OWINGS MILLS – Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs was fined $15,000 by the NFL for punching Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Jerome Simpson, according to a league spokesman.
Suggs punched Simpson after being driven to the ground by offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth and having his helmet knocked off.
Simpson was handing Suggs back his helmet when he got punched. Although Suggs wasn’t penalized on the play, he has now been punished by the league office
Suggs was fined for "striking an opponent. Specifically, after the play was over, he struck the opponent in the face."
Suggs acknowledged Sunday that he punched Simpson during the 13-7 win over the Bengals.
"I was getting into it with him all day, exchanging words,” said Suggs, who has never registered a sack against Whitworth. “I could have cost my team. I’ve got to be better in that area. Luckily, I got away with one. Usually, I don’t get away with anything. They were too busy looking for the spot off the ball.”
What was said to anger Suggs?
“He kept saying Tom Brady was his favorite quarterback,” Suggs said with a laugh.
JIM HARBAUGH HIRED: Jim Harbaugh was hired by the San Francisco 49ers as their new head coach Friday, signing a five-year $25 million contract to bolt from Stanford to the NFL.
And the 49ers travel to M&T Bank Stadium next season where the former Ravens quarterback will square off against his older brother, Ravens coach John Harbaugh.
“The good news is there will be about 53 1/3 yards between us, so no one will have to watch that debacle at this stage,” John Harbaugh said during a Friday night conference call. “ We won’t be squaring off against each other in any way. The teams will be playing, but that will be fun. I have a feeling you’ll see two similarly-built football teams, very competitive. They’ll be getting after it pretty good, I’ve got a feeling.
Harbaugh expressed confidence that Jim Harbaugh will succeed where other former collegiate coaches have failed in the NFL, including Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier.
Jim Harbaugh was a successful quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears, earning the nickname, Captain Comeback.
“Jim played at this level,” Harbaugh said. “He played with great coaches, he’s been in different organizations. He understands pro players. He was one. He was in the locker room with the guys every single day. He’s just got a great sense of what motivates those guys, how those guys think and how to win.
"And the thing that’s interesting is he did it as a coach at the lowest level. He was willing to humble himself and get down in there and do the dirty work that sometimes the ex-players aren’t always willing to do. .. Obviously, they have some things to improve on, but he’s built for the job and I think he’s the right guy for the job.”
Harbaugh said he’s happy that Jim Harbaugh didn’t wind up in the AFC, which could have happened if the Miami Dolphins had been able to convince him to accept their proposal as a potential replacement for coach Tony Sparano. Harbaugh turned them down and the Dolphins are retaining Sparano.
“I am very happy that he’s not in the AFC,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll see him once every four years and the Super Bowls, right? Maybe we can find a way to get a couple of those. That’s a good thing.
“My mom will be very relieved that’s the case. They’ll have a tough time next year whenever they schedule that game. I don’t know if they’ll be able to quite make it or not. My dad said he’s just going to go take a walk during the game and not watch any of it, but I have a feeling they’ll watch it.”
As the sons of former college football coach Jack Harbaugh, Harbaugh said he and his brother grew up as extremely competitive and look forward to renewing that boyhood rivalry at football’s highest level.
“We shared the same bedroom for 18 years, so we’ve been wrestling for quite a long time,” Harbaugh said. “It’s been a while now, so it will be fun to get back at it in this way whenever that comes up. We’re not really competitive against each other professionally right now because we’re rooting for each other so much. We want to see each other do well. We’re probably competitive with each other. We help each other out a lot.
“I think we’ve shared a lot of ideas. I heard his press conference, and it sounded like a lot of the things I talk to my team about. Things that we share back and forth. I think we have the same basic foundation. We’ll compete in golf every now and then. We haven’t seen each other lately. The last couple of years, it seems like we haven’t gotten together to have too many games of H.O.R.S.E. or anything. Maybe we’ll find a way to do that this summer.”
INJURY UPDATES: Three Pro Bowl defenders are questionable for the Ravens for Sunday’s wild-card playoff game.
Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (right knee), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (thigh) and free safety Ed Reed (ribs) are questionable for Baltimore, but all three players are expected to start.
Suggs said he got cut block in the first quarter against the Bengals when he hurt his knee.
"I think it’s been good for them," Harbaugh said of the rest. "I feel good about them. I’m excited about them. I like Ngata and Suggs a lot. I’m big fans of theirs. No, I think we’ll be okay."
Suggs joked about being a game-time decision due to the knee injury, but he’s actually not.
Suggs and Ngata returned to practice Friday after being held out Wednesday and Thursday, but were limited.
"I feel alright," Suggs said. "I thought I’d practice and see how it is, see how I felt. But right now it’s about 50/50. I guess I’m going to let coach decide what to do come Sunday."
Also listed as questionable: inside linebackers Tavares Gooden (dislocated left shoulder) and Dannell Ellerbe (shoulder stinger), cornerback Josh Wilson (left shoulder stinger) and safety Tom Zbikowski (bulging disc in his back).
Inside linebacker Jameel McClain (back) participated fully and is probable as well as wide receivers Derrick Mason (ankle, abs) and David Reed (torn left wrist ligament), center Matt Birk (left knee) and offensive tackle Michael Oher (sprained right knee, ankle).
Oher said his health has improved markedly and he expects to play in Sunday’s AFC wild-card playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
"I’m good," Oher said. "I’m ready to go, great week of practice. Got a lot better, ready to get out there Sunday."
Several players were nursing injuries this week due to injuries suffered against the Bengals.
"It wasn’t a very physical week of practice at all," Harbaugh said. "It was a physical game against the Bengals. I think we understand where we’re at this time of year and what we’re trying to get accomplished. I think you try to use common sense.
“Different guys are in different places with what they have to get done, tweaks they might have or just trying to get guys as ready as they can be. It’s a long season, lot of practices, a lot of real physical games. We prepared really hard. I think our guys had a great week and we’ll be ready to play on Sunday."
The Chiefs removed wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (illness) from the injury report.
Offensive guard Brian Waters (illness) and wide receiver Quinten Lawrence (illness) are probable.
TOUGH ASSIGNMENT: There aren’t many more formidable pass rushers in the game than aggressive Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali.
Hali never stops chasing and combines size, speed, toughness and moves.
He ranks second in the NFL with 14 ½ sacks.
And his attitude might be his best trait.
“His pursuit to the ball is relentless, no matter where the ball is at,” offensive tackle Marshal Yanda said. “If it’s the quarterback, he’s coming full speed. If it’s a pass downfield, he turns and cuts and he’s going 100 miles per hour. He gives his best every play.
“He’s flying around. He’s a damn good player. He could play here. They would love him here. Any team would love a guy who plays like that. He’s relentless. He never jogs. He’s wide open all over the place.”
Only Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware registered more sacks than Hali with 15 1/2 .
Offensive tackle Michael Oher will draw this assignment for the majority of the game, but Hali is prone to flipping sides or lining up at inside linebacker occasionally.
“The guy goes after the ball nonstop,” Oher said. “He has all the tools. He’s a great player.”
A fifth-year pro from Penn State, Hali also forced four fumbles this season.
Yanda said he plays the game like his hair’s on fire.
“He’s got the speed and he’s got the moves,” Yanda said. “He’ll run upfield. He’ll bull rush you. He’s got that inside rip. He’s got all the moves and the tools.”
The Ravens allowed quarterback Joe Flacco to be sacked four times against the Bengals.
Hali is better than anyone rushing the passer for the Bengals.
"He’s impressive," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "He does an outstanding job. He’s an impact player. You don’t get that many sacks by accident. We’ll have to zero in on him.
“You obviously double him, but you can’t double a guy like that all the time, as many of the things they do. So, when you’re single-blocked on him, block him. That’s a big challenge for us."
At 6-foot-3, 275 pounds, Hali is a grinding, intimidating presence.
And he has had a breakthrough seasons.
"Tamba Hali is a technician," Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson said. "He’s a guy that studies a lot, and every game he’s rushing the passer like a dog. My hat’s off to him. We need Tamba. Tamba is a guy that’s been a big part of our success this year."
The Ravens will probably employ tight end Todd Heap and their running backs as chip-blockers to try to impede Hali from hitting Flacco.
"We have to know where he is," Heap said. "He switches sides sometimes, and so we’ll be aware of where Hali is all the time.
“He’s one of the sack leaders in the NFL this year, so obviously he’s been performing and had a great season so far. We’re going to have to make sure we know where he is and what he likes to do and know how to combat him."
HOUSHMANDZADEH ALONG FOR THE RIDE: For veteran Ravens wide receiver T.J. Houshamdzadeh, this is an unusual experience.
Usually, he’s ready to watch the playoffs as soon as the season ends.
This year, he’s part of the postseason.
In his first season in Baltimore, Houshmandzadeh is preparing for his second career playoff game.
“I’m sure it’s going to be fun," Houshmandzadeh said. "You’re the only game on TV and everybody’s watching. I know when I’m at home I plan my day around the playoffs, making sure I’m up in time if it’s an early game. So we’ve just got to go play well. There’s no more second chances."
Signed by the Ravens after being cut by the Seattle Seahawks, Houshmandzadeh grew accustomed to playing on losing teams with the Cincinnati Bengals for most of his career.
This season, he has had to adjust to a complementary role as the Ravens’ third receiver.
Houshmandzadeh caught only 30 passes for 398 yards and three touchdowns this season.
After griping to anyone who would listen for several weeks, Houshmandzadeh has grudgingly accepted his role.
“I don’t know where I fit,” he said. “Sunday, we’ll answer that together. I’ll know Sunday and everybody else will know.
“I don’t go into the games anymore expecting anything. I’m going to just bust my butt regardless of if I’m getting the ball or not, because if we don’t win I got a long time to rest anyway."
A former Pro Bowl selection with the Bengals, Houshmandzadeh caught 112 passes for 1,143 yards during the 2007 season.
Houshmandzadeh, 33, ranks fifth on the team has catches, but has made an impact with a game-winning touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I’m just dying to do anything,” Houshmandzadeh said. “Vertical, horizontal, it doesn’t matter,. Just make some plays, have some fun. At this point, I’m being honest. It doesn’t matter. I just want to do my part, period."
MUTUAL ADMIRATION: Ed Reed is one of the top safeties in the game as an instinctive former NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
And rookie Chiefs safety Eric Berry emulates his game.
The first-round draft pick from Tennessee has recorded 126 tackles, four interceptions, 13 pass deflections, two sacks and one forced fumble.
“I see growth in him,” Reed said. “I see he’s growing throughout the year. He’s making plays – had a very impressive interception he returned a couple weeks ago. I was screaming at the TV for him. I’m definitely rooting for him, too.
“I talked to him when he was in college before he came out. I’ve never met him, personally, so it’ll be interesting to meet him this week, being that it’s going to be in the playoffs in his first playoff game. So, it’s going to be fun.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he wouldn’t compare Reed to Berry, saying the young safety’s game is distinctive on its own merits.
“I think he stands on his own two feet without comparing him to anybody else,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a young guy who was all over the field at Tennessee, and he’s playing the same way at Kansas City. When a guy transfers those skills from college to the NFL, it’s probably what you look for in a draft pick, and he’s done that very well.”
QUICK HITS: The Ravens used simulated crowd noise during practice this week to try to prepare for the noisy conditions at Arrowhead Stadium. “We had it up pretty loud,” Harbaugh said. “It was loud. I can tell you that.” … Harbaugh said the Chiefs’ schemes are very similar to the New England Patriots. Offensive and defensive coordinators Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel both held those same positions with the Patriots in the past before being hired this year by Todd Haley. “It’s basically the same defense, structure-wise, and it’s pretty much the same offense, structure-wise,” Harbaugh said. “Although, you see a lot of different things in their offense. They’ve got the Charlie Weis influence. Todd has got a lot of influence in there. They do different things that build around their personnel real well.”