Late For Work 8/30: Ravens Reserves To Face Rams Starters Into 3rd QTR


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Ravens Reserves To Face Rams Starters For Three Quarters

With their NFL dreams on the line, the Ravens reserves will have their hands full Thursday night in the preseason finale in St. Louis.

The Rams are going against NFL tradition and will generally play their starters one series into the third quarter. Meanwhile, Baltimore's starters are expected to* *get about one series the entire game and maybe nothing at all.

Most teams use the last week of the preseason as a glorified scrimmage to evaluate players on the roster bubble, but Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher likes to do things differently.

"He wants his starters to go through a gradual build, playing a little more each week than the one before," wrote Nick Wagoner of the Rams official website. "The idea is to keep his team prepared instead of having to go a full two weeks without playing in a live game like waiting after the third preseason game."

Meanwhile, Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh prefers to give fringe players "every opportunity" to prove what they can do to make the 53-man roster. He will have to cut 22 players in less than 24 hours following the matchup against the Rams.

So if a bubble player can stand out in a game against regular NFL starters, including running back Steven Jackson who will get a number of reps, they will have a more legitimate case to make the team.

Fisher explained his thinking and what he wants to see out of his starters.

"It's how you start," he said. "It's the emotion and the intensity in which you start play with. And then it's play hard consistently throughout the game, and then of course it's a little bit of everything. It's evaluate some of the younger guys. It's evaluate your starters from a block and tackling standpoint and probably most important, as everybody would say right now, is get through it healthy."

Season Will Start With Replacement Refs

The league sent out a memo to all 32 teams informing them that the 2012 regular season will open with replacement officials, including the Ravens-Bengals Monday night opener.

With the NFL Referees Association locked out since June, replacement officials have been working the preseason games with mixed results.

Ravens center Matt Birk has been sympathetic towards the new officials, saying they have been thrown into a tough situation on the biggest stage in the world. Receiver Anquan Boldin believes that something needs to be done to improve the officiating. "It just looked unprofessional," he said after the second preseason game.

But it could be awhile before something can be done.

At this point, the best case scenario for getting the regular officials back is after two or three weeks of regular-season games, says ESPN's John Clayton in the video below. The worst case scenario is playing the entire season with replacements.

NFL Network's Albert Breer still has hope that something will get done before the season begins.

"Let me say this too on the NFL memo," he tweeted. "Some execs see it as a warning shot, trying to push the refs back to the table, create movement. … Just saying I wouldn't totally rule out Week 1 with real refs ... Isn't far-fetched to think this is a ploy to spark negotiations."

Cundiff Goes 3-of-4 In Redskins Debut

Former Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff went 3-of-4 in field-goal attempts in his Washington Redskins debut Wednesday night. He converted from 39, 22 and 27 yards and added three extra points in a 30-3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

His lone miss came on a 46-yarder, sailing wide right, which fans didn't seem too pleased with.

"And the boo birds begin as Cundiff misses wide right from 46 yards out," tweeted Mike Jones of The Washington Post. "Good thing there's no competition."

Cundiff signed a one-year contract with the Redskins worth $894,340, according to The Baltimore Sun.

The Ravens saved approximately $1.81 million by releasing Cundiff and signing rookie kicker Justin Tucker. That money could go toward a contract extension for quarterback Joe Flacco.

"Now, the Ravens are $4.933 million under the NFL salary cap limit," wrote Aaron Wilson."That's enough space to do a contract extension for quarterback Joe Flacco and have enough left over for an emergency fund should more injuries happen."

Where Does Harbs Fall In Coaching Rankings?

Former NFL coach and ESPN analyst Herm Edwards analyzed all 32 current NFL coaches and broke them down into five tiers: Hall of Fame-worthy, Elite, Ascending, Jury is still out and First-year coaches.

Where does our own Coach Harbaugh fall?

He's elite, says Edwards.

"He's done an excellent job taking over a good football team and not trying to change its identity," Edwards wrote. "Coming from a family of coaches, he understood that the strength of this team was the defense, and his philosophy fits perfectly in Baltimore. He's a tough-minded guy who wants a disciplined football team that plays with an edge.

"Harbaugh has won double-digit games in three of his four seasons and was on the cusp of the Super Bowl last season. But he has yet to appear in the big game, which, for a veteran team like the Ravens, is a realistic expectation every year. … Harbaugh and GM Ozzie Newsome also do a terrific job of drafting players to fit their system."

The other "elite" coaches were San Diego's Norv Turner, Denver's John Fox, Chicago's Lovie Smith, Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis, Green Bay's Mike McCarthy and New Orleans' Sean Payton.

The Hall of Fame-worthy coaches were New England's Bill Belichick, Washington's Mike Shanahan, New York Giants' Tom Coughlin, St. Louis' Jeff Fisher, Philadelphia's Andy Reid and Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin.

Rice Offers Review Of Madden 13

Ray Rice, who grew up playing Madden, sat down with USA Today and Michael Vick to play and review the game's newest installment. Below are some key takeaways:

Thumbs up on the Ravens' playbook:"I play with the Ravens because I know how Cam (Cameron, offensive coordinator) uses me, and I try to use us in a similar way," he said. "Every play I've run so far resembles our plays, just with different names."

Thumbs up on authenticity: Rice apparently enjoyed tossing screens to himself, and didn't become concerned when Ed Reed went down with an injury. "Just a stinger. He knocked himself out," Rice said. "That happens with the Ravens defense. They hit that hard."

Thumbs down on one new addition: "You can actually run into your own blocker and fall," Rice said. "I was about to break a long run in the game, and I ran into Bryant McKinnie, and I ended up yelling at him."

Quick Hits

  • Rice is leading the NFL's running back evolution. The days of pounding the ball are over, so Rice is focused on both rushing and receiving in a pass-happy league. "My thing ain't just rushing yards," he said. "I'm all-purpose, whether it's catching or running. My ultimate goal is to get 1,000 and 1,000." [USA Today]
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Who should win the Ravens backup quarterback role? "If this competition is based on performance, Painter would win based on the preseason," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley. "I'm still going with Taylor, who has been the better quarterback in practice. The Ravens coaching staff won't be able to forget the numerous interceptions thrown by Painter in training camp." [ESPN] * Historically, the Ravens haven't liked* *cutting draft picks. But seventh-round defensive end DeAngelo Tyson is taking little comfort from that. [The Baltimore Sun] * The Ravens' [versatile offensive line gives them flexibility](http://www.carrollcountytimes.com/sports/ravens/versatile-offensive-line-gives-ravens-flexibility-with-roster-spots/article_972adb06-8131-5a18-8c9b-18d6422894a6.html?TNNoMobile) with their final roster spots. [The Carroll County Times] * @RavensInsider [Aaron Wilson]: All players the Ravens released except for veteran Billy Cundiff haven't found new jobs yet, going unclaimed off waivers. Free agents again [Twitter] * @jtuck9: Big thanks to everybody writing me kind words over the last few days, excited to get it goin tomorrow in St. Louis! #RavensNation [Twitter] * PCBG = Purple City Bird Gang [(a Ravens fan group)](https://webmail.nfl.net/owa/redir.aspx?C=4c8988d21eda4d72b7826047288994b7&URL=mailto:PCBG%20=%20Purple%20City%20Bird%20Gang%20(a%20Ravens%20fan%20group)%20...%20%20@Crushboy31%20[Bernard%20Pollard]:%20My%20shirt%20finally%20came%20in!!!%20Going%20to%20have%20the%20whole%20secondary%20wearing%20them...%20%20[Twitter]) ...  @Crushboy31 [Bernard Pollard]: My shirt finally came in!!! Going to have the whole secondary wearing them...  [Twitter] * @Crushboy31: On the plane about to take off!!! Going to eat at Sweetie Pie's when we land... Nothing like Soul food babiee!!! [Twitter] * @brendon310: Another ayanbadejo victory over @raylewis52com in words with friends. He's sitting right next to me don't tell him I'm tweeting about him [Twitter]

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