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Players, coaches say Panthers face leadership void

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Players, coaches say Panthers face leadership void

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Several coaches and players agree with ousted general manager Marty Hurney's assessment that there's a leadership void in the Panthers locker room.

After being fired Monday Hurney suggested more players need to ``step and up and say enough is enough'' when it comes to losing games.

He said leadership in any NFL locker room is critical - and the young Panthers don't have enough of it.

``I think Marty hit the nail on the head,'' Cam Newton said.

The second-year quarterback said there is leadership to an extent, but ``it's not enough consistently.''

Newton's leadership skills in particular have come under fire as he's received criticism from teammate Steve Smith earlier in the year for sulking on the sidelines and more recently from national media outlets who perceived Newton as pointing fingers at others ran than himself following Sunday's 19-14 loss to Dallas.

Newton, who rarely lost in college, admits this year's rough start has tested his him.

``It's extremely hard to lead because everyone on the outside starts looking and trying to find the reason we're 1-5 when he had such high expectations,'' Newton said.

Coach Ron Rivera agreed with Hurney as well, saying the Panthers need more players to take on a leadership role and that if they enough don't step up than he's going to have to look for replacements.

``Not enough guys have stepped up,'' Rivera said. ``There's the inability that some people have to do that, but those that have it need to step up and put it on the line.''

Rivera said he liked when center Ryan Kalil predicted a Super Bowl win for Carolina - an idea that now seems farfetched - because it showed confidence.

In his eyes it showed leadership, not boastfulness.

``If the other 52 guys don't think that way, something is wrong,'' Rivera said.

Hurney took full responsibility for Carolina's ``losing environment'' after being fired, but went on to say that the Panthers need leaders to step up in the locker room, citing Tom Brady in New England and Ray Lewis in Baltimore as examples.

``One of the keys to winning in this league is the makeup of the locker room,'' Hurney said. ``And I think that we need somebody to step up down there and take hold. ... We have young players, but at some point I think somebody needs to step up and say enough is enough. Because when it comes down to those (close) games and it comes down to those plays, I think it's a matter of confidence.''

Panthers safety Haruki Nakamura spent four years playing with Lewis in Baltimore before joining the Panthers this past offseason. He went to the playoffs four straight years with the Ravens.

``The place I came from it takes more than one person,'' Nakamura said. ``It takes everybody.''

Nakamura said he doesn't think the environment in Carolina has to change.

He said the winning does, and that starts with learning how to win just one close game. He said when the Panthers do that winning will become contagious.

``The word needs to be tradition,'' Nakamura said. ``When you hear the word change you think there are a lot of things wrong. I think the biggest thing is tradition and that comes with hard work.''

On most NFL teams, the quarterback is the leader.

Hurney drafted Newton No. 1 overall last year in hopes that he'd develop into Carolina's franchise quarterback and the team's leader.

When asked specifically if Newton can be that guy, Hurney said, ``he's certainly capable.''

However, after an impressive rookie season in which he earned AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, Newton has struggled out of the blocks in his season and the frustration has mounted as the season has progressed.

So too has the criticism.

``This isn't an indictment on any player but I think leadership in the locker rooms are probably one of the most underrated parts of this league because the talent level is so even,'' Hurney said. ``You look at the winning teams and there are leaders in those locker rooms and we have people who are very capable of it.

``It's a matter of people stepping up and refusing to lose.''

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Ravens vs. Broncos Week 3: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

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Ravens vs. Broncos Week 3: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

The Baltimore Ravens' Week 3 matchup against the Denver Broncos could have more repercussions than you think. As Case Keenum and Von Miller roll into town, a win will be vital before the team hits the road for three weeks. 

Coming off 10 days of rest, we'll begin to see what this 2018 team can do after a blowout Week 1 win to the Buffalo Bills was followed up by a dud of a Week 2 in Cincinnati

Joe Flacco and his three new receivers have been connecting on all levels, but now it's time to allow the backs to hit the ground running (pun intended). Alex Collins and Co. are averaging just 3.3 yards-per-carry, something John Harbaugh is not happy about.

"That’s a big priority," Harbaugh said Monday on getting the running game going. "We’re not, in any way, pleased with the numbers. And, we are very determined to run the ball well, because we think it fits our offense, and it’s something that opens everything else up. So, we have to get that going.”

The Ravens' receivers will need to take advantage of a weak Broncos secondary. Raiders' Derek Carr completed 29 of 32 in Week 2 thanks to the Broncos' CBs. That doesn't mean their defense is lacking entirely. There's of course outside linebacker Miller, who already has four sacks on the season, and strong safety Darian Stewart who will be the Ravens' offense' main target. 

"He’s the straw that stirs the drink, no doubt – one of the very best in the league at what he does," Harbaugh said. "We will have to have him accounted for at all times, on every play. If we don’t do that, he’ll wreck the game. That’s job [No.] 1 on offense – that’s where it starts.”

On the defensive side of the ball, the Ravens could be without Pro Bowl middle linebacker C.J. Mosley after suffering a bone bruise in Week 2. He did participate in Thursday's practice, but there has been no word on his availability for Sunday's matchup. 

Mosley's absence was felt immediately against the Bengals, but the defense has had plenty of time to plan accordingly. A veteran presence was brought back to fill the void in Albert McCllelan as the team will have to keep a close eye on the Broncos' dynamic running back duo in undrafted rookie Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman.

Lindsay in currently third in the NFL in rushing yards (178) and has 35 receiving yards for one touchdown. His 100-plus yards in two games makes the 24-year-old the first undraftetd rookie to ever reach that achievement. Over two games, Freeman has rushed 23 times for 99 yards and one touchdown. 

Against the Ravens, quarterback Case Keenum has a 62.2 career rating in three starts with the Vikings, Texans and Rams. He still has a 2-1 record, however, against Baltimore. In his last six road starts, he's put up 13 touchdowns, five interceptions and a 100.8 rating.

Defensive tackle Willie Henry (abdomen), tight end Hayden Hurst (foot) and defensive tackle Michael Pierce (foot) did not participate in Thursday's practice. Linebacker Matthew Judon (hamstring), Mosley (knee) and tackle Ronnie Stanley (elbow) were limited. 

Cornerback Adam Jones (thigh), inside linebacker Brandon Marshall (knee), nose tackle Domata Peko Sr. (not injury related) and tackle Jared Veldheer (concussion) did not practice Thursday for the Broncos. Safety Dymonte Thomas (abdomen) was limited. 

The two have met 13 times  – including two postseason games – with the Ravens leading the series 7-6. Ahead of Sunday's matchup, here's everything you need to know to watch.

RAVENS VS. BRONCOS WEEK 3 HOW TO WATCH:

Who: Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Broncos

What: Week 3 regular season

When: Sunday, Sept. 22, 2018, 1:00 p.m. ET

Where: M&T Bank Stadium

TV Channel: CBS

Live Stream: Watch Now with FuboTV - Try Free Trial

Radio: WBAL New Radio 1090 and 98Rock

Weather: 67 degrees, cloudy

RAVENS 2018 REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE:

Week 1: Sun., 9/9 vs. Bills, 1:00 p.m. (W: 47-3)

Week 2: Thur., 9/13 @ Bengals, 8:20 p.m. (L: 34-23)

Week 3: Sun., 9/23 vs. Broncos. 1:00 p.m.

Week 4: Sun., 9/30 @ Steelers, 8:20 p.m.

Week 5: Sun., 10/7 @ Browns, 1:00 p.m.

Week 6: Sun., 10/14 @ Titans, 4:25 p.m.

Week 7: Sun., 10/21 vs. Saints, 4:05 p.m.

Week 8: Sun., 10/28 @ Panthers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 9: Sun., 11/4 vs. Steelers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 10:  BYE week

Week 11: Sun., 11/18 vs. Bengals, 1:00 p.m.

Week 12: Sun., 11/25 vs. Raiders, 1:00 p.m.

Week 13: Sun., 12/2 @ Falcons, 1:00 p.m.

Week 14: Sun., 12/9 @ Chiefs, 1:00 p.m.

Week 15: Sun., 12/16 vs. Buccaneers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 16: Sat., 12/22 or Sunday 12/23 @ Chargers, TBD

Week 17: Sun., 12/30 vs. Browns, 1:00 p.m.

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Despite the optics, Ravens do have a weekly game plan for Lamar Jackson

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USA TODAY Sports

Despite the optics, Ravens do have a weekly game plan for Lamar Jackson

When the Ravens' offense takes the field on gameday, your eyes are probably searching for No. 8.

Since trading back into the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, one of the biggest questions facing the Ravens is how they would utilize the dynamic talents of Lamar Jackson in the present. 

The former Heisman Trophy winner has seen action in each of the Ravens' regular-season games at both QB and receiver. But fans looking for that instant spark, like what Browns rookie Baker Mayfield provided Thursday night, have yet to find No. 8.

While the use of Jackson and Joe Flacco at the same time allows for a playbook with more versatility, it continues to be a feeling-out process for both the Ravens and fans. 

“A lot of thought goes into that. We’ll see," offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said on the process of deciding when to use Jackson. 

"Every game will be different with Lamar. He’ll play a little bit more in some, a little bit less in others, depending on who we’re going against, what style we’re going against and all those things.”

 “It’s week to week, gameplan to gameplan, game to game during the game," head coach John Harbaugh added during a Monday press conference. "There are more plays than five in the gameplan for him. We’ll just try to do what we can do with all the weapons we have to try to put as many points up as we can. That’s really what we’re trying to do with all our guys. I put him in the same category that way.”

In Week 1 against the Bills, Jackson took over the reins in the third quarter, going 1-of-4 for 25 yards and one sack. He added 39 rushing yards, averaging 5.6 yards-per-carry.

Then, in Week 2 against the Bengals, the rookie rushed two times for just six yards averaging 3 yards-per-carry. 

Jackson has yet to break through in the regular season, but there is absolutely zero reason for concern. 

He is simply an additional tool the Ravens are keeping in their back pocket for now, and while their reasoning behind using him on particular plays may appear sporadic, there's a method behind the madness. 

"There are a lot of different reasons why Lamar goes into a game at a particular time. It may not look like it, but it is well thought out.”

The Ravens' Week 3 opponent  — the Denver Broncos — expect to see Jackson on the field Sunday. When asked how much they're are preparing for him, Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller admitted the challenge he creates for a defense.

"I mean, like you said, it's tough to prepare for a guy like Lamar Jackson," Miller said on a conference call with media Wednesday. "There's not a receiver that can throw like him. It's hard to replicate that on the scout team. It's definitely a challenge." 

The good news for the Ravens and Jackson is that there's still a whole lot of football left to figure it all out. 

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