Ravens Notebook: Ryan in demand

Street Talk Ravens Notebook: Ryan in demand

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OWINGS MILLS — Interest in highly-regarded Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan is growing in NFL circles, a percolating development that coincides with his second-ranked defense spearheading the Ravens being back in the playoffs.

The New York Jets have already asked for permission to speak with Ryan, and there has been preliminary back-channel contact with the St. Louis Rams and the Detroit Lions.

Could this finally be the year where Ryan lands a head-coaching position after being narrowly edged for jobs with the San Diego Chargers two years ago and the Atlanta Falcons last year?

Ryan is flattered by the inquiries while intently preparing for Sunday’s AFC wild-card game against the Miami Dolphins, whose top executive, Bill Parcells, passed on him after an interview last year to hire Tony Sparano.

"Right now, my focus is strictly on us preparing for Miami and on these playoffs," Ryan said. "I’ve prepared all my life to be a head coach. If somebody sees fit of giving me that opportunity, that would be great. If not, I’ll stay here with this organization and with our players and our coaches and I’ll be happy."

Ryan hopes he remains too busy with the Ravens’ playoff run to conduct interviews with potential NFL employers.

When asked if he wishes the Jets had waited longer before declaring their intentions, Ryan replied: "No. I hope that they’ve got to wait until after the Super Bowl if somebody wants me. That’s the real deal."

Under Ryan, the Ravens have finished sixth or higher in total defense for the past six seasons.

This year, the Ravens have allowed just 261.2 yards per contest, ranking third in rushing defense (81.4 yards), second in passing defense (179.7 yards) and points allowed per contest (15.3).

"I’m sure Rex is definitely a capable head coach anywhere in this league," Pro Bowl free safety Ed Reed said. "I’m sure Rex is not focused on it right now, but I’m sure in the back of his head he wants to be a head coach and will be a great head coach."


 

TRAINING ROOM: Cornerback Samari Rolle didn’t practice for the second consecutive day due to an ankle and foot injury, but is expected to play Sunday.

Cornerback Fabian Washington (hyperextended right big toe) was upgraded to practicing on a limited basis.

"I’m on schedule to play Sunday," he said. "It feels much better.

Four other players were upgraded to limited participation, including Reed (hamstring), wide receiver Derrick Mason (dislocated left shoulder/trapezius), linebacker Jarret Johnson (left calf) and defensive tackle Justin Bannan (foot).

Wide receiver Mark Clayton (knee) was limited again as well as right guard Chris Chester (back), linebacker Antwan Barnes (strained left pectoral muscle), running back Ray Rice (left shin/calf contusion), safety Tom Zbikowski (thigh) and kicker Matt Stover (sprained right ankle).

ENDORSEMENT: If Ryan had a vote, Reed would be named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year over Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware.

Ware led the NFL with 20 sacks, and Reed led the NFL with nine interceptions. That includes eight picks in the past six games.

"I think it’s coaching, no doubt to give him those kinds of instincts and everything," Ryan quipped. "No, it’s Ed Reed being Ed Reed. I think he’s still not 100 percent healthy, but he’s playing like he is.

"I hope he gets that Defensive Player of the Year. I know it’s tough. That kid in Dallas had the 20 sacks, but he’s watching Ed Reed. So, I think you give it to the playoff guy. Go ahead and just give it to Ed. We’ll take it."

TAMING THE WILDCAT: The Ravens held the Dolphins’ vaunted Wildcat offense to a mere four yards in the teams’ first meeting, a 27-13 Baltimore win.

And studying how the Dolphins confused the New England Patriots was a major plus for the Ravens’ preparation.

"I’ll be honest, I’m glad they ran it against New England the first day then they did it against us because it would have been like, ‘Oh, I mean you want to talk about scrambling,’" Ryan said. "They do a nice job of it. If I was just watching the game as a fan, I’d appreciate them. But we see all kinds of stuff with our offense, too, so I think we’re prepared for it.

"It really makes you prepare. We’ll take 10 minutes extra after each practice and just go over Wildcat type plays. And they’re doing it differently. They’re doing it out of multiple personnel groupings and things like that."

LOOKING UP: Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron finds himself in the playoffs one year removed from being fired by the Dolphins after a 1-15 season.

Now, he’s leading an offense that set a franchise record with 20 rushing touchdowns in addition to overseeing rookie quarterback Joe Flacco’s rapid development.

"It’s fun to be a part of this team," Cameron said. "We’ve got a team here that’s special, but the season is just beginning. It’s a new year, it’s a new season.

"In this profession, last year means very little as it relates to the upcoming season. I think you can see that in a ton of ways, not just for me personally. For a lot of people, it’s just the nature of this business."

Although Cameron hasn’t been linked to any of the coaching vacancies yet, that doesn’t mean he would rule out any future opportunities.

"There may be a time for that discussion," he said. "I am zeroed in and focused on the responsibility I have here and my commitment is to that. Like you’ve heard other guys say, really for any of us to talk about ourselves at this point is really counterproductive."


 

RETURN GAME: Special-teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg was noncommittal when asked if Zbikowski would return kickoffs again Sunday now that return specialist Yamon Figurs has recovered from a concussion that forced him out last week.

Rosburg said that Rice has also been returning kickoffs this week in practice and is in the mix for playing time on special teams.

"That kind of depends on what the roster looks like on Sunday," Rosburg said. "We haven’t gotten to that point yet, so we’re practicing more than one returner in preparation for that." 

QUICK HITS: Dolphins tight end David Martin (head/neck) and former University of Maryland defensive lineman Randy Starks (ankle) were upgraded to limited work after missing Wednesday’s practice. … Defensive end Trevor Pryce’s healthy return has made a big impact on the Ravens’ defense. "He’s a tremendous player," Ryan said. "I told Trev, ‘Hey, we’ve been resting you during the season, all right? You don’t come off the field anymore.’ Clearly, he’s one of the premier players in this league. When we lost him last year, it definitely hurt us. But he’s healthy and he’s ready to roll through the playoffs." … Since being signed by general manager Ozzie Newsome after trying out for the Ravens in a spring minicamp, strong safety Jim Leonhard has taken over for an injured Dawan Landry and ranks fourth on the team with 85 tackles to go with one sack and one interception. "He actually came here on a tryout basis, one of those weekend deals," Ryan said. "We were like, ‘You know what? This guy is pretty good. He’s smart.’ What do you mean he’s smart? ‘Well, he’s running with the first team if that means anything.’ So, I guess Ozzie decided to keep him then." … The Ravens don’t seem too worried about the muggier weather conditions of South Florida. "I think there’s always some concern about that because you’ve got to make sure your players are hydrated and they’re going to bed at night, getting their rest, which our guys are," Ryan said. "If our guys weren’t taking care of themselves off the field, I think you’d have major concerns. For us, quite honestly, when you go into the heat, your body feels better. I think our players are looking forward to feeling that nice, warm air."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors.  More from Aaron Wilson

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