In an effort to continue making the game safer for players, the NFL's rule changes are cracking down on players hitting with the crown of the helmet.
To be more exact, a player can draw a 15-yard penalty for lowering his head to initiate contact with his helmet against an opponent. Players can be fined or ejected depending on the severity of the hit.
The Ravens-Bears Hall of Fame game provided the first test case for the rule, and the yellow flags were flying. The Ravens were penalized three times under the new rule. The Bears were flagged for one such hit on tight end Hayden Hurst one play before Hurst's 8-yard touchdown.
There will no doubt be some bellyaching from fans, players, coaches, etc. about referees' calls this season. After watching the tape, Head Coach John Harbaugh gave his take on the rule and its enforcement.
"The officials are going to have to learn how to officiate it in real time. The officials on the field, they expressed [that] it's tough," Harbaugh said.
"Like I told our guys, there are going to be some called that they're going to come back and say shouldn't have been. There are going to be others not called that they're going to say should have been. We just have to tackle the right way: with our heads up, see what we tackle, and use our shoulders and not use our head as a weapon. That's what we're striving to do."
Ravens defensive back Bennett Jackson was dumbfounded by one penalty after he drilled a Bears tight end while leading with his shoulder. Jackson and veteran safety Eric Weddle both felt like referees are going to be more aggressive in the preseason than regular season.
Group of Ravens Traveling to Canton to See Ray Lewis' Speech
Soon after practice ended, a group of Ravens packed up and headed back to Canton to see Ray Lewis inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame tonight. The speeches start at 8 p.m. and Lewis will go last.
Owner Steve Bisciotti is graciously flying out seven people associated with Lewis on a private flight.
The group is Harbaugh, Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale (who was Lewis' linebackers coach in 2012), Terrell Suggs, Marshal Yanda, Joe Flacco, Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox and C.J. Mosley. Mosley didn't play with Lewis, but has carried on his Pro Bowl play at inside linebacker in Baltimore.
The entire group will be back for practice early Sunday at 8:45 a.m.
Game-Tape Evaluations From Preseason Opener
Two days after the Ravens' preseason opener, Harbaugh was asked to give his take on several different factors in Thursday night's game.
Generally, Harbaugh said he was pleased with how the defense ran to the ball and the quarterbacks operated the defense. He said the Ravens are capable of making more plays in the passing game.
Here are some other takeaways he spoke about:
Quarterback Lamar Jackson:
"I think he played pretty much the way you would have expected, and he'll only get better. He did the things that I asked him to do, and that was operate the offense and get everybody lined up and be under control. That's really hard to do. He showed a lot doing that. So now, you take that. You build off that, which is never easy, because the game plans always change. And then, the playmaking, and the throwing and all the things that go with it just keep growing from there. [We'll] see where it goes."
Young offensive line, which gave up eight sacks:
"We have to be better up front with the young offensive linemen. We don't want a sack. Our quarterbacks don't need to be under that kind of duress, and we need to block the run game better, so we expect more out of those guys."
Rookie Orlando Brown Jr., who started at right tackle:
"Orlando was a bright spot for the young offensive linemen. He played well. Hey, he played almost a whole game. There are probably 10 plays in there – I'm just throwing the number out offhand – that he would say, 'I could do a lot better on.' But, there are probably 40 to 45 plays where you'd say, 'Oh, he looked really good.' He's just what we thought he was, and as he continues to work on technique, he's only going to get better."
Safeties Chuck Clark (interception) and rookie DeShon Elliott (forced fumble):
"Chuck and DeShon have played well. Chuck is very steady. Chuck and I talked; he had a very sturdy game. Then again, I think he played it a little bit safe, which is okay. The next step for him is, 'let's go make a few of those plays,' and he will. [He is a] very smart player. DeShon cut it loose. He got the turnover [and] played fast. Then, now, play within your technique. Play within your assignment just a smidge more, and keep getting better."
Rookie Linebacker Kenny Young Got 'Goosebumps' Seeing Ray Lewis
Gone are the days when rookies got to arrive in Baltimore and drool over being in the same locker room as Lewis.
This year's class got a special treat getting to see Lewis up-close-and-personal in Canton, and it's something rookie inside linebacker Kenny Young said he'll never forget.
"Pre-game felt like a movie," the fourth-round pick said. "When I was a kid, running around in Louisiana, I would put on his speech and just run for hours. He inspired me."
As Harbaugh mentioned, it was a special experience to line each team up on the 45-yarrd line and see Lewis go through a pre-game introduction one more time, especially when he busted out his signature "Squirrel Dance."
"Just to see him hit that dance one last time gave me the goosebumps," Young said. "I had another reason to play for."