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Bengals' Atkins recognized as one of NFL's best

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Bengals' Atkins recognized as one of NFL's best

CINCINNATI (AP) Geno Atkins gets a lot of attention every time an opponent watches film trying to figure out how to contain the Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle. His first selection as a Pro Bowl starter shows what they think of him.

The undersized lineman is considered one of the NFL's best.

The third-year player was chosen as a Pro Bowl starter on Wednesday, his first such honor. He was an alternate last season. He and receiver A.J. Green were voted as starters, while four other Bengals are alternates.

There wasn't much talk about the 6-foot-1 Atkins when the Bengals took him in the fourth round in 2010. He leads all NFL interior linemen with 19 1/2 sacks over the last two seasons, including 12 1/2 this year.

``I want to get better and show the world that even though I am 6-foot-1, 300 pounds, I can still be the best,'' Atkins said.

His size worked against him when he came out of Georgia. The NFL prefers taller linemen with longer arms. Atkins has learned how to use his size to his advantage, getting low and making a push that's hard to blunt.

He's become a dominating player.

``He's got (12 1/2) sacks and that doesn't even tell the story,'' offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth said. ``The real story is people turning on the film and seeing play-in and play-out how he disrupts plays. Sometimes people just look at sacks and say he's disruptive. The truth is he's far more disruptive than just sacks.

``Week to week, he takes over. Stats don't tell you everything.''

Atkins is the most impressive player on a defense that has carried the Bengals to the playoffs for a second straight season. Cincinnati (9-6) clinched a wild card spot with a 13-10 win in Pittsburgh on Sunday. Atkins had two sacks and was regularly in the Steelers' backfield.

The Bengals finish the regular season at home on Sunday against AFC North champion Baltimore (10-5). Cincinnati will open the playoffs on the road against the Ravens, the Patriots, the Texans or the Broncos, depending upon how other games turn out on Sunday.

As the Ravens watched film of the Bengals' defense this week, one player stood out.

``Geno Atkins is a force out there,'' running back Ray Rice said. ``He by far is one of the best D-linemen around. As a running back, you want to know where he is at all times, because you don't want to cut back into his lane and let him make that kind of play.''

Atkins was honored on Thursday as the AFC's defensive player of the week for his performance in Pittsburgh, which included eight tackles and one forced fumble when he got to Ben Roethlisberger. He's also getting mention as a candidate for defensive player of the year, although he expects a defensive end or linebacker - someone with more chances to get sacks - to get more consideration than a tackle.

``You usually get the grunt work and not 19 or 20 sacks,'' Atkins said. ``They're playing more of a glamour position.''

Atkins was a first alternate for the Pro Bowl last season, when he tied for the lead among NFL interior linemen with 7 1/2 sacks. He's far and away the leader this season with his 12 1/2 sacks - Ndamukong Suh of Detroit is second with 7.

``I think I'm finally getting respect around the league that I show out there on the field,'' he said.

He'll have some company.

Green was voted a starter as a rookie last season and made it again, impressive for a receiver who is already challenging Bengals records for a season. Green has 1,324 yards receiving, 116 shy of Chad Johnson's club record for a season.

``Two years, two Pro Bowls. That's got a good buzz to it,'' Green said. ``But I've got a long way to go to be where I want to be. I want to be great.

``Like I told everybody when I came into this game, I don't want to be one ordinary receiver. I want to be mentioned with some of the best that ever played. That's what my goal is: One of the best that ever played.''

Whitworth and tight end Jermaine Gresham were voted first alternates. Quarterback Andy Dalton and cornerback Leon Hall are third alternates.

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Follow Joe Kay on Twitter:http://twitter.com/apjoekay

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Ravens make stadium lights red, white and blue to honor front-line workers

Ravens make stadium lights red, white and blue to honor front-line workers

Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Ravens shifted from their signature purple stadium lights to show the front-line workers how much they appreciate what they're doing.

The incredible gesture is just one of many by the organization.

The Ravens and The Stephen and Renee Bisciotti Foundation combined to support four non-profits and have donated $1 million to help aid the fight against coronavirus, the team revealed in a statement on March 20. 

The four organizations are the Fund for Educational Excellence, the United Way of Central Maryland, the Baltimore Community Foundation and the Maryland Food Bank.

"We want to help those in our community who are most affected by the COVID-19 crisis," Ravens president Dick Cass said, according to a statement through the team. "We chose to donate through these four organizations because we are confident they will apply our funds quickly and directly to people in need.”

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Derek Wolfe always wanted to be a Raven — now he gets his chance

Derek Wolfe always wanted to be a Raven — now he gets his chance

New Ravens defensive lineman Derek Wolfe has wanted to be a Raven at three separate times during his career. 

The first time was before he was drafted in 2012 when he thought the Ravens might pick him. The second time was before the trade deadline in the 2019 season, when he debated asking Broncos general manager John Elway for a trade to Baltimore. 

The third time was the charm. After the Ravens’ signing of Michael Brockers fell through, they moved quickly to sign Wolfe to a one-year contract. 

“I'm extremely happy,” Wolfe said. “Everything happens for a reason. When things are supposed to happen, they do, and I always felt like I would fit into that organization really well.”

Wolfe thought he’d missed his chance to be a Raven when the signing of Brocks was announced at the beginning of free agency. After the deal wasn’t completed, though, he and his agent moved quickly to get him to Baltimore. 

Once a deal looked possible with the Ravens, Wolfe’s only focus was to get to Baltimore by any means necessary.

“I said, ‘I really don't care about the money,’” Wolfe said he told his agent. “‘At this point, I just want to get on that team. That's the team I want to get on, I want to be on.’

Wolfe’s contract is worth $3 million guaranteed, though he’s eying a bit longer of a stay in Baltimore.

“I feel like if I can come in there and prove myself, then they'll extend me for a few years, and I could be a part of the organization for more than just one year,” Wolfe said. “I'm just going to stick to the plan and trust the process and hope that it all works out for me,” Wolfe said. “I really would love to bring another ring to the city – help bring a ring to the city.”

He’s coming off a career season in Denver where he registered seven sacks in 12 games — a year that was cut short because of a dislocated elbow. 

Injuries have been a bit of a bugaboo for Wolfe, who has played 16 games in a season just three times in his eight-year career and just once in the last five years. While the past isn’t kind to Wolfe’s injury history, he’s confident he’s turned a corner when it comes to health. 

“It's been a bumpy road, but for the most part I've actually been pretty healthy,” Wolfe explained. “These injuries just come...It was the same injury that was nagging, and I finally got that surgery that cleared it up. I dislocated my elbow, obviously, having the best season of my career, showing that I have a ton of football left, and then I go out there and dislocate my elbow. And I think that hurt me.”

Not only confident about his health, but he’s also got high hopes for his new defensive line, too. 

“It was just like, ‘You know what, man? I think we can have the best defensive line in the league, for sure, and we could break records,” Wolfe said. “We could break the rushing record – yards per rush, stuff like that.’ Those are the kind of goals that I like to set.”

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