Baltimore Ravens: Todd Heap

BALTIMORE -- In becoming the latest player to see his name put in the Baltimore Ravens' Ring of Honor on Sunday, former tight end Todd Heap was overcome by nostalgia when he heard the crowd chant his name once more.

[+] EnlargeTodd Heap
AP Photo/Matt SlocumTodd Heap racked up 467 catches and 5,492 receiving yards during 10 seasons with the Ravens.
"It was emotional," Heap said after his induction. "I was here for 10 years -- pretty much all of my adult life was spent here in Baltimore and this organization. I look up and see my name up there, and I'm like, 'Wow, there are a lot of people behind that name. There are a lot of people that made it possible.' That's what I think of. I think of all those guys over the years, so many of them that were just inspirational to me, that gave me words of wisdom or that I was able to just watch and appreciate how they did things."

Four former teammates were on the field for Heap's ceremony: offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, defensive end Michael McCrary, outside linebacker Peter Boulware and kicker Matt Stover. It would've been a bigger gathering if the Ravens had lined up all the quarterbacks who threw passes to Heap during his time in Baltimore.

As the Ravens put up 38 points on the Carolina Panthers Sunday, I wonder how many people thought about how Heap would've fared in an offense like this one. During his time with the Ravens from 2001-10, Heap's 467 catches and 5,492 receiving yards ranked as the fifth most among NFL tight ends over that span.

Those numbers are more impressive when you put them in context. Only twice during Heap's 10 seasons did the Ravens rank in the top half of the NFL in passing, and they never ranked higher than 11th. That shows how few legitimate targets they had around Heap.

Heap never had the luxury of stability at the quarterback position until the end of his career with Joe Flacco. During Heap's 10 seasons, the Ravens started nine quarterbacks: Elvis Grbac, Randall Cunningham, Chris Redman, Jeff Blake, Kyle Boller, Anthony Wright, Steve McNair, Troy Smith and Flacco.

Heap currently ranks 10th all time in NFL career receptions for tight ends with 499. But he came into the league as the Ravens' first-round draft pick in 2001 with simple goals.

"I wanted to be the best I could be, but at the same time I was just trying to make a name for myself [and] become a starter in the NFL," Heap said. "When I came into that veteran team in 2001, with all of those Hall of Fame guys, I was like, 'If I can come in here and compete with those guys, I'll be doing all right.'"
The sounds of "Heeeap" will once again be heard at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, when former tight end Todd Heap becomes the eighth Baltimore Ravens player to be inducted into the team's Ring of Honor.

Heap never earned a Super Bowl ring like so many of the other names on the stadium facade. He only went to two Pro Bowls.

[+] EnlargeTodd Heap
AP Photo/Matt SlocumTodd Heap did not win a Super Bowl ring, but did catch a Ravens record 41 touchdown passes.
The reason why Heap deserves a spot in the Ring is his toughness and class. If the NFL kept track of hits sustained on every catch, Heap would've been the league leader during his decade with the Ravens. He was involved in so many rough collisions that he doesn’t remember how many concussions he’s had in his career.

The Ravens wouldn't have had much of a passing game from 2002-06 if not for Heap sacrificing his body and leaping up for another erratic Kyle Boller pass over the middle. By the time his 10-year career in Baltimore was over, Heap ranked second in team history in receptions (467) and receiving yards (5,492), setting marks that all Ravens tight ends will aspire to beat. Those numbers don't do justice to the way Heap played.

He was fearless going over the middle, even though he knew he was going to take a hit like the helmet-to-helmet collision from Brandon Meriweather in 2010. He also rarely went out of bounds, choosing to battle for extra yards.

Putting the team first was Heap's calling card and it led to his unforgettable run-in with Steelers linebacker Joey Porter in 2004. After twisting his ankle, Heap limped to the line of scrimmage so Boller could spike the ball and the Ravens didn’t have to use a timeout. As Boller thrust the ball downward, Porter shoved Heap backward with a show of brute force.

The Ravens released Heap in 2011, and he played the final 12 games of his career with the Arizona Cardinals. When star players leave teams, it can sometimes lead to a bitter divorce. Heap made sure he left on good terms, especially with the Ravens' fan base. Days before he returned to play in Baltimore as a member of the Cardinals, Heap took out a half-page ad in The Baltimore Sun to thank fans for a decade of memories.

This Sunday, fans receive a chance to show their appreciation for Heap when he is inducted at halftime. He joins seven players in the Ring of Honor: running back Earnest Byner (inducted in 2001), defensive end Michael McCrary (2004), linebacker Peter Boulware (2006), offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden (2008), kicker Matt Stover (2011), running back Jamal Lewis (2012) and linebacker Ray Lewis (2013).
The Baltimore Ravens announced Tuesday that tight end Todd Heap is going to be inducted into their Ring of Honor this season.

If there is one player in Ravens history who deserves this recognition, it's certainly Heap. He took so many hard hits that he doesn’t remember how many concussions he’s had in his career. He caught a franchise-record 41 touchdowns, 12 more than anyone else in team history, and he accomplished this despite nine starting quarterbacks in 10 seasons (from Elvis Grbac to Joe Flacco).

[+] EnlargeTodd Heap
AP Photo/Matt SlocumTodd Heap did not win a Super Bowl ring, but did catch a Ravens record 41 touchdown passes.
There have been other players who sacrificed and fought just as much as Heap, but Jonathan Ogden, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs all have Super Bowl rings to show for it. Heap was drafted by the Ravens one season after their first championship and was released two seasons before their second one.

For a decade, Heap earned the love and admiration of Baltimore football fans. It showed when the crowd yelled "Heeeap" after every catch.

Without Heap, the Ravens wouldn't have had much of a passing game from 2001 to 2011. Their favorite play was throwing a deep pass down the field and watching Heap leap over defenders to make the catch. He was fearless going over the middle, even though he knew he was going to take a hit like the helmet-to-helmet collision from Brandon Meriweather in 2010. He also rarely went out of bounds, choosing to battle for extra yards.

Putting the team first got Heap into his infamous run-in with Steelers linebacker Joey Porter in 2004. After twisting his ankle, Heap limped to the line of scrimmage so quarterback Kyle Boller could spike the ball and the Ravens didn’t have to use a timeout. As Boller thrust the ball downward, Porter shoved Heap backward with a show of brute force.

By the time his 10-year career in Baltimore was over, Heap ranked second in team history in receptions (467) and receiving yards (5,492), setting marks that all Ravens tight ends will aspire to beat.

“It’s pretty surreal,” Heap said of going into the Ring of Honor. “There are a lot of special players in Ravens history. It’s going to be cool to be listed among them. You never know how deserving it is, but I was pumped and I think it’s going to be cool for years to come.”

Heap becomes the eighth Ravens player to be inducted into the Ring at M&T Bank Stadium, joining running back Earnest Byner (inducted in 2001), defensive end Michael McCrary (2004), linebacker Peter Boulware (2006), offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden (2008), kicker Matt Stover (2011), running back Jamal Lewis (2012) and linebacker Ray Lewis (2013).
Offensive tackle Michael Oher signed a four-year, $20 million deal with the Tennessee Titans last week, becoming one of a handful of Baltimore Ravens' first-round picks not to remain with the team beyond their rookie deal.

Oher, the 23rd overall pick of the 2009 draft, will be known as a durable yet not dominant offensive tackle during his five seasons with the Ravens.

Let's take a look at where Oher ranks among the Ravens' first-round picks:

1. Ray Lewis, linebacker (1996): He will be remembered as one of the greatest players in NFL history. Few can match Lewis' resume: Two NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards, two Super Bowl rings, 13 Pro Bowls and one Super Bowl MVP award.

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AP Photos/David DrapkinMichael Oher has been a durable, if not outstanding, tackle for the Ravens.
2. Jonathan Ogden, offensive tackle (1996): How revered is Ogden? He became the first pure offensive tackle to be voted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility since Jackie Slater in 2001. Ogden went to the Pro Bowl in each of his final 11 seasons in the NFL.

3. Ed Reed, safety (2002): He was the 2004 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, the first safety in 20 years to win the award. Reed led the league in interceptions for three seasons, and he holds the NFL record for most career interception return yards (1,541) and longest interception return (108 yards).

4. Jamal Lewis, running back (2000): In 2003, Lewis was named the NFL Offensive Player of the Year for rushing for 2,066 yards, falling just 39 yards short of the NFL's all-time single season rushing record. He carried the Ravens' offense in the 2000 Super Bowl run and still ranks as the franchise's all-time leading rusher.

5. Terrell Suggs, linebacker (2003): He became the third Ravens player to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year, earning the award in 2011 by leading the AFC with 14 sacks and topping the NFL with seven forced fumbles. Suggs has recorded 94.5 career sacks, which is 24.5 more than any other Ravens player.

6. Haloti Ngata, defensive tackle (2006): A five-time Pro Bowl player, Ngata was considered the NFL's best interior defensive lineman a few years ago.

7. Chris McAlister, cornerback (1999): The Ravens' first shutdown cornerback, McAlister forced quarterbacks to throw away from him for years before a knee injury and off-the-field issues caught up to him.

8. Joe Flacco, quarterback (2008): He led the Ravens to a Super Bowl with a Joe Montana-like run and has produced more wins than any other quarterback since 2008. But Flacco's pedestrian regular-season numbers have stopped him from becoming an elite NFL quarterback.

9. Todd Heap, tight end (2001): Overshadowed by Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates in the AFC, Heap remains the Ravens' all-time leader with 41 touchdown catches.

10. Peter Boulware, linebacker (1997): The 1997 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, Boulware finished with 70 sacks (second all-time for the Ravens), including a team-record 15 sacks in 2001.

11. Duane Starks, cornerback (1998): He struggled mightily at times, but he had three interceptions in the Ravens' 2000 championship run including a 49-yard return for a touchdown in the Super Bowl.

12. Ben Grubbs, guard (2007): He started 70 of 74 games for the Ravens and made the Pro Bowl in 2012, his last season with the team.

13. Jimmy Smith, cornerback (2011): It's still early to give a true evaluation on Smith. He struggled his first two seasons before becoming the Ravens' top cornerback last season. Smith will likely climb these rankings before his career is over.

14. Michael Oher, offensive tackle (2009): He never missed a start in his five-year career, but he fell short of expectations because of false starts and inconsistent pass protection.

15. Mark Clayton, wide receiver (2005): He never led the team in receiving, and he had nine 100-yard receiving games. His best season was 2006, when he caught 67 passes for 939 yards and five touchdowns.

16. Kyle Boller, quarterback (2003): A flop as a franchise quarterback, Boller had one 300-yard passing game for the Ravens and seven starts where he threw under 100 yards. His five seasons with the Ravens produced a losing record as a starter (20-22) and just one more touchdown (45) than interceptions (44).

17. Travis Taylor, wide receiver (2000): Yes, Taylor is a bigger bust than Boller. The 10th overall pick of the 2000 draft, Taylor eclipsed 60 catches once and produced a grand total of two 100-yard games. If that doesn't convince you, Taylor didn't score a touchdown in his final 22 games with the Ravens.

Note: Cornerback Jimmy Smith was mistakenly left off an earlier version. Also, safety Matt Elam was left off the rankings because he's only played one season.

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