Ravens Notebook: Team looks sharp in practice

Street Talk Ravens Notebook: Team looks sharp in practice

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OWINGS MILLS — Now that Eric Mangini has been formally introduced as the Cleveland Browns’ new head coach, the likelihood of Baltimore Ravens director of pro personnel George Kokinis joining his friend in Cleveland as the Browns’ next general manager has increased markedly.

Although Kokinis can’t interview for former Ravens executive Phil Savage’s old job until after the Ravens’ playoff game against the Tennessee Titans, he’s regarded as the strong favorite to land the position since Scott Pioli and Tom Heckert are apparently no longer interested.

Mangini and Kokinis came up through the ranks together with the Browns and Ravens several years ago, and Kokinis is expected to interview as soon as Monday.

"He’s an outstanding person, he’s impressive and he’s got tremendous substance," Mangini told Cleveland reporters during his introductory press conference. "That being said, what ultimately is important is to get the very best people we can get in here to fill each of the roles. We’re going to go through that process and meet different candidates."

Mangini tried to lure Kokinis, 41, to the New York Jets twice, but it would have been a lateral move since Mike Tanenbaum had final-say authority over football operations in New York.

Kokinis can only join the Browns if he’s being hired as a general manager or a similar position where he contractually is assured of holding the trigger over personnel matters.

Kokinis has specialized in pro personnel for nine years, including six years as a director after working as a college scout for four years.

"If George Kokinis were to go there, it would be tough, it would be a disappointment," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "But then again, it would be an opportunity for George. We’ve got a lot of respect for George.

"George does a great job. He’s had a huge impact on our team so far this year. Everybody knows that. It will be interesting to see how that goes."

Meanwhile, Mangini’s hiring makes him the new coach on the block in the AFC North after being fired by the Jets. Harbaugh seemed to welcome his addition.

"We have a lot of respect for coach Mangini," Harbaugh said. "He’s a good friend and a great coach, and it makes our division stronger. We lo ok forward to the challenge of competing against him."

TRAINING ROOM: Tight end Todd Heap didn’t practice again due to a lingering back injury and was walking very stiffly after practice in the locker room.

Heap sounded certain that he would play even though his injury seems to be more severe than what he’s letting on.

"I’m feeling all right," he said. "I’ll be ready to go."

Free safety Ed Reed didn’t practice and is now dealing with an illness along with the knee injury he incurred in a 27-9 wild-card victory over the Miami Dolphins.

Wide receiver Derrick Mason (dislocated left shoulder) returned to practice on a limited basis.

Cornerback Fabian Washington was added to the injury report with a neck injury, and was limited.

Defensive tackle Justin Bannan (foot), linebacker Jarret Johnson (calf), cornerback Samari Rolle (hamstring) and kicker Matt Stover (sprained right ankle) were limited, too.

Stover said his ankle has improved.

“The ankle is doing all right,” Stover said.

Rolle, who underwent neck surgery earlier this season, said there’s no doubt that he’ll play again next season. He’s under contract through the 2010 season at more than $4 million per season.

For the Titans, center Kevin Mawae (right elbow) and defensive end David Ball (back) didn’t practice for the second consecutive day and linebacker David Thornton (hip) was downgraded to not practicing.

Cornerback Nick Harper (groin), safety Tuff Harris (calf), defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (knee) and defe nsive end Kyle Vanden Bosch (groin) participated fully.

MODELL ENDORSED: Harbaugh spent a few minutes after practice talking with former Ravens majority owner Art Modell, who didn’t make the cut this year to be a finalist for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Former Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe and safety Rod Woodson are among the finalists.

Although Modell was instrumental in the AFL-NFL merger, the labor committee and helped form NFL Films and negotiated the deal to start Monday Night Football, moving the team from Cleveland has hurt his candidacy with selectors.


“There’s no question in our mind that Art Modell should be in the Hall of Fame,” Harbaugh said. “If you look back at his history and his record, and what he accomplished f or the NFL as the NFL was becoming what it is today, nobody made a bigger contribution.

“All the great players who made the contribution are in the Hall of Fame. Here’s a guy that made a contribution on about four or five fronts that were just critical to the development of this league and what it is being today. It’s no question he should definitely be in the Hall of Fame.”

Harbaugh said he has spoken with Modell on a regular basis ever since he was hired in January by team owner Steve Bisciotti, including lunches in the team cafeteria.

"Sometimes, he shares observations that he has from a football perspective," Harbaugh said. "Other times, it’s just chatting. He’s excited about the game."

On Thursday, Modell wanted details from Harbaugh about the injury report. Unlike the intentionally vague answers Harbaugh usually gives to reporters where every player is described as hopeful, Modell got a full accounting.

"We told Mr. Modell," Harbaugh said. "No, we didn’t mention ‘hopeful.’"

RADIO: Free safety Jim Leonhard has been designated to wear the Ravens’ radio-equipped helmet to communicate with the coaching staff after free safety Ed Reed and middle linebacker Ray Lewis declined to wear it, calling it distracting.

There were also concerns that Lewis would damage the equipment because of his head-knocking approach to the game. 

Wearing the radio helmet hasn’t bothered Leonhard, though. And the performance of the device has improved as the season has worn on.

"It’s gone a lot better lately," Harbaugh said. "Probably the second half of the season, it’s been smooth. Early in the season, it was a little bit spotty.

"I think we had some technical issues with it that seem to be worked out. We’re expecting it to go smooth in Tennessee.

QUICK HITS: Harbaugh was upbeat following the team’s third practice of the week. "We had a good practice, we were sharp and guys were excited to play," he said. "We’re healthy, amazingly healthy probably for the fact that we turned it around so quickly. It was a good solid day. Guys seem excited, ready to play. Of course, this is such a big game, so we’re looking forward to playing in it. They would play the whole thing in the next three days if they could, and that’s just their mindset." … The Ravens have had less injuries late in the season since an injury-plagued training camp. "The whole idea from the beginning has been we don’t try to stay fresh, we try to become stronger," Harbaugh said. "Everything we went through in the offseason, through training camp, through the season, is the idea that you build strength, you build endurance, you build durability. Our guys have done a real nice job of that." … Defensive coordinator Rex Ryan gets visibly excited on the sideline whenever anyone from his second-ranked defense delivers a big hit. "No question about that, I love it," Ryan said. "That’s what you’re all about. I think a big hit can change the momentum of a game faster than a turnover, so we’re fortunate we have some guys who can deliver some big hits." … Referee Terry McAulay, a global network analyst for the Defense Department, is working the game. According to statistics compiled on officials, his crew calls the highest rate of face-mask penalties and the third-fewest amount of offensive pass interference penalties with just seven defensive pass interference infractions all season. They have called the fifth-most false starts, ranking in the middle of the pack in total penalties assessed per game (13.5), penalty yards per contest (88) and home-team penalties (100). The Ravens were only penalized four times by this crew in a win over the Washington Redskins. One year ago, the Ravens were penalized a total of 21 times by McCaulay and his officials.

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. 

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