THE GRAPEVINE: Logjam at safety, Suggs has something to prove

Lombardi's Way THE GRAPEVINE: Logjam at safety, Suggs has something to prove

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Terrell Suggs has been the whipping boy of choice for Ravens’ fans lately given his apparent disdain for voluntary OTA’s.

Generally speaking, Ravenstown wants to see more of a commitment from the wealthiest member of the purple and black and his offseason attendance suggests anything but. Yet at the end of the day, does it really matter if Suggs reports to voluntary workouts?

Are the rules different for him because he’s coming off a subpar season or because he’s been extended guaranteed bonus money reaching into the mid $30M range?

What matters is how Suggs shows up for training camp. Will he be in shape then?

Will he have a productive camp and will that carry forward to a productive season in 2010?

Now if he fails to produce, fans, coaches, management and his teammates can hold Suggs accountable.

We’ll see how it plays out but until it counts between the lines none of the angst outside the lines does.

You get the sense that this discord between the NFL Players’ Union and the league’s owners is shaping up to be the next continental divide?

The new union chief for the players, DeMaurice Smith is really caught between a rock and a hard place. Here he is, taking over for the late Gene Upshaw and he’s saddled with the pressure coming from the players who want their next pay day and going up against ownership which for all intents and purposes has superior leverage.

Naturally Smith has to justify his lofty perch and salary and fight the good fight publicly but at the end of the day (aka the battle in the court of public opinion) the owners will win. Smith and Roger Goodell will pose for pictures and both will state that at the end of the day their agreement was best for all parties and most importantly the fans and valued sponsors.

But until then, expect a ton of cat fights.

It’s already begun.

The Ravens had a few players whining about being overworked in OTA’s – the names Carr, Heap and Mason consistently pop up as the culprits – others suggest a player agent leaked the team’s zealousness to the league.

It’s not much of a big deal really yet where there’s smoke there’s probably fire.

It’s a small salvo but a salvo nonetheless.

In New England they’ve got a mess on their hands with Logan Mankins who refuses to sign his restricted free agent tender of $3.26 million. He wants a long term deal with guaranteed ch-ching up front and he’s bad mouthing the team. That usually works for Bill Belichick, right?

Darrelle Revis wants to be the highest paid corner in the league and is seeking 50 cents more than the deal the Raiders extended to Nnamdi Asomugha. Revis has 3 years left on his current deal so expect Rex Ryan to put his arms around Revis, wipe the crust out of his eye, give him a Lifesaver and make some promises that he’s not sure he can keep.

Out in southern California, two Chargers’ restricted free agents (Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill) refused to sign their tender offers and they are now threatening to sit out until week 10 unless they get long term contracts.

Labor uncertainties handcuff the owners a bit. Peer pressure amongst the owners handcuffs them even more.

How long before DeMaurice Smith pulls out one of the few arrows in his quiver – the concept of collusion?

The "fun" has just begun.

Last week the Ravens signed Ken "Hammerin’" Hamlin to a one year deal. Hamlin is a punishing tackler who aggressively supports the run (although he can get trucked on occasion – see video below @ 4:19 mark). He can also separate a receiver from the football (just ask Anquan Boldin and Donte Stallworth) when in position.

I did say "when in position."

Despite Pro Bowl honors in 2007 Hamlin isn’t exactly a ball hawk but his addition to the Ravens roster boosts the team’s depth and more than likely special teams’ play.

Still the signing, if it doesn’t raise an eyebrow it at least pushes the brow in a northerly direction, particularly when one considers that lack of quality depth at cornerback the Ravens could be facing when they start the ’10 campaign. Lardarius Webb and Fabian Washington while ahead of schedule in their respective rehabilitation regimens still could be on the shelf come September 13.

Don’t be surprised if the team eventually makes a similar move at corner.

But back to the position of safety…

After a slow start in ’09 Dawan Landry came on strong. Haruki Nakamura is far ahead of schedule in his recovery from a broken leg and he looks to be ready for the opener at the Meadowlands. Tom Zbikowski played well during Ed Reed’s absences and the former third round pick is slowly shaping into the player the Ravens expected when they drafted the Golden Domer after Joe Flacco and Ray Rice in 2008.

Might there be a log jam at the position?

Are the Ravens preparing for the eventual departure of 2011 free agent Landry?

Could there be some quiet concerns about Ed Reed?

Ignoring the health issues of the six-time All Pro would be the equivalent of Ozzie Newsome sticking his head in the sand. Yet discussions of Hamlin as the eventual heir apparent to Reed are just plain silly. Their respective games are about as similar as Ray Rice and Le’Ron McClain.

They are just different players.

But adding Hamlin provides some flexibility. The Ravens could manage Ed Reed’s season in a way that preserves and protects the team’s rangy centerfielder. Maybe he gets the day off when the Ravens take on the likes of Cleveland, Carolina, Tampa and Buffalo – teams that aren’t exactly aerial juggernauts.

Whatever the motive, the bottom line is the Ravens just got a little better by adding Hamlin. They improved the level of competition at safety and better competition inspires better play and desirable results.

Let’s hope the same is true for Mark Clayton and the position of wide receiver.


Photo by Kevin Moore

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24×7 Networks, LLC’s founder (the parent of and 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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