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Pro Bowl 2018: Three Ravens defenders earn roster spots

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USA Today Sports

Pro Bowl 2018: Three Ravens defenders earn roster spots

They are one of the strongest defenses in the league, so it should be no surprise that three Ravens defenders earned roster spots in the 2018 Pro Bowl.

It was announced Tuesday that outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, safety Eric Weddle and inside linebacker C.J. Mosley were voted to make the trip to Orlando, Florida in January.

Weddle and Mosley were also named starters.

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This will be Terrell Suggs' seventh Pro Bowl in 15 seasons. So far in 2017 he has 43 combined tackles, four forced fumbles and 11 sacks. This will be his first Pro Bowl appearance since 2013 and at 35-years old, Suggs told reporters he's shocked to have made the roster. 

I’m speechless. Every time you make it, it’s like making it for the first time all over again. It’s a really great feeling, Suggs stated. I want to thank all the fans who voted, and I thank my coaches and teammates, as they all have a high expectation for me. I also thank the organization for believing in a 15-year vet.

Eric Weddle is making his fifth Pro Bowl appearance, his second as a Baltimore Raven. 

In 2017, Weddle has 60 combined tackles, two forced fumbles and leads the team in interceptions with a whopping six. He's even listed under the scoring column with one 45-yard touchdown. 

He's one interception away from tying his personal record made back in 2011 with the San Diego Chargers.

At 32-years old, he feels stronger than ever.

I’ve never worked as hard as I did this past year to try and get better from last season and help this team and lead even more so, Weddle said. I’m ecstatic because I’ve done so much over the last year to get back to this point, to help my team win, and to hopefully get back to the playoffs.

Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley will be attending his third Pro Bowl in four seasons. 

In 2017, he has 121 tackles, three forced fumbles, two interceptions and one 63-yard touchdown. His 121 tackles on the season is currently ranked sixth-most in the league. 

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How has the 25-year old made it to his third Pro Bowl? Mosley credits his teammates for keeping offensive lineman off him. 

I give a lot of credit to the D-line for keeping [offensive] linemen off me, Mosley said. I also have to thank ‘Wink’ [Linebackers Coach Don Martindale] for putting me in great positions, and I thank coach [John] Harbaugh and [Defensive Coordinator] Dean Pees. Really, it’s great to be able to share this with my teammates.

To much surprise, Ravens kicker Justin Tucker and punter Sam Koch did not make the final list. Tucker was named an alternate.

Steelers kicker Chris Boswell beat out Tucker even though his stats are not nearly as good. Tucker hasn't missed a field goal or extra point since October.

Sam Koch was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for Week 15 after placing three punts within the five-yard line Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. He is the first punter to receive this honor several times in a single season since 2006.

Tennessee Titans punter Brett Kern will be completing the job come January.

The Pro Bowl will take place January 28th in Orlando, Florida. 

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Ravens' Benjamin Watson named finalist for Walter Payton Man of the Year

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USA Today Sports

Ravens' Benjamin Watson named finalist for Walter Payton Man of the Year

Ravens' tight end Benjamin Watson is among three finalist for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award which "recognizes an NFL player for his excellence on and off the field."

The 14-year veteran is being recognized for his One More Foundation, which Watson and his wife Kirsten created in 2008. According to their website, the foundations purpose is "devoted to spreading the love and hope of Christ to One More soul by meeting real needs, promoting education and providing enrichment opportunities through charitable initiatives and partnerships." This is the second time in Watson's career he has been nominated. 

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In addition to this nomination, Watson was awarded the 2017 Bart Starr Award which is given annually to a NFL player who "best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field, and in the community." 

Some of Watson's charitable efforts through the One More Foundation include participating in #MyClauseMyCleasts to bring awareness to human sex trafficking, playing secret Santa to 25 families from Building Families for Children and partnering with the New Orleans Family Justice Center- where he used to play- helping survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen is a finalist for his Receptions for Research Foundation which focuses on cancer research and programming. Olsen and his wife Kara also started the HEARTest Yard Fund, a family service program that "provides families of babies affected by congenital heart disease with services including in-home, private nursing care, physical therapy and speech therapy, all at no cost to the families or hospital."

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Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt is a finalist for the $37 million he raised for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in addition to his already established Justin J. Watt Foundation

The winner will be announced at NFL Honors airing February 3rd at 9 p.m ET on NBC. 

The winner will receive a $500,000 donation with $250,000 of it going to their foundation of choice and the other $250,000 going in his name to help expand Character Playbook nationwide.

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Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale welcomes second chance at role

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Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale welcomes second chance at role

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Don Martindale wondered if he would ever get a second chance to be an NFL defensive coordinator after his one-and-done disaster with the Denver Broncos in 2010.

The Broncos went 4-12 that season and gave up more points (29.4 per game) and yards (390.8) than any team in the league. Those miserable numbers, not surprisingly, cost Martindale his job.

He latched on with the Baltimore Ravens in 2012 as linebackers coach. After working diligently with several stars, including Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Zachary Orr and C.J. Mosley, the 54-year-old Martindale last week was promoted to defensive coordinator.

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To say he's pleased to be in charge of an NFL defense again would be a profound understatement.

"Without a doubt," Martindale said Thursday. "My family knows it. Everybody knows it. My players know it. I can't wait."

His performance in Denver eight years ago is hardly worth putting on a resume, but Martindale believes it was a worthwhile experience.

"Even though the stats were what they were, I was really proud with how we played," he said. "I'm glad I went through that process because I think that makes me a better coach today. It's like I tell my guys: You either win or you learn."

Martindale's new job with the Ravens carries the responsibility of overseeing a unit that has long been among the best in the NFL, thriving under notable leaders such as Marvin Lewis, Rex Ryan, Chuck Pagano and Dean Pees, who retired on Jan. 1.

"I've been preparing for this job all my life," Martindale said. "It's very humbling, but I understand the pressure and I look forward to the challenge."

Martindale takes over a defense that this season ranked 12th in net yards allowed, first in takeaways (34) and sixth in fewest points allowed (18.9). He has no plans to revamp the unit or change the philosophy, especially since head coach John Harbaugh stressed the need to retain continuity before launching his search for Pees' replacement.

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Martindale will, however, put his own stamp on the unit.

"I think personality-wise, and just calls, there's going to be some things that are the same. And then there are going to be sometimes where I'm going to pressure more," Martindale said. "I just think I have a more aggressive personality in calling the game. Sometimes, too aggressive. That's some of the things I've learned from the past."

His most daunting task will be finding a way to make the defense to come up big late in the game. In 2016, a fourth-quarter collapse in Pittsburgh cost Baltimore a playoff berth. This season, a fourth-down touchdown pass in the final minute by Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton bounced the Ravens from the postseason chase.

"Our mantra has always been to finish," Martindale said. "We're close. Obviously, the last two years, it's been the last play that's knocked us out of it. We are going to work diligently -- all of us -- with our package and situational football.

"That's going to be the next step, I think, that will skyrocket us. That's the big thing that I see. We were really good. Let's make it great."