Pees Not Comparing Other Ravens Rushers To Suggs
NOTEBOOK: FAST START IS ESSENTIAL; WILL RAVENS STRIP GREEN-ELLIS?
By Joe Platania
OWINGS MILLS -- During the mid-1980s, Dean Pees handled the defensive backfield at Miami University of Ohio, and was John Harbaugh's position coach.
So, it's no mystery as to why Pees has been coached what position to take when it comes to fielding comparison questions. He simply won't do it.
Pees, now the defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens, witnessed a preseason during which the Ravens took down opposing quarterbacks just six times.
Moreover, just three of those sacks came from players expected to get substantial regular-season playing time in defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and outside linebackers Albert McClellan and Courtney Upshaw.
Yet, whether it's Upshaw, McClellan, Paul Kruger, Sergio Kindle or someone else taking over for injured Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs, Pees hasn't compared anyone with the Ravens' temporarily departed all-time sack leader.
"It has nothing to do with Sizzle," Pees said Friday afternoon when asked about Kruger. "It has to do with playing outside 'backer for the Baltimore Ravens. You guys keep comparing. You can never compare two people. It has nothing to do with another guy. There's no comparison. I never compare. It's playing outside linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens -- period.
"Whether it's the Sam [strong-side outside linebacker], the Rush [weak-side outside linebacker], the Mike [strong-side middle inside linebacker], the Will [weak-side inside linebacker], when Ray [Lewis] was out [for four games in 2011], it has nothing to do with a guy [having] to take another guy's position. It has to do with that guy playing that position.
"I don't want to come across stirred up about it, because I'm not. When you compare players, you take everything so far out of context. It's not about that. It's about how he fits in the defense, how does he do his part. He's one-eleventh of this defense, and so is Sizzle when he's in there. He's one of 11. So whether you game plan certain ways or whatever, that's what they are. They all have one-eleventh stock in this defense."
But since Harbaugh and Pees also agree on a team-first approach, maybe it's valid to compare what entire squads have done.
In 2006, the year the Ravens set a team single-season sack record with 60, they had 16 during the preseason. Last season, when they got 48, there were 14 August sacks.
As for the Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore's Week One opponent, they have recently turned into a team that has been good at protecting its quarterback, Andy Dalton.
Last year, Cincinnati yielded only 25 sacks, about 1.5 sacks per game, one of the league's lowest rates. In August, the Bengals permitted just nine during four games.
Given that track record, and with the Ravens' paucity of preseason quarterback takedowns as a concern, could the secondary possibly help the situation by blitzing more?
"I'm not sure if we're going to do more blitzing," said free safety Ed Reed, who has six career sacks. "We haven't played a game yet. ... It's always different when you get into the flow of a game.
"So you've got to be careful to say you're going to blitz more or not going to blitz more, because you just never know how the game is going."
And the Ravens still don't know what they're going to get from Kindle, the 2010 top draft pick who managed to make the team this year despite a spotty preseason.
But there's one vital reason he is still on the roster despite the head injury he suffered after falling down two flights of stairs, one that has contributed to his slow recovery time and occasional on-field hearing problems.
"Sergio's potential as a pass rusher is something that's really important," Harbaugh said. "That's something we've seen him do in practice, in the preseason. He's got some talent, obviously.
"He's still probably on his way back from a really bad brain injury. It's remarkable how far he's come and we're not ready to give up on him. ... That's probably a bad choice of words, but we're still looking at him as a pass rusher and a physical edge-setter."
But if Kindle and the rest of the Ravens don't get to Dalton or any of the other outstanding quarterbacks on their ultra-tough schedule, one thing's for sure:
The comparisons will be inevitable -- and valid -- whether Pees and Harbaugh like it or not.
INFIRMARY, PRACTICE REPORT: Friday's shorts-and-shells practice under sunny, warm conditions featured another nearly full attendance showing by the players.
But for a second straight day, guard/tackle Jah Reid (calf) did not participate during media viewing and likely didn't during the entire session.
Though the session had a slower pace and didn't feature much, if any, contact, safety Sean Considine (concussions) was not wearing a red mesh no-contact jersey.
For a second straight day, rookie linebacker Courtney Upshaw (shoulder) practiced fully.
Once again, preseason injuries were not hindering tight ends Ed Dickson (shoulder) and Dennis Pitta (hand, wrist); offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said Thursday he didn't think the injuries would keep them out of the season opener.
Also, the Ravens' injured reserve list has once again been reduced, as undrafted rookie tight end Bruce Figgins (Georgia) was waived with an injury settlement (shoulder).
Figgins, who caught two preseason passes for 12 yards, is the third Raven to be omitted from the list in this fashion, following tight end Matt Balasavage and linebacker Stevie Baggs.
There are eight players left on IR: linebackers Michael McAdoo, Ricky Brown and Darryl Blackstock, guard/center Justin Boren, defensive tackle Ryan McBean, running back Damien Berry, safety Emanuel Cook and wideout Tommy Streeter.
So far, none of those players has been designated to return, per the new rule that allows each team to single out one IR assignee to come back later during the year.
STARTING FAST: Cameron might have been pointing out the obvious, but he said a fast start against the Bengals was key to success on Monday night.
"You start a lot faster when you win than when you lose," Cameron said Friday afternoon. "We want to be able to start fast in games and when it's over, we want to say we were the best offense we possibly could have been."
The Ravens' newly accelerated no-huddle and "sugar huddle" looks could contribute to that, helping Joe Flacco get the ball out quicker while maintaining the team's running identity.
"I go into every game expecting a lot of carries," said running back Ray Rice, who had 10 preseason carries and 13 total touches in August. "That's just me, the feeling as a running back. ... But everything's all about the game plan.
"We've got to play the situations. You've got to be smart when you run the football."
Playing smart and starting fast were strong points for the Ravens in 2011; the team scored 95 first-quarter points, second only to Houston (110) in the AFC.
That led to success, for the Ravens won all 10 games when they were first to put points on the board. During the Harbaugh era, Baltimore is 33-5 when it scores first.
Rice was a big reason it happened during the season finale at Cincinnati, which clinched the AFC North Division title. The Ravens took the opening kickoff and were in the end zone quickly thanks to Rice's 70-yard touchdown.
But the Bengals are no slouch in that department, either, having tallied 83 points during the first 15 minutes of last year's games, fourth in the conference.
When the two teams played in Baltimore last year, Cincinnati scored first -- an 82-yard, seven-play drive, which ended with a Cedric Benson touchdown run.
GLUE-FINGERED ONE: Last year, Terrell Suggs set a Ravens single-season record with seven forced fumbles. He is the team's all-time leader, with 29.
But, in yet another way his absence will truly be felt. He won't be around Monday night to try to knock the ball away from Cincinnati's newly acquired running back, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, nicknamed the "Law Firm" because of his long first name and hyphenated surname.
During four years with the New England Patriots, Green-Ellis has 537 career touches without a fumble: 510 rushing attempts, 26 receptions and a kick return.
Green-Ellis' streak became the longest current one in the league once Ray Rice committed the first of his two fumbles last year.
"Has he fumbled ever in his career?" Harbaugh said about Green-Ellis. "The answer is no. ... It's incredible. He is a guy that I loved when [he was] at Ole Miss. He is a north-south, hard-running guy. He has great vision. Another underrated player."
Now in his fifth year in the league, the undrafted Green-Ellis is someone opponents often cite as having a potent one-cut style, the same trait that distinguishes Ravens rookie Bernard Pierce.
"He is a hard-nosed runner," Ray Lewis said. "He is one of those ... guys that gets downhill. He plays the game the right way, the way the game should be played. They have a nice running-back system between him and [Brian] Leonard."
The 5-foot-11, 220-pound Green-Ellis also scored a 7-yard touchdown against the Ravens during last year's AFC Championship Game, giving the Patriots an early 10-3 lead.
But Green-Ellis -- who replaces Benson, a free-agent signee for Green Bay -- missed the last three Bengals preseason games because of a sprained foot. He had eight touches for 40 yards during the team's 17-6 win against the New York Jets that opened the August schedule.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Harbaugh was born in Perrysburg, Ohio, a bastion of Cleveland Browns fans. Like many others, the head coach had his own Art Modell story.
"Most [of my relatives] are still Browns fans," he said. "I'm trying to get over it. ... I was a Browns fan. My dad was a Browns fan. He took my mom to a Browns game for their honeymoon on free tickets from Art Modell ... and then they went to White Castle after the game.
"Yeah, 51 years later, they are still happily married, so what a great start."
JOEY P'S TRIVIA TIME ANSWER: Here's the question we asked you in our last entry:
Former Ravens majority owner Art Modell bought the Cleveland Browns in 1961, two years before the Pro Football Hall of Fame opened and began inducting the greats of the game.
Who were the first two people the Browns employed while Modell was the owner to be enshrined in the Hall?
Given the success of the Browns from the late '40s to the early '60s, there were plenty of inductees from that franchise during the Hall's first two decades of existence.
Quarterback Otto Graham, running back Marion Motley and wideout Dante Lavelli were all inducted between 1965 and 1975. But none of those players was with the Browns when Modell owned them.
The first member of the organization to have worked for Modell, then become a Hall of Famer, was head coach Paul Brown. Modell famously fired Brown after the 1962 season, because of differing philosophies, and hired Blanton Collier, who won the Browns' most recent NFL title during his second season.
Brown is the man for whom the franchise that would later become the Ravens was named, and it's fitting that the first Hall of Fame player that worked under Modell was none other than Jim Brown, a 1971 inductee who is still regarded as one of the best to ever play the game.
Brown won eight NFL rushing titles and gained 12,312 rushing yards while being named to nine consecutive Pro Bowls.
Brown retired from football while still at his peak in order to pursue an acting career. It was while filming the war epic "The Dirty Dozen" that he announced he was leaving the game.
Posted Sept. 7, 2012