Thursday, July 30, 2009

Is Mason's retirement about something more than money and McNair's tragic passing?

It was reported a couple of days ago that Derrick Mason had hired a moving company to transport his family back to Nashville. In knee-jerk fashion, many fans and some in the media quickly concluded that this news suggests that Mason’s “retirement” is for real.

Don’t count me among them.

I have maintained that given the way Mason’s retirement announcement was delivered – through his agent’s website, that the sequence of behaviors amount to nothing more than posturing. This is all about creating leverage.

After all why would an agent be so quick to announce a client’s retirement less than 30 minutes after a workout in the Ravens’ facility? Oh, Derrick could only bench press 225 pounds 12 times instead of 15 – time to retire!

By nature agents are paid to promote careers and expand income producing opportunities for their clients. If anything an agent driven by the innate larceny in his/her heart, would try and talk a client out of retirement because they make zip, zero, nada on said client upon retirement. There isn’t an agent on the planet that just can’t wait to announce a client’s retirement.

Agents aren’t built that way.

It’s a negotiating ploy to create leverage…plain and simple.

Or so I thought…

Then we hear the news about the moving company.

It occurred to me that what if Mason hired the moving company to move just his family to Nashville and he would remain behind in Baltimore. And if true what might that mean?

Let’s step back for a moment…

Mason and his wife have been married for 12 years and they have two children – a ten year old daughter and a six year old son. Mason’s public persona is that of a family man. Now given the tender ages of those children – children Mason outwardly adores; given Mason’s conditioning and rehab regimen for his shoulder; given his work in the community; his participation in voluntary organized team activities; the offseason strength and conditioning program, etc, etc…

The sudden decision to retire and haul in the moving vans suggests that something could have happened – something sudden in Mason’s life that triggered the “retirement” other than money.

Why would Mason with little planning uproot his children a few weeks before school begins again?

Did Steve McNair’s tragic death trigger all of this?

Has grief paralyzed Mason’s ambition?

Try to put yourself in Mason’s shoes and imagine that you lost a dear friend in a tragic way. Do you think your friend would want you to stop doing something that you love – to stop providing for your family the best way that you can?

Of course not!

If anything, McNair’s death could fuel Mason’s determination following a temporary setback to grieve. Athletes compete and athletes like Mason are often driven by inspiration. He played through intense pain last year driven by his desire to set an example for his son. You don’t think that he’d like to dedicate a season to his fallen friend?

I still believe that negotiating leverage is playing a role in Mason’s behavior, but I now believe it isn’t that simple. Something happened other than grief following McNair’s death and whatever it is, here’s hoping that with time it heals for the benefit of Derrick Mason and his family.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ravens remove Mason from 80 man roster

WESTMINSTER -- The Baltimore Ravens placed veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason, who announced his plans to retire two weeks ago, on the reserve/did not report list.The designation means that Mason won't count against the NFL's 80-man roster limit. The Ravens can activate him from that list at any time should he decide to return, and they retain his rights.

Wide receiver Demetrius Williams hasn’t spoken with Mason since about a week ago when he checked in on the two-time Pro Bowl wideout.

Williams said he didn’t come away with an opinion on what Mason is planning to do.

"I really don’t know,” Williams said. “A guy can go home and sleep on it and the next thing you know, he doesn’t want to play anymore. Or he might wake up in the morning and say, ‘I want to play.’

“You never know. It’s a decision that he’s going to have to make. Whatever decision he makes, we’re going to be happy. If we get him back, that’s a great plus, and if we don’t get him back, we’ll understand."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


The Ravens worked out in shells today so there was very little hitting taking place. Per usual the team broke out into unit drills. Some observations from those…Paul Kruger took some special instruction from Greg Mattison who was schooling Kruger on the art of leverage. Most observers believe that Kruger needs to improve in that area when engaging blockers… Dwan Edwards looked lean and now possesses more muscle tone…The skill position players practiced holding their pre-snap positions as quarterbacks Flacco, Smith and Beck alternated with irregular cadences.

LJ Smith looked very strong and was sure-handed throughout the practice. He made a nice fingertip catch of a John Beck fastball. On the very next play rookie RB Cedric Peerman made a spectacular one-handed snare of a wildly thrown ball from Troy Smith. Peerman clearly works like a man on a mission. FB Jason Cook had a Beck pass bounce off his facemask. Free agent RB Matt Lawrence looks like a natural receiver out of the backfield.

Demetrius Williams had no noticeable after effects stemming from his ankle/Achilles’ injury. He is clearly stronger in his upper torso…Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams both took shots at an interesting stop and go route triggered by a Flacco pump fake. Clayton looped in from the sideline simulating a curl in but continued looping around after the pump fake and up field. Williams and Flacco connected while the Flacco-Clayton pass fell incomplete. Williams says that he is 100% and at his best physically in a long time.

Clayton was featured on a couple of passes in the red zone where he lined up fairly tight to the right side of the line and then ran a skinny post to the right upright. Flacco and Smith both lofted touch passes to Clayton trying to work the soft spot between the linebacker’s drop and the safety on that side. The play shows promise but needs work. A receiver taller than Clayton may be more effective in that role. Time will tell.

The field goal unit ventured out on to the field for what amounted to 5 FGA’s all from 29 yards out. Graham Gano took the first four shots with Chris Carr, Troy Smith, John Beck and Mark Clayton alternating as holders. Gano was 2 of 4 in those attempts. Steve Hauschka connected on his only attempt.

The defensive backfield looked sharp despite limited chances to make a statement. Newly acquired free agent Chris Carr broke well on the ball and broke up a couple of passes. Frank Walker stripped Williams after a head high catch of a pass from Smith…Fabian Washington broke up a pass intended for Troy Smith who lined up as the wide out to the right. Derrick Martin worked out at safety today.

OTHER NOTABLES AND QUOTABLES: The crowd was rather light for this practice and that can probably be credited to the absence of the high profile veterans who do not have to report until Wednesday. Those vets won’t practice in front of the public until Friday morning…For those wondering why DJ Hackett was not invited back you should know that his workout last Friday was defined by one insider as “Bad.”…The Ravens have discussed acquiring two players plagued by off-the-field issues, Michael Vick and Matt Jones according to John Harbaugh. Neither appears to fit the team’s plans…Tavares Gooden said he is playing at 238 pounds and feels lean and fast…Willis McGahee was a spectator for nearly the entire workout. His is officially on the PUP list but Coach Harbaugh said that he expects the 2008 Pro Bowler (2007 season) to be back at practice before the week is out…Others on the PUP List include: Ben Grubbs, Marshal Yanda, Yamon Figurs, Adam Terry, Joe Reitz, Lamar Divens, Kelly Talavou, Davon Drew and Samari Rolle.

First year defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said, "My no. 1 priority is, 'Do what I have to do to make sure this defense plays up to its ability.”

PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM (“PUP”) LIST RULES: Once players are designated as such, they are prohibited from practicing with the team. They can, however, rehabilitate and participate in team meetings. If a player begins training camp on the PUP list, they can be moved to the active roster at any time, even after one practice. A player is not allowed to be placed on the PUP list if they start training camp on the active roster.

A player who begins the regular season on the PUP list must sit out his team's first six games. After that point, a team has three weeks to start having the player practice; once the player begins practicing, the team has another three weeks to put the player on the active roster. If the player is not activated by that time, or if he does not begin practicing within that three week window, he must remain on the PUP list for the remainder of the season.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hopeful Ravens seek their field of dreams

As children, many of us aspired to be professional athletes. Back in the days before Xbox and PlayStation and EA Sports, the days when Video Pong was cutting edge, we spent our summers on the ball field from mid morning to sundown.

The fields were simple. Bases were made of castaway clothing or boxes -- perhaps even a crushed soda can or milk carton. The fields were safe. Parents didn't seem to mind that you hopped on your bike and took off, not to be seen again until dusk.

The fields inspired. They were hallowed grounds where children competed and honed their skills, surely to carve a path to the future, to the big leagues, to fulfilled dreams.

The movie Field of Dreams makes its way to my DVD player from time to time. And each time I seem to pick up on something that somehow escaped me in the previous viewing. During my most recent sit down with Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones, I was tuned in -- no make that locked in on some of the dialogue.

Near the film's final moments, Ray Kinsella played by Costner is reunited with his deceased dad, John Kinsella.

John: Is this heaven?

Ray: It's Iowa.

John: I could have sworn this was heaven.

Ray: Is there a heaven?

John: Oh yeah, it's the place dreams come true.

Ray: (looking around at his field, his farm, his home and his family) Maybe this is heaven.

The messages, lessons and imagery of this movie will capture your mind and envelope it in a blanket of hope.

Hope is what will drive the athletes who take their field of dreams at McDaniel College today. All of them were the best of the lot back on those fields as youngsters. They went on to high school to be the best amongst their classmates which resulted in college scholarships. In college they refined their craft and while they remained the best among peers, the gap narrowed.

This summer like every summer late second day draft selections and undrafted free agents will test their skills against the world's best to see if they have what it takes -- to see if they can be the next Adalius Thomas or Bart Scott.

"They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children longing for the past."

These athletes will compete for limited spots on a roster that looks very deep and talented. They will attempt to gain the advantage they once enjoyed in days gone by. Yet the struggle is more intense and the threat of failure for the first time in their lives will be very real. It will stare them in the face and they will fight with every fiber of their being to avoid hearing, "We need your playbook", the NFL equivalent to a visit from the Grim Reaper.

In Field of Dreams, Archibald "Moonlight" Graham failed to realize his athletic dream while among the living. He made it to the big leagues for a very brief stint but never had an appearance at the plate. Yet he lived his life without regret.

When one dream fell short he redirected his ambition towards medicine and went on to live a fulfilling life.

You hear it often, "Life is a journey." And truly it is. It's difficult to envision what lies ahead in the twists and turns of life. The key is to adapt, adjust and to embrace new dreams and keep them alive. Take Ray Kinsella. Ray worried that he was becoming like his father, a man who he believed never listened to the voices in his head that urged him to pursue his passion.

"I'm 36 years old, I have a wife, a child and a mortgage and I'm scared to death I'm turning into my father."

Ray threw caution and logic to the wind. He listened to the voices in his head and in the corn field.

"If you build it, he will come."

"Ease his pain."

"Go the distance."

Ray built that baseball diamond and later realized that his dad wasn't the man he rebelled against all those years. He also realized that his life, exactly as it was, was a very good one. It was his slice of heaven on earth right there on that Iowa farm, the field of his dreams.

As we turn our attention towards Ravens Summer Camp, keep in mind that these players we often criticize are the best in the world at what they do. Even those who don't quite make the cut, aren't that far behind. The years of practice, the hours in the weight room, the gallons of sweat all lead them to Westminster, Maryland -- the threshold to their dreams.

Some will make it. Some will not. Some will be redirected to the practice squad and get a second chance at fulfilling a dream like Kelly Gregg did.

They persevered driven by a dream.

They went the distance.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Say hello to your "role model"




It's CRAZY how accurate this is!


Ok, here we go…

Oh, if math isn’t your thing, get out your trusty calculator.

1) Pick your favorite number between 1 & 9

2) Multiply it by 3 then

3) Add 3

4) Then again multiply by 3

(I see you reaching for the calculator...)

5 ) Ok, now you have a 2 or 3 digit number....

6 ) Add the digits together

Now you can scroll down


With that number, see who your ROLE MODEL is from the list below:

1. Alex Rodriguez

2. Pee Wee Herman

3. Barrack Obama

4. George W.

5. Sarah Palin

6. Gandhi

7. Paul McCartney

8. John Lennon

9. Tony Lombardi

10. Cal Ripken, Jr.

I know.....I just have that effect on day you, too, can be like me.....Believe it!

P.S. Stop picking different numbers!! I AM YOUR IDOL, JUST DEAL WITH IT!!!!!! NOW CLICK "FORWARD", PUT YOUR NAME IN NO. 9 AND SEND IT ON!!

P.P.S. Why this post on a Ravens' blog? Well it is the offseason, or so they say

Mason will return yet Ravens will benefit from his absence

Derrick Mason will be back. In a few weeks he’ll spin it that he got caught up in the emotion of Steve McNair’s death and the retirement announcement was a result of that. He’ll say something to the effect that he knows McNair would want him to continue playing and that he’ll dedicate this season to his friend.

But let’s make no mistake about it this whole retirement charade is the brainchild of his agent Lamont Smith.

And it just might work. Mason could get a year added to his deal and you know what, he deserves it!

However, until he decides to return the Ravens can and will benefit from Mason’s absence. The reps normally assigned to Mason will be given to Mark Clayton, Clayton’s to Demetrius Williams, Williams’ to Marcus Smith, Smith’s to Kelley Washington.

It will enable Flacco to develop a stronger rapport with the other receivers which in turn will strengthen the depth at the position particularly when Mason returns. I did say “when” not “if.”

For those concerned about Mason, don’t be. He looked great during OTA’s and his conditioning has always been excellent. When he reports to Westminster sometime in August it will be as though he was never away.

Well almost…

Clayton didn’t get the opportunity to get in synch with Flacco last summer primarily because Flacco rarely took snaps with the first unit. That changes this year. Maybe the pair will even develop the little idiosyncrasies that Flacco shares with Mason. The same could be said of Flacco and Williams.

Think of it this way…

In basketball if you detect that your opponent really favors his right, what do you do? Well of course you take away the right and force him to his left. If he doesn’t improve going to his left, he’ll lose. Similarly if you take Mason away from Flacco, he’s forced to go elsewhere and when that improves, so will the success of the passing game.

We’ll see you soon Derrick.

But take your time...

Photo by Sabina Moran

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ravens overpaid for better recognize!

It’s always interesting when a player signs a big contract, particularly one that is a record deal for a given position. Some fans will express joy over locking up the player, others will fret the signing and complain that the modern day athlete makes too much and no one is worth that kind of money.

Does it matter really?

Contracts and those negotiating them measure market value and the going rate for a player of Terrell Suggs’ caliber is pretty much what he was paid.

Critics will point to his drop off in sack production over the last few years. Suggs has failed to reach a double digit sack total for four consecutive seasons. Yet his overall production has picked up. Detractors might agree on the improved overall play but argue that Suggs doesn’t impact a game like Jared Allen or Dwight Freeney and therefore doesn’t deserve the kind of money they are paid.

But is that a fair comparison?

Freeney is pretty much a sack specialist and a liability against the run. He is aided by the fact that his offense is often playing with a big lead forcing opponents to the air. Freeney can then tee off. That said Freeney over the last 3 seasons has produced only 19.5 sacks. Suggs has 22.5. Freeney has 78 tackles over that same period while Suggs has 212.

Suggs is 26, Allen 27 and Freeney 29.

Which player made a bigger impact?

Jared Allen has been a nightmare for QB’s taking down signal callers 37.5 times over the last 3 seasons with 161 total tackles.

Suggs has been much more productive from ’06-’08 in pass defense than Freeney with a 2-0 edge in interceptions and a 22-2 edge in passes defended. Allen has 1 interception over that same period and he’s defended 23 passes.

If Freeney was worth his $30 million, Suggs is clearly worth his $32-33 million in guaranteed money. Depending upon your style of defense, Suggs and Allen are close but it’s hard to argue with those who might favor Allen as the more disruptive player and therefore a bit more deserving of his $31 million than Suggs is his newly acquired riches.

Then again Suggs didn’t cost the first round pick and two third round picks that the Vikings gave up for Allen.

The Ravens also don’t have to worry about Suggs off the field.

Allen has had one four game suspension for substance abuse.

If Freeney and Allen are your measuring sticks and you consider their deals to be market value, then it’s hard to argue with the price that Steve Bisciotti paid to lock up Suggs in Baltimore for the next six seasons.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ozzie on vacation as the Suggs' clock ticks down

Like many of the folks employed by Steve Bisciotti, Ozzie Newsome is on vacation. That should tell you something about the team’s contract talks with Terrell Suggs.

Think about it…

The Ravens let Adalius Thomas go opting instead to invest their defensive dollars in the younger and more talented Suggs. Fair enough. Good choice if you ask me and Jarret Johnson’s play in AD’s absence further validates that decision.

Yet here we are 2 years later STILL waiting on a new deal for Suggs.

By his own admission, Ozzie has deemed a Suggs extension to be an organizational priority. Suggs has to sign any new deal by 4PM tomorrow, July 15 otherwise, all bets are off until February, 2010.

Meanwhile somewhere, Ozzie has his toes in the sand and perhaps a Pina Colada in hand.

But no Suggs!

Ozzie’s absence suggests that he’s offered Suggs the best deal he can and the line is drawn in the proverbial sand. Maybe Suggs’ agent Gary Wichard is simply waiting on 4PM tomorrow to see if the Ravens blink and offer a little more as the deadline approaches. After all, what is there to gain by signing the deal prior to the deadline?

T minus 29 hours and counting.

Another Pina Oz?

Mason and agent paint Ravens into corner

Last year when Derrick Mason fought through a shoulder injury for the benefit of his team he shared that his son was a motivating force behind his ability to expand his threshold of pain. In so many words Mason would explain that he wanted to teach his child that there are obstacles in life that need to be navigated and for Mason, a shoulder separation was just one of those obstacles.

His efforts were borderline heroic.

Fast forward to July 13, 2009 and we learn through the website of Mason’s agent Lamont Smith ( that the two-time Pro Bowler has decided to retire.

My immediate thought was that Steve McNair’s death deeply affected Mason on many levels. Perhaps he had an epiphany of sorts and concluded that there are far more important things in his life than playing football.

But then I read this from…

“I have been thinking about [retiring] since the season ended. Emotionally I am just not that enthused. I have not been that enthused to get up and work out…it was getting to that point. This decision has nothing to do with the contract situation; I have made enough money, more than enough money. Emotionally there are things that are more important. It’s time right now. I don’t know what’s going to happen from here, but it’s going to be really nice to see what life has in store for me. What I want people to remember about my NFL career is that I played hard…played hard in practice and the game. I tried to make everyone better and would do anything to help.”

The timing of this surprise announcement is suspicious to say the least.

Why did Mason wait this long?

A player who had walked and talked team; one who embodies the underlying meaning of the franchise’s new mantra, “What’s our name?”; a player hell bent on setting an example for his son pulls the rug out on his team? What kind of message is THAT for his son? If the idea of retirement has genuinely been on his mind this long, why not tell the team? Might they have approached the draft a little differently? Dealt with Anquan Boldin more aggressively?

It doesn’t add up.

It flies in the face of all Mason stands for.

There must be something more than a lack of enthusiasm for the game going on here, right?

Oh you better believe it!

It’s about money and Mason’s statement through his agent’s website is a classic example of passive aggressive behavior.

Let’s think about this from the agent’s perspective…

Agents don’t make money by announcing retirements. When players with gas in the tank like Mason start talking retirement, agents do all they can to snap them out of their momentary lapse of reasoning. They usually leave such announcements up to the team after the player has officially informed the league. Retirement to an agent is like daylight to a vampire; kryptonite to Superman.


If such an announcement can jumpstart stalled contract extension discussions, an agent will plunk down that trump card faster than a speeding bullet.

Just a few weeks ago while discussing the rehabilitation of his shoulder injury, Mason had this to say about his availability for opening day:

“We’ll see. I guarantee you, I’ll be ready for the first game, that’s all I can say. I’ll be ready by the first game. Everything else, I’ll just play it by ear.”

Mason would later expand upon his projected status for the opener against Kansas City.

"You never know with Superman. I can come out with the cape and it could be the first day or the second week. You never know, but I'm optimistic that when it's time to play, I'll be able to play whenever it is. I'll be able to play when we play Kansas City."

Does Superman ever go into the phone booth and emerge as Clark Kent?

Do these sound like the words of a player contemplating retirement?

Despite rehabbing his shoulder, he attended nearly all of the team’s voluntary OTA’s.

He was a regular participant in the team’s offseason conditioning program. Mason was even in Owings Mills yesterday and according to the Ravens’ official website he spoke to a few team officials after his workout and left the building just before 3PM.

And shortly thereafter, Lamont Smith posted the retirement announcement.

It blindsided the team.

Both Smith and Mason know that the team’s Achilles’ heel is the position of wide receiver. If Mason bails, the depth at the position drops significantly.

A team that arguably finished four minutes removed from the Super Bowl last season and with so much promise for 2009 just took a major blow before training camp even begins.

“I have had a tremendous career and I played for two great teams, I had fun. In my career, I have been able to do everything but win a Super Bowl. I’ve had the opportunity to play on great teams and with great players. After 12 years, I have seen it all and done it all,” Mason stated. “Right now, I am content with the decision I am making. All good things come to an end and I am ready to see what else life has to offer.”

Mason is an emotional player and we’ve seen outbursts from him in the past, particularly when he wasn’t seeing the ball as much. It’s possible that this is another of those emotional outbursts stemming from his inability to land that contract extension and the loss of a friend.

But more than anything else, this announcement seems like a charade – a staged drama that will achieve its intended objective.

It’s a shame that the Ravens let it get this far with Mason. His importance to the offense, to their franchise quarterback, performance that belies his age and his dedication should have been rewarded by now. Instead the Ravens find themselves with a gaping hole in their flank on the negotiating chess board. So far given Ozzie Newsome’s absence (he’s on vacation), the team’s only response was terse and unemotional.

“For any player to retire, he has to send a letter to the NFL stating this, said Ravens Senior Vice President of Public and Community Relations, Kevin Byrne. “Derrick Mason has not done that.”

For the record, if Mason does follow through and retires, the Ravens will realize a cap savings of $3 million. Perhaps then they’ll turn their attention towards a player like Marvin Harrison. And if you are wondering if Mason will pull a Brett Favre and go back to Tennessee or end up in Indianapolis or something along those lines, don’t!

The Ravens will more than likely place Mason on the Reserved/Retired List which would enable them to retain his rights for the remaining year of his contract - regardless of when he would try and come back whether it's next year or 3 years from now.

This story, this chess match is hardly over.

You might say that it’s just beginning and for the moment it’s advantage Mason.

And another lesson learned by Little Mase…

Saturday, July 11, 2009

McNair's legacy tainted by kicker...might the Ravens '09 season experience the same?

Steve McNair’s death has forced many of us to consider his body of work and ponder how he will be remembered. Many have varying opinions today, some of which will change as the tragedy soaks in. Time also has a way of softening our views. This is after all a forgiving society.

While reminiscing I thought of McNair’s career as a Titan. He was always a formidable foe whose style I would describe as relentless. Just when you thought he was wrapped up, he’d escape and make a play downfield with a throw on the run or he might sustain drives with his feet. You could never count out a Steve McNair led team until the clock read 0:00.

Ravens fans won’t want to hear this but the 2000 Titans were a better team than the 2000 Ravens. Statistically their defense was ranked No. 1 and clearly their offense was more potent than the Ravens. Let’s not forget that the Billick/Cavanaugh offense went 21 consecutive quarters without scoring a touchdown.

Had it not been for the inadequacies of Al Del Greco the Titans, not the Ravens would have the Super Bowl XXXV Trophy on their mantel.

How might that have altered McNair’s legacy?

Could Del Greco’s failures keep McNair out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

They might.

Clearly this all presents some interesting topics for friendly pub debates.
While re-living those moments from the 2000 season in my mind, thinking of Al Del Greco and the Ravens touchdown drought, I couldn’t help but think of Matt Stover. How would that championship season have played out without the dependability of No. 3?

Apparently the Ravens are ready and willing to usher in the post-Stover era.

But are they able?

What if the Joe Flacco improves, the offensive line solidifies, the receiving corps proves to be above average and the defense holds serve? Might that be the difference between an AFC Championship Game appearance and a Super Bowl appearance?

It could be.

But what if neither of the Stover replacement candidates, Steve Hauschka or Graham Gano connects consistently under pressure? Is that kickoff/long kicker specialist roster spot really that critical?

The Ravens personnel department has done a fine job of finding players with multiple talents who can contribute in more ways than one. Gone are the players like Clarence Moore and B.J. Sams. Soon Yamon Figurs will be gone for the same reason.

Can’t the Ravens justify Hauschka or Gano AND Stover?

If there is 0:03 left in a playoff game and the Ravens are down by 2 with the ball on the opponent’s 22 yard line, who would you prefer to make that 39 yard field goal attempt, new guy or Stover?

Let’s just hope that if the Ravens prove to be the AFC’s best team in 2009, that a kicker’s failures don’t keep them out of the Super Bowl.

Just ask the fans in Tennessee how they feel.

Just ask the Hall of Fame voters who will one day determine Steve McNair’s place in NFL history.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ravens' DB Webb a work in progress

Although hampered a bit in OTA’s by a nagging hamstring, rookie Lardarius Webb impressed coaches with his willingness to learn and desire to improve. Webb is a tough DB and he posted the fastest 40 speed among corners at the Combines in February. Webb however is not a peddler – that is he needs work in coverage while retreating and turning. At the moment is instincts are more conducive to the position of safety but team officials are optimistic that he will soon shape into a fine nickel back and perhaps more.

Ravens' Nakamura likely to see more playing time

Word is that Greg Mattison was very pleased with Haruki Nakamura during OTA’s and is particularly excited about his ability to disguise the blitz and time it in such a way that is usually disruptive. Look for much more of Nakamura this season particularly in dime packages. Long-time observers of the team may recall how the Ravens effectively employed Gerome Sapp and prior to him Chad Williams to get after opposing quarterbacks oftentimes resulting in a hurry, sack or a forced turnover. That role and more may be handed to the second year safety out of Cincinnati.

Ravens to turn heat up on Antwan Barnes

The Ravens thought they scored a fourth round steal when they selected Antwan Barnes in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft yet to date, he has been a disappointment. Many analysts projected that his game could shape up to be much like the Colts’ Robert Mathis but so far Barnes has been very one-dimensional and some close to the team have even questioned his work ethic. Look for the coaching staff to turn up the heat on Barnes as they try to tap into his vast physical tools. How he responds could determine his future with the team.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Suggs' agent nickel and diming the Ravens?

The next six days could have a huge bearing on whether or not Terrell Suggs is a member of the Baltimore Ravens beyond the 2009 season. If Suggs is not signed by July 15 he will take the field in 2009 season as the team’s franchise player and the two sides will not be able to discuss a long-term deal until the free agency period begins in February, 2010.

The danger in waiting that long is two-fold…

If the Ravens want exclusive negotiating rights with Suggs in 2010, they will have to apply the franchise tag to their Pro Bowl linebacker for what would then be the third consecutive season. The cost of that tag is the average of the league’s top 5 salaries regardless of position and that could approach a staggering one year figure of $17-20 million.

Should the Ravens choose not to tag Suggs in 2010, they will be forced into a bidding war (assuming they want to keep the career-long Raven) with the other teams likely to compete for his services.

Of these two daunting options, the Ravens would probably tag Suggs again despite the heavy burden it would place on their salary cap (assuming 2010 is not an uncapped year) and buy the time to negotiate a long-term deal or trade him. It’s unlikely that the Ravens would let Suggs go without some form of compensation.

But what exactly is the hold up with these negotiations? After the 2006 season the Ravens let Adalius Thomas walk in part because they preferred to keep Suggs long-term yet still there appears to be no imminent new deal.

Suggs however appears to be optimistic.

“I feel like we’re getting close,” Suggs told the team’s web site. “Negotiations are going on with the Ravens. Fans can be optimistic that I’ll be [at training camp].”

During other interviews this offseason, Suggs has suggested that fans will be pleasantly surprised by the numbers in his new deal and that they won’t approach those of Dwight Freeney who signed a then record 6 year, $72 million contract with $30 million guaranteed.

Those words from Suggs just had to have had agent Gary Wichard, the orchestrator of the Freeney deal doubled over in a state of exasperation. You see Wichard also represents Suggs and he’s looking to shape the Ravens franchise player into his next agent trophy – the next record contract for a defender.

Sources have indicated that the Ravens’ current offer approaches that of Jared Allen’s deal which edged Freeney’s slightly, 6 years, $74 million with $31 million guaranteed. Wichard is looking to leap frog Allen’s agent Ken Harris and re-claim the top paid defender title and Suggs is just the man to make that happen.

Wichard will probably haggle over details right up to the 11th hour. He’ll try to get the Ravens to front load the money. Maybe he’ll even get them to go to 7 years and $80 million plus with $32 million guaranteed just so he can win the big weenie contest amongst agents and then tell all prospective clients and the rest of the civilized world why he’s the greatest agent on the face of the planet.

I can almost hear him imploring Ozzie Newsome to, “Just throw me a freakin’ bone!”

At some point on July 15, 2009 he will and Suggs will then make whole on his promise to the fans.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Who among us can really judge Steve McNair?

It’s been four plus days yet seemingly months ago since Steve McNair was taken from this earth in a violent and unnecessary way.

I’ve taken in the talk on sports radio and I’ve read the feedback submitted by Ravens fans and clearly the opinions vary on how McNair will be remembered.

When I think back, I recall the nickname Air McNair as the former Alcorn State Brave emerged on to the NFL scene as the third overall pick by the Houston Oilers in the 1995 NFL Draft. At the time I thought the nickname was a bit unusual since his legs can be credited with most of his early success.

Right around the time McNair was maturing as a professional my son Tyler, to the delight of his proud Dad began to really develop an affinity for the NFL and in large part the credit for that can be attributed to McNair and his long-time teammate Eddie George. As a parent, I loved the idea of my son attaching himself to two players who I considered to be professional, classy, hard working and obviously successful.

As time went by and the Ravens’ rivalry with the Titans heated up my competitive nature prevented me from rooting for the two players because their success could directly affect that of my team. Yet when the duo began to rack up awards and post season appearances I found it hard to begrudge them given their reputations as stand up guys on the field, in the locker room and in the community.

My son would eventually don jerseys for both players and despite the fact that I was building my livelihood around the Baltimore Ravens, he was young and impressionable and it didn’t bother me all that much. After all he could have chosen a Randy Moss or a Terrell Owens jersey.

Ty would eventually become a full-fledged dyed-in-the-wool Ravens fan yet he has always harbored an affinity for McNair and George.

When I heard the news of McNair’s passing I called Ty to see if he had heard and if so how he was dealing with the tragedy. He was unaware of the news and I could tell he was a bit stunned. He’s now taking it in stride just like most of us who admired Steve McNair.

During a recent radio appearance on Delmarva’s ESPN Radio, I was interviewed by New School host Shan Shariff and asked about my first thoughts upon hearing the news…

“I thought first about McNair’s family – his four boys and his wife and I can’t imagine the pain they must be feeling. I then wondered how and why someone who to the outside observer had it all could even put himself in such an uncompromising position.”

The four days since have allowed the events to marinate a little for me and my thoughts are a bit clearer.

From what I’ve been told, McNair’s wife Mechelle is a caring and strong woman. That coupled with what Steve McNair was able to provide his family through his success will carry them forward and they will likely lead happy lives.

Of course they will miss their Dad. Perhaps Mechelle will look past the grief and anger and one day miss what once was as well. My wish for them is that the goodness of Steve McNair, his smile, his positivity, his success, his leadership, friendship, compassion, community-centric ways, generosity and love will endure for them and for all of us who are now questioning his choices – choices that apparently led to an abrupt end to a wonderful life.

Clearly McNair made mistakes and the truth be told we may never know the extent of those mistakes. Perhaps he and his wife were separating and the extra-marital relationship was a byproduct of that separation. Maybe he was ending a relationship with his girlfriend. Whatever it was the time he needed to cure the issue was taken from him. And now some of his survivors are questioning his motives, his morals.

Do we really have that right?

Who among us has never erred?

Who among us never had a chance to correct mistakes?

At the end of the day, it’s possible that none of us ever real knew the real Steve McNair. Most never met the man and consequently there’s only the public persona to base opinions on.

If that’s all you have, then clearly what he’s given, the good that he’s done far outweigh the indiscretions that ended his life. One only needs to listen to and read the unwavering solidarity of those who played with him supporting their fallen teammate.

Clearly he has made mistakes but hasn’t he now paid the ultimate price for those?

My son and I will remember you fondly Steve.

May you rest in peace…
Photo by Sabina Moran

Uncensored: Fans share how they will remember Steve McNair

I asked the members of our Ravens247 Facebook Group to briefly state their thoughts on how they will remember Steve McNair. Here’s what they had to say, unedited and uncut…

The more details that surface about McNair's personal life, the more sadness I feel for his family. His death is a tragic loss for football as he was a hero on the field. But the details of his death have taken away from his status as a hero off the field. ~ Richard Frank

Similar to how D. Mason was playing the end of last season with just one arm, I will remember Steve persevering with incredible results despite being a " walking M*A*S*H* unit… he will be missed ~ Lawrence Plumhoff

Loved him as a Player. Not as a Playa! Catch my drift. No excuses! Didn't like the situation he was in get out. Don't cheat. One of the Ten Commandments is Thou Shalt NOT Commit Adultery. But it's OK if you’re a Superstar. Sorry T. That's why I'm not married. I haven't found that person to be faithful. As a QB, what can you say Gamer, Tough, always has your back, Winner! ~ Kevin Allen

July 4th was a day for celebration. It personifies the strength, resolve, integrity, and the heart of this country. It is a day for us to remember the sacrifices made by our forefathers. It was also the day when the sports world lost an incredible athlete.

Steve McNair climbed from destitution to superstardom, and unlike so many young athletes today, he grew into his new role with grace and professionalism. Steve McNair was the type of quarterback that every fan wanted on their team. He was tough as nails, and never thought twice about the sacrifices of winning. He punished his body for the betterment of his team. His list of career injuries reads like a chapter out of the Physician’s Desk Reference, and yet, he always persevered.

Having not personally known the man, it is difficult to attest for his integrity and character as a football player. His teammates loved him dearly. Both the Titans and the Ravens organizations have described him as a warrior who would do anything for his team mates. They say he was selfless man with a warm smile, and I am inclined to believe them.

Steve McNair’s legacy has been written and the book closed well before it’s time. He will be scrutinized in the court of public opinion due to the facts surrounding his unfortunate and shocking death. It is a devastating ending to a storied career. Certain aspects of what once was his private life should have no bearing on the type of man he was on the football field and in the locker room. ~ David Harrington

I thought McNair was a competitor and warrior. I also know he was great in the community. However this does not always make someone a good husband or father. Here is a true case of sometimes if you play with fire you get burned. It has been a sad and tragic spiraling end for McNair after he left football. Sad that he will be remembered this way as he was such an exciting player. ~ Mike Conway

My daughter knew him, she was greatly saddened, she thought of him as a good guy. ~ Sharon Zinkhan Yoor

Consummate professional ~ Miles Goodman

Affair McNair... Great gutsy quarterback and seemed like a kind and generous person. BUT, when he said he was retiring to spend time with his kids, I had no idea he meant the 20 year old waitress down at the local burger joint. Tragedy yes. But way more tragic are the lives of his children who have to grow up without a father because Daddy wanted to chase some skirt. ~ Chris Lambros

I will remember him crushing our playoff dreams a couple times. I will remember him stepping in and taking us to a 12-4 season. I will also remember him coming up inches short of the goal line in the Super bowl.But most of all I will remember he was murdered by some 20 year old girl that he was sneaking around with while cheating on his wife. That’s the sad part. If he ever goes to the HOF it will be a sad day because he will be sorely missed on that stage. ~ Jamie Rash

I remember Steve as the ultimate warrior at the QB position! That 2002 season where he played the whole season without practicing due to like 1000 different injuries was unreal! God Bless his family! R.I.P Steve ~ Adam Letschin

He's very hot looking but... he was cheating on his wife. No matter how good looking you are there are things that will make you ugly. That goes both ways. Some people that aren't as attractive can become beautiful once you find something so endearing in them. ~ JoAnn Skiba DeBorja

The man was a tank. Regardless of injuries, he would suit up and lead his team. He shared MVP with peyton... he was a yard away from a SBowl victory.... he was strong and proud... he represented us well. It’s a shame to see a man of such character murdered in cold blood. He deserved better. He EARNED better than that.He will be remembered and missed.... ~ Jessica Pace

I heard the news and I was shocked. Steve was in my mind a positive role model on and off the field. He gave back to the community and always managed to keep a positive outlook even in defeat. I put my Steve Mcnair jersey behind glass in a frame hanging next to my autographed picture of brooks Robinson. Me and My family will miss you Steve R.I.P ~ Joe Micelli

As a QB for the Ravens + Titans. No more, no less. I have more pressing things to worry about than Steve McNair. I do think many of these guys never learn to stay down. ~ Steve Antkowiak

Cheating bastard! Is that too mean? ~ Cindy Mikulski

I too will miss Steve McNair and the calm leadership that he brought to the Ravens. While all of the facts have not come out on the circumstances surrounding his death, it wouldn't surprise me to find out that he was the victim of some kind of blackmailing scheme. Trying not to be judgmental, it's hard to imagine that a 36 year old man with a wife and 4 kids and a reputation as a family man could end up in the situation that he was in with a 20 year old woman.Truth be told, I'm more concerned about the 5 year old girl named Raven that was a totally innocent victim of a street brawl that escalated into a shooting in downtown Baltimore. As she fights for her life, my heart goes out to her." ~ Eric Buckner

My thoughts about the Steve McNair tragedy are that he was a gritty, tough and fearless football player and the second he came to Baltimore we were contenders. I was at that Tampa Bay game when he went on that 16 play drive and crammed it in the end zone and the poise and leadership he displayed was inspiring.

Steve McNair was a human being and obviously was having an extra marital affair with a younger woman that was very attractive and unfortunately crazy. I will remember Steve as the football player and that he was taken too soon by a tragedy and I feel terrible for his children that will have to grow up under this cloud of scandal. ~ Vic Biscoe

A Hall of Fame player, who gave everything he had for the game and his teammates every time they walked out onto the field.. ~ Clif King

The fun and festive celebration on the fourth of July were abruptly brought to a halt as I stood in "mute shock" at the news that Steve McNair had been shot. The bearer of bad news, "assumed" I'd heard the news, as they jokingly refer to me as "The Ravensgirl"; and normally I'm passing on news relating to anything Ravens. Yet, there I stood, stunned, shocked, and yes, nearly in tears. While Steve was only with us for a short time, when he came to Baltimore he brought a new hope for the offense; and he had the spirit of a true leader which we had not had in Kyle Boller. I recall feeling such elation to have a great leader on offense, and a great leader on defense, the perfect balance. I am saddened by this news, and do feel like many that it is a senseless tragedy. Steve McNair was a great athlete. He will be missed. ~ Stephanie Bjork

There are no words to describe my feelings the second I heard he was gone. It wasn’t even how he died to me, he was just GONE! My mind went back to the first game he started as the Ravens QB. He walked on the Ravens field and for the 1st time we had “presence” in the QB position! Not only did he ooze talent he was truly respected and touched everyone in Baltimore from the players to the fans. One of my favorite moments is playing against the Titans and we certainly rocked them- sad for the Titan fans but what a huge victory for the Ravens- he walked off that field with complete class and waved to adoring fans in Tenn. as well.

He will always be a part of the Ravens and I for one will never forget the glimmer of hope he gave the fans- we FINALLY had a quarterback!Steve McNair is a man to remember on the field and off- he may have made mistakes, and I’m sure if he could he would “apologize” for his “faults”! But that is not how he would want to be remembered- I for one will remember him as the Ravens QB, (maybe for a short time but we had him)!May God hold his latest angel and give his family the peace and love they need! ~ Stephanie Brough

When I first heard about McNair, I was shocked and saddened. He was my son's first football hero. Now, I have to read the paper, listen to the radio and answer my son's questions about why Steve McNair cheated on his wife, and was vacationing with his girlfriend while his sons were at home, oh and how the DUI's just didn't seem to go away. It's just a shame...I would like to remember him for the player that he was, but now that's not the case. ~ Melissa Levitt Perlman

My quick thoughts... Steve was a helluva player - I have never seen before nor since his ability to play through the pain. I don't remember which game it was, but when I saw his linemen carrying him to the huddle and I was breathless. As an adversary back when the Titans and the Ravens were in the same division he was to be feared and respected, as a Raven he was a Raven. He wasn't perfect, but who is. He commanded the team in ways Baltimore hadn't seen in a long long at QB. He had done a lot of community work in both Nashville and Baltimore - always a good thing to see. I'm a little surprised how choked up I got over it, he was only a Raven for a short while, but I always felt he was a part of the family. He'll be missed in my household... ~ Evan Lougheed

From a football standpoint, I'll remember Steve as a player who was a warrior. It did not matter how many injuries he had or how serious the injuries were. Steve really left his mark on the Ravens in 2006 when he led them to a 13-3 record and a division championship. The playoff loss to the Colts was disappointing, but it was a very enjoyable season for Ravens' fans. RIP Steve! ~ Chuck Bireley

I remember back when I heard Steve McNair was coming to Baltimore to replace Boller. My knee-jerk reaction was "Oh thank God!!!!" My heart breaks for his family and NFL fans everywhere. ~ Margie Donahue

I will remember Steve McNair as a very good quarterback who came to the ravens in the twilight of his career giving the ravens hope for a future. I am in no position to judge his off the field activities or choices. I will always remember him for the excitement of that last minute drive in the Super Bowl.I will prefer to try and forget how he left this world and try to keep my memories of him on the field. ~ Jim Breakwell

I see McNair as a football warrior and weak family man. Runner's World recently had a little blurb about what to do to stay motivated. It quoted Deena Kastor, the 2004 women's bronze medalist in the marathon as saying over and over "define yourself." McNair defined himself on the field. Sadly, defined himself off the field as well.No matter what we do in life, we always lead. RIP Steve. Thanks for being a very good football player. God bless you the rest of the way. ~ Kevin Scally

I first got the text at 4:30pm July 4th. At first I was like wow, Steve McNair murdered (in with the wrong crowd?). Then as the hours went by and more info came out, him and woman found, then murder suicide (the toll of being out of football?), and then the woman not his wife. It started to look more and more not good. He made a few bad choices in his life, DUI, etc. But most were good, just the last bad choice was his last.

Everyone makes bad choices in life, some just end up being worse than others. ~ Rick Noppenberger

Steve McNair was a sweetheart of a guy. Very soft spoken and kind. He was extremely supportive of the efforts of The MOM Squad and donated his time to us in past years. He came to our holiday party at Raven's stadium Christmas of 2008 and spoke to 450 children from the Baltimore Police Athletic League. He encouraged them all to stay in school, be good and follow their dreams.Another occasion I worked with Steve was at an event I helped coordinate called "Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner". I was trapped in a butler's pantry about 2 feet wide in the hotel's kitchen getting autographs from Steve, Ray Lewis, Bart Scott, Terrell Suggs and Jamal Lewis. I had to keep them in hiding until all of the guests were seated for the event. At the end of the dinner, the fans who attended were able to stand up and ask questions of the players. One fan asked Ray Lewis what one of his best moments in football was and he said "It was June 7, 2006 when Steve McNair called him up and said he was signing with the Ravens the next day."I thought that was such a gentlemanly response on Ray's part and spoke tremendously of what a great person/athlete this Steve McNair guy must have been. ~ Michele Musil Alessi

I have always been a McNair fan since his college days at Alcorn State. I remember when the Ravens first came to Baltimore and how much I hated playing the Oilers/Titans. I always felt like McNair always dominated the Ravens. When he got traded to Baltimore, I finally felt like we got a real quarterback, but the best memory of McNair has to be that 2 minute drive against the Chargers in 2006. It is sad his life had to end at 36 years young. His legacy will live on throughout the NFL. McNair will never be forgotten in Baltimore. I think for the upcoming season, Titans and Ravens players should wear #9 on their jerseys or helmet. One other thing, since Ernest Byners name is in the Ring of Honor, Steve McNair’s should be honored in Baltimore. ~ Ed Kapinos

My thoughts on McNair are two-fold.......On the positive side, I remember what a great light he shown upon our franchise and how much I truly believed we would make the Super Bowl that 13-3 year......In addition, he was great for the community here in Baltimore and especially in Nashville. On a bit negative side, he certainly had a different life that was mostly hidden from all....I feel awful for his kids because I am sure he was their hero!! R.I.P. #9 ~ Patrick Lund

I want to start off by stating. I admired Steve McNair as an athlete as well as one of the toughest quarterbacks in the NFL. I want to also add that; any murder and or senseless killing is unfortunate. When it involves family members that may have to endure the consequences and ramifications from such a heinous crimeI feel sympathy for his wife and his children. This should be a lesson to people that step outside the institution of a marriage just for a momentary "roll in the hay". ~ Kenny Shadow

As I write to you, Tony, with a heavy heart and tears in my eyes, I am troubled by the senseless murder of a very young, talented man!! I remember how excited I was when I first heard that Steve McNair was going to be a Raven!! I was so sure that Steve belonged with us!!! Though he retired and has passed on to a better place, I will always think of him as a Raven!!! May he rest in peace!!Steve, if you are listening, maybe you can have a talk with the Big Guy...another Super Bowl would be nice!! I love you Steve NcNair, you will be missed!!!! ~ Julie Thornley

I know there has been so much controversy the last couple of days. But Steve Mcnair will always remain as a pillar in the NFL community no matter how you look at it. He knew his limits but yet pushed himself constantly. He was a human being that just so happened put his cleats on one foot at a time. Steve was a man with a big heart and was hurting inside just like the rest of us. He spent every free moment he had in making a difference in other peoples’ lives daily. There will always be a void within the Ravens and Titans organization's that will never be filled.

To the fans I think they will see through the injustice of infidelity and the outcome will be the true measure of Steve McNair. This was a great tragedy to all who had the pleasure of knowing. My thoughts and prays go out to his friends and family in these difficult times. Please remember, with great tragedy marks the time for rebirth of how we live our lives. Nonetheless, I am truly shocked and sadden about his murder and the events that are unfolding. We have again lost another great athlete surely before his time.....Respectfully ~ Monica Krausch

Still just devastated. I guess because he played through so many injuries and was thought of as so tough. To think that violence could bring him down. It can happen to anyone at anytime. The day he signed his contract here in Baltimore he threw out the first pitch at the o's game that night. I left my office and walked into a suite to watch him. I was SO excited that we had signed a "legitimate" quarterback. I just remember the few thousand people that were there for the o's game clapping and cheering so loud. It was going to be the start of something very exciting. That was a fun memory that I have of Steve Mcnair. ~ Gina D’onofrio

He brought an unforgettable amount of class to the Ravens uniform. ~ Audra Landgraf Parfitt

He was always a fun guy to be around. Never turning down fans for pics or autographs In fact I have posted a picture right now of a picture we had taken together on my web site

When I traveled to Tennessee for the game against the Ravens and he was on our team and not the Titans I saw the love the fans had for him there. I sat in the 2nd row on the fifty yard line lower deck behind the Ravens bench. The entire McNair family sat right in front of us and I got the chance to meet them and talked to them and said to myself what a wonder family situation. Hard to imagine that it wasn't as I saw it. I remember Steve looking over and saying hi to me and it made me feel great especially around all the Titan fans.

Even though he was only here a couple of years I really felt I knew him. I still can't believe this has happened at a tender age of only 36. As a person I have a lot of respect for and considered him a friend. ~ Sports Steve LaPlanche

As a player, Steve was amazing, tough and very talented…as a community member devoted to supporting charity with his money and his presence…Steve was generous and devoted…as far as his personal life…I don’t know. I will say that there are quite a few people I know personally that have given of themselves significantly to charity, done some phenomenal things in their occupation, but aren’t all that good at relationships! That being said, I worked with Steve directly for a few hours at a charity event and he was very personable, friendly, and interacted very positively with the kids. That’s my personal memory of Steve so that’s how I will remember him, rather than concern myself with his private life. I do, however, have great sympathy for Machelle and his sons and wish them some peace with this tragic end. ~ Jennifer Naylor

I will remember number 9 as the quintessential professional. He was a team player that put the team above his own needs. He was probably the guttiest player of all time. I will never forget the early battles the Ravens had with Steve Mcnair and Eddie George in the early years of the franchise coming to prominence. As good as Steve Mcnair was on the field he was even greater off the field. He did a lot of charitable work in Houston, Nashville, and Baltimore. I read an article last week that talked about Steve paying for three football camps and then cleaning up trash at one of them afterward. This was the essence of Steve Mcnair. Finally it saddens me deeply that Steve's legacy could be tarnished by a choice made after his playing days were over. This murder was senseless and leaves me feeling terrible for his wife and children. They are the lost victims in all of this. What a tragedy. ~ Scott Kodarides

I'm sorry if I'm not shocked or surprised about this happening. It is however very sad that a man in the prime of his life was killed. What McNair did or didn't do in his private life is none of mine or anyone else's business. He is a private citizen and no longer the face of an NFL franchise. If he were still an employee with a multi-million dollar contract then I feel he had a responsibility to maintain a certain image.

I also don't fault the coverage of his death; by accepting a job in the NFL he also accepted the price of becoming a public figure. I feel badly for those he left behind to deal with the aftermath. I met McNair before a game once briefly; he signed my program, exchanged a few words and made me feel like I did him a favor by asking for the autograph. McNair by all accounts was like this all the time and was always respectful to fans.

McNair also did so many things in the communities where he lived and played. McNair was a great athlete and did not seem to ever not appreciate the opportunity he had. I will remember him for the enjoyment he brought me on Sundays and how he made me feel in the brief moment that I was honored to share with him as a fan of football. All the best to the McNair family, especially the four sons he left behind. ~ David Prince

Tough as nails football player with a heart of gold. Tragic end to his life stuns all of us but the factors that led to it were said. For all the hater of his situation the theme is common in our replaceable society where almost nothing is sacred any more. ~ Michael Tama

I will remember three things about Steve:

1. On the field he had no fear and was willing to sacrifice his body to make the next play. I often think if he had learned to be a pocket passer sooner he would have had a longer career. But, he gave us all that he had on every play. He was soft spoken, but had a strong will the determination to get the job done and always, always had a smile on his face.

2. His work within his communities whether it was here, or mostly in Nashville or helping the victims in Katrina, which he put 6 figures of his own money into. He worked as hard for his causes as he did on the field. I wish I had half the will-power he always showed in trying to accomplish a goal. Whether it was building a house or talking to a sick child he put his entire focus into the job. You never felt he was faking it or didn't want to be there even if he wasn't at 100%.

3. I saw Steve with his friends and with his family. The questions may now arise about his marriage, but I always saw a man who cared for his wife and especially his children. It hurts me that the cause of his death have made people question his love of his children as a father. While this tragedy has taken him away from his children, that is exactly what this is a tragedy. This is not some outcome from a bad choice. Rarely does anyone think that a relationship will result in this type of outcome. For everyone that questions him as a father, remember he has probably done more and will provide more, even after his passing, for his children than most of us could even imagine. Though let us not forget that his being there for them as they grow up, his life back, anyone of us would trade for all the money in the world.

Rest In Peace Steve
We Will Miss You
But, We Will Not Forget You -Christopher Roberson

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Thanksgiving in July...HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA!

I remember as a kid there was always a buzz about the Fourth of July. The energy, the positive karma, the celebratory atmosphere combined to create riveting electricity during this most festive of summer days.

There were the backyard barbeques, the trips to the Rosedale Cabana Club or maybe even a family gathering at Beaver Dam or a trip to Ocean City. All of the Moms seemed to effortlessly orchestrate the day’s activities as they bunkered down alongside the picnic tables with reclining beach chairs. They covered themselves with oil, baked in the sun and policed the food supply so that neither the Dads nor the kids would get too far ahead of themselves.

This Holiday has a flow to it and the Moms are the maestros.

The late morning of the Holiday gave way to lunch time and lunch time to an early supper. We migrated from snacks to hotdogs and burgers to chicken, ribs and sometimes steak accompanied by corn on the cob. Then came the watermelon…

Swimming, diving, frolicking, volleyball, whiffel ball and basketball were in play throughout the day which upon reflection almost always seemed to be sunny and warm.

As the sun fizzled out, we knew that it was time to move on and continue our celebration. When the darkness of night fell we would feast our eyes upon a beautiful cascade of lights seemingly falling from the heavens above.

It was and still is an annual summer fiesta – a Thanksgiving in July.

During those formative years most of us never fully embraced the true meaning of the Fourth of July – Independence Day. Perhaps we were just too young to absorb the significance of the day; maybe our youthful exuberance was simply just too intoxicated by the sights, sounds and smells of this glorious and celebratory day.

The day was all about fun and then one day we woke up and we became our parents and then it was all about enabling the fun for our children.

Then the children went on their way to do their own thing apart from the families like teenagers do and suddenly the day became all about fun for us again. That is exactly where I find myself today.

One kid is off to Hershey Park, another to the beach while I look forward to celebrating the day with my beautiful fiancĂ©. It’s funny how things run in cycles like that. One day there will be grandchildren and that will trigger another cycle and so on.

What a day this is…

As an adult now I find more time to take pause and give thought to what this day, Independence Day really means. Of course it’s all about freedom and preserving freedom, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

So while we celebrate, let’s take pause and remember the forefathers of our great nation as well as our leaders and the armed forces who put themselves in harm’s way to preserve something that unfortunately we take for granted far too often.

As I was reminded in an email from a friend earlier this week, only two defining forces have ever offered to die for us – Jesus Christ and the American soldier, one for your soul the other for your freedom.

Freedom is the soldier’s gift to us.

While we’re celebrating and making memories let’s remember and celebrate them by saying “Thank you.”

Have a safe and wonderful Holiday!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Oops I did it again!

Never before in the history of baseball has a last place team overcome a 9 run deficit to beat a first place team – until last night when the Orioles scored 5 in the seventh and 5 in the eighth to beat the Boston Red Sox by the score of 11-10.

You’ve probably already poured over all the exciting details and watched all of the riveting highlights. ESPN is having a love fest with the O’s today and why not? Our Orioles made history last night.

On a personal note, I may have made history last night myself.

Let me turn back the clock to November 23, 2003, Week 12 of the NFL Season. The Ravens entered that game against the Seattle Seahawks with a record of 5-5 and a loss at home to Mike Holmgren’s squad would have made it very difficult for the Ravens to earn a post season berth. Six losses with five games to go usually don’t add up to a playoff appearance.

So with 9:21 left in that game, the Ravens faced a fourth and 10 at their own 30 yard line trailing 41-24. Brian Billick sent Dave Zastudil out on to the field to punt.

Well I lost it!

How could Billick punt in that situation? This could be the season!

I got up from my seat and shouted towards the field, “If you quit, I quit!”

And I walked out frustrated that I was building a website around a team that employed a coach who willingly gave up.

Many others did exactly the same.

So I make my way out to Lot H and while walking I hear the roar of the crowd. I raced over to a pickup truck that was wired for audio and sound where I watched a replay of Ed Reed blocking Tim Rouen’s punt and taking it 16 yards for the score.
Seahawks 41, Ravens 31 with 6:41 to go.

A friend who walked out with me suggested we go back in. As if swallowing a huge chunk of imaginary humble pie I said, “Even if they’d let us, we don’t deserve to go back in.”

We cracked open a cold one and watched the rest of the game beside that pickup truck with many other losers like us who gave up on that game. Collectively we cheered the Ravens’ win but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had just let my wingman down.
I learned a lesson that day – never, ever leave a Ravens game before the clock reads 0:00.

Too bad I didn’t draw from that lesson last night at Oriole Park at Camden Yards…

Prior to last night I had not been to OPACY since 2006. I once shared four seats in a 29 game plan for most of the 90’s but I lost my baseball mojo over the greed of OPACY, the losing and the cheating. Yet I’m happy to say that this Orioles’ team is pulling me back in.

But apparently I’m not yet a believer.

With the Orioles trailing 9-1 after 4 ½ innings, the skies opened and poured upon OPACY. You can probably guess the rest.

One hour later, comfortably in my living room, I turned the game on briefly enough to see that the Orioles were still trailing only now it was 10-1. Turn out the lights, my return to OPACY and the ensuing lowlights from the living room were over. I retired to bed and fell asleep to some network re-run.

This morning I awoke, promptly headed to the coffee maker, fired up some java and then got my day started. Not until 10:45 this morning did I even know that the Orioles had won. When my fiancé told me about the comeback win, I thought she was joking and waited for the punch line.

None arrived.

A few clicks of my mouse later and there it was in black and white…Orioles headlines: WOW!

I’ve since learned that this was the greatest comeback in Orioles history.

I was there…but I wasn’t.

I may have made history though by becoming the only person ever to walk out on both that dramatic come from behind Ravens victory and the greatest comeback in Orioles history.

First the Ravens, then the O’s.

Another lesson learned…

Well until the next time I head to the Comcast Center and the Terps are down by 25 in the second half to Wake Forest.

Rookie Ravens compared to draft busts, argument lacks merit

It’s easy for critics of the Baltimore Ravens to point at the team’s draft selections of Paul Kruger (2nd round) and Lardarius Webb (3rd round) and conclude that those choices mirror two previous draft picks that proved to be major busts – namely Dan Cody and David Pittman, respectively.

Kruger like Cody was pegged to go in the first round of the NFL Draft but slipped to the second. Both played defensive end in college and while these similarities help explain the comparisons the only other parallel between the players is that both are white. If Kruger was an African-American would people be making the same comparisons to Cody?

I doubt it!

The differences between the two are far more pronounced than the similarities.

“Let’s face it Cody had a lot of catastrophic injuries and while Kruger has had his share they aren’t structural injuries like Cody’s”, said Eric DeCosta, Ravens Director of Personnel during a recent interview.

“Kruger is much stronger and has the potential to be bigger. His lower body today is far more developed than Dan’s was even after 3 years of working with our strength and conditioning coaches.”

DeCosta added, “Kruger was also a quarterback in high school so he has a unique sense for the game from a DE’s perspective. That experience affords him ball skills and ability in space uncommon for a player of Paul’s size.”

Cody lacked the open field nimbleness that Kruger possesses and that makes it difficult for a player like Cody to shape his game in the mold of other Ravens once considered to be “tweeners” like Adalius Thomas, Terrell Suggs and even Jarret Johnson. Consequently, Cody needed to bulk up in order to be more like Trevor Pryce for example. Unfortunately, his trunk couldn’t support the added weight as evidenced by Cody’s lengthy history of leg injuries.

Webb draws comparisons to Pittman because both were third round choices from small schools. That combination didn’t work for Pittman and the Ravens leaving some insiders to believe that the Ravens would steer clear of small school corners going forward.

But Webb is a small school corner with a twist having competed against Division I teams while at Southern Miss prior to transferring to Nicholls State in 2007. Plus Webb impressed the Ravens’ scouts with a level of toughness that Pittman clearly lacked.

“Baltimore was too big for Pittman” DeCosta explained. “And let’s keep in mind that the NFL is a tough, physical game and it’s important to have a demeanor to match. We’ve learned that that can be more important than whether or not a corner can flip their hips quickly. Webb in our opinion is one of the most physical players pound for pound in the 2009 NFL Draft.”

Webb is also the only player in NCAA Division I history to receive the conference awards of Offensive Player of the Week, Defensive Player of the Week, and Special Teams Player of the Week in a single season.

Both Kruger and Webb possess an intangible quality that attracted the Ravens to them and further differentiates the two from Cody and Pittman. Both had to face adversity during their collegiate careers and each emerged victoriously.

In January 2008, Kruger survived a brawl while defending his sister. The Las Vegas Police Department concluded that a gang was responsible for the attack that left Kruger with life threatening injuries requiring 50 staples to close the incisions made during surgery. Yet he returned to the field at the University of Utah that fall.

Webb was kicked off the team at Southern Miss because he got in some off campus trouble while running with the wrong crowd. He vowed to clean up his act, committed himself to his faith has his life pointed in the right direction. Moreover, Webb is a huge fan of Ed Reed’s and relishes the opportunity to play beside the perennial Pro Bowler. During OTA’s Webb was like a sponge, absorbing the intricacies of the Ravens defense from Reed and Ray Lewis. Clearly a tough challenge but one that Webb welcomes with open arms.

"I'm learning how to see the game from Ray and Ed, how to let plays come to you by anticipating and figuring out what the offense is trying to do," Webb said. "I'm excited about everything. I can't wait for the season to start. I know I still have a lot to learn, but I'm getting there."

Challenges are many in the NFL and at times they can be steep particularly for a rookie. When young players face the best on a regular basis they will be beaten and humbled. How they respond to the beat downs, to the adversity builds character and makes a player stronger.

It may also break them...

Many enter the NFL never having faced adversity. Perhaps some were coddled, perhaps for some things came too easily. That’s not the case for Kruger or Webb.

Both have weathered their personal storms. They arrive with battle tested wills and they are equipped to handle the failures inevitably in store for both Kruger and Webb.

And then one day we can all criticize the critics who mention the pair in the same sentence as Cody and Pittman.