Ozzie Chuckles At 'Planted' Flacco Stories
Remember the stories about the Cleveland Browns potentially stealing quarterback Joe Flacco back in February?
At the time, outsiders questioned whether the Ravens and Flacco would agree on a new contract before the March 4 deadline. If Baltimore was forced to use its franchise tag on the Super Bowl MVP – and they did not use the exclusvie franchise tag – the Browns would be waiting in the shadows with an offer that Baltimore wouldn't be able to match and – poof – he'd be gone.
Soon after the reports, Ravens brass doled out an NFL record-breaking contract at the time.* * Now ESPN Cleveland's Tony Grossi wonders whether the "misreporting" at the time factored into the move.
Did the threat of losing Flacco to a division rival motivate General Manager Ozzie Newsome to deal out so much money and sacrifice free agents like Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe and others?
"Newsome chuckles at those planted stories," wrote Grossi.
"That had nothing to do with it," Newsome said. "Joe's a Super Bowl quarterback. In this league, you win at the quarterback position. We were one team that was fortunate to win with average quarterback play (in 2000). When we got the opportunity to have a guy that had been to the playoffs five straight years, won a Super Bowl … what everybody else saying was going to happen, that had no impact on us."
Asked if there was any scenario that he would have let Flacco go, Newsome answered, "No."
Last offseason, Newsome began rewriting the blueprint to defend a Super Bowl title, and it started with the quarterback. That's the real reason why he paid Flacco. After that, he made tough choices in letting go of several proven veterans.
Prior to Flacco, Newsome believed his greatest "failing" as a GM was not securing a franchise quarterback, reported Grossi.
"I think you can learn from your failures," Newsome said. "I think with our scouting staff and with the coaches, we just came to the point to know what we wanted in a quarterback. Joe brought that to us. Thus far, it's worked out very well. We've got a Super Bowl.
"Year in, year out, game in and game out, if you don't have a quarterback, your chances of winning in this league are severely diminished."
After Flacco was secure, Newsome had to get to work on building the roster that would defend Baltimore's title. One thing he refused to do in the process was restructure contracts and mortgage the future like he did in 2001.
After losing running back Jamal Lewis for the season with an injury, the Ravens didn't repeat and Newsome was stuck in cap jail in 2002, forcing him to put nine undrafted rookies on the team.
In 2013, the Ravens have not restructured a single contract.
And don't let this one slip under the radar: Newsome has not signed a single unrestricted free agent. He's reloaded this defense only with players that were cut from other teams. That includes Broncos linebacker Elvis Dumervil, Giants defensive end Chris Canty, Cowboys defensive end Marcus Spears, and Jaguars linebacker Daryl Smith.
Grossi projects that Newsome's free agency moves have set him up for three of four compensatory picks next season, saying Kruger alone could net the Ravens a third-round pick.
But now the big story after Week 1 is that the Ravens were crushed by the Broncos, while Newsome's most controversial move of trading Anquan Boldin seemed to be the wrong decision after the reciever had a monster game in San Francisco Sunday.
"I would say just don't underestimate Ozzie Newsome," Grossi wrote, adding, "[H]ard choices are the cost of winning.
"It is a nerve-wracking exercise for an NFL general manager to re-tool his roster and reapportion his complex salary cap structure after winning a Super Bowl. It's not a fun thing to do, but 31 other GMs sit back in rapt attention and take notes.
"They dream of being so lucky."
Speculation On 'Surprising' Mellette Move
Since Head Coach John Harbaugh said Monday that there was a chance that rookie Aaron Mellette could be active soon and was "playing really well," the media is wondering why the seventh-round selection was moved to injured reserve (IR) yesterday.
"Not sure if he got hurt and if it is serious, but teams often use IR to stash young players," tweeted the Baltimore Sun's Matt Vensel.
"[T]here was no indication that this move was coming or that Mellette was even injured," ESPN's Jamison Hensley wrote. "It was announced that Mellette has a knee injury. Mellette wasn't on the Ravens' Week 1 injury report (which means he had full practices) and he didn't play in the season opener."
With only four healthy receivers now on the active roster (Torrey Smith, Marlon Brown, Brandon Stokley and Tandon Doss), fans are increasingly curious as to Deonte Thompson's status after he injured his foot in the preseason.
"Mellette going to IR is probably good indication that Deonte Thompson is getting closer to return. But this week is probably early for that," tweeted The Sun's Jeff Zrebiec.
Thompson is out of his walking boot and said he hopes to be back "real soon."
How soon is real soon?
"Maybe he's ready for Texans," tweeted Aaron Wilson.
Gino To Appeal $7,800 Fine
Center Gino Gradkowski was fined $7,800 for unnecessary roughness by the league, according to Wilson.
The penalty came in the third quarter of the Ravens-Broncos season opener, but Gradkowski reportedly plans to appeal the fine.
Per a Wilson tweet, Gradkowski said of the penalty: "I thought it was a fumble, didn't hear the whistle. They're all about player safety."
Ravens Regret Cutting Rainey?
While I understand them, I hate these types of questions because hindsight is 20/20.
Chris from Maryland asked Hensley whether the Ravens regret cutting running back/returner Bobby Rainey now that Jacoby Jones will be out for four to six weeks.
Since the injury, the Ravens re-signed Doss and added Shaun Draughn to potentially contribute on punt and kickoff returns.
"I was surprised that the Ravens cut Rainey," Hensley responded. "I thought [he] did enough in the preseason to earn a job. The Ravens would be in better shape in the return game with Rainey now. But the Ravens went with the players who could contribute on the coverage teams like Brynden Trawick and Anthony Levine."
Give Clark Some More Time
Some fans have been hard on 11-year tight end Dallas Clark as he's transitioned into the life with the Ravens.
One fan said he looked like "a dear in headlights rookie" last Thursday night rather than a veteran.
To that Hensley replied: "Clark has been a disappointment so far, but it's still early. … Last year with Tampa Bay, it took time for Clark to find his footing. He put up good numbers in his final six games there. The Ravens are going to give him a little time. Plus, because Clark is a vested veteran, the Ravens are going to have to pay him for the entire year whether he's on the team or cut."
Locker Room Video: Harbs' Speech Post-Broncos
Check out Harbaugh's 46-second speech to his team after the loss in Denver, which was featured on this week's 1 Winning Drive.
Nobody seemed down; rather it looked like they were already primed to take it out on Cleveland.
- @jeffzrebiecsun: Peyton Manning wins AFC Offensive Player of Year and Anquan Boldin wins NFC Offensive Player of Year. Thoughts, Ravens fans? [Twitter]
- @GSheppardWR: 90 plus degrees, Humidity through the roof. Meant nothing. Want to win and be a champion, you have to train like one. Today we got BETTER. [Twitter]
- I was in Portugal on a church mission, and I first learned of the attacks from a phone call from a Portuguese reporter wanting an American's reaction. We didn't have a TV in the house, so I ran outside and Portuguese people everywhere were glued to the TVs in local cafes. I thought I was dreaming when I saw the images of the World Trade Center in smoke and flames. … @TorreySmithWR: Where were you on 9-11? [Twitter/Instagram]
- @GerrySandusky: This Sunday will mark the first time in 76 games the Ravens will go into a game with a losing record. Last happened week 6 of 2008 season. [Twitter]
- @BaltimoreLuke [WNST]: Draughn wore No. 20 in Kansas City, but he was wearing No. 38 during today's practice. You can relax, Ed Reed fans. #Ravens [Twitter]
- Would love for these two to be wired this week … @BaltimoreLuke: Joe Flacco on Paul Kruger: "Hopefully he doesn't get to me and if he does, I can shake him off and talk a little trash." #Ravens #Browns [Twitter]
- Chris Canty on defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh's controversial shot at a Vikings offensive lineman's knee: "I think it was dirty. I have to say this though: I understand his frustration because offensive linemen do it to defensive linemen all the time. But you just can't retaliate like that. I'm an advocate of everybody staying away from the low blocks. I don't understand why guys feel like they have to go low. We lift all of those weights in the offseason, we're supposed to be the best athletes – surely you can find a way to block a guy other than to cut block him." [ProFootballTalk.com]
- @Ravens: Safety Michael Huff said the confidence of the defense is not an issue after last week's game. [Twitter]
- @RavensInsider: Ravens remove Robert James from injured reserve with injury settlement. [Twitter]
- Former Raven Ma'ake Kemoeatu is a finalist for the Inaugural Polynesian Football Hall of Fame. [Polynesianfootballhof.org]
- @BaltSunSports: Ravens Insider: Ravens' Bajema says he witnessed no wrongdoing when he attended Oklahoma State, dismisses SI report. [Twitter/The Baltimore Sun]