Flacco 'Looking Disconsolate' After Pitta Loss
We have yet to hear from the Raven who is perhaps most affected by the loss of tight end Dennis Pitta. That Raven is Joe Flacco.
The only noted reaction from the Ravens quarterback came from Peter King – who was not present at the Ravens facility – but was told Flacco was walking around the Ravens practice facility "looking disconsolate" on Saturday after Pitta dislocated and fractured his hip.
Who knows how Flacco is really feeling. The description came from some unknown source's interpretation of Flacco. On Sunday, he was back to joking and talking trash with the defense.
Either way, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the injury affected Flacco – both professionally and personally.
Pitta was Flacco's go-to target in clutch situations in the red zone and on third down, and perhaps more importantly to Flacco, he is the quarterback's best friend on the team. The two eat together, they joke together, they take their wives out on double dates, and they are both young fathers with Pitta's first child born in May and Flacco's second expected in September.
That said, Ed Dickson put into perspective just how quickly football players move on from a big blow like this one.
"I've got 24 hours to grieve, and then it's the next man up," Dickson said after Sunday's practice. "That's the mentality here."
Flacco appears to be doing just that.
After practice he worked one-on-one with newly signed tight end Visanthe Shaincoe – the two wasting no time on building* *a rapport. Flacco and Dickson are working to take their connection up another notch too.
But it will take time to adjust on the field.
According to The Sun's Matt Vensel, while Flacco was able to complete several passes down the field in practice yesterday, he also checked down "a bunch of times" and dumped off short passes to running backs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. Additionally, the defense shut out Flacco and the offense in a red-zone drill. Per the report, rookie Matt Elam almost notched an interception on one play and Flacco overthrew Shiancoe on another with blitzers swarming. The offense did have success on another red-zone drill with receiver Jacoby Jones making an "acrobatic" catch in the end zone.
In a 105.7 interview with Phil Simms, the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback explained what it's like to lose a reliable weapon with whom a quarterback has built up a rapport and comfort level.
"[You have] great trust and deep down you just know that if you give them the chance, they're going to make the catch," Simms said. "Deep down you know when there's a matchup that you like that they're going to win it for you.
"There's no doubt Pitta, especially last year late, became more a part of the offense. I thought, wow they really have their receiving tight end that's really going to work out well for them, so that's a big deal to me. … [Losing Pitta and Anquan Boldin] is a lot to overcome, but there's plenty of time to get it done."
Rice Happy Leach Is Back
After Head Coach John Harbaugh announced the re-signing of fullback Vonta Leach, he was asked whether he had seen Rice's reaction to the news.
"I have not seen Ray Rice's reaction. I'm sure he'll be pleased," Harbaugh said in an understatement that caused journalists to laugh.
Well, Rice was happy, as can be seen in the video interview below with CSN's Brent Harris.
And while Leach's return doesn't make up for the loss of Pitta, it put smiles on several Ravens' faces and ESPN's Jamison Hensley believes it was a "critical" move for the Ravens.
"Some downplayed Leach's importance because he was on the sidelines more and more as the Ravens went with more multiple receiver formations," Hensley wrote. "And the Ravens probably envisioned two tight ends as their primary alignment before Pitta went down in the first padded practice of training camp. Now the Ravens can go back to being an I-formation team with Leach at fullback and Ed Dickson as the starting tight end.
"Leach's intangibles are also important. His toughness and leadership are valuable, especially in a season when the Ravens have lost so many gritty players."
Training Camp Stock Watch: Doss Up, Juszczyk Down?
Vensel takes a look at several Ravens' stock after their first week of practice.
In one of the tightest position battles at wide receiver, Tandon Doss has helped his stock in a wide-open competition.
"The] third-year receiver probably caught more balls than any other wide-out in the first week of camp,” Vensel wrote. “He appears to be a little quicker and his routes look a little crisper. If Doss keeps getting open, he could [find himself in the top three on the depth chart."
Meanwhile, Vensel believes rookie fullback Kyle Juszczyk's stock has dropped.
"It hasn't been all bad for the youngster out of Harvard," Vensel wrote. "He has shown promise as a receiver and is more than willing to smash facemasks as a lead blocker. But he has been ineffective at the latter at times, particularly in a goal-line drill Saturday. He is a rookie, though, and training camp is still young, too."
A quick note on Juszczyk's ability as a lead blocker. I've been told that Ravens coaches are pleased with Juszczyk's physicality, so I don't think his stock has dropped in their eyes. The rookie was singled out in a failed goal-line drill Saturday, but it should also be noted that a banged up offensive line was getting pushed back in the drill.
On Saturday, the line was without right guard Marshal Yanda (PUP, shoulder) left guard Kelechi Osemele (hamstring, but returned yesterday) and left tackle Bryant McKinnie is still getting into shape. The only projected starters were right tackle Michael Oher and second-year center Gino Gradkowski, who still has to earn the starting job.
When you're blocking into an offensive lineman's backside, it's tough to be effective. Juszczyk isn't Leach (who in the NFL is?), but coaches have been impressed even though the rookie still has improvements to make.
- Fans may see a few different players manning the inside linebacker positions this season. "In the first week of training camp, we saw four different inside linebackers take snaps with the first-team defense," Vensel wrote. "Albert McClellan and Josh Bynes, who were with the team last season, have taken a lot of reps with the top unit. The newcomers, Daryl Smith and Arthur Brown, will be working to unseat them this summer." [The Baltimore Sun]
- Courtney Upshaw may be getting more reps than expected with the arrival of pass rusher Elvis Dumervil. "The natural assumption is that the signing of Dumervil will reduce playing time for outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw," wrote Hensley. "That may not be true. The Ravens like Upshaw's impact on run defense and his ability to set the edge. It wouldn't surprise me if Upshaw played a majority of the early downs, which would keep Dumervil fresh as a pass-rusher." [ESPN]
- Interested in how the loss of Pitta affects the fantasy value of Flacco, Rice and Torrey Smith? Michael Fabiano explains. [NFL.com]
- @RavensInsider: Torrey Smith said LaQuan Williams has "a tough shoulder injury," and could return by next week [Twitter]
- @RavensInsider: Kelechi Osemele on returning from hamstring: 'Today went well. It felt great. It was great to get back out there with the guys.' [Twitter]
- @mzenitz: Kelechi Osemele said tight end Ed Dickson "has been having the camp of his life" [Twitter]
- @GerrySandusky: New Ravens TE Visanthe Shiancoe looks the part physically, but has a lot of timing and catching to work on after not catching a pass last yr [Twitter]