COUNTING DOWN THE DAYS ‘TIL CAMP

Lombardi's Way COUNTING DOWN THE DAYS ‘TIL CAMP

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HEEL FEELS LIKE A HEEL

Hi TL,

Ravens24x7 is a must stop every morning.  Love the site!

I watched the end of the College World Series yesterday and had a private giggle when Bryan Steed booted the ball in the 8th allowing the winning run to score.  I have nothing against Bryan or the Tar Heels. I went to college at UCLA and don’t have hatred for anyone in the ACC (except Duke).

On Monday mornings in the Daily Bruin they’d give a run down of the Pac-10 teams.  Oregon State had a chance to win the Pac-10 basketball title (1979 I think). The headline one morning was "Beavers muff chance to snatch title".    No kidding.. real headline… One of those you wish you’d cut out. 

For a week or so afterwards there were letters to the editor about the headline.  The best series of letters were started by this guy who thought it was horrible and degrading to women.  His sister wrote and told him to lighten up and that it was just plain funny.

Perry

Perry,

I felt for that kid Steed and even now, I wonder if he’s emerged from that rock he surely crawled under after that night.  He got a perfect charity hop just above the waist and for a defensive specialist the play should have been second nature.  Apparently Steed is uncomfortable in the spotlight although I have to say, replays showed that his first baseman didn’t do much to help his cause.  His feet were totally out of position and didn’t allow for proper extension to the ball.  That said, I still think the throw pulls the first baseman off the bag and the go ahead run scores anyway.

Regardless of fault, the Beavers didn’t muff this one!

Could Steed go down as the NCAA’s Bill Buckner?

Ride on,

TL

RAY WANTS HOW MUCH?

TL,

I read in the Press Box last week that Ray Lewis is believed to be asking for a contract with a $50 million signing bonus and a total package that would make him the NFL’s highest-paid player.

Is he out of his freaking mind?  After all that has happened this off season and the decline in his play coupled with lingering shoulder problems (not to mention a surgically repaired hamstring), what is he thinking?

Perplexed in Perry Hall

Perplexed,

I did see that piece from Joe Platania in the Press Box but unless Joe has unearthed some new developments, I think all of that talk about Ray and $50 million is not only well over a year old, it is my understanding that the original statement was made with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

Ray has seen his last Ravens contract in my opinion unless the Ravens move some money around to satisfy Ray’s reported need for cash up front in exchange for an improved overall cap picture.  Otherwise, the Ravens have nothing to gain by paying Ray more money than he’s set to earn – a sum that some would argue is already too high given the decline in his play over the past two seasons.

No worries,

TL

YOU’VE LOST A CUSTOMER

TL,

I hope you achieve your goal and get more hits to your website when you change the name. This is one Raven’s fan that is offended by what you consider to be the need to drop the Ravens name because it "rubs some people the wrong way." In addition I did not appreciate the article that appeared on your site regarding the Ravens Roost convention in Ocean City. Many Roosts spent a great deal of time constructing their floats and the sarcastic comments were not appreciated. Kenny Abrahms even commented when he spoke to us at our Awards ceremony that he does not know of any other professional team that has a fan club that supports the team even in the off season… in addition to the CHARITY WORK that is done in the community. This is one Raven’s fan that will not be visiting your site, let alone advertise my photography business on your site.

Sue, Pasadena

Sue,

I’m sorry that you feel the way that you do.  Our name change has more to do with the future of our site and what we intend on offering our visitors.  We are simply setting the stage to grow and develop.  By no means are we abandoning the Ravens — quite the opposite actually.  This site is still for those who bleed purple and I think that our new logo above suggests the same.  Hang in there with us and I’m sure you will soon see for yourself.

As for Craig Chasis’ article in Birdwatcher, I thought that he was very complimentary and he tried to have fun with your event.  It’s interesting to see your response to it because other participants in the parade and convention have thanked us for the coverage provided.  If it offended you, please accept our apologies.  Craig drove 6 hours through heavy rains that day to report on your Convention.

That very same week, I made the announcement that we would dedicate a page on our new site to the Roost, Nests and Poe’s Crows so that they could promote their worthy causes.  I also wrote this article about these fine organizations entitled Once Fans, Now Brothers.  We have been extremely supportive of your cause while sponsoring Golf Tournaments, reporting on events and even having Roost members on our show GAMETIME to discuss such events.  Ravens Roost 50 even made me an honorary member.

Again, if we’ve offended you, that wasn’t the intent.  Perhaps our intent missed its mark with you but hey, even Jon Ogden misses a block now and then.  If you don’t want to advertise with us, that is certainly your prerogative.  The intent of the program was to simply say help us and we’ll help you — not only with our advertising, but my making a contribution to an individual, the Roost or your chosen charity.

If you would like to discuss any of this or all of this, I am more than happy to do so at your convenience.

Again, our sincerest apologies,

TL

PRESTON ON THE MOVE?

TL,

Good article about the Ed Reed contract – keep in mind that [Mike] Preston and [Brian] Billick hate each other and Preston has always tried to undermine Billick.  Also Preston may be headed to Fox Sportsnet soon so he may be taking parting shots.

Paul, Baltimore

Paul,

I don’t think the Ravens had much of an argument in the case of Ed Reed.  He is two time Pro Bowler and is one season removed from being the Defensive Player of The Year.  When you factor in that Chris McAlister received bonuses of $16 million or more and then weigh the importance of each to the Ravens, certainly Reed is worth the $15 million bonus particularly when you consider the longevity of the safety position.  Who knows, maybe one day CMac migrates over next to Reed as a safety in the same way that Rod Woodson did towards the later part of his career.

As for Preston and Billick, I don’t think that either can exert enough pressure upon the other to force a career move.  As for Preston moving over to Fox, that’s news to me.  I’ll have to ask him when I see him out at McDaniel College later this month.  I do know that he reports on the Ravens for The Sporting News on a weekly basis.

Here’s some food for thought – if the Ravens get off to a slow start, Preston might take on the role of a hungry lion while Billick unfortunately would be the wounded zebra – an easy and inviting target.

Let’s hope Mike doesn’t get that chance!

TL 

TL,

I love the [Camp Countdown] feature [on the site].  Thank you.

Now that Ed Reed is comfortably in the fold could the Ravens be set up any better for a serious ’06 run?  I think not.  I think the front office has done an excellent job setting the table.  If the coaching staff does half as well it should be an exciting season. 

Wishing the next 29 days, 00 hours 12 minutes and 05 seconds of my life away! Thanks again,

Jack Disney

Jack,

In previous letters on this very page, I’ve often addressed the Ravens off season activity or lack there of while many fans expressed anxiety.  An off season cannot be judged by one or two moves.  It can only be judge in its totality and not even accurately assessed until the players take the field.  An impressive resume doesn’t get it done between the lines.  An all-star on one team doesn’t necessarily translate to the same performance on another team.  Players must compliment one another and communicate.  Football is the ultimate team game and the cohesiveness of a team must be seen to be believed.

Ozzie’s patience this off season appears to have paid dividends – at least on paper.  Let’s see what happens when they take the field.

As for the coaching staff, they are a very motivated bunch.  There are careers at stake as well as their respective families’ futures.  A bad start could result in a season that falls apart quickly and if that regrettably happens, coaches will be distracted and wondering about 2007.  If the team starts quickly, I think the entire organization is reinvigorated and then the Ravens can be a very dangerous team. 

In 2006, perhaps more so than in any other year, the Ravens must get off the blocks quickly.  And like you Jack, I can’t wait for it to start.

As of this writing, 26 days, 23 hours, 36 minutes and 9 seconds…but who’s counting?

TL

ASSESSING THE RAVENS 

TL,

Another excellent article in response to Mr. Williamson’s overview on the AFC North.

It is so difficult to predict how the NFL standings will pan out this year, I think this year more than past years.  The first thing to consider is how is your team going to make it through training camp.  Key injuries expose lack of depth in a hurry, and opposing teams will scheme against you and make your weakest link cost you wins. (see 2000 Titans)

After that, the Ravens could go in either direction.  Let’s face it, who would have guessed the the Ravens would have looked as bad as they did in the first game of the year against the Colts?  Personnel does not guarantee that a team is going to be good.  So that means that the Ravens coaching staff has a lot to handle this year.  For instance, if the young offensive linemen can play at a decent level, then that line will have a lot of depth, and for once speed and athleticism.  If not, McNair will take hits and the run game will suffer. 

The defense has lot’s of talent, and should be better than last year.  First of all, we got rid of our defensive back coach which is huge.  There was no communication last year, and it was glaring.  This year, barring any injuries, we could have inside penetration that should disrupt both the run and pass, making everyone else’s job easier.  If so, with the talent we have at LB and DB, we will do very well.

Two things that I saw missed in this article was the FB position affecting the run, and the upgrade on special teams.  If Alan Ricard can play the whole season, expect to see a solid running attack.  Also, Ozzie has made a lot of good additions on special teams which everyone overlooks.  That excites me.  Big plays on special teams can turn games in a hurry (see Vinny and the Jets in 2000).  Also, don’t be surprised if we don’t pick up a veteran DB before the end of the pre season.

What gets me excited this season [on offense], are the different things we will be able to do, and match up problems we will cause.  On defense, just the line up of Suggs, Ngata, Gregg, and Pryce, in front of Thomas, Cody and Ray Lewis, with Rolle and McAllister on the outside, and Reed in deep middle makes me salivate.  I could be wrong, but this team could set up to be one of the most ferocious blitzing squads in the NFL, which tends to cover up a lack of depth in the secondary.

Come on September!

Mark Considine

Mark,

Some interesting points in there…let me comment on a few…

Health is critical to success in the NFL and without it, you rely upon depth.  The Ravens have a load of young albeit inexperienced talent that can provide depth.  But in the case of youth, coaching will be critical.  We’ve seen New England time and time again battle through devastating injuries and remain competitive with marginal talent and experience.  Those are the times that challenge the best coaches in the game.

Communication is essential for improved secondary play.  You can count on an emphasis in that area – an area that you correctly point out was a weakness of former secondary coach Johnny Lynn.  His replacement Mark Carrier seems to be an excellent communicator and motivator if OTA’s are any indication.  But some of the communication problems are on the players too.  I’ve seen Brian Billick emphasize communication and applaud it during OTA’s.  Expect that to be a drum that Billick beats regularly.

Alan Ricard is still struggling with leg ailments and I’m not sure if the Ravens can count on him for much this season.  It wouldn’t shock me to see him on the PUP list heading into the season.  Justin Green and Ovie Mughelli are seeing all the FB snaps in OTA’s so far and both contribute on special teams.

I think you can also count on better special teams play from the Ravens.  They have the athletes who are willing to prove themselves or as they like to say, “show up on tape” with the hopes of more opportunities down the road.  These are hungry athletes and several like Rod Green, Gerome Sapp, Corey Ivy, Gary Stills and Musa Smith take pride in that part of their game.  Plus in my opinion, the special teamers are led by Frank Gansz, Jr. who is a stronger special teams coach than the departed Gary Zauner.

The offense should give opponents many different looks and things to consider.  What once was an easy team to prepare for might now be a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators.  On defense, you will see a variety of blitz packages but if the Ravens are forced to live by the blitz, they’ll die by it as well.  The interior push that Ngata and Pryce can provide will be critical to maintaining balance when defending the pass.

But you are right, it can’t get here soon enough now that the Orioles season has prematurely ended before the All Star break …again!

Enjoy your Summer,

TL 

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is the founder EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com. His work has been featured on various sports websites and he hosts The Russell Street Report and Armchair Quarterback both seen and heard on Fanimal Radio. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi
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