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Michael Pierce was so serious about losing weight he brought a scale to Italy

Michael Pierce was so serious about losing weight he brought a scale to Italy

With defensive leaders like Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley and Eric Weddle gone from Baltimore, the Ravens needed other veterans to step up as leaders this season.

Coming to minicamp overweight and out of shape was a bad start for defensive tackle Michael Pierce. After passing the team’s conditioning test on Wednesday, however, a noticeably slimmer Pierce took to the field on Thursday for the first practice of training camp.

“I told my teammates, I really apologize for letting them down in minicamp,” Pierce said. “That's never been indicative of my character to come in out of shape and I told them it won't happen again.”

Pierce did not shy away from questions over his conditioning and took ownership of the fact that he did not take care of himself the way he should have during the offseason.

“I missed OTAs, delayed my dieting, I wasn't diligent in my diet and wasn't diligent in my conditioning, focusing more on lifting,” Pierce said. “That's a mistake I learned from. It really, really won't happen again and that's going to be my mission to prove to the guys I'm here to work.”

Pierce said he lost “a little over 20” pounds after minicamp and hopes to lose more weight before the start of the season.

For anyone who doubts Pierce’s motivation or desire to prove himself to his teammates, consider this: After minicamp Pierce went on a trip to Italy ... and still lost weight.

Italy is the land of carbs, with pasta and bread essentially being the main staples of Italian cooking. It is not the ideal vacation destination for a player who needs to shed pounds.

Pierce, however, got to work before the trip and made sure he was approved to go.

“First and foremost, I paid for the trip prior,” Pierce said. “I booked the trip in December, not knowing, obviously, that I would have these issues. I had done bulk (sic) of the work before. So while the team was out in minicamp, I was in there with [head strength and conditioning coach Steve Saunders] twice a day. I had lost a considerable amount of weight before I went.”

Pierce said he not only kept the weight off, but he actually lost more on the trip.

How did he manage that?

“I kept a scale, I traveled with the scale,” Pierce said. “That was a thing.”

Pierce’s dedication to getting slimming down and coming into camp in shape was not lost on the team.

“He going to do what he gotta do to get on this field and that's what he did and that's what he showed his teammates, that whatever he got to do to commit to this team, he's going to get the job done,” Patrick Onwuasor said.

“Very impressed with the progress Michael Pierce has made,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He's lost a lot of weight, it's all been good loss, weight loss. He's maintained his muscle mass, he's lost the bad weight, the fat weight. He still has a ways to go, but he passed the conditioning test and I think that's quite an accomplishment, especially for a big man like that. Impressed with what he's done and, and very confident he'll get the job done.”

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'It's a disgrace:' John Harbaugh brings the heat in passionate defense of brother Jim

'It's a disgrace:' John Harbaugh brings the heat in passionate defense of brother Jim

On the opening day of Ravens’ training camp, the one topic in which head coach John Harbaugh was the most passionate wasn’t about the Ravens. Heck, it wasn’t even about the NFL. No, the thing Harbaugh was the most fired up about on Thursday was the NCAA and the criticism his brother Jim has taken after recent comments on the NCAA’s transfer rules.

“I think it's a disgrace for certain journalists out there and commentators that deliberately distort with what somebody says,” John said after the Ravens’ first practice. “I mean, you get up in front of a microphone and you get asked questions and you answer them honestly and directly and then certain journalists, if you want to call them that, go out of their way to distort what somebody says.”

Jim, who is entering his fifth season as head coach of the Michigan Wolverines, was asked about player transfers at Big Ten media days on Friday. Currently college players who transfer to another program are required to sit out the following season. Players have the ability to apply for an exception in certain circumstances that could allow them to play right away. Jim bemoaned the process and advocated that all players should have a one-time transfer with immediate eligibility. He then said he worried about loopholes in the system, such as athletes claiming to have mental health issues, specifically depression, in order to gain immediate eligibility.

Some took issue with Jim’s comments saying it was an attack on mental health, especially in the wake of now former Wolverine James Hudson’s recent transfer to Cincinnati after claiming mental health struggles. Jim has been on the defensive ever since.

On Thursday, John jumped to his brother’s defense and sounded off on his critics and the NCAA.

“Jim gets up there expresses an opinion,” John said. “What he says is that right now, student athletes are being forced to jump through hoops they shouldn't be forced to jump through because the NCAA has ridiculously stupid rules in place that limit the student athletes' ability to transfer. One time transfer anytime, anywhere. So he advocates for that, and it's as if he's attacking mental health. No, that's the loophole that lawyers have been forced to use to put young people in position. It's not even a mental health conversation, it's being in a position to use that to get a transfer, to be eligible to transfer without having to sit out for a year. And that's the NCAA. That's the powers that be putting young people in that kind of a position. That's what Jim was talking about.”

In 2018, the NCAA adopted a new practice that would allow waivers for immediate eligibility to be granted on a case-by-case basis. Several high-profile players immediately took advantage of this rule such as quarterback Shea Patterson who transferred to Michigan after his previous school, Ole Miss, was issued several penalties by the NCAA. After a large number of granted waivers, the NCAA made those waivers more restrictive in June which has led to criticism, no doubt leading to Jim being asked about the rules on media day.

Never shy about giving his opinion, Jim now faces backlash.

But if you think Jim was just criticizing players with mental health issues or claiming these were made up just to get transfers, that was simply not the case said John. In fact, Jim was advocating for more student rights, not less.

“I thought it was a very forward-thinking position,” John said. “It's never been advocated before that I've heard, give everybody a one time transfer to go wherever they want, one time, you know? And he's being attacked for that so I don't know how you can explain that I don't know how you can justify that if you're the people attacking Jim Harbaugh.”

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Brandon Williams savors 'dirty job' of clogging run on Ravens D-line

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Brandon Williams savors 'dirty job' of clogging run on Ravens D-line

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Operating in the middle of the Baltimore Ravens defensive line, Brandon Williams is expected to bang helmets with one or two 300-pound brutes before pushing them aside so one of his teammates can make the tackle.

Although the task is instrumental to the success of Baltimore's gritty defense, it often goes unnoticed by the casual fan and does not produce impressive statistical numbers.

"I'm totally fine with what I do," Williams said after practice Monday. "I know it's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it and I'm happy to raise my hand and volunteer. As long as my guys have my back and are making plays around me, that's all I care about."

Told it's not exactly a sexy job, the 6-foot-1, 336-pound Williams smiled and said, "Oh, it's sexy. As long as I'm there, it's sexy."

Drafted in the third round of the 2013 draft out of Missouri Southern State, Williams has been Baltimore's starting nose tackle for the past five years. He follows a long line of players who have effectively filled an unglamorous, pivotal position.

"A lot of interior linemen who have come through here and had the honor of being considered a Raven for life, the No. 1 thing they had was toughness," Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs said.

"Can you be mentally tough? Can you physically dominate the man across from you? I think Brandon Williams embodies that. He can be considered in the rare group of the Tony Siragusas, the Kelly Greggs, the Haloti Ngatas."

The Ravens showed their appreciation to Williams in 2017 when they provided him with a five-year contract rather than allow him to test free agency.

Last year, he started the first two games, both of them victories in which Baltimore allowed a total of 10 points and forced 10 turnovers.

Williams missed the next four games with a foot injury, and the Ravens won only one of them.

"When we lost him, we sunk a little bit," defensive line coach Joe Cullen said. "Brandon is the epitome of what you want an inside tackle to be. He's really quick for a big guy, but so strong he can get big knock-back at the point of attack."

Williams has 188 career tackles, 4 sacks and one touchdown -- on a fumble recovery he took in from the 1.

These facts and figures do nothing to convey his importance to the Ravens.

"I'm a big Brandon Williams fan," coach John Harbaugh said. "Ask the offensive line coaches and the offensive linemen around the league how they feel about blocking him. He's a force in there. He takes up two blockers, sometimes more. He's very stout.

"You want great players everywhere, but in the middle of your defense it's important to have an anchor that can keep people from running inside and can create better angles for your defense. It's nice to have a big, physical run stopper. The Ravens have always had that. It's really been a staple here historically."

Williams certainly doesn't mind being Baltimore's next man in the middle, but he's not interested in merely carrying on a tradition that began long ago.

"I want to play how I play," Williams said. "I'm not Haloti, even though he was a great player and I learned a lot from him. I want to do my own thing, just be whatever I can be for the team."

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