Ravens

Quick Links

Some 49ers already played for a title in the dome

201301281704614632057-p2.jpeg

Some 49ers already played for a title in the dome

NEW ORLEANS (AP) San Francisco defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois made one of his greatest football memories to date in the Superdome, where he won a national championship with LSU against Ohio State in January 2008.

Jean Francois also was voted MVP of that game, an honor that disrupted his celebration after he had climbed into the stands to see his family.

``They had to get a lot of the guys to grab me out of the stands to bring me back down, but it was a good moment when I got a chance to hold that crystal ball and see that confetti,'' Jean Francois said.

As it turns out, the 49ers also are staying in the same hotel and using some of the same meeting rooms that LSU used leading up to the Tigers' BCS triumph.

The memories are not so fond for a couple other 49ers who were in that same title game, but playing for the Buckeyes.

``I don't want to hear it,'' linebacker Larry Grant said when asked whether the sight of the Superdome brings back bad memories. ``All I'm thinking about is hoisting that Lombardi Trophy in a few days.''

Grant said Jean Francois had not said a word to him about the game recently.

``He doesn't want to bring that up with me,'' Grant said. ``I might slap him in the face.''

Niners offensive lineman Alex Boone, also a Buckeye back in 2007-08, said he did have some painful memories come back to him when he walked on the field against the Saints earlier this season. The 49ers won that game, 31-21.

``It was a little weird coming back. I just remember thinking about the championship game and I was happy this (past game against New Orleans) went differently,'' Boone said. ``Hopefully we can have success this Sunday.''

Boone acknowledged he somehow gets drawn into conversations with Jean Francois about their college title matchup, even though he has no interest in discussing it.

``We talk about it all the time, surprisingly, because I hate talking about it, but we always end up talking about it once a week,'' Boone said. ``It's weird.''

---

FAREWELL, ALEX?: Alex Smith leaving the San Francisco 49ers after this season is a topic CEO Jed York isn't ready to address.

York made one thing clear Thursday: Smith hasn't requested his release after the 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick lost his starting job to Colin Kaepernick.

Smith certainly hopes to remain a starter somewhere, and that doesn't seem likely anymore with San Francisco, his only NFL team.

While the 49ers would love to have two winning QBs, York realizes that might not be a realistic luxury as far as Smith is concerned.

``Alex and I started with the 49ers the same year in 2005 and I've known Alex for a long time. And that's part of the overall analysis you do at the end of the season, not just for one player but for everybody,'' York said.

``And you figure out what's best for guys, what's best for the team, and you figure out. Is there a spot for him on the team from a cap standpoint? Yeah, absolutely there's a spot for him on the team. From a need standpoint, it's pretty nice to have two quarterbacks that you feel that you can win with. Is there going to be a demand for a quarterback who's played as well as he had the last couple years? Yeah.''

---

HALL OF FAME OWNERS? - An oddity for this Super Bowl has both teams' former owners as finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The late Art Modell, who owned the Cleveland Browns and then moved them to Baltimore to become the Ravens, and Ed DeBartolo Jr., of the San Francisco 49ers, could enter the hall on Saturday. They are among 15 modern-day finalists, of which as many as five can be elected.

Modell bought the Browns in 1961 and took them to Baltimore in 1996. He was president of the NFL under then-Commissioner Pete Rozelle from 1967-69 and played an instrumental role in negotiating television contracts for the league. Modell contributed to the creation of Monday night football, too.

``That is always one of those situations that you really try to stay out of, because you don't know how they vote,'' Ravens star linebacker Ray Lewis said. ``You can only tell them about the man who I knew myself: a true legend in his own way, a real visionary who changed thousands and thousands of lives. For the impact he's had on this business and what he's done for so many in this business, for me - I am a little biased - I would say, `Why wouldn't he be in the Hall of Fame?'''

DeBartolo purchased the 49ers in 1977. Soon, they were winning championships: five Super Bowls in as many tries.

During DeBartolo's tenure, the team made 16 playoff appearances, won 13 division titles and played in 10 conference championship games.

But he also was suspended the 1999 season by the NFL after being found guilty of failing to report a bribe by a government official, a felony. He divested ownership of the 49ers to family members.

``I'm hoping Eddie gets into the hall because any time you can accomplish winning five Super Bowls and what he brought to the game of football, he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame,'' said Jerry Rice, the most accomplished receiver in NFL history and a Canton enshrinee. ``I think this society's supposed to be about forgiveness and stuff like that. It's time for Eddie DeBartolo to get into the hall.''

---

ADRIAN'S AID: Adrian Peterson believes his quick recovery from major knee surgery is an inspiration not only to his teammates and other football players, but to all athletes. And, especially, to all kids.

Peterson always has prided himself on being in top shape, and attributes his conditioning to coming back less than nine months after the surgery, then nearly setting the NFL rushing record, gaining 2,097 yards in Minnesota's wild-card playoff season.

He wants to make sure the youth of America is in tune with staying fit.

``Me being an athlete, I know how important it is to be active and keep your body in shape, and it is hard to get a kid outside to do that,'' said Peterson, who was in New Orleans to promote Kinect for Xbox 360's affiliation with NFL Play 60 to help kids have fun while achieving healthy, active lifestyles. The program also is designed to fight childhood obesity.

``Get off the couch and get active.''

That's exactly what Peterson said he did during his rehab. He chose the Xbox golf game.

``I played the golf game and that got my body burning,'' he said. ``They have the more active games like the track and the NFL, but the golf, it's different. It's cool and I think kids will like it.''

Peterson also is eager to promote nutrition and a healthy diet. He had a sweet tooth as a child and said he was fortunate that he could simply go outdoors and play sports to work off the calories.

``Kids today definitely get a lot of fast foods in their body and that's not good for you,'' he said. ``And now that I am older, I understand. I want young people to understand they need to eat healthy and be active. They don't have to play football, but they need to do something.''

---

SUPER LEMONADE: Donald Driver is making a quick transition from the gridiron to the business world.

The Green Bay Packers' career leading receiver announced his retirement Thursday morning, then helped kids from Junior Achievement sell lemonade at a pop-up stand in the Super Bowl media center.

Not only did Driver help behind the counter, he loaded up four carrying cases and he and his three new friends set out to find customers. Their cases were empty when they returned.

``All the money they've raised will stay here in New Orleans,'' Driver said. ``What they're starting to do is learn how to run their own business, become entrepreneurs by themselves.

``I'm just here to raise as much money so maybe they can open up their own lemonade stand the next couple of years.''

---

MUM'S THE WORD: Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti says linebacker Ray Lewis decided to retire after this season several weeks before sharing the news with his team and the rest of the world.

Lewis was working to return from a torn right triceps when coach John Harbaugh told the owner that Lewis wanted to talk to him.

``He just said, `I talked to John and I talked to (general manager) Ozzie Newsome and I'm done after this,''' Bisciotti recalled Thursday. ``We spoke for a few minutes. I just said, mum's the word until you decide to announce it or tell the team. That lasted, I think, a month.''

The formal announcement from Lewis came on Jan. 2. He has resolved to make the Super Bowl his final game.

---

$100 MILLION FOR HARVARD: The NFL Players Association discussed the $100 million medical research fund it is establishing at Harvard, with the money coming out of the players' portion of league revenues from the collective bargaining agreement.

About 1,000 former players are expected to be involved in the research, which will focus on repetitive brain trauma, aging and cardiovascular disease, medical ethics and sports medicine.

``What we're going to do is transformative,'' NFLPA President Domonique Foxworth said at a news conference Thursday.

---

AP Sports Writers Nancy Armour, David Ginsburg, Howard Fendrich, Janie McCauley and Barry Wilner contributed to this report.

Quick Links

Baltimore Ravens 2018 Training Camp preview

download-2.png
AP Images

Baltimore Ravens 2018 Training Camp preview

The Ravens’ 2018 season is one of the most anticipated seasons in the last decade. 

From the coaching staff to the quarterback, the future of the franchise will be determined over 16 weeks. The work, however, beings now. 

The Ravens’ first training camp practice kicks off Thursday and there is a lot to keep a close eye on. Let's take a look at the many talking points of the 2018 preseason.

The Great Quarterback Debate:

Unless you’ve been in hiding since the NFL Draft, you know what all the hoopla is about. Joe Flacco remains the Ravens’ starter, but the competition at QB1 just got a little more interesting. The addition of Lamar Jackson has hopefully ignited a fire under Flacco and Jackson will get a year to learn under the 11-year veteran. If the season starts to go south early on, Jackson could come in as their starter and begin his role as the team’s next franchise quarterback. 

A lot could happen at the quarterback position over the next year, but one thing that is certain is all eyes will be on Lamar Jackson when he hits the field at training camp. You can't deny your intrigue. The Heisman winner had success both in the air and on the ground over his three years at Louisville, racking up record-breaking numbers. How the Ravens utilize Jackson will be interesting. Coach Harbaugh has already stated he will be active on game days and that they're experimenting with having Jackson and Flacco on the field at the same time. 

Oh, and then there's Robert Griffin III. We think you might know who he is.

The Ravens signed him to a one-year deal back at the beginning of April, but now with the addition of Lamar Jackson, another big training camp question arises. Do the Ravens keep a third QB on their active roster or do they send him on his way? RGIII has mentioned he's looking forward to mentoring the fellow Heisman Trophy winner in his first year in the league, but how much of that he'll get to do remains unseen.

A New Core Of Offensive Weapons: 

Flacco's declining numbers cannot be placed entirely on his shoulders. His options at wide receiver and tight end have been limited, but Ozzie Newsome – in his last year as general manager – made sure that would no longer be an issue.

Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead and John 'Smokey' Brown became Ravens in free agency and Breshad Perriman will fight for his final chance with the team after they declined the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. There is also 2018 draft picks Jaleel Scott and Jordan Lasley and undrafted free agents Jaelon Acklin and Andrew Levrone. Veteran Chris Moore and Quincy Adeboyejo will also be competing. Flacco mentioned during OTAs that he would be rounding up his receivers outside of practice to build chemistry. Come Thursday, we will see if the sparks have begun to fly.

The tight end depth chart will be looking very different for the Ravens as well this season. There was, of course, the additions of Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews – a pair of Top 100 picks – in the draft and undrafted free agent Nick Keizer. Veterans Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams are returning, but who will be their starter Week 1 will be interesting to watch. Boyle was on the field for 66 percent of the Ravens' offensive snaps in 2017, but injuries have hindered both Boyle and Williams. Williams missed 12 games in 2016 with a knee tear and five games in 2017 with an ankle sprain. Where he sits on the depth chart will rely heavily on how healthy he remains during an extended training camp. 

Critical Year for the Coaching Staff:

The 2018 season is the most critical one of John Harbaugh's 10-year tenure. As you've read many times this offseason, the Ravens haven't seen the postseason since 2015. And if that trend continues into the 2018 season, big changes to the offensive playcallers should be imminent. 

At his annual State of the Ravens press conference in February, owner Steve Bisciotti was questioned as to why no coaching changes – from head coach to offensive coordinator – were made after the Ravens' offense clearly had trouble getting things going all season long.

"I’m not going to give a ‘playoff or bust’ edict to you all, or to my coach," Bisciotti said.

"He’s under as much pressure, probably, than he’s ever been in his life, and I expect him to keep his chin up and take his positivity and his talents and make the most of this season. I may as well replace him now if I’m going to tell him, ‘Make the playoffs or you’re out of town next year.’ That’s just not the way to run a business.”

That mindset is understandable. Bisciotti noted Flacco has been through four offensive coordinators in five years and was comfortable with OC Marty Mornhinweg. Harbaugh's contract was extended through 2019, but if the season doesn't pan out as expected, the offensive could have a very different look in 2019. 

A Fast and Furious Defense:

Linebackers coach, Don 'Wink' Martindale was promoted to defensive coordinator after Dean Pees' departure. Harbaugh hired within the organization to keep the defensive vision cohesive, but Martindale is bringing something different to the table. 

"He's just putting his personal fix on our defense and expanding it, giving the guys confidence to play fast," safety Eric Weddle said in a recent interview. "The idea is to do what's best for the defense, not what's best the individual."

It appears this year's defense will rely heavily on the instincts of its star players like Pro Bowlers Weddle, Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley. The defense has never had an issue being dominate, but you may be seeing a more creative defense come game days with players given the freedom to make decisions in real time. How well it works will be exciting to see. 

Other Notes: 

The Ravens placed six players, G Marshal Yanda, TE Vince Mayle, DE Brent Urban, CB Jaylen Hill, LB Bam Bradley and WR Quincy Adeboyejo on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list to begin training camp. Yanda missed 14 games last season after suffering a season-ending ankle injury. Placing him on the PUP list to begin training camp is most likely out of precaution. He did not participate in any offseason workouts. 

MORE RAVENS NEWS:

Quick Links

Lamar Jackson, Ravens rookies report to training camp

jacskon-usat.png
USA TODAY Sports

Lamar Jackson, Ravens rookies report to training camp

Football is back in session for the Ravens.

Their rookies are set to report to the Ravens' training facility in Owings Mills, Md Wednesday. Veterans report next Wednesday, the 18th.

The team is reporting to training camp a bit earlier than most NFL teams. Due to Ray Lewis being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Aug. 4 in Canton, Oh, the Ravens will face the Chicago Bears in the annual Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 2. Teams participating are eligible to begin training camp earlier.

This rookie class is already generating national attention. While the Ravens stand by Joe Flacco as their QB1, first-round pick Lamar Jackson could cause a shakeup at some point during the season. And when it comes to much-needed offensive help, tight ends Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews could begin to provide relief. 

Third-round pick Orlando Brown Jr. begins his journey with the Ravens in a more sentimental fashion. His father, Orlando "Zeus" Brown, also played tackle for the Ravens from 1996-98 and then again from 2003-05. Brown passed away in 2011. 

Stay with NBC Sports Washington throughout the next several weeks as we keep a close eye on the Ravens' preseason. 

MORE RAVENS NEWS: