Stokley Announces Plans To Retire
Brandon Stokley's NFL career finished where it started.
The Ravens veteran slot receiver announced Thursday in an interview with the Denver Post that he will retire following a season-ending concussion that landed him on injured reserve Dec. 10.
"I'm glad I played this year because now I know I'm done," Stokley said. "Had I not played this year I would have always felt I could have kept playing. I still know I can play but my body just can't go through it anymore."
Stokley, 37, retires after a 15-year career that began when the Ravens drafted him in the fourth round of the 1999 draft. Ravens fans best remember Stokley for his 38-yard touchdown pass to begin the rout over the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV.
After spending his first four seasons with the Ravens, Stokley then played for the Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, New York Giants and Seattle Seahawks before returning to Baltimore this year.
His return to the Ravens did not go as well as he hoped, as the 2012 season was plagued with injuries. A groin injury held him out most of the year and then the concussion ended his season in Week 14. Stokley finished the year with 13 catches for 115 yards.
"It's just time," Stokley said about his decision to retire. "I realized this year was a tough year with a lot of injuries, and I'm not getting any younger. At some point you have to realize that it's time to move on."
The dependable receiver ends his career with 379 receptions for 5,339 yards and 39 touchdowns. He is one of just 18 receivers in NFL history to play at least 15 seasons in the league.
"I think Brandon was the best teammate I ever had," Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning said to the Post.
Part of Stokley's decision to retire was the fact that he has dealt with a number of concussions throughout his career. Some reports indicate that the latest concussion was his 13th, and he said he is still feeling the effects from the hit that ended his season three weeks ago.
For more of the interview with Stokley, watch the video below produced by the Denver Post. (Mobile users, tap the "View in Browser" button at the top of the page).
Expect Suggs, Dumervil To Go Out With A Bang
Coming into the season, reporters predicted that outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil would break the franchise record for most sacks (24) between two players in a single season.
They started out strong, but have quieted in recent weeks. They have 19.5 sacks between them, and would need a big day against Cincinnati Sunday to get close to the mark.
The Baltimore Sun’s Matt Vensel expects them to make a push for it and go out with a bang against the Bengals.
"The Ravens had five sacks against the Bengals in Week 10, including three from Dumervil, so I expect Suggs and Dumervil to make one last run at the record but ultimately fall short," Vensel wrote.
Pressure on Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton could help the secondary, and Vensel also expects cornerback Jimmy Smith to have another strong day against dynamic receiver A.J. Green.
"Green will get his catches and might score a touchdown, but Smith and the Ravens won't let him top 100 receiving yards like they did in their win seven weeks ago," Vensel wrote.
Future Of Offensive Line
The offensive line has been a hot topic throughout the season in Baltimore.
The group has gone through significant transition– acquiring left tackle Eugene Monroe and trading away Bryant McKinnie, losing left guard Kelechi Osemele to a back injury, and replacing veteran center Matt Birk with Gino Gradkowski – and the results have not been as positive as the Ravens wanted.
Improving the line will be at the top of the priority list this offseason, wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
"I believe the two areas that need to change are right tackle and center," Hensley said.
Right tackle Michael Oher is in the final year of his contract and is expected to test the free-agent market. Hensley thinks that Oher's tenure in Baltimore is coming to a close and could also see the Ravens bringing in another center.
"The Ravens likely won't re-sign Oher in free agency after another inconsistent season, and they probably have seen enough out of center Gino Gradkowski to know he isn't the long-term replacement for Matt Birk," Hensley wrote.
Monroe is also an unrestricted free agent this offseason, but the expectation is that the Ravens will make a push to re-sign him to a long-term deal. The other issue for the line is the status of Osemele, who underwent back surgery after the injury bothered him for the first quarter of the year before he was shut down. He was a totally different player when he was healthy.
With so many questions about the line heading into the offseason, the bottom line for Hensley is that something has to change.
"The Ravens have to do something to open more holes in the running game and provide better protection for quarterback Joe Flacco," he wrote.
Week 17 Picks: Ravens vs. Bengals
The Ravens' postseason all comes down to this Sunday. They need to beat the Bengals to give themselves the best chance of returning to the playoffs for the sixth straight season.
But the experts don't like the odds of it happening.
Las Vegas has the Ravens as a six-point underdog, and just nine of 41 media members sampled below expect the Baltimore to pull off the upset in Cincinnati.
**The Baltimore Sun**: 3 of 7 pick the Ravens
Jeff Zrebiec (Bengals 26, Ravens 20) The Ravens' season and their five-year playoff run officially ends against an opponent that has been better and more consistent all year. The Bengals don't want to see the Ravens in the first round of the postseason, and they'll make sure they won't.
Matt Vensel (Ravens 26, Bengals 24) The Bengals are hot at home, but the Ravens have always found a way to win games like this under John Harbaugh. But can they get the help they need elsewhere to get in the playoffs?
**Pro Football Talk**: 1 of 2 pick the Ravens
Mike Florio (Ravens 20, Bengals 17): The Bengals need a win and some help in order to secure the No. 2 seed. The Ravens need a win and some help to extend their streak of playoff appearances to six. While the Bengals are unbeaten at home, the Ravens have the greater incentive and enough talent to capitalize.
**CBS Sports, Pete Prisco**(Bengals 24, Ravens 17):
The Bengals have a chance to get to the second seed if the Bills beat the Patriots. That means they will play hard. And wouldn't they like to knock their division rival out of the playoffs? The Ravens were awful last week against the Patriots. Can they bounce back? Not in this stadium where the Bengals are 7-0.
**Sporting News, Vinnie Iyer**(Bengals 23, Ravens 20)
When this game kicks off, the Bengals can still get the AFC's No. 2 seed over New England. That's bad news for up-and-down Baltimore, battling to punch a ticket for its Super Bowl defense. Don't expect Cincy, 7-0 at home, to give in to its division rivals when Cincinnati has a chance to deliver the knockout punch.
**FoxSports.com, Peter Schrager**(Ravens 24, Bengals 20)
I can't give up on the defending champs in Week 17. I don't know how, but I don't see Joe Flacco and Haloti Ngata and the rest of the Ravens veterans leaving Cincinnati with a loss on Sunday.
**ESPN.com**: 2 of 13 picks the Ravens**YahooSports.com**: 0 of 1 picks the Ravens**USA Today**: 1 of 7 picks the Ravens**CBSSports.com**: 1 of 8 picks the Ravens
- Improved secondary has another tough test against A.J. Green and the Cincinnati Bengals [The Baltimore Sun]
Check out a young Ravens safety James Ihedigbo… Look at those old school shoulder pads! [Instagram] * Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame outfielder Paul Blair passed away Thursday at the age of 69. Blair spoke to this year's Ravens rookie class about what it takes to become a professional. @Haloti_Ngata92: "Condolences to the Paul Blair family and the Oriole family. May god be with you." [Twitter] * Wide receiver Torrey Smith is approaching the Ravens’ single-season franchise record for receiving yards, but he still thinks he could do more. [The Baltimore Sun] * Getting a kick out of Justin Tucker. Check out this feature on the Ravens kicker that ran in the Washington Post this week. [Washington Post] * This is pretty cool: The Dallas Cowboys signed 41-year-old quarterback Jon Kitna, who is currently a high school math teacher. The long-time NFL quarterback was picked up after the injury to starter Tony Romo, and Kitna said that he will donate his week’s salary of $53,000 back to the high school where he teaches and coaches. [Sports Illustrated] * ESPN's Mark Schlereth and Jeff Saturday give their take on Sunday's Ravens-Bengals game as part of NFL Live. [ESPN.com]