Special teams correcting mistakes

Street Talk Special teams correcting mistakes

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OWINGS MILLS — One day after a botched communication led to surrendering a blocked punt for a touchdown, the Baltimore Ravens spent Monday correcting their mistakes.


During a brief afternoon practice, following blocking assignments and providing more time for punter Sam Koch were major points of emphasis.


During the second quarter of the Ravens’ 38-24 win Sunday over the Kansas City Chiefs, Jon McGraw burst through a big gap between long snapper Matt Katula and the right side of the line to block Koch’s punt and recovered it in the end zone for a score.


"It was very easily identifiable and very easily corrected," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday. "Disappointing in the sense that there was no look that we hadn’t seen hundreds of times. We just got a little bit frozen for a second. Their guy, he’s a really good player.


“He’s been around for a long time and he went and got it. Sometimes, you have a protection bust and they don’t get it and you kind of live to talk about it. Well, we didn’t live to talk about it. That was really a momentum-changer. That’s corrected. It’s just something we can’t let happen."


INJURY UPDATE: The Ravens don’t consider starting inside linebacker Tavares Gooden’s sprained right knee to be a serious injury.


Gooden was slated to have a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Monday. Initial X-rays revealed no ligament tears or significant damage.


"We think right now it’s a mild knee sprain," Harbaugh said. "We’ll just see how it responds this week.


It’s unclear, though, if he’ll be ready to start this week against the San Diego Chargers. If Gooden can’t go, then Jameel McClain would likely fill in for him.


Meanwhile, safety Tom Zbikowski is recovering from a concussion suffered when he collided with a two-man blocking wedge while covering a kickoff in the first half.


The prognosis is good for Zbikowski, who won his only heavyweight boxing match by knockout when he was at Notre Dame.


"I was talking to him and he was kind of slurring his speech a little bit, I thought," Harbaugh said. "So, I asked him if he had a glass jaw and he got kind of mad. He didn’t take it too kindly. I don’t think he laughed.


"He got hit. He really got hammered.  So, he’s not afraid to throw his jaw in there. He should be fine. It’s just a matter of his head clearing up."


Tight end L.J. Smith (pulled left hamstring) still hasn’t been cleared to return to practice, but hasn’t been ruled out for the game.


"I don’t know what the chances are, but there’s a chance," Harbaugh said. "We were kind of targeting this one. We’ll be hopeful, but we can’t say for sure."


TALKING TRASH: During a conference call last week, former NFL wide receivers Cris Carter and Keyshawn Johnson ripped the Ravens’ receivers.


"You want a bum, you pay a bum," Johnson said.


Naturally, that comment infuriated Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason.


"Keyshawn Johnson is the bum, that’s why he’s in the analyst seat," Mason told CBSSportsline after the game. "He tried to come back to football, but no one would sign him. He was never that good a player. He got lucky and signed on in Tampa Bay and won a Super Bowl because they had a great defense. Just look at the two people doing the criticizing, that’s all I’m saying.


"Keyshawn was overrated and Carter is in the same boat I’m in. He doesn’t have a Super Bowl ring, either. He’s in the analyst seat without a ring. At least I’m playing. He still wants to play but he can’t anymore. We’re the bums? That’s why you’re in the analyst seat. Just be quiet and keep dreaming you still could play."


Added Harbaugh: "You start calling our guys names, we’re not too impressed with that. We’re not looking for someone else’s respect. We don’t need someone else to say good things about us. Matter of fact, we kind of like it when it goes the other way."


MULTI-FACETED: Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron deployed his running backs at wide receiver as well as quarterback Troy Smith, and Harbaugh indicated that might be a sign of things to come.


"Troy’s a pretty good athlete out there, so they’ve got to match up with him as well," Harbaugh said. "So, we want to use all of our guys any way we can."


NO REPLAY: Mason thought that he had possession of the football for a touchdown in the back of the end zone to begin the game.


However, it was determined that he was juggling the football.


Mason lobbied Harbaugh for an instant-replay challenge to no avail.


"Yeah, I’m a receiver, so I’m always hoping for a touchdown," Mason said. "I thought I got my feet down, but you know the coaches saw something else."


On Monday, Harbaugh said that the video clearly showed that Mason was out of bounds.


"You could see that his knee came down out," Harbaugh said. "At that point in time, you don’t want to waste it and it was pretty clear that we weren’t going to win it. Now, ‘Mase’ wasn’t so convinced."


TRYOUT: The Ravens tried out former East Carolina tight end Davon Drew, the rookie fifth-round draft pick that Baltimore cut during the final major roster cutdown.


Drew was signed by the Miami Dolphins off waivers before reaching an injury settlement with the team a few days later. He had been bothered by a sprained ankle during training camp with Baltimore.


QUICK HITS: The Ravens brokered an injury settlement with offensive lineman Brian Johnson, removing him from the reserve-injured list. … The Ravens were encouraged about rookie offensive tackle Michael Oher’s regular-season debut. He didn’t allow a sack and opened some big holes on the right side for the backs. "He played really well, but there are a lot of things he can do better," Harbaugh said. "For a rookie coming out for the first time, facing that odd front, he did a nice job." … The Ravens spent Monday night watching the Chargers’ game against the Oakland Raiders as they dealt with a delay of their normal game-planning sessions. "We want to go to work on them and we don’t have tape, and they have tape on us and their guys are going to work on us right now, so maybe they’ve got the edge," Harbaugh said. "I don’t know what the advantage is, but it’s part of the NFL, and they’ll deal with it and we’ll deal with it." …  Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata recorded one tackle on defense, also lining up as a tight end in short-yardage situations along with offensive guard Marshal Yanda. He entered the game with a sprained ankle and was listed on the injury report with a knee injury. "He was out there quite a bit because he was out there in nickel and the dime package," Harbaugh said. "He was out there in regular a lot, so we want to have him on the field as much as we can." … Center Matt Birk is donating his brain and spinal cord tissue to the Boston University School of Medicine along with fellow NFL players Lofa Tatupu and Sean Morey for a research study on the effects of football on the brain and spine. … Offensive line coach John Matsko, who used to coach for the Chiefs, got doused with Gatorade by Cameron and tight ends coach Wade Harman. "I know who the targets are, yeah," Harbaugh said. "Sometimes, we’ve had those planned. It’s become a tradition here. Who could be next?"


Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.
Photo by Sabina Moran.

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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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