Governor Hogan Calls On Ravens Players For Help
As cleanup crews, non-violent protestors and an overall more peaceful tone took over the streets of Baltimore Tuesday, there is still work to be done.
As such, just before 9 p.m. Tuesday night, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan took to Twitter to make a plea for help from 43 various groups and individuals, including athletes, sports franchises, news outlets, government leaders and bands.
Among those on the list was the Ravens organization, Joe Flacco, Ray Lewis, Justin Forsett and Justin Tucker.
The call for help came from more than just the Governor's office. Former Ravens linebacker and special teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo said the White House called him and requested that he gather athletes together to help spread a message of peace and non-violence.
"There has to be a voice of reason. If you're not going to listen to the local government, you might listen to an athlete," Ayanbadejo said. "So that's why the White House called people like myself. They had me assemble Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Torrey Smith and have these guys go out there and take to your Instagram, take to your social media. Tell people they're not doing the right thing by going there and causing violence. By looting and by causing fires and doing the things that we see out there. It's overshadowing all the good things people are doing in Baltimore."
Prior to government officials' requests, several Ravens players had already taken to social media to promote calm and urge rioters not to destroy the city. Others, like linebacker Kapron Lewis-Moore in the Instagram video below, went into the city Tuesday afternoon to promote "positive vibes." The Ravens organization cancelled their draft party for Thursday night out of respect to the* *week-long city curfew.
Lewis has cancelled his plans to cover the NFL Draft as an ESPN analyst Thursday night, saying it was more important to stay in Baltimore and help mend "the city I love." He also posted an impassioned speech on Facebook.
"Baltimore get off the streets. Kids, go home. Stay home," he said. "You don't have no right to do what you're doing to this city. Too many hard-working people built this city. We put this city together. We put this city on our back. We're with you. We know what's going on. We know the problems. We know there was wrong done. We know we're not getting the right justice. We know all these answers. But rioting in our streets is wrong – it's dead wrong."
This isn't the beginning or the end to Lewis and other Ravens' contributions. Several players have been working in the community for years and will continue.
In the FoxSports.com video below, Ayanbadejo discusses what the role for athletes is during times of social unrest. Ayanbadejo and Kirk Morrison believe that sometimes the best impact they can have is through personal relationships with individuals that are created one at a time.
Ravens Compare Cornerbacks To Pitchers
As the NFL Draft nears, Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta explained that the re-signing of cornerback Jimmy Smith won't change the team's draft strategy.
The reason is because cornerbacks are just like pitchers.
"It's like pitchers in baseball, you can have as many as you want," DeCosta told WBAL Radio. "But you better have more than that because they're going to get injured and break down."
DeCosta and the Ravens will never forget how their cornerback depth was obliterated last season. Some would even argue that if there was more depth, the Ravens may have been able to fend off quarterback Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the divisional-round playoff game.
The Ravens repeatedly* *had to turn to a thin cornerback market after Smith suffered a Lisfranc sprain, Lardarius Webb dealt with a lingering back injury and Danny Gorrer, Asa Jackson and Aaron Ross all had season-ending injuries.
"We understand the importance of the position," DeCosta said. "With the passing game as such right now around the league and teams throwing for more and more yards, it's tough for defenses with all of the rules changes. It magnifies the importance of the cornerback position. It's something we feel really strongly about.
"So, we saw last year New England had success, their defense really improved because they had good corners. We got through the season and played well. Our guys did as well as we could given the circumstances with all of the injuries. But it's a priority to keep that position strong."
(Hat tip to ESPN's Jamison Hensley)
Ravens Don't Draft For Need, But Keep Eye On Future
When Haloti Ngata was traded to the Detroit Lions, it was no secret who would be the primary players to step up to help fill his shoes.
It was two youngsters the Ravens selected in the last two drafts: defensive tackle Brandon Williams (third-round pick, 2013) and Timmy Jernigan (second round, 2014). Having the next men ready to step up wasn't a coincidence.
That's just one example of how the Ravens try to look forward and prepare for the future. That's why The Baltimore Sun's Jon Meoli says that while Baltimore's brass doesn't draft by need per se, they do look at roster construction, salary-cap issues and free agency far in advance.
"Ravens officials often insist they do not draft based on immediate need. In many cases, however, a player drafted the previous offseason – with a year of experience in the team's system – was ready to step in the next season, giving the team the freedom to avoid drafting for need that year and put a rookie into a situation that's too big for him," wrote Meoli.
"That year of apprenticeship behind the outgoing veteran proves useful for several reasons, players and coaches said."
Meoli pointed out that in nearly every meaningful free-agency departure this offseason, there was already a drafted young player set to step in. Torrey Smith is gone, but Michael Campanaro was drafted last year. Owen Daniels is gone, but Crockett Gillmore was drafted last year. Darian Stewart left, but the secondary has Terrence Brooks. Rick Wagner was ready when Michael Oher left. And John Urschel is around in case either Kelechi Osemele or Marshal Yanda doesn't stick around after this year.
"The strategy isn't foolproof. For every Williams and Wagner, there are plenty of players who were groomed for bigger roles after their rookie seasons who never grew into starters," Meoli wrote.
"But in Williams and Wagner a year ago, and potentially Jernigan and others this coming season, the Ravens have had success in drafting for needs down the road. The returns on this season's draft class might not really be seen until 2016."