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Everything you need to know from the Ravens' joint practice with the Rams

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Everything you need to know from the Ravens' joint practice with the Rams

It was hot. Like, really hot.

The southern California boys were welcomed to Owings Mills, Md with 91 degree temperatures and high humidity, but that wouldn't stop both teams from taking advantage of practicing against unfamiliar faces. And no, Michael Crabtree and Aqib Talib did not go at it. 

The joint practice comes as the Ravens face the Rams in their second preseason game Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium.

Both teams spark interest heading into the 2018 season. Joe Flacco has a core of new receivers to throw to, while the Rams' defense gained 2010 Defensive Rookie of the Year, Ndamukong Suh. And after going 11-5 in 2017 under Associated Press' Coach of the Year, Sean McVay, there has to be pressure to succeed. 

Here's what you need to know from Monday's first joint practice. 

 – –The scorching temperatures can bring out the worst in all of us, especially if you're a grown man in pads hitting another grown man in pads. But the Ravens and Rams kept that in check and took advantage of a more physical practice, something quarterback Joe Flacco plans to take into Thursday's matchup.

"Oh yeah. It’s a unique experience  to practice against someone and take that for a few days and go play against them," Flacco said. "Do you come out here and treat it like a normal practice? What do you do? I think we just came out here and did our thing today. Hey – it’s a preseason game – No. 1 really. It’ll be a good test, and this might just really add to that test we have on Thursday.”

“Just the competitive atmosphere," safety Eric Weddle said. "Going against different guys, you get kind of set in your ways, in a rhythm of who you’re playing against on your own team. You know what kind of routes he likes. You know his movements, his mannerisms, when he gets to the top of routes, you know the action of the drill. It’s just nice to go against a really good quarterback and his receivers and their system. It’s a good switch-up for us, and it breaks up the monotony of camp. We enjoy it. It was great today, great back and forth. There wasn’t any chipping or late hits or anything like that. It was good, clean ball, and that’s what you’d expect out of a good-coached team like them and with us with ‘Harbs’ [John Harbaugh].”

 – – Guard Marshal Yanda returned to practice on Monday for the first time this offseason. Yanda fractured his ankle Week 2 against the Browns, causing him to miss the remainder of the 2017 season. He then injured his shoulder during a lifting session over the winter and that is what's kept him out of training camp thus far. While the six-time Pro Bowler only participated in individual drills, John Harbaugh's health has improved because of it. 

"It’s really important," Harbaugh said. "Marshal makes a big difference in our offensive line. What’s the exponential number? What’s the percentage better? A lot. Seeing him out there today doing individual [drills] was good for my blood pressure. I’m happy to see it, and I just want to keep seeing him get better.”

 – – From the training camp practices I've been able to watch, one thing that has stood out to me since Day 1 was the immediate connection between Flacco and new receiver John Brown. What has stood out even more has been their connection on the deep ball. 

"John [Brown] is doing a really good job of just making things happen really quick," Flacco said after practice. "I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we’ve hit him down the field, we’ve hit him back shoulder, down the field, back shoulder, everything. I really think that’s a credit to him and just how well he can get off the ball and get going vertical and put those DBs in a bad position. When you don’t get that, it makes it a little bit tough to hang back there and figure out where you’re going to put the ball. I think him in particular, he’s just been doing a great job of beating guys off the line and showing guys what he’s made of.”

Brown is looking to have a bounce-back season after having a career-low 21 receptions for 299 yards and three touchdowns in 2017. However, the Ravens' O-line had a rough go-around with the Rams' defense Monday, and after allowing nine different Bears defenders to get eight sacks in Thursday's Hall of Fame Game, that connection will rely heavily on that O-line. 

 – – Lamar Jackson got his first taste of an NFL game after playing the second-half of the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. With that first taste came the quick realization that the speed of an NFL game is no where close to that of a college game. 

“Oh definitely! Definitely," Jackson said on if the NFL speed surprised him. "I was going to the sideline one play [and] a linebacker caught me from behind. I was like, ‘Oh yeah, you have to run full speed with these guys.’ It was pretty intense. All 11 [players] are running to the ball. There’s no one back there jogging, trying to take a break. All 11 are there to the ball. People are trying to feed their families. It’s a grown man game.”

Jackson will be able to get more practice in during Thursday's preseason game vs. the Rams as coach Harbaugh said they'll treat this game like the first one. The first interception left a bad taste in Jackson's mouth, which he plans on getting back by working on his timing and not hesitating with the ball. 

 – – The Ravens fell victim to the NFL's new helmet rule during the Hall of Fame Game. The rule institutes a penalty for players who lower their head to initiate contact and make contact. The Ravens were penalized three times, and while the refs were likely throwing their flags often to set an example, safety Eric Weddle doesn't forsee it being an issue of his. 

"The refs are going to try to do their best on calling it on what they see and what they understand is the rule," Weddle said.

"Us as players, the coaches are coaching us and teaching us what the rule is. For me, honestly, if you lead with your head, and it’s the first thing to hit a guy, you’re probably going to get called. So, don’t lead with your head. Be a sound tackler. Honestly, I don’t foresee it being much of a problem with me."

"But, it’s just playing sound football. It’s the same thing as you’ve been taught since you were six years old playing Pop Warner. You don’t drop your head. You don’t lead with your head. All of a sudden, it’s a big deal because a guy got injured last year dropping his head. It’s one instance out of hundreds of thousands of plays. Let’s just remember, we’re professionals. We’ll learn the rule and know what we’re doing, and the game will be fine.”

 – – Notable absences from Monday's practice were safety Tony Jefferson, who Harubaugh said is out with a "pull," and wide receiver Tim White. 


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The Ravens' future isn't Joe Flacco - but they don't want to face him in the AFC

The Ravens' future isn't Joe Flacco - but they don't want to face him in the AFC

The Baltimore Ravens made it clear after their Wild Card loss that Lamar Jackson would be their quarterback going forward, bringing the somewhat official end to Joe Flacco's 11-year career with the team.

So what's next for the Super Bowl MVP?

Retirement after a fruitful NFL career is an option, but in a league where teams are desperate for a seasoned veteran, Flacco could find himself with another affluent contract. The Ravens, too, could get something nice in return.

"Let's start with a second-round pick," former Redskins GM Charley Casserly said. "It's negotiable, we're going to keep him in pencil. Who am I not going to trade him to? Well, I may not have a choice. I may only have one trade pick. I don't want him in the AFC. I don't want this guy costing me a playoff position next year."

There are several AFC teams in need of a QB, too. The Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars would jump at the chance to get Flacco under center.

But it may not be that easy for the Ravens.

"If the team wants to renegotiate his contract, Flacco controls the trade," Casserly adds. "He can simply say, 'no' [and the] Ravens may have to just release him and let Joe go his own way." 

The former GM adds that he expects something to be settled come March. Why? Casserly places Teddy Bridgewater and Nick Foles as hotter free agency pickups for QB needy teams, and with the 2019 NFL Draft not offering a ton in terms of first-round quarterbacks, the Ravens may have to act fast in order to get a return on their investment. 

One team that is definitely in need of a QB1 is the Washington Redskins. The idea could interest Flacco as his family of seven could stay put in the DMV area. But can the Redskins afford Flacco? 

The team is facing a huge cap charge with Alex Smith, whose career is in question after suffering a catastrophic leg injury, and a rookie they can mold could make more sense than a 34-year-old Flacco.


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Ravens reportedly agree to a deal keeping John Harbaugh in Baltimore long term

USA Today Sports

Ravens reportedly agree to a deal keeping John Harbaugh in Baltimore long term

The Ravens have reportedly agreed in principle to a new contract extension with head coach John Harbaugh, a move already being praised by national pundits everywhere. 

It was nearly a month ago that the Ravens announced Harbaugh would be returning as the team’s head coach in 2019, which was noteworthy considering his status as a potential lame duck head coach.

In the same release, the team announced they were working towards a contract extension with Harbaugh, whose current deal was set to expire next year.

Despite reports from national NFL insiders, including Jason La Canfora and Peter King, that Harbaugh might prefer to hit free agency as a highly sought-after head coach after the 2019 season, it appears the Ravens will keep him in Baltimore for the foreseeable future. 

This news comes on the heels of a busier-than-usual coaching carousel, with a quarter of the 32 NFL teams changing head coaches in the last month, including two AFC North rivals. Harbaugh almost certainly would have been the cream of the crop among coaching free agents no matter when he became available, so the Ravens were looking to lock him up long term.

After a tough November home loss to the Steelers that put the team at 4-5, Harbaugh was asked about his job security, and he remained steadfast and confident.

"I've never been someone who's worried about keeping a job," Harbaugh said. "It's always been, for me, [about] doing the job. I've got a bunch of great coaches and a bunch of great players that bust their tails every day to do the best job they can. I feel really good about the way this team has been coached for the last 11 years, and for the last number of weeks we've been in the season. So, there are no regrets. Never been any regrets here with me."

After that game, the Ravens rattled off six wins in seven games to make the playoffs, and many players credited Harbaugh with keeping the team together. It was prior to Week 16 when the front office announced Harbaugh would be returning no matter how the season ended, but the strong finish and AFC North title certainly made the decision easier.

A coach with a special teams background, Harbaugh is an anomaly in the current era of young, offensive-minded head coaches. He won Super Bowl XLVII in 2013, and holds a 104-72 career record in Baltimore.

The terms of the new deal have not yet been released, but it will be interesting how many years the team is committing to Harbaugh.