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O's/Ravens Schedule Dispute Could Happen Again

BILLICK, SIRAGUSA ASSIGNMENTS; A LOOK AT SUNDAY'S REF

By Joe Platania

OWINGS MILLS -- Talk-show lines were buzzing. Barroom patrons were fuming. Newspapers and Web sites were filled with anger, vitriol and many suggestions about where to place the blame.

Yes, the great Orioles-Ravens scheduling controversy of 2013 put yet another divide in the seemingly healed chasm between Charm City's football and baseball fans, two groups that had a joyous union last year when both teams made the playoffs for the first time since the NFL returned to Baltimore in 1996.

Believe it or not, it could happen again.

With the release of the Orioles' 2014 schedule earlier this week comes news that on the first Thursday of the NFL season -- Sept. 4 -- the Orioles will again be playing at home as they host the Cincinnati Reds during the finale of a three-game interleague series.

So, if the Ravens regroup from their 0-1 start and somehow find themselves hoisting another Vince Lombardi Trophy this February, the whole merry-go-round starts again. But this time, a couple of factors might help in easing the situation.

For one thing, because the Reds will have already been in town for two days, a doubleheader on Tuesday or Wednesday is not out of the question.

Secondly, with all the negative publicity surrounding the controversy -- and plenty of blame was assigned to the Ravens, Orioles, the Chicago White Sox, Major League Baseball and NBC -- it seems that all parties would want to do everything and anything possible to avoid a repeat performance, even if the aforementioned doubleheader doesn't happen.

But no matter how things play out, this is a fact of life in sports: the MLB schedule is always released right around this time every year, while the NFL's itinerary doesn’t get finalized until mid-April. So, the Orioles will always have the right of way, so to speak, as far as what to do on any questionable dates.

As for the Ravens' preseason and early regular-season dates, the Orioles' schedule can be used to predict where the local football team will be at a given time.

For instance, it was easy to predict this year's away-home-home-away preseason pattern, as well as pegging the home opener for Sept. 15. Plus, for the first time in Ravens history, all four August games took place on the same day of the week.

For the 2014 season, the pattern could be a bit less predictable, but we'll go out on a limb and say that the four preseason games will follow the same sequence as 2013.

For instance, the Orioles will be away at Toronto on Thursday, Aug. 7. If the Ravens open preseason play that night, they could be at home, but they can't be here during that weekend, because the baseball team will have returned home to play St. Louis.

The next week, it will be easier for the Ravens to be at home, because the Orioles are off Aug. 14 before heading to Cleveland that weekend.

For the crucial third preseason game, just check the previous paragraph; the orange and black are off on Thursday, Aug. 21 and then travel to Wrigley Field in Chicago for a three-game weekend series.

For the final game of the preseason, the Orioles will be in the middle of a homestand against Tampa Bay and Minnesota that stretches through the final week of August, so the Ravens will have to hit the road.

As for the 2014 regular season, we see the Ravens opening at home on Sunday, Sept. 7 -- barring a Super Bowl win -- because the Orioles will be on the road at Tampa Bay.

What could be strange is a Ravens road opener against the Buccaneers on the same day, because the team is scheduled to play at Tampa Bay next year. In fact, the Ravens did play at Raymond James Stadium to open the 2006 season and registered a 27-0 win.

A pair of Orioles home games on Sept. 14 and 21 against the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox could put the Ravens on the road during Week Two and Week Three. But the baseball team plays at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 22, so a Monday-night game here could happen.

The final day of the 2014 baseball season lands on Sunday, Sept. 28, with the Orioles in Toronto, which could lead to a possible second September home game for the Ravens.

***

JOEY P'S TRIVIA TIME: Today's question:

Because Baltimore sports fans have strong loyalties and long memories, they won't forget that former Ravens wideout Anquan Boldin had 13 catches for 208 yards during his first game with the San Francisco 49ers.

But with the Cleveland Browns coming to town for the home opener (1 p.m., Sunday; WJZ-TV; WIYY-FM), we wonder: do you know linebacker Paul Kruger's stat line from the Browns' 23-10 Week One loss to Miami?

The answer will be revealed at the bottom of today’s column.

***

EYES IN THE SKY: Let's take a look at where some NFL broadcasters with local ties will be working this weekend:

- Former Ravens safety and Hall of Famer Rod Woodson is a new member of the Westwood One radio team, and he'll be working with Chuck Cooperstein at M&T Bank Stadium Sept. 15 to call the Browns-Ravens clash.

- For a second straight week, ex-Ravens defensive lineman Tony Siragusa and former Ravens preseason analyst Daryl Johnston will work with Fox's Kenny Albert inside a dome. They were in New Orleans Sept. 8, and they'll be at Atlanta's Georgia Dome for the Falcons-Rams matchup Sept. 15.

- Last season, former Ravens head coach Brian Billick did plenty of Chicago Bears games with Fox play-by-play partner Thom Brennaman and sideline reporter Laura Okmin. They will be back at Soldier Field this week for the 1-0 Bears' game against the visiting Minnesota Vikings.

- The Monday-night game between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati will have a double-barreled local flavor, with ex-Maryland signal caller Boomer Esiason in the Westwood One radio booth and former WBAL-TV (Channel 11) reporter Lisa Salters working the sidelines for ESPN.

***

VINOVICH TO REF: Now that the Denver game is out of the way, the memories of the Ravens' January double-overtime win there may have officially faded from most fans' minds.

But, not so fast.

The same referee who was working on that cold Rocky Mountain night, Bill Vinovich, is coming to Baltimore to work the Browns-Ravens game.

Vinovich had left the NFL ref corps after the 2006 season because of health concerns, but returned during Week Six last year. A certified public accountant from San Diego, he is in his eighth year as an official.

One of the greatest compliments an official can get is if no one knows he did the game. Thanks to the Ravens' heroics against the Broncos, few remember that Vinovich called eight penalties on the Ravens and 10 against Denver.

***

QUOTE OF THE DAY: While Ravens head coach John Harbaugh expressed his gratitude to the organization for his new contract, he was surprised that the announcement of it came just before kickoff in Denver.

Did it catch him off guard? Apparently, it did, and he said so earlier this week:

"The timing of what the media does often times catches me off-guard," Harbaugh said. "So I'd have to say that’s probably true."

***

JOEY P'S TRIVIA TIME ANSWER: Here's the question we asked earlier in this column:

Because Baltimore sports fans have strong loyalties and long memories, they won't forget that former Ravens wideout Anquan Boldin had 13 catches for 208 yards during his first game with the San Francisco 49ers.

But with the Cleveland Browns coming to town for the home opener (1 p.m., Sunday; WJZ-TV; WIYY-FM), we wonder: do you know linebacker Paul Kruger's stat line from the Browns' 23-10 Week One loss to Miami?

ANSWER:

Kruger was one of several Ravens that took a big free-agent payday and left the defending Super Bowl champions. His first effort with Cleveland wasn't too bad, despite the losing cause.

Kruger, starting at his usual outside linebacker spot in the Browns' 3-4 scheme, was  credited with four tackles, a sack, two tackles for losses and one quarterback hit on Miami Dolphins starter Ryan Tannehill.

A former Utah Ute, Kruger got noticed on the Dolphins' second possession, in both good and bad ways.

He stuffed running back Lamar Miller for a 2-yard loss early during the drive, but then jumped offsides on a third-and-5 play, giving the Dolphins a first down to keep the drive going. Later, he dumped Miller for another loss, forcing an early field goal.

Kruger sacked Tannehill to force a three-and-out early during the third quarter, but the Browns' offensive mistakes, including three Brandon Weeden interceptions, doomed them to the loss.

Posted Sept. 11, 2013