News & Notes: Ravens Talk Trash to Each Other in Bye-Week Practice

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Lamar Jackson shook off the flu to return to practice Thursday, but his teammates weren't cutting him any slack.

Just because the Ravens don't know their divisional playoff opponent doesn't mean they aren't challenging each other. So when Jackson threw an incomplete pass, cornerback Marlon Humphrey piped up.

"Where's the pepto-bismol?" Humphrey shouted.

For those concerned about the hottest team in the NFL staying sharp, Humphrey provided a glimpse into the Ravens' practice, which was in pads.

"We had a very vocal practice today – a little chirping back and forth today. It was really fun," Humphrey said with a big smile.

Humphrey said it was a little "different" because the Ravens don't have an opponent to prepare for. But that let the offense and defense go at it a little more than a typical in-season practice.

"A lot of people, bye week, might take the whole week off or whatever," Humphrey said. "But [Head Coach John Harbaugh] came and told us, 'It's not really time to rest.' [Matthew] Judon echoed that, too, 'It's not really time to rest. It's time to get a little bit better.'

"We all went out there with a great attitude, thinking, 'Let's just try to get better today, tomorrow, and then get two days off and then come back and get ready to do it.' So, sometimes to get yourself going, you just have to talk a little trash to the offense. And then they score, and they celebrate, so we just had a lot of fun today."

The Kansas City Chiefs, the AFC's No. 2 seed and other team with a first-round bye, did not practice Tuesday.

Ravens Receivers Have Been Remarkably Unselfish

Winning makes everything run smoother, but it's still remarkable how unselfish the Ravens' wide receivers have been this year.

In a record-setting, run-heavy offense, Baltimore's wide receivers saw their targets drop significantly this season. For example, Willie Snead IV had a team-high 62 catches on 95 targets last year. This season, Snead had half the receptions (31) on less-than-half the targets (46).

Tight end Mark Andrews led the Ravens' pass catchers in all four receiving categories: 64 receptions, 98 targets, 852 yards, 10 touchdowns.

Yet nobody heard any complaining from the wideouts this year, which doesn't fit with the perception of those at the position. Of course, they want the ball, but Baltimore's wideouts have helped in many other ways too.

David Culley, who coaches the wide receivers, said it starts with Harbaugh's team-first mantra, but the players deserve a lot of credit too.

"Willie is probably one of the most unselfish receivers I've ever been around – also one of the toughest – and it trickles down from him," Culley said.

"Basically, we have another little motto that we always tell those guys when you play receiver: 'You're a football player first when you walk in that room, not a wide receiver.' A football player blocks, he runs, he tackles, he does all the things. So, we've kind of kept that all year long, and they've kind of taken that and ran with it. The bottom line is, winning is the most important thing, and what do I have to do to win? And sometimes that's not catching the ball."

Even Marquise Brown, the Ravens' first-round pick, has been chipping in more as a blocker recently. That's what Culley pointed to when asked where Brown has made his biggest improvements.

The Ravens started using Brown as a front-side blocker on run plays just so opponents couldn't know which direction a run was going based on where Brown was lined up. Then Baltimore saw the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Brown doing pretty well with it.

"You look at his size and you say he's a little guy, a small guy," Culley said. "He's probably one of the toughest guys we have on this football team."

Culley also said that Brown, who finished the regular season with 46 catches for 584 yards and seven touchdowns, is still dealing with the Lisfranc foot injury he suffered on Dec. 1, 2018.

"The injury is still there, from the standpoint of the foot," Culley said. "It's not completely healed, yet."

Why Humphrey Is Thriving as a Nickel Corner

While the addition of Marcus Peters and return of Jimmy Smith from an early-season injury are undoubtedly two of the major reasons why Baltimore's defense has been the best in the league since Week 6, it wouldn't all work if Humphrey wasn't willing and able to adapt.

When Harbaugh first told Humphrey he wanted to try him playing some nickel, Humphrey was skeptical. When the third-year corner was talking on the phone to his father, a former NFL running back, about the return of Smith to the lineup at midseason, Humphrey finally realized he was going to be moving inside to make room.

"I was talking for like five minutes like, 'We'll move this guy, blah blah blah.' And then at the end, I was like, 'I think I'm going to be playing nickel,'" Humphrey said with a laugh.

"For me, it was a big adjustment, just because I never really thought I could get in there and move too well. I had to learn a little bit more of the playbook, but it's really made me see the game a lot better because I already know what the corner's doing, and then on the nickel, I know how the corner's going to play it."

By moving to the slot, the Ravens were able to get their top three cornerbacks on the field at the same time and use veteran Brandon Carr as a safety. It truly has become a pick-your-poison situation for opposing offenses.

Humphrey's coaches have on several occasions said he plays cornerback like a linebacker. He's an aggressive hitter, unafraid to come up and make a tackle in the run or pass game. Humphrey finished second on the team with 65 tackles this year, just eight behind safety Chuck Clark.

He's also been the defense's top playmaker with two fumble recoveries for touchdowns, two forced fumbles (including one in overtime in Pittsburgh), and three interceptions.

Humphrey was voted the Ravens' MVP of 2018. If it weren't for Jackson, Humphrey would have a good shot at winning the award in back-to-back years, despite playing in a new role this season.

"It's definitely been different," Humphrey said. "Just the different breaks and angles to the football, and everything's been really different."

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