Tag:Baltimore Ravens
Posted on: February 14, 2012 9:07 am
Edited on: February 21, 2012 9:59 am
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What players will get franchise tagged in 2012?

Brees reportedly won't be happy if he gets tagged. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

On Monday February 20, NFL teams can begin to apply the franchise tag to players. They can do so up until March 5 at 4 p.m. ET. For those that don't know, the franchise tag is a method of keeping players from hitting the open market. Previously, the franchise-tag number was generated by averaging the top-five salaries at a position to determine a number for that position.

This year, the franchise tag value will be a percentage of the overall salary cap figure for the previous five years. As such, NFL.com (the league's official website, making the figures trustworthy, one would hope) the following figures, plus figures from last year that we've included:

Position 2012 Franchise Tag Value*
2011 Franchise Tag Value
Quarterback
$14.4 million $16.1 million
Running Back
$7.7 million $9.6 million
Wide Receiver
$9.4 million $11.4 million
Tight End
$5.4 million $7.3 million
Offensive Line
$9.4 million $10.1 million
Defensive End
$10.6 million $13 million
Defensive Tackle
$7.9 million $12.5 million
Linebacker
$8.8 million $10.1 million
Cornerback
$10.6 million $13.5 million
Safety
$6.2 million $8.8 million

*The only instances this doesn't apply: when a player already made more than the franchise-tag value, or when a player receives the franchise tag for the second-straight year, in which case tagging said player would cost 120 percent of their previous base salary.

Aside from the asterisked exception above, it's clearly much more cost effective to utilize the franchise tag on a player in 2012 than it was in 2011. Wide receivers like DeSean Jackson, Dwayne Bowe and Marques Colston might not be tag candidates at $11.4 million. At $9.4 million, they certainly are.


With all of that in mind, let's look at some possible franchise-tag candidates, in order of likelihood to be tagged.

New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees, Marques Colston or Carl Nicks

The Saints are all but guaranteed to use their franchise tag. Brees is a free agent and there is a zero percent chance that they let him walk into free agency. This is an absolute zero; losing Brees would not only be a disaster for the franchise in terms of winning, it would result in riots on Bourbon Street.

Various reports have emerged about where Brees and the Saints stand. (His agent, Tom Condon, is involved in a small contract situation surrounding Peyton Manning in Indianapolis.) As CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman wrote last week, "the road could be rockier than initially thought" when getting Brees a new deal.

If the Saints can't get a deal done by the tag deadline, they will use the tag on Brees and sort out a deal later. If they can negotiate a deal with Brees before then, either Colston or Nicks will likely get tagged. My money's on Nicks, who could be a steal at less than $10 million given his age and his performance on the interior line the last two years.
DeSean might finally catch that money. (Getty Images)

Philadelphia Eagles: DeSean Jackson

Reports are already rolling in that Jackson will be tagged and that the team will seek to trade him once they place the tag on Jackson. Philly better be comfortable rolling with D-Jax if they can't find a suitor, though, because the wide receiver is a good bet to swoop in and sign his tender quickly. The $9.4 million represents more than triple what Jackson's made in his entire career thus far, and you can bet he'd like to see some guaranteed money.

Worst case, of course, is that Philly ends up giving its top playmaker one more "contract year" at turning in a big performance before hitting free agency. $9.4 million is a lot to pay for a wideout, but it's better than a) doling out a big contract to someone new and/or a malcontent, or b) letting Jackson walk for nothing in return.

Chicago Bears: Matt Forte

The rumors of Forte getting tagged began long ago as the Bears said they simply won't let him get to free agency. And they can't: Mike Tice replaced Mike Martz, but that could mean Chicago becoming more dependent on Forte's skills as a rusher and pass-catcher.

Forte said he's OK with the franchise tag provided it leads to further contract negotiations. Those appear to be more successful this time around, without Jerry Angelo on the other side of the table. But if Forte struggles early in his return from injury (an MCL sprain) things could get dicey.

Regardless, he's a steal at $7.7 million in 2012.

Baltimore Ravens: Ray Rice

Another no-brainer for the team here: Rice is one of the most dynamic backs in football and accounted for a large chunk of the Ravens offense. Rice's league-leading 2,068 yards from scrimmage accounted for 38.2 percent of the Ravens 5,419 yards, to be exact.

Rice lead the team in rushing ... and receptions. The Ravens need him and it's unfathomable that they'd let Rice walk. He probably won't be happy about playing for $7.7 million in 2012 and it seems obvious that Ozzie Newsome would like to lock down a guy who's averaged just shy of 2,000 yards from scrimmage in the three years he's been a starter for the team.
Will Welker's drop hurt his value? (Getty Images)

New England Patriots: Wes Welker

Welker's taken a lot of grief for his now-infamous drop in the Super Bowl. But just because the guy missed one catch doesn't mean we should forget what he's done for the past five years in New England: Welker averaged 111 catches and 1,221 yards per season since arriving from Miami.

Here's where it gets interesting though: Welker will be 31 when 2012 begins. He's considered a "slot" receiver. But he reportedly wants to be paid like an "elite" receiver. (It's, uh, kind of hard to blame him.) Lots of people think Welker wouldn't be as successful without the Patriots system, but how successful would the Patriots be without Welker?

In other words, we might be headed to an old-fashioned standoff, where the Pats use the franchise tag on Welker (it's all but certain they will, mainly to avoid him landing with an AFC East rival), and Welker refusing to play. Our Rapid Reporter Greg Bedard's speculated as much previously, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Welker sit out the first few weeks if the Pats aren't willing to give him a long-term deal.

Washington Redskins: Fred Davis

Davis had a big year in 2011, catching 59 passes for 796 yards in just 12 games (with Rex Grossman and John Beck throwing him the ball). He missed four games when he was suspended under the NFL's substance-abuse policy. But that actually works in Washington's favor here, since they can commit just $5.5 million to Davis without any fear of long-term blowback.

Buffalo Bills: Stevie Johnson

I spoke with Johnson at the Super Bowl and he said he'd be amenable to playing under the franchise tag in 2012. And it's hard to imagine Buffalo letting one of the more talented and underrated receivers in the game simply walk away. Johnson, depending on the market, could be one of the top wide receivers available.

Given the nature of Buffalo's weapons on offense, $9.4 million isn't all that steep for someone who's produced as steadily as Johnson has over the past two seasons. He took a small step back in receptions, yardage and touchdowns in 2011, but part of that can be attributed to the injuries to Ryan Fitzpatrick, and the Bills late-season swoon.

And if he's willing to ditch the penalty-inflicting celebrations? He's worth it.

Bowe's a fan favorite in KC -- for good reason.(Getty Images)

Kansas City Chiefs: Dwayne Bowe or Brandon Carr

This is quite the conundrum for KC: does new coach Romeo Crennel, recently promoted from defensive coordinator, push to keep the 25-year-old defensive back, or does he sit back while the franchise lets Carr walk and hangs onto it's top wideout?

Bowe quietly put together another monster season in 2011, catching nine more balls than he did in 2010 and only three yards less. Granted, he found the end zone 10 times less this past season, but chalk that up to the Chiefs stupid-easy schedule against the pass in 2010. Oh yeah, and because he was catching balls from Tyler Palko for a quarter of the season.

Bowe's a better value at his franchise cost ($1 million less) I suppose, but Carr will be harder to retain in free agency, because of the nature of cornerbacks on the open market.

Atlanta Falcons: Brent Grimes or Curtis Lofton

The Falcons, not so quietly, have a ton of guys up for free agency this year. Grimes, Lofton, defensive ends John Abraham and Kroy Biermann and center Todd McLure lead the list. One of Grimes or Lofton surely will get the franchise tag.

For the same reason as listed with the Chiefs, Grimes makes the most sense -- he'll simply be harder to retain in free agency. Lofton would be $2 million cheaper but Grimes is more important to the Falcons defense. A logical move might be to feel out contract negotiations with both players (provided the Falcons want to keep both of them anyway), work out an extension with one as quickly as possible, franchise the other defender and look to cut a deal with them down the road.
It's hard to put a price on Avril's pass rush. (Getty Images)

Detroit Lions: Cliff Avril

Avril's made no bones about the possibility of being franchised, and isn't happy with the notion. But the franchise tag actually doesn't exist simply to keep a guy around for another year without paying him big money. It's to keep a guy around while you work out a long-term contract.

That's what Avril, who will turn 26 in April, wants, and it should be what the Lions want too, given their dependence on a strong pass rush on the defensive end of things. At $10.6 million he would provide nice value. Provided he played the whole season anyway.

Indianapolis Colts: Robert Mathis

Chuck Pagano's a defensive guy, and even though he's coming into a rebuilding project, it's hard to see he and general manager Ryan Grigson passing on a shot to keep a talented pass-rusher like Mathis around for one more year at a reasonable rate.

Mathis probably said it himself over the weekend on Twitter when he noted that "The #TAG is an honor but personally if i was tagged now id feel they didnt want me but just have not found my replacement yet." Prepare to be honored sir.

Dallas Cowboys: Anthony Spencer

According to one report out of Texas, the Cowboys are at least considering franchising Spencer. The logic isn't that the outside linebacker, drafted 26th overall in 2007, is a monster and worth $8.8 million next year. He's not.

But Spencer might be worth holding onto if the Cowboys don't believe they can fill that spot with a reliable enough player through free agency and don't want to force themselves into selecting an outside linebacker early in the draft and forcing him to play.

Giving Spencer that sort of cash at least provides a safety net for Rob Ryan's defense.

Green Bay Packers: Jermichael Finley

Finley's case is a fascinating one. At $5.5 million, the tight end is a no-doubt-about-it franchise tag choice. But what about at $9.4 million? I ask because Finley's reportedly ready to argue that he's actually more of a wide receiver than a tight end, based on the number of snaps he takes from a wide receiver position. (He may want to remove the words "best tight ends in the league" from his website then.)

The Packers don't seem ready to give Finley a long-term deal yet, but they're also not willing to let him go. That tune could change if Finley's awarded the same price as a wide receiver in arbitration.
Wallace's RFA status is a concern. (Getty Images)

Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Wallace

Wallace is actually on a restricted free agent, but as Wilson pointed out on Tuesday's podcast, there's been a lot of discussion in Steelers-land about the possibility of using the full-blown franchise tag on Wallace regardless of his status.

Here's some hypothetical logic: the Steelers use the non-exclusive tag on Wallace, the Patriots, with two first-round picks in the coming draft, negotiate a deal with Wallace and force the Steelers to match said deal or take one of the picks from the Pats. The pick isn't that high and Wallace is a stud, so Pittsburgh, who wants to lock down Wallace anyway, would be letting the Pats (or whomever) negotiate for them.

Lest you think this is silly, look no further than a guy we already talked about: Welker. The Patriots obtained him via trade, but only after the Dolphins used the restricted tag on Welker. After they did, the Pats negotiated with Welker to work in a provision in his contract that would include a monster bonus if he played X games in the state of Florida (AKA "a poison pill"). The Dolphins caved and simply dealt Welker to the Pats instead of trying to play chicken.

The downside is that the Steelers would be forced to paying $7 million extra in 2012 for their No. 1 wideout. The upside is not getting poison-pilled by an AFC rival who'll then hijack the Steelers for the deep threat they need. Hypothetically speaking of course.

Oakland Raiders: Michael Bush

The idea of paying Bush more than Darren McFadden's been bandied about, and it makes sense given Run-DMC's injury history. It doesn't make sense when you consider that new GM Reggie McKenzie would suddenly have a ton of money committed to two running backs. But here's an idea: tag Bush, trade McFadden and then give Bush a new contract. You keep him off the market, you recoup some of those Carson Palmer draft picks and you keep the back best suited for Greg Knapp's zone-rushing attack.

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Posted on: February 7, 2012 3:35 pm
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Posted on: February 7, 2012 1:32 pm
Edited on: February 7, 2012 3:49 pm
 

Ricky Williams tells Ravens he will retire

R. Williams will retire with more than 10,000 rushing yards. (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

According to numerous reports, Ravens running back Ricky Williams has informed the club that he will retire, and if he keeps that promise, it will end one of the most successfully interesting (or interestingly successful) careers in many years.

He rushed for 10,009 career yards (the 26th best total of all time) and 66 touchdowns (third-most among active players), and at one point early in his career, he was the greatest workhorse in the league, recording 313 carries for the Saints in 2001, 383 for the Dolphins in 2002 and 392 for Miami in 2003.

He only gained one more 1,000-yard season after that three-year stretch*, recording 1,121 yards in 2009 for the Dolphins.

Unfortunately for Williams and the Saints -- who traded their entire 1999 draft to the Redskins (plus a first- and third-rounder in 2000) for the right to draft him at the No. 5 spot in 1999 -- he was never a player who could turn around a franchise.

*Proving he could take a pounding and continue to perform at an NFL standard, there are only three other players who are currently active (Donovan McNabb, Champ Bailey and Antoine Wingfield) from the first round of the 1999 NFL draft class and only four from the second round.

Wrote Williams on his Twitter account: “Thank you all, but this ain't it, I'm gonna do something really special. "Be you and change the world.”

Ricky Williams in 2005. (US Presswire)
Williams entered the league surrounded by controversy after Mike Ditka orchestrated the trade that got Williams to New Orleans. It was the largest trade since Ollie Matson was sent from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Los Angeles Rams in 1959 (a trade that was made by future NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle and eventually got legendary coach Sid Gillman fired), and it backfired for the Saints, setting back the franchise a number of years -- Ditka went 15-33 during his three years with the team.

"I don't care if it was for the second coming of Walter Payton, there was no way the deal could work out, " NFL analyst Chris Landry told the New Orleans Times Picayune in 2009. "And the fact that Ricky was a disappointment, a non-productive player for them, made it one of the worst trades of all time."

While he was introverted and, well, just kind of weird -- anybody remember that Sports Illustrated cover with Ditka in a tuxedo and Williams in a wedding gown? -- he had a resurgence when he went to the Dolphins in 2002, gaining a combined 3,225 yards in 2002 and 2003.

But he got in trouble with the league for drug usage and retired in 2004 before unretiring, and from 2005-08, he only played 13 games. Last season, he went to Baltimore to be the No. 2 back behind Ray Rice, and he accumulated 444 yards and two touchdowns. After the year, in fact, he spoke about returning next season.

“My body feels good and I know I’m going to train hard and so I’m excited about next year,” Williams told the team's website. “I’ve grown a lot, kind of falling into a new role and a new city and a new organization, and I’ve gotten better.  And like everyone else, I feel like I have something to build on for next year.”

Here's the statement released by Williams:
“The NFL has been an amazing page in this chapter of my life,” Williams said. “I pray that all successive adventures offer me the same potential for growth, success and most importantly, fun. I want to thank all my fans, teammates, coaches and supporters for the strength they've given me to overcome so much. I want to especially thank my family, coach Mack Brown, coach [Mike] Ditka, coach [Bill] Parcells, Ronnie Brown, Wilbert Montgomery and the Jamail Family for believing in me. As for what's next, I am excited about all the opportunities ahead -- continuing my education, running The Ricky Williams Foundation and whatever other opportunities present themselves.

“My football career has been filled with many great memories going back to pee wee football with coach Tom Miller, [San Diego’s] Patrick Henry High School and coach Jerry Varner and on to the University of Texas. It has been a big part of my life and blessed me with so many wonderful opportunities and the chance to connect with many people who have helped me grow and mature. I will miss the game, the camaraderie, my teammates and especially the emotions of a big victory. I love the game and leave it feeling fulfilled, proud, in great health and excited about the future.“

I have to thank coach [John] Harbaugh and the Ravens organization for the opportunity they gave me this year. I had so much fun and really appreciated the chance to finish on such a great note.”
And here’s what Ray Rice had to say.

“I was a big fan of Ricky before we were teammates, but being around him this year is the best thing that happened to me in my NFL career. As a young player, you need to be around a guy who knows what he is doing, and Ricky was tremendous to learn from. The way he took care of his body and the way he prepared, he always showed that he is a true professional. This past season with him is a year I will never forget. I had the best year with him beside me, and that was no accident. I believe that Ricky Williams is a Hall of Famer. All that he has done in his career, he deserves that. I was honored to share the field with him when he went over 10,000 yards. What an amazing accomplishment, as he is one of the best. I will miss him, but I wish him and his family well.”

As Williams' career advanced, he's changed his identity. He used to be an aloof character who would conduct interviews while wearing his football helmet, but he's morphed into a spiritual voice on Twitter. 

This isn't the first time Williams has retired, but it seems much more likely to stick considering that he'll turn 35 in May and he's playing a backup role in Baltimore. And if so, good luck to one of the more fascinating characters in the league. I'm sure we'll miss him more than he misses the game.

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Posted on: January 30, 2012 10:00 am
Edited on: January 30, 2012 3:51 pm
 

Ravens hire Jim Caldwell as quarterbacks coach

By Will Brinson

Because Mike Tomlin and Jim Caldwell worked together under Tony Dungy in Tampa Bay, the prevailing theory's been that Caldwell's going to end up on the Steelers offensive staff. So it's pretty bizarre to hear that the Ravens hired Caldwell as their quarterbacks coach.

The team announced the news, as first reported by Adam Schefter of ESPN, on Monday afternoon.

"I am really excited to work with coach Harbaugh, Cam and the rest of the coaching staff," Caldwell said. "It's a great fit for me, and I'm happy they saw it that way. I can't wait to get started with the Ravens, an organization that from top to bottom is one of the NFL's best."

Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron took over as quarterbacks coach this past season with the departure of Jim Zorn but when Cameron was extended last week, the Ravens made it known that he wouldn't continue on as quarterbacks coach.

Caldwell, who served as the Colts quarterbacks coach prior to becoming head coach, was 26-22 as Colts coach but saw his stock drop when the team went 2-14 in 2011. He now puts himself in a position to really get some positive reviews, should Joe Flacco make big steps forward in 2012.

"After spending considerable time with Jim over the last week, we think he will be an excellent fit with our team, coaching the quarterbacks and helping with our offense," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We believe he enhances our staff. Jim has a tremendous history coaching at the college and pro level, especially working with quarterbacks and providing help with offenses.

"The timing is right to add a quarterbacks coach after Cam and Joe worked so closely and well together this year. It's the right step for us now."

Unless, of course, hiring Caldwell is just a ploy to land Peyton Manning if/when/should he be healthy enough to play next year. That seems like a stretch, but we talked about this with Andy Benoit on a recent Pick-Six Podcast: Flacco's only got one year left on his deal and the Ravens are quite conceivably the perfect team for Manning.

They've got a veteran defense with a small window remaining, talent on the offensive line and plenty of offensive weapons in Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin and the Dennis Pitta/Ed Dickson combo.

That being said, they're probably just trying to land a quarterbacks coach who can offer Flacco the sage wisdom necessary to grow into a talented quarterback at the next level.

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Posted on: January 27, 2012 12:00 pm
 

Pees promoted by Ravens, Cameron gets extension

Dean Pees and Cam Cameron will coordinate Baltimore in 2012. (US Presswire)
By Will Brinson

The Ravens suffered a big loss when defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano left the team to take the Colts head coaching position, but they didn't waste any time filling the role as John Harbaugh announced on Friday that linebackers coach Dean Pees would replace Pagano as defensive coordinator. Harbaugh also announced that much-maligned offensive coordinator Cam Cameron would stay with the team and receive an extension.

As we've previously noted, defensive coaches promoted by the Ravens tend to do OK later in life: four of their five defensive coordinators (with the exception of just Greg Mattison) have gone on to head-coaching jobs.

"It’s an incredible opportunity to be a defensive coordinator for anybody in this league, but it’s especially humbling to be one for the Ravens,” Pees said Friday. “I’m not going to be the same as Chuck Pagano. You got to be who you are."

Cameron's situation is a more surprising. The Ravens ranked 12th in points scored in the NFL in 2011 and 15th in yards. They finished 10th in rushing yards in 2011 but only 19th in passing yards. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though, especially considering how run-heavy their offense was at times.

Bigger concerns involve the play-calling, which was odd at times during the season, to say the least. But Harbaugh likes what he saw apparently.

"Cam has been our offensive coordinator, will continue to be our offensive coordinator," Harbaugh said Friday. "I think our coaches did a tremendous job this year."

The truth is the Ravens were just one Lee Evans foot (on a great throw by Joe Flacco) away from the Super Bowl. If Evans taps his toe before the ball's knocked out of his hands, we're not even having this conversation yet.

Harbaugh didn't provide any specifics about the nature of Cameron's extension on Friday. And he doesn't really need to unless it's a blockbuster of some sorts: Cameron will likely remain under scrutiny in 2011. Just like Flacco.

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Posted on: January 26, 2012 5:14 pm
 

Looks like Cam Cameron will return to Ravens

CameronBy Josh Katzowitz

If a Ravens fan happened to be informed that one of the team’s coordinators would be fired from Baltimore before next season, that fan probably would have begun to rejoice that offensive coordinator Cam Cameron finally would move on somewhere else.

Unfortunately for those fans who wish Cameron would pack his belongings and go, the assistant coach to leave is defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, who was hired Wednesday to take over in Indianapolis. Even worse news for those Ravens fans: despite reports that John Harbaugh might replace Cameron, the Baltimore Sun says the opposite is true.

Apparently, Cameron has begun calling his offensive assistants to give them their instructions for the next several weeks, most likely a sign that Cameron isn’t going anywhere.

Writes columnist Mike Preston: “Neither Cameron nor Ravens head coach John Harbaugh returned phone calls Wednesday night, but the source was confident that Cameron would serve in the same capacity with the only stipulation the Ravens hire a quarterbacks coach. Cameron served in both roles last season.”

NFL film-watching guru Greg Cosell recently said that the Ravens look like an offense imported from the 1960s and that their receiving corps was the worst in the league at getting open vs. man coverage.

"They don't do a lot to help their receivers win versus man," Cosell said. "I'm not going to defend [Joe] Flacco, but I think it's very difficult to … it seemed that last week [against the Houston Texans] the route tree was a go route and a screen. … Every play, there was one receiver to the right, and one receiver to the left, often two backs or two tight ends, and that was every play, it seemed."

While the Ravens defense was the biggest reason Baltimore earned a No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs this season, the offense was a little better than you might think. According to Football Outsiders, the Ravens were the 13th-most efficient offense in the league, and behind Ray Rice and Vonta Leach, Baltimore was the 10th-best running team.

But Cameron’s play-calling came under fire when he repeatedly overused the passing game, especially when the fourth quarter was winding down and the Ravens were leading a ballgame.

It even led Ray Rice to say this midway through the season: "I'm never going to be the guy that talks about touches, but obviously we know five carries is not going to cut it. I know five carries is not going to do us any justice, but we found ourselves so deep in the situation that we had to climb our way out. We were looking for answers. Whether it was running or passing, we have to find our way out of a situation."

Still, the passing game under Flacco suffered (19th in the NFL), and there was said to be tension between the quarterback and the offensive coordinator. Which means 2012 could be awfully interesting. And for some Ravens fans, possibly infuriating.

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Posted on: January 26, 2012 3:03 pm
 

John Harbaugh speaks out on Scoreboard-Gate

Cundiff

By Josh Katzowitz

Since Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff badly hooked the game-tying 32-yard field goal that would have sent last Sunday’s AFC title game vs. the Patriots to overtime, there have been a rash of conspiracy theories about why Cundiff sprinted to the field as the play-clock wound down and looked out of sorts while missing the kick.

One report said Cundiff wasn’t paying attention and that, although the Ravens coaching staff called for him six times, he didn’t respond until it was almost too late. Another said there was a discrepancy between which down the scoreboard displayed and which down the officials were counting and that Cundiff thought it was third down when it was actually fourth down.

Some believed somehow the Patriots had cheated and forced Cundiff (by sheer willpower or telepathic mind bullets, I suppose) to blow the biggest kick of his career.

Frankly, Ravens coach John Harbaugh is tired of the conversation, which is why he released this statement from the Senior Bowl (via ESPN.com): "Any suggestion that the wrong down information was a deliberate effort to affect the outcome of the game is nonsense.”

Harbaugh might have felt compelled to act after Ravens kicking specialist Randy Brown made mention of Spygate during a recent radio interview and how you couldn’t automatically acquit the Patriots of cheating.

“The scoreboard was one down behind, the entire last three plays, from what we understand,” Brown told 94 WIP radio in Philadelphia. Asked if he thought the mistake was intentional, he said, “I don’t think you can rule anything out in New England, can you?”

Said Harbaugh: “We knew what the down and distance were on our last series. The scoreboard was not a factor for us."

Hopefully, Harbaugh’s statement will calm down the conspiracy theorists. Somehow, though, I doubt it.

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Posted on: January 25, 2012 10:05 pm
 

Video: Ray Lewis' inspirational post-game speech

Lewis put Baltimore's playoff loss to New England in perspective. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

Sometimes it's easy to forget that football really is nothing more than a bunch of guys in costumes playing a game. It's not life or death or the end-all be-all, even if a subset fans prefer to live that reality. Last Sunday, for the second time in four years, the Ravens lost in the AFC Championship game, and it happened in heartbreaking fashion. With seconds remaining, Lee Evans dropped a perfect throw from Joe Flacco for what would've been the go-ahead touchdown.

And then a harried Billy Cundiff pull-hooked a gimme 32-yard field goal after inexplicably losing track of the game situation. It was an improbable chain of events that had to be particularly hard to swallow for veterans like Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, players who very well may have retired had the Ravens won the Super Bowl.

Afterwards, Lewis, who has been this team's leader since he was drafted in 1996, didn't bemoan his fate or call out his underperforming teammates. Instead, he came to their defense during his postgame interview. And before that, but shortly after the season's outcome had been decided, he gave an impassioned speech that helped put things in perspective.


Cundiff later told the media that “You know that Ray Lewis has poured his heart out, and you don’t know how many years he has left. To let him down is pretty tough.”

Lewis might've been let down but he sounds like he's at peace with whatever life may bring. There's a lesson in there somewhere for these folks.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com