Harbaugh hasn't lost control of the Ravens

May, 29, 2014
May 29
7:00
PM ET
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh is embarrassed, disappointed and, yes, ticked off. He just isn't a coach who has lost control of his team.

If you're counting at home, the Ravens have had four arrests since the Super Bowl and the other 31 teams have combined for 10. It's easy to point the finger at Harbaugh and say he doesn't have a hold of the locker room like he did when Ray Lewis and Ed Reed were there. It just wouldn't be accurate.

Harbaugh isn't chalking up these incidents to coincidence or a bad run of luck after not having any major arrests in recent years. Brushing this off would have rightfully sounded alarms in regards to Harbaugh's leadership.

[+] EnlargeJohn Harbaugh
Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportsJohn Harbaugh has threatened to cut players who repeatedly make off-the-field mistakes.
Instead, he has been proactive in handling the repeated hits to the Ravens' image. The way he stood and answered questions for an eight-minute stretch about the incidents, you got the sense that Harbaugh is getting fed up with what he deemed "silliness."

He talked to the players about the importance of character when they returned to practice Tuesday. He is considering not letting veterans leave training camp early, so they'll be around the younger players for a longer period. He even ran gassers with rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro, who was arrested Saturday after allegedly breaking a taxi cab window.

More importantly, Harbaugh made it clear that these mistakes won't be tolerated. In talking to reporters, he mentioned four times that players will get cut for repeated mistakes.

The best way for a coach to get his point across is to threaten a player's livelihood, and Harbaugh isn't afraid to use that trump card.

"At some point in time, your mistakes begin to impact us in a negative way," Harbaugh said. "When the negativity overbalances your ability to help our football team, you're not going to be here any more. Or if we can't trust your character, then you can't be a part of what we're doing anymore."

It's often ridiculous to question a coach's authority when players get arrested. Harbaugh can't be at every casino or bar across the country to watch more than 90 players. If you're going to blame Harbaugh, you have to blame general manager Ozzie Newsome for drafting or signing that player. You also have to blame the leaders in the locker room for not policing their teammates.

Maybe Ray Lewis was right last year when he said the Ravens have a problem filling his leadership void. Joe Flacco scoffed at it, and I did as well. But perhaps there is some substance to it after the recent arrests.

Flacco is married and with two kids and has a different lifestyle than many of his teammates. He acknowledged that he isn't the right person to counsel the younger players. Two other leaders, running back Ray Rice and linebacker Terrell Suggs, have had their share of off-the-field problems. Haloti Ngata, another veteran influence, isn't a vocal leader.

Fair or not, Harbaugh knows he has to be the voice of authority on this issue.

"It's a privilege to have a job like this," Harbaugh said. "It's a privilege to be in the National Football League. Yes, you've earned it. And you're going to have to earn staying in this league. It's never a given."

Let's put this in perspective. Harbaugh had made significant strides to repair their image since the days of Ray Lewis pleading guilty to a obstruction of justice charge in a double murder and Jamal Lewis going to jail on a federal drug charge.

There are more serious situations in the NFL right now. Don't you think Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots would love to change places with the Ravens?

Before this year, only four Ravens had been arrested in Harbaugh's six seasons. That's why you have to give him the benefit of the doubt to right the ship. He's earned it.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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