Five Ravens to Start Training Camp on PUP, But Also Notice Who's Not on the List
When it comes to the Ravens' injury outlook, the team is heading into training camp in much better shape than it did last year.
Not only did Baltimore avoid major injuries during offseason workouts (see Tavon Young and Dennis Pitta last year), but the reported list of players that will start camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list is encouraging. Perhaps even more encouraging are the players who are NOT on the list.
Below are the five players that will start camp on the sideline (they can come off the PUP at anytime), per ESPN, with a short outlook for each:
G Marshal Yanda (ankle): Yanda suffered the season-ending injury in Week 2 last year, which has given him plenty of time to heal. Putting Yanda on the PUP list was described by ESPN as a "precautionary measure." The website added: "The Ravens have been optimistic about Yanda being available at some point during training camp. Yanda has time to return because Baltimore is the first team to report to camp."
CB Jaylen Hill (knee): Seeing Hill on this list is not at all surprising because he suffered a knee injury in Week 16 last season, which was only about seven months ago.
LB Bam Bradley (ACL): Given the amount of time since Bradley's torn ACL (Week 2), the undrafted linebacker out of Pittsburgh could be nearing a return, but that's up to the team's medical staff and Head Coach John Harbaugh. Like the others, with an earlier start to training camp, there's no need to rush him back to the field.
TE Vince Mayle: Mayle missed several practices during the offseason, but the nature of the injury has not yet been disclosed.
WR Quincy Adeboyejo (leg): Adeboyejo wasn't expected to participate in camp after the second-year wide receiver had surgery in May.
Now for the more encouraging news: injured players from last season that won't start camp on PUP.
The most notable player is starting cornerback Jimmy Smith, who suffered an Achilles tear in December and already surprisingly participated in individual drills during minicamp in early June. It took just six months for him to return to the field.
Other injured players from last season that were not reportedly listed on the PUP, and therefore appear ready to participate in training camp, include quarterback Joe Flacco (back, suffered just before 2017 training camp), cornerback Tavon Young (knee, 2017 OTAs), defensive end Brent Urban (foot, Week 3), running back Kenneth Dixon (knee, just before last training camp), guards Alex Lewis (shoulder surgery, last offseason) and Nico Siragusa (knee, training camp), defensive end Carl Davis (reported shoulder surgery), defensive back Anthony Levine Sr. (foot, season-finale), linebacker Albert McClellan (knee, preseason) and receiver/returner Tim White (thumb, preseason).
Will Brandon Carr's Starting Streak Come to an End?
Most everyone knows about cornerback Brandon Carr's out-of-this world streak of never missing a game in his 10-year career.
Even more impressive is that he's never missed a start – even in Week 1 as a fifth-round rookie in 2008. His 160 consecutive starts are the longest active NFL streak among defensive players, and the second-longest among all NFL players only behind San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (192).
"However, Carr's role as a starter could come to an end once Jimmy Smith is fully recovered from the torn Achilles he sustained late last season," wrote Press Box's Bo Smolka. "Meanwhile, second-year cornerback Marlon Humphrey has established himself as a rising star after a strong rookie year.
"At times, the Ravens used Carr, Smith and Humphrey on the field together, but all three are best suited to play outside rather than in the slot. Ideally, the Ravens would probably like to start Humphrey and Smith outside, with Young as the starting slot corner. That would leave Carr, who turned 32 in May, coming off the bench, something that has never happened before."
Steelers and Le'Veon Bell Don't Reach Deal; Could Be Running Back's Last Year in Pittsburgh
Could this be the last season in which the Ravens have to worry about game-planning for Le'Veon Bell, perhaps the best running back in the league, twice a year while wearing gold and black?
Bell's agent thinks it could be.
The Pittsburgh Steelers failed to reach a long-term deal with their All-Pro back before Monday's deadline to sign franchise-tagged players. For the second consecutive year, Bell will play under his one-year franchise designation, and will become a free agent after this season.
"His intention was to retire as a Steeler," agent Adisa Bakari said in a statement obtained by NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. "But now that there's no deal, the practical reality is, this now likely will be Le'Veon's last season as a Steeler. … It became clear the Steelers wanted to pay the position, not the player."
The Steelers' final offer to Bell was for $70 million over the next five seasons ($30 million over the next two), according to Rapoport. That was an increase over the five-year, $60 million offer to Bell last offseason. Under the franchise tag, Bell will earn $14.5 million this year (the long-term offer averaged $14 million per year) with no safety net for the future if he gets injured.
Rapoport says in the video below that it's not just "agent speak" that Bell could move on from the Steelers next season. He says simple math makes it a real possibility.
There's also talk that Bell could wait to sign his franchise tag and even miss a few games early in the season, but that seems unlikely at this point.
"[The worst-case scenario] would be Bell bagging most of the season, showing up in November in time to gain an accrued NFL season, then playing the final six or so games," wrote ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. "This is also unlikely because Bell would have to forfeit most of that $14.5 million (six games gets him the registered season). But if health for 2019 is his top option, he can play the holdout card. Remember, he's technically not under contract."
Whether Bell misses the Week 4 matchup versus the Ravens, and moves on from the AFC North after this season, count Ravens fans happy.
After Mentoring Michael Vick, James Urban Takes on Lamar Jackson
Quarterback Michel Vick referred to James Urban as "the biggest key in my career," per The Baltimore Sun.
That has to sound like music to Ravens rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson's ears because Urban is now his mentor after the team brought Urban to Baltimore this offseason to take over as the quarterbacks coach.
Jackson has looked up to Vick as a player over the years, and the rookie's playing style is often compared to the four-time Pro Bowler.
Urban was also Vick's quarterbacks coach in 2009 in Philadelphia when Vick had just returned to the league after jail time for his involvement in a dog-fighting ring. With Urban's help, Vick earned the NFL Comeback Player of the Year after throwing 30 touchdowns that season.
"[Urban] really instilled confidence in me that I really had a lot of time left to do some great things," Vick said. "The details of the game plans, just him making sure I understood it, really helped me blossom into the quarterback that I had become that season.
"James is really, really laid back to a point where he doesn't have to be a 'rah-rah' guy to gain control. I think man to man, [Jackson's] going to want to give him the respect just because you know he's put the time and the work in throughout the week to get the quarterback successful. That's a trait that'll be a big reason he'll progress in the coaching realm."
· Which rookie QB is best positioned for long-term success? "Lamar Jackson," writes Aaron Schatz. "I trust Baltimore's coaching staff more than I trust the other coaching staffs that were handed first-round quarterbacks this season. I also trust the Ravens to put a defense on the field that will keep Jackson from having to carry the team early in his career, and special teams that will constantly give him advantageous field position." [ESPN]
· The Ravens' 2017 draft class was ranked as the 28th best after seeing what it did after one year. "Humphrey proved he's a capable cover man on the boundary after Jimmy Smith tore his Achilles in December," wrote Maurice Moton. "Tyus Bowser logged three sacks, three passes defensed and one interception last season. With a bigger role in the rotation, he could take a sophomore leap. No one else in the Ravens class left a mark on the 2017 campaign. Like many teams at the bottom of this ranking, there was little production and some upside." [Bleacher Report]
· "[Brandon] Williams and [Michael] Pierce anchor a unit that ranked 15th in the league against the run, but the duo combined for only one sack," wrote Edward Lee in his defensive line preview. "If they can contribute more to the Ravens' pass rush, they'd help the defense's ability to be creative in its blitz packages and relieve some pressure on the secondary in passing downs. … [M]any eyes will be on [Brent] Urban, who sat out the final 13 games of last season because of a Lisfranc injury suffered in a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sept. 24 in London. If he is unable to replicate his performance from the 2017 preseason that bred high hopes, [Carl] Davis or [Willie] Henry could be poised to earn more playing time." [The Baltimore Sun]