LOMBARDI’S WAY: BRIDGE TO RAVENS FUTURE

Lombardi's Way LOMBARDI’S WAY: BRIDGE TO RAVENS FUTURE

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ESPN’s John Clayton says the team that makes the most sense for Daunte Culpepper when his inevitable release occurs is none other than the Baltimore Ravens.  Clayton reasons that Culpepper could sign a two or three year deal as a “bridge to the future.”
 
So what’s the toll for that bridge and where does it go?
 
Clayton believes that Culpepper could ask for no more than a two year deal totaling $6 million.  That is the market set by David Carr and Joey Harrington. 
 
He’s kidding right?
 
The Dolphins bent over backwards about 15 months ago to acquire Culpepper in exchange for a second round pick.  They took a chance on a quarterback who on October 30, 2005 tore his ACL, MCL and PCL.  If Culpepper had any other CL’s he probably would have torn those too.
 
Ironically, the Dolphins passed on Drew Brees because they had concerns about the health of his right arm.
 
So after all of that the Dolphins can’t wait to unload this guy.  And to add insult to injury they acquire another quarterback whose career is in its twilight.  Check that, he looks like a deer in headlights.
 
So how could can Culpepper really be right now?
 
That’s not to say that the former Pro Bowler can’t eventually come back.  But why would anyone in their right mind give Culpepper $3 mil per for a couple seasons when no one is even sure if he can play in 2007?
 
Well John, you could be right, Baltimore might make the most sense for Culpepper.  But Culpepper makes no sense for Baltimore.
 
Another player who would like to play in Baltimore is former Redskin and former Giant Lavar Arrington.  And why wouldn’t he want to get his career back on track with 2006’s No. 1 defense and play along good buddy Ray Lewis?  But like Culpepper, Arrington has some health issues as well. 
 
Arrington spoke to Doc Walker (no pun intended) on AM 980 WTEM this past Monday.
 
“I’m just trying to get my body together.  I’m not exactly where I’d like to be right now.  I’d be lying if I said that I was like 100% and ready to go.  This has been a long, slow recovery process on this Achilles’ injury.”
 
Buyer beware!
 
“I’m not closing the door on playing”, Arrington continued. “Me and Ray-Lew are real close and we’ve been talking quite a bit.  I actually met Steve Bisciotti the other day and he seems like a really cool individual.  That’s always been my first option, even when I left the first time.”
 
Let’s hope Lavar is not a Ravens’ option.  With Jarret Johnson, Dan Cody and Antwan Barnes and expanded roles for Bart Scott and Gerome Sapp, the Ravens have more than ample skill sets to compensate for the loss of AD.  Lavar Arrington, assuming he’s healthy enough to play, is a very unnecessary luxury for Baltimore.  The Ravens would be much better served using any money spent on Arrington towards extending an emerging force in the NFL, Terrell Suggs.
 
Another emerging force is third year receiver Mark Clayton.  Clayton now has two years under his belt in the Ravens system and a full year with Steve McNair.  The offensive terminology is now second nature to Clayton and that helps him to open up his impressive array of athletic talents to full throttle.  It has been noticeable in practice as Clayton consistently beats defenders deep downfield in OTA one-on-one drills.
 
When asked if we can expect to see more vertical routes this season, Clayton chuckled and said, “Coach Billick is looking to have a little fun this year.”
 
Fun is something that some in the media think that the Ravens have too much of when it comes to training camp.  Count Clayton among the many players who are happy that Brian Billick sees the big picture and manages the team for the long haul of the NFL season.
 
“This team trusts him with the every decision that he makes”, explained Clayton.  “The way we work and the way we practice, we are very intense in what we do.  We may not go for a tremendous amount of time that some may go but we are very intense and when we get to the game we are detailed and we make sure that we maximize the time that we do have on the field.  That way as the season progresses and as the season goes along, towards the end of the season your body is not worn out and you’re not beat up and you still have this burst. 
 
“It was a tremendous help my rookie year, towards the end I still had my legs and was going strong.  And then last year when we got to the end of the year the team was fresh.
 
“Down the back stretch you are going to need your legs and Coach Billick understands and obviously goes about our training in training camp and mini camps with that mindset.”
 
Another mindset that seems to be gripping the Ravens is fierce competition for limited roster openings.  The players seem hungry and they’ll have to be. The Ravens’ roster looks as though it will be deep and difficult cuts will have to be made.  Competitive battles will ensue on the offensive line, No. 2 running back, depth at linebacker and wide receiver as well as a battle at the kick returner position.  For the non-starters that means they will have to find other ways to provide value to the team and that bodes well for Frank Gansz and his special teams units.
 
You know we hear it said often that special teams are no less important than offense or defense.  And when they aren’t at the top of the depth chart food chain, players have got to bring something else.  Roster depth doesn’t just mean that a team has good backups.  It means that those good players will push those in front of them to be better and they will battle to show well on tape so the coaches take note.  They will fight and scratch and claw their way to secure one of those valuable 53 jobs on the Baltimore Ravens roster.  And when they do, Gansz’ unit becomes more dangerous and more effective giving the offense a shorter field and the defense a longer one. 
 
The Ravens special teams could make this team special even without that “bridge to the future.”

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24×7 Networks, LLC’s founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts “The Fanimal” also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. 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.

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