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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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Steelers players plunder Le'Veon Bell's locker a day after missed deadline


Steelers players plunder Le'Veon Bell's locker a day after missed deadline

Le'Veon Bell decided not to return to the Steelers this season, and his former teammates have apparently decided they can have his belongings. 

The All-Pro running back didn't sign his $14.5 million franchise tag by Tuesday's deadline, and thus is ineligible to play this season.

Steelers player were seen plundering his locker Wednesday in front of reporters. Defensive end Bud Dupree went right for Bell's cleats, thanking him for the Jordan brand shoes and saying he wishes Bell success.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told reporters he sent Bell his well-wishes, but got no response from his former backfield mate. 

It's unclear what Bell plans to do next, but it's crystal clear the Steelers have moved on, with his shoes in tow. 


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Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III prepared to start if hip injury sidelines Joe Flacco


Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III prepared to start if hip injury sidelines Joe Flacco

Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson has had his fair share of life changing moments. 

Winning the Heisman Trophy in 2016, being drafted by the Ravens in the first-round of the 2018 NFL Draft, and come Sunday, possibly his first NFL start.

With Joe Flacco nursing a hip injury suffered against the Pittsburgh Steelers Week 9, the 21-year-old could be leading the Ravens for a full 60 minutes against division rival Cincinnati Bengals in what could be a defining moment of their season.

"I'm just going into it like any other week," Jackson said Wednesday. "Just preparing for whatever."

While Jackson has appeared in all nine games going 7-for-12 for 87 passing yards and one touchdown, he is the only first-round quarterback out of the 2018 draft that has yet to start this season. 

When asked how he would feel if his name is called Sunday, Jackson said he would have butterflies at first but added once the ball is snapped, "it's on."

Through the Ravens' first half of the season, how and when Jackson is utilized at either quarterback or receiver, has lacked consistency. Add in the lack of highlight reel passes from him and many are concerned he's not ready for an NFL start. 

The fast style of NFL play compared to that of college football was something Jackson admittedly struggled with throughout the preseason. But with nine regular season games under his belt, Jackson feels that is the area where he's taken the biggest strides. 

"Calling the plays," Jackson said. "Before I'd have to ask coach a hundred times, 'say it again, say it again,' but now he says it one time to me. Don't get me wrong, sometimes if [the call] is long or whatever I have to ask [coach to] say it again, but other than that I'm getting better with that."

Head coach John Harbaugh offered no insight on who would be their starting quarterback on Sunday and it can be expected he'll keep hush up until the last moment. Flacco was not on the practice field during media availability Wednesday, either. 

But let's not forget the other veteran quarterback on their roster; Robert Griffin III

For the first time since 2009, the Ravens decided to keep three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster for this very reason.

After sitting out of football for a year, RGIII was given a second chance in Baltimore, but has been a gameday inactive since the start of the season. If the week progresses and neither Flacco or Jackson seem ready, it could be the comeback of the once Offensive Rookie of the Year. 

"That's my job. That's why they brought me here," Griffin III said Wednesday on if he feels prepared to possibly start. "They brought me here to be a pro. They brought me here to help this team if need be. I try to help the defense every week on scout team and then do those [reps], and if my number's called I'll be able to go out there and lead this team."

Both RGIII and Jackson said that it would be "awesome" if they were named the starting QB on Sunday, but that no matter who it ends up being they're all here for one another.

"I'm going to continue to help [Lamar] just like I have all season because we're about the Ravens here," Griffin III said. "It's not about individuals. We've got a pretty daunting task ahead with this Bengals team and then just with the rest of our schedule, so we've got to make sure we make the most of every opportunity."