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Kaare Vedvik, Baltimore’s best story of the preseason thus far, traded to Minnesota

Kaare Vedvik, Baltimore’s best story of the preseason thus far, traded to Minnesota

The best story from the Ravens first preseason game has already been traded away. 

Kaare Vedvik, the Ravens back-up kicker and punter, was traded Sunday afternoon to the Minnesota Vikings

Adam Schefter of ESPN reported the trade first, and that the compensation is a fifth-round pick. The team announced the deal was for an undisclosed pick

“Really fired up for Kaare,” special teams coach Chris Horton said. “He was right where we needed him to be. Coach (Randy) Brown, myself, we did a great job getting him ready for this opportunity. He went out Thursday night and he had an awesome night. Really happy for Kaare, he deserves it after everything he’s been through. What an opportunity for him.”

Vedvik and the rest of the team found out about the trade at Sunday’s practice, as Vedvik said his goodbyes and left the facility. 

“He was fired up, we were all fired up for him,” Horton said. “We all gave him big hugs, wished him the best.”

The move came as little surprise, as the Ravens have committed to kicker Justin Tucker (by way of a four-year deal this offseason) and have had Sam Koch, one of the league’s best punters, since 2006.

And after a 4-for-4 performance on field goals from 55, 45, 29 and 26 yards last Thursday, including punts that went 58 and 53 yards, Vedvik made himself one of the league’s most coveted specialists ahead of roster cut-downs. 

Vedvik’s story was so unique, however, as he spent last season on the Non-Football Injury list after a brutal assault in Baltimore right before 53-man roster cut-down date. He was unable to remember the assault and no arrests have been made in the case. 

But Vedvik recovered and was able to play himself onto another roster.

“He’s like every other position, if you have value, people are going to want you,” Horton said. “He came out, he executed, he did the things he was supposed to do. He upped his stock, he got better this offseason. Again, wish him the best.”

Vedvik will join a Vikings franchise that has seemingly been haunted by kickers. Currently, the Vikings have kicker Dan Bailey and punter Matt Wile on special teams, but Vedvik has shown an ability to do both punting and kicking, should the team ask. 

Vedvik was the first kicker to be traded for more than a sixth-round pick since August of 1996, when Pete Stoyanovich was traded from the Dolphins to the Chiefs for a fifth-round pick. 

As for the Ravens, they now have their own picks in the first through sixth rounds, in addition to Minnesota’s fifth. After trading for Ty Montgomery last season, they recouped a seventh-round pick from the Jets in the Alex Lewis trade in July. 

Also, Baltimore is projected to have three compensatory picks (one in the third and fourth rounds, each) after the free-agent losses of C.J. Mosely, Za’Darius Smith and Terrell Suggs. Meaning, the team could enter the 2020 NFL Draft, as it stands now, with nearly 10 picks.

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If Steelers fans are allowed into Heinz Field this season, they'll have to wear a mask

If Steelers fans are allowed into Heinz Field this season, they'll have to wear a mask

If fans are permitted to attend Pittsburgh Steelers home games this fall, there's one item they can't forget: a mask.

Steelers' director of communication, Burt Lauten, explained the decision to require fans to wear a mask in a statement on Tuesday.

"Our goal is to still have fans at Heinz Field this year with the understanding that social distancing, as well as all fans being required to wear masks, will play a role in the capacity to ensure a safe atmosphere," Lauten said, via ESPN. "We will continue to work with the NFL and public health officials to finalize plans for fans to attend our home games."

Pittsburgh was one of the first franchises to alter its ticketing plans this season, as they decided in May to trim half of their individual game ticket sales due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The news comes just hours after their AFC North rival, the Baltimore Ravens, announced that M&T Bank Stadium will be capped at less than 14,000 fans this fall, should fans be allowed to attend games.

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In June, The Athletic reported that the NFL will not place a limit on capacity at games, allowing each individual team to make the decision themselves.

"Attendance will be a state-by-state, county-by-county thing," an anonymous NFL source told The Athletic. "It will not be a one size fits all."

Additionally, the NFL has said that the first 6-8 rows of lower bowl sections, including field-level suites, will be blocked off this fall to help slow the spread of the virus. Those sections will be covered with tarps, which teams can use to sell advertising, similarly to what the Premier League in England has done.

With training camp still a few weeks away, there are a lot of virus-related questions the NFL must answer beforehand.

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Stephen A. Smith and ESPN poll leave Lamar Jackson out of top four quarterbacks

Stephen A. Smith and ESPN poll leave Lamar Jackson out of top four quarterbacks

Despite his 2019 MVP season, many NFL experts still aren’t convinced that Lamar Jackson is the league’s best.

In a debate with Domonique Foxworth on ESPN’s First Take on Monday, Stephen A. Smith shared his top-five quarterbacks in the NFL, slotting the reigning MVP fifth overall. 

Two days later, ESPN released a poll conducted with 50 NFL personnel to rank the top 10 quarterbacks in the league this season. Jackson was ranked sixth behind Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson and Drew Brees.

But after the record-breaking season the Ravens quarterback had –– a performance that earned him the league’s top individual honor –– how can so many still doubt his ability to succeed?

Smith cited two faults of Jackson’s game to justify his claim –– passing inability and playoff performance.

“There was a guy that ran the football very, very effectively, matter of fact as a quarterback led the team to have one if not the top-rated run attacks in football,” Smith said. “That would happen to be Tim Tebow when he was with the Denver Broncos. But what did I repeatedly say about my friend? He couldn’t throw the football at the NFL level. I never believed it, and that was a problem.”

Smith referenced Tebow’s rise and fall in the NFL and credited his inability to find longevity as a starting quarterback to his inconsistent and inaccurate arm –– something Jackson similarly struggles with.

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The Ravens led the league in rushing offense and ranked second in total offense but earned just the 27th spot in passing offense. Jackson ranked eighth in completion percentage among all quarterbacks but first in rushing yards and sixth in rushing yards among all players. For Smith, this discrepancy does not warrant Jackson a top-two quarterback spot.

“No one can run the football like Lamar Jackson. Nobody,” Smith said. “Not at the quarterback position in the NFL. We know that. That’s just on another level. But in terms of throwing the football, even though he’s had his moments, and he definitely improved in accuracy in terms of completing 66 percent of his passes last season, I don’t think he can throw the football like Deshaun Watson.”

Smith referenced Watson and a number of other quarterbacks higher on his list like Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson and Drew Brees and praised their accuracy, leadership and veteran play, which earned them the spots ahead of Jackson.

In addition to the issues with Jackson’s arm, Smith also believed his playoff performance holds him back. Jackson posted an 0-2 record in his first two playoff performances, falling to the Chargers in 2018 and the Titans in 2019. 

Overall in his career, he completes 63.7% of his passes and posts a 4.66 TD/INT ratio. On the other hand, during the playoffs, he completed 51.1% of his passes and posted a 1.0 TD/INT ratio.

As Smith noted while he did improve from a 48% completion rate to 52% in the playoffs this year, he will not reach an elite level of play until he can perform in the postseason.

While Smith was certainly skeptical of Jackson’s ability to succeed in the league long-term, he still understood the hype.

“I’ll tell you this though, he is top-two box office. He might even be number one.”

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