Tag: The Ravens

Sharing the Parking Lot

Kyle Simpson, Ravens Corespondent

Baltimore, MD – We all learned in kindergarten to share what we have. But for some reason, the Baltimore Ravens and Orioles are caught in a custody battle for the parking lot on September 5th. The Ravens are set to host the first game of the season that night, and the Orioles are to host the Chicago White Sox that day too.

Let the debate begin. Technically, the Orioles schedule was created and solidified first, so they have the priority use for the parking lot. So what are they to do?

They could move the Ravens game to Wednesday the 4th, if the NFL had not already said they would not play that day because it is Rosh Hashanah (more on that later). So instead the Orioles could play earlier and the Ravens could move their game back to 9 PM (as a season ticket holder, that is a less than ideal time), however the Orioles have an away night game on September 4th. And they do not want to play two games in such small time frame. The NFL says that if a compromise is not reached, then they will have to move the Ravens to a road game to start the season.

Now that might be the stupidest thing I have ever heard. You have to play away that night? Really? Have they even considered moving the Ravens to Sunday night? Granted, they would not be the VERY first game of the season, but they could have their home and season opener AT HOME. That is more important to me as a fan than playing first (even though they deserve that too). And I understand that there are television contracts involved, but really? Rodger Goodell is risking sending Baltimore into revolt if they do not open at home. And the whole “we cannot play on Rosh Hashanah” is ridiculous. Not to sound mean, but the NFL has played on Christmas Day and Christmas Eve before and play on Thanksgiving every year. They have even played on Rosh Hashanah before, so what is the big deal this year? The NFL and MLB need to figure it out. Soon. Baltimore is very uneasy.

We’ll see what ends up happening, but be prepared to watch the season opener being held somewhere else.

Flacco Gets a Big Pay Day

Kyle Simpson, Ravens Corespondent

The wait is finally over.

The Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco has agreed to a new long term deal that will finally put to rest all of the questions of numbers and salary cap hits. And in the process, Joe Flacco becomes the highest paid player of all time.

What is the behemoth deal made of?

Six years, $120.6 million, $52 million of that guaranteed. Only $6.8 million of that will count against the cap this year, leaving the Ravens with a little over $10 million in cap space to deal with their free agents.

I would expect a resigning of Dannel Ellerbe to a long term deal and the tendering of all (give or take one or two agents) of the Ravens’ restricted freee agents.

The other big question mark is Ed Reed. Will he be back?

Probably.

He’ll probably take the same course Ray Lewis did and shop potential teams and get offer sheets to give the Ravens a better idea of what other teams think he is worth and then match that deal and have Ed sign a new deal with the Ravens. It is hard to see him go anywhere else after this year.

I would not expect any cap casualties from the Ravens either. Anquan Boldin (taking up $7.5 million) and Jacoby Jones ($5 million) are probably safe with Joe Flacco’s new deal. Vonta Leach is still a big question but I’d expect him to be safe.

Flacco is expected to sign the deal and take a physical today.

Ravens’ Epilogue

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Words: Kyle Simpson, Ravens Corespondent

It has been a week after the glorious win in New Orleans and everybody seems to be coming of the high of victory. And here are some highlights from the last week before the off-season:

Salary Cap Woes:

The first is Joe Flacco and how much money he is about to make. $100 million? $120 million? I would argue the latter amount for ten years to keep the salary cap hit down. The man is getting paid, whether you like him or not. I am a part of Team Flacco and I think he deserves a key to the city. 11 touchdowns and zero interception, tying Joe Montana for the most touchdowns thrown in a postseason? Yes. Pay. The. Man.

Oh, yeah. Salary cap. That pesky thing is going to bring a lot of problems over the next few months. Possible casualties to the roster could be Paul Kruger (led the team in sacks with nine), Dannell Ellerbe (one of our best pass rushers this season), and Cary Williams (had a sack and four interceptions, one for a touchdown). Out of those three, I would try my hardest to keep Kruger and Ellerbe. Both of them are leading pass rushers, whom the Ravens definitely need. Sorry Cary, but I do not see you at the top of Ozzie’s priority list with Lardarius Webb coming back and bigger fish to pay. But I have a feeling that the Ravens will not be able to keep both Kruger and Ellerbe. In that case, I would keep Kruger. He is just a guy we can not let go.

Other notable free agents (though they are restricted, i.e. they cannot be signed with another team unless the offering team gives the Ravens a corresponding draft pick and make the player an offer the Ravens can not match) are Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson, Arthur Jones and Morgan Cox. But I do not expect anybody on this list to go anywhere, especially Pitta.

Now it is time to address the other big elephant in the room, and its name is Ed Reed. He is a unrestricted free agent this year, and he has said that-unlike his friend Ray Lewis-this is not his last ride. He will play football next year. For whom he plays is a question that is still in the air. I have a feeling we will see Ed come out of the tunnel on September 5th in purple and black. Ozzie Newsome has expressed great interest in bringing Ed back after his football days are over in some sort of staff capacity, which would make staying with the Ravens an easier choice. And I do not think Newsome will let two defensive leader leave in the same year.

Same Stuff, Different Day:

People have already begun to doubt the Ravens as contenders for next year’s title. The majority of the Super Bowl winning teams of the last decade have all had flat defending seasons. The Giants did not even make it to the playoffs this year. Torrey Smith said “why not?” when talking about repeating. What boggles my mind, personally, is the fact that the analysts did not take this team seriously leading up to the big dance, and now that they have won the ultimate prize, they still give this team no chance of even contending. They quote the stats of teams of the past, why do they not realize that this team is not a team of the past? They are the Baltimore Ravens. Might not be the prettiest team in the NFL, but it is a team that just does not quit. So I beg the analysts to keep quoting stats, just to tell the Ravens more of what this team cannot do.

No Suggs? No title game this year. Three game losing streak? Definitely a one and done team in the playoffs. Playing the Broncos in Denver? Apparently Ray’s Last Ride will end in Denver. AFC Championship rematch? Sorry Ravens, you will lose again.

They never once asked what Ray Lewis asked of his team:

“What if we do the impossible?”

End of an Era:

Speaking of Ray. Ray Lewis has left the building. Literally. After Tuesday’s parade, he packed up his locker in Owings Mills and headed to Florida to be with his son, Ray Lewis III (RL3 anybody?), when he signed his letter of intent to the University of Miami. Deon Sanders is convinced that Ray is not done. I am fully convinced that we will not see 52 on the field as a player ever again. And he has already said that he has no interest in coaching at this point, so we will not see him on the field until he is inducted into the Ring Of Honor at M&T Bank Stadium. Where he will probably do his dance, one last time.

Thanks again Ray.

The Epilogue:

So that is it. Walking into the great unknown, with the Lombardi in their hands the Ravens will look to repeat the impossible again. They will be going forward without a few faces. One in particular that takes a lot out of the locker room. But that is okay. Mark my words: if there is any team to believe in, it is the Baltimore Ravens. They may not be the prettiest team in the NFL, but they get the job done. They are Baltimore’s team. They are my team. I look forward to all the heart attacks I know I will get from them next year, all the last-minute Justin Tucker field goals, and all the miraculous Jacoby Jones catches and dances. They may bend, but they certainly do not break. Tremendous obstacles could not stop this team this year; so do not expect the negative trend on Super Bowl champion teams to bring them down.

As John Harbaugh said in the State of the Ravens press conference: “Next year’s championship will be decided by who plays the best, and we will be fighting to get back there. And our guys are up to the task, they are the right guys for the job.”

Believe in Baltimore. Believe in the Ravens.

See you September 5th at 8:30 PM.

Chaos in the City: Ravens Parade

Words: Kyle Simpson, Ravens Corespondent

Photos: Caitlin Martin

Baltimore, MD – The Ravens’ Vice President of Public Relations, Kevin Byrne told owner Steve Bisciotti on the way home from New Orleans that he should expect 30,000 people at the parade yesterday. Bisciotti asked what they would do if there were more than 30,000. The answer: “We’ll have to open up the upper deck.”

That is where I found myself yesterday after sitting in about an hour of traffic, in my seats in the upper deck that I sat in for seven games this year. Section 521, row 23, seat 9, 10, and 11 with my brother and father. But I was not there for a game yesterday, I was there to watch my team hoist the ultimate goal: the Lombardi trophy.

I did not see the parade that preceded the ceremony in person, but I watched it on the Ravens Vision board on one end of the stadium and I saw thousands of fans greet the team with “Seven Nation Army” and cheers, following them down Commerce, Howard, and Russel streets leading to M&T Bank Stadium, where they disembarked their floats and lined up for one last introduction onto the field. They entered the field to “Where the Streets Have No Name” by U2 like they always do, with the fire walls and fireworks. It was incredible to see the team that had went through so much, come full circle with Lombardi in hand.

They did not do personal introductions, aside from a few exceptions. The first few being Steve Bisciotti, Dick Cass, Ozzie Newsome, and John Harbaugh. They only had two players personally introduced. The first being the Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco, who walked out with his son. The second being Ray Lewis, who walked out and hoisted the Lombardi trophy over his head. He handed the trophy off, picked up a piece of grass from a cardboard box, and did his famous dance for upwards of 90,000 fans (final estimates are 80,000 in the stands with and additional 10,000 on the field) per baltimoreravens.com. Ed Reed met him where he was standing and the two defensive legends did Ray’s dance together. Not to be out danced, Jacoby Jones did his own version of the Squirrel with Ray.

The crowd went nuts.

Gerry Sandusky introduced five speakers to the podium.

Joe Flacco took his little boy to the podium and said “Baltimore, we did it… this was for you guys… We’ve been through a lot this year– a lot of highs, a couple lows. and you guys stood there through it all. Like you always do… you are a special group and we love you.”

An emotional Ray Lewis took the podium. “Baltimore! There is no nothing better in the world, there is no place on this earth, that is better than Baltimore. This city, this city. We believed in each other since Day One. From 1996 to now. We believed in each other, Baltimore.”

That we did, Ray. That we did.

Ed Reed took the podium and led Raven Nation in “Two Tickets to Paradise” and “Seven Nation Army” before saying “Hey Baltimore! the best team, the best team in the world is right here. Right here. No better team right now. Right now, nobody can beat these boys. Not us. Not in the world.”

At the end of the ceremony, John Harbaugh took the podium and led the 90,000 members of Raven Nation in a cheer.

“What’s our name?” he asked.

“RAVENS!” the crowed cheered back.

As the highlights from the Super Bowl rolled, I sat in section 521, row 23, seat 10 and just smiled. The team that walked onto the field with the Lombardi reminded me of why I love this team, why Baltimore loves this team: it’s because this team loves Baltimore, too. It is easy to stick with a team through three-game losing streaks, blowout losses, and uncertainty when the team honestly cares about the city they represent.

And looking forward to the uncertainty of the offseason for the Ravens, I will still believe in the boys in purple. Just like Ray said.

And there is only really one way to put it, like Ed Reed said:

“From New Orleans to Baltimore, who dey say gonna beat dem Ravens?”

Storybook Season Gets a Storybook Ending: Ravens are World Champs!

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Words: Kyle Simpson, Ravens Corespondent

Baltimore, MD – You could not write a better ending for the last ride of Ray Lewis. Becoming a Super Bowl champion after making one last goal line stand to win the game? It is the stuff of legend, made a reality Sunday night.

The 10-6 Baltimore Ravens pulled off what nearly everybody said was impossible. They beat the “unstoppable” offense of the 49ers and brought the Lombardi back to Baltimore for the second time. Not even a freak power outage can stop the team of destiny on their path to glory.

The Ravens came out strong, drawing first blood with a Joe Flacco touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin. That would be the first of three touchdowns thrown by the Super Bowl MVP, Joe Flacco, last night. He would throw one to Pitta and another miracle bomb to Jacoby Jones in the 2nd quarter. Putting the Ravens up 21-6 going into halftime “part one” (more on that in a second). The Ravens put up a strong performance for the first half.

They had all the momentum leading into Beyonce’s halftime show, and for the first minute and a half after it. Jacoby Jones returned a beautiful 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown (Gardener’s Furniture made a bet saying that if the Ravens returned either the opening or the second half kickoff for a touchdown, any and all furniture bought before 3 PM on Sunday was free. Whoops). It was 28-6 at the start of the second half and it looked like the Ravens were going to have just as easy of a win as they did in 2001.

Some could say they were playing “light’s out”.

Then the lights actually went out (forgive that terrible pun). Nobody really knows how, or why, but they did. And that moment changed the tempo of the game. Instead of continuing to pound the 49ers, they got a 35-minute half time “part two” to regroup and catch their breath. Shifting the momentum from purple and black to the burgundy and gold. And it showed. They scored 17 unanswered points in what was probably the worst 3rd quarter I have ever witnessed. But the 3rd quarter doesn’t matter.

Games are won in the 4th quarter (or the 6th if you are in Denver).

Continuing their drive from the 3rd quarter, the Ravens finally got back on the board with a field goal from Justin Tucker. It was now 31-23. San Francisco answered with a drive that ended in Colin Kapernick running 15 yards for the longest rushing touchdown by a quarterback in Super Bowl history. The 49ers needed the two point conversion to tie, and thanks to Ed Reed getting in Kapernick’s face, they did not get it. 31-29 and the Ravens are desperately holding on. They would get one last field goal to make it 34-29 in the last two minutes of the game.

This would be the point where I should have asked my father why we did not have a family cardiologist.

The 49ers marched down the field and got to the five yard line to wind the clock down to the two minute warning. It was second and goal.

My heart has never beat so fast.

Ray Lewis’ last series would be a goal line stand for the Lombardi trophy. First was a pass that incomplete in the end zone. Exhale. 3rd down. They tried to air it out again to Michael Crabtree who got crushed by Jimmy Smith, knocking the ball incomplete. No exhaling this time. It was down to this.
4th down. This was it.

San Francisco snaps the ball. Passes is up to Crabtree again. Incomplete! Exhale.

Hugs were shared between my family and I, but we all knew it was not over yet. With just over 1:45 left on the clock, the Ravens did all they could do to wind the clock down. They pounded the ball on the ground and force the 49ers to use their last timeout. Two more unsuccessful runs brought up 4th and long.

This is where the Ravens got real crafty. They hike the ball to Sam Koch in the end zone and he keeps it in the backfield to keep the clock running. As time ticks away, Koch is dancing to avoid being tackled and runs out of the end zone to take the safety and leave the 49ers with four seconds on the clock. That special teams brilliance was a far cry from the gaffed fake field goal in the first half.

The Ravens punt the ball away and shut down the return to seal the victory. 34-31. CBS cut to a shot of Ray Lewis embracing Ed Reed (who was ridiculously giddy about winning the Super Bowl in his home town) and Terrell Suggs. Chykie Brown was making confetti angels.

Joe Flacco was MVP (pay the man already) and Ray Lewis was hoisting the Lombardi trophy for his last game. Ever. There really couldn’t be a better ending to this season of ups and downs.

It was surreal at first: the fact that my birds had won the Super Bowl. That idea really set in on Monday morning when I picked up my copy of The Baltimore Sun and “CHAMPIONS” was plastered on the front. I have been grinning ever since. All the haters, doubters, pundits, and analysts were all proven wrong. Baltimore was the real deal. Baltimore deserved respect. Baltimore had earned this victory. And that victory was so sweet. I did not sleep that much Sunday night. But the loss of sleep was so worth it. So, so, so worth it.

Hail to the Ravens!

Roller Coaster Season Makes One Last Stop

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Words: Kyle Simpson, Ravens Corespondent

Baltimore, MD – “We have the opportunity to go on and finish what we started… Ravens on three,” said Ray Lewis after the devastating loss in New England last season.

A roller coaster does not even begin to describe this Ravens’ season. There were ups, downs, loops, times of excitement, and times where you were about ready to lose your lunch. But it has always been that way. Deep down, the Ravens really are a box of chocolates. You really never know what you are going to get.

It was a rough start. Reading the news post “Defending Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs Tears Achilles Tendon”. That would be when the groaning began for me. It did not help that on top of losing our best player on defense, guys like Jarret Johnson and Corey Redding were snatched away in the free agency blitz. Let’s not forget the Ravens lost their third defensive coordinator in three years, Chuck Pagano, to the Colts head coach job. These situations just showed me that last season was our season to go all the way. I found myself saying that a lot leading up to this season. I was muttering “Last year was the year…” while I watched Skip Bayless affirm that the Ravens have zero chance without Suggs on the field. Questions were flying about the Ravens’ fate. Will Joe Flacco be able to lead the team anywhere? What will the Ravens be like without a dominant Terrell Suggs? All questions would be answered soon. But one event brought about a turning point, I believe for the Ravens this season.

Four days before kickoff, former Ravens owner Art Modell passed away. He was the man who brought football back to a city who desperately missed it. An emotional Ravens organization painted a black circle with one word: “Art” on the field and the player’s jerseys featured the same black logo. Ray Lewis made a promise to Art Modell. That he would bring back the Lombardi to Baltimore. Lewis fully intended to keep that promise to the man he called “Pa-Pa”.

The moment of truth. Opening day against the Bengals. Here we were again, kicking off against a division rival, just like last year. Gave them a good trouncing like opening day of the previous year as well. Aside from the game against the Giants later on that year, the first Bengal game was the only time I saw Super Bowl potential in this squad. It was only the beginning of a turbulent season though.

Week two reared its ugly head. The Ravens had not won in week two in four straight years, and that trend continued, losing to the Eagles in their home opener by one point. Not the way they wanted to return to Baltimore to face the Patriots. The team that ended their season last year. I was reading up on the game when the text alert came through: Torrey Smith’s brother, Tevin Smith, had passed away that earlier morning in a motorcycle accident. He was a game time decision in a game we desperately needed everybody we could get. To my surprise he walked out on that field and had a career day. I have never been so proud to be a Ravens fan until Smith got a standing ovation from the crowd as he took a knee after he scored the first touchdown that game. Tevin Smith was the second turning point of the season. Inspiring the team further make sure that they finished what they started.

After a dicey 9-6 victory in Kansas City, the Ravens returned to face the Cowboys. The boys in purple won off of a missed field goal. But at a cost. Lardarius Webb went down with a torn ACL, never to return to the field this season. And Ray Lewis tore his triceps, what everybody thought was a season – or career – ending injury. But he and Ozzie Newsome told the team and fans that they would see Ray back again this season. They just didn’t know when.

The Ravens would go on to get trounced by Houston, the bright side being Terrell Suggs retook the field through some sort of medical miracle. More questions began to arise about if the Ravens were actually contenders for the AFC title. The Ravens would win the next four games leading into the darkest moment of the season.

The three game slide. The Ravens had not lost at M&T Bank Stadium in a little less than two years. But the Steelers, of course, would break that streak. Then, after special teams gaffed their punt coverage, the Redskins would hand the Ravens their first back-to-back loss in four years. And to cap it off, the Broncos embarrassed the Ravens at home. “Last year was the year…” I muttered walking out of M&T Bank Stadium that day. Things were looking bleak. The Baltimore Sun’s head line the next day was “Flattened” with a picture of Joe Flacco face down after trying to prevent his 90-yard pick six from happening. Was Flacco worth a new contract? Should the Ravens draft a new quarterback in the draft like Seattle did?

For the fourth straight week, the Ravens had the ability to clinch the AFC North and a home playoff game. But they had to go through little Manning and the defending Super Bowl champion Giants. The Ravens came out strong in their last regular season home game. The energy that the Broncos had taken away from the fans all came back and the Baltimore crowd that we know and love was back in action. The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army echoed through out Baltimore as the Ravens clinched the division and were guaranteed a home game.

The week leading up to the AFC Wild Card game brought the third turning point of the season for the Ravens. “All things that begin, have an end… and for me, today, I told my team this is my last ride.” The 17-year legend that was Ray Lewis was retiring. I feel that this was the point where everybody was put into high gear. It was New Orleans or bust for the men in purple and black to get the man that had given everything to them, one more ring.

Lewis’ final home game was a truly emotional experience. I’ve never seen so many grown football fans cry than I did during Lewis’ final tunnel dance (I’ll admit I was tearing up, too). The victory was a perfect end to cap off Lewis’ home game career. The Ride was on the road from here on out. And we all remember how that went down.

The Ravens were underdogs then entire way. Favored to lose by at least nine points for both Denver and New England. Both times Anquan Boldin said, “It will be different”. Both times were different. The Ravens proved they were resilient in the double over time win at Mile High. they proved they were ready to hoist the Lombardi after taking down Tom Brady and the Partiots. And now they have a chance to do just that. Hoist the trophy and give Lewis one more ring.

The trend continues this weekend. The Ravens are not favored, down by four and a half points, most analysts are saying that Colin Kapernick will pick apart the Ravens defense and Joe Flacco will be stunned by the 49ers defense. Have we not heard this for the last four weeks? “The Patriots offense is unstoppable…” or “The Broncos are unbeatable…”. The Ravens have proved time and again that they do not follow the trends. So I reach out to the analysts and say: please. Keep counting the Ravens out. They love it.

“What if we do the impossible? If there is anything I’ll miss about my career, it’s listening to what people say you can’t do and then going and doing it,” commented Ray Lewis in his post game press conference after the Mile High miracle.

The Ravens are out to do the impossible. The Ravens have done the impossible this season.

My prediction? Gear up for the parade: 30-24, Ravens come out champs and Joe Flacco’s agent will be busy with Ozzie Newsome.

Superstitions & This Isn’t Reed’s Last Ride

Words: Kyle Simpson

There are quite a few headlines coming out of the Ravens’ facility this week. Here’s a quick rundown of the news in Owings Mills:

The Ravens began practicing yesterday for the Big Dance on February 3rd. The Super Bowl patches have been placed on the jerseys and the camera crews from CBS have arrived at the facility to take headshots and interview video of the Ravens. With them, they brought a few props such as footballs, helmets and one other prop that had everybody talking. That prop was a genuine, un-engraved Vince Lombardi Trophy. The greatest prize in the NFL was within reach. And that is the exact reason Ray Lewis demanded it was put away. What he said was essentially that they had not earned the real trophy yet, so they do not deserve it. The CBS Associate Director said few teams actually have an issue with taking shots with the Lombari trophy, but the Ravens do not want to leave anything to chance. “I don’t want to jinx it. That seems like a jinx,” said cornerback Jimmy Smith to baltimoreravens.com.

The other major story developing at the Under Armour Performance Center was Ed Reed’s announcement that he was indeed playing next year; no matter if February 3rd is a win or loss, or if he is in a Ravens’ uniform next year. The 11-year saftey’s six-year contract ends this year and he is worth a pretty penny; a pretty penny that the Ravens might not be able to afford with the salary cap. Danelle Ellerbe, Carrey Willams and Paul Kruger all have contracts that need renewal. And all three might not be able to come back depending on how well contract negotiations go with Joe Flacco. My ideal situation is that the Ravens win the Super Bowl and Reed walks away with Ray Lewis after winning in his hometown and we see them in Canton this time in five years. But nobody really knows with Reed, he has marched to his own drum for years, flipping back and forth between retirement and staying. As he put it his press conference, “this isn’t my last ride, I just got a bike.” I sincerely hope he will not be riding that bike in New England. Really, he could ride anywhere but New England and I would be okay.

One more week to the big day!