Preseason #2: Ravens use all phases to dump Cowboys, 37-30

Torrey Smith on a fade route for 6.

Torrey Smith on a fade route for 6.

I talked with sports commentator Ryan Sebring (105.7 The Fan) last week about the Ravens defense. Sebring, a Cowboy fan, predicted that the Dallas offensive line would manhandle our defensive front. We talked about the steady play of unsung linebacker Courtney Upshaw. He also said that our defense is solid but it doesn’t have any playmakers.

In the first quarter of the game on Saturday night, two players stepped up on defense. Jimmy Smith went high to defend Dez Bryant down the sideline to prevent the star receiver from making an acrobatic catch. Smith injured himself on the play—but we could see an aggressive and opportunistic Smith as a shutdown corner in 2014.

On the next series, Courtney Upshaw broke through the line and picked up a fumble, racing 26 yards for the score. I remembered a play in the Super Bowl against the Niners when Upshaw was blocked to the ground in the backfield; got up and pursued the play, recovering a fumble deep in Ravens territory. The Niners were on the move and he changed the game. He did the same on Staurday night. Upshaw’s a keeper.

With Smith in the locker room, Dallas drove quickly downfield. Romo hit Bryant to tie the score at 7-7.

These are still the Jerry “Jock Ewing” Jones-led Cowpies. Once America’s team, Dallas has become the home of America’s largest television set which hangs from the center of AT&T Stadium and captures more fan attention than what’s happening on the field. On one series, they looked unbeatable and on the next, hapless.  This time it wasn’t quarterback Tony Romo who made the catastrophic mistake. The entire Cowboy team drifted in and out like the WBAL feed.

Coming out of training camp hibernation, Deonte Thompson took the ensuing kick-off 108 yards for the lead. He wasn’t touched. He had three kickoff returns for a blistering 188 yards.

Like the Cowboys, the Ravens offense also needed smelling salts. For stretches, the once porous Dallas defense gave the first team offense all they could handle. The offense looked sluggish last night coming out of the gate. There were no quick slants or schemes designed to exploit mismatches early on and get people into the open. Flacco found himself in deep drops locked in on his primary receivers and when they were covered had to elude a steady pass rush. The running game looked solid. Bernard Pierce showed flashes of the explosiveness he had in 2012. Rice had an 18 yard run. Taliaferro churned up yardage and fumbled the ball once—but the backs were good overall.

On the first-team’s last possession of the night, Flacco hit Jones on a skinny post for 38 yards and then Torrey Smith for a perfectly executed 19 yard fade into the end zone. That made it 24-10 and the rest was mop-up work. Dallas made it interesting in the end, but there wasn’t much to write home about in this one.

The Ravens have better players than the Cowboys. It was a team win with two touchdowns coming from the defense and special teams. “There was good and bad and that’s what you expect this time of year,” said John Harbaugh. I get it.

There’s work to do.

Preseason: Ravens start fresh, drop Niners

photo-8 (2)On a beautiful night in M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens beat the 49ers 23-3 in their first preseason game. The game resembled a continuation of the second half of Super Bowl LXVII with the 49ers driving rapidly downfield on their first possession. The Ravens held them again in the red zone. The Niners settled for a field goal to take a 3-0 lead. Joe Flacco responded with an 80-yard, multifaceted touchdown drive that kept the 49ers off balance. Overall, it was a never easy, never pretty win with San Francisco looking jet lagged. It’s early yet, but the Ravens are a better team than last year’s version.

Here are 5 observations from the first preseason game. Most of these relate to the offense. The defense played a solid game and we have a lot of talent on that side of the ball.

1. The first string offense played with precision

In their only series, the Ravens new up tempo offense marched down the field and into the end zone. Six different players caught passes and the running game has been resurrected. Quick snap counts, fakes and crisp passes are all part of Kubiak’s versatile attack. Establishing the running game is job one. The offensive line looked all-in as they surged off the ball and created running lanes. Ray Rice gained 17 yards on 3 carries. Rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro gained 71 yards on 13 carries and Justin Forsett ran with a manic intensity. Bernard Pierce also turned in a solid performance. The second team didn’t look as good, but overall the Ravens gained 236 yards on the ground.

2. Rookie linebacker Corey Mosley is exciting to watch

With 5 tackles and a sack last night, Mosley has a nose for the ball and is in on every play. He is quick to the point of attack—whether it is a run or a pass. He’s the centerpiece of the front seven moving forward. If the defensive line can stopper up the middle, he will fly to the ball. “I’m just trying to make my mark,” he said on the WBAL postgame show.

3. Cornerback Asa Jackson had a nice game

I’m not ready to knight Jackson as the final starting corner, but he played with fire last night and had an interception. He’s undersized and will be targeted by an opposition that has more than Blaine Gabbert behind center, but he made several athletic plays and defended well. He’s out of the doghouse after last year’s transgressions and appears to be on the right track. At his best, he could give the defense a spark with his energy and enthusiasm. His competition, Chykie Brown was targeted early and called for pass interference. I wondered whether the Brothers Harbaugh discussed what they needed to work on prior to the game.

The secondary is still a work in progress.

4. Kyle Jusczcyk plays like a semi

Watching “Jus” last night reminded me of a moment in the blizzard bowl against the Vikings last year. On a kickoff, he ran clean over a Viking defender, never breaking stride. He looks like he is made of liquid metal. The second-year fullback caught passes last night and will give opposing defenses all they can handle as he barrels through the secondary. He looked like retired 49er Tom Rathman.

5. Wide receiver Kamar Aiken continues to impress

He’s long and fast and made 4 catches for 46 yards to lead all receivers. On one play, he bailed out Tyrod Taylor who had made a pass behind him but he still managed to snare it. The Central Florida graduate has been on the practice squad of many teams and may have found a home on Russell Street. Deonte Thompson looked lost at times and Marlon Brown has not had a great training camp thus far.  The receiving corps is stronger than it’s ever been. Yes, even better than when we had Anquan Boldin. photo-9 (2)

Last night, the Ravens looked eager to please as they took the first step in erasing the memory of 2013.

5 Observations from Last Night’s Training Camp Practice

Steve Smith in the end zone. Photo by Rob Duckwall

Steve Smith in the end zone. Photo by Rob Duckwall

The Ravens practiced before 28,000 fans last night. Never Easy, Never Pretty was there to capture the festivities. Practice included 14 components such as “mock situations” and “battles” and proceeded at a rapid pace. Gerry Sandusky provided context and explanation along with his colleagues Qadry Ismael and Stan White. Ray Lewis made an appearance, saying to the crowd, “I gave everything I had to the city of Baltimore.” A new Lewis statue will accompany Johnny Unitas at the end of Ravenswalk.

Practice sched. Photo by Rob Duckwall

Practice Sched. Photo by Rob Duckwall

1. The running backs performed well

“He could have a breakout year,” said Wayne Groff of Hanover, PA after Ray Rice broke free into the secondary before being run out of bounds. A trimmed down Rice looked agile and fast in simulated game situations last night. The crowd cheered when he appeared on the Jumbotron and as he headed into the Russell Street end zone. Bernard Pierce ran very well last night and looks like the favorite to start during the Rice suspension. He roared through openings. Justin Forsett also showed bursts of speed and elusive cuts. Rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro ran with power on several plays. Fitzgerald Toussaint is my favorite name from this group.

2. The defensive line packs a wallop and the linebackers are athletic

DeAngelo Tyson and Tim Jernigan played last night like a pair of wrecking balls. They blasted into the backfield and crushed offensive linemen. Pernell McPhee also looked formidable. Haloti Ngata sports a leaner frame this year. We have depth in the defensive trenches. Suggs has been abusing offensive linemen and charged through the line for a sack last night. Courtney Upshaw is bigger and more imposing and the rookie C.J. Mosley made some athletic plays.

Smith Squared. Photo by Rob Duckwall

Smith Squared. Photo by Rob Duckwall

3. It will be tough to make this squad as a receiver

Based on last night’s practice, Steve Smith will be the Ravens #1 receiver. He caught almost every pass thrown to him – including many one-handed during drills. Asa Jackson couldn’t cover him. With Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, Marlon Brown and Steve Smith already in place, it will be tough to make this unit. LaQuan Williams made a spectacular catch last night. Another receiver, a tall and lanky Kamar Aiken showed flashes. If he makes the team, remember his name.

Rookie Michael Campanaro, the Wes Welker clone, almost caught a ball down the sideline that would have been the play of the night. Campanaro ran kickoffs back with a stealthy quickness. Deonte Thompson did not do much last night. The tight ends are impressive. Owen Daniels made some nice catches. Dennis Pitta and Crockett Gilmore also looked sharp.

Coach Kubiak was the center piece in the drills. Receivers were making cuts in front of him and he was watching every move. The offense is coming – with slants and quick hitters and passes to running backs in the mix much more than ever before. Flacco was sharp and seemed comfortable in the up tempo. Tyrod Taylor threw some nice deep balls and also looks well-adjusted to the new scheme.

 4. Secondary needs to be solidified

Overall, Asa Jackson looked pretty good last night except for a few snaps when he lined up opposite Steve Smith. Not as big as our other corners, he’s an aggressive ball hawk looking to cause fumbles and deflections and has an early edge to start it seems over Chykie Brown. Dominique Franks made some nice stops. Matt Elam had an interception. Jimmy Smith delivered some nice hits including a leveling of Steve Smith on one play. The defensive line and linebackers are the foundation of the defense. We need to shore up the secondary.

Asa Jackson breaks up play. Photo by Rob Duckwall.

Asa Jackson breaks up play. Photo by Rob Duckwall.

5. We have more weaponry than last year on both sides of the ball and…

on our kicking team. After missing from 64 yards, Justin Tucker nailed two 58 yarders and the last one would have been good from 70. Tucker is a rock star. He was amazing.

You look around and there is no Tandon Doss, Ed Dixon or Michael Oher. We have upgraded in their absence. On the defensive side of the ball, there are a number of guys who can make plays like Daryl Smith, Josh Bynes and Arthur Brown. There’s Lardarius Webb and Darian Stewart. On offense, you also have Kyle Juscyczk who looks like he will play some fullback and catch some passes a la Tom Rathman.

Overall, the defense still dominated the offense. They won the competition by getting more stops. After the offense made a big gain, the defense responded by stopping them in their tracks. The offensive line showed signs of improvement. There were no collapses in the middle of the line. On one play, Flacco had at least 5 seconds to find a receiver. He threw the ball away. He wasn’t used to having that much protection. On another play, Steve Smith was open on a post route. Flacco threw in the opposite direction and Smith was pissed.

Flacco looks downfield. Photo by Rob Duckwall

Flacco looks downfield. Photo by Rob Duckwall

The offense will have a swagger before it’s over.

Rice suspension presents early challenge

photo8It is disappointing that I will not be with my teammates for the first two games of the season…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.” – Ray Rice’s statement on the Baltimore Ravens website.

In the aftermath of Ray Rice’s two-game suspension for assaulting Janay Palmer, many believe that the running back got off easy. Others are outraged by what this lenient penalty means for victims of domestic violence.  Commentators like Jim Rome have excoriated the NFL and the Ravens. They have a point.

We don’t have all the facts, sure, but I can’t imagine the existing evidence suggests that his actions were in any way justifiable. And why didn’t he apologize to his wife during that horrific press conference? Rice’s previous track record as a positive influence off the field must have factored in Goodell’s decision.

He had been a model NFL citizen. Ray spoke out against bullies.He gave back to the community. As an eight year old, he worked in a barber shop to help his mother make ends meet in The Hollow – a project in New Rochelle. She called him “man of the house” and she meant it. He slashed and juked his way into our hearts.

Twenty minutes in a casino changed all that. He will miss games against the Bengals and the Steelers. He will lose $530,000 in paychecks.

In the process of publishing Never Easy, Never Pretty, I encountered football fans outside of Baltimore who have hated us since the 2000 season and the incident involving Ray Lewis. In Lewis, Rice has a model for how to move forward.

In a few weeks, he will show us what he can still do on the field. He will try to erase the image of what we saw on the hotel hallway video on the heels of his worst season ever.

On August 7th, against the 49ers in the first preseason game, he will take a handoff and run for daylight. The second half of his career will begin. Much of it will be spent working on his image—if it can be repaired—while on the field. Exhilarating runs and touchdowns will ease the pain, but he has a long road ahead.

His teammates and coaches are behind him.  He worked hard in the off-season and has returned in good shape to a game he first played on concrete.

His suspension has given training camp an urgency and focus right from the start.The rest of the team must shoulder the burden. Bernard Pierce needs to step up and has a chance to be the starting running back. Justin Forsett has an opportunity to shine. Rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro, “the Chanticleer” from Coastal Carolina just moved up the depth chart.

The team has a rallying cry for those first two games–but it won’t be easy.  The Rice suspension also provides a harsh example to those players who are on the verge of making bad decisions. They will experience first-hand what Ray is going through and maybe avoid their own fines and suspensions.

Ray Rice needs to become the “man of the house” again on Russell Street. His suspension could be a unifying force for the 2014 Ravens.

Ten Reasons Ravens Will Make Playoffs

Ray Rice on 4th & 29. Photo by Phil Hoffmann

Ray Rice on 4th & 29.
Photo by Phil Hoffmann

There are less than ten days until training camp starts. Here are some reasons why we will return to the playoffs this year.

1. Coach Kubiak and Joe Flacco

Gary Kubiak transformed the Texans into a playoff team on the verge of making a Super Bowl run before their colossal meltdown. He generated more production out of Matt Schaub, a pocket passer with an average arm than I ever thought possible. I watched Matt’s entire college career at UVA and never thought he was capable of leading a team to a Super Bowl. Kubiak designed routes that maximized Schaub’s passing abilities. He will do the same for our quarterback. Kubiak will take Joe Flacco to new heights this season.

2. 8-8 is not acceptable

Steve Bisciotti has zero tolerance for mediocrity. He’s been incredibly successful in all that he does. He gave the team a pass last year but the stakes are high now. Mediocrity is not acceptable. His management team has responded to the Jupiter Summit by making his team better. The last time the Ravens finished 8-8, they won the Super Bowl the next year.

3. The defense has a great mix of veterans and young players

The defense played pretty well last year. Suggs, Ngata, Dumervil, Webb, Smith (Daryl), Smith (Jimmy), Bynes, McPhee and Upshaw bring leadership and proven talent. Timmy Jernigan, Kapron Lewis-Moore, C.J. Moseley, Matt Elam, Brandon Williams and Darian Stewart will provide speed, quickness, athleticism and youth. Ozzie has infused the defense with young talent – in just the same way he built his stifling defenses of the past.

4. Ray Rice is motivated to prove his critics wrong

This is a guy whose back is against the wall. His football career and long-term livelihood hinge on the next time he touches the ball. Anybody who can gain 30 yards on 4th & 29 is capable of extraordinary things. I’m not excusing his behavior off the field. He will need to repair his reputation from the ground up and one aspect of that will be his performance on the field. “He has changed his body and appears ready to return to Pro Bowl form,” wrote Ravens Senior Vice President of Public Relations Kevin Byrne.

5. Wide receiver Steve Smith makes our offense better

Smith brings an attitude and identity to an offense that was ineffective last year. The unit never recovered from the loss of Boldin and Pitta. Smith brings an approach to the game that makes him a “special competitor” according to Ozzie Newsome.

The offensive weaponry is now vast and potent. Talk has been focused on a receiving corps Steve Smith, Owen Daniels and Marlon Brown. What about Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones and Dennis Pitta? We have six receivers who can find the end zone. There’s also Ray Rice in the backfield. The running game may need an upgrade because of Rice’s impending suspension and Pierce’s shoulder surgery. Former Texan, Justin Forsett is expected to fill in for Rice as well as Lorenzo Taliaferro. Don’t be surprised by another addition into the backfield before the season starts.

6. Schedule not as tough as last year

With the Jaguars, Titans and Texans (+3Ws) on the docket, I can easily imagine a scenario where we have 10 wins. That said, the Ravens sometimes play down to the competition. Here is how we get to 10-6 which should be good enough for the playoffs. If we can handle the Chargers and Falcons at home (+2Ws) and beat the Browns twice (+2Ws), we are at 7 wins. Most likely we will split with the Steelers and Bengals (+2Ws) and that will give us 9 wins. We need to beat the Dolphins away as we did last year or the Panthers (+1) at home to win 10. The Saints, Colts and Buccaneers on the road will be difficult and we could get one out of that group. I like our chances of at least one win out of those 5 games. Ravens finish 10-6.

7. The offensive line will be better

Jeremy Zuttah, signed from Tampa Bay brings experience and depth at center. A healthy Osemele at right guard, a rejuvenated Marshall Yanda at left guard, a steady Eugene Monroe at left tackle and 2nd year player Ricky Wagner at right tackle should be an improvement over last year. The zone blocking scheme used last season also had its limitations. Teams overloaded weak spots in the zone allowing people like Jared Allen of the Vikings to be in Joe’s grill on every play during that amazing 4th quarter. Kubiak’s offense calls for a new blocking scheme.

8. The AFC is not that strong

The Broncos and the Patriots are still plenty good—but not invincible. The Colts will have Reggie Wayne back and the Steelers are supposedly the team to beat in the AFC North but that’s pretty much it. I don’t see Denver or the Patriots matching up with the beasts of the NFC West. It could be the 49ers turn to make return trip to Super Bowl “49.” They were a last second touchdown pass away from beating the Seahawks. Why did Jim Harbaugh try once again to win a big game with Michael Crabtree? This time he had Anquan Boldin on his team who had already caught two TDs in the game. Nobody really scares me in the AFC and the Ravens are built like the Seahawks and 49ers.

9. Ozzie has found guys who “play like Ravens”

From Steve Smith to Owen Daniels to Kyle Jusczcyk, Newsome has assembled a team of players who embody the Ravens mantra. To “play like a Raven” means to play championship football. I believe Ozzie has significantly improved this team over last year.

One area of concern: five players have been arrested in the offseason. Hopefully, all of these players will be fighting to change perceptions of them. This suggests that the loss of Reed, Lewis and other veteran players has caused a leadership vacuum. If we can stay healthy and avoid arrests, we will make the playoffs.

10. Coach Harbaugh has taken the 8-8 season personally

“Keep hammering us,” John Harbaugh told the media after receiving questions about not making the playoffs. You have to love a coach who is openly motivated to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Coach Harbaugh will do everything in his power to make sure the Ravens return to the playoffs. It’s almost like he is starting over as well. He came to us a defensive backs and special teams coach. He made it to the playoffs a record-breaking 5 straight times.  Ravens fans expect the team to be in the mix in January.  Harbaugh is a proven winner. His teams are mentally and physically tough. We will win games because he will outwork his opposing coaches. We will win games because he knows every player and what they can do. He’s seething over last year and he will deliver.  It may never be easy or pretty along the way, but we will be in the postseason tournament.

Thoughts from the Big Easy on Ravens Training Camp: The Webb-Smith Tussle, Joe Flacco and Lenny Moore

BrEY0U7CcAAbvxv.jpg largeI returned to the Big Easy this week for a publishing conference and rekindled memories of our Super Bowl XLVII victory. I came across a Ravens 2014 training camp hat at Meyer the Hatter, one of the oldest hat stores in the United States. Twenty years ago, I had purchased an Orioles cap there. I will say this lid, with its authentic NFL logo, fits better than any hat I have.  It almost makes me want to wear a whistle.

“Hey Baltimore,” Saints fans called out to me as I walked through town. “We’ll see you in November.”

As I retraced my steps to the Super Dome from Bourbon Street, I thought about the younger players like Kapron Lewis-Moore, Ryan Jensen, Darian Stewart and Kyle Jusczcyk—all of whom will surely see playing time. Guys like C.J. Moseley and Arthur Brown competing for spots. This is a younger team with a new offensive scheme.

I felt the motivation to want to destroy the Bengals in the first game of the season after they ended ours last year.

We also have a lot of veterans with bad tastes in their mouths after an 8-8 campaign in 2013. I like the continuity of keeping Jacoby Jones, Daryl Smith and Terrell Suggs.There’s also Jimmy Smith, Chris Canty, Haloti Ngata, Ray Rice, Dennis Pitta and Eugene Monroe. Talented vets on both sides of the ball.

The intensity reached a boiling point during mini-camp with Steve Smith and Lardarius Webb engaged in some extracurricular activity after a play was over. They shoved each other and cursed. It evaporated quickly from the news cycle after Smith brought a Dunkin’ Donuts peace offering the next day but I haven’t forgotten it.

It’s important because both of those players want to play in a Super Bowl again. Smith has never won a Super Bowl and he is prepared to do anything to get there. I will say that fighting with teammates is not the best formula for achieving that goal but it’s just the kind of explosion that’s needed to set the tone.

What was Smith really doing?

Are we going to see a Ravens offense with an attitude for the first time? Smith sent a message to a team and franchise that prides itself on defense that the Ravens offense is going to be a force this year. Dare I say it, he was acting like Hines Ward in that moment and I applaud it.

It’s been long overdue for a Ravens offense to stand up and demolish defenses. I’d love to see a big physical offensive line steamrolling their way down the field. Bring it on, Coach Kubiak.

Also, Webb has a Super Bowl ring but he didn’t get a chance to play on the field against the 49ers because he was injured. He would give anything to play in the big one—including jumping on Steve Smith’s back to deflect a pass.
They both want to get there enough to nearly come to blows. That’s what’s at stake. Every play, even in mini-camp matters. Nice work.

photo-3 (2)Regarding the controversy surrounding Joe Flacco and his receivers, I have mixed feelings about Joe working with his receivers in the offseason. On one hand, if Joe needs to learn a new offense then I am all for him not to work on pass routes that most definitely will change. I’d rather have him studying the new playbook and leading the unit than practicing something that could be irrelevant.

It was clear as early as the preseason last year that receivers were running everywhere except where they needed to be.

When I interviewed the great Lenny Moore for Never Easy, Never Pretty, he told me a story about doing extra work with Raymond Berry and Johnny Unitas in 1957.

“Raymond Berry came to me and said, “Lenny, I’ve been watching the films. We need more of you in our offense.”

Lenny was taken aback, “What in the hell is he talking about? That’s not my position.”

Berry told him that a guy with his speed could open up other areas on the field.

He also told him never to cut on his inside foot on a pass route.

“I didn’t know what foot I was cutting on,” said Moore.

Berry told him that Unitas knew about this idea but he wasn’t going to come ask him. Moore had to stay after practice on his own.

“The safety and the deep corner will have to pay attention to you and that will open up other areas for guys like Mutscheller,” said Berry.

“I started doing it and quickly saw the reality of what he was talking about.”

Moore caught 363 passes for 6039 yards and 48 touchdowns. After catching 10 passes in 1956, he caught 40 or more for the next five seasons. The Colts won two NFL championships.

In this case, it appears, the extra work paid off.

 

A one of a kind love affair

fatherson“We showed the NFL that football belongs in Baltimore,” said fired-up Ravens announcer Gerry Sandusky at the 50th anniversary meeting of the Colts Corrals turned Ravens Roosts in Ocean City two weekends ago. “We have the best fans, the best city and the best people.” I felt the hairs on the back of my neck rise with tears in my throat. We also have the best play-by-play announcer in the NFL.

Former Colt linebacker Stan White, radio announcer Keith Mills and Sandusky were onstage introducing a group of Ravens headlined by defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore and fullback Kyle Jusczyck. They sang a karaoke version of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” before several hundred spirited onlookers. They followed that number with a tone deaf version of Bon Jovi’s, “Livin on a Prayer” – all in good fun.

Stan White, Gerry Sandusky and Keith Mills

Stan White, Gerry Sandusky and Keith Mills

The annual event, held at the sprawling Castle in the Sand hotel on 37th street included beach volleyball, horseshoes, beach fireworks, a parade, a bull roast, bingo, hat contests, karaoke, a dunking booth and an ongoing three-day football party. Former running back Jamal Lewis made an appearance. Stan “The Fan” Charles and Ravens beat writer Joe Platania were there. Former Colt running back Tom Matte, a member of the Jacksonville Roost held court. “If you don’t have my autograph, it means you haven’t asked me for one,” he told me. Matte and Stan White walked among the crowd as though it was a family reunion.

Stan White with my son

Stan White with my son

 

My son Quinn and I sold copies of Football in Baltimore, Never Easy, Never Pretty and Colts’ Baltimore at the event. We heard stories about the Colts, the Stallions, the Stars and the Ravens.

Ruth Jester of Baltimore told us about how her father made a whole rockfish stuffed with crabmeat and would take it to Johnny Unitas at his Golden Arm restaurant. Art Donovan, Unitas and other players would snack on it at the bar. Sometimes she would go with her dad and watch the scene unfold.
“Years later, I went to a wedding at the Valley Country Club and Art was there,” she said with tears in her eyes. “I went up and told him that I was the daughter of the man who brought the stuffed rockfish and he remembered how big the platter was.”

The Ravens Roost party is the only one of its kind in the NFL kingdom. For 12 years, when the city didn’t have an NFL team, the exiled Colts Corrals gathered on the shores of the Atlantic and kept the dream alive. Sure, they supported the Stars and the Stallions—but they wanted an NFL team.

“Tagliabue told us to build a museum,” said Keith Mills. “This is the museum,” he said, pointing to the crowd.

deefenseFans were optimistic about the upcoming season. Superfan Captain Dee-Fense, dressed in full garb mingled with the crowd. He likes the addition of Steve Smith and believes Ray Rice will have a much better year in 2014. He also wants a chance to speak with the team about professionalism off the field. Dee-Fense has been spreading his positive message since the Ravens arrived in Baltimore and a little girl tapped him on the shoulder and asked, “Are you the captain of the defense?”

The Roosts have generated more than $2 million for charity since 2008. Roost president Charlotte Krause and her colleagues Bill West, Sue Draper and Lynn White-Huggins, all “Play like Ravens” when it comes to handling a party of 1,500 attendees. Food lines served several hundred people in twenty minutes. At 2pm on Saturday afternoon, Charlotte was filling cups at the soft drink station. The Roost Team was as relentless in their pursuit of perfection as any Ravens defense.

hotel

It was a great weekend. I was able to pass on the legacy of Baltimore football, one that had been handed down to me, to my son. He really enjoyed seeing the Steelers fan topple into the frigid waters of the dunking booth.

Join a Roost today!