Inside the Ravens with Aaron Wilson

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Swapping Spit?

Last year, Walker got into a confrontation with Pittsburgh Steelers punter Mitch Berger.

Berger accused Walker of spitting in his mouth, which Walker denied ever happened.

Now, Berger is punting for the Broncos after being signed this week.

"I'm happy to see him," Walker said with a smile. "I'm happy he's coming to town. No, there's no hard feelings."

As for preparing for Berger, Rosburg said that the Ravens feel like they know him well after three games last season.

"Anytime there is change, you have to adjust when you see the game and see what the real picture is," Rosburg said. "So, there will be some conversations on the sidelines."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why did Josh McDaniels not interview with the Ravens?

When the Ravens were searching for a new head coach after firing Brian Billick two years ago, they sought permission from the New England Patriots to interview offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

The future coach of the undefeated Broncos declined the Ravens’ invitation, staying with the Patriots for one more season.

So, why didn’t McDaniels interview in Baltimore?

“The two reasons why it wasn’t really the right time for me was No. 1, the season that we were in required a lot of our time and we were putting a lot into it,” McDaniels said during a conference call with Baltimore reporters in reference to the Patriots’ undefeated regular season.

“We tried to finish it the way we wanted to. Secondly, this didn’t feel like I was as ready as I wanted to be to handle that kind of challenge.

“I didn’t know at the time how much more time I was going to need to feel like I was capable of doing it. I certainly didn’t feel like that was the perfect time for me and moved on, finished that season and tried to improve myself in that area when I could during the course of the offseason last year. I feel much better about it this year.”

The Ravens wound up hiring Harbaugh after interviewing him, Jim Caldwell, Tony Sparano, Rex Ryan, Jason Garrett and Brian Schottenheimer.

Gaither to be tested by NFL sack leader Dumervil

OWINGS MILLS -- The timing of Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Jared Gaither returning to the starting lineup from a serious neck injury couldn't be much better.

As the Ravens’ offensive line took the field Wednesday for blocking drills, Gaither lined up with the starters at his customary left tackle position.

The Ravens (3-3) will need Gaither to be at or near full strength Sunday against the undefeated Denver Broncos (6-0) at M&T Bank Stadium.

The Broncos feature NFL sacks leader Elvis Dumervil, a particularly dangerous, aggressive, undersized hybrid pass rusher in the mold of Pittsburgh Steelers star outside linebacker James Harrison.

"The Broncos are going to test everybody's pass protection, for sure," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Our pass protection has been good, but it needs to get better. What makes them good is they beat blocks one-on-one.

“They do a nice job of bull-rushing, and they do a nice job of getting on edges. They're relentless, they never stop and they've got some talented, fast guys."

After missing two games with a scary neck injury that caused him to be carted off the field Oct. 4 against the New England Patriots, Gaither is expected to start on the left side.

Stating that his neck is "pretty much 100 percent," Gaither added that he didn't expect any position change after speculation arose that he might be shifted to right tackle.

"I expect to be back where I left off," Gaither said.

On Monday, Harbaugh declined to specify whether Gaither would play left or right tackle.

In Gaither's absence, rookie first-round pick Michael Oher started at left tackle against the Cincinnati Bengals and the Minnesota Vikings.

Now, Oher is going back to his normal right tackle spot.

"Jared looks great," Oher said. "He's been working hard to come back. He looks like the old Gaither to me."

When asked if he thought he would return to right tackle, Oher replied: "Of course. Why not?"

Against the Broncos, both Gaither and Oher figure to be tested by Dumervil.

The speedy outside linebacker leads the NFL with 10 sacks.

Dumervil is tied as the second-fastest player to reach 10 sacks since it became an official NFL statistic in 1982, matching former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan's total for six games in 2001.

"He's an explosive player, a great player," Oher said. "He has a high motor."

The Broncos lead the NFL in scoring defense (11.0 points) and third-down percentage (26.9 percent).

Dumervil has registered seven sacks on third downs. And he had four sacks against the Cleveland Browns.

He’s on pace to match Strahan’s NFL record of 22 ½ sacks.

“I just try to be a guy who is relentless and is trying to play for four quarters,” Dumervil said in a conference call with Baltimore reporters. “I just go hard and play all out, just try to be disruptive.”

Mobile and elusive, Dumervil plays with a low center of gravity at 5-foot-11, 248 pounds.

With a stocky build, he appears even shorter than his listed height.

Because of how former Ravens’ defensive coordinator Mike Nolan moves Dumervil around the line of scrimmage in the Broncos’ aggressive 3-4 set, the Ravens may need to employ some chip-blocking assistance on the NFL Defensive Player of the Year contender.

“I played against Elvis Dumervil in college,” running back Ray Rice said. “He’s doing more now than he was doing in college. He was just a straight end in college. He’s a linebacker in their defense. You definitely have to be aware of that guy.”

One week after contending with the pass-rushing moves of Minnesota Vikings star defensive end Jared Allen and two weeks after Oher stonewalled Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Antwan Odom, here comes Dumervil.

“Their relentlessness is the same,” Harbaugh said in a reference to Allen and Dumervil. “These two guys are just fiercely relentless pass rushers, but the pass rush moves, tempo, the styles are completely different.

“I’d compare him more to Harrison probably in Pittsburgh. He’s the same kind of pass rusher. Jared Allen is kind of a big, long, rangy guy. Elvis is more of a power-paced kind of a guy, a little lower built to the ground, gains leverage, more of a spin guy sometimes.”

For the season, the Ravens have allowed a respectable 10 sacks.

That has allowed quarterback Joe Flacco to have sufficient time to complete 64.4 percent of his throws for 1,674 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions with a 93.8 quarterback rating.

“One of the main goals of a defense is to put pressure on the quarterback, you know, make him feel uncomfortable,” Flacco said. “It’s the job of a good quarterback to overcome that. It’s the job of a good offensive line to overcome that.

“And that’s what we’ll do as an offense. Our receivers will get open on the outside and give me a chance to get back there and get the ball out of my hands.”

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Homecoming for Matt Birk, P. Williams directs smack towards Ravens

Six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk isn’t sure what it’s going to feel like when he returns to the Metrodome for the first time after leaving the Vikings during free agency.

“If I said no, I’d be lying,” Birk said in response to a question about whether it will feel strange on Sunday. “I don’t know what it’s going to feel like. I’ve never done it before. In a lot of ways, it’s another trip, but I guess in a lot of ways it’s not.”

The Harvard graduate isn’t just a former Viking. He’s a longtime St. Paul resident whose family remains in the Twin Cities.

“On my fifth birthday, we took a bunch of my friends to a Twins game,” Birk said when asked to recall his fondest memory of the Metrodome. “It’s true.”

He said he wasn’t sure if he’ll be cheered or booed.Birk will be tasked with blocking the Vikings’ Williams Wall, which consists of massive defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams.The return of Birk to Minnesota has received a lot of attention, at least in the Twin Cities. And Pat Williams, who’s an ornery sort, is tired of being asked about Birk.

"Everyone’s trying to make it a Birk thing, a Pat thing, but I don’t care," Williams told Minnesota reporters. "We don’t miss him around here. We don’t care about no [expletive] Baltimore or nothing. We’re on a mission. We’re worried about the Minnesota Vikings. That’s it."

Williams is also fed up with the assertion that the hard-hitting Ravens are going to push the Vikings around."I’m tired of people saying it’s going to be a physical game," Williams said. "Our team is physical. We’re the physical team."

And he guaranteed that running backs Ray Rice and Willis McGahee aren’t going to eclipse the century mark.“They got to show up, too,” he said. “We ain’t giving up no 100.”

Ravens Trade Talk

It’s regarded as a long shot that the Ravens will be involved in any serious trade discussions prior to Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline. However, Harbaugh didn’t completely rule it out.The Ravens have been the subject of speculation that they might deal a second-round draft pick and a fifth-round selection for Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, but there’s nothing concrete to the rumors.

“It’s so hard to anticipate activity,” Harbaugh said. “We work on a lot of things. I know Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta and Vince Newsome and those guys turn over every stone in every way they can to try to make our team better.

“I’m sure they’re looking at a lot of things right now. There are possibilities, but it’s so hard to make a trade in the NFL. You just don’t see it very often. It’s very rare.”