ~ Priest Holmes’ versatility reminded me of why I like the McGahee acquisition so much…as well as the recent draft pick of Ray Rice.

7. Full Throttle Matt ~ Matt Stover could really lay into a kickoff when he was amped up. He could also drive it like Mark Belanger used to…uh that is he couldn’t. The wind had to have been blowing west to east that day don’t you think?

8. Tell Me Something Good ~ Why didn’t Billick challenge that near interception of Starks? To the naked eye it was certainly worthy of a review.

9. Get it Right Dan ~ Hey Dan Dierdorf, Duane Starks wore No. 22 not Chris McAlister.

10. Taking The Bait ~ By the way, McAlister bit on double moves back then and 8 years later, he’s still biting. Just ask Braylon Edwards or Plaxico Burress.

11. Two Tons of Fun ~ Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa really did eat up blockers. Ray Lewis had clear lanes into the backfield often.

12. Sharp as a Tack ~ I wish Jamie Sharper could have played in Baltimore longer.

13. Make History J-Lew ~ Ditto for Jermaine Lewis.

14. Dancing with the Stars ~ Jamal Lewis danced behind the line of scrimmage as a rookie too.

15. Cover Me ~ Kim Herring was a pretty decent cover safety.

16. Sung-a-Song ~ Corey Harris was an unsung hero during the 2000 season.

17. The Real Travis ~ Travis Taylor’s career got off to a pretty good start and then he dropped a pass over the middle that caromed into an interception. How many of you said while looking back, “Now there’s the Travis Taylor I know!”

18. Stay off the Grass ~ I wish the Ravens could have kept the grass field but being below sea level and hoping to draw other events to the stadium, I understand…

19. Heavyweight Bout ~ The Tony Boselli v. Mike McCrary battles were classic.

20. Godspeed ~ I feel for O.J. Brigance. He was such an active member of the Ravens’ special teams during this game, just 7 seasons ago. Today he is fighting a terrible demon known as Lou Gehrig’s disease and struggling with things we all take for granted. Keep believing and inspiring O.J.

21. In The Hood ~ I miss the old AFC Central...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

I'm bummed about who DIDN'T show up for Ogden's farewell

During the press conference to officially announce Jonathan Ogden’s retirement, I noticed the current and former players in attendance. From the current roster there was Trevor Pryce, Jason Brown, Bart Scott, Todd Heap and Kyle Boller. Former Ravens paying their respects included Harry Swayne, Wally Williams, Spencer Folau, Edwin Mulitalo and Orlando Brown.

Yet I couldn’t help but think of the current and former players that weren’t there and they why they weren’t there…

Wouldn’t it make sense for Ray Lewis to be there? Wasn’t he the player drafted along with Ogden in the first round back in 1996? Isn’t he the other end of the tandem that will make history? What other franchise can say that their very first two draft picks are Hall of Famers? My guess is that no other franchise can say that.

Anyway, it bothered me that Ray wasn’t there. Maybe Ray called J.O. Maybe he didn’t. Maybe he had some prior commitment that wouldn’t allow him to be there. But this press conference didn’t have to take place on this exact day now did it? Insiders knew a month ago that J.O. was hanging up the cleats. Ray should have been there.

Where was Matt Stover? He shares a distinguished link to J.O. and Ray. The three are the only three players who have been Baltimore Ravens from day 1. Why wasn’t he there?

Jamal Lewis wasn’t there either. You could argue that Jamal owes J.O. But then again with all the under the bus kicking Jamal has been doing lately of his former mates and organization, maybe he wasn’t welcome.

If Edwin Mulitalo could pull himself away from his workouts in Detroit to pay his respects, why couldn’t these three and even others shown up?

I don’t know…maybe I’m just a sentimental fool.

Speaking of getting all sentimental, many have said that the Ravens win over the Jaguars back in 2000 was THE pivotal game in the team’s history. You can relive that game this Monday on NFL Network in a NFL Classic replay dubbed “Shootout in Baltimore.”

Here’s the lowdown skinny….

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Baltimore Ravens - 9/10/2000

Monday, June 16 at 8:00 PM ET NFL NETWORK

In 2000, the Ravens proved they were ready to play with the conference heavyweights. Baltimore erased a 17-point, first-quarter deficit in this thrilling comeback which culminated with an improbable 75-yard drive in the last two minutes. Ravens quarterback Tony Banks threw a team-record five touchdown in a contest which featured 75 points.

The Ravens went on to win Super Bowl XXXV that season. NFL Classic Games (formerly NFL Classics) features the complete network broadcasts of legendary NFL regular season and playoff games with original announcers and graphics.

*Following the Monday night premiere, encore showings are on Tuesday at 11:30 AM ET and Saturday at 9:00 AM ET.

My DVR is all ready to go….

Introducing Ravens Quarterback Joe Smith

Earlier this week in my camp notes I mentioned that it would not surprise me to see the Ravens start Joe Flacco to open the regular season and complement his efforts with situational sub packages featuring Troy Smith. And you know the more I think about this idea, the more I like it.

No one wants to see Joe Flacco thrown to the wolves like Kyle Boller was in 2003. Most prefer to see him donning a sporty Ravens baseball cap and carrying a clipboard his rookie season, much like Carson Palmer did in 2003 while Jon Kitna was enjoying a career year.

Perhaps the success of the season will dictate Flacco’s playing time. If Kyle Boller or Troy Smith take turns of inadequacy guiding the Ravens offense and the season gets away from John Harbaugh and his gang, then Flacco will get his playing time late in the campaign as part of an effort to better prepare him for 2009.

But look at it this way. Joe Flacco is no Kyle Boller and I’m not talking about what he does with a football. I’m talking about his demeanor and mental make up. Flacco seems so much more prepared to handle the pressures and filter the distractions presented by NFL defenses than Kyle Boller was as a rookie and even Kyle Boller as a 6 year veteran today.

Having the confident Smith take 15-20 snaps per game in a manner similar to Kordell Stewart’s “Slash” days does a few things:

1. It keeps defenses off balance and it forces them to prepare for two vastly different styles of quarterback play;
2. It takes pressure off Joe Flacco;
3. It allows Flacco to take a seat, look at current in-game photos, process the looks defenses are presenting and then discuss it with his coaches as the action is taking place.

Certainly much needs to be and will be learned about Flacco during the months from July to September. But if he progresses and continues to look like the best of the three QB’s, this plan could be one that is comfortable for the rookie signal caller and perhaps more importantly one that gives the Ravens the best chance to win.

We already know what the Ravens have in Kyle Boller, right?

They didn’t spend a first round pick on Flacco if they think Troy Smith is the future, right?

Think about it…

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ravens Passing Camp Notes for June 11, 2008

Today’s turnout at the voluntary OTA’s was pretty thin, particularly on the defensive side of the football. Among the MIA’s: Ed Reed, Chris McAlister, Samari Rolle, Ray Lewis, Antwan Barnes, Terrell Suggs, Trevor Pryce, Haloti Ngata, Kelly Gregg, Fabian Washington and Bart Scott. Scott had perfect attendance over the past two seasons up to this point.

On the offensive side MIA’s included: Willis McGahee and Justin Green. Jared Gaither was at the facility but didn’t practice due to migraines. Jonathan Ogden was not in the building although a report surfaced that there will be a press conference tomorrow morning at 11:30 during which the Ravens’ All Pro tackle will announce his retirement. The Ravens have not confirmed this announcement as of this writing. 24x7 sources also would not confirm the validity of the reported press conference.

The first unit offensive line today consisted of (from left to right) Mike Kracalik, Ben Grubbs, Jason Brown, Marshal Yanda and Adam Terry. All levels of the offensive unit were harassed today by Rex Ryan’s blitz. Linebackers and safeties regularly applied pressure, particularly to Joe Flacco. The running backs need some work picking up the blitz. Later during practice, Cam Cameron was riding Ray Rice a bit. First Rice wasn’t among the 11 on the offensive side when he should have been on one play. This prompted Cameron to emphatically state, “I’m pretty sure they’ll let us play with eleven. C’mon Ray wake up!”

Just prior to the succeeding play, Cameron questioned Rice (who this time correctly stood on the sidelines), “Ray, where’s the protection here?”

On the very next play, Xavier Lee who took reps today as a tight end, adeptly picked up a blitzing linebacker prompting observer Troy Smith to exclaim, “Good job Xaver!”

Early during today's team activities the offense practiced their inside running game, refining their pulling and trapping skills on the line while Ray Rice and P.J. Daniels looked sharp as they patiently allowed the plays to shape properly and then darting through holes as they opened. According to one Ravens’ source who watched yesterday’s practice (closed to the media), Rice looked extremely sharp, once faking out Jarret Johnson so badly that there was concern that JJ might blow out a knee.

Throughout the day Troy Smith again showed precise ball skills during exchanges, adeptly handling fakes while showing some flash with the Statue of Liberty play in the style of the infamous Boise State 2 point conversion (
see play). Boller would later utilize the Statue of Liberty down in the red zone teaming with P.J. Daniels.

At the end of practice John Harbaugh was asked about some of the gadget plays that the Ravens ran today. He credited Cam Cameron for creativity but admitted that some of the gadgetry was simply scout team simulation.

Nevertheless, it does appear that Troy Smith will get an opportunity to showcase his talents even if he isn’t the starter. He could be the Ravens' answer to the Steelers’ Kordell Stewart of the 90’s. I would not be shocked to see Joe Flacco as the starter with spot play from Smith to keep defenses off balance and take some of the pressure off Flacco. Clearly there’s a long way to go before then, but don't be shocked if it shakes out that way.

Snaps for all three QB’s were spread fairly evenly. All quarterbacks had decent outings but the highlight throws once again belonged to Joe Flacco. Lined up on the 15 yard line, Flacco threw a perfect ball to Demetrius Williams navigating the end line from left to right. Initially it appeared that the defender on the play was better positioned but Flacco trusted Williams to get to the ball and he did just to the left of the left upright. Flacco would later deliver another precise dart to Matt Willis for a score from 15 yards out. This time, Willis worked the goal line from left to right and caught the ball just beyond the one yard hash mark on the left. Flacco would later find Willis on a nice rollout play to the right for a 20 yard gain beating Derrick Martin.

Just prior to that catch, Willis dropped a nice, intentionally underthrown pass from Troy Smith away from coverage. The ball caromed high off of Willis’ unpadded chest. Later Smith hit Demetrius Williams with a nice throw about midway through the session. Smith moved outside the pocket to his right and hit a streaking Williams running parallel to the right hash marks. Smith showed great touch on the play, laying the pass beyond the DB marking Williams and the oncoming safety. Earlier Smith hit Todd Heap for a score from 15 yards out. Heap extended nicely and made a fine catch on the run finishing it with a short scamper into the end zone.

Heap looks very sharp and seems to be moving extremely well. Coach Harbaugh commented on that too at the end of practice and shared his thoughts with the tight end. According to Harbaugh Heap replied, “You ain’t seen nothing yet coach!”

Kyle Boller continued his progress in Cameron’s offense, continuing his recovery from a very shaky practice a few weeks back. He hit Mark Clayton on the dead run on a short slant that Clayton took to the house on a long catch and run. Clayton beat his man badly. A confused Derrick Martin asked anyone listening, “What happened?”

Martin was assigned to Derrick Mason on the play and claimed that he had Mason “locked up.” Mason laughed at the notion.

OTHER NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS: LeRon McClain was used today more frequently as a runner. Could be something to keep an eye on in short yardage situations…Dan Cody and Oniel Cousins mixed it up today. On one pass play Cousins positioned at right tackle locked up Cody and as the play proceeded he would eventually take Cody to the ground. A frustrated Cody got up and a heated exchanged of words quickly morphed into a feisty skirmish. Cody ripped the helmet from Cousins head and smashed it to the ground as teammates quickly converged to end the fighting. Overall Cody looked strong while flip-flopping from left to right. It was his most extensive playing time during the 2008 OTA’s…On the day as mentioned earlier, blitzing linebackers and safeties had their way with the Ravens offense. Among those who under game conditions would have registered sacks were Tom Zbikowski, Haruki Nakamura, Dawan Landry and Tavares Gooden. Gooden’s movements to the quarterback were reminiscent of Bart Scott's circa 2006.

John Harbaugh is a delegator, allowing his coordinators to run the offense, defense and special teams. However he does chime in when the focus is upon his areas of specialty – namely the secondary and special teams. Today he was seen coaching up the 6’4” CB Lenny Walls who was an active participant today.

Edgar Jones flipped flopped from tight end to OLB/DE and was effective in both spots. Jones had a sack and would later hall in a Flacco pass about 20 yards down field. The play was probably somewhat confusing to the defense because Jones neglected to put on his red mesh cover up over the defense’s traditional white jerseys. It didn’t confuse Flacco who looked right then left to find Jones. After the successful play Flacco pointed and said, “Ninety-one” as if to say nice play to the fill-in tight end…Yamon Figurs hasn’t been getting many snaps at wide receiver…Jarret Johnson was singled out by Harbaugh for his perfect attendance throughout OTA’s and schedule workouts. Johnson according to Harbaugh is emerging as a leader. “Double J” is running very well these days and caught Troy Smith from behind on a rollout to the right. Johnson was coming from the right edge and ran a long way to get to Smith.

Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg had his field goal unit practicing fakes. The plays included a fake during which the holder would catch the ball and run into the line just inside of either tackle. Another fake had the holder feigning the placement, pivoting and rolling – a bit of a waggle play. Holder Sam Koch executed both plays well. He is a strong player who seems to willingly attack the line of scrimmage as a runner and he throws a pretty decent pass. Edgar Jones caught Koch’s only throw of the day off the fake. Conversely, UDFA punter Ben Dato is hesitant running the ball and was scolded by Rosburg twice to “Run hard!” On his attempted pass off the fake, Jarret Johnson dropped the ball bringing a loud roar of disapproval from his teammates along the sidelines.

Free agent offensive lineman Barry Sims is in talks with the Ravens about possibly providing a veteran presence to John Matsko's unit. Sims according to a Ravens official has not yet made a personal appearance in Owings Mills and has not worked out for the club...Jonathan Ogden will make it official tomorrow. He will be announcing his retirement during a press conference scheduled for 11:30 a.m.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Most overrated Raven? Paying homage to a Jim McKay...

Like many of you, I too have fond memories of Jim McKay, the legendary sports broadcaster who has left us behind while he journeys to a new world.

As a kid ABC’s Wide World of Sports was must-see television. I can remember countless times when I would hear the introduction of the show and that smooth welcoming voice that adventurously encouraged us to tune in as ABC was “spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sports” in order to observe “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”

And who could ever forget McKay's shining moment as he gracefully described the tragedy that marked the Munich Olympic Games in 1972.

McKay was everything you could want in a broadcaster. He was respectful, prepared, well spoken, eloquent, professional, approachable, selfless and a gentleman. He never wanted to be the story – he just wanted to report it.

And Jim McKay was one of us – he was a Baltimorean residing in Monkton. With pride he handled the microphone at The Preakness year in and year out. His mannerisms were those of a proud parent.

As evidenced by the area of town in which he resided, McKay loved horses. How ironic that he would pass on a day that most thought would be remembered as the day during which the Triple Crown drought would end in thoroughbred racing.

Jim McKay left an indelible mark on sports television. The wide world of sports just got significantly narrower following his passing.

Jim McKay was also a minority owner of the Baltimore Orioles. He must have been proud of the shape and direction his favorite baseball team is beginning to take. I have been a harsh critic of the team since the inception of As a rule we spend very little time on the Orioles but what little time we do spend discussing them, hasn’t been very flattering.

Today that changes and hopefully not just temporarily.

After ten miserable seasons, the Orioles front office is finally doing what they are supposed to be doing and ownership is doing what it should be doing. The overachieving Birds are playing hard, showing promise, having fun and never say die under the watchful eye of Dave Trembley. They are competing despite an insufficient supply of offensive talent and excess baggage, aka Steve Trachsel.

And if Peter Angelos’ newfound hands-off approach wasn’t enough, we’ve recently learned that his long lost sense of civic pride has suddenly returned. Baltimore will be emblazoned upon the chests of Orioles’ players when they hit the road beginning in 2009.

To borrow from another legendary broadcaster near and dear to our hearts, “Ain’t the beer cold!”

Pete Prisco from CBS Sportsline recently posted a column in which he describes the most overrated and underrated players on each of the league’s 32 teams. You can find that here.

I did want to touch on his choices in both categories for the Ravens. They are as follows with a few thoughts of my own (italics):

Overrated: CB Chris McAlister. It's too bad Steve McNair retired. He would have won this easily. Without him, it's tough to pick somebody here. But I went with McAlister, who missed half of last season because of injury. He's not a premier corner anymore.

Underrated: G Jason Brown. He was a mauler at left guard last season, one of the rising young players at the position. There is a chance he could move to center, but he should excel there as well.

I have to agree on both counts. McAlister is inconsistent and is beaten by a double move about as regularly as Lindsay Lohan is sent home in a cab. A close second for most overrated Raven? Try Ed Reed (excluding 2002-2004). After 2008, Jason Brown will be underrated no longer. Same goes for Haloti Ngata.

For the record, Prisco also named Adalius Thomas the most overrated Patriot: “The Patriots paid a ton of money for him and he didn't do what they expected. It didn't help that he was forced to play some inside. He's more of an outside rusher.”

Yet another former Raven defender who can’t match his productivity while donning the purple and black.

Marvin Lewis is a fraud?

In our poll which you can find on the home page and throughout our site, we ask your opinion on the best defensive coordinator in Ravens history. At the risk of swaying the voting (in either direction) I’m going on record to say that Marvin Lewis is very overrated.

When Brian Billick came along back in 1999 and assembled his coaching staff, Lewis was not his first choice. In fact if Gunther Cunningham had not been offered the Kansas City Chiefs’ head coaching position, Marvin Lewis would have had two feet in the unemployment line.

Let’s give Lewis credit for this – he recognized the talents of his Super Bowl winning defense, particularly their superior speed and then just let them play without any unnecessary gadgetry. Lewis’ scheme was basic and it was successful because his unit was fast to the ball, they tackled extremely well and each player understood their role. The whole of Lewis’ unit was greater than the sum of the parts.

But since his departure from Baltimore, Lewis has failed to assemble even a decent defense. When he left the Ravens for greener pastures 45 minutes to the south, Lewis struggled as the Redskins defensive coordinator despite ample talent in DC. As the head coach for the Bengals, Lewis’ defenses have consistently been among the league’s worst throughout his five years in Cincinnati.

It’s interesting that Lewis went to Cincinnati with a reputation for being a defensive guru while Brian Billick came to Baltimore with a reputation for possessing a brilliant offensive mind. Neither lived up to their billing and in a way both are frauds. But Lewis is clearly the bigger fraud. At least Billick kept his team together during adverse times, save his final season. We’ve all seen and heard about the horror stories in Lewis’ locker room.

Lewis left Baltimore in ’02 knowing that the team was about to purge its roster and lose an abundance of talent. As a sure-fire head coaching candidate particularly in a league screaming for minority candidates, Lewis probably didn’t want to risk a blossoming resume with an unproven roster marked by unprecedented youthfulness.

And so he bailed…

It's hard to blame him.

In comes Mike Nolan to take over as defensive coordinator for the departing Marvelous Marvin. Give Billick credit for parking Nolan on the coaching staff as a Receivers Coach knowing that Lewis’ tenure in B’more would be short-lived.

Nolan’s efforts here in Baltimore earned him the head coaching position in San Francisco. What he did with the talent available to him in 2002 particularly with Ray Lewis missing 11 games that season was remarkable.

In 2003 and 2004 despite little productivity on offense from any skill position players not named Jamal Lewis, Nolan’s defenses competed and for the most part carried the team. His three year stint as defensive coordinator was impressive – one that his predecessor would not have matched.

The coming season will be challenging and interesting for both Lewis and Nolan. Each sits firmly atop the proverbial hot seat and both could be looking for jobs elsewhere by the end of the 2008 campaign. And if that happens, how interesting would it be if Rex Ryan finally lands that coveted head coaching position and the Ravens are left searching for Rex’ replacement.

Would you turn to Lewis or Nolan if you sat in John Harbaugh’s chair?

From my vantage point Nolan would be the better choice – a coach who arguably has been the team’s best defensive coordinator in their relatively short history.

Far fetched you say? Rex Ryan and Marvin Lewis are superior?

Maybe, maybe not...

But ask yourself these questions:

Who got more productivity out of Ed Reed in their three seasons as the Ravens’ defensive coordinator, Rex Ryan or Mike Nolan?

What did Marvin Lewis do as defensive coordinator prior to 1999? Could he have matched wits with Nolan in 2002 with that inexperienced roster and without Ray Lewis?

Let the debate begin but no matter how I slice it, ring or no ring, Lewis is the weakest of the Ravens 3 defensive coordinators. And if you want the brutal truth Marvin might be one great guy, a wonderful neighbor and friend, but as a coach in the NFL he’s also one big fraud.

Just ask Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson.

Photo by Sabina Moran

Friday, June 06, 2008

Flacco better than Ryan? This and more from the wonderful world of sports...

It’s interesting how few people discuss the MLB Amateur Draft relative to that of the NFL. Mel Kiper is a big baseball fan but clearly he chose the right career path by picking football over the boys of summer.

Yesterday the Orioles selected University of San Diego left-hander Brian Matusz with the fourth overall pick in the draft. I can’t help but think of Adam Loewen and the potential bust he is “blossoming” into. Personally I would have preferred a position player. Anyone know who the Orioles selected in Round 2? Of course you don’t.

That distinction goes to Xavier Avery of Cedar Grove (Ga.) High, a left-handed-hitting center fielder. Ravens’ fans should be interested to know that Avery has signed a letter of intent to attend the University of Georgia. He doubles as running back. Doesn’t that leave the Orioles a bit vulnerable when negotiating with Avery and his handlers? They have the leverage of college and two sports to use against Andy McPhail and the O’s front office brass.

Bottom line in my book is that the MLB Draft could never, ever be as interesting as its NFL counterpart because fans aren’t familiar with the amateur talent plus the players drafted rarely make an immediate impact at the big league level. Remember the left handed hitting infielder that the O’s drafted with the ninth overall pick 2 years ago? Didn’t think so…

In the NFL, high end picks better make an impact. Jobs are at stake.

Speaking of Mel Kiper, I ran into him recently at my daughter’s grade school graduation ceremonies. He introduced me to another of the graduating class’ parents and asked me to share my thoughts on Joe Flacco with said parent. I said think Ben Roethlisberger with more mobility and a stronger arm. Kiper concurred. Oh and I meant to add, “and without the crotch rocket.”

I then questioned the ESPN draft guru about the differences between Flacco and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan. Kiper said that if Flacco stayed at Pitt and played, he might have been drafted ahead of Ryan.

Count me among those who are sick of the Verizon FIOS TV ads. They run constantly and I’m not even that much of a TV viewer. I’m looking forward to the product arriving in my part of town but enough already! These ads have been set on replay for months and months and still the product is nothing more than a promise in the dark for this Perry Hall resident. If and when FIOS ever becomes available to me I’m sure the natural response will be, “Wooooooow!”

In my blog back on May 15, I compared Roger Goodell to Michael Corleone in The Godfather. Yesterday when I read that a convicted steroids dealer who recently met with NFL security officials and gave them names of players he said bought steroids from him was been found dead in his home, I thought that maybe the jest wasn’t so far removed from the truth after all.Plano, Texas police made a welfare check on 35-year-old David Jacobs and his 30-year-old girlfriend Amanda Jo Earhart-Savell only to find that they had both been shot to death. As of this writing no information has been released about whether the deaths were a double homicide or a murder-suicide. Stay tuned…

My condolensces to the family and friends of the deceased.

Something that we all thought was gone for good but has been revitalized and brought back to life is Inside the NFL. Apparently Showtime Networks and CBS Sports have paired up to bring back the highly acclaimed and award-winning NFL studio show. And I always thought that GE/NBC brought good things to life…er light…

No word yet on what the talent line-up looks like but the bet here is that Dan Marino and/or Deion Sanders will be involved.

Staying with the theme of coming back, one controversial AFC North player says to count him in…"Am I coming back? Of course I am. I told my coaches I'm going to California to act, but the truth is I may come back to the Bengals as early as June. I may be crazy, but I'm not stupid."

That’s Bengals’ WR Chad Johnson who went on to say…

"I have no problem with Cincinnati. I love the city. The fans are great. You know what's funny? I know how the fans have felt for (all) those years of losing. That's how I'm feeling right now. I feel it, and I see where it's going. It's going back to that same old 'Bungles' or whatever it used to be."

Here’s to CJ’s clairvoyant powers. Let’s hope he’s right.

Bills running back Marshawn Lynch is being described as the "principal suspect" in an alleged hit-and-run accident. According to reports Lynch was inside his 2008 Porsche SUV when it struck and injured a woman crossing an intersection in downtown Buffalo before speeding off early Saturday. And just think, Willis McGahee said there’s nothing to do in Buffalo.

Hey when did Orioles’ outfielder Markakis change the spelling of his first name from Nick to Knick? Every time I look at an Orioles boxscore it reads, K Markakis…

Reports from Cleveland suggest that the Browns aren’t exactly racing to the bargaining table to strike a new deal with controversial TE Kellen Winslow.

"We don't have a lot of wiggle room right now at this particular time," said Browns GM Phil Savage earlier this week. "Only time will tell if it goes one direction or the other, but I think we've let it be known kind of where we are." Gee thanks there Phil for clarifying that.

Wonder if Savage was so concise and to the point with Ozzie Newsome when he described the debacle otherwise known as the Ravens 2004 NFL Draft class.

Despite his six arrests and 12 incidents requiring police attention, Roger Goodell is allowing Pacman Jones to practice with the Dallas Cowboys. Stock prices on Dallas area strip clubs are said to be skyrocketing…The Ravens mascot Poe has been seeded 16th in the AFC in a mascot tournament conjured up by CBS Sportsline. In case you aren’t a math major that means he’s been voted the worst in the conference. You can make a difference. Log on to CBS Sportsline
and vote. As of this writing Poe is neck and neck with the Chargers’ mascot Boltman…Artie Donovan celebrated his birthday on Thursday. Happy wishes go out to the Crabtown favorite who is now 83 years young. Here’s a look at Artie during one of his frequent visits to late night talk shows, this time with Johnny Carson... And finally, the not-so-household name of Billy Rowell was the O’s first round pick just 2 years ago…Have a great weekend and go Big Brown, even if your trainer does come off as a bit of a pompous jerk.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Ravens passing camp notes and observations

The Ravens opened passing camp on Wednesday with the offense and defense working through individual drills on adjacent fields. Rex Ryan’s defense is naturally more familiar with the coaching staff’s expectations and their movements are relatively more comfortable and smooth than the offense which is still trying to get accustomed to Cam Cameron’s playbook and its accompanying terminology.

Two of the more noticeable things on the offensive side yesterday were the returns of Joe Flacco and Demetrius Williams. Early on Flacco seemed a tad rusty – rust that he would later shake off and then some. Williams moved well with no lingering effects from his sore Achilles.

Kyle Boller and Troy Smith shared the snaps with the first unit. Flacco got in some reps but the veterans split the majority behind a first team line from left to right of Jared Gaither, Ben Grubbs, Jason Brown, Marshal Yanda and Mike Kracalik.

Just prior to simulated scrimmaging (in shorts and shirts only), Cam Cameron worked closely with his quarterbacks on the nuances of a handoff from the shotgun position. Cameron focused on footwork and ball skills. Imagine the fake pass to the outside that morphs into an inside handoff to the running back aligned to the left or right of the QB while in the gun (think Brett Favre fakes). Cameron stressed the importance of staying put after receiving the snap prior to the handoff in order to keep the play on time and the other moving parts of the offense in synch.

The simulated scrimmaging opened with Boller finding LeRon McClain circling out of the backfield for a 10 yard gain. The pass was on the mark, something that represented immediate progress for Boller who struggled with accuracy on that route one week earlier. Boller improved markedly from last week’s shaky passing camp performance.

On the very next play, Boller drilled a 30 yard pass to Williams streaking down the right sideline. The fastball was required in order to get the ball to Williams who had beaten Corey Ivy. A fast closing Jim Leonhard may have broken up the play during game action as Williams leapt to snag Boller’s pass leaving himself completely exposed.

Troy Smith took over soon thereafter and immediately went on top to find Todd Heap on a deep post. Fabian Washington had coverage on Heap and was stride for stride with the Ravens tight end. Washington appeared to have the ball in his sights but Heap snatched it away from the defender. On the very next play Heap demonstrated strong hands on a shorter crossing route seemingly taking a Smith pass right off the back of a Ravens’ linebacker.

The pace in and out of the huddle was a bit sluggish early on as Cameron encouraged his QB’s to, “get them in and out – let’s go!”

Flacco took over and he showed observers that he has some giddy-up for a quarterback who stands at 6’6”. On what appeared to be a designed option to the left, Flacco advanced the ball more than 20 yards downfield before being touched which inspired wild cheers from his offensive mates, one of whom shouted, “He’s got some Boo-yah!”

Flacco would follow that scramble with a pass deflected by Kelly Gregg. Gregg also batted down a Troy Smith pass. After each Gregg slowly wagged his finger at the QBs as if to playfully say, “Not in here!”

Boller’s overall performance was marked by more confidence, perhaps explained in part by the fact that he took many more snaps with the first team yesterday than he did last week. He hit Yamon Figurs who was working his way from left to right along the end line with a picturesque pass for a score. Figurs showed surprisingly strong hands on the play. Another encouraging development with Figurs was on display when he fought hard to get to a deep pass from Flacco down the right sideline. Frank Walker was called for pass interference in the end zone on the play thanks in large part to Figurs effort...Boller was picked off on a very similar throw to the same spot. The intended receiver on that play was Kerry Reed. Derrick Martin made a very nice adjustment and catch to finish the interception...Boller’s accuracy was better (cynics among the media suggested that it couldn’t get any worse than last week) as was his timing. He was chastised by Cameron for throwing a pass out of bounds when his receivers were covered. He wants Boller to get in the practice of tucking it and advancing the ball with his feet if running space is there instead of automatically giving up on the play. Boller did make a heady play on a blitz from his far left, pressure applied by a blitzing safety. He threw a deep pass to Mark Clayton running a streak along the numbers. The pass was placed where only Clayton could get it but the fourth year receiver failed to find the ball. It’s probable that he didn’t read the blitz. If he had turned a tad earlier, it’s a touchdown.

Troy Smith continues to look good although the distance between he and Boller on this day was not as pronounced. Smith continues to show better ball handling skills and sells the play action far better than the six year vet. Flacco is also better than Boller with play fakes. During simulated scrimmaging Smith threw a beauty of a pass in traffic after stepping up in the pocket. He hit Justin Harper along the left numbers 20 yards down field despite converging coverage. Harper showed nice footwork turning the comeback route back out to the sideline after the catch to avoid defenders. As noted before, yards after catch are being emphasized.

Joe Flacco was given the majority of the snaps during the two minute offense. He exhibited a calm demeanor that seemingly allows him to see the field with clarity. On one play he dropped back, read his progressions from left to right and just before the pressure reached him, he quickly pivoted and fired a bullet to Justin Harper along the right sideline just beyond the first down marker. Harper initially had possession but Derrick Martin aggressively chopped the ball from Harper’s mitts.

Also during the two minute drill Flacco hit Marcus Smith in stride on a 30 yard rope with Tom Zbikowski covering. After a pass play to the outside right that resulted in two receivers being in nearly identical spots (more on that in a bit), Flacco raced his team to the line of scrimmage and looked like he was going to spike the ball. Instead he faked the spike and threw a pass downfield about 15 yards to the left. The pass was incomplete yet Flacco’s moxie was impressive. Bart Scott shouted out from the opposite sideline, “Somebody was watching the Jets game on NFL Network last week!”

OTHER OBSERVATIONS: Ernie Wheelwright did his best Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran impersonation on Wednesday, dropping balls with regularity and even knocking one skyward that amazingly wasn’t intercepted by the defense. During 2 minute drills Marcus Smith and Wheelwright ran the same 5 yard out at the same spot on the field. After Smith made the catch in unnecessarily heavy traffic, the ’08 fourth round pick was heard calling, “Ernie!”...Clayton and Derrick Mason were effective finding soft spots in the defense and to the delight of Ravens fans everywhere, the soft spots weren’t just 3 yards from the line of scrimmage…UDFA WR Patrick Carter made a nice catch of a Boller toss in traffic, going up high to share the 20 yard in-route just inside the left hash mark…Todd Heap lined up several times in the backfield just to the right of the quarterback when in shotgun formation. Later in practice Heap caught a deep pass down the middle when he got by Jarret Johnson. Johnson was looking for deep support from Landry. He didn’t get it and afterwards pulled Landry aside to discuss the breakdown…Ray Rice continues to show rapid acceleration. On a short pass to the left flat, Rice quickly changed direction and got into gear to avoid the linebacker assigned to him. He could become a big headache to opposing defensive coordinators…Rookie G/T David Hale was schooled by Tavares Gooden and Edgar Jones. Gooden had a decided edge rushing the passer on one play and for the most part Hale was mugging the rookie ‘Cane. Jones blew by Hale who looked like a clumsy matador as the second year OLB/DE easily found the quarterback. Obviously it’s early but Hale doesn’t look like NFL tackle material.

Dan Cody practiced without incident. Most of his snaps were with his hand in the dirt along the left edge…Antwan Barnes is moving well with the added weight and muscle mass. He had one sack after a very nice inside stunt move off the left defensive edge that lead to a clear path to the QB…Derrick Martin was very vocal and seems to have taken a page from Corey Ivy on how to compete during practice. He had a solid outing with 3 batted down passes and the aforementioned interception…Ronnie Prude made a nice play batting down a pass intended for Mark Clayton…Lenny Walls was very limited…David Pittman was again an observer…Fabian Washington moved well. Don’t be surprised if he steals the starting job away from Samari Rolle…Matt Stover was 1 for 5 on field goal attempts of 43-49 yards.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Cleveland Browns are the best franchise in the NFL...LOLOLOLOL!

I remember back in the Fall of 1995 I returned from a business trip in Florida on some USAir flight. Upon landing I checked my voice mail and learned that Art Modell was planning on moving his Browns to Baltimore. Like all of you I was ecstatic.

But shortly after the initial feeling of jubilation I felt a twinge of guilt. Didn’t we just do the same thing to the city of Cleveland that the city of Indianapolis had done to us back in 1984?

I really hoped that the Glazers would move their team from Tampa to Baltimore. At the time, Tampa was indifferent towards their Bucs as opposed to Cleveland which was always rabid about the Browns despite their then current struggles under Bill Belichick.

I quickly rationalized the move as acceptable.

Hey we played fair and tried to earn an expansion team the old-fashioned way. But Paul Tagliabue played Baltimore like a fiddle to forward his own agenda and expand into untapped markets. Gee that decision to go to Jacksonville sure has panned out hasn’t it Tags?

Looking back and recalling those mixed feelings today makes me want to laugh. The Browns fans aren’t worthy of my empathy. They’ve proven that with all of their crybaby tears that by now should have cleansed the cesspool known as Lake Erie.

Since they began wailing like infants not ready to be weaned off their highly desirable binkies, I’ve grown to despise Cleveland. I hate the Indians. I hate the Cavs. I really hate LeBron James. Clearly he is the poster child Cleveland whiners.

And of course I hate The Browns.

After crying a river and getting their way, the city of Cleveland still bitches and moans about everything. I guess if I lived there I might too so in a way it’s difficult to criticize. I love music and would love to visit the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame yet despite Southwest’s $39 one way fares, I still can’t bring myself to go to Cleveland – home of the NFL’s best franchise.


Well you shouldn’t be. Check out these excerpts from the Bleacher Report where Jim Cantrell tells us all why the Browns are the best…(my rebuttals in italics)

1. The Cleveland Browns boast the League's greatest and most innovative coach.

Paul Brown was a genius. Freakishly so.

Here are some of the "firsts" instituted by Paul Brown: filming games and keeping a library of those games, judging players by intelligence testing, classroom instruction during practice, face masks, using "messenger guards" to send plays into the huddle, using a radio transmitter to communicate with the players on the field.

Brown also used an offense, as directed by Graham, that many consider the predecessor of Bill Walsh's West Coast Offense, himself a protege of Brown.

And speaking of coaches, how impressive is this family tree? Blanton Collier, Weeb Ewbank, Sid Gillman, Chuck Noll, Ara Parseghian, Don Shula, the aforementioned Bill Walsh, and Sam Wyche.

Talk about living in the past – “freakishly so!” Contrell must have just fallen out of a tree. I guess Bowmar is the world’s greatest technology company. They did invent the world’s first calculator right? And I suppose cutting edge technology for Clevelanders includes 8 Track Players, Pong Video Games, mullet haircuts and rotary telephones…

2. The Cleveland Browns boast the League's greatest player.

In a 14 game season in 1963, Jim Brown rushed for 1,863 yards, a Browns single season record that still stands.

He is the only rusher in NFL history to average over 100 yards a game in a career.

But most impressively, Jim Brown averaged a mind boggling 5.2 yards per carry for his entire career. He essentially rushed for a first down every other time he carried the ball.

Last year Brown was inactive for all 16 games. Clevelanders are confident that the Browns would have advanced in the post season with an active Jim Brown. Jamal Lewis is confident that he can keep Brown inactive again this year.

3. The Cleveland Browns have distinct rivalries with all three opponents in their division.

Unlike teams in other divisions that base their contempt on familiarity, the Cleveland Browns and its inter-division foes really have reason to despise each other.

The Baltimore Ravens were almost the Baltimore Browns, and Cleveland fans will never forget.

The Cincinnati Bengals were founded by Paul Brown, a blow from which many Browns fans still have not recovered.

And the Pittsburgh Steelers, the doormat of the Browns and the rest of the NFL in general for so many years, turned the tables in the 1970's, when a coach from the Paul Brown coaching tree, Chuck Noll, helped to build one of the greatest teams of all time. The history of the games played between these two teams could fill many books, and indeed have.

This rivalry may not only be the greatest in the NFL, but for some, it is the greatest rivalry in all of sports.

Will both of those Browns’ fans that believe this please stand up? Greatest rivalry in all of sports? LOLOLOLOLOL...give me a moment to collect myself here....LOLOLOL

4. The Cleveland Browns are directly responsible for the success of Monday Night Football, and by extension, the League's lucrative television contracts.

Art Modell, former Browns owner and only elected NFL President (from 1967 through 1969), was also the NFL's broadcast chairman for 31 years.

As a member of the NFL's negotiating team in 1970, Modell was influential in convincing ABC to take on a truly groundbreaking show, Monday Night Football. Modell went so far as to volunteer to host the first game, which his Browns won against Joe Namath and the New York Jets, 31-21.

Television history was made, the wedding of football and television was complete, and the revenue that the new television contracts generated changed the game, for better or worse, forever.

Just as instrumental in the merger of the NFL and the AFL, Art Modell would have been a first ballot Hall of Famer if only he had been able to manage his own team's finances as well as he managed those early television deals.

So let’s get this straight, they want to take credit for Modell’s accomplishment yet he doesn’t feel safe returning to the city that benefitted from his philanthropic ways. That’s not too far removed from the behavior of a street thug now is it? Or maybe that of a bitter ex-spouse?

5. The Cleveland Browns boast the greatest fan base in all of sports.

With 312 chapters and over 87,000 members, the Cleveland Browns Backers is one of the largest fan organizations in professional sports. It has clubs in every major metropolitan area of America, and can be found in places as remote as Sri Lanka and Australia.

The "Dawg Pound" is a force inside the stadium, rocking the rafters with the woofs and barks of thousands of loyal fans dressed to the "K-9's" and cheering on their beloved team.

But the most impressive display of Cleveland's love of all things Browns was shown during the most tumultuous period in the team's proud history. In the midst of the 1995 season, owner Art Modell announced that he had reached an agreement with the city of Baltimore to move the Browns and begin play there the following season.

Many other cities, faced with similiar circumstances over the years, had tried to protest and stop their teams from moving.

Cleveland did.

And the chapter I remember most is of all of those beer bottles hurled on to the field by members of this “greatest fan base.” Is that what makes Cleveland so “great?” Oh and let’s not forget about the lovely fall evenings there that attract swarms of every flying insect ever known to man. We all know what attracts flying insects right?

Hey Jim Cantrell, if I ever get in any real trouble with the law, I hope you are opposing counsel. Your reasoning to support your argument is so typical of a Cleveland fan – more holes than the Albert Hall, splattered with conveniently twisted truths and totally full of…well you know.

And so do the flies.