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Harbaugh: Young players need offseason structure

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Harbaugh: Young players need offseason structure

Ravens coach John Harbaugh suggested it would be wise for the NFL to increase the time that young players are allowed to participate in offseason team activities.

Ravens cornerback Tray Walker, who was just 23 years old, died March 18 from injuries suffered in a dirt bike accident the night before in his hometown of Liberty City, Fla. Walker had planned on returning to the Baltimore area in several weeks for offseason workouts. However, NFL teams are not allowed to begin official offseason team activities until mid-April. The most recent collective bargaining agreement in 2011 reduced offseason workouts by five weeks.

“It’s really challenging, the offseason,” Harbaugh told reporters at the NFL meetings in Boca Raton, Fla. “I hope that the league and the union can take this tragic event and kind of find common ground for the younger players in this league. Three months is a long time to be away. I think for some of the guys especially - the guys who need it the most, who don’t come from a great situation at home. What’s their anchor? Where do they go to anchor themselves? Well, they have nowhere to go right now for three months, so they go home, they go back to where they have worked so hard to pull themselves out of.

“Tray’s No. 1 goal was to find his mom a good apartment. He told me that in our pre-draft meetings. He told me that after he got drafted. And he told me when he did it, got it done for her. It’s not an environment that he was really necessarily wanting to be in, but where else do you go?  That’s where your friends are at, that’s where your relationships are.

“It would really be good to be able to have the two or three-year guys, that choose to, stay in the city where their team is at. We’re their anchor in a lot of ways. We’re their family. They have a place they can go to work every single day. They can train without having to pay for it. It just makes a lot of sense.”

Meanwhile, the Ravens are still trying to cope with Walker’s death. A viewing has been scheduled for Friday night in Miami, followed by his funeral on Saturday. Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti was planning to arrange a charger flight from Baltimore to Miami for members of the organization.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft 6.0: The two-round version

 

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Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

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Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

The defensive performance on display by the Baltimore Ravens Sunday against the Tennessee Titans in a 21-0 shutout win was flat out historic. So historic that it's earned linebacker Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

A franchise-record 11 sacks were laid on quarterback Marcus Mariota during the Week 6 matchup, with Smith leading the way with three of them.   

So far this season the 26-year-old has 20 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks, and one forced fumble. As someone who is in the final year of his rookie NFL contract, he's certainly proving he is worthy of getting paid this offseason. 

"It feels great, man. It's big," Smith said of the honor during media availability Wednesday. "I know when I first found out I called my mom and she was already looking at it. But I called her and she was trying to congratulate me and was like 'who would've ever thought the guy that played one year of high school football would be where he at now and making so many goals.'"

But earning AFC Defensive Player of the Week isn't the only goal Smith has in mind. His performance through the first six weeks and assisting the No. 1 ranked scoring defense is just a stepping stone to the ultimate honor.

"I was telling her, 'Ma you know this is a good self-goal but my main goal is to get us to the Super Bowl.'" 

The road to the Super Bowl for Smith and the Ravens continues this Sunday vs. Drew Brees and the Saints. 

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Peter King awards two Ravens with weekly honors for defensive performance vs.Titans

Peter King awards two Ravens with weekly honors for defensive performance vs.Titans

The Baltimore Ravens' Week 6 dominate performance over the Tennessee Titans is gaining national attention. 

A historic game that displayed the offense and defense firing on all cylinders, it's hard to pinpoint who had the biggest impact. 

So in his latest edition of Football Morning in America, NBC Sports' Peter King awarded not one, but two Ravens with weekly honors.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Za'Darius Smith

Against the Titans, Smith led the Ravens defense with three sacks and five tackles in their historic 11-sack game. On of three Defensive Players of the Week, King explained why Smith's performance stood out.

In the most dominant defensive performance of this ultra-offensive season, the Ravens shut out Tennessee 21-0 and had 11 sacks. Another one of GM Ozzie Newsome’s draft gifts that keeps on giving, Smith (2015, round four, Kentucky) contributed three sacks of Marcus Mariota and five tackles in a virtuoso game. Net passing yards for Mariota: 51.

Smith, who's entering the final year of his rookie NFL contract, has shown over six games he deserves to get paid in the offseason. So far this season the 26-year-old has 20 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks and one forced fumble. 

COACH OF THE WEEK: Don "Wink" Martindale

In his first season as defensive coordinator, Don "Wink" Martindale has seamlessly made the transition from linebackers coach to leading the NFL's No. 1 scoring defense (12.8). But what impressed King the most from the 21-0 shutout was how Martindale's squad got to Mariota from every direction. 

When a unit records more sacks (11) than completions allowed (10), the leader gets an award. Those are the rules. Martindale’s pass rushers got to Marcus Mariota every possible way—up the middle, around the edges, in the pocket, on bootlegs, you name it. The total set a new franchise record and was one short of the single-game NFL mark of 12. And it came with a familiar face watching: Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees used to hold the same position in Baltimore. Shout out to the Ravens social media team for renaming the account RavenSSSSSSSSSSS, one ‘S’ for each sack.

This Ravens defense, who has always been known for its dominance, is ranked first in points allowed (12.8), first in yards allowed (270.8), second in passing yards allowed (188.0) and third in rushing yards allowed (82.8) heading into Week 7. In addition, they have yet to surrender a second half touchdown all season. Trusting of the talent this roster holds, the respect "Wink" has for his players is equally reciprocated. 

"It was really emotional when they told us we had 11 sacks," linebacker Patrick Onwuasor said postgame. "We just went out there and we were like, ‘We have to get Coach Wink . We have to put the Gatorade on him.’ So, we tried to turn him around so he couldn’t see it coming, and we had to get him real good."

Martindale will now face the No. 1 scoring offense in the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. 

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