Tagged in: Baltimore Ravens

Arizona Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins suspended six games for violating PED policy

Arizona Cardinals star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins has been suspended six matches for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, the league announced Monday.

The suspension comes four days after the Cardinals traded their first-round pick in the 2022 draft to the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday for wide receiver Marquise Brown.

Hopkins will be permitted to play during the preseason and practice with the team until the beginning of the 2022 regular season.

Hopkins, a three-time first-team All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowl selection, is set to turn 30 on June 6 and is coming off an injury-riddled season that led to the lowest output of his career.

He missed three games in the middle of last season with a hamstring injury and the final four games of the regular season, plus Arizona’s wild-card loss to the Los Angeles Rams, after suffering an MCL injury in Week 14 on Monday Night Football.

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The knee was surgically repaired in December.

In February, while making interview rounds at the Super Bowl in Los Angeles, Hopkins said on SiriusXM NFL Radio that his rehab was going great and he was ahead of schedule.

Hopkins concluded with 572 yards and eight touchdowns on 42 catches a year after having 1,407 yards. Arizona went 3-4 without Hopkins during the regular season and was then blown out in the playoffs, losing 34-11 to the Rams.

Before his injuries, Hopkins was as good in 2021 as he has been in the past, or better. He had a higher catch percentage, yards per target and yards after catch per reception through Week 8. He was down slightly in yards per route, from 2.1 in his first eight seasons to 2.0 last season.

In two seasons with the Cardinals since they got him from the Houston Texans in 2020, Hopkins has 157 receptions for 1,979 yards and 14 touchdown catches.

Hopkins missed just two games in the first eight seasons of his career before missing seven last season.

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Baltimore Ravens sign coach John Harbaugh to 3-year contract extension

The Baltimore Ravens signed coach John Harbaugh to a three-year contract extension, owner Steve Bisciotti revealed Tuesday at the NFL league meetings.

The extension puts Harbaugh under contract with the Ravens through the 2025 season and continues one of the longest runs of any active coach. It also represents a strong vote of confidence after the team’s 8-9 season, which was the first time Harbaugh has finished in last place.

Harbaugh, 59, was entering the final year of a four-year deal that he signed in January 2019. A source told ESPN last month that the sides were nearing a new contract.

“No interest in having him go lame duck on me here. It’s not fair to him,” Bisciotti said.

“I think John’s grown and grown and grown. It’s kind of interesting. I don’t feel like I’m just signing up the same guy. I think that’s really a compliment to him. I really feel like there’s a rebirth in John as the years go on. Things that mattered to him don’t matter as much anymore. I’m just thrilled as an owner to have a guy that’s going to be going into his 15th year. So, I’m pretty pleased with it.”

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This marks Harbaugh’s 15th NFL season in Baltimore, marking the third-longest tenure among active coaches. Only Bill Belichick and Mike Tomlin have been with their current teams longer.

Harbaugh has led the Ravens to the playoffs nine times, producing a career record of 148-96 (.607).

In 2012, Harbaugh guided Baltimore to a Super Bowl title with a strong-armed Joe Flacco. Seven years later, Harbaugh became the only Ravens coach to collect the Associated Press’ NFL Coach of the Year award after going all-in on Lamar Jackson and creating an offense tailored for him.

Last year, Harbaugh was in the midst of one of his best coaching jobs, helping the Ravens to the best record in the AFC at 8-3 in Week 12 despite eight starters on season-ending injured reserve. But Baltimore lost its last six games, which resulted in just the second losing record under Harbaugh.

Both of Harbaugh’s losing seasons — 2015 and last campaign — came when his starting quarterbacks (Flacco and Jackson) were sidelined by injury for a combined 11 games.

When Bisciotti selected Harbaugh to replace Brian Billick in 2008, it was considered an unconventional hire because Harbaugh had primarily been a special teams coach with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Harbaugh justified the decision with consistent success, recording 11 playoff victories. Only Belichick has had more postseason victories (16) over that 14-year span.

From the time he stepped inside the Ravens’ facility, Harbaugh changed the culture, promoting unselfishness while encouraging players to be themselves.

The players rave about Harbaugh’s competitiveness and how he’ll push them while working out beside them. Harbaugh has built a reputation for being aggressive, whether it’s going for it on fourth downs or choosing to win games in the final minute with 2-point conversions.

This is Harbaugh’s sixth contract extension with Baltimore, which has become one of the most stable franchise in sports. The Ravens have only had three head coaches in their 26-year history: Ted Marchibroda, Billick and Harbaugh. With Harbaugh’s deal complete, the next priority is Jackson’s contract.

The 2019 NFL MVP is entering his fifth-year option, and the Ravens would be forced to put the franchise tag on him next offseason if the sides can’t agree on a contract extension.

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Ben Roethlisberger expects this to be his last season with Pittsburgh Steelers

Ben Roethlisberger privately has told former teammates and some within the organization that he believes this to be his final season playing quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, league sources told ESPN on Saturday.

Roethlisberger has not made any such public proclamations, and likely won’t, since he doesn’t want the latter part of the season to be about him as Pittsburgh tries to make a playoff push.

But sources say he and those within the organization are now operating as if he is entering the final five matches of his Hall of Fame career, with two of them fittingly coming versus the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh’s opponent Sunday and in the final regular-season game.

Roethlisberger is in the final year of his contract. He is 39 years old, turns 40 in March and has seen all of his quarterback draft classmates, such as Eli Manning and Philip Rivers, move on to the next chapters of their lives. Roethlisberger’s 18 seasons with one team is the most by a quarterback in NFL history.

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Roethlisberger has told many that he never would want to play anywhere other than Pittsburgh.

It doesn’t mean he couldn’t surface next season in another NFL city, but that is “highly unlikely,” according to one source.

That would mean that this year is expected to cap the career of one of the Steelers’ all-time greatest players. Roethlisberger will leave the franchise with more victories, touchdown passes and passing yards than any quarterback in Steelers history.

His 410 career touchdown passes entering Sunday’s game are eighth most in NFL history. His 62,870 passing yards are sixth in NFL history. His 161 career wins are fifth in NFL history.

The fact that this is expected to be the final NFL season for the six-time Pro Bowler does not come as a surprise to many around the organization.

They felt that last season could have been Roethlisberger’s last and, in a way, the team even seemed to prepare for that, turning over much of its roster on offense this season and transitioning to the future there.

The Steelers have, on average, the youngest offensive roster in the league, with rookies manning the center and left tackle positions and playing at running back and tight end.

Though the Steelers have quarterbacks Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins on their roster, there are questions about whether either will succeed Roethlisberger.

The Steelers’ home finale is Week 17 versus the Cleveland Browns on Jan. 3, a game that will air on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. Pittsburgh closes out the regular season in Baltimore on Jan. 9.

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Tyler Huntley orchestrates game-winning drive, leads Lamar Jackson-less Baltimore Ravens to win over Chicago Bears

Tyler Huntley found out he was going to start at quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday when he received a text from Lamar Jackson on his way to board the bus to Soldier Field.

“Go do your thing today. I’m going to be watching.”

A few hours later, Huntley showed the football world that the Ravens can win without the 2019 NFL MVP, rallying Baltimore to an improbable 16-13 triumph over the Chicago Bears.

Huntley became the fourth quarterback over the past 30 seasons to record a game-winning drive in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter in his first career start, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

With Baltimore down 13-9, Huntley’s 30-yard pass to Sammy Watkins set up the go-ahead, 3-yard touchdown run by Devonta Freeman with 22 seconds left in the game.

“I think if I was feeling the pressure, we probably wouldn’t have won this game,” Huntley stated after the game. “You got to go with the flow about winning the game. We knew we had to go down there and score.”

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Jackson missed the third game of his four-year career because of congestion in his lungs, a source told ESPN. The Ravens had believed Jackson would play after he fully participated in Friday’s practice, but all of the symptoms returned on Saturday.

On the flight to Chicago, Jackson was curled up in a ball in his seat and was feeling so sick that he didn’t realize the plane had landed. He didn’t attend any meetings Saturday night.

The Ravens were hoping that Jackson would improve by Sunday morning, but Ravens coach John Harbaugh stated Jackson “felt worse.”

Harbaugh doesn’t consider this illness will sideline Jackson long term.

“There’s no influenza, there’s no COVID,” he said. “I don’t know. I’m sure if it doesn’t clear up, they’ll keep testing him, but you got to think that it’s going to clear up. We’ll pray for that.”

Jackson was the first player to congratulate Huntley when he walked into the locker room.

With the Titans and Bills losing, the Ravens remain in the hunt for the AFC’s top seed. Baltimore (7-3) moved within a half-game of Tennessee (8-3) for the top spot in the conference because it found a way to win without Jackson, who had accounted for 82.8% of its offense (3,086 of 3,727 yards) this season.

“A lot of times, when you think of the Baltimore Ravens, you think Lamar Jackson, because he’s done so much for us,” Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. “But man, it was really special to see [Huntley] step up, a couple of guys on defense step up. Just all around, it seems like we didn’t really flinch.”

Huntley, who went undrafted out of Utah in 2019, completed 26 of 36 passes (72%) even though the Bears came after him. He was blitzed on 28 of 44 dropbacks (64%), which is the highest blitz rate by a team this season.

The Ravens became the fourth team in the past 40 seasons to record five or more fourth-quarter comeback wins in their first 10 matches. This time, it wasn’t because of a magical play by Jackson. It was the heroics of Huntley, who watched 13 quarterbacks get drafted over him in 2020.

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Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson inactive because of illness not related to COVID-19

Lamar Jackson was inactive for the Baltimore Ravens’ game at the Chicago Bears on Sunday because of an illness that is not related to COVID-19. His absence is the biggest hit to an already short-handed offense.

Jackson had been considered “50-50” for the game after being added to the injury report Saturday, a league source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. This came after Jackson stated he was “feeling great” upon returning to full participation in Friday’s practice after missing two days.

Tyler Huntley, who went undrafted out of Utah in 2020, made his first NFL start. He has completed 14 of 29 passes in the regular season and playoffs, throwing for 114 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.

The loss of Jackson is the latest challenge for the NFL’s No. 2-ranked offense. The Ravens’ top two running backs (J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards) and Pro Bowl left tackle (Ronnie Stanley) suffered season-ending injuries, and top wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown was ruled out Saturday with a thigh injury.

The Ravens organization was hit this week by an illness that is not COVID-19. Wide receiver Rashod Bateman and center Bradley Bozeman each missed one practice with illness, but neither was listed on the injury report by the end of the week.

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Jackson was hit the hardest by illness.

When he arrived at Soldier Field, Jackson was wearing a mask and walked sluggishly to the locker room.

One of the top NFL MVP contenders, Jackson has accounted for 82.8% of Baltimore’s offense (3,086 of 3,727 yards) this campaign. He is ninth in the NFL in passing (2,447 yards) and seventh in rushing (639).

The AFC North-leading Ravens (6-3) can’t afford to slip to the Bears (3-6) because their schedule gets increasingly tougher. After playing Chicago, Baltimore doesn’t have another game versus a team with a losing record.

This marks the third time Jackson has missed a game in his four-year career. He sat out the 2019 season finale because Baltimore had already secured the AFC’s No. 1 seed, and he was held out of the Week 12 game in 2020 after testing positive for COVID-19.

Jackson, who had his No. 8 jersey retired at Louisville last weekend, did not practice Wednesday or Thursday because he was sick. Three illnesses this year have led him to miss practice time.

On Friday, Jackson stated he thought he got a cold from the weather change.

“I usually don’t get sick, for real,” Jackson said after Friday’s practice. “I used to eat my Flintstone vitamins when I was a kid. My immunity system should be good.”

The Ravens are 1-1 when Jackson has missed a start, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2019 and falling at Pittsburgh in 2020 after the team suffered one of the bigger COVID-19 outbreaks in sports.

Baltimore is coming off a 22-10 loss at the Miami Dolphins, scoring its fewest points with Jackson as its starting quarterback.

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Baltimore Ravens adding RB Le’Veon Bell to practice squad

The Baltimore Ravens signed three-time Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell to their practice squad Tuesday to help their injury-filled backfield, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Bell, 29, will likely soon get elevated to the 53-man roster, the source added.

The addition of Bell comes after the Ravens lost third-string running back Justice Hill to an Achilles injury on Thursday. Baltimore already had lost starting running back J.K. Dobbins when he tore the ACL in his left knee in the preseason finale.

Bell, who worked out for Baltimore on Monday, will provide experience and pass-catching skill behind starter Gus Edwards and backup Ty’Son Williams.

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In 2019, the Ravens had a chance to sign Bell in free agency but chose to add Mark Ingram, who played in Baltimore for two seasons before getting released in January.

After gaining over 1,000 yards rushing in three of his five seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bell hasn’t been the same playmaker since sitting out the 2018 season. Last season, he totaled 328 yards rushing and two touchdowns with the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs.

Bell last played for the Kansas City Chiefs after he was let go by the New York Jets.

His role on the Chiefs was pretty much non-existent, and he had been looking for a job for some time.

The Ravens could also sign a young running back who can help on special teams as well, a source said. Bell isn’t the first former Pro Bowl player to get signed to the Ravens’ practice squad. Last year, Baltimore added wide receiver Dez Bryant to its practice team before promoting him to the 53-man roster.

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John Harbaugh guarantees Baltimore Ravens will pick up Lamar Jackson’s fifth-year option

For those who had any doubts, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh stated Tuesday that the team will pick up quarterback Lamar Jackson’s fifth-year option before Monday’s deadline.

“Guarantee it,” Harbaugh said on “The Rich Eisen Show.”

Jackson will make a guaranteed $23.1 million in 2022, a significant raise from his $1.7 million salary this season. This will be the highest fifth-year option in the league next season, tying Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen.

By exercising Jackson’s option, the Ravens will squash the speculation that the team will let Jackson to “graduate” after four seasons.

An NFL Network analyst recently suggested the Ravens could trade up to draft a quarterback this week and move on from Jackson before his heightened salary-cap hit limited Baltimore’s spending.

Harbaugh made it clear that won’t be the case. “He’s definitely going to be our quarterback,” Harbaugh said. “That’s the plan, absolutely.”

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Jackson, 24, has won more games (30) than any other NFL quarterback since taking over as Baltimore’s starter midway through the 2018 season and became the second unanimous league MVP in 2019.

He’s the first player in NFL history to produce 5,000 yards passing and 2,500 yards rushing in his first three campaigns.

Harbaugh pointed out how the Ravens have scored more points than any other team in Jackson’s two full seasons as a starting quarterback.

“I feel like it all points to one thing and the thing he talks about all the time: He wants to win a Super Bowl,” Harbaugh said.

“I think he’s a very unique guy. He’s a guy that’s different in a lot of ways than any quarterback that’s ever played. Lamar is somebody that just kind of breaks the mold a little bit. He does it in a way that a lot of people didn’t anticipate. They didn’t see this coming. He’s very determined — and we’re very determined — to prove those people wrong.”

In March, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta stated the team is “confident and committed” to getting a long-term deal done with Jackson.

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Sammy Watkins agrees to one-year contract with Baltimore Ravens

Sammy Watkins agreed to a one-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens, the team revealed. The team stated the contract is pending a physical.

Terms were not disclosed but sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter the deal is worth $6 million with $5 million guaranteed.

The addition of Watkins ended the Ravens’ difficult pursuit of an experienced wide receiver for quarterback Lamar Jackson and helps boost the NFL’s 32nd-ranked passing attack. Watkins’ 4,665 career receiving yards are more than double the combined career total of the Ravens’ current wide receivers (2,032).

If he can stay healthy, Watkins can team with Marquise “Hollywood” Brown as Baltimore’s starting wide receivers and complement him as a valuable underneath target for Jackson.

It has been a trying offseason for the Ravens to land a veteran wide receiver for Jackson, which further raises interrogations of whether wide receivers want to play in Baltimore’s run-first offense.

Desperately needing a wide receiver in a dwindling free-agent pool, the Ravens watched JuJu Smith-Schuster turn down a better offer to return to Pittsburgh last week and then lost out on T.Y. Hilton, who chose to go back to Indianapolis on Wednesday.

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Baltimore eventually went with Watkins, who had met with Ravens officials on Tuesday before leaving for a visit with the Colts. When Indianapolis retained Hilton, the Ravens struck a deal with Watkins.

By joining Baltimore, Watkins reunites with Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman and passing-game specialist Keith Williams. In Roman’s only full season as the Buffalo Bills’ offensive coordinator, Watkins produced career highs with 1,047 yards receiving and nine touchdowns in 2015. Before being hired by the Ravens this year, Williams recently served as Watkins’ personal receivers coach in the offseason.

This marks the first time Baltimore has signed a wide receiver this early in free agency since the Ravens added Michael Crabtree in 2018. The most significant free-agent wide receiver signings by the Ravens in the past two years were Seth Roberts and Dez Bryant.

One of the bigger surprises of the Ravens’ offseason was Baltimore not signing a wide receiver immediately when it was among the team’s top needs.

The Ravens’ wide receivers have ranked last in each of the past two campaigns in catches and receiving yards, and this group ranked among the youngest in the league because their two most experienced targets (Bryant and Willie Snead IV) are free agents.

Before bringing in Watkins, the Ravens’ top four wide receivers on their roster — Brown, Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay and James Proche II — were all drafted in the past two years, and none are over the age of 24.

The signing of Watkins won’t preclude the Ravens from drafting a wide receiver, but it should decrease the necessity to select one in the first round. Watkins is only the Ravens’ second free agent signed from another team this offseason.

Earlier this month, Baltimore signed guard Kevin Zeitler to a three-year, $22.5 million contract.

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Dez Bryant plans to play two more years, but it won’t be with Ravens after his six-game stint in Baltimore

Dez Bryant wants to play two more seasons, but it apparently won’t be with the Baltimore Ravens.

In a series of tweets Tuesday night, the wide receiver explained why he never broke out of a limited role with the Ravens last season.

“I realized quick Baltimore wasn’t the place for me,” Bryant wrote. “No bad blood. That’s their way of doing things so you gotta respect it.”

Bryant, 32, returned after sitting out two campaigns and totaled six catches for 47 yards and two touchdowns in six matches with Baltimore.

A three-time Pro Bowl selection during his time with the Dallas Cowboys, Bryant lacked explosiveness with Baltimore and never got consistently open.

He ended as the No. 4 wide receiver for the league’s worst passing attack, ranking below Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin and Willie Snead IV on the depth chart. Bryant managed a total of 129 snaps, or 21.5 per game.

Responding to a fan’s comment that he should’ve been given a better opportunity, Bryant wrote: “It’s hard. I’ve been off almost three years. I flashed my abilities to the point [Ravens coach John] Harbaugh asked was I ready to play because he thought I was ready …You have to learn the playbook … chemistry with the QB have to be on point.”

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Asked if his chemistry was off with quarterback Lamar Jackson, Bryant wrote: “Our chemistry was good on and off the field. But it was guys there before me who understood the offensive concepts better than me. You can’t jeopardize that.”

Bryant became the second Pro Bowl wide receiver to miss two full seasons and return to the NFL since the 1970 merger, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Josh Gordon was the first.

The Ravens first worked out Bryant in August, but he left without a contract because he was told to improve his conditioning.

Baltimore brought him back and signed him to the practice squad on Oct. 28.

After being elevated off the practice squad twice, Bryant was signed to the 53-man roster on Nov. 28. He never eclipsed more than 28 yards receiving in a game and was held without a catch in the Ravens’ two playoff games.

“I wasn’t bothered about playing time,” Bryant wrote. “I enjoyed myself. I met some great teammates, guys I feel like I will be keeping in contact for a long time. I’m thankful for the opportunity Baltimore gave me.”

The Ravens weren’t expected to bring back Bryant. Upgrading the wide receiver group in free agency and the draft was considered one of Baltimore’s priorities.

Bryant, the No. 24 overall pick of the 2010 draft, played eight campaigns for the Cowboys. In 113 games, he caught 531 passes for 7,459 yards and a Cowboys-record 73 touchdown catches before his release after the 2017 season. When asked if he plans to play in 2021, Bryant wrote: “I plan on playing two more years and that’s it for me.”

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Ravens sign veteran CB Tramon Williams

The Ravens have added a veteran cornerback to fortify a position hit hard by injuries. Tramon Williams, who has spent most of his career with the Green Bay Packers, has been signed to the 53-man roster.

Williams substitutes cornerback Khalil Dorsey (shoulder), who has been placed on injured reserve.

The 37-year-old Williams has 34 career interceptions, but has not played this campaign after his second stint with the Packers ended in 2019. An undrafted free agent in 2006 from Louisiana Tech, Williams had his best years with the Packers, where he played from 2006-14 and acquired a Super Bowl in 2010.

In his second stint with Green Bay that started in 2018, Williams started 23 games, including seven games last season. Though he has primarily been a cornerback, Williams also played some safety for the Packers last season.

Williams has also played for the Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns and Arizona Cardinals.

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Williams will add depth to the cornerback rotation that includes Pro Bowlers Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey, veteran Jimmy Smith and second-year pro Terrell Bonds. Humphrey (COVID-19) is expected to return this week after missing Sunday’s game versus the Indianapolis Colts.

Dorsey, who dislocated his shoulder during Sunday’s game in Indianapolis, joins a lengthy list of injured cornerbacks from Baltimore. Tavon Young and Iman Marshall are out for the season with knee injuries and Anthony Averett (shoulder) is on injured reserve, though he could return later this year.

Dorsey will be out at least the next three matches. The Ravens have also signed two players to the practice squad – defensive back Nate Brooks and offensive tackle R.J. Prince. Prince was on the Ravens’ practice squad last season and has also spent time with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Brooks was an undrafted free agent from North Texas in 2019 who has been with the Cardinals, New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins.

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