NFL Nation: Matt Elam


BALTIMORE -- Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh couldn't remember exactly what he told his team before the game that led to a motivated 26-6 victory over the rival Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium. Nor could his players.

What did stick with Harbaugh was the fact that his players didn't have a missed assignment during practice Monday. Four hours after the release of running back Ray Rice, the players took to the field and were sharp with the game plan for the Steelers.

"So, that was a good indication," Harbaugh said after his largest margin victory over the Steelers since 2011.

How could the Ravens not be affected by a story that dominated headlines across the nation? The players simply understood the alternative of not being focused.

[+] EnlargeElvis Dumervill
Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun/MCT/Getty ImagesElvis Dumervil and the Ravens blocked out the Ray Rice distractions and put on a clinic in a 26-6 whipping of the Steelers.
The Ravens couldn’t start the season 0-2 with home losses to division opponents. Since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, no team has been able to reach the playoffs after such a start, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

“We had no choice but to think about this game,” safety Matt Elam said.

The perception is that the emotions of the Rice saga would not allow the Ravens to devote all of their attention to the Steelers. The Ravens believe it’s easier than what outsiders think.

Harbaugh said his team was in what he called "that football cocoon." The Ravens banded together and played with an intensity that wasn't evident in the season opener.

"We are really isolated from all of that," Harbaugh said. "As a football team, we got into our meeting rooms and our locker rooms, and we go to work."

If there was any question whether the Ravens would be distracted by parting ways with the second-leading rusher in franchise history, they provided the answer in the first quarter.

Historically a slow-starting team, the Ravens set the tone when linebacker Daryl Smith forced a fumble at the Baltimore 15-yard line and Flacco converted that turnover into a 12-play, 85-yard drive. It was capped by Joe Flacco's 2-yard touchdown pass to Owen Daniels.

The Ravens' relentlessness continued until the fourth quarter. Left guard Kelechi Osemele realized the Ravens were wearing down the Steelers when he saw linebacker Lawrence Timmons throwing up on the field.

The Ravens were the more motivated team. They were the more desperate team. They were the more focused team. Some key numbers -- no turnovers, four penalties and 35 minutes in time of possession -- underscore that.

"As soon as the clock ticked to zero against Cincinnati on Sunday, there was a sense of urgency that we had to get back on the field," said Flacco, who went 10-for-10 passing for 84 yards and two touchdowns on the Ravens' two touchdown drives.

Many players don't enjoy Thursday games because the quick turnaround doesn't allow their bodies to recover. This time, the quick four-day turnaround was a welcomed change.

In many ways, the three hours at M&T Bank Stadium on Thursday were the easiest part of an emotional week. It allowed them to get back to what they do best.

"It just felt good to get back to football," defensive end Chris Canty said. "We're answering a lot of questions about things that don't pertain to football, so I'm just really excited that the men in this locker room came together amid all of that adversity and we put the kind of performance out there that we did tonight."

Canty added, "It's been an emotional week. But, in the game of football, you've got to be able to play with emotion to play at your best. You could see it on the sideline. We were all cheering each other on."

In comparison, the adversity they faced on the field didn't seem so daunting. Running back Bernard Pierce, who was benched Sunday for fumbling, showed determination in running for 96 yards. The defense delivered turnovers two of the three times the Steelers got inside the 20-yard line (Smith's forced fumble and Haloti Ngata's interception).

As a result, the Ravens were finally able to breathe a sigh of relief. For the first time since the football world saw Rice's latest video on Monday morning, the news swirling around the Ravens was good.

"I think adversity can bring you together, and our guys are made of the right stuff," Harbaugh said. "I'm proud of them for that."

Ravens Camp Report: Day 5

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Baltimore Ravens training camp:

  • Wide receiver Torrey Smith made the catch of camp, when he pulled in a high Joe Flacco throw with one hand. For most of camp, Steve Smith had stolen the spotlight from Torrey Smith. But Torrey Smith showed off his athleticism with that catch during the red zone drill.
  • Safety Matt Elam became the first to intercept Flacco in this year's camp. He nearly paid a price for it, though. Owner Steve Bisciotti playfully drove his golf cart onto the field and nearly hit Elam to stop him from reaching the end zone on the return.
  • Running back Justin Forsett has an impressive burst. If you didn't know it, he put it on display when he caught a short slant and beat four defenders to score a touchdown. Forsett is a smallish back who is competing with rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro for the No. 3 running back spot.
  • Cornerback Chykie Brown struggled mightily in the first week of camp. After sitting out yesterday with a tweaked hamstring, he came back and broke up two passes. The extra rest may have helped him refocus mentally. His biggest mistake of the night was a defensive holding penalty.
  • A little more than 28,000 fans attended the Ravens' practice at M&T Bank Stadium on Monday night. It was the team's first workout at the stadium in this year's camp.
  • Ray Lewis made an appearance at the stadium and revealed what his statue may look like during an on-field interview. He said the statue, which will be placed in the same plaza as Johnny Unitas, will feature him doing his signature dance. It will be unveiled at some point this year.
  • Schedule: The Ravens have their first day off on Tuesday. They return to practice Wednesday at 1 p.m.
  • Injury wire: Brown (tweaked hamstring) returned after missing one day of practice. ... CB Lardarius Webb (back) missed his third practice. ... DE Chris Canty (family issue) was the only other starter who didn't practice. ... Will Rackley (head) and OT Parker Graham (groin) also didn't practice. ... NT Terrence Cody (hip) is on the physically unable to perform list.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Maybe Green Bay Packers receiver Randall Cobb was just speaking in hyperbole. Or perhaps he did not want to come across like the stereotypical diva NFL receiver.

Whatever the reason, Cobb said Sunday that he doesn't believe he has done enough to warrant a contract extension.

The Packers almost certainly will see things differently.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers already does. He said Saturday that he would “love for Randall to be next” when it comes to contract extensions.

Maybe the Packers will want to wait to make sure last year's fluke injury was, well, a fluke. But there's little or no reason to think they will let a young, budding star receiver get away even after they signed their top receiver, Jordy Nelson, to a four-year, $39 million contract extension on Saturday. Cobb, who won't turn 24 until next month, is in the final year of the rookie contract he signed after the Packers drafted him in the second round in 2011.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson, who has an excellent track record with second-round receivers (see also Nelson and Greg Jennings) already knows what kind of dynamic player Cobb can be from the slot position. This year, after the departure of James Jones in free agency, Cobb also will be able to expand his role into a complete receiver who plays both inside and out on the perimeter.

The Packers watched Cobb catch 80 passes for 954 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012 and likely would have seen equal, if not better, numbers last season if not for the broken tibia he sustained on a low hit from Baltimore Ravens safety Matt Elam that knocked him out for 10 games.

Had it not been for the Elam hit, it might have been Cobb's name on that contract the Packers worked up on Saturday.

"Woulda, coulda, shoulda," Cobb said. "At the end of the day, I didn't. I wasn't out there 10 weeks. Regardless of what it may be, what my injury was, there was nothing I could do about it.

"For me, I feel that was part of God's plan. I've done everything I can in the offseason. I've come back and I'm ready for training camp as we get going over the next few days, throwing the pads on, so I'm excited about this season."

Kiper mock 1.0 reaction: Packers

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
In last year’s draft, there were two safeties off the board when it came time for the Green Bay Packers to pick at No. 26 in the first round.

So instead of taking Florida safety Matt Elam, who would end up going six picks later to the Baltimore Ravens, Packers general manager Ted Thompson opted for UCLA defensive end Datone Jones.

Thompson’s decision not to address the safety position at all in the draft or free agency turned out to be a mistake that would end up costing the 2013 team. Poor safety play hampered a defense that slipped to No. 25 in total yards allowed.

So it makes sense that in Mel Kiper’s first mock draft Insider of 2014, he has the Packers taking a safety. And this year, according to Kiper, only one safety will be gone when Thompson is on the clock with the 21st overall pick.

While Kiper expects Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to be selected before the Packers pick, he has them taking Louisville safety Calvin Pryor.

Pryor has good size (6-foot-2, 208 pounds) and declared for the draft last month after a successful junior season in which he had three interceptions and 5.5 tackles for loss in 12 games.

He has a reputation as a physical, hard-hitting safety – something the Packers have lacked in recent years. Pryor sat out one game last season because he was suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules.

Rapid Reaction: Baltimore Ravens

December, 29, 2013

CINCINNATI -- A few thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' 34-17 loss at the Cincinnati Bengals.

What it means: The Ravens (8-8) failed to make the playoffs for the first time in coach John Harbaugh's six seasons. Baltimore's five-year run of reaching the postseason, which was the longest current streak in the NFL, ended when the Ravens lost and the Pittsburgh Steelers routed the Cleveland Browns. The Ravens would've made the playoffs with a win because the Miami Dolphins lost at home to the New York Jets. That will sting the most for the defending Super Bowl champions.

Stock watch: Falling: Fourth-quarter defense. This has been a bad trend for the Ravens, whose defense has been great for three quarters but then has a major lapse in the fourth. After the Ravens tied the game at 17 (on a Marlon Brown touchdown catch and a Ray Rice two-point conversion), the defense allowed the Bengals to march 90 yards on 12 plays to take the lead on Andy Dalton's 1-yard touchdown run. The Ravens never regained momentum.

Flacco sets (bad) record: Joe Flacco, the reigning Super Bowl MVP, threw three interceptions in the fourth quarter to set a Ravens single-season record. He finished with 22 interceptions on the season, three more than any other Ravens quarterback. The record is indicative of the lack of support around Flacco and the pressure on him to make plays. The Bengals tacked on a field goal off Flacco's first turnover to extend the lead to 27-17. His third one, which was thrown behind Torrey Smith, was returned 21 yards for a touchdown.

Failing to capitalize on turnovers: The Ravens' secondary had only eight interceptions in the first 15 games. On Sunday, Baltimore's defensive backs picked off Dalton four times. These turnovers could've been more damaging for the Bengals. But the Ravens managed just three field goals off the interceptions.

Deep trouble: The Ravens' 6-0 lead in the first quarter disappeared when A.J. Green caught a 53-yard touchdown pass. Ravens rookie safety Matt Elam was burned so badly that he tried to hold Green to stop the Pro Bowl receiver from getting behind him, and he missed on that, too. It was the 17th pass of at least 40 yards completed against Ravens, which leads the NFL.

What's next: The Ravens' season is over. They are the fifth defending Super Bowl champion not to make the playoffs over the past 11 seasons.

No NFL fine for hit on Joe Flacco

December, 20, 2013
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The NFL didn't fine Detroit Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy even though his helmet hit into the left knee of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.

It looked like the classic definition of "The Brady Rule," which prohibits a defensive player from hitting a quarterback below the knees when one or two feet are on the ground. The hit must be above the knee to be legal.

According to CBS Sports, it was ruled that Levy didn't hit him of "his own impetus."

Regarding the hit on Flacco, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said this week he got a different explanation from the referee on the field Monday and the league office Wednesday morning. Levy wasn't penalized in the Ravens' 18-16 win Monday night.

Flacco reportedly sprained his MCL and is wearing a brace on his left knee. He has been limited all week in practice.

There was a fine from that game, but it was Ravens rookie safety Matt Elam who got disciplined. He was fined $7,875 for unnecessary roughness because he "unnecessarily struck the quarterback who slid feet first." Elam was penalized 15 yards in the first quarter for that hit on Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.
In a week when Matt Elam made national headlines, the Baltimore Ravens rookie safety delivered the final word on the matter.

Elam sealed the Ravens' 18-16 win at the Detroit Lions on "Monday Night Football" with his first career interception, and in doing so the first-round pick showed his mental toughness.

Some had to wonder how the attention from Elam's comments -- he called Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson "pretty old" -- would affect a young player on the national stage. To make matters worse, Elam had a nightmarish opening drive, in which he was flagged 15 yards for hitting quarterback Matthew Stafford in the helmet and missed a tackle on a 17-yard pass play.

But Elam bounced back and lived up to his words of being physical, finishing with a career-high 10 tackles. In an outcome few would have predicted, Elam made more of an impact than Johnson, who dropped two passes.

"No disrespect to Megatron, I didn't mean it that way," Elam said. "I just feel like it's Monday night, everybody is watching. You're going to give your best game, anyway. It shouldn't be somebody calling somebody out to play a good game. You're going to play a good game anyway because it's Monday night and everybody's watching and you want to win."

Elam added, "He's one of the greatest receivers in the game. I have no disrespect for him. It was just my competitive spirit. I just want to win."

From the looks of Elam's play Monday night, a bad situation has led to positive results. There were many times this season that the rookie disappeared in games. But he handled himself well when playing under the microscope.

And, just like last week, Elam still isn't afraid to speak his mind.

"I just feel like we're destined for greatness," he said.
Joe FlaccoAP Photo/Rick OsentoskiJoe Flacco said the Ravens don't panic in clutch situations, and they proved it again on Monday.
DETROIT -- A month ago, I was convinced the Baltimore Ravens
weren't going to make the playoffs. Now, after another can't-believe-it-until-you-see-it moment, I wouldn't be shocked if the Ravens marched to another Super Bowl.

I'm not saying the Ravens are the NFL's best team. Heck, I can't say they're a consistent team. But, when the game is on the line, there is no team I trust more in the NFL right now than the defending Super Bowl champions.

The Ravens' thrilling 18-16 win over the Detroit Lions on "Monday Night Football" provided further evidence that no situation is too unnerving and no stage is too big. Baltimore has gone from a down-and-out, 4-6 team to a suddenly hot, 8-6 team because it believes anything is possible.

Just think about it: The Ravens control their fate in the playoffs and the AFC North because of the right leg of Justin Tucker and their one-legged quarterback. Obviously hurt by a hit to his left knee earlier in the fourth quarter, Joe Flacco completed a 27-yard pass on third-and-15 off his back foot to get the Ravens in range for a winning field goal. Tucker then booted a franchise-record 61-yarder with 38 seconds to lift the Ravens to another improbable victory.

"The thing I love about our football team is that we are a team of faith," coach John Harbaugh said. "We believe. We trust. Because of that, we'll fight. We will run the race right down to the end. That's something that our football team does. I'm very proud of them for that."

There are times when special moments define special teams, just like the times when the Ravens converted the fourth-and-29 in San Diego and delivered the Mile High Miracle last season. These Ravens are building quite a portfolio of "never say never" moments.

Two weeks ago, the Ravens beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 22-20, by stopping a two-point conversion with 1:03 remaining. Last week, the Ravens outlasted the Minnesota Vikings, 29-26, by scoring three touchdowns in the final 2:05, including the winning 9-yard touchdown pass to Marlon Brown with 4 seconds left.

On Monday, the Ravens won for the third straight week on a play in the final 63 seconds. What separates the Ravens from the likes of the Lions at this pressure-filled time of the year is experience.

"We don't panic. We don't let the situation get too big," Flacco said after his fourth game-winning drive of the season. "I wish it wasn't like that, that we wouldn't have to continue to play these types of games. But we've played a lot of them. We're used to having to make plays in crunch time when you're down a couple of points or up by a couple of points. We've played in a lot of big-time games and a lot of big-time atmospheres. Everybody knows how to handle them pretty well."

The Ravens aren't in the same league as the Seattle Seahawks or Denver Broncos in terms of offensive efficiency. Flacco and the Ravens didn't even get the ball in the end zone Monday night.

This defense can't be mentioned in the same breath as the ones in Kansas City or Carolina. That was evident after the Ravens failed to finish off a team again in the fourth quarter, giving up a go-ahead touchdown with 2:21 left in the game.

Where the Ravens rank among the NFL's best is finding a way to win, however dire the circumstance. It hasn't been that way all year for the Ravens, who lost three of their first four games decided by three points or less. Now, after Monday night's comeback, the Ravens have won four of their past five games by that same margin.

In order to gauge the confidence of the Ravens right now, you just had to be on their sideline in the final two minutes of the game when they stared at a 16-15 deficit. With the Ravens at the Lions' 45-yard line, Tucker told Harbaugh, "I got it."

As Tucker summed it up after the game, "The word 'can't' is not one that we're about, especially in this month of December."

The only aspect more surprising than how the Ravens are winning is who is helping them do it. On Monday night, the Ravens got an interception from 315-pound backup defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson in the third quarter that stopped the Lions from kicking a field goal and led to another Tucker kick. Then, after Tucker's 61-yarder in the fourth quarter, the Lions' final drive ended with the first career interception for Matt Elam, who took heat all week for calling wide receiver Calvin Johnson "pretty old."

"I don't know how many tight games we've been in or came down to the offense having to make a play or the defense having to stop the other team," cornerback Jimmy Smith said, "but we are coming through at the right time."

As a result, the Ravens maintained control of the No. 6 seed in the AFC and closed to one game of the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals. Baltimore can win the division for a third straight year if it beats the New England Patriots and the Bengals in the final two weeks. A loss, though, could bounce the Ravens from the playoffs.

There's no margin for error for the Ravens, but as the football world witnessed last night, that's probably how these Ravens like it anyway.

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Earlier this week, in the middle of praising Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, Baltimore Ravens rookie safety Matt Elam did something that caught Johnson’s attention.

He kind of called him old.

This, of course, was surprising to the 28-year-old Johnson, who usually doesn’t listen to what others say about him. Johnson said on Friday he didn’t even know who Elam was until this week.

“Don’t make nothing of it, you know,” Johnson said. “I don’t have time to make something out of every time somebody says something. Sometimes you just need to know when to keep your mouth shut, but, you know, he’s a rookie. He’ll learn.”

As for when he’ll learn, Johnson is hoping that is Monday night when the Lions face the Ravens on national television in a game both teams need to keep their playoff hopes going in a positive direction.

And Johnson said he is pretty sure he’ll end up seeing Elam at least once as he figures quarterback Matthew Stafford will test Elam with Johnson at least once on a deep ball.

Elam’s comments might also have been poorly timed because of Johnson’s previous games against players who have slighted him. Earlier this year, Dallas receiver Dez Bryant made some news by saying essentially he could do everything Johnson could.

That Sunday, Johnson had the best single-game receiving performance in regulation in NFL history and the second-best game overall, catching 14 passes for 329 yards.

So even as he shrugs these things off, he admit that they're motivation.

“It’s motivation but it also comes from somebody that I’m not playing,” Johnson said. “I’m playing him but I see him, like I say, if I run past him on the field or something like that. It’s not like he lines up on me every play.”

No, that job now falls to Baltimore’s cornerbacks, who will see a motivated Calvin Johnson on Monday night.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco expressed a sentiment shared by many after safety Matt Elam called Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson "pretty old."

"You just kind of look at him and say, 'Dude, what are you thinking? It's Calvin Johnson,'" Flacco said in a conference call Thursday with Detroit reporters. "It's kind of just funny that he put himself in a situation like that."

Elam's remarks have become the biggest storyline heading into a "Monday Night Football" game that has serious playoff implications for the Ravens (7-6) and the Lions (7-6). Flacco said he kind of shook his head at the comment, and you get the feeling that coach John Harbaugh did the same thing.

"I don't appreciate it. It doesn't help us," Harbaugh said. "Get a guy like Calvin Johnson all fired up, that's not really the idea."

Harbaugh added, "I don't think they needed that to get fired up. But we didn't need to give it to them either."

The prevailing theme from the Ravens is that Elam is a young player who didn't mean to disrespect one of the best wide receivers in the NFL.

"I think everybody's old to Matt Elam," Harbaugh said. "Matt's pretty young. Hopefully, he learns from his opportunity to speak to the media."

The Ravens player most affected by Elam's comments is cornerback Jimmy Smith, who will line up against Johnson on Monday night.

"Honestly, it doesn't bother me," Smith said. "Would you think that Calvin Johnson is not going to come to a Monday night game on national TV and not [play] his best game anyway because a rookie said something? I doubt it."

Smith joked that Elam thinks he's old at 25.

"If they're going to take it as poster board and 'we're going to play even harder now,' then they didn't have the right mentality coming in to play Monday night," Smith said.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- As soon as Baltimore Ravens safety Matt Elam described Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson as "pretty old," everyone focused on how ticked off that will make the NFL's best receiver.

There is someone who should be more upset at Elam -- Ravens cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb.

Just like Johnson suggested, Elam isn't the one lining up across from Megatron every play. That's the job for Smith and Webb. And it's a job that just got tougher after Elam curiously accused the 28-year-old Johnson as being old when he's actually in his prime.

"I'll show him what that old man's strength about," Johnson said in a conference call Thursday with Baltimore reporters.

Gulp. If I'm Smith or Webb, I went up to Elam this morning, saying, "What were you thinking, rookie?"

Look at Johnson's receiving yards for his past four home games: 115, 329, 115 and 101. Now, Johnson is talking about how he puts all the negative comments in "a box" and uses it for motivation on game days.

Part of the problem is Elam has never faced Johnson on the field. Smith and other Ravens certainly have. It was the 2012 preseason when the Ravens allowed Johnson to catch five passes for 111 yards and one touchdown -- and that was in less than one full half of work.

Elam, a free safety who often lines up 15 yards off the line, won't have to to see Johnson unless, as the receiver puts it, is running past him. This has been a problem for the Ravens, who have allowed a league-worst 16 passes over 40 yards.

How do the Ravens plan to slow down Johnson? Elam alluded to playing press coverage on Johnson because older receivers aren't going to be as physical. Saying Johnson isn't physical is like saying Ndamukong Suh isn't a nasty player.

Jimmy Smith is scheduled to speak to the Baltimore media later Thursday afternoon. My guess is he'll be extremely complimentary of Johnson. It's something Smith wished Elam would have done earlier this week. Monday night just became a lot more challenging for any Ravens cornerback trying to slow down Johnson.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens safety Matt Elam has looked like a rookie plenty of times on the field. He just made his biggest rookie blunder off of it Wednesday.

In an interview with the Associated Press and Comcast SportsNet, Elam called Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson "pretty old." Yes, it seems that Megatron has been around forever. But he's 28 years old. Elam is only six years younger.

Does anyone remember what happened to Dallas? Two months ago, Cowboys WR Dez Bryant said he was just as good a receiver as Johnson. The result: Johnson put up 329 yards receiving against the Cowboys, the second-biggest receiving game in NFL history.

In other words, don't make Megatron mad.

I'm at a loss why Elam would even say such a thing. He's wrong on both accounts. Johnson is not old and he's very physical. It's one thing to take a shot. It's another to take a shot and be so wildly off the mark. He'll likely find that out under the bright lights of "Monday Night Football." If Elam thinks Johnson is old, I can't wait to hear what he thinks of Tom Brady the following week.

The strange part is that Elam has been so reserved with reporters. But these comments certainly won't go over well with Johnson. Can you imagine the 5-foot-10 Elam trying to defend the 6-foot-5 Johnson in the open field? What about the 210-pound Elam trying to tackle the 236-pound Johnson?

This all started when a reporter brought up that Johnson is a physical receiver.

"He's pretty old, so I don't know how physical he'll be,'' Elam said. "He's a big guy, but he's older. I guess when they get older they're not going to be as physical, you know what I'm saying? We're going to have to be physical, make him uncomfortable.''

This is the same Elam who has broken up just two passes this year and has yet to intercept a pass. This is the same rookie who has allowed an average of 18.5 yards per completion against him, according to Pro Football Focus.

The Ravens' first-round draft pick has been a mild disappointment because he's playing out of position (he's been playing free safety but is more of a strong safety). On Wednesday, he simply was out of line.

Elam was complimentary of Johnson, describing him as "big, fast, athletic, unstoppable, freak."

That's where he should have stopped. Calling Johnson "pretty old" just shows how young Elam is. And it's something he'll regret come Monday night.
After a staggering weekend of injuries, @JTERIOS sent this question to the our Daily Rap chat: "It seems like a lot of acl's are being torn this year. Am I just now noticing, or is there an increase?"

At the time I was still seeking out documentation, but I have it now and it's as staggering as you might imagine. The bottom line: 30 players have already been placed on injured reserve this season because of confirmed torn ACLs, a pace that has already exceeded the total for all of 2011 and has nearly done the same for 2012.

That's right. In all of 2011, according to via ESPN Stats & Information, confirmed ACL injuries sent 25 players to injured reserve. The figure was 32 in 2012. Those numbers do not include players who suffered a torn ACL but were waived/injured rather than placed on injured reserve.

(Special thanks to ESPN researcher Rachel Eldridge for researching and cross-checking this information.)

Even if this year's pace slows, which everyone hopes it does, the 2013 season is well on its way to producing the highest frequency of confirmed torn ACL injuries in recent memory. Those numbers are indisputable. The more difficult question is understanding why.

Two theories jump to mind, but neither are perfect by any means.

First, the continuing focus on eliminating helmet-to-helmet contact has in at least some cases prompted defenders to direct their contact to the lower legs. In the most high-profile incident, Miami Dolphins tight end Dustin Keller tore his ACL and two other ligaments when Houston Texans defensive back D.J. Swearinger hit him low in a preseason game.

League officials have said they will monitor the frequency of leg injuries in conjunction with their efforts to discourage head shots. The ACL figures, of course, don't include injuries such as the one Green Bay Packers receiver Randall Cobb suffered in Week 6, when he broke his leg on a low hit from Baltimore Ravens safety Matt Elam.

But any close observer would also note the frequency of non-contact ACL injuries this year, starting in training camp and bringing us to a second theory making its rounds among NFL teams. Have new limitations on offseason football work left players less conditioned for it when training camp arrives? Cardiovascular and muscle strength are important, but some traditionalists have suggested that football activities place unique trauma on the body, leaving ligaments more vulnerable to injury when not exposed to football movements over extended periods of time.

If that's the case, we'll see a drop-off in torn ACLs, at least in non-contact instances, as the season progresses and ligaments are re-conditioned to football movements. I'm sure there are other potential explanations as well. But there is no disputing the facts. Your eyes have not deceived you: ACL injuries are in fact occurring at a high rate this season.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A cynic might say this is why Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley doesn’t always appear to be an overly willing blocker.

On Friday, the NFL confirmed Finley was fined $15,750 for “unnecessarily striking a defenseless player in the head and neck area” in Sunday’s 19-17 win at the Baltimore Ravens.

Finley said he planned to appeal the fine, which was for a block against Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs on a running play late in the first quarter.

On the play, a toss to the right to running back Johnathan Franklin (who was stuffed for a 3-yard loss), Finley motioned next to right tackle Don Barclay just before the snap. As soon as the ball was snapped, Finley leveled Suggs with his left shoulder.

“I really don’t care about it, but just the fact that if it was a play where I was trying to do it, I’d take the fine,” Finley said. “But I won’t take it.”

Shortly after Finley’s comments to the media on Friday, he tweeted:

Later on Friday, Finley's agent, Blake Baratz, tweeted:

An NFL spokesman, in an email to, said Finley was fined because he violated Rule 12, Section 2, Article 7 (a) (9). That rule states: “It is a foul if a player initiates unnecessary contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture … players in a defenseless posture are … a player who is protected from an illegal crackback block.”

The crackback portion of the rule was added for the 2012 season.

That was believed to be the only fine from the game. An NFL spokesman said Ravens safety Matt Elam was not fined for the low hit that fractured Randall Cobb’s fibula in his right leg. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers confronted Elam after the play, and then guard T.J. Lang intervened and was given a penalty for unnecessary roughness after he shoved Elam. Lang also was not fined.

“I just felt like, from my vantage point, he had plenty of time to not take out a guy’s legs in that situation,” Rodgers said after the game. “I think he could have hit in the proper hitting zone, and that’s what I told him.”

Rapid Reaction: Ravens 30, Texans 9

September, 22, 2013

BALTIMORE -- A few thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' 30-9 win against the Houston Texans:

What it means: The Ravens reasserted themselves as a team to watch in the AFC just two weeks after being embarrassed in Denver. On the strength of defense and special teams, the Ravens handed the Texans their first loss of the season and avenged a 30-point loss in Houston from a year ago. The Ravens remain in first place in the AFC North by improving to 2-1 this season.

Stock Watch:

Rising: James Ihedigbo. He was the best safety on the field on the day Ed Reed returned to Baltimore. Ihedigbo had nine tackles, including two for losses, two passes defensed (including one on fourth down) and one quarterback hit. Ihedigbo was supposed to be holding the starting spot until rookie Matt Elam was ready, but he has been one of the pleasant surprises for this defense.

Falling: Discipline in the first half. The Ravens were flagged eight times in the first 22 1/2 minutes of the game. The Ravens had too many players on the field on a field-goal attempt, which gave the Texans a first down, and left tackle Bryant McKinnie was called for a facemask penalty twice. But, to the Ravens' credit, they finished with nine.

Replacing Ray: On the day the Ravens inducted Ray Lewis into the Ring of Honor, his replacement made the game-changing play of the game. Daryl Smith jumped a pass to Owen Daniels to pick off Matt Schaub and ran it back 37 yards for the score. Smith's first career interception return for a touchdown put the Ravens, who had struggled on offense, ahead 10-6 late in the second quarter.

Birthday boy: Less than two minutes after Smith's score, Tandon Doss celebrated his 24th birthday with a 82-yard punt return for a touchdown. It was the fifth-longest punt return in Ravens history. Not bad for a player who was cut three weeks ago and was only re-signed when returner Jacoby Jones injured his knee. This capped a spurt in which the Ravens scored 17 points in three minutes, 26 seconds.

What's next: The Ravens (2-1) go on the road with a couple of AFC East trips, at Buffalo on Sunday and at Miami the next week.




Thursday, 9/18
Sunday, 9/21
Monday, 9/22