Slow Your Roll On Pitta, Won't Save Offense
The excitement in Baltimore is palpable.
After losing a five-hour long, heartbreaking game in a nasty Chicago storm and dropping to 4-6 Sunday, the news of tight end Dennis Pitta returning to practice has infused new hope in Charm City. Count me among the many Ravens spectators that are optimistic Pitta could be a catalyst in turning around the offense.
But ESPN's Jamison Hensley is saying sloooooooow your roll. His message: While Pitta will help the offense, he will not save it.
"[T]he Ravens offense isn't one player away from becoming the same offense from last season's playoffs," the blogger wrote. "The problem for the Ravens is there are more issues than the tight end position."
While Pitta provides a "significant upgrade" over Ed Dickson and Dallas Clark, according to Hensley, he won't "fix" the struggling rushing attack (ranked 27th) or the pass protection, and he won't "suddenly" turn around the 30th-ranked struggling offense.
Where Pitta will help is on third downs and in the red zone, plus he provides reliable hands, an area where Dickson has struggled. You can't underestimate the chemistry Pitta shares with quarterback Joe Flacco, who are close friends off the field.
"What Flacco has missed is that close rapport with a target," Hensley wrote.
There could be some intangible effects on the team too, much like the way Ray Lewis' return last season served as an inspiration on the way to the Ravens' Super Bowl run. And while Pitta is not Lewis in terms of leadership, look at the way receiver Torrey Smith greeted Pitta on the field yesterday (mobile users tap "View in Broswer"). The smile on Flacco's face and other teammates was obvious.
"When Pitta is ready to suit up for a game, he will provide a boost to a struggling offense, much like Ray Lewis' return gave a lift to the defense last season," Hensley wrote.
Still, slow your roll. Remember, Pitta and his rehabbed hip hasn't taken a hit in nearly four months.
"He's the best tight end the Ravens have on their roster. He isn't an answer to all of the Ravens' problems on offense," Hensley wrote.
"But it's a start in the right direction."
Will Pitta Play vs. Jets?
That was the top question to Pitta and Head Coach John Harbaugh yesterday.
But there was no clear answer.
Pitta wouldn't rule out the possibility of playing against the Jets, but "he sounded like a man who understands that it might take a while before he's ready to play," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec.
The Ravens have a three-week window to decide whether to activate Pitta to the 53-man roster or put him on injured reserve for good. Pitta said on several occasions that he will "take it slow" and he wants to play at "an elite level."
"We'll see how the next few weeks go, and see how I progress and how I'm doing on the field," the pending free agent said. "So I'm not sure as of right now of that timetable."
Luke Jones, what say you? You have a prediction?
"A return for next week's game against Pittsburgh or a Week 14 contest against Minnesota might be more realistic," the WNST reporter wrote, "but the Ravens haven't hesitated to quickly activate players coming off injuries in the past such as outside linebacker Terrell Suggs last year and inside linebacker Jameel McClain last month."
Ooooff! Strong Words For Ray Lewis
"You're just another ex-jock, hotdog analyst running your mouth and grandstanding with your credit card."
That was just one message David Zurawik, the TV critic for The Baltimore Sun,* *had for Ravens retired linebacker Ray Lewis.
What's got Zurawik all riled up?
He didn't like Lewis' rant on national television about the flag for 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks, who inflicted the neck-stretching hit on Drew Brees' Sunday. The penalty has been questioned and debated incessantly, and Lewis was so upset that he took out his American Express card and said he would pay half of Brooks' fine if he was indeed fined.
But Zurawik isn't upset with Lewis' opinion on the penalty; it's that Lewis made himself part of the story.
"With that act, he interjected himself into the story as a participant," Zurawik wrote. "An analyst is not a participant. Look it up, Ray. Look it up, ESPN.
"This is what blowhards in a bar do when they have had too much to drink – wave around their credit cards, act like big shots and say crazy, bluster-butt stuff."
Sheesh. He's not done.
"This is just a crazy babble rant – the kind of stuff Lewis said all the time in Baltimore – and we acted like he was some Old Testament prophet who just came in from the desert after getting the sacred word from a burning bush. No more burning bush, Ray."
There's more, but you get the idea.
On another note, league rules prohibit others from paying fines for those that are penalized, per ProFootballTalk.com's Mike Florio. But Florio notes that it becomes "impossible" for the NFL to determine where the money comes from.* *
Reed's Entertaining Phone Call
Baltimore reporters were thoroughly entertained by their conference call with Ed Reed yesterday.
"The Ed Reed conf call today was a classic... Dude was funny," tweeted CSNBaltimore.com's Brent Harris.
"That candid conference call kind of makes me miss covering Ed Reed every day. I'm sure that feeling will soon pass. #EdReedRetirementWatch," added The Sun's Matt Vensel.
What was so great about the call?
Reed was just being honest with his thoughts, which you rarely see in professional sports.
It began with Reed throwing his former Texans Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips under that bus and accusing him of being the main reason why things didn't work out in Houston. Their last conversation together was brief.
"He came and basically just made sure I was leaving," Reed said. "Honestly, out of all the people he's probably the guy, the reason why I'm not there."
Reed has admitted that he's not the player he used to be, but said that wasn't the reason he didn't* *succeed with the Texans. Was the defense just a bad fit?
"That defense is not a good fit for a lot of people who's still down there," Reed said. "It wasn't just about me. My comments were not just about me. Obviously, that's why I'm not there anymore, because some people felt some type of way about what I said. The truth is the truth. They know I know. People might feel a certain way, like Ed didn't do things on the football field. But you got to look at the play calling. You got to put your players in position to make plays."
Despite all the turmoil in Texas, the future Hall of Famer still has a sense of humor …
"[T]hey're looking for every reason to put everything on Ed Reed," he said. "That's funny. That's funny to me, and it's kind of funny that I'm speaking in the third person about that."
Flacco 'Owns Up'
MASN's Josh Land noticed that Harbaugh wouldn't "publicly admonish" Flacco for his role in the Ravens' turnover struggles this season. The sixth-year quarterback has already notched a career single-season high of 13 interceptions.
"I don't ever get into all that in the public forum," Harbaugh said of Flacco's recent pick-six. "Those things are all addressed very aggressively in-house in our meeting room. And our guys take responsibility, and there is accountability, and it's never one thing. But that's how we do it. So we all need to be better. We need to collectively be better."
While Harbaugh wouldn't call out Flacco (and why would he? Keeping it in house is the right thing), Hensley noted that Flacco owned up to the mistakes himself yesterday, saying it's "annoying" that he's thrown so many turnovers.
"You can think Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco isn't worthy of his big-time contract," Hensley wrote. "You can believe Flacco isn't an elite quarterback.
"What you can't knock the NFL's $120.6 million quarterback for is a lack of accountability for the defending Super Bowl champions' disappointing season. It's something a quarterback down the interstate should learn from Flacco."
- Once again, no Hall of Fame for Art Modell this year. "Modell, perhaps the most controversial finalist last year, didn't make the semifinalist list for the Class of 2014, which was announced Tuesday night," Hensley wrote. "The biggest roadblock for Modell remains his relocation of the Browns to Baltimore in 1996. There are four owners in the Hall of Fame who have moved their franchises: Dan Reeves (Rams), Al Davis (Raiders), Lamar Hunt (Chiefs) and George Preston Marshall (Redskins)." [ESPN]
- The Ravens' focus may be on confusing rookie quarterback Geno Smith [The Baltimore Sun]
- @jeffzrebiecsun: Terrell Suggs on Geno Smith: "He's definitely a quarterback with the potential to either win the game for them or give it away." [Twitter]
- Dierdorff has called many a Ravens games … @JasonLaCanfora: Congrats and best wishes to Dan Dierdorff, who announced after 43yrs in the game as a player and broadcaster he will retire after the season [Twitter]
- @mzenitz: Former Ravens RB Bobby Rainey, now with TB, was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week. He ran for 163 yards and two TDs. Also caught a TD [Twitter]
- The Ravens are falling behind their opponents in turnover differential. [The Baltimore Sun]
- @PMGleason [Ravens PR]: Indeed, as Coach Harbaugh said yesterday re: the NFL, "razor-thin margin." [Twitter]