THE GRAPEVINE: Who might step up for the Ravens?

Lombardi's Way THE GRAPEVINE: Who might step up for the Ravens?

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Critics of Sergio Kindle have been at times harsh. Many wonder how a guy on the verge of becoming a millionaire, particularly one whose roots stem from a crime infested, borderline poverty stricken upbringing can be so irresponsible.

The bottom line is until we hear from Kindle, observe the look in his eye as he speaks, we might not know the truth – maybe not even then.

But then again, perhaps the jury pool in the court of public is far too tainted when it relates to Kindle, given his checkered past.

Maybe it really was just an unfortunate accident.

At the end of the day, we can all agree that the truly good news is that the young athlete is expected to make a full recovery – at least as a citizen. Time will tell about his football career, both short and long term.

But back to the off-the-field issues, it’s interesting that when you look at the Ravens’ players who have had trouble in the past and around the league for that matter, most are defenders.

Ray Lewis, Corey Fuller, Chris McAlister, Mike McCrary come to mind…

When you consider the biggest off-the-field offenders in the NFL, past and present, more times the not they are on defense.

Perhaps there’s a mindset in a defender, that of an attacker that sometimes can’t be turned off all that easily.

The Ravens have a knack for finding complementary players, second tier free agents if you will, discarded by their former clubs who at least on a short-term basis make an impact in Baltimore.

In the past players like Corey Harris, Lorenzo Neal, Sam Gash, Jim Leonhard, Qadry Ismail, Trevor Pryce and even Rod Woodson who was dissed back in a day by the San Francisco 49ers all arrived in The Land of Pleasant Living and contributed.

Who might be that player this season?

Could it be Ken Hamlin spelling a physically unreliable Ed Reed?

Might it be Cory Redding, a less expensive but probably more productive version of Dwan Edwards?

What about Donte Stallworth? He’s been a bit of a drifter bouncing from New Orleans to Philadelphia to New England to Cleveland. That sounds a bit like Ismail prior to his arrival in B’more.

During his three seasons in purple and black the player formerly known as “The Missile” hauled in 191 passes for 2,819 yards and 18 scores after bouncing around from Minnesota to Miami to New Orleans.

Could Stallworth’s productivity mirror Ismail’s?

Could Marc Bulger effectively step in if Joe Flacco is ailing or failing?

Given their track record with similar players, the bet here is that the Ravens will find great value in no less than one of those fringe free agent signings.

Many in the media and certainly most fans get a bit overanxious when it comes to players assigned to the PUP list or those who fail the team’s conditioning test.  It’s important to distinguish between a physical and a conditioning test.

The Ravens coaching staff establishes a level of conditioning for each player. They are mindful of size, weight and the position of the player in shaping optimal conditioning levels. For instance the team would expect different results from a wide receiver than they would a defensive tackle and while the wide receiver may post better results than say Kelly Gregg, it’s their results measured against the bar set by the coaching staff for that player that is really the pass/fail qualifier.

Players in the past who flunked the conditioning tests yet went on to have productive seasons include Le’Ron McClain (a multi-flunky), Willis McGahee, Jason Brown and Dannell Ellerbe.

Something else to keep in mind…the Ravens didn’t even have such a conditioning test prior to John Harbaugh’s arrival.

Much ado has been made over the Bengals signing of Terrell Owens. On paper Cincinnati has a list of formidable passing weapons in Owens, Chad Ochocinco, Antonio Bryant and rookie TE Jermaine Gresham. Time will tell if this group can mesh and willingly accept equal distribution of the football. History has shown us that none of these wide receivers is very patient when it comes to not being “the guy.”

Count me among those who don’t think the group blends as well as the complementary trio of Ochocinco, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry.

Oh, and let’s not forget that despite supreme conditioning, T.O. is 36 years old.


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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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