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Late for Work 8/8: Ravens Veteran Core Rated Amongst NFL's Best

Ravens Veteran Core Rated Amongst NFL'S Best

With so much of the focus this offseason on the new faces that have been added to the Ravens' roster, it can be easy to forget how strong Baltimore's veteran presence is.

As part of its preview for the upcoming NFL season, the Ringer’s Riley McAtee put together a list of the best players who have been in the league since 2008. The best of the (at least) 10-year vets.

The Ravens had three players chosen – guard Marshal Yanda, safety Eric Weddle and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs - the most of any team in the league.

Yanda comes in at No. 9. McAtee refers to Yanda as "a legend" and sees his presence as crucial for Baltimore to "help solidify what kind of offense the Ravens can field this year."

Weddle ranks 15th, with McAtee pointing out that he's has made the Pro Bowl both of his seasons in Baltimore. "He's picked off 10 passes since joining the Ravens, which matches the high for any two-year stretch of his career."

Suggs finished No. 17, with McAtee writing "Suggs is still at the top of his game," after "he quietly led one of the best defenses in the league," in 2017.

One player left off the list is quarterback Joe Flacco, who has had some statistically down seasons in recent years, but is widely seen as having his best offseason in a long time (maybe ever). If Flacco has the season those in Baltimore are expecting, he could easily surpass some of the vets on this list.

With so many talented players in the later stages of their careers, it's understandably given the Ravens a feeling of needing to win now. After three straight years outside the playoffs, Baltimore's veterans are leading the push to get over the hump.

"The bottom line is, if we don't play good, it doesn't matter, and we'll all be gone," Weddle said Monday.

Weddle's sentiment is shared by Yanda, who revealed yesterday that he is taking a year-by-year approach in determining how much longer he plans to play football.

"As a general rule of thumb, once you get to 10 years, every year you kind of have to re-assess and re-evaluate," Yanda said.

It should be pointed out that McAtee is not the first media member to recognize the Ravens' talent level this year.

As we noted on Monday, Football Outsiders compiled a top-25 list of potential breakout candidates for 2018 that haven't played much yet in their careers. Baltimore had two players get selected in defensive end Chris Wormley and running back Kenneth Dixon, while guard Nico Siragusa made the honorable mention list.

Rating the Ravens' talent level highly is particularly relevant this week with the Los Angeles Rams in town. A lot has been made, justifiably, of the Rams immense skill this offseason, including being selected as having the most talent under the age of 25 by ESPN in the NFL.

But the Ravens presence on lists such as McAtee's and Football Outsiders' shows that Baltimore has plenty of talent too.

Steve Smith Sr.'s Bravery Commended After Revealing Battle with Depression

Former Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. made headlines yesterday when he revealed on that he's endured a longtime battle with depression, including throughout his days as a player.

Smith said he stepped into his first counseling session in 2002, but hit rock bottom in 2013, his final year with the Carolina Panthers. At that time, he sought out counseling for non-football matters for the first time in his life, and he continued his sessions when he got to Baltimore the following year.

Smith said he saw small changes in himself during his time as a Raven from 2014-2016, but "now a year and a half has passed since my last NFL game, and for the first time in my life, I finally feel free."

"Despite all of my achievements, I routinely felt trapped, inferior and alone," Smith Sr. wrote. "This overwhelmed me internally and often left me mentally, physically and emotionally broken."

Smith Sr.'s revelation comes on the heels of longtime Philadelphia Eagles safety Brian Dawkins speaking out about his battles with depression, during his recent Hall of Fame speech and recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain.

 "The truth is that the NFL isn't an easy life. It's rough physically and mentally taxing as well," Yahoo Sports’ Frank Schwab wrote. "It's a high-profile job with good annual salaries and great perks, but that doesn't mean it's easy. It's a results-based business with very little job security."

Many have expressed shock that someone who was "well known throughout his playing days as a brash player who was beaming with pride," as RavensWire’s Matthew Stevens wrote, could suffer from depression.

"I find myself, as an extreme introvert defined by my counselor, looking for excuses on how to avoid large crowds and retreating during public appearances, big events and even family gatherings," Smith said. "Being in public is a constant struggle, not because I don't want to attract attention or think I'm 'important,' but because of my inner battle."

It isn't surprising that Smith was able to bravely put his struggles in writing for the whole world to read. As Charlotte Observer’s Jourdan Rodrigue pointed out, "Smith will forever live in lore for his huge plays over the course of a 16-year career. On the field, he was tougher than a bull's callus. His bravery was the stuff of movie scripts: Undersized scrapper, drafted late, who played like a giant."

But what Smith has now done away from the field may be even more brave.

"Admitting his inner battle with depression?" Rodrigue wrote. "Admitting he needed help and then seeking it, despite the systemic demand from every locker room in the league that screams 'Be tough! Push through! Man up!'? That took the most courage of all."

Many in the football community also expressed their hope that having someone as highly regarded as Smith talking about his battle with depression will encourage others to do the same, and ultimately reduce the stigma often associated with it.

One of Smith Sr.'s head coaches during his time with the Carolina Panthers, Ron Rivera, "pledged to devote more attention to the mental health of his players," even if they don't want to step forward to ask for help.

"(Mental health) is something that I think we as coaches need to understand a little bit more," Rivera said. "Because we don't know. We come from the same background as (the players), of trying to push through, push through, push through."

That's the overwhelming theme of Smith Sr.'s essay. He hopes that by doing this, he can help anyone in their fight against depression.

"My advice to anyone suffering from mental health issues -- and specifically athletes who can relate -- is this: Ask for help," Smith Sr. wrote. "Stop trying to deal with these serious matters alone. You're not alone. Believe me."

Defense and Special Teams Receive Majority of Selections in CBSSports' Preseason All-AFC North Team

The Ravens defense and special teams dominated the 2018 Preseason All-AFC North team put together by CBSSports’ Jared Dubin.

Five Ravens were selected to the defensive starting lineup - more than any other team in the division.

DT Brandon Williams: Dubin referred to Williams as "possibly the best interior run-defender in football" and "a run-stuffer extraordinaire." It's hard to argue with Dubin's analysis -- Baltimore's defense allowed just 82.5 yards per game last season when Williams was in the lineup. On the flip side, when Williams was out because of injury, the unit allowed 169.5 yards per game.

ILB C.J. Mosley: After making the Pro Bowl in three of his first four seasons, Dubin views Mosley as an easy pick. "A full-field playmaker on one of the NFL's best defenses," Dubin sees Mosley as the type of player who can make an impact in multiple areas. "He flows to the ball against the run, covers well in the passing game (he has 31 pass-breakups and eight picks in four years), and has even shown pass-rushing talent in his career."

Specialists Justin Tucker and Sam Koch: Dubin sees the Ravens' excellence on special teams continuing this year, referring to Koch and Tucker as possibly "the best punter-kicker tandem in the league."

Check out all the selections from Dubin to see which other Ravens were highlighted.

Matt Skura Sees Improvements From Lining up Against Ndamukong Suh

Matt Skura has been learning a lot from facing Rams defensive tackle and five-time Pro Bowler Ndamukong Suh for the past two practices, according to PennLive’s Aaron Kasinitz.

"Practices with the Rams the past two days helped him grow more comfortable at center," Kasinitz wrote, and could help him claim the starting job.

"You definitely know why he's an all-pro defensive lineman," Skura said.

This actually isn't the first time Skura has played against Suh. Last October, he started when the Ravens pummeled the Suh-led Miami Dolphins, 40-0.

In that game, Skura was playing at right guard. The last two days, he's been facing Suh and the rest of the Rams' impressive defensive line as Baltimore's center.

"This week was Skura's first opportunity to play center against another team's defensive front," Kasinitz wrote. "He had to diagnose Los Angeles' blitzes over the past two days and help organize his fellow linemen as they tried to anticipate the Rams' movements up front."

John Brown Honors Older Brother with Play on Field

Whenever wide receiver John Brown scores a touchdown for the Ravens this season, you'll probably see a lot of excitement, followed by him pointing up to the sky.

As Brown details in his piece for The Players’ Tribune, the gesture is to honor his older brother, James Walker. In fact, everything Brown does on the football field is a tribute to Walker.

"He'll continue to share in whatever success I may have, now and forever," Brown wrote. "I tell my brother every day that it's because of him I was able to make it to where I am right now."

Brown goes in-depth about how tough it was to lose Walker, who passed away in 2010 after being shot. It's a tragic but terrific story that I strongly encourage you read.

Quick Hits:

·       Much was made of Michael Crabtree and Aqib Talib, who have fought each other twice during games the past two seasons, facing each other during the Ravens' joint practices with the Rams. After two days without a conflict, Talib weighed in on his rivalry with Crabtree.

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