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Sounds of the game include lots of fakery


Sounds of the game include lots of fakery

DENVER (AP) The best spies in the NFL these days aren't behind enemy lines but on the quarterback's own side of the ball.

Every game, two of his interior offensive linemen are miked up for network TV, bringing the sounds of the game to millions of viewers - and future opponents - who hear the signal-caller's cadence, codes and cues, all of which are enshrouded in an increasing amount of gibberish.

Just about every quarterback is doing his best Peyton Manning imitation at the line of scrimmage these days because of increasingly complex offenses and the league's seemingly innocuous decision to move the umpire for safety reasons in 2010.

Switching the umpire from the defensive backfield to the offensive backfield in 2010 posed a problem for the NFL: these officials wore microphones and essentially served as the networks' on-field boom operators. That was no longer possible with the umpire stationed deep behind the quarterback instead of in front of him, so last season the league put microphones on centers and guards.

Now, everybody can listen in on everything that's being said before the snap.

``Defensive guys appreciate that,'' Denver defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said. ``You get all the quarterback's cadence. Quarterbacks and centers don't like it. Offensive coordinators don't like it. By miking the center and the guards, we're hearing the quarterback every snap. So, it's entertaining for the fans but it's also informative for the defenses.''

Still, before pass-happy offenses and miked-up O-linemen, it used to be a lot easier for defenders to figure out what the quarterback was up to.

``Yeah, because you'd have guys from another team that would come to your team and tell you stuff and most of it stayed true,'' Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey said. ``But you can't do that anymore because every week people are changing the terms. You've got to be a sharp guy to play in the league these days.''

Tune into any game and you'll see gesticulating QBs using frenetic hand signals and hollering a string of phrases, much of it outright hogwash - ``dummy'' calls designed to trick defenses and hide the offense's intentions. Teams change their code words week to week, even series to series.

While fans are all tuned in to this quarterback gobbledygook, many defenders are tuning it out, focusing on other signs like player movements and alignments to help them decipher play calls.

``I'm not really listening,'' Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. ``I'm just focusing on what I have to do and get off on the ball.''

Sometimes, you can't help but start to wonder, though, said his teammate, cornerback Corey Graham.

``When you've got guys like Peyton Manning, who's so smart, you kind of know that he might be talking garbage so you don't want to pay too much attention to that. But to be honest, it does catch your attention as a DB,'' Graham said. ``When you see a quarterback out there saying a bunch of gibberish and pointing at your receiver, you're like, `Aw shoot, what the heck is going on? I think I'm going to back up a little bit.' It does tend to make you think that they're up to something.''

The quarterback has been doing more talking anyway with so many teams spreading out their receivers and using the hurry-up or no-huddle offense and its check-with-me option to run or pass on just about every snap.

Linebacker Chad Greenway said that when the Vikings faced Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan last season, ``I don't know if he had any calls in the huddle. It seemed like everything was called at the line of scrimmage, an audible or he's checking between two and three different plays. Yeah, there's a lot of it.''

While coaching staffs study the TV broadcasts to pick up clues about a quarterback's calls and cadence, players find it harder to cut through the fluff and filler.

``I'm telling you, it's tough. You can't look into it,'' Bailey said. ``It's good for people at home to see what the quarterbacks say, but anymore it's hard to decode that.''

Younger players don't even try.

``When it's all said and done, they can only do two things: run or pass,'' Broncos second-year safety Rahim Moore said. ``They can talk as much as they want but at the same time, as a secondary, as a defense, we're talking, too. So, when you get caught up in what they're talking about, and vice versa, you're forgetting about your execution.''

Players coming out of college nowadays are accustomed to these copious amounts of chatter at the line of scrimmage where the multitalented quarterbacks have several variations of plays to choose from depending on what they read in the defense.

``Oh, that's all we've seen,'' said second-year cornerback Chris Harris, who starts opposite Bailey. ``Going against the spread in the NFL, the Big 12, that's all you get, really. It's always been check-with-me. So, you always try to disguise coverages, so that the offenses can't get a jump on you.''

Somewhere in all this trickery are bona fide checks and calls by quarterbacks trying to get defenses to give away their intentions while trying to camouflage their own. And sometimes the joke's on them.

``I think you're seeing more defenses kind of playing the game back,'' Broncos safety Jimmy Leonhard said. ``That's what we called it in New York: You've got to play the game back. You can't just sit back there and line up and let them make their checks and be at the mercy of what they're doing.''


AP Pro Football Writer Dave Campbell and AP Sports Writers Dennis Waszak Jr., Schuyler Dixon, Teresa M. Walker, Josh Dubow, Andrew Seligman, Tim Booth, Howard Ulman, David Ginsburg, Will Graves and Jon Krawczynski contributed.


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Jimmy Smith returns to practice for first time in over a month

Jimmy Smith returns to practice for first time in over a month

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens got some help in the secondary on Wednesday from someone not named Marcus Peters. 

Cornerback Jimmy Smith returned to practice for the first time in over a month and took part in individual drills, coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday. 

Smith suffered a Grade 2 MCL Sprain in the first week of the season against the Dolphins and hasn’t played or practiced since. 

With the addition of Peters, the Ravens are hoping to be healthier than they’ve been in a while at the cornerback spot.

Smith was listed on the injury report as a limited participant and his status for Sunday’s game against the Seahawks is still unknown. 

The Ravens rank 25th in the NFL against the pass this season and are looking to get the 30-year-old corner back in the fold. 


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Adding Marcus Peters has John Harbaugh and the Ravens secondary pumped

Adding Marcus Peters has John Harbaugh and the Ravens secondary pumped

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Help is on the way for the Ravens secondary. 

With the addition of Marcus Peters, the Ravens are hopeful to boost a depleted secondary due to injuries. Tavon Young, Iman Marshall and Jimmy Smith have all missed significant time with injuries, and only Smith is set to return sooner rather than later. 

Peters, a former Pro Bowl cornerback, is what the Ravens are hoping will take their defense to a level they haven’t been at all season. 

“We’re looking forward to getting him in there,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We’ve known him for quite a long time, ever since the draft when he was coming out of Washington. We spent a lot of time with him in that process, and every chance we’ve had to cross paths since, it’s been very positive.”

After two seasons in Kansas City, he was traded to the Los Angeles Rams. There, he played just over a season before being traded to Baltimore. 

In his 67 games in the NFL, Peters has 24 interceptions — a league-best during that time frame — and was selected to the Pro Bowl twice and named First Team All-Pro once. 

Peters figures to slide in on the opposite side of Marlon Humphrey, who is having a Pro Bowl caliber season. 

“I think that’s a great move,” Earl Thomas said. “I think we have two top-five corners playing on the same team with him and Marlon, so it’s definitely going to help out in the back end and the whole defense.”

Included in the imminent return of Smith, presumably either for the Seahawks or Patriots game, the Ravens cornerback depth is slowly inching to healthy. 

Peters will fly to Baltimore late Wednesday and be ready for practices on Thursday and Friday. Harbaugh said he’ll play on Sunday as much as he can. The Ravens have made it a sort of habit to get players quickly acclimated to the defense in recent weeks, something they’ll try and fastrack once again with Peters. 

The move also presents flexibility for the Ravens secondary as Brandon Carr could slide back to safety, something he did during training camp.

“Let’s move around, man,” Carr said. “Let’s keep the offense on their toes, let’s be aggressive, let’s make plays, so I’m all for it.”