Ravens Camp Report: Day 5

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Baltimore Ravens training camp:

  • Wide receiver Torrey Smith made the catch of camp, when he pulled in a high Joe Flacco throw with one hand. For most of camp, Steve Smith had stolen the spotlight from Torrey Smith. But Torrey Smith showed off his athleticism with that catch during the red zone drill.
  • Safety Matt Elam became the first to intercept Flacco in this year's camp. He nearly paid a price for it, though. Owner Steve Bisciotti playfully drove his golf cart onto the field and nearly hit Elam to stop him from reaching the end zone on the return.
  • Running back Justin Forsett has an impressive burst. If you didn't know it, he put it on display when he caught a short slant and beat four defenders to score a touchdown. Forsett is a smallish back who is competing with rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro for the No. 3 running back spot.
  • Cornerback Chykie Brown struggled mightily in the first week of camp. After sitting out yesterday with a tweaked hamstring, he came back and broke up two passes. The extra rest may have helped him refocus mentally. His biggest mistake of the night was a defensive holding penalty.
  • A little more than 28,000 fans attended the Ravens' practice at M&T Bank Stadium on Monday night. It was the team's first workout at the stadium in this year's camp.
  • Ray Lewis made an appearance at the stadium and revealed what his statue may look like during an on-field interview. He said the statue, which will be placed in the same plaza as Johnny Unitas, will feature him doing his signature dance. It will be unveiled at some point this year.
  • Schedule: The Ravens have their first day off on Tuesday. They return to practice Wednesday at 1 p.m.
  • Injury wire: Brown (tweaked hamstring) returned after missing one day of practice. ... CB Lardarius Webb (back) missed his third practice. ... DE Chris Canty (family issue) was the only other starter who didn't practice. ... Will Rackley (head) and OT Parker Graham (groin) also didn't practice. ... NT Terrence Cody (hip) is on the physically unable to perform list.
BALTIMORE -- Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has received a negative backlash from national media and fans since his altercation with then-fiancée Janay Palmer in February.

But, in his home stadium, Rice apparently remains one of the most popular players on the team.

On two separate instances, fans gave loud cheers when Rice was shown on the big screen at M&T Bank Stadium, where the Ravens held their first open practice of training camp.

The first time was when Rice had a playful race with a small child along the sidelines. By the time Rice reached the end, which was a few feet from the stands, many fans gave him a standing ovation.

A few minutes later, Rice was again shown on the large video board. When fans cheered him, Rice tapped his chest.

There were many fans wearing Rice's No. 27 jersey, including several children.

Rice was suspended two games by the NFL on Thursday, and he didn't appeal the decision. He will miss the season opener against the AFC North defending champion Cincinnati Bengals and a Thursday night game against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers.

“It is disappointing that I will not be with my teammates for the first two games of the season, but that’s my fault," Rice said in a statement released by the team on Thursday. "As I said earlier, I failed in many ways. But, Janay and I have learned from this. We have become better as a couple and as parents. I am better because of everything we have experienced since that night. The counseling has helped tremendously.

“My goal is to earn back the trust of the people, especially the children, I let down because of this incident. I am a role model and I take that responsibility seriously. My actions going forward will show that.”

Rice is scheduled to speak to reporters on Thursday.
CINCINNATI -- Late in Monday afternoon's practice, on one goal-line exercise, quarterback Andy Dalton stepped up in the pocket, then stepped back, rolled to his right away from more pressure, and threw the ball to an empty space well beyond the back corner of the end zone.

The play resulted in an incompletion. And his offensive coordinator couldn't have been happier.

[+] EnlargeAndy Dalton
AP PhotoAndy Dalton has worked on becoming a smarter quarterback during the offseason.
"Good, Andy. Good job," Hue Jackson shouted as Dalton jogged back to the huddle.

Indeed, it was good recognition by the Cincinnati Bengals' long-embattled quarterback who has struggled in the past with deciding in similar scenarios of good defensive coverage and pressure whether he wants to tuck the ball and run, take a sack, throw it away or still try to complete the pass.

More often than not, his instinct in the past was to make the play work anyway. The end result of those decisions? Typically wobbly passes that fluttered into the hands of a defensive back who greedily picked off the pass that shouldn't have been attempted. A number of Dalton's 20 interceptions last season came when he tried to force a pass.

So for much of the offseason, Jackson made sure Dalton understood his decision-making had to improve.

"It was a huge emphasis," Jackson said. "First, one, it's what I believe in. It's what our staff believes in. But two, it's truly what the essence of playing quarterback is about: making sure you don't have negative plays for your team. You've got to do a great job of carrying everybody under your hand. When you've got the ball in your hand, it's just about making a good decision. He's worked his tail off at doing that."

One of the more telling comments Jackson made during a post-practice huddle with reporters was that he wanted Dalton to realize that his decision-making doesn't only impact the offense. It can impact the entire team.

"You've got to protect the offensive football team and our entire football team with the ball," Jackson said. "He's starting to understand that. The guy had 33 touchdowns last year. But if we can get him to where when those opportunities come that are not there, to get him to be good with the ball, then great things can happen with this football team."

On the first day of training camp Dalton accepted responsibility for what he felt was his role in the Bengals' 27-10 loss to the Chargers in January's wild-card playoff loss. He was right to do that, just as he was at other times the past seven months. He had three costly turnovers in the game. All in the second half, he lost a fumble and threw a pair of interceptions. The Bengals' four-point halftime deficit ballooned after the turnovers, and eventually the game was out of hand.

It's film of that game that has Jackson wanting to see more of the heady Dalton who threw that pass away Monday.

"That was outstanding," Jackson said. "That's what I'm looking for. My goal, my thing with him, is to get us to the next down with the ball. It's not always about throwing a touchdown pass.

"Sometimes we're going to play good defenses and they're going to do things that stop us. And when they do, we have to be a smart football unit to make sure we're making proper decisions. Which sometimes, you've just got to say, 'Uncle,' and throw it away. It might mean taking a sack. It might mean whatever those things are. But just get us to the next down with the ball and we'll have a chance."

Steelers Camp Report: Day 3

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
LATROBE, Pa. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of the Pittsburgh Steelers training camp:
  • What a difference the popping of pads makes. The Steelers held their first padded practice of training camp between the rain drops produced Monday by a sobbing sky and everyone, it seemed, turned the intensity up. Way up. You expected to hear new defensive assistant Joey Porter early and often during practice. It was a surprise to see even-keeled defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau also yelling as he did several times during an 11-on-11 drill. Running backs and linebackers collided ferociously during the popular backs on 'backers drill and there was tackling as coach Mike Tomlin had promised. The practice looked totally different from the non-contact drills that the players had taken part in May and June and for the first two days of camp.
  • Rookie Ryan Shazier stood out during the backs on backers drill, showcasing the speed that helped convince the Steelers to take the inside linebacker with the 15th overall pick of the 2014 NFL draft. Everyone was anxious to see Shazier in full pads, and he made a strong first impression, especially when he twice blew past LeGarrette Blount. "He did some nice things," Tomlin said of Shazier. "He was elusive. He was playing to his assets with his speed and agility."
  • Outside linebacker Jason Worilds turned in the play of the day when he intercepted a pass thrown to rookie running back Dri Archer on a wheel route. When asked what was more impressive, Worilds making a play on the ball down the field or his running with the ultra-fast Archer, Tomlin said the interception and laughed. "That's the first time Jason Worilds has caught a ball in any fashion out here in practice. I know he can run. I'm going to paint that ball and give it to him."
  • Rookie cornerback Shaquille Richardson made a diving interception of a Bruce Gradkowski and the defense seemed to be ahead of the offense on the first day of pads and contact. Not that Tomlin saw it that way. "Battles were fought and won on both sides of the ball," he said.
  • Starting running back Le'Veon Bell (hamstring) didn't practice, and Blount, his backup, didn't have his best day. Blount struggled in backs on 'backers and also dropped a pass. Bell is "day-to-day," Tomlin said, after experiencing hamstring tightness on Sunday.
  • In other injury news, rookie linebacker Jordan Zumwalt left practice with groin tightness and wide receiver C.J. Goodwin was held out of drills after landing on his shoulder during practice on Sunday. Ramon Foster will not in camp due to the death of his mother, so Chris Hubbard played left guard with the first-team offense for the second consecutive practice. The players are off on Tuesday and resume practice on Wednesday.

Bengals Camp Report: Day 5

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
CINCINNATI -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Cincinnati Bengals training camp:

  • The Bengals had barely finished stretching at the start of Monday's practice before Mohamed Sanu made his presence known. The receiver went in motion on one of the first plays of an 11-on-11 drill before he was handed the football. Right after taking it from quarterback Andy Dalton, Sanu stopped, pulled up and threw a pass -- one of the few he has even attempted, in practice or otherwise, since college -- to fellow receiver A.J. Green. The throw fell easily into Green's hands well down field and set the tone for what ended up being a strong day overall for Sanu. "Coach had me doing a little bit of everything," Sanu said about offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.
  • In addition to throwing that pass, Sanu ran the ball once and, naturally, caught a few passes of his own from Dalton and other quarterbacks. While Sanu nor Jackson nor head coach Marvin Lewis will dare provide specifics about how they are using the receiver, they are all glad to have such a versatile playmaker on the roster. With Sanu a threat to do almost anything on the field, the Bengals know how big a challenge covering him, while also having to account for Giovani Bernard and Green, among others, can be.
  • Much of the Bengals' second fully-padded practice of training camp was spent working on short-yardage and goal-line situations. Running backs had to plow ahead on each play while defenders were charged with stopping them. It seemed like regularly during the third-and-short and fourth-and-short plays, the running backs were able to slither free for the first-down gain. On the goal line, however, the defense had its share of wins, breaking through and knocking down passing attempts, stopping running backs at the line of scrimmage or flushing quarterbacks out of the pocket and into forced throws. The units seemed split on the amount of time they respectively won battles in the trenches.
  • While the overall contact stepped up a notch Monday, the physical play that occurred Sunday may have been just a bit too much for several defenders. Linebackers J.K. Schaffer and Sean Porter got a little dinged after the first fully padded practice of the camp. That caused them both to stay in the training room Monday, while defensive end Robert Geathers and cornerback Adam Jones may have been receiving veterans' days off after the intense Day 4 workout. Neither was dressed Monday, but both were out on the practice fields. Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick also was at practice but not participating after apparently tweaking a hamstring on Saturday.
  • The Bengals did lose one player to injury Monday. Offensive tackle Andre Smith ran into the locker room in the middle of the practice for an unspecified injury. Jackson said after practice he wasn't positive what the injury was but felt comfortable in affirming that the lineman shouldn't miss too much time. An off day couldn't have come at a better time for the Bengals. They won't practice Tuesday and will be back in action Wednesday.

Browns Camp Report: Day 3

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
BEREA, Ohio -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of the Cleveland Browns training camp:
  • Monday was the first day the Browns could put on pads, and when they did, coach Mike Pettine said he wanted to hear the practice because if he could hear it, it meant players were being physical. There must be varying definitions of loud and physical, because Pettine said he was pleased, even though there wasn't much to hear. It was probably the quietest full-pad practice in memory, as the Browns practiced at what almost seemed like a slower pace than normal. A blitz drill that with some teams involves yelling and serious competition did take place, but without much interplay and without much competition. Pettine said he liked it all though, and said the work was "solid," so there is that. #whatever
  • Pettine became agitated when safety Johnson Bademosi dropped his shoulder into Nate Burleson after a reception, saying: "I told the guys that that stuff is not going to help them make the team. We want to be tough. We want to be nasty, but we want to play within the rules. We certainly want to protect each other while we're practicing." Burleson spun away from the "hit" and ran toward the end zone. #notsooldschool
  • Cornerback Justin Gilbert was active, with a couple interceptions and a pass knocked down. It was the most noticeable he'd been all camp. He even took some reps returning kicks, though Pettine said that would happen only in emergency. "I think I'd hold my breath or watch with one-and-a-half eyes covered if he was returning a kick," he said. Gilbert is very adept as a returner, but teams do not like risking their first-round pick that way. "It's much more intriguing for (special teams coordinator) Chris Tabor than it is for me," Pettine said. #defensive
  • Joe Thomas on whether it was good to hit someone again: "Not really, but it's a necessary part of football." Yes, he was smiling. ... Of a car in the parking lot decorated with Packers gear, Thomas said with another smile: "That could be a relative." He's from Wisconsin. ... In a mild surprise, the Browns released OT Chris Faulk when they activated LB Tank Carder. Faulk was trying to come back from tearing multiple knee ligaments in 2012 at LSU. ... The team and Jason Pinkston's agents released a statement saying Pinkston had not been cleared medically to play. No further details were provided. ... WRs Charles Johnson and Travis Benjamin were given a day of rest for their surgically repaired knees. .. Running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery shrugged at Ben Tate showing some attitude by saying nobody in the running backs room scared him. "I think it's funny," Montgomery said. "I think that's what all of them would say. For him, if that's the way that he's going to motivate himself to try to win a job, that's good for him." #dot-dot-dot-com
The last word: Pettine on what it's like having his father watch practice, and the tape: "I usually get about a page of notes a day sitting on my desk."
BEREA, Ohio -- Joe Thomas has reached the point in his career where he is given days off during Cleveland Browns' training camp.

[+] EnlargeJoe Thomas
AP PhotoVeteran tackle Joe Thomas runs sprints during a conditioning test at the Browns' training camp facility in Berea, Ohio.
It's a sign of respect, and in Thomas' case it's respect for sustained and consistent excellence in each of his seven previous seasons in the league, when he's made seven Pro Bowls and never missed a snap.

Thomas remains ever dedicated, ever courteous. He also is unfailingly humble. But as his career progresses, he has become more and more insightful about the game's nuances and games within the game.

So when he speaks, it's worth listening. There will be no outrageousness, and no fudging of the truth either. Monday, Thomas spoke with the media for the first time since training camp began, touching on two issues of interest -- the running game and Brian Hoyer (he was not crusading for Hoyer, merely answering questions).

Thomas spent most of last season talking about the running game being an NFL dinosaur and saying that to win in the modern age teams had to throw the ball. He even went as far as to say he'd never draft a running back in the first round. Now, though, he plays for a team that (assuming Josh Gordon is suspended) will have to run the ball effectively to win.

Thomas acknowledged the irony, but added the Kyle Shanahan system -- an offshoot of his father Mike Shanahan -- would have the Browns closer to a 50-50 run-pass split than at any time in his career regardless. He said Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme is dependent on the run because it relies heavily on play-action.

"You need to be able to run those wide zones, even if it gets one or zero yards, to keep the safeties up," Thomas said. "It's when they're trying to fill in the run game that you can hit those big plays over the top."

Thomas said the Browns and Baltimore (with Shanahan disciple Gary Kubiak as offensive coordinator) are the only two teams to run the zone-blocking system, which requires lateral movement from linemen and a back who can read the hole, plant and hit the hole with authority. Thomas said the zone-blocking scheme is drastically different than anything he's done, but it fits the skills of the team's offensive line better than any system in his career. That's because the Browns have guys who can move in Thomas, Joel Bitonio, Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz.

"This is in my opinion one of the only schemes that you can run the ball consistently," Thomas said, "because you make those defensive linemen run sideline to sideline. And it does set up the passing game that we run very, very well."

Regarding Hoyer, Thomas had nothing but praise. He was careful not to compare Hoyer to Johnny Manziel, or to say that one or the other would start. He simply praised Hoyer as "every bit one of the best competitors in the NFL."

"No matter if we drafted a quarterback No. 1 overall, I knew that in his mind he expected to win the job," Thomas said.

He added Hoyer is never hesitant or afraid to challenge teammates on the field, and he is much more vocal than it might appear.

"He has less starts than probably any guy but a rookie who's out there starting right now," Thomas said. "He commands a level of respect because of the way he goes about his business doing things the right way and acting like he's the starting quarterback that's taken us to five playoffs.

"I think it's that attitude and that swagger that demands respect, and he also goes out and he backs it up on the field where he throws the ball to the right person, he's doing the right things, he's getting everybody on the same page. That's just as much the role of the quarterback as throwing touchdown passes."
LATROBE, Pa. -- The Pittsburgh Steelers have not ruled out bringing back defensive end Brett Keisel or outside linebacker James Harrison.

General manager Kevin Colbert declined to talk about specific players Monday morning when asked if Keisel is on the Steelers’ radar. But Colbert said, “We haven’t eliminated anybody from consideration because we don’t know what’s going to happen before the season. Even into the season there’s been times when we’ve brought back veteran players due to injury. If we have eliminated a player we always tell [him] don’t keep us in your thought process, if you have an opportunity don’t wait for us, something along those lines.”

Keisel and Harrison, who played for the Bengals in 2013 after nine seasons with the Steelers, would like to return to the team. And I have Keisel on my latest projected 53-man roster.

It makes all the sense in the world for the Steelers to bring Keisel back.

He could play in a rotation at left defensive end – I’m not sold on Cam Thomas there – and serve as a perfect bridge between second-round pick Stephon Tuitt’s rookie and second seasons. There are a lot of people with football expertise who think Keisel can still play, even though he turns 36 in September, and he would be a great mentor for the younger defensive ends like Tuitt and Brian Arnfelt.

The Steelers don’t have to be in a hurry to bring back Keisel, who is keeping himself in shape and doesn't need training camp at this point of his career. That will give them time to take an extended look at what they have at defensive end and help them decide whether to bring back Keisel.

I like Keisel’s chances of returning to the Steelers a lot better than I do Harrison coming back for a second stint in Pittsburgh.

The five-time Pro Bowler would have to be content with a really limited role with the Steelers set with their top three at outside linebacker in Jason Worilds, Jarvis Jones and Arthur Moats.

For fans who have asked about Harrison returning so he can help the younger players at outside linebacker, the Steelers added that mentor last February when they hired Joey Porter as a defensive assistant.

One injury, of course, could change everything in regard to the Steelers and Harrison. But if the Steelers stay relatively healthy at outside linebacker, I don’t see him returning to Pittsburgh.
A day-by-day and honest look at Johnny Manziel's first training camp with the Cleveland Browns:

THE WORK: Better than Sunday, which coach Mike Pettine described generously as “inconsistent.” Manziel seemed more comfortable in the pocket, and with the calls. For whatever reason, he was less hesitant than Sunday, and he drove the ball better. His play still did not match that of starter Brian Hoyer's, but Manziel clearly put a tough day behind him and rebounded to make some throws and run some read-option. The highlight: The Browns ended the day with two-minute drill, with Manziel and Hoyer each receiving two opportunities. Manziel was the only quarterback to score, setting up a six-yard play-action roll-out touchdown throw to fullback Ray Agnew with a nice throw over the middle to Taylor Gabriel.

GOOD THROW: The throw down the middle of the field to Gabriel on the final two-minute drill was not a tight spiral, but it got there and it was accurate. It also was one of a few throws when Manziel stepped into the pass and drove the ball, which was nice to see.

BAD THROW: In 11-on-11 work, Manziel found no one open and scrambled to his left. At one point, he looked behind him -- away from the line of scrimmage. He then tried to sidearm a throw downfield, but rookie linebacker Chris Kirksey intercepted it. It was the kind of play and throw that would have had fans howling if it were Brandon Weeden doing it.

THE WORD: From coach Mike Pettine on the play-by-play process with a rookie quarterback: “You’re going to have some good ones, you’re going to have some bad ones and you hope you can minimize the bad ones.”

START CHART: On a 1-to-10 scale, with 10 being Manziel certainly starts the opener Manziel started with a 3, dropped to a 1, and Monday goes back to a 3.
The one-year anniversary of tight end Dennis Pitta dislocating his hip passed over the weekend, and it went unnoticed by the Baltimore Ravens.

"I didn’t even think about that. Someone had to remind me of that, which I really didn’t need that reminder," coach John Harbaugh said. "That was unnecessary because let’s just look forward."

To understand the type of impact Pitta will have this season, you have to look at how the Ravens fared without him last season. The best way to measure the loss of Pitta is this: The Ravens ranked 31st in red zone scoring percentage and 20th on third-down conversion percentage with Pitta out for most of 2013.

A healthy Pitta should lead to more scoring and more extended drives. While you also can't dismiss the loss of wide receiver Anquan Boldin (who was traded before last season) and the effect of that on the offense, Pitta continually came up big for Joe Flacco and the Ravens inside the 20-yard line and on third downs.

Over the 2011 and 2012 seasons, Pitta scored 10 touchdowns in the red zone. No other Ravens player had more than seven during that span.

During those two same seasons, Pitta caught 36 passes on third downs, which tied Ray Rice for the team lead. Only three tight ends -- Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez -- had more third-down receptions than Pitta over that span.

Pitta did play in 2013, returning for the final four games. But he didn't have the same explosion or impact because he wasn't fully recovered.

That's not the case for 2014.

"I’m out here not thinking about it," Pitta said. "It’s not giving me an issue at all; I feel 100 percent. I’m encouraged with where I’m at.”

While Pitta isn't thinking about the injury on the field, he is still "highly motivated" by it heading into this season.

"Not playing very much at all last season, you just have to kind of watch and wish you were out there, watch other people do well and wish you could be out there showcasing your abilities," he said. "So, I’m excited to have that chance this year and certainly motivated to do that.”
CINCINNATI -- Geno Atkins has done it. So has Vontaze Burfict.

Now Carlos Dunlap believes it's his turn.

The Cincinnati Bengals' fifth-year defensive end said before training camp practice Monday that he would like to join Atkins and Burfict as the next Cincinnati defender to reach the Pro Bowl.

"Most definitely, that's been one of my personal goals: to get out there with those guys," Dunlap said, responding to a question about the Pro Bowl.

Dunlap's motivations for making it to the game were inflamed further in January by defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, who sent him a text message from Hawaii. Guenther was there as one of Burfict's guests. His message to Dunlap? It's time you get out here, too.

"He saw the guys that were out there, so for him to feel like I should have been out there, it just tells me that I need to put the work in and everything else will fall into place," Dunlap said.

Since 2006, Burfict and Atkins have been the only Bengals defenders selected to the Pro Bowl. Atkins played in the game in 2011 and 2012, and the former undrafted free-agent Burfict capped off his second season by reaching it for the first time last year. Before Atkins, the last Bengals defender to be selected to the Pro Bowl was cornerback Deltha O'Neal, who participated in the 2005 season's game.

"The Pro Bowl is based off numbers and fan support," Dunlap said. "We've got a good, strong fan base in Cincinnati here, so now I just have to go out and produce and put up the numbers."

Last season, Dunlap had career highs in tackles (58) and sacks (7.5). He tied for the team sack lead with Wallace Gilberry. Dunlap also forced four fumbles, matching a career high set in 2012.
LATROBE, Pa. -- I’m not sure why Ben Roethlisberger's contract situation was ever an issue.

He wants to play his entire career with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Steelers went through too many quarterbacks after Terry Bradshaw to play a high-stakes game of chicken with Roethlisberger over money.

The two sides will get a deal done when the time is right. Roethlisberger still has two years left on the eight-year, $102 million deal he signed in 2008, and next year is much better for the Steelers to get a new deal done with Big Ben. The Steelers will have the kind of salary-cap space after this season to lock up Roethlisberger without compromising the construction of a competitive roster because of the investment they make in their franchise quarterback.

In terms of Roethlisberger and his third contract with the Steelers, it has always been a matter of when and not if, and Kevin Colbert doesn’t anticipate protracted contract talks once the two sides get serious about a new deal.

“Most negotiations aren’t that complicated or time consuming if you have two parties that want to do a deal,” the Steelers general manager said Monday.

That is the case with Roethlisberger and the Steelers. The only question is how much the organization will pay a quarterback who will be 33 years old when he plays under his next -- and presumably final -- contract.

Roethlisberger is still playing at a high level, and his command of the no-huddle offense, from which the coaches lifted the reins in the second half of last season, might be the biggest reason the Steelers won six of their final eight games in 2013.

The 11th-year veteran reported to training camp in excellent shape, and Roethlisberger is as engaged as ever when he is on the field, pointing out to the Steelers' young and new wide receivers the correct way to run a route or simply offering encouragement.

The Steelers, meanwhile, remain committed to building around Roethlisberger.

And if there is any doubt about how much they value him, consider this: When asked if he buys into the thinking that if you have a franchise quarterback in the NFL you have a chance, Colbert did not hesitate to answer.

“Absolutely,” he said.
Joe Flacco continues to be the face of bad contracts for quarterbacks, and it's just wrong to continue this narrative.

When Grantland named the starter for the Baltimore Ravens its choice at quarterback on the All-Bad Contracts Team, it was another instance of forgetting the deals signed by Tony Romo and Jay Cutler since. If Flacco's contract is the worst, how would you describe the bigger contracts given to two quarterbacks who haven't accomplished as much as Flacco?

In terms of guaranteed money, Romo ($55 million) and Cutler ($54 million) top Flacco's $51 million. And, to put this in perspective, the Ravens rewarded Flacco with his big deal after he was the Super Bowl's Most Valuable Player. Romo and Cutler were given this type of money after failing to lead their teams to the playoffs.

Flacco's 62 regular-season wins are the most by a starting quarterback in his first six seasons in NFL history. Before you say he was the beneficiary of playing on great teams, 35 of those wins came when Flacco produced a passer rating of at least 95.

In comparison, since Flacco entered the league in 2008, Cutler has 47 wins and Romo has 44. In Cutler's eight seasons, he has finished with a winning record as a starter three times.

Where Flacco separates himself is in the playoffs. While many remember Flacco's Montana-like Super Bowl run two years ago, he has been a hot quarterback in the postseason beyond that.

In his past three playoff seasons (2010-2012), Flacco has a 6-2 record with a 105 passer rating. He has averaged 251 passing yards per game with 18 touchdowns and two interceptions. He also came within a Lee Evans dropped pass from leading the Ravens to back-to-back Super Bowl appearances.

This overshadows the likes of Romo and Cutler. Romo has a career 1-3 record in the playoffs, and Cutler is 1-1 in the postseason.

This isn't to suggest that Flacco's contract is a good one. He would be the first to acknowledge he didn't live up to the six-year, $120.6 million deal last season, when he threw the second-most interceptions in the league.

But his contract isn't as gaudy as it was 17 months ago, when he became the NFL's highest-paid player. Flacco now ranks seventh in the league in guaranteed money.

Still, the perception remains that Flacco's contract is the worst in NFL history. The fact is, worse deals have been given to quarterbacks over the past year.
Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice did not appeal his two-game suspension from the NFL, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

This move was not a surprise considering Rice received a lighter punishment than expected. Rice, who was suspended Thursday, had three days to appeal the decision.

Rice will miss the season opener against the AFC North defending champion Cincinnati Bengals and a Thursday night game against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers. He can participate in training camp and all the preseason games. Rice, though, won't be able to practice with the team from Aug. 30 to Sept. 11.

Bernard Pierce, the team's top backup running back, said he is ready to fill in for Rice.

Rice's suspension stems from an altercation with then-fiancée Janay Palmer at an Atlantic City hotel in February. He also was fined an additional regular-season game check.

"It is disappointing that I will not be with my teammates for the first two games of the season, but that's my fault," Rice said in a statement released by the Ravens last week. "As I said earlier, I failed in many ways. But, Janay and I have learned from this. We have become better as a couple and as parents. I am better because of everything we have experienced since that night. The counseling has helped tremendously.

"My goal is to earn back the trust of the people, especially the children, I let (them) down because of this incident," Rice said. "I am a role model and I take that responsibility seriously. My actions going forward will show that."

Rice is scheduled to address the media on Thursday.