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Tag:Ray Rice
Posted on: September 10, 2011 10:38 am
 

7-Point Preview: Steelers vs. Ravens



Posted by Ryan Wilson


1. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0) vs. Baltimore Ravens (0-0)
The Ravens will begin the 2011 season the same way they ended 2010: facing the Steelers. Not only are they AFC North rivals, but there's a good argument that this matchup is annually the NFL's fiercest. At least in terms of physicality; as for the results, Pittsburgh has the edge, especially when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is under center. In fact, Big Ben is undefeated against the Ravens in his last seven starts, something that leaves defensive end Terrell Suggs a little queasy.

"They spoiled our Super Bowl dreams for the last two out of three years," Suggs said. "We have to switch that, you know? It's sickening. It ends our season every year we lose to our division rival. I'm sick of it. I'm disgusted. I'm tired of having a sick feeling in my stomach for a whole year."

But the Ravens have their own franchise quarterback in Joe Flacco, who has helped his team to the postseason his first three years in the league, and has yet to miss a start during that time. Still, the playoff wins on the road against the Patriots in '09, or the '08 AFC Championship Game appearance don't mean much unless the conversation ends with "and the Ravens won the Super Bowl." Exacerbating matters: Flacco is 2-6 against the Steelers in his career and he has yet to beat Roethlisberger. (The two wins came against a Roethlisberger-less Pittsburgh team -- Dennis Dixon started late in the '09 season, and Charlie Batch was under center during Week 4 of the 2010 campaign.)

The Rivalry

2. What the Degenerate Gamblers and Eggheads Are Saying:
"You can throw the records out the window" is a cliche, yes, but in this case it's also fitting. While the Steelers hold the win-loss edge, these matchup are invariably close, usually coming down to a huge fourth-quarter play. That, their similarly bruising styles, and the game being in Baltimore means the Steelers are just one-point favorites, according to Bodog.com.

As for the pocket-protector set, our good friends at Football Outsiders have the Steelers atop their preseason rankings (2nd in defense, 5th in offense, 5th in special teams), and the Ravens are sixth (9th in defense, 8th in offense, 3rd in special teams).

The CBSSports.com experts are split: three like the Steelers, two favor the Ravens.

3. Key Matchup to Watch
For the first time in his career, Flacco finally has a legitimate deep threat. The Ravens traded for wide receiver Lee Evans after rookie Torrey Smith's unimpressive showing during the first week of the preseason. (To be fair, Smith didn't have a chance; the second-round pick out of Maryland missed OTAs and minicamp because of the lockout, and had just a few weeks to transition to NFL.)

Evans will play opposite Anquan Boldin, but Flacco's two go-to targets -- Derrick Mason and Todd Heap -- are no longer with the team. Mason signed with the Jets and Baltimore released Heap, who is now in Arizona. Second-year players Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta will replace Heap although it may take time for Flacco to develop a rapport with them that he shared with Heap.

The Steelers will try to stop the Ravens' passing attack with what many experts consider its weakest link: the cornerbacks. Ike Taylor broke a finger during the preseason but will be on the field Sunday. And, frankly, the cast he'll be wearing won't have much bearing on his performance. He's a solid cover cornerback who's been known to drop an interception or 12. As long as his legs work, he'll be fine. The other corner, Bryant McFadden, is another story. He's battled a hamstring injury for all of training camp and if 2011 is anything like 2010, offenses will target him all day.

Safety Troy Polamalu, the 2010 Defensive Player of the Year, can mitigate many of the secondary's shortcomings, particularly when he's at full strength. And to hear him tell it, his Achilles injury, which bothered him late last season all the way through the Super Bowl, is healed and he feels as good as ever.

The Steelers' defensive backs might have more critics but the Ravens' secondary is young and inexperienced, the two things you absolutely don't want to be when facing the likes of Mike Wallace, Hines Ward, Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown and Heath Miller, and with Roethlisberger throwing them the ball.

Rookie first-rounder, cornerback Jimmy Smith, will start, as will Cary Williams, who spent much of his NFL career on the practice squad. But future Hall of Famer Ed Reed will be on the field, too, which means that a turnover is always just a play away. Still, Reed understands what his guys are up against.

“We have to do our job, and that job is to slow those guys down, keep them out of the end zone, and cover them," he said, according to the Baltimore Sun. We’ve got fast guys around here, too. The only disadvantage for the defense is, for the secondary guys, we’re moving backwards at the start. But it’s part of the game. We knew that. We signed up for it. And we’re definitely ready for the mission.”

Whether Baltimore's offensive line, currently held together by duct tape, feels the same way is another story. Recent free-agent additions Bryant McKinnie and Andre Gurode join a group that has been reshuffled due to injuries and inconsistencies. It's one thing to make these changes months before the season; it's something else entirely to try to pull it off in just a few weeks after a lockout against a front seven that led the NFL in sacks a season ago.

And this is where the most important cog in Baltimore's offense comes in. Ray Rice is one of the most dangerous players in the league, a sure-handed running back who is both powerful and elusive and also serves as a genuine pass-catching threat. If he's running the ball effectively, Flacco's job is made markedly easier. The problem, of course, is that the Steelers stop the run better than any defense in the league.

4. Potentially Relevant YouTube
Apparently, these two teams play a physical brand of football.


5. The Steelers win if…
The defensive front seven creates confusion for the Ravens offensive line and forces Flacco into mistakes. If Big Ben and his stable of big-play pass-catchers take advantage of a young Baltimore secondary, the game might not be close.

6. The Ravens win if…
The offensive line holds up and gives Flacco an opportunity to exploit McFadden (particularly if he's covering Evans), which should also allow Rice more room to make plays. Defensively, Haloti Ngata, Ray Lewis and Suggs will have to help their young secondary by getting consistent pressure on Roethlisberger.

7. Prediction: Steelers 24 Ravens 20

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Posted on: August 8, 2011 1:34 pm
Edited on: August 8, 2011 1:56 pm
 

Ravens sign RB Ricky Williams to two-year deal

Posted by Will Brinson

The Ravens went out and made one of the more underrated signings of the offseason, picking up fullback Vonta Leach before he could re-sign with the Texans. One problem: they'd already cut Willis McGahee and lost Le'Ron McClain to the Chiefs, leaving Ray Rice as the only running back worth using on their roster.

Enter Ricky Williams, who agreed to terms with Baltimore on Monday, according to Jamison Hensley of the Baltimore Sun.

According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the deal is a two-year contract "worth up to $4 million."

It's a pretty tremendous signing for the Ravens, who get to reunite Williams with his former head coach in Miami Cam Cameron (the OC with Baltimore, natch).

2011 NFL Free Agency

But, more importantly, Baltimore has upgraded their running game at this point, because adding Williams gives them a perfect power complement to the elusive (but also strong) Rice out of the backfield.

With Leach blocking and Williams giving Baltimore a different speed out of the backfield, don't be shocked if the Ravens running game is once again impressive in 2011.

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Posted on: July 31, 2011 1:32 pm
 

Vonta Leach signs deal; Rice tweets happily

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

FB Vonta Leach, regarded by many as the best lead blocker in the game, has signed a three-year deal worth $11 million with the Ravens, eschewing the Texans in the process, and making Baltimore RB Ray Rice a happy man.

That’s according to the Houston Chronicle’s John McClain, who reports that the Texans wanted to keep Leach but weren’t willing to put out as much money as the Ravens.

Combined with the re-signing of OL Marshal Yanda, the addition of Leach should help a Ravens running game that slipped to 14th last season (it was No. 5 in 2009 and No. 4 in 2008).

Almost immediately after the news, Rice sent a tweet to Leach that read, “Let the fun begin.”

The rest of the AFC North might beg to differ.

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Posted on: July 19, 2011 1:46 pm
Edited on: July 19, 2011 1:51 pm
 

Rice to Ward on DUI: 'People look up to you'

Posted by Ryan Wilson

In the days before Twitter we never would have known Ray Rice's thoughts on Hines Ward's recent DUI arrest. Now information -- no matter how important, innocuous or irrelevant -- literally travels around the globe in seconds, and as news-gathering organizations our biggest job is sifting through it all to find the choicest nuggets.

Rice, a running back for the Ravens, tweeted last week that Ward, a wideout for the Steelers, "will miss week 1 when the lockout ends DUI charge not a good look." As it happens, Baltimore and Pittsburgh face off the first week of the season.

Eight days later, the story is in the news again. The Baltimore Sun caught up with Rice, who is hosting a football camp at Towson University, and he elaborated on his initial tweet.

"People look up to you, Hines," he said. "You just were on TV with Dancing with the Stars. Ravens fans were upset that you won Dancing with the Stars but they still watched you. That shows your charisma and character. You've got a legacy in the NFL that no one can take away from you. But if you hurt somebody drunk driving, that takes away a lot."

There's no disputing those last two sentences, but even as Steelers fans we couldn't bring ourselves to sit through DWTS.

And Rice isn't just speaking from the perspective of a division rival. Drunk driving is a personal issue for him; His cousin was killed by a drunk driver in 1998, and last August he worked with the state of Maryland to campaign against drunk driving.

"Drunk driving is one of those things that hits a soft spot in my life," Rice said. "I don't care if you're a Pittsburgh Steeler or a Baltimore Raven or whoever you are, if you get caught drunk driving, that's not a smart judgment. … We make enough money. It's $150 for a car service for the rest of the night."

All undeniable points, and the last one is mentioned most by fans whenever a professional athlete is arrested for driving drunk.

As for Ward, his manager told TMZ on July 9 that Ward wasn't impaired when he was pulled over. Seven days later, Ward posted the following message to Facebook: “Fans – I appreciate all the love and support. Thank you! It means a lot to me. I have a great respect for the legal system and am leaving things in the hands of my attorney.”

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Posted on: July 11, 2011 1:26 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 2:27 pm
 

Rice thinks Ward will miss Week 1 for DUI arrest

Posted by Ryan Wilson

It started early Saturday when Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward was arrested in Georgia on drunk driving charges. Later that day, Ward's manager told TMZ that not only did Ward "cooperate fully with the police and truthfully answered all of their questions … From our preliminary investigation we can tell you that we are confident that the facts will show that Hines was NOT impaired by alcohol while driving."

Whatever legal fate awaits Ward, it didn't take long for Ravens running back Ray Rice to share his thoughts on the matter, tweeting Saturday: "Well it looks like Hines Ward will miss week 1 when the lockout ends DUI charge not a good look." 

As it turns out, the Steelers face the Ravens in Baltimore in Week 1.

Shortly thereafter, Steelers safety Ryan Clark came to Ward's defense. "So glad you could Weigh in. Thx," he tweeted at Rice.

And then, much like high school, it suddenly felt like a showdown in the hallway between classes. (Only lamer because these are grown men going back and forth on Twitter.)

Rice responded with "it's whatever u wanna do bro you know how to find me," before Clark took the high road. "I hear ya brother. Thought we were all better than that. Wouldnt speak negative of you. I'll find you! It's not hard. God bless."

PFT's Michael David Smith points out that drunk driving is a personal issue for Rice. His cousin was killed by a drunk driver in 1998, and he worked with the state of Maryland to campaign against drunk driving.

Whether NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would suspend Ward is another matter entirely, although he has said that players who violate the personal conduct policy could face sanctions once the lockout ends.

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Posted on: April 3, 2011 4:29 pm
Edited on: April 3, 2011 4:51 pm
 

Nakamura helps raise $60K for Japan relief

H. Nakamura helped raise $60,000 to help his countrymen (US Presswire). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

After the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear radiation package deal that has devastated Japan – and made big reverberations around the world – Ravens S Haruki Nakamura felt he had to do something for his heritage.

So, he, along with the Red Cross, organized a relief effort Saturday where players like Nakamura, QB Joe Flacco, RB Ray Rice, FS Ed Reed, DT Brandon McKinney, CB Chris Carr and former WR Qadry Ismail signed autographs in exchange for money that went to the Red Cross International Fund.

And it was a big-time success.

According to the National Football Post, $60,000 was raised.

"When we were pulling up, I had goosebumps," Nakamura said to NFP. "It was crazy. It's not what we expected. It was a small idea, and this is huge. It's awesome. It means a lot. It shows how much people really care."

More from Aaron Wilson’s story:

Some fans complained via Twitter that they were unable to make it through the long lines to get autographs, but emphasized that the event was for a good cause.

Reed traveled from Atlanta to be there. And Rice and Flacco drove in from New York and New Jersey, respectively, to support Nakamura.

"When you see things happen on the news, you realize it's not just about you," Rice said. "We're all a family. It's always great to come out to events like this when you've got a guy whose family is out there and is affected by things like this."

"That’s the American spirit," Carr said. "People want to help out those who are less fortunate, and that’s why we’re here. It's for a great cause."


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Posted on: March 24, 2011 12:35 pm
 

Offseason checkup: Baltimore Ravens

Posted by Andy Benoit 



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Another strong Ravens season ended with a playoff loss to the Steelers. While a 12-4 regular season record is nothing to scoff at, in the absence of postseason success the Ravens presumably at least wanted to see more progress from their young offense.

Joe Flacco made strides in his third season, but it wasn’t reflected in his numbers. Very telling was that Flacco’s de facto mentor, Jim Zorn, was fired less than 12 months after coming aboard. Fellow third-year star Ray Rice wasn’t healthy early on and struggled to find his rhythm.

A superstar-laden defense continued to mask most of the offensive inconsistencies (and to be clear, Baltimore’s wasn’t a bad offense overall). Ed Reed was in his usual All-World form (NFL leading eight interceptions), while defensive lineman Haloti Ngata surpassed Ray Lewis and the perpetually underrated yet still well known Terrell Suggs as the brightest star up front.




SYMPTOMS, SYMPTOMS

Willis McGahee was stellar as the team’s backup running back and short-yardage specialist. But Le'Ron McClain, though considered a fullback, could be a cut better than that. For starters, recall that McClain rushed for 902 yards as the team’s featured ballcarrier in 2008. At 260 pounds, he’s one of the most physical lead-blockers in the game. That physicality can easily apply to short-yardage running situations.

Surprisingly, McClain is also light-footed enough to handle the rock in space. What’s more, he has softer hands than McGahee and quicker hips which allow him to catch and turn upfield. This isn’t to say the fifth-year pro is a lightning bolt, but in filling McGahee’s void, he’d be an upgrade.

If McClain became the No. 2 running back, the Ravens could still use him as the primary fullback. In that case, they would just need to find a No. 2 fullback (if they want someone other than incumbent Jason McKie). A No. 2 fullback can be had on the cheap.




1. Wide Receiver
This somehow is a need every year in Baltimore. The addition of Anquan Boldin has given Joe Flacco a true go-to target, though watch closely and you’ll see that Derrick Mason was actually Flacco’s first option whenever the chips were down last year. Mason is 37 but shelved his annual retirement vacillation early this offseason. Even with his return, a long-term replacement must be sought. And in the short-term, that long-term replacement could fill the No. 3 receiver void if petulant T.J. Houshmandzadeh and non-achieving Donte’ Stallworth are not brought back. In that case, consider the Ravens not just in need of a wide receiver, but rather, a speedy wide receiver. There’s no one on this offense fast enough to stretch the field at this point.

2. Running Back/Fullback
GM Ozzie Newsome will wisely not pay Willis McGahee the $5 million he’s owed in 2011, so a backup to Ray Rice is needed. Fullback Le'Ron McClain could fill this void (as mentioned above) but either way, depth is an issue.

3. Cornerback
Getting Domonique Foxworth back healthy helps, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be the same as before his knee operation. Lardarius Webb is arguably the best deep ball defender in the NFL, but he lacks size and might be better suited for a No. 3 role (the jury is still deliberating). Josh Wilson came on strong down the stretch, making cornerback a less dire need than it’s been in recent years. But Wilson is not under contract long-term.




The Ravens remain stacked on both sides of the ball. If Flacco can take that next step (which includes having greater presnap authority in shifting formations and plays, as well as throwing more over the middle of the field) the rest of this offense will follow.

Defensively, Ray Lewis is aging, but he’s surrounded by enough stars to still thrive. The expectations for 2011 are pretty simple: win the AFC.

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Posted on: January 31, 2011 8:05 pm
 

Report: Ravens meeting with Gaither on contract

Posted by Will Brinson

Jared Gaither's departure from Baltimore seemed like a foregone conclusion after the tackle missed the entire 2010 season with a back injury.

But the Ravens are apparently interested in bringing Gaither back in 2011 and, according to the NFL Network's Jason LaCanfora, are meeting Wednesday to negotiate a contract.

Michael Oher moved to the left side with Gaither injured in 2010, but it's fairly obvious the Ravens struggled much more this season than last -- after ranking in the NFL's top six for rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and yards per carry in 2009, the Ravens averaged just 3.8 YPC (28th in the NFL) and compiled just 1,831 rushing yards (14th) and 11 TDs on the ground (18th).

Moving Oher back to the right side of the line would also mean Marshal Yanda could slot back in at guard; another move that would help solidify the line.

Perhaps the most interesting development in LaCanfora's report, though, is a league source claiming that Gaither is "now healthy." His back injury was, at times during 2010, thought to be a long-term issue that could hamper his return to the team.

If it's not, and Baltimore can re-sign him, the Ravens could take a step back towards being the elite rushing team they were two years ago.

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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