AFC North: Ray Rice

The Mueller Report on the Ray Rice incident was released Thursday and indicated that the Ravens did receive a detailed description of the in-elevator video from a lieutenant at the Atlantic City Police Department in late February. The Ravens did not volunteer that information to the league, according to the report.

"They should have shared with the League information critical to its investigation," the Mueller report stated.

The Ravens released their statement three hours after the report was released.

"We welcome completion of the 'Mueller Report,' and we look forward to cooperating with the League on any new policies resulting from this report," team president Dick Cass said. "More than anything, the report reminds us all of the gravity of the consequences of intimate partner abuse and the lessons we must all learn. We have taken steps to educate ourselves, and others, about this important issue, and will continue to do so."
The news that running back Ray Rice won his appeal of an indefinite suspension has no affect on the Baltimore Ravens.

Rice
Rice
Even if Rice signs with another team, it doesn't impact the Ravens' salary cap. Rice will count $4.75 million this year and $9.5 million in 2015, regardless of whether he plays this season or not.

The bigger issue for the Ravens is Rice's separate grievance against the team claiming wrongful termination of his $35 million contract. If he wins in that case, he could collect as much as $3.5 million in salary (what he will lose in not playing the final 14 games this season).

The NFL has placed a $1,411,765 charge against the Ravens' cap to reflect the pending Rice grievance against the team. If Rice wins that grievance, the Ravens' cap could be charged as much as an additional $2.1 million.

Rice is now eligible to sign with any team, but the Ravens made it clear in September they wouldn't be interested in a reunion.

"[Ray Rice] will not play for us," owner Steve Bisciotti said two months ago.

Without Rice, the Ravens have the No. 6 rushing attack this season. Justin Forsett is third in the league with 903 yards, 243 more than Rice gained last season.

Roger Goodell still scheduled to testify in Ray Rice appeal

November, 4, 2014
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Both Ray Rice and Roger Goodell are scheduled to testify at the former Baltimore Ravens running back's appeal hearing, which begins Wednesday, and a source tells ESPN's Ed Werder that there has been no significant negotiations on a settlement that would allow the NFL commissioner to avoid testifying.

Rice contends the league's indefinite suspension constitutes a second punishment for a single violation of the personal conduct penalty and thus violates the CBA. He is seeking immediate reinstatement.

He has also filed a separate grievance against the Ravens, challenging their right to terminate his contract and will seek repayment for the games he has missed.

The hearing is scheduled to last for two days, ending Thursday.

Ravens vs. Steelers preview

October, 31, 2014
10/31/14
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The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers renew one of the NFL’s fiercest rivalries on Sunday night at Heinz Field. Both teams are 5-3 and a half-game out of first place in the AFC North. The Ravens beat the Steelers, 26-6, when the teams met in early September and they will try to sweep their bitter rival for the first time since 2011.

ESPN Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley and ESPN Steelers reporter Scott Brown take a closer look at the 8:30 p.m. ET game.

Brown: Jamison, how will the Ravens compensate for the loss of Jimmy Smith at cornerback and how bad is the timing for the Ravens to face Ben Roethlisberger when they are so thin at cornerback?

Hensley: To characterize losing Smith as “bad timing” is an understatement. It’s atrocious. Smith, who is sidelined with a foot injury, is not only the Ravens’ best cornerback but he’s also among the top five cornerbacks in the NFL. The Ravens have no one who can replace his combination of size, speed, aggressiveness and intelligence. Even the most optimistic supporter of the Ravens couldn’t think Dominique Franks, who was out of football for the first five weeks, can fill the void left by Smith.

The only way the Ravens can lessen the blow is with their pass rush. When Roethlisberger threw 522 yards and six touchdowns, he was hit twice by the Colts. The Ravens’ top three pass-rushers -- Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil and Pernell McPhee -- have combined for 14.5 sacks and 23 quarterback hits. Over the last five meetings with Roethlisberger, the Ravens have sacked him 10 times. If they can put that pressure on Roethlisberger, it will give him less time to find the open receiver.

While a lot of the focus has been on Roethlisberger, how have his weapons improved in the passing game? With the Ravens being without their top cornerback, will it be tough for them to match up with the Steelers?

Brown: The Steelers and Roethlisberger have to be salivating over the prospect of attacking the Ravens’ secondary. No Smith and a defense that is thin at cornerback has to reckon with a receiving corps that has changed considerably since the Ravens soundly beat the Steelers in Baltimore. Justin Brown, who lost a fumble inside the Ravens’ 20-yard line early in the teams’ Sept. 11 game, isn’t even in the picture at wide receiver right now.

Rookie Martavis Bryant, who has been a revelation in his first two NFL games, and reliable veteran Lance Moore will play against the Ravens after not dressing the first time the two AFC North rivals played. Those two along with Markus Wheaton should make the Ravens pay if they focus too much attention to two-time Pro Bowler Antonio Brown. Brown, meanwhile, opens things up for the other receivers, including tight end Heath Miller, who is coming off his third career 100-yard receiving game.

Baltimore ran the ball effectively against the Steelers on Sept. 11 and it looks like Justin Forsett has really emerged for the Ravens. Has he been one of the NFL’s biggest surprises this season and how are the roles defined in the Ravens’ backfield?

Hensley: It would’ve been difficult for anyone to predict this type of production from Forsett. In training camp, he was the No. 4 running back behind Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro. Halfway through the Ravens’ season, Forsett is fourth in the NFL with 571 rushing yards. The Ravens needed Forsett to step up after Rice was cut and Pierce struggled to stay healthy. What stands out about Forsett is his vision to find the running lanes in the zone blocking scheme and determination to break tackles. The reason the Ravens signed Forsett was his familiarity with Gary Kubiak’s offense after playing in Houston two years ago. He has remained atop the depth chart by averaging 5.5 yards per carry, the third-best average in the league.

Forsett is the primary ball carrier and gets about 70 percent of the snaps. His work could be affected this week by a knee injury that kept him out of Wednesday’s practice. Pierce had been the Ravens’ back when they get in the red zone. But he was a healthy scratch last Sunday after averaging less than three yards per carry in three of five games. So, Taliaferro has become the top backup and scored two red zone touchdowns in Cincinnati.

The run game has been one of the most improved areas on offense, along with the Ravens’ line. Joe Flacco wasn't sacked in the first meeting, but the Steelers were able to get a lot of pressure Sunday on Andrew Luck. Should the Ravens expect a significantly better pass rush on Sunday night?

Brown: That depends on whether the Steelers can get a big lead early against the Ravens. The Steelers’ defense fed off the offense’s fast start Sunday and an early 21-3 lead forced the Colts to throw, throw and throw some more. Indianapolis had just 10 rushes in its 51-34 loss to Pittsburgh and two of those were scrambles by Luck. Making the Colts one-dimensional on offense allowed the Steelers to really go after Luck and they hit him a lot.

The Steelers probably won’t be as fortunate against the Ravens. They struggled to stop the run when the two rivals played earlier this season and teams with zone-blocking schemes have given the Steelers fits. Unless the Steelers jump out to a big lead early for the second consecutive game they will get a steady dose of Forsett and Taliaferro. That alone should temper the pressure they are able to put on Flacco.

Coach John Harbaugh made a comment earlier this week about how the Ravens are comfortable playing at Heinz Field. What did you make of that comment and can it be traced to the Ravens winning in Pittsburgh in 2010, 2011 and 2012?

Hensley: That’s exactly what Harbaugh meant by that comment. He was saying that the Ravens know what it takes to win in Pittsburgh. You can’t blame Harbaugh for taking a confident stance, especially considering the circumstances. It was just a week ago when the Ravens sat atop the AFC North after winning five of their previous six games. Now, after losing in dramatic fashion in Cincinnati, the Ravens could potentially drop to last place with a loss in Pittsburgh. By saying the Ravens are comfortable at Heinz, Harbaugh is telling his players that they can win in Pittsburgh because they’ve done it before.

The Ravens beat the Steelers earlier this season by keeping them out of the end zone. While the Ravens rank second in the league in fewest points allowed, the Steelers defense uncharacteristically ranks 16th in yards allowed and 21st in points given up. Do these numbers truly reflect how the defense is playing?

Brown: Unfortunately for the Steelers, they do. There were questions about the defense, and that was before the Steelers lost starting outside linebacker Jarvis Jones and cornerback Ike Taylor to significant injuries. Cornerback Cortez Allen, whom the Steelers signed to a five-year, $25 million contract right before the start of the regular season, has struggled so much that the fourth-year veteran has been demoted twice in the past two weeks.

The Steelers have also had issues stopping the run and an offense that can stay balanced is going to give them problems. The defense has shown signs of improvement and it has generated consistent pressure on the quarterback as well as takeaways during the Steelers’ two-game winning streak. If that continues against the Ravens the Steelers have a great chance of improving to 7-4 with games against the lowly Jets and the two-win Titans next up on the schedule.

Rice grievance leads to cap charge against Ravens

October, 28, 2014
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The NFL has placed a $1,411,765 charge against the Baltimore Ravens' salary cap to reflect the pending Ray Rice grievance against the team, league sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter and Field Yates.

The charge was levied against the Ravens earlier this month, and then the NFL Players Association updated its documents with the charge late last week. It’s considered normal practice for the NFL to hold salary-cap space on a team until a grievance is resolved.

The $1,411,765 figure is six game checks of what was supposed to be Rice’s $4 million salary for this season, before the Ravens released him in September.

After that cap charge, the Ravens have $4.133 million in cap space.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he doesn’t believe the team is going to be able to move past the Ray Rice situation anytime soon, even though it cut ties with the Pro Bowl running back a week ago.

Harbaugh
"We’re probably not going to get away from it, and probably rightfully so,” Harbaugh said Monday. "Not just us, the league. Hopefully it impacts society in a good way going forward.”

A Ravens spokesman told reporters before Harbaugh’s weekly news conference that questions regarding Rice could be asked but the team is trying to move on publicly from the Rice situation because an independent investigation has begun.

Asked whether the investigation will take much of the Ravens' time, Harbaugh said, "I know nothing about that. That's not something that anybody has given me any kind of schedule or timetable on."

The Ravens cut Rice last Monday just hours after TMZ released a video of the star running back punching his then-fiancée in a casino elevator. The team is holding a jersey exchange on Friday and Saturday, when fans can trade in their Rice No. 27 jersey for an available jersey of another Ravens player.

Despite the media onslaught at the Ravens' facility last week, the Ravens evened their record at 1-1 by defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers 26-6 on Thursday night.

"The point is to remember that we don’t get caught up in the swirl as much as you think,” Harbaugh said. "I thought our guys did a great job of handling the situation. They were able to compartmentalize the fact that they had to address a situation going on that was a deep-seated deal and has ramifications beyond sports. It’s a bigger issue than sports. It’s a societal issue. It’s a problem that is all across society and not just in our country."

Harbaugh added, "It’s something that needs to be addressed. Historically, sports has been a catalyst for positive change, especially in this country over the years. That’s a good thing. If good can come out of that in some way and our players and our organization can be a part of that somehow, I would really embrace that."
PITTSBURGH -- Fallout from the Ravens' release of running back Ray Rice on Monday -- and his indefinite banishment from the NFL for domestic abuse -- has prompted questions of whether it will distract Baltimore as it prepares for the first of its two games with Pittsburgh.

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And on a short week no less.

But Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward said the siege mentality that has probably taken root at the Ravens' practice facility could actually bring Baltimore's players closer together -- and sharpen their focus on the 8:30 p.m. ET game Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium.

"It's probably chaotic over there," Heyward said, "but you've just got to stay together as a team, focus on the task at hand and just continue to grow."

The Steelers did that a season before Heyward joined the team.

They played the first four games in 2010 without Ben Roethlisberger and closed ranks when the four-game suspension of the Steelers quarterback added TV cameras at the team's practice facility.

The Steelers went 3-1 without Roethlisberger, and only a late touchdown drive that Joe Flacco engineered at Heinz Field prevented them from winning all four games.

One reason the Steelers were able to play so well at the beginning of 2010 is they had ample time to prepare for the opening stretch without Roethlisberger. A dominant defense that took it upon itself to carry the team while Roethlisberger was out didn't hurt either.

The same holds true for the Ravens -- at least the part about preparing for the first part of the season without Rice.

"The simple fact (is) nothing changes because we knew he wasn't going to be able to play this week," Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said.

Indeed, Rice had been suspended for the first two games of the season before this week's video surfaced. It's not like his release has led to even longer hours this week for coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak.

The Rice saga will only bring the Ravens closer together, as counterintuitive as it seems that a distraction could actually galvanize a team.

If the Ravens lose Thursday night, it won't be because of Rice.

"It definitely kind of blindsided us," Suggs said. "Ray is our brother and we're not going to abandon him internally now. We still have a job to do. The season must go on and we're getting ready to play the Pittsburgh Steelers."
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The apologetic letter by owner Steve Bisciotti is a step in the right direction for the Baltimore Ravens.

He acknowledged the Ravens made mistakes in how they handled the domestic violence incident with Ray Rice. He was critical of the organization for not pursuing the video more vigorously.

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The only way the Ravens can truly move past this black mark on the franchise is by finally saying, "The Ravens messed up." Bisciotti took accountability for not getting his hands on the biggest piece of the Ray Rice puzzle. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell could learn something from the letter.

"We did not do all we should have done and no amount of explanation can remedy that," Bisciotti said in the letter.

Bisciotti did attempt to provide full disclosure and did so in intricate detail. After writing "you deserve an explanation," Bisciotti followed that with 887 words of explanation.

The question that needed to be answered is how the Ravens never obtained the video of what happened in the elevator. Bisciotti explained that the team was denied a copy of the tape by the casino, the New Jersey State Police and the prosecutor's office.

Instead of saying the Ravens did all they could to get the video, Bisciotti explained how they stopped trying to seek a copy after the charges against Rice went from simple assault to aggravated assault. The team decided to let Rice's situation play out in court.

"We halted our fact-finding," Bisciotti wrote. "That was a mistake on our part."

Even after the Ravens did the right thing in releasing Rice, Bisciotti never said so. The tone of the letter was about not doing enough.

"Seeing that video changed everything. We should have seen it earlier," Bisciotti wrote. "We should have pursued our own investigation more vigorously. We didn’t and we were wrong."

Where Bisciotti and the Ravens fell short is how they communicated this message. Fans deserved more than a letter a full day after the Ravens released Rice. This should have been said in front of cameras as soon as Rice's release was announced, not written and handed out to season-ticket holders, suite owners and sponsors.

Still, the highest-ranking official on the Ravens came out and acknowledged that the franchise had erred. He takes responsibility for failing to get the most critical piece of evidence regarding Rice.

The Ravens aren't going to move past this embarrassing incident for some time. But Bisciotti started the process of going forward by taking accountability.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger didn't talk much about Ray Rice when asked about the former Baltimore Ravens running back.

Rice was released by the Ravens on Monday after a video was released by TMZ Sports that shows the former Pro Bowl running back striking his then-fiancée Janay Palmer. The video shows each hitting the other before Rice knocks Palmer off her feet and into a railing inside an elevator.

"We pray for him and his wife and his family," Roethlisberger said in Wednesday's conference call with Baltimore media. "The biggest focus is the game on Thursday. That's really all that we can afford to deal with right now on such a short week and notice. That's the most important thing for us right now is what we control."

It was four years ago when Roethlisberger was the first player suspended under the NFL's personal conduct policy. He was accused of sexually assaulting a Georgia college student following a night of drinking in a Milledgeville, Georgia, bar in March 2010. He was not charged.

Steelers' Gay needs to be heard on Rice

September, 9, 2014
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PITTSBURGH -- Outrage inevitably followed the release of the video that led to Ray Rice’s release from the Ravens, an indefinite suspension from the NFL and widespread condemnation of the former Baltimore running back.

But one voice was more measured than emotional, that of Steelers cornerback William Gay, surely because of his unique perspective. Gay lost his mother to domestic violence when he was 7 years old. Carolyn Hall had been in an abusive relationship, and when she tried to leave Gay’s stepfather, he shot her and then himself. Hall was 30 years old.

Gay
“First and foremost, I’m against domestic violence," Gay said. "That was wrong of [Rice], but at the end of the day you don’t need to run away from Ray Rice. He needs help, so we have to do everything we can to help him.

"Domestic violence is real in the NFL and we need to get help. We’re not immune to it.”

Gay has lent his voice to campaigns devoted to stopping domestic violence. He visits shelters for battered women and serves dinner there. He shares his story with the women and children at shelters, offering hope that it can get better.

“I’m praying for him and his wife,” Gay said. “They’re in a tough situation and we just hope he becomes better. Best of luck to Ray Rice.”

Gay's personal tragedy left him lost and angry. For him to turn his life around, it took his grandmother and an uncle to tell him he was headed down a path that surely would end in prison.

Gay ended up excelling at football, earning a scholarship to Louisville and graduating in 3½ years with a degree in sports administration.

The former fifth-round draft pick is now in his eighth NFL season and is perhaps the most unsung player on the Steelers’ defense.
Ray Rice is suspended for the first two games of the regular season and Bernard Pierce didn't make the trip to New Orleans for the final preseason game because of a concussion.

So if Pierce is unable to play in the season opener, who would start at running back for the Baltimore Ravens? Veteran journeyman Justin Forsett, who hasn't made a start since 2010, could be the one to step up.

Of the Ravens' 24 healthy scratches in the preseason finale, 18 are projected to be starters. The fact that Forsett didn't play as well could suggest the Ravens wanted to keep him healthy for the opener.

The Ravens might trust Forsett to handle the starting role because he's more experienced than rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro and is more familiar with Gary Kubiak's offense after playing in Houston in 2012.

But Forsett wouldn't be asked to carry the entire rushing load. He only had six carries all of last season, and the Ravens would probably split carries with Taliaferro, who led the team with 243 yards rushing this preseason.

A small back, Forsett has impressed the Ravens with his burst. He ran for 69 yards on 16 carries (4.3-yard average) and caught three passes for 37 yards in preseason games. His biggest problem has been holding on to the football (two fumbles this preseason).

None of this speculation will matter if Pierce is able to suit up for the Sept. 7 season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals. Even though Pierce has been banged up throughout his career, he has never missed a game in his two seasons.

There is just no certainty that he'll be healthy enough this time to play.

"Nowadays, with those things, I don't take any stock in that until they tell me that he's back," coach John Harbaugh said Monday. "The concussion thing is hard to predict."
BALTIMORE -- It's unknown whether Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice will play in Thursday's preseason finale.

After Rice was held out of Saturday's 23-17 preseason win over the Washington Redskins, coach John Harbaugh wouldn't say whether the team's starting running back will see the field again in the preseason.

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Rice
"That was our plan this week," Harbaugh said when asked about Rice not playing after being suited up for the game. "So, next week, we'll let you know. You'll see it when you see it."

It would be surprising if Rice played in the Thursday preseason finale at the New Orleans Saints. The Ravens gave him plenty of reps with the first-team offense during training camp, and they probably don't want to risk running him behind a second-team offensive line in the final preseason game. The Ravens typically don't play their starters in the final preseason game.

If Rice doesn't play Thursday, his next carry will come Sept. 21, when the Ravens play at Cleveland. Rice is suspended for the first two games by the NFL for last February's off-the-field incident.

Before Saturday's game, Rice warmed up with the Ravens, taking handoffs from quarterback Joe Flacco. Even though he suited up, Rice stood on the sideline for the entire game.

The Ravens didn't even play him after running back Bernard Pierce left the game with a head injury at the end of the opening drive. With Pierce in the locker room, rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro and Justin Forsett split the carries with the first-team offense.
The Baltimore Ravens' Ray Rice is no longer a premier running back in the NFL. That's according to the 90 contributors who voted in ESPN's player rankings.

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Rice
Rice suffered the biggest fall of anyone in this year's rankings. Last year, he was considered the 15th-best offensive player in the game. This year, he's out of the top 100 completely.

A major drop was expected with Rice, who finished 30th in the NFL with 660 yards rushing. He also averaged a career-worst 3.1 yards per carry.

To put Rice's dramatic slide in perspective, there are 14 running backs who made the top 100 list. The ones who have been revealed so far are: Eddie Lacy, Alfred Morris, Giovani Bernard, C.J. Spiller, DeMarco Murray, Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles.

Rice, 27, dropped 15 pounds this offseason in an effort to regain his explosiveness. He will miss the first two games of this season because he was suspended by the NFL for his off-the-field incident.

There was only one other player who didn't make this year's rankings after being in the top 20 the previous year. That was tight end Tony Gonzalez, who retired at the end of last season.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens have gone from the worst rushing team in franchise history to the NFL's top rushing team in the preseason.

Does this mean the Ravens' ground game is suddenly fixed? Are the Ravens going to be a top-10 rushing attack? Even coach John Harbaugh cautioned about jumping to such conclusions.

The Ravens have averaged an impressive 194 yards rushing -- 69 more than any other team in the league -- in what amounts to two meaningless games. What is real, however, is the Ravens' growing confidence.

Last season, the Ravens lost faith in their offensive line to open holes and their running backs to accelerate through them. It led to the Ravens running the pistol offense and spreading out teams with three wide receivers.

There is a different mindset this season. Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak want this to be a run-first team again.

There is a different attitude so far this preseason. The offensive line, which has three different starters since the end of last season, has pushed defenders off the line. Running backs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce are lighter and, as a result, more explosive.

"Obviously, with last year not running the ball as much -- and that being on the offensive line -- [it] is something that we take pride in," said left guard Kelechi Osemele, who missed the final seven games last season after having back surgery. "So if we can run the ball early this year, that should continue to build our confidence throughout the season.”

Skeptics will point to the fact that the Ravens gained all of these yards against a beat-up 49ers front and an unproven Cowboys defense. But the numbers are still gaudy when compared to how the Ravens struggled last season.

The Ravens have gained 388 yards rushing in two preseason games. It took the Ravens until the fifth regular-season game last season to produce that number of rushing yards.

The biggest difference from last season can be summed up on Rice's first carry in Dallas. The offensive line got the Cowboys' front moving too hard to the left side of the field, and Rice made one cut to go untouched for 18 yards. It's difficult to remember many runs last year when the backs broke the line of scrimmage without being hit.

It's not just Rice who's having success. Pierce is averaging 5.4 yards per carry, and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro is leading the NFL in rushing with 130 yards.

"I feel good about the run game so far, and we temper it with the fact that it’s two games in the preseason, and what matters is what you do when it counts," Harbaugh said. "[There is] a long way to go to be where we need to be to have the kind of success that we’re hoping to have.”

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