Ravens Make 'Risky Move' At Left Tackle
After it was announced to reporters that starting left tackle Eugene Monroe had minor knee surgery and would miss multiple weeks, they asked whether undrafted rookie James Hurst would get the start.
"That's the depth chart," said Head Coach John Harbaugh. "It's pretty straight forward. It's obvious."
The reason why it wasn't obvious to reporters is because some thought the Ravens might consider moving Kelechi Osemele to left tackle and insert Gino Gradkowski or Jah Reid at left guard. ESPN's Jamison Hensley said he thinks that's the "safer" move because it would give the Ravens their most experienced group.
In Hensley's story about the decision to move forward with Hurst, the headline called it a "risky move."
But it appears the Ravens feel comfortable with Hurst, who has never played a snap in an NFL regular-season game.
"That's why it's a gamble to go with Hurst as the starting left tackle," Hensley wrote. "The Ravens are going from Monroe, the No. 8 overall pick of the 2009 draft, to James Hurst, an undrafted rookie.
"The Baltimore Ravens have been able to withstand the loss of their starting running back. They're confident that they can overcome a season-ending injury to their best tight end. But there is no such certainty that the Ravens can fill the void left by left tackle Eugene Monroe."
This isn't the first time the media has been nervous about the Ravens going with an inexperienced player at tackle. The biggest question of the offseason was whether the team made the right call to give the starting right tackle spot to second-year player Rick Wagner, who had never started the game at the position.
Thus far, Wagner has not made headlines, which is the biggest compliment you can give to an offensive lineman. Like they did with Wagner, perhaps the Ravens have seen something in Hurst that makes them confident.
"Nobody is saying the Ravens won't be able to withstand the loss of Monroe the same way," wrote Hensley. "It's just surprising the amount of trust they're showing in Hurst."
Hensley notes that one reason to go with Hurst is continuity. Osemele has been on record as saying he prefers to play at left guard, and the rest of the line has played extremely well through three games this season. You don't necessarily want to mess with that.
And make no mistake; the Ravens will give Hurst plenty of help.
"It would be naive for anyone to think the Ravens are going to put Hurst on an island on the left side. The Ravens are going to help out Hurst as much as possible, whether it's lining up a tight end next to him or having a running back chip to his side," Hensley wrote.
"Hurst's strength is as a pass protector. He didn't allow a sack in 180 snaps this preseason. Where he needs to improve is as a run blocker."
Smith Didn't Take Shot At Newton, Says Newton
When Steve Smith Sr. met with Carolina reporters via conference call yesterday, he didn't provide any bulletin board material that would tick off the Panthers.
"Well, y’all are gonna make up something anyway so what's the sense?" Smith asked, per The Charlotte Observer.
Would the following qualify as making something up?
Smith has said a few times that it's "refreshing" to play with quarterback Joe Flacco. The 14-year wide receiver has never played with somebody so calm, and understands better why they call him "Joe Cool." He observed Flacco's calm nature after his receivers dropped pass after pass in Week 1, and again when a dramatic game was on the line in a hostile FirstEnergy Stadium against* *the Cleveland Browns.
Reporters wondered whether complimenting Flacco was a disguised shot at his former Panthers quarterback.
"Smith] [insisted he wasn't taking a shot at former teammate Cam Newton when he said it was refreshing to be around a quarterback who was calm," wrote ESPN Panthers blogger David Newton.
Despite media thinking it may have been a jab, the Panthers quarterback didn't.
"My thing is, no matter what the media may say, that does not dictate how the actual relationship may be,'' Newton said.
"I can tell you that me and Steve have a healthy relationship. I'm rooting for him, except for this particular Sunday. That's all in the competitive love. I wish him the best.''
Just to make sure there was nothing ill intended by the comment, reporters asked Smith what he meant by his compliment to Flacco.
"What I meant by it?'' Smith asked. "I don't know if you know, but Flacco is the same all the time. We were talking about that when he signed his big deal. They said he stopped at McDonald's after signing his contract and went home.
"I mean, who does that? If I signed a $100 million contract, going to McDonald's would not be the first place I'd go. ... When he came in [to start the second half], he was the same guy. So that was refreshing, because I also was part of the reason why we weren't playing very well."
Moving on …
Carolina DBs Won't Back Down From Smith
Smith and Carolina Panthers defensive backs have a history together.
Per the Charlotte Observer, Smith and cornerback Josh Norman "traded barbs" during Norman's 2012 rookie year. And then there is strong safety Roman Harper. When he was with the New Orleans Saints, he "drilled" Smith when Smith slowed down at the goal line after catching a touchdown pass.
The hit cost Harper a $15,000 league fine.
"Harper did not rule out the possibility of doing it again Sunday in Baltimore if the same scenario played out again," wrote The Observer's Joseph Person.
"I've never once apologized for what I did, nor will I. I'll leave it at that," Harper said Wednesday. "It's just the way I play the game and what I did is what I did. I paid my debt to society, or to (commissioner) Roger (Goodell), because of it."
So how do the two defensive backs feel about facing Smith as the highly-anticipated game approaches?
They respect him. But they won't back down from him.
"We were always competitive. He never wanted to back down from anything and I was the same thing," Norman said. "So we always had a head-to-head match, and I respected him because he is one of our greatest. He probably will end up in the Hall of Fame, the first Hall of Famer for the Carolina Panthers. You've got to respect that.
"He's going to be the same Steve Smith – ragin' Cajun, same guy, going out there and playing with emotion and playing with everything he's got. And I wouldn't want it no other way."
Rookie C.J. Mosley Bracing For Potential Fine
Rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley understands he may have to pay for retaliating against Browns Pro Bowl center Alex Mack last week.
Mack blocked Mosley after the whistle, and Mosley reacted with a punch at Mack's helmet. Now, he's bracing for an $8,268 fine from the league, according to The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson.
"It's always the second one who gets caught, so I've got to be smarter," Mosley said. "That's on me. I haven't been fined yet, but I will be waiting for it in the mail."
Webb Hoping For Expanded Role
Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb played just four defensive snaps in his 2014 season debut against the Browns. It was his first taste of action this season since injuring his back on the second day of training camp.
He's hoping more is to come.
"That was just a preview," said Webb, per The Sun. "He wanted to ease me into it. I'm going to keep on grinding. It's basically waiting for Harbs to let me loose.
"They wanted me to get a couple of plays and let me feel the game. Eventually, he'll open me up and let me go. That's all I'm waiting on. I feel good, man. No setbacks."
Ravens Should Feel Fortunate To Get Guy
The Ravens announced yesterday that they signed defensive end Lawrence Guy, a four-year veteran who was recently released by the San Diego Chargers.
The addition of Guy could be a sign that Chris Canty is not healthy after he did not participate in practice yesterday because of a knee injury. And that's on top of the hits the unit has already absorbed after losing defensive ends Brent Urban and Kapron Lewis-Moore for the year.
Hensley believes the Ravens should feel relieved that they could sign Guy to help bolster the line.
"The team has to feel fortunate to get someone as experienced as Guy during the season," Hensley wrote. "Guy, 24, has played in 24 games over four seasons with the San Diego Chargers and Indianapolis Colts. He was released by the Chargers on Tuesday after playing 47 snaps throughout the first three games."