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Is flag football ahead for NFL?

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Is flag football ahead for NFL?

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Making the game safer is making NFL players unsure what's a legal hit.

Players on both Super Bowl teams say they are confused about which hits are considered clean and which ones could lead to a fine. And it's not just the guys on defense who are wondering about the future of pro football.

``I think the rules will change a lot,'' San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis said Tuesday. ``There's already no helmet to helmet. Might be flag football, maybe.''

Baltimore Ravens safety Bernard Pollard, one of the league's hardest hitters, warned against trying to take collisions out of the game, as long as they are clean.

``You can't play this game and not expect it to be physical,'' said Pollard, who was fined $15,250 for a hit on Patriots receiver Wes Welker in the AFC championship game that Pollard believes was within the rules. ``There will be injuries in football. There's a car crash on every play.''

His 49ers counterpart, All-Pro Dashon Goldson, says defenders keep this in mind when they take the field:

``Do your best and then hope you don't get a letter (with a fine) in your locker on Wednesday.''

The NFL has sought to eliminate any hits to the head and neck area of defenseless players, particularly in the last three years. It also has banned players launching themselves helmet-first toward an opponent.

Yet, every week, players are fined for those actions, and there have been suspensions. Baltimore safety Ed Reed drew a one-game suspension this season that was lifted by the NFL on appeal and turned into a $50,000 fine for repeated illegal tackles. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Reed is not considered a vicious hitter.

Reed admits he can't be sure what's a true tackle these days and what crosses the line.

``A lot needs to be done with it. I don't think every fine is right,'' he said. ``You have to go back and really look at how guys play the game before you judge them, is what I'm trying to say.''

While still recognizing the importance of keeping games as safe as possible, defensive players have complained for years about the league's crackdown on hits. The 49ers and Ravens have two of the most physical defenses in the NFL, and they are proud of their violent nature.

``You can't play timid,'' Goldson said.

But even offensive players concede that defenses are at a disadvantage to the point of confusion.

Baltimore's Anquan Boldin, one of the more physical wide receivers in the league, doesn't feel sorry for anyone trying to tackle him. But he understands their plight as they close in.

`` All defensive players have to deal with that,'' Boldin said. ``It's tough on defensive players on those defenseless receiver calls because they come in and then the receiver drops his shoulder and they hit in the (head). And they get a penalty.

``So maybe they aren't sure and that's bad. This game is played too fast to worry about that, but they do have to worry.''

The NFL isn't going to back down on its emphasis on player safety, of course. It is facing at least 175 lawsuits as more than 3,800 players have sued the league over head injuries as the concussion issue has gained attention in recent years. The total number of plaintiffs is 6,000 when spouses, relatives and other representatives are included.

So the emphasis on eliminating what Ray Anderson, the league's main disciplinarian, calls ``egregious fouls'' will remain.

``We will just not let up,'' Anderson told The Associated Press on Tuesday. ``Get used to it, this will be our mantra: We have an obligation in being relentless in protecting our players.

``If they are in a defenseless position, hitting in the helmet is unnecessary. We said player health and safety is our No. 1 priority from the get-go and we have stuck to it with no apologies and no defensive attitude about it.''

Meantime, as offenses make scoreboards spin with record numbers of points, defenses try to figure out exactly what they are allowed to do.

``We are guys who are supposed to hit,'' said 49ers safety Donte Whitner, who is known for his bone-crunching tackles. ``We have to bring the element of fear when they come over the middle. We want receivers to think do you really want to keep coming over the middle time and time again.

``We need to make sure they don't want to, but we need to do it the right way. But we need to figure out the right way.''

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

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After breakout 2017 season, Ravens running back Alex Collins isn't getting too comfortable

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After breakout 2017 season, Ravens running back Alex Collins isn't getting too comfortable

This time last year, running back Alex Collins wasn't a part of the Baltimore Ravens.

After being released by the Seattle Seahawks at the end of the 2017 preseason, the Ravens placed the 23-year-old on their practice squad, and by Week 2, Collins was already making plays.

As the season progressed, Collins found himself as the Ravens' top running back. He finished 2017 as the team's leading rusher with 973 yards while Javorius "Buck" Allen followed behind him with 591 yards.

If the 2018 NFL season began today, Collins would likely be the Ravens' starter, which is quite ironic considering the fate of his 2017 preseason.

"I always go back to where I started and where I am now, and I use that as my motivation," Collins said after Thursday's training camp practice.

"No matter the day, no matter how tired I am, I think to myself, at this time last year, I didn’t know my position, where I was, where I’d end up. So just having that security behind it is definitely my motivation to keep it this way and keep pushing forward and keep trying to get better instead of being complacent.”

Over the course of 15 games, Collins proved he had the strength and speed to make an impact on the team after Danny Woodhead suffered a hamstring injury on the first drive of the Ravens' Week 1 game and Kenneth Dixon sat out the entire season with a torn meniscus. 

While job security is something we all strive for, Collins isn't getting too comfortable with the hierarchy. 

“I don’t want to say necessarily ‘comfortable,’ because when I use that word, it makes me feel like I’m too relaxed and lackadaisical," Collins said.

"I’m more focused. I don’t want to get comfortable. I don’t want the team or our group to get comfortable, because we just want to get better every day. So, in the position I am, it’s a great feeling, but I’m always pushing myself to be better.”

While Collins has set personal goals for himself – like a 1,000-yard season – he is equally as focused on making the Ravens backfield one of the best groups in the National Football League. 

“I expect that," Collins said on being the Ravens' starter.

"I would hope that all the other running backs expect [to be the starter] as well, and that’s what kind of drives our group – when we all know that we have that capability to be the No. 1 guy, and we’re out competing and push each other and try to be the best. No matter who’s out there during the game, you’ll see a productive play out of that person. So, I have that mindset. I want to be the guy. I have that fire in me, and I hope [that is] as well as the other running backs, as I encouraged them as well.”

Collins noted that he's coming into training camp a bit heavier. He added five pounds to his 200-pound frame "just to see how that feels," but is still maintaining the stamina and strength he's always had. 

Collins – who was one of several veterans released from practice early as the team begins to adjust their way into the extended preseason – finished his media availability with a friendly warning to fantasy football owners: "Draft me now before it’s too late, guys."

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Joe Flacco receives high praise from teammates after first training camp practice

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USA TODAY Sports

Joe Flacco receives high praise from teammates after first training camp practice

Ravens football is back and so is Joe Cool.

The team’s first training camp practice took place Thursday afternoon, and Joe Flacco’s teammates – from offensive to defensive players – mentioned how laser focused the 10-year veteran is.

"Joe always has a lot of personality,” running back Alex Collins said via SB Nation’s Baltimore Beatdown.

“He is a good guy. He’s a real funny guy, but definitely coming into this year, he has a lot of fire behind him. And it does a lot motivating us especially early when we first reported back. Just seeing him work hard and just seeing him get better every day. He’s definitely got a lot of fire behind him this year.”

Flacco is entering the final year of his contract with a lot on the line following a disappointing start to the 2017 season. But a huge factor that is different for the 33-year old coming into this preseason opposed to last is his health.

“Most definitely,” Collins said on whether he can tell if Flacco is healthier this year. “He’s a lot faster as well, by the way, guys.”

And when it comes to the “Is Joe Flacco elite” debate, linebacker C.J. Mosley knows the consensus within the Under Armour Performance Center.

“I think every year [Joe Flacco] comes in with his mindset that he wants to be great,” Mosley said.

“Mainly because everybody outside of this building does not think he is elite and inside the building, everybody does think that way. Since Joe has been here, you know he is one of those players that never gets rattled. You never see his emotions too high, too low. He’s been our quarterback that kinda stays in the middle to make sure everything goes smooth. That’s kinda how he has been this offseason too. He’s come in looking strong, body looking good.”

Flacco’s health is up to speed as well as his mentality. Flacco organized private workouts with his wide receivers and tight ends at a local park across from the Ravens’ facility last week. This is the first time he has done so since 2011. When asked if he initiated the session, Michael Crabtree gave all the credit to his new quarterback.

“No, that’s all Flac [Flacco], man,” Crabtree said. “That’s the leader. We’re just the wideouts. [We] do whatever he says. If we’ve got something we bring to the table, then we make it work.”

 

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