Kruger, or 'White Lightening,' Compared To Jared Allen
Safety Bernard Pollard dished out major props yesterday to teammate Paul Kruger, or as Pollard likes to call him, "White Lightening."
Kruger had a slow start to the season, but has notched four sacks in the last three games. He now leads the team with 5.5 sacks. The pass rusher's power was on display Sunday when he knocked Chargers tackle Jeromey Clary back with a blow to the chest and sacked quarterback Philip Rivers.
Pollard compared Kruger to his former teammate (in Kansas City in 2006 and 2007) and one of the league's premier pass rushers, Vikings defensive end Jared Allen. Allen notched a NFL-high 22 sacks last year.
"I told [Kruger] he reminds me a lot of Jared Allen," Pollard said, per The Carroll County Time's Matt Zenitz. "I was in Kansas City with Jared. Jared is a bigger body than Kruger, but very similar with the hands, with the feet. Both are very smart players.
"Krug is capable of going out there and doing big things."
Harbaugh Held 'Open Mic,' Invited Player Challenges
It all started on Halloween morning in the Ravens auditorium, when players were informed they would be practicing in full pads later that afternoon.
The team had just returned from a few days of bye-week rest and was fresh off the worst loss in the John Harbaugh era, a 43-13 beatdown from the Houston Texans. With team leader Ray Lewis at home in Florida, other Ravens veterans, including Ed Reed and Pollard, challenged Harbaugh's practice announcement.
But instead of prescribing to an old-school, dictatorship-like coaching style, Harbaugh welcomed the feedback and even asked for more criticism. Soon, the conversation turned to the head coach's treatment of players and perceived mood swings, according to Yahoo! Sports.
"It was practically a mutiny," one unnamed Ravens player told Michael Silver. "It came very close to getting out of control. But the way Coach Harbaugh handled it was amazing. He let people have their say, and he listened, and he explained himself, and pretty soon it was like a big group-therapy session. In the end, a lot of positive things were said. We didn't practice in pads, but we came out of there stronger as a group."
A Ravens assistant (another unnamed source), who was observing the meeting, said this about the exchange: "I've never seen a head coach handle anything like that as well as he did. There were some things said where we were like, 'Damn.'
"A lot of coaches would have acted like dictators and been very sensitive about the way their authority was being questioned. John said, 'Hey, let's talk about this.' He showed great leadership. Instead of worrying that it would make him seem weak, he turned it into a strength."
Silver reported that the open session included a proposed shift to a no-huddle offense, Harbaugh's demeanor and his overly critical comments. The coach asked for examples, apologized for things said in the heat of the moment, and was even big enough to admit when he was wrong.
With a team full of strong-willed and vocal players like Lewis, Reed, Pollard, Terrell Suggs, Anquan Boldin and others, Harbaugh's ability to tolerate feedback and then evolve has been key to the Ravens' winning record (53-22) the past four and a half seasons. Silver says Harbaugh is secure enough with himself to handle the unique coaching environment in Baltimore.
"Well, I don't know about [being] secure enough or anything like that, but I think it's really important to let them be them," Harbaugh told Silver. "And to me, the more I'm able to give them leadership, the stronger that we all are together, as leaders."
Harbaugh's openness and security extended beyond his players, as he openly talked with Silver about the contentious Halloween moment.
"I wasn't threatened by it," Harbaugh said. "That's the main thing. And, you know, they had some good points, and I had some good points. Other guys stood up and said some great things. To me, it embodied everything that you should have on a team.
"The point was that, we have what I call 'Open Mic,' and we can all say anything that we need to say and have to say. You know then that you're responsible — when you say it, everybody's gonna hear it, so you'd better make it your best stuff.
"That brings out the best. Otherwise, it's 'Why are they sneaking around talking behind corners?' You know what I mean? If you've got something, you put it right out here in front of me. I'm man enough to handle it. If you're right, then you're right! It's OK to be right. But more important it's OK to be wrong. And it's OK for me to be wrong, too."
Ravens-Steelers II Doesn't Have Same Feeling
Something is different about this week's game against the bitter rival Pittsburgh Steelers.
Rage, pride, joy and bitterness – all typical emotions of during Ravens-Steelers week – seem to be missing, says The Baltimore Sun's Kevin Cowherd.
Cowherd says part of the missing emotions has to do with the Ravens three-game lead over the Steelers and their stranglehold on the division.
"Let's face it, you don't get the usual Armageddon-like buildup if one team can lose and simply shrug and say: 'OK, no worries. We're still good. Where we going for beers?'" the columnist wrote.
The other problem is that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could be absent again, and the chances of Pittsburgh pulling out a win without their MVP are low.
The Ravens were repeatedly asked yesterday about the perceived difference in emotion this time around, but they insisted their dominant 9-2 record and the Steelers injuries don't change a thing.
Running back Ray Rice said this team's a "[ticked] off 9-2" and the rivalry never changes regardless of who is suited up. "[The Steelers] are who they are," he said.
"Not if Roethlisberger can't go and they start third-string quarterback Charlie Batch, who is the equivalent of 72 years old in NFL years," Cowherd countered.
"The way things are shaping up, there's a good chance they'll be 10-2 by Sunday evening."
Ravens Never Got A Chance For Babin
We knew the Ravens' only shot to get two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Babin, who was released by the Philadelphia Eagles this week, was if he cleared waivers.
That didn't happen – not even close.
Babin was claimed by the Jacksonville Jaguars, who had the second-highest priority on the waiver wire. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, a whopping eight teams put in waiver claims for Babin.
If the Ravens were interested in adding the fierce pass rusher, they didn't even have a chance.
Pollard Says He Hasn't Gotten Fined Yet
Safety Bernard Pollard said he hasn't heard from the league about whether he will be fined for his hit on Chargers receiver Danario Alexander, per The Baltimore Sun.
Pollard received a personal foul on the play for leading with his helmet, but replays show he clearly led with his shoulder. Players usually find out if they've been fined for a hit by Wednesday or Thursday, so a fine could still come.
"No, I haven't heard from the NFL," Pollard told Aaron Wilson. "I don't know what they're doing. I haven't been fined yet. It was a clean hit.
"We saw it, you guys could see it as well. That's not my concern. We're playing the Pittsburgh Steelers this week."
Clock Almost Ran Out On D. Reed
The clock nearly ran out on receiver/kick returner David Reed's attempt to return from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered last season.
If safety Anthony Levine hadn't been placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury and opened up a roster spot, Reed may never have been activated, according to Wilson.
"I would have been on injured reserve," Reed told Wilson. "It was right there down to the last minute. … Man, it's a blessing. I'm so grateful to be back out there again. I got a few games to go. Hopefully, I can do a little bit. I'm a football player, I'm going to go out there and give it 110 percent."
- @jasonbuttcbs: CB Jimmy Smith (sports hernia surgery) has once again been ruled out for Sunday's game against Pittsburgh. [Twitter]
- @profootballtalk: Also, it's not completely ridiculous to wonder whether Jason Babin huffs and puffs and threatens not to report to the Jags. [Twitter]
- @ravens: Mike Tomlin was asked if Steelers have plans to "unleash hell" on Sunday: "No, we're just going to stick to playing football." [Twitter]
- Ed Dickson says his knee injury could have been a lot worse. He's relieved there was no ligament damage, and badly wants to play against the Steelers. [The Baltimore Sun]
- With a win against the Steelers Sunday, the Ravens will set a new NFL record with 13-straight wins against division foes. It would be the league's longest streak since the 2002 division realignment. [ESPN]
- Jah Reid is fighting to keep his new starting job at left guard. [CBSSports.com]
- In no particular order, Peter Schmuck lists the 10 greatest plays in Ravens history. [The Baltimore Sun]