Signing New Ravens Player Involves Thorough Process
NOTEBOOK: SYMPATHY STRIKE, TWITTER CHATTER, MAILBAG REPLY
By Joe Platania
OWINGS MILLS -- Whenever the name of a prominent player hits the waiver wire, fan bases in certain cities usually rise up in a state of hysteria, basically saying, "He sure would look good in [color of home team's uniform]."
But acquiring that player requires more than just a phone call and an open checkbook. For any given team, a whole set of procedures is put into motion for each player it could possibly want.
First, teams contact players' agents and informs them that their clients are wanted in their city for a tryout. If the session goes well, then a complete physical is given. It's at that point that a contract offer is made.
The Ravens, with only 87 players on their training-camp roster as of Tuesday evening and $3.3 million in salary-cap room, put former Cincinnati and Cleveland guard Eric Steinbach through that process just before the rookies' and quarterbacks' first on-field workout.
“Well, it’s like we say every year: 'We are always looking for players. We are always looking to upgrade,' " head coach John Harbaugh said. "... So, you’ve got an opportunity where you've got good players who are available. We are going to take a look at them and try to make the roster better any way we can at any time. If we can create even better competition and put more good players into the mix with the financial resources that we have, we always want to do that.
"Eric Steinbach is a heck of a player. I don’t know where we stand, but we are going to look for any good player we can at any time.”
Steinbach, 32, missed all of last season with back surgery and had not been signed as of 7 a.m. Wednesday. But the process he went through is the same one the Ravens have used during previous training camps to upgrade their offensive line just before the start of the season.
Notable players acquired in this fashion include another ex-Bengal, right tackle Willie Anderson, in 2008. Last season, former Dallas guard Andre Gurode and ex-Minnesota tackle Bryant McKinnie signed on via this process.
This year, the team's vexing left-guard slot has been addressed similarly with former St. Louis and San Francisco castoff Tony Wragge and the current probable starter, longtime Bengals standout Bobbie Williams.
But Steinbach was not the only prospective veteran to be put through his paces at the Under Armour Performance Center.
Because of a lack of outside linebacker depth -- brought on by the free-agent defection of Jarret Johnson and injuries to Terrell Suggs and Michael McAdoo -- several street players at that position were also brought to the UAPC.
(The names of those players were not revealed, but some of the more notable outside linebackers still available Tuesday included Indianapolis' Kevin Bentley, Minnesota's Xavier Adibi, Carolina's Omar Gaither, Washington's Rocky McIntosh, St. Louis' Brady Poppinga -- who also played in Green Bay -- and Seattle's David Vobora, a former "Mr. Irrelevant" draft pick when he broke into the league with St. Louis.)
The same, constant drive to continually upgrade the roster is what seems to drive Harbaugh and his staff, rather than an indictment of current starters Paul Kruger and Courtney Upshaw.
"Our goal is to be the best defense in football, and that's not going to change," Harbaugh said. "[Kruger and Upshaw] have an opportunity to be, obviously, a huge part of that, so yeah, it’s a huge responsibility.
"But I don’t think it would be any different than any other position. Any one of those 11 spots is a pretty big deal.”
And, as much as any team tries to get younger, cheaper players in the salary-cap era, it's also a big deal to have veteran experience around to smooth the waters when things get rough.
Center Matt Birk, who turned 36 on Monday, knows this all too well, becauase he mans the position next to the left-guard slot, which also features competitors such as second-year player Jah Reid and fifth-round draft pick Gino Gradkowski.
"Experience is important," Birk said. "Certainly, there is a way that we’re going to do things and sounds like coaches are deferring to the veteran players, 'Hey, how should we do this?' But, veterans can give valuable input, sometimes on scheme, but a lot of times on approach, maybe mentally, 'How do you approach this?' or 'How do you think about this?'
"Really, [it's] a lot of things. There's really no substitute for experience. I think the veteran guys we do have are good guys, are right-way guys -- guys that have made their way in this league doing things the right way."
It's just as true off the field as on: if a team is going to upgrade its roster, there's only one way to do it ... thorough, gradual and right.
JOEY P'S TRIVIA TIME: Today's question:
Yesterday in Ravens Report, we pointed out that there have been 70 instances when a Ravens player has won one of the AFC weekly awards. But offensive players have snagged only 17 of those honors.
Which Raven was the first to win an AFC Offensive Player of the Week award?
The answer will be revealed at the bottom of Wednesday's post-practice entry.
SYMPATHY STRIKE?: According to Pro Football Talk, the current lockout of game officials could lead to a sympathy strike by the players, a drastic action that would undo the goodwill last year's arrival at a 10-year collective bargaining agreement built up.
Baltimore native, ex-Maryland and Ravens cornerback and players' association president Domonique Foxworth told PFT that his organization would gauge the players' reaction to games lower-level types officiated.
The first preseason game is the annual Hall of Fame Game in Canton between Arizona and New Orleans on Aug. 5, less than two weeks away.
"We'll see what the decision is as we get closer to the day," Foxworth said in June. "Hopefully, they can figure this out in an amicable way as soon as possible. I'm not sure what the decision is going to be from the Players Association when that day comes."
The PFT report also cites a no-strike/no-lockout provision in the new CBA. But that doesn't expressly prohibit a sympathy strike or boycott of preseason games by NFL players.
Moreover, the fact that Bowl Championship Subdivision conferences would not allow their officials to work NFL regular-season games in the event of a stoppage -- as they did during Week One of the 2001 season, the most recent occasion when a similar scenariotook place -- would create what the union would claim as an "abnormally dangerous" situation.
"The officials are being asked to be first-responders on the field for player safety as well as to officiate the games," NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith told Sports Illustrated. "How do you expect officials not used to doing games at that level to be able to step in and handle the job?
"To use a [lockout] as a motivational tactic in negotiations ... we find (that) repulsive.’’
TWITTERVERSE: If there's one thing that can be said for Twitter, it can help fans track their favorite Ravens as they head toward training camp.
For instance, here's how fullback Vonta Leach was feeling as zero hour approached:
(Approximately 10 a.m. Tuesday): "It's always hard saying goodbye to my little girls when I head off to training camp. They just dropped [me] off at airport."
(1:30 p.m. Tuesday): "Just landed back in Baltimore."
Defensive lineman Arthur Jones is focused on the Ravens' biggest rival, as this tweet showed:
(11 a.m. Tuesday): "Not gonna lie.. I was pretty jealous to see the Pittsburgh Steelers in the new Batman movie lol."
And, to clear up any controversy about the team's conditioning test, second-round pick Courtney Upshaw, who had been placed on the team's Non-Football Injury list, hit the keyboard:
(Approximately noon Tuesday): "Yes I missed 1st walk through because of condition test but went back and passed it the same day to make it to the 1st practice Yesterday!!!"
MAILBAG: Except for the designated hitter, which entered the baseball world in 1973, we can't think of a major-sports rule change that elicits more debate than NFL overtime, which is only one year younger than the DH.
In response to our item about the fact that less than 30 percent of regular-season overtimes end with a coin-toss-winning team kicking a field goal, frequent PressBox message-board poster "Mr. Bad Example" had an intriguing proposal:
"Sorry, 29.3% is hardly 'measly' when deciding a win or a loss in a 16-game season.
"Out of 477 regular season overtime games, the coin-flip winner elected to receive 476 times. Please don't call 99.79% measly or all coaches except one 'short-sighted.' They will be no more influenced by your insult than fans like me.
"Hey, I don't like the new rule, either. Make the team who tied the score last kick off to the team who held the lead last. Maybe, then, the team will go for a 2-point conversion instead of a tie, or a TD instead of a FG.
"Whatever, the OT decision should be value-based to a deserving team, not a coin-flip. Then, if a team goes 30 yards and kicks a FG, they deserved it."
It's an idea worth thinking about, but there's one slight mistake Mr. BE made in his message: according to the NFL record book, teams have elected to kick off at the start of overtime on nine occasions, not just one.
But we would have made the same error, because the gaffe committed by then-Detroit coach Marty Mornhinweg against the Bears a few years back that resulted in a Chicago win was perhaps the most memorable coin-toss error in overtime history, pushing the others into the background.
Posted July 25, 2012