As Camp Opens, Ravens' Talent Lies In The Numbers
NOTEBOOK: HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE IN PRIME-TIME GAMES
By Joe Platania
It may be a bit of a gray area, but despite what you may have read elsewhere, the Ravens' 17th training camp starts at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the team's Under Armour Performance Center.
Most observers cite Thursday as the true kickoff, as that is when the entire 87-man roster will convene at 2:30 p.m. at the Under Armour Performance Center.
(UPDATE: That number got reduced to 86 late Monday with the release of guard Howard Barbieri. His spot could be filled by 32-year-old former Cincinnati and Cleveland guard Eric Steinbach, who is coming off back surgery and will work out for the Ravens on Tuesday, according to published reports.)
But no matter when individual perspective dictates when camp officially begins, there's no disputing that the Ravens -- despite a troubling offseason, which included a key injury, free-agent defections and commitment vacillations -- will once again put one of the NFL's most talented teams on the field.
Fifth-year head coach John Harbaugh will once again stress that it's all about "team", but he will face perhaps his greatest challenge since his 2008 debut campaign.
That year, Harbaugh had to deal with his first-ever coaching job, a rookie quarterback and a team that had to play 18 consecutive weeks because of the Hurricane Ike storm damage in Houston and a Week Two bye as a result.
This time around, Harbaugh is more equipped to deal with whatever vagaries the season may provide, having triumphed more often than not in key situations.
In fact, Harbaugh's next victory will be his 50th (including postseason), and if it comes during the Sept. 10 Monday-night season opener against Cincinnati, it will come during his 74th game. It took Brian Billick 83 games to get his 50th win, reaching the mark Dec. 7, 2003, also against the Bengals.
Despite that win pace and the fact that the Ravens' current streak of four straight playoff appearances is unmatched by any other team, Harbaugh has never gotten even one vote for Coach of the Year, an award his brother, ex-Ravens quarterback and San Francisco 49ers' head coach Jim Harbaugh, won last year.
But the boyish-looking Harbaugh, who surprisingly turns 50 in September, is fond of saying, "It's not about me."
That's true, considering some of the lofty places some of his charges now hold in the NFL record book:
- After four full seasons during which he has not missed a game, quarterback Joe Flacco has a career passer rating of 86, which is 12th-best among active signal-callers. His interception percentage is 2.3, tied for fourth-best, and his 46 interceptions are tied with '08 draft classmate for fifth-fewest among actives.
- Ray Rice has accumulated 4,377 rushing yards during his four years as a Raven, the last three as the starting running back. That would have ranked him 14th among active players had the New York Jets' LaDainian Tomlinson not retired, but Rice got bumped up one spot.
- Linebacker Terrell Suggs is due to miss at least half the season because of Achilles tendon surgery, but his 82.5 career quarterback sacks are the seventh-most among active players (Suggs advanced one spot when Joey Porter retired). In case you're worried about Suggs getting passed while sitting out, the next-closest player to him is Andre Carter, with 76. Carter has not officially retired, but he remained unsigned as camps around the league opened.
- Even though wideout Anquan Boldin produced most of his prodigious numbers as an Arizona Cardinal, his 707 career catches are sixth-most among active wideouts, and his 9,455 total yards from scrimmage are the 12th-most among those still playing in the league. His 55 touchdowns rank 19th.
- Free safety Ed Reed's 57 pickoffs are first among actives, but Ray Lewis has 31 interceptions, which rank him 10th. Lewis is six behind Baltimore Colts standout Don Shinnick for the all-time linebacker pickoff record, and Lewis' 50 total takeaways are second-most among linebackers, three behind the Pittsburgh Steelers' Jack Ham.
- On the all-time interception list, Reed's next one will put him in a tie for 10th with Kansas City Chiefs standout Emmitt Thomas. Seven of the 10 players above Reed on the pickoff chart are Hall of Fame inductees, including Thomas.
- In the special-teams area, Billy Cundiff's 596 career points are 23rd among active NFL players and Jacoby Jones' 10.2-yard punt return average is 19th-best.
JOEY P'S TRIVIA TIME: Tuesday's question:
As with any team, the 2011 Ravens were strong in some statistical categories and quite weak in a few others. Can you name the category in which last year's Ravens turned in their lowest-ranked performance?
The answer will appear at the bottom of Tuesday's post-practice entry.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME: Baltimore fans love the national exposure that prime-time games provide, which is why most Ravens fans were satisfied with a schedule that includes three home night games within the season's first four weeks.
But there's another reason Ravens fans are going to enjoy the scenario, and it has nothing to do with blimp shots of the Inner Harbor.
It's simply because Baltimore is one of the league's best home teams, especially coming off a 2011 campaign during which it swept its eight home regular-season games for the first time.
The Ravens will be playing home games on Monday, Sunday and Thursday nights in September, and recent patterns favor Baltimore on all three nights.
For instance, home teams won 13 of 17 Monday night games last season, and that's how the Ravens will open the season when they host the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 10.
During each of the last two seasons, Sunday-night home teams have posted a 10-7 record. It will be after a Sunday sunset when the defending AFC champion New England Patriots come to town (Sept. 23) for the season's third game.
Four days later, the Cleveland Browns visit for an NFL Network Thursday night game during which Jamal Lewis will be inducted into the Ring of Honor. Home teams were 8-1 leaguewide on Thursday and Saturday nights in 2010, and 8-4 on those nights last year.
EYEBALL UPDATE: Usually, we don't turn our attention to football television ratings until the regular season has gotten underway. But some interesting data has recently surfaced.
According to the Ravens' Web site, the team's regular-season games last year pulled an average weekly local rating of 37.3, fourth-highest among the league's 30 television markets (San Francisco and New York cover two teams each).
The numbers came courtesy of team president Dick Cass, who briefed the Ravens' front-office staff in an internal "State of the Ravens" address, one that serves as a bit of an in-house pep talk before the new season.
By way of perspective, the Ravens averaged a 17.8 weekly local rating during its 2000 Super Bowl XXXV-winning season.
That's still a more-than-respectable number, but it seems to reflect two things: the ambivalence many fans in these parts still felt about the way the team was acquired, as well as the fact that 2000 was the Ravens' first-ever winning season and playoff appearance.
WORKING OVERTIME: In case the offseason news flew under your radar, the new overtime postseason rules are now in effect for regular- and preseason games as well.
It's a good time to revisit a few key numbers that would seem to debunk the myth that the overtime coin toss decides the game.
Hysteria surrounding that concept is what led to the rule being put in place before the 2010 playoffs, a year during which the rule -- which discourages game-winning field goals -- was never needed.
Since the overtime rule was put in place in 1974, ostensibly to reduce the number of tie games in the standings, there have been 477 regular-season overtime games.
The nightmare scenario often cited by the rule's detractors -- a team winning the coin toss and driving for an immediate game-winning field goal -- has only taken place in 140 of those games, or a measly 29.3 percent.
But despite that fact, short-sighted fans, the league and team administrators have put in place a rules package to combat a trend that isn't nearly as prevalent as has been widely thought.
The Ravens are 9-7-1 lifetime in overtime games, having won three of their last four. They haven't played an extra session since Dec. 13, 2010, in Houston, a Monday-night game that ended when Maryland grad Josh Wilson's 12-yard interception return pulled out a 34-28 Baltimore win.
CORRECTIONS: Even though the training-camp schedule published in the July PressBox print edition featured dates and times that were subject to change, there are a couple of noteworthy adjustments that have been made since presstime.
First, the itinerary for tomorrow (Wednesday, July 25) has changed.
It is not just an administrative day for the veterans that are checking in at the Under Armour Performance Center, but it is also a second practice day for the rookies, quarterbacks and injured veterans. That session begins at 12:15 p.m.
Secondly, the schedule failed to reflect the new first cutdown deadline.
Since the final cut date was moved up 24 hours to account for the Thursday-night regular-season opener being moved to Wednesday, Sept. 5, the first cut was also changed to a date one day earlier than scheduled (Monday, Aug. 27, 4 p.m.).
At the first deadline, teams must get down to 75 players. The final cut -- at 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31 -- will feature all 32 teams reducing their rosters to the Week One 53-man maximum.
PressBox regrets the errors.
Posted July 24, 2012