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Earl Thomas says he was ‘just trying to make a football play’ on hit on Mason Rudolph

Earl Thomas says he was ‘just trying to make a football play’ on hit on Mason Rudolph

PITTSBURGH — Earl Thomas didn’t think much of his devastating hit on Mason Rudolph until he saw Rudolph on the ground, motionless. 

Thomas’ monster hit left Rudolph out for the game with a concussion and left the Ravens with a 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer. 

Rudolph was carted off with his facemask removed and later diagnosed with a concussion.

“I was just getting to the ball, trying to make a play for my team,” Thomas said. “I hit the strike zone like we talked about, I didn’t go high, I didn’t try to intentionally hurt him. I’m worried about him. I heard he’s at the hospital, my prayers go out to him and his family. But I’m never trying to hurt anybody.”

As Steelers fans at Heinz Field chanted, ‘Throw him out,’ Thomas was penalized 15 yards for roughing the passer. 

Thomas’ helmet caught Rudolph on the bottom of his facemask on the chin. Rudolph was transported to the hospital as Devlin Hodges, an undrafted free agent rookie, took over at quarterback for the Steelers.

“I was asking the ref what happened, they said upstairs said a part of my helmet caught him in the chin, and that’s what caused the flag,” Thomas explained. “I still believe that it wasn’t intentional on my part.”

As for whether Thomas could face supplemental discipline from the league, Thomas was hopeful he’ll avoid punishment. 

“Hopefully not, it still was a football play, it wasn’t dirty,” Thomas said. “He actually got sandwiched. B (Brandon) Carr came from behind, I hit him from the side like I said, the strike zone. I didn’t even see a flag initially, but I think once they saw how serious it was, they were like, ‘Oh, let me throw this flag.’ Which is understandable.”

Coach John Harbaugh saw the play similarly and backed up his player.

“Earl’s closing, Mason’s going forward,” Harbaugh said. “Gets him right on the chin, like a boxing glove. I’m absolutely certain he wasn’t trying to hit him in the head. It’s fast, he’s closing and Mason’s running.”

Rudolph was down on the field for several minutes unconscious before he was helped to his feet and taken off the field. 

Players on both teams joined on the field to pray for Rudolph, who left the field to a standing ovation. 

Thomas, despite Rudolph's injury, still feels he didn’t do anything wrong. He was just trying to hit the quarterback. 

“It was a weird sight,” Thomas said. “I quickly went over to his teammate and said, ‘Hey, bro, I did not mean to do that, that wasn’t intentional at all.’ I was just trying to make a football play.’”

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Former Ravens Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg denies wanting to move Lamar Jackson to wide receiver

Former Ravens Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg denies wanting to move Lamar Jackson to wide receiver

According to a report from former NFL general manager Michael Lombardi, former Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg wanted to move Lamar Jackson to wide receiver. 

Mornhinweg, and the Ravens, claim that’s not true. 

Tuesday morning, Mornhinweg and the Ravens released a statement that claims the conversation Lombardi reported never happened. 

“That didn’t happen,” Mornhinweg responded, according to the release. “Never said that. My thoughts before the draft, and even more when we started working with Lamar, was that this young man was going to be a special quarterback. Very early we saw that along with all of his throwing and escape abilities, he reads the field as well as any young quarterback I ever worked with.”

Mornhinweg, who was the Ravens’ offensive coordinator for three years and with the organization for four, left the organization after last season ended.

The original report from Lombardi, which was on the GM Shuffle podcasts that he hosts, stated that Mornhinweg wanted to move Jackson to wide receiver. 

“Here’s what happened,” Lombardi began. “The first time he (Lamar Jackson) comes in, Marty Mornhinweg — remember, we’re building the team around him — Marty says to the coaches, this is fact, ‘When are we gonna move him to receiver?’”

Lombardi was a scout for the 49ers and Browns before working for the Eagles, Raiders, Browns (for a second time) and the Patriots. He was the general manager and VP of the Browns in 2013-14. He currently works for The Athletic.

“Organizationally, we were on the same page with Lamar, and I thought Ozzie (Newsome) and Eric (DeCosta) did a great job to take him where we did,” coach John Harbaugh added in the release. “Marty was excited from the beginning to coach Lamar and was instrumental in helping him progress through his rookie season.”

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Ravens don't have to worry about Rob Gronkowski returning for the NFL Playoffs

Ravens don't have to worry about Rob Gronkowski returning for the NFL Playoffs

Sitting atop the AFC North and East divisions at 8-2 and 9-1 respectively, the Ravens and Patriots could face each other again in January for either the divisional round or AFC championship.

One thing is for sure -- even if Baltimore has to face the Patriots in Foxborough, the Ravens will not have to worry about crafting a game plan for retired tight end Rob Gronkowski.

The five-time Pro Bowl receiver is guaranteed to be in Miami for Super Bowl LIV, but not to play football -- instead, throwing a party off the field that he calls Gronk Beach.

Gronk told ESPN that a return to playing for the NFL is "always an option in the back of my head. It's not like I'm not staying in shape and not doing anything."

"I wouldn't say 'never coming back,'" Gronk told ESPN after announcing his Gronk Beach festival, that includes performances by Diplo, Kaskade, Rick Ross and Flo Rida. "I'm feeling good, but you know, one year off could possibly be the case. Or maybe two years off, man."

Baltimore already bloodied New England 37-20, handing the Pats their first and only loss of the season thus far when they visited M&T Bank Stadium in Week 9, but both teams should almost certainly anticipate a postseason meeting. Arguably the greatest tight end in league history, Gronk knows his team could use his talents again.

"With the offense, they're finding ways to make it work like they've always done, putting guys in the right situation to make plays," Gronkowski told ESPN about watching the Patriots games closely this season. "But man, they're missing some guy who is 6-6, 260 [pounds]," referencing himself.

Baltimore, you're in the clear this year. But that's all Gronk can guarantee.

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