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Broncos get their leading tackler back

Broncos get their leading tackler back

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Wesley Woodyard, Denver's leading tackler, is vowing to be back on the field Sunday for the Broncos' showdown at Baltimore.

``I'm playing,'' said Woodyard, who missed the Broncos' game Thursday night at Oakland because of a sprained left ankle. He was replaced by veteran D.J. Williams and rookie Danny Trevathan.

Had the game been on Sunday, Woodyard said he definitely would have played. Instead, he got a week to recuperate from the injury he sustained Dec. 2 against Tampa Bay.

Woodyard, who has collected 97 tackles in his first year as the starter at weakside linebacker, said he agreed with the coaches and medical staff who held him out last week as the Broncos (10-3) won their eighth straight game.

``I definitely would have given it a go on Sunday. But quick turnaround, it was just the smart thing to do to stay off it and get some rest,'' Woodyard said. ``Definitely a great decision. I got healthy; my teammates got a chance to go out there and play and compete, and that's the thing - next man up, they stepped up and brought that victory home for us.''

Woodyard said he was impressed with Trevathan, a sixth-round pick from his alma mater, Kentucky, who led the SEC in tackles each of the last two seasons.

``Man, he did some really nice things out there. He came up and was beastin'. I sent him about six text messages to him during the game; obviously, he couldn't check them, but after the game, he let me know that he received them,'' Woodyard said. ``It was good just seeing him go out there, fly around and make plays. That's what he did in college.''

Trevathan played 34 snaps against Oakland, plus 14 more on special teams, and Williams played 29 snaps. Williams had five tackles and Trevathan four.

Even with Woodyard back - he returned to practice Monday - both Williams and Trevathan figure to continue getting playing time at Baltimore.

The Broncos are preparing for a Ravens team that fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron on Monday despite a 9-4 record and replaced him with Jim Caldwell, who was the Indianapolis Colts head coach from 2009-11 and Peyton Manning's position coach from 2002-08.

Woodyard said he's sure Manning will have some pointers for Denver's defense this week.

``Absolutely. He'll give us some insight about what goes on. He's got a big job already to get the offense taken care of,'' Woodyard said. ``But he's definitely the guy that always spreads wisdom on everything that he sees and knows.''

Broncos defensive tackle Justin Bannan, who played for the Ravens from 2006-09, was taken aback by Cameron's firing.

``Yeah, that is surprising, this time of year with that kind of timing,'' Bannan said. ``But I'm sure they had their reasons and at the end of the day, it's got nothing to do with us. We've got to focus on work and getting ready to play these guys.''

Bannan said it would be a mistake to put too much stock into the switch of play-callers.

``Yeah, even if (Caldwell's) there, they could change a few things,'' Bannan said. ``You just don't know, each week you're going to get different wrinkles from each team and you're going to see things that you don't prepare for and you've just got to try to adapt to it.''

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Ravens coach John Harbaugh: ‘I can’t imagine there’s any safer place than an NFL football team right now’

Ravens coach John Harbaugh: ‘I can’t imagine there’s any safer place than an NFL football team right now’

Ravens coach John Harbaugh hasn’t been shy on his feelings about the NFL’s coronavirus protocols. He said in June, and repeated Friday, they’re impossible to follow to a T. 

But he’s also very confident in the ability of NFL teams to create a safe and productive environment during a global pandemic. 

Harbaugh said that compared to the rest of the country, most players are safer at facilities with their teams than at their homes.

“I can’t imagine there’s any safer place than an NFL football team right now, an NBA basketball bubble,” Harbaugh said. “We’re pretty darn safe. If you want to rank them, we’re all in the top five across the country. We’re right up there with anybody. We get tested every day and we are wearing masks everywhere.”

The Ravens, by all accounts, have done well making sure their facility in Owings Mills is not only following protocols for players and coaches, but also making sure it’s as easy a transition as possible. 

Rookie linebacker Patrick Queen said last week that players are constantly being reminded to wear their masks, wash their hands and keep distance from one another.

“All you can do is the best you can do and mitigate it to a great extent,” Harbaugh said. “I think we’ve done a really good job of that so far, there are no guarantees going forward. We’ve got to stay vigilant like we’ve done.”

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The Ravens have had just two players opt out of the upcoming season — wide receiver/kick returner De’Anthony Thomas and tackle Andre Smith — but it was certainly a conversation for a lot of players in the locker room. 

Most notably, defensive lineman Calais Campbell.

“I definitely considered (opting out). You have to,” Campbell said. “You can’t play football with this going on and not think about the risk you’re going to put on yourself and your family. Going through that process, I realized talking to the doctors and just setting up the protocols and other things we have to do to keep each other safe, I felt like the risks were mitigated the best we can.”

Campbell, who was acquired from the Jaguars in a trade in March, is set to turn 34-years-old on Sept. 1 and has asthma. 

The five-time Pro Bowl selection would have been one of the most notable names in the league to voluntarily opt out of the 2020 season. But with the protocols in place, he felt safer about his participation. 

One topic of discussion for the Ravens and their protocols, too, has been the option of quarantining a specific group of players to prevent a spread. 

Likely, those players would be at positions of extreme value — like quarterback — or players where backups aren’t readily available — like kicker. It just so happens that the Ravens have two of the league’s best players at those positions in Lamar Jackson and Justin Tucker. 

But as Harbaugh said, each move comes with a consequence, and that includes the “safer” option of quarantining the entire league.

“For instance, if you were going to quarantine the NFL for six months, yeah, if you were a doctor, you’d say, ‘Yeah, we want the best chance to keep everyone safe and healthy,’” Harbaugh said. “That would be great, but I kind of want to see my wife at some point in time in the next six months, and she doesn’t have coronavirus. So you’ve got to live with a certain amount of risk in order to live your life. We don’t want to forfeit all these guys' lives and they’re not willing to do it.”

Which means, for now, the players at the facility have assumed a level of risk for the upcoming season.

With the Ravens’ protocols in place, however, it’s all about minimizing those risks as much as possible.

“I put a lot of thought into it on my own, too, with my own underlying issues,” Campbell said. “I’m pretty confident in my ability to follow the rules.”

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Marquise Brown is ready to make big second-year leap for Ravens after bulking up 20 pounds

Marquise Brown is ready to make big second-year leap for Ravens after bulking up 20 pounds

Marquise Brown was hardly himself in his rookie season.

Not only did he have a Lisfranc injury in his foot that hampered his health all season long, but he also played portions of the year at less than 160 pounds. 

On the surface, his numbers didn’t take a hit. He was second on the team in targets (71), receptions (46), yards (584) and touchdowns (seven), but he had more to offer than what he showed in 14 games last season. 

This offseason, he added 20 pounds of muscle and, as he said Wednesday on a Zoom call with reporters, is up to 180 pounds. His foot is feeling better. And Marquise Brown is himself once again.

“I feel I got bright days ahead,” Brown said. “I feel 100 times better than I did last year. So, all I got to do now is focus on the plays, focus on the stuff that I’m supposed to focus on, instead of focusing on my feet and trying to stay healthy.”

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Brown’s added weight was the product of a mindset he had about trying to allow himself to undergo the rigors of an NFL season easier than he had a year ago. 

Whenever Brown would catch a pass, he would scurry out of bounds or dive forward to could avoid a hit. While that was certainly a product of the weight he played at and his desire to protect himself, it also had to do with his injured foot, too. 

He wasn’t able to run as fast as he did at Oklahoma, and he still isn’t quite at that speed, either. 

“Sometimes, I would try to make a cut that my foot wasn’t able to make, and I would go down,” Brown said. “Or sometimes, I just know that I’m not going to be able to make that move, so I’ll go down. It was more about getting the yards that I could get, get down, get ready for a next play. It was better for me to be in the game than to be out the game.”

Brown feels better now, and not only that, his teammates have taken notice, too.

“I could tell he put on a lot of weight,” Willie Snead said. “He’s put on a good amount of weight, and you can tell he’s solid now. I know the first thing he said coming into the building is, ‘I’m trying to block somebody. I’m trying to set the tone in the run game, man.’ I could just tell by his build that he took that part seriously.”

The Ravens sent him a GPS tracker while he trained in the offseason, so that while he added the weight, he didn’t lose any of his patented speed. Brown said he’s been able to keep his speed, despite the increased weight now on his 5-foot-9 frame. 

As the team’s top wide receiver, Brown will have an increased workload in his second season not only due to his progression with quarterback Lamar Jackson, but also the Ravens’ desire to pass the football more than they did a year ago.

It's for that reason the Ravens will put a lot more weight on his shoulders this year, as expectations for the organization are sky-high entering the upcoming season.

In that regard, it’s probably a good thing Brown will be a bit bigger in 2020.

“What people fail to realize, when I was at ‘OU’, I was 173-170, so I honestly just gained about 10 pounds,” Brown said. “I actually lost weight last year. To me, I feel back to normal, sort of to say. I feel like myself.”

Stay connected to the Ravens and Orioles with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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