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January 4, 2012

Rex Ryan backlash well underway in Big Apple

Well, here's a big upset: Rex Ryan is no longer the big media darling of New York.

In fact, the Jets' head coach -- and former lovable defensive coordinator of the Ravens, you'll remember -- is getting killed in the tabloids and on talk radio for his team's disappointing 8-8 season and three straight losses to the Eagles, Giants and Dolphins to close it out.

He's also getting bashed for his team's boorish behavior and the sense that the Jets were out-of-control in recent weeks.

Jets fans were already disgusted by Santonio Holmes' sulking in the final game against the Dolphins, during which Holmes was called out by teammates for quitting and eventually benched -- apparently without Ryan's knowledge -- by offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

(And Holmes was one of the team captains! Appointed by none other than -- ta-daa! -- Rex Ryan.)

This was followed by another devastating PR blow for Gang Green: linebacker Bart Scott, the former Ravens, gave the finger to photographers as the Jets cleaned out their lockers Monday.

OK, everyone knows New York's a tough town. Well, maybe everyone except Ryan, who had an extended honeymoon period with the media and fans after guiding the Jets to the AFC Championship game two years in a row.

But now comes the predictable backlash, made even harder on Ryan because of his swagger and his mouth and his larger-than-life personality.

Some sample headlines from the tabloids today:

 "Rex becomes punch line as Jets turned into a joke."

"Oh, those classy Jets! LB makes obscene gesture at photographers."

"Jets issues go deeper than captains."

Ouch. Looks like a long, ugly off-season for Ryan and his team. And that's the price you pay when you talk a good game, rather than play it.

Posted by Kevin Cowherd at 12:32 PM | | Comments (4)
        

December 29, 2011

Catching up with ... Roy Hilton

roy-hilton-1-1228.jpg At 68, Roy Hilton still enjoys fooling people.

"They come up to me and think I'm an old basketball player. I like that," said Hilton, who, at 6-foot-6, was one of the tallest Baltimore Colts of his day.

He fooled people in other ways, back then. The Colts' 15th round draft pick in 1965, Hilton surprised everyone by making the team at defensive end and lasting 11 years in the NFL. And in Baltimore's 16-13 victory in Super Bowl V, he surprised Dallas by roaring past its All-Pro tackle, Ralph Neely, and sacking Cowboys' quarterback Craig Morton twice before halftime.

Then, in the fourth quarter, with the Colts trailing 13-6, Hilton charged the Dallas passer again. Tossing Neely aside with a head slap (it was legal then), Hilton rushed a hurried Morton and forced an interception that led to the Colts' tying touchdown.

"After the game, Mac (Colts coach Don McCafferty) came over to me, shook my hand and just said, 'Thanks,' " Hilton said. "That was the highlight of my entire career.

"See, I was fired up for the Super Bowl because, beforehand, Dallas had switched Neely from one side of its offensive line to the other. They wanted to get him away from (Colts' All-Pro defensive end) Bubba Smith. I guess they thought I was easy pickings for Neely, and it ticked me off."

Smith, who died in August, had been the first player selected overall in the 1967 draft, out of Michigan State. Hilton, who attended Jackson State, had been chosen No. 210. So it was no surprise which end got all of the ink.

"Bubba was something," Hilton said. "If he got mad and decided he was going to get the quarterback, they simply could not stop him. He was that good. He was bigger (6-foot-7) and stronger than me, though both of our legs looked like toothpicks. I had a phobia about that. During games, I wore socks all the way up to my knees, to make my legs look bigger. Even now, when I go down the street for a walk, I do the same thing."

Hilton, who lives in Randallstown, has paid for his rough play. The left knee has been replaced twice; the right one is next to go. He suffers from gout and arthritis and takes more than 10 medications a day. But you won't hear complaints from the man who played nine seasons in Baltimore during the Colts' golden era.

"I've been blessed," said Hilton, married 46 years to his high school sweetheart. "We've got six grandchildren, all of whom keep me going."

roy-hilton-1228.jpg One, Brandon Copeland (Gilman), is a junior defensive end at Penn, where he has twice made the All-Ivy League first team. Another, Marquis Sullivan (Spalding), starred in basketball at Loyola.

Having raised three daughters, Hilton now has six grandsons and dotes on every one. He attends every Penn home game and tutors Copeland in the nuances of the sport. He also goes to all Ravens' home contests with his neighbor, Lenny Moore, the Colts' Hall of Famer.

Hilton retired in 2007 from his job as security officer at Johns Hopkins University, a post Hilton held for 20 years. He still exercises regularly "to keep the body parts functioning" and takes brisk walks daily.

"When I go out in the rain, my wife, Marie, tells me what a goof I am," he said. "I may drop dead, working out, but I feel like I've got to do it."

At 225 pounds, he's lighter than his playing weight (238). There's good reason for that, Hilton said:

"When I left football, I had to start paying for my own meals."

Posted by Mike Klingaman at 3:54 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Catching Up With
        

December 15, 2011

Catching Up With ... former Colts RB Norm Bulaich

norm-bulaich-colts.jpg He had a funny name, a Texas drawl and churning legs that chewed up yardage. Remember Norm Bulaich, the Baltimore Colts' star running back in their run to the January 1971 Super Bowl? He turns 65 on Christmas.

Bulaich can't believe it, either.

When he signed up for Medicare, he told the clerk: “I don't feel 65. Will you check it out?”

She did. He was.

The Colts' top draft choice 41 years ago, Bulaich caught on quick: He led Baltimore in rushing as a rookie. Bulaich (rhymes with goulash) sparkled in the playoffs, gaining 187 total yards in successive victories over the Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders. Then came Super Bowl V, where the Colts defeated the Dallas Cowboys, 16-13, on a field goal with five seconds left.

“I carried the ball twice, to run down the clock, right before Jim O'Brien's kick,” Bulaich said. “In the huddle, I got some dirty looks from our linemen, who worried that I would mess up.

“They said, ‘Don't fumble, Bulaich. Don't gain or lose any ground. Just move a little to the right.'”

Bulaich hung on to the ball and gained 3 yards, setting up the winning 32-yard kick.

Afterward, in the champions' locker room, the rookie thought, Hey, this wasn't that hard. We can do this every year.

“Obviously, that wasn't the case,” he said.

But Bulaich's best day was yet to come. In the Colts' 1971 season opener, against the New York Jets, he punished coach Weeb Ewbank's team for a club-record 198 yards in a 22-0 victory at Memorial Stadium. Moreover, he rushed 22 times with an ankle that he had sprained early in the game.

The Jets were stunned. One of Bulaich's runs was for a 67-yard touchdown.

“Nobody's ever run like that against this team, nobody,” New York quarterback Joe Namath said. “[Bulaich] didn't stop with second effort — hell, he went all the way to fourth, that's how hard he was running.”

His effort broke the Colts' previous single-game mark of 194 yards, set by Alan Ameche in 1955. Late in the game, with Bulaich closing in on the record, coach Don McCafferty pulled him aside.

“I'll give you two carries to break [Ameche's] mark, then I'm taking you out,” McCafferty said.

Bulaich nodded and plowed ahead.

His franchise record stood for 29 years, until 2000, when it was broken by Edgerrin James of the Indianapolis Colts.

“For that, the club held a ceremony, where I got to meet James,” Bulaich said. “I told him, ‘Edgerrin, that record was all I had left, and you took it away from me.'

“Do you know what he said? ‘I'm sorry, Mr. Bulaich.'”

Three years is all he spent in Baltimore. Slowed by pulled hamstrings, he was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles and, two years later, to the Miami Dolphins, where “Big Boo” was reunited with coach Don Shula, who had drafted him out of Texas Christian for the Colts. Bulaich retired in 1979 after taking a forearm to the face that broke his jaw in three places. He left, having rushed and caught passes for more than 5,100 yards.

Married 40 years, he lives in Hurst, Texas, and works as an executive for a waste management company. Bulaich has two children, four grandchildren, a 14 handicap in golf and good health. At 200 pounds, he's lighter than his playing weight (220). And he's free of the prostate cancer that rattled him five years ago.

Though he didn't play here long, Bulaich has fond remembrances of his time with the Colts.

“Are you kidding? Starting, as a rookie, in a lineup with [Johnny] Unitas, [John] Mackey, [Bill] Curry and [Tom] Matte? Oh, my gosh, I had to pinch myself,” he said. “I cherished the friendships with all of those guys. You couldn't have written a better script.

“It was a privilege for me to play in Baltimore. I wasn't a great player, but I hope I contributed to the sport.”

In his game room hangs a photograph of Unitas handing Big Boo the ball.

“I tell folks, ‘I'm number 36 in that picture. I'm nobody,” he said. “But that other guy, number 19? He's somebody.”

1971 Baltimore Sun photo of Norm Bulaich

Posted by Mike Klingaman at 3:41 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Catching Up With
        

December 12, 2011

Waiting for T-Sizzle is a post-game sitcom

There's no show on Earth quite like the one Terrell Suggs puts on before he meets the media after a Ravens game. But yesterday, after his great three-sack, three-forced-fumble performance in the Ravens' 24-10 demolition of the Indianapolis Colts, Suggs was at his zaniest.

The guy came bouncing out of the showers like he was ready to play another 60 minutes of football.

He shouted something to a teammate -- loudly and hysterically profanely -- about a hip-hop song. He shouted to another to make sure the guy gave him his cell phone number before he left. Then he wandered into the knot of media types interviewing Torrey Smith and pretended to be fascinated with the pearls of wisdom emanating from the rookie wide receiver.

Finally, he made his way to his locker, where a large group of reporters waited for him. And as soon as he got there, he grabbed the cell of another teammate and loudly announced: "I don't want to tell you my number. Lemme punch it in so these (very bad hyphenated word, often used to describe the media) don't call me."

And at this point, clad only in a towel, Suggs turned to the assembled media and announced he wouldn't be talking until he got dressed.

Since Suggs, like his idol Ray Lewis, tends to dress like something out of "Guys and Dolls," complete with sharp-looking pin-striped suits and fedoras, waiting for him to dress tends to take a while.

But with suit jacket on and tie perfectly knotted, Suggs was ready to hold court.

To his credit, Suggs deflected a lot of the praise thrown his way by reporters and credited the terrific all-around performance by the Ravens defense.

He talked about whether he was having a career year ("I don't know. It only counts if we get to Indy and the confetti drops.")

He talked about the energy level at M&T Bank Stadium during the game. ("You see when we're out there having fun and M&T is rocking, we're a very tough team to beat.")

 And he talked about building momentum for the playoffs. Because perhaps more than anyone else in the Ravens locker room, Suggs focuses on the importance of the Ravens keeping their eyes on the Super Bowl prize and not being satisfied with late-season wins.

"We just have to keep it rolling because, as you've all seen through the years, championship teams, they don't settle for what's happening right now," Suggs said. "Every week, they try to get better, and they try to continue to go and find ways to get on a roll, like we're doing.

"We're doing a lot of things good. but we have to correct things and get better at the things we're not doing so well. We've still got work to do. ... We're still not satisfied. This team is hungry."

And a few minutes later, with a final trademark salute, Suggs was gone, slipping out a side door, presumably headed to a post-game celebration of some sort.

It's the best post-game locker room show in the NFL. And it never disappoints.

Getty photo of Terrell Suggs by Larry French / Dec. 11, 2011

Posted by Kevin Cowherd at 11:40 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Ravens
        

December 8, 2011

Catching up with ... Corey Harris

correyharris400.gifFour years ago, Corey Harris did the unthinkable. He sold his Super Bowl ring. Strapped financially, saddled with business debts, the former Ravens’ starting safety had no choice.

“I was struggling,” said Harris, who played on Baltimore’s 2000 NFL champions. “I was at a place in my life where I needed to sell it. I’d made mistakes. Call it immaturity, ignorance or being distracted by the wrong things. Some people have to hit bottom before they can focus again. That happened to me.”

Now Harris, 42, wants to keep other athletes from doing the same. In Nashville, his hometown, he has established a sports education training program for youths from third grade on up. He gives them football, plus a playbook on life skills.

“We’re going to partner with banks and businesses, to expose kids to money, credit and investments,” said Harris. “These are arenas where they need instruction, even if they’re not going to play pro ball. And I feel like I’m a teacher, at heart.”

It’s paramount, he said, for athletes to learn to choose their associates wisely.

“Problems like mine happen when you have people whom you trust, but who aren’t qualified (to help), or people who are qualified, but whom you don’t trust,” Harris said. “Those are bad fundamentals.”

Continue reading "Catching up with ... Corey Harris" »

Posted by Mike Klingaman at 4:56 PM | | Comments (0)
        

December 6, 2011

This just in: No. 52 is a (yawn) game-time decision

Please, can we stop this dog-and-pony show with Ray Lewis?

News flash: the Ravens' All-Universe middle linebacker won't suit up against the Indy Colts Sunday. You know that (OK, most of you.) I know that. The American people know that.

But for weeks now, the Ravens have played this little head-game with the media over Lewis and his turf toe. We ask the same questions at the Castle every week: is the injury improving? What's his status? Will he play this week?

But from the Castle, you get more disinformation than the Kremlin sent out at the height of the Cold War.

Every week, John Harbaugh says the same thing. Ray's making progress. We don't know exactly how close he is to coming back. It'll be a game-time decision as to whether he plays.

Naturally, we media saps dutifully report this, even when Ray hasn't practiced in what seems like an eternity. And every week, we look like chumps. Every week, instead of seeing no. 52 in the lineup, we see him on the sidelines, waving a towel and cheering on his team.

Enough with this nonsense. He'll play when he plays. It won't be this week because the Ravens don't need him. They should beat the Colts by at least three touchdowns. The Indy team bus will be warming up at halftime for the trip back to BWI-Marshall.

OK, I get why the Ravens wouldn't want to let a quality opponent know Lewis' status. The Ravens want every edge they can get. If the 49ers or the Bengals have to spend time game-planning to face no. 52, that's just fine with Harbaugh and his coaching staff.

But is all this secrecy over Ray's status necessary when the Ravens are playing back-to-back crappy teams like the Cleveland Browns and the Colts?

I don't think so.

Let's all agree that Ray-Ray probably returns a week from Sunday for a key game against the Chargers in San Diego, when the Ravens might actually need him.

And let's not worry about the big guy 'til then.

Posted by Kevin Cowherd at 12:03 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Ravens
        

December 5, 2011

Turgeon might want to rein in comments about Nick Faust

Let me begin by saying I love Mark Turgeon's candor. It's way too early to know for sure if he's the right coach for Maryland's men's basketball team in the post-Gary Williams era (although I happen to think he is.) But no matter how well Turgeon does, you've got to love the fact that he tells it like it is.

Having said that, I offer this bit of advice: go easy when talking to the media about Nick Faust's  confidence.

I've seen coaches do this sort of thing before. And sometimes it gets in the player's head and makes things even worse.

To recap, Turgeon made his comments about Faust after Maryland's 71-62 loss to Illinois in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

The highly touted freshman guard had just suffered through a tough 2-for-11 night shooting in front of the home crowd at Comcast Center.

 "The poor kid, he's lost his confidence," Turgeon said. "He's air-balling shots. He's a young kid."

 Turgeon didn't say it to be mean or overly critical of a kid who is expected to play an important role with the Terps the next few years.

And this isn't to suggest that Faust, the former City standout, is an emotional piece of bone china who shatters at the slightest criticism.

But Faust is a proud and sensitive kid who's still learning what big-time college basketball is all about. And as we all know, so much of shooting a basketball is all in a player's head. So as a coach, you might not want to be questioning a kid's confidence when the kid himself might not even see it as an issue.

In other words, Faust might simply have chalked up his poor shooting against the Illini as one of those nights. Same thing with his 1-for-5 from the floor and 3 points in the Terps 78-71 win over Notre Dame Sunday in the BB&T Classic in Washington.

No need to plant a seed in his head that he's lacking confidence this early in the season.

All evidence indicates the kid will be back. He's too good a player to stay in a shooting slump for long. He was a terrific scorer at City and he's only played in seven games on the collegiate level.

Give him time. He'll find his stroke again. No need to put any more pressure on him than what he's already feeling.

US Presswire photo of Nick Faust / Dec. 4, 2011

Posted by Kevin Cowherd at 12:52 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Terps
        

December 3, 2011

Edsall's first move should be hiring Penn State's Johnson

Finally, Randy Edsall and Kevin Anderson seem to be in same time zone as Maryland fans -- real time.

Edsall, backpedaling his way out of a 2-10 season faster than any of his cornerbacks did the past four months, admitted to a Washington Post columnist Thursday something he had not said since taking over for Ralph Friedgen last January: that he made some mistakes along the way.

Anderson, trying to retain the smallest shred of a tattered fan base that had not yet abandoned the Terps since their opening-game win over Miami on Labor Day night, told my Baltimore Sun colleague Jeff Barker Friday that a "top to bottom" appraisal of the football program will be done, starting with a face-to-face meeting with Edsall Saturday night.

With the expectation that changes will be made on the coaching staff, here's the first move Edsall should make: offer longtime Penn State assistant Larry Johnson the position as defensive coordinator. And here is the first move Anderson should make: give Johnson the title of associate head coach.

It would help solve two issues: it would give the Terps the type of respected defensive presence on the sideline, or in the coaching box, that they lacked when Don Brown left last spring for Connecticut, Randy Shannon didn't come up from Miami (after being fired himself as the Hurricanes coach) and Todd Bradford, who had been hired as linebackers coach, was promoted to defensive coordinator. If anyone should be the scapegoat for this season's collapse -- culminating with the Terps giving up 35 points in the fourth quarter of their 56-41 season-ending loss last Saturday at N.C. State -- it is Bradford.

More importantly, hiring Johnson would be a significant boost for recruiting, especially in Maryland.

That should only be the start of the overhaul of Edsall's staff.

Based on early projections, this could be Maryland's lowest-rated recruiting class in recent memory. The next move is something Edsall should have done when he was hired last winter. He needs to hire a recruiting coordinator to help lock down the state's top prospects, as well as many of those coming out of Washington. The next offer should go to former Dunbar (D.C.) coach Craig Jefferies, who was hired by Mike Locksley at New Mexco right before Edsall came to Maryland. Locksley was fired early in the 2011 season and Edsall would be wise to bring Jefferies back from Albuquerque as quickly as possible.

And here's one more suggestion: I don't know what Gary Crowton's contract situation is, but I assume he received a multiyear deal when he left -- or was pushed out of -- LSU. Given Maryland's economic woes when it comes to the athletic program, paying off yet another coach would not be feasible. Bring Crowton back, but have him change the offense to suit Danny O'Brien, something that should have been done last spring before ignorance and arrogance got in the way. Unlike defensive end David Mackall and tailback D.J. Adams -- both of whom announced this week that they are leaving Maryland -- the sophomore quarterback seems willing to wait before making a decision about his future. Help make it for him.

These moves are not going to turn the Terps into a 10-2 team, or even an 8-4 team. It might not even help the Terps get to 6-6. But they would certainly change the conversation coming out of College Park these days, and perhaps give fans a reason to start paying attention -- and help pay the bills -- if Maryland slowly begins to move back in the direction Edsall, but very few others, believes they are going. Don't worry about the fact that Johnson is coming from a program that has gone from being revered to reviled.

Just as Anderson did last season after firing Friedgen, Anderson and Edsall have to move quickly.

They are now living in real time, and the clock is ticking.

Posted by Don Markus at 1:11 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Terps
        

December 1, 2011

Catching up with ... Gary Collins

By Mike Klingaman

garycollinsblog.gifAt 71, but Gary Collins won’t slow down. Drive through Hershey, Pa. in summer and you'll find the Maryland football great mowing lawns and mulching trees to help with his son's landscaping business.

Passersby don’t know that the oldtimer pruning shrubs and planting roses was a consensus All-American receiver for the Terps, a first-round NFL draft pick and the star of the Cleveland Browns' 27-0 upset of the Baltimore Colts in the 1964 title game. Nor does Collins toot his horn.

“I don’t wake up in the morning and think, ‘Geez, I was a really good football player, and we shut out the Colts for the NFL championship, and I ought to be in the Hall of Fame,’” Collins said. “All of that ego stuff is gone. Why mow lawns and whack weeds 10 hours a day, five days a week? I’m helping my son. Plus, it keeps me in shape.”

Has it been 50 years since Collins, then a two-way end and punter, carried Maryland on his back? Week after week, he found ways to win games for the underdog Terps, who went 18-12 during his three varsity years (1959-61).

Continue reading "Catching up with ... Gary Collins" »

Posted by Chris Korman at 8:05 PM | | Comments (2)
        

Palmeiro resigned to another Hall of Fame snub

The 2012 baseball Hall of Fame ballot was sent to voters this week, and one former great who won't be agonizing over the balloting is Rafael Palmeiro.

Under ordinary circumstances, Palmeiro, 47, would be a shoo-in for the Hall. But he knows he has no shot of getting in this year -- and maybe not for years to come.

Over a brilliant 20-year career -- including seven seasons with the Orioles -- Palmeiro amassed 569 homers, 3,020 hits and 1,835 RBIs and won three Gold Gloves as a slick-fielding first baseman.

But late in the 2005 season, just days after he got his 3,000th hit and six months after he'd famously wagged his finger in front of a Congressional sub-committee and denied using steroids, news broke that he'd tested positive for stanozolol.

 

 Palmeiro insisted the positive test was a result of a tainted B-12 shot given to him by teammate Miguel Tejada. But no one really believed him. And after a 10-game suspension, Palmeiro retired from the game in disgrace and went back to Texas, bitter and depressed about the damage done to his reputation.

I caught up with him a couple of months ago, when he was in town to do a big sports memorabilia show at the Hilton Hotel in Pikesville.

Palmeiro spoke openly about testing positive for a banned substance and the emotional pain it caused him. And he still maintains it was a tainted B-12 shot that caused his downfall.

 But he won't be surprised if Hall voters still don't believe him and fail to put him on their ballots this year. And he said he wasn't surprised he was snubbed last year, when he received just 11 percent of the vote, far shy of the 75 percent needed for induction.

"Honestly, I didn't expect [to get in] because of what had happened to Mark McGwire the year before," Palmeiro told me in October, referring to a similar snub by Hall voters of the former A's and Cardinals slugger. "So I was thinking: 'It's not going to happen.' I thought I'd get more votes. I thought 11 percent was low. But it is what it is.

"I didn't worry too much about it. It was painful, but I never played baseball to be a Hall of Famer."

 Still, whether self-inflicted or not, it's a sad footnote to a terrific major league career.

 When the Hall balloting is concluded, Palmeiro won't be sitting by the phone, anxiously awaiting one of the happiest calls of his life.

 He probably won't be in Cooperstown anytime soon. And he lives with that depressing reality every day of his life.


AP photo 2005

Posted by Kevin Cowherd at 12:50 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Orioles
        

November 24, 2011

For Maryland to be successful, Edsall needs to reinvent himself

Listening to Randy Edsall dissect his team’s latest defeat last Saturday night, watching his body language as he sat at a table inside a room at BB&T Stadium after Maryland’s 31-10 loss to Wake Forest, I couldn’t help but think of the line about the old, crusty ballplayer who warmed up to his teammates and the media right before he retired.

“He learned to say hello when it was time to say goodbye,” someone wrote.

Edsall is not going anywhere after the Terps finish their dismal season Saturday at North Carolina State, likely with another loss and a 2-10 record that would equal the most defeats in a season in school history. But like the old ballplayer, I wonder if it’s too late for Edsall to repair the damage from the past few months.

With the expected departure of several of the most talented players from this year’s team – including defensive end David Mackall, tailback D.J. Adams and possibly quarterback Danny O’Brien – and the prospect of a mediocre (if that) recruiting class, the Terps are going to be ACC bottom-feeders again next season and probably for a while.

Edsall has talked about how what he did at Connecticut will help him in College Park. Edsall continued the building process in Storrs begun by Skip Holtz; at Maryland he now has to rebuild a program that he tore apart in less than one season.

He has always sounded as if he was rebuilding a mess left by his predecessor. But Ralph Friedgen revived the Terps from a dismal 2-10 season in 2009 to a 9-4 season last year that culminated with the Fridge being named ACC Coach of the Year and Maryland being ranked No. 23 in the final poll.

Now Edsall is faced with rebuilding a team that has few impact players left on its roster and a fan base that has eroded rapidly. So what can Edsall do to change his image that has now been cast as a rigid, self-righteous control freak who only begrudgingly took responsibility for the way things imploded this season? What can Edsall do to have any chance for future success?

Start by apologizing to Friedgen’s supporters, if not to The Fridge himself, for saying that the players he inherited had no accountability before he arrived. And apologize for criticizing the rest of the fans who didn’t show up in an October snow-shower to see Maryland play Boston College. Start taking accountability yourself for your player’s actions, and your team’s performance.

Admitting your errors go a long way to being given a second chance. Being humble doesn’t hurt either. Edsall should look to see how his counterpart in the basketball program – first-year coach Mark Turgeon – is being treated because of the way he has treated others, including Gary Williams. Turgeon is tough on his players, but it’s the kind of discipline that doesn’t come off as heavy-handed and driven by ego.

More importantly, Edsall should also bring in a group of the team’s veterans, perhaps even a few of the players with whom he had problems, and ask them for input on how to change the us-against-him mentality that has pervaded the Gossett Team House, or Gossett Team Penitentiary, as some players refer to it on Twitter. In your my-way-or-the-highway world, the highway appears to be approaching gridlock.

Maybe even change some of the rules, understanding that, as the father of two college-age kids, these are still college kids you’re coaching. Start with putting their names back on the back of their uniforms. Fans are also not happy with the fact that the Terps have become an endangered species on the new uniforms, and the players aren’t buying into it either.

Not to say that Edsall isn’t trying. It is obvious that someone has reached Edsall about his relationship with the media. After the Wake Forest game, and during his regular Tuesday session before the N.C. State game, he was honest, engaging, even emotional rather than secretive, standoffish and robotic. He also seemed worthy of a little sympathy.

I know of many coaches over the past 30 years who were cut some slack by the people who covered them because they were accessible, and didn’t just give the kind of coachspeak answers that became the norm this season. It would have been nice to hear from the two coordinators, Gary Crowton and Todd Bradford, to get their take on what went wrong, rather for them to be off-limits since August.

Many people who I’ve talked to this season who have known Edsall in the past say that he’s a nice guy and a good coach. You wouldn’t know it by how he operated during his first season in College Park, but it’s not too late to try and turn this around. It’s going to be challenging, because not many will be showing up for games until the team starts winning again and not made blue-chip players are going to be buying into your approach either.

Unless you’re walking away from a contract that will pay you $2 million a year over the next five years, you’re stuck with the players, fans and media that you alienated. Doing it your way – or at least the way you did it this season – won’t work. Even your mentor, Tom Coughlin, changed when it looked like he was going to get fired by the New York Giants. All his team did was win the Super Bowl.

One more thing: think about some of the comments you make before you make them. You said last week that reading comments by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft reinforced what you are trying to do in College Park. His franchise has won three Super Bowls. Your team will probably not even win three games.

Posted by Don Markus at 1:58 PM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Terps
        

November 23, 2011

Catching up with ... Lenny Moore


By Mike Klingaman
The Baltimore Sun

The photograph hangs in Lenny Moore’s club basement, amid the hundreds of trophies, plaques and keepsakes that chronicle the life of the Baltimore Colts Hall of Fame running back. But few treasures mean as much to Moore as the black-and-white snapshot of him and his mentor, former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, with their arms draped around one another.

Were the two to meet today, Moore said, they would again embrace. Never mind Paterno’s recent dismissal in the wake of child sex abuse charges brought against onetime Penn State assistant Jerry Sandusky.

Paterno’s firing was a bum rap, said Moore, who remains fiercely loyal to the man who, as an assistant coach in the mid-1950s, helped shepherd him through a rocky college career. When Moore flunked out of Penn State as a junior, Paterno was among those who helped him see the light.

“What do I think of Joe? Same as before,” Moore said this week. “Penn State made a mistake in axing him.This is eating me to pieces, because I know what Joe is about. He’s a helluva guy who tries to open doors for his players, just like he did for me.”

In the Sandusky case, Moore said, Paterno “did what he was supposed to do — he reported it to the folks above him and then went back to his coaching. It’s not his job to call the cops. And now they’re talking about removing his statue from outside the stadium? C’mon!

“I’m going to call and tell Joe, ‘You’re my man, just like I was your guy when I was there. If there’s anything I can do, well, it’s done, believe me.’ “

It has been a hectic week for Moore, of Randallstown. He has delivered Thanksgiving goodies to dozens of needy families, knocking on doors in East Baltimore and handing turkeys to folks who have no idea that their greying benefactor was the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1964.

“That’s not important,” he said. “What matters is bringing families together.”

Moore’s mercurial, high-stepping moves, often elegant and always electric, led the Colts to successive world championships in 1958 and 1959. Five times All-NFL, he once scored touchdowns in 18 straight games, a record that stood for 40 years.

And now?

“I’m just trying to keep this body and mind together,” said Moore, who turns 78 on Friday. Married 35 years, he has four children and eight grandchildren. He remains free of the prostate cancer he fought in 2001, the same year that Moore’s son, Les, 43, died of scleroderma, a rare autoimmune disease.

Moore retired last year from his job with the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services where, for 26 years, he traveled to middle and high schools, mixing and mingling with at-risk children and trying to set them straight.

“It was something I would have done anyway,” he said, “so I figured that I might as well do it and get paid.”

A Ravens fan, he often attends home games and will watch their game with San Francisco Thursday night with heightened interest. It was in a furious 35-27 comeback victory against the 49ers that the Baltimore Colts clinched the Western Division championship in 1958. Moore and his teammates have long claimed that contest was superior to the Colts’ 23-17 sudden-death overtime win against the New York Giants for the title.

“We trailed, 27-7 at halftime,” Moore said. “We were so twisted, we didn’t know what to do. The 49ers had three Hall of Famers in the backfield (quarterback Y.A. Tittle, fullback Joe Perry and halfback Hugh McElhenny). How do you stop those guys?

“But (coach) Weeb Ewbank said, ‘Fellas, we’re not out of this. Defense? Shut them down. Offense? Go to work.’

“When we went back out there, everyone was tuned in, and Johnny (Unitas) went to war.”

Moore did his part, racing 73 yards for a TD in the fourth quarter, a dizzying sprint in which he changed direction three times.

More than half a century later, there’s growing interest among Baltimoreans to honor Moore with a bronze statue. A group of business leaders will meet Friday to discuss it.

Does Moore deserve a sculpture? He hems and haws and stares at the floor.

“If they think I’m worthy of it,” he said.

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com
 

Posted by David Selig at 6:48 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Catching Up With
        

November 21, 2011

Torrey Smith keeps getting better and better

Here's something that has to hearten the Ravens after they watched Torrey Smith light up the Cincinnati Bengals in Baltimore's 31-24 win Sunday: the kid has only just begun to scratch the surface of his enormous potential.

His day against the Bengals was huge: six catches for 165 yards and a touchdown, a career high in catches and receiving yards. And his 590 receiving yards in 10 games is a new Ravens rookie record.

Will he lose his trademark dreadlocks after Bengals corner Adam Jones tackled him from behind by his hair and nearly pulled his head off?

Smith says no, although I have a feeling Ravens coach John Harbaugh may try to talk him into visiting a barber soon.

But dreads or no dreads, it's been a joy to watch Smith improve by leaps and bounds this season.

"Looking at film from when I first came into camp to now, it's a big difference," he said after the game yesterday. "(Wide receivers coach Jim Hostler) and Anquan (Boldin), they would talk a lot to me about technique and just preaching that I can run ... I am able to get open fast and separate, and that's pretty much credit to Coach Hostler."

He's nowhere near a finished product, however.

The Ravens will tell you his route-running needs to be crisper. And they'd like him to focus more on catching with his hands than using his body to trap the ball against his chest.

But those are technique issues that can be practiced and refined over time.

What you can't teach a rookie wide receiver is speed. And not only does Smith's blazing speed give the Ravens a legitimate home-run threat down the field, it opens up the middle as opposing corners and safeties play deeper to keep Smith from flying by.

Which he's done. Quite a few times.

"My receivers coach ... is always like 'You don't understand how rare it is to get behind someone.' So when it happens, you have to take advantage of it."

The Ravens plan on doing just that the rest of the way. For a team bent on going to the Super Bowl, Smith is improving by leaps and bounds at exactly the right time.

McClatchy-Tribune photo of Torrey Smith by Doug Kapustin / Nov. 20, 2011

Posted by Kevin Cowherd at 10:56 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Ravens
        

November 17, 2011

Catching up with ... Priest Holmes

priestholmes400.gifIn midweek, the Ravens’ coach beckoned the third-string running back into his office and delivered the news: He would make his first NFL start that Sunday, against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Priest Holmes nodded, excused himself and hurried to the men’s room.

“I had to say a prayer,” Holmes said, recalling that day in 1998. “I thanked God for the opportunity. I knew I had a work ethic to compete with anyone in the league.”

That’s how one of football’s famed runners got his foot in the door – and the end zone. His debut, on national TV, was a dandy: Holmes, an undrafted free agent from Texas, rushed for 173 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-24 victory over the Bengals.

“I didn’t expect him to do so much,” Ravens’ coach Ted Marchibroda confessed afterward, adding, “I think we’ve found our halfback.”

Seven games later, Holmes exploded for a club-record 227 yards and a TD in a 20-13 win against Cincinnati. Again. It was the telling start of a stellar career for Holmes, who spent four uneven years in Baltimore before finding his niche in Kansas City.

Continue reading "Catching up with ... Priest Holmes" »

Posted by Mike Klingaman at 10:42 PM | | Comments (1)
        

November 11, 2011

Penn State coaches have strong Maryland ties

 

With defensive coordinator Tom Bradley taking over for Joe Paterno as head coach at Penn State for the final three games, Ron Vanderlinden and Larry Johnson will serve as co-defensive coordinators for the Nittany Lions.

Vanderlinden, linebackers coach at PSU, was head coach at Maryland from 1997-2000, going 15-29 before being fired. Ralph Friedgen replaced him. He joined Penn State's staff after his dismissal at Maryland.

Before being named head coach for the Terps, Vanderlinden was defensive coordinator at Northwestern. He also coached at Colorado, Ball State and Michigan. At Penn State he oversaw the development of NFL linebackers Navorro Bowman (49ers), Sean Lee (Cowboys), Dan Connor (Panthers) and Paul Posluszny (Jaguars). While defensive coordinator at Northwestern Vanderlinden coached current Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald.

 

Johnson, Penn State defensive line coach, was a high school coach at McDonough in Pomfret, Md., winning three state titles. He is often credited with helping Penn State attract some of Maryland's top high school players to State College, Pa. Johnson reportedly declined a chance to interview to be defensive coordinator at Maryland for Randy Edsall earlier this year.

Vanderlinen photo by The Baltimore Sun, 2000

Posted by Ron Fritz at 10:09 AM | | Comments (1)
        

November 10, 2011

Catching up with ... Marcus Robinson

 

 

By Mike Klingaman
The Baltimore Sun

The only Raven ever to score four touchdowns in one game now runs a beauty salon in Illinois. There, amid tidy rows of mirrors, sinks and curling irons, sits Marcus Robinson, 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, making appointments and balancing the books for the family’s bustling business.

Let him make one thing clear.

“I don’t do hair,” the onetime Baltimore wide receiver said. More’s the pity. There’s magic in those supple hands.

Eight years ago, in a November comeback victory against Seattle, Robinson caught four TD passes — all in the second half — as the Ravens outlasted the favored Seahawks, 44-41 in overtime. Those receptions, of 13, 50, 25 and 9 yards, set a club single-game record.

Robinson’s effort juiced the Ravens, then a .500 team, to win five of their last six games in 2003 and take their division before losing to Tennessee in the playoffs.

That’s how much mileage they got from the win over Seattle, a game in which they trailed, 41-24 in the fourth quarter. The contest still ranks as the second biggest rally in Ravens’ history.

“It was one of those games that it was just fun to be in,” said Robinson, 36. “In the second half, it seemed like we just kept trading scores. No sooner did the offense come off the field, sit down and take a drink, than it was time to go back out.”

He caught seven passes that day, all from Anthony Wright, the Ravens’ third-string quarterback — and the only healthy one — who was making his second start for the club. By chance, Wright and Robinson had played together in college, at South Carolina, and knew each other’s strengths.

“I remember that, in the huddle, Anthony whispered, ‘I’m gonna need you, Marcus,’” the receiver said.

And Robinson replied, “I’ve got you.”

The game was the high point of both their careers. A free agent who’d signed with Baltimore after five years with the Chicago Bears, Robinson had done little to that point for the run-happy Ravens, who ranked last in the NFL in passing.

In the dressing room afterward, coach Brian Billick sidled over and asked, “Marcus, where have you been (all season)?”

And Robinson replied, ‘Well, coach, you’ve been giving the ball to Jamal (Lewis) all year.”

For his play that day, Wright was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week. That award still nags at Robinson, who uses it to tease Wright, whom he calls “Tight Tight” because “he always wore tight pants in college.”

“I think Tight Tight got (the honor) because his wife had a baby right after the game,” he said. “Every time I see him, I say, ‘Man, I’m the guy who had to catch all four of those balls, and two of them were rainbows.’”

Wright, he said, just laughs.

One year after he joined the Ravens, Robinson was gone. In March, 2004, learning that Baltimore was courting Terrell Owens of the San Francisco 49ers, Robinson left town and signed with Minnesota. Except that the Owens deal fell through.

“I would like to have stayed with the Ravens,” said Robinson, who ended his career with the Vikings in 2006. “I loved the team, the camaraderie. Guys would sit in the hot tub, after workouts, or hang around in the parking lot, by their cars, and talk about their families and life, in general. There was no hurry to go your separate ways. You can’t beat that.”

Married and the father of two, Robinson lives in West Dundee, Ill. Besides the hair salon, he owns Bigtime Sports, a personal training company that serves both teens and adults. There, he puts his charges through a regimen of football fitness routines, everything from pulling sleds to ladder drills.

“Most of the adults are women, from 21 to 60,” he said. “Sometimes I have the ladies do blocking and dummy drills. They’ll line up, run curls and slants, and I’ll throw to them.

“My ladies catch the ball very well in their hands. You’d think they’d hug the ball, but they say they don’t like it hitting them in the chest. I tell them that they catch better than some of the high school boys that I’ve been training.”

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

Posted by Baltimore Sun sports at 9:51 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Catching Up With
        

November 9, 2011

On Paterno, and how we got here

paternoblog.gif Joe Paterno is finished. He says he'll retire after this season.

And while the specific circumstances behind the end of his successful, influential career are flabbergasting, the root cause of his inglorious exit should not be.

I wish I could share in the common sentiment – shock – being expressed by just about everyone over what happened at my alma mater, Penn State.

But while the exact nature of the scandal ­– and the heinous things that former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky allegedly did to innocent, helpless boys – surprises me (as apparent acts of pure, calculated evil probably should), the fact that the most powerful people at the university conspired to cover it up barely registers. Anyone who has followed how the leaders of the institution handled themselves publicly for about the last decade should have feared this could happen.

While so many of my fellow graduates – and Penn State has more than a half-million alumni – express dismay over being “let down” by their school, I just cannot summon the feeling. During my time attending Dear Old State and working at its student newspaper, The Daily Collegian, I became accustomed to an administration that often rebuffed even the simplest requests for information. The president, Graham Spanier, corresponded with us almost exclusively through email, and then barely. The athletic director Tim Curley, now charged with perjury and failing to report what he knew to authorities, rarely talked to reporters except to recite whatever pious marketing scheme he and his cronies had conjured up that week. Take real questions about the business of running a university and its sports programs, both so dear to the people of Pennsylvania? Spanier and Curley avoided that part of their duties whenever possible.

Joe Paterno often did, too. By the time I began covering him, as a freshman in 2000, he wasn’t the same cerebral intellectual-as-football-coach that I’d read about and admired as a kid. He was an icon, yes, and wrapped in his legend were big ideas like the “Grand Experiment,” which emphasized that “success without honor is an unseasoned dish.” But in my day-to-day dealings with him – as removed as they were – and his players, the focus appeared to be squarely on running a semi-pro football team known as the Nittany Lions. Joe didn’t talk quite as much about molding young men, didn’t rail quite as fervently against things he saw as subverting the sanctity of college sports. He seemed entirely comfortable with the idea that he’d made his bones decades ago, and that was that. The culture surrounding him supported that notion, of course. It was almost impossible to question the tenets of his virtue without being labeled nothing more than a rabble-rouser. Yet his players ran amok and left us constantly reading through police reports and court documents, and Paterno too often dismissed their transgressions as boys being boys. He was lenient in exactly the way Joe Paterno was not supposed to be.


Continue reading "On Paterno, and how we got here" »

Posted by Chris Korman at 1:00 PM | | Comments (54)
        

Paterno's legacy forever tainted

Two weeks ago, after Penn State beat Iowa to push Joe Paterno past Eddie Robinson as college football's all-time winningest Division I coach, I thought it might be a great time for JoePa to announce that he was leaving for good. Instead of looking like he was 75 going on 60, as was the case a decade ago, the equation had flipped.

He and his legions of fans probably wish now he had called it quits that day.

With Paterno announcing today that he would retire at the end of the 2011 season -- clearly a preemptive move that eventually could backfire on him if the school's board of trustees force him out before Saturday's home game against Nebraska --  I keep thinking about how other legendary coaches went out. 

How Woody Hayes was fired at Ohio State after slugging a Clemson player during a bowl game.

How Bob Knight was done at Indiana after assaulting a student.

How Bobby Bowden was through at Florida State when boosters decided that the Seminoles weren't winning enough games.

They all pale in comparison. This has to be the most shocking end to the career of a sports icon since someone else muttered, "Say it ain't so" to another Joe.

It might also be the saddest.

All it would have taken was a phone call to Penn State police after hearing what former graduate assistant Mike McQueary told him what McQueary witnessed in the shower of the team's locker room back in 2002 -- the horrific scene of Paterno's former trusted aide, Jerry Sandusky, allegedly sexually assaulting a child. Nobody would have had to know that Paterno made the call and given his nature, Paterno would not have likely told anyone.

Like others before him trying to save whatever is left of their job security, Paterno seems to be in full-scale survival mode. Realizing how ignorant his comment was that he was "fooled" by Sandusky, Paterno released a statement today saying how "devastated" he was by Sandusky's actions and how he should have done more. But it is Paterno's inactions in dealing with the whole matter, treating the initial encounter as if Sandusky had fudged an expense report, that ultimately should seal his fate sooner than later.

How could Paterno be allowed to continue for another game, even as big as the one the Nittany Lions are scheduled to play Saturday at home against Nebraska?

Here's something to consider: if Paterno was about to celebrate his 45th birthday, rather than his 85th, would his role in this tragedy be considered a jailable offense? If Paterno wasn't on the verge of retirement after 46 years and 409 victories, about to pass Amos Alonzo Stagg for the most college football games ever coached don't you think he would already be out? 

Let's be clear. I was never a big fan of the man until after I stopped writing about Penn State. Covering Paterno was not fun. He seemed to relish the idea of making it impossible for reporters to do their jobs by making access to players difficult. He could also be condescending and self-righteous, and I found it difficult to believe that I grew up in the same Brooklyn neighborhood that he did.

But as time went on college football became more and more corrupt,  I respected him for the way he didn't cave to the pressures that other coaches -- even the beloved Bowden -- did in looking the other way when it came to their players receiving gifts and money from boosters. I admired him even more as he stayed around past age 70, and then 80, kept coaching after a sideline collision left him with a broken leg. I understood how he didn't want to end up like Bear Bryant, retiring one day and being dead a couple of months later.

As sad it was when Bowden was forced out at Florida State a couple of years ago after boosters got tired of the Seminoles being overshadowed by the Florida Gators and becoming an afterthought even in the ACC, this is much sadder.  This now makes the top paragraph -- the lead as we call it -- on any story that will be written about Paterno from this day forward, including his obituary.

Forget being remembered as college football's all-time winningest Division I coach.

Paterno will be forever remembered for a phone call he didn't make and for an alleged crime that he allowed to continue.

-- Don Markus 

Posted by Ron Fritz at 12:14 PM | | Comments (3)
        

November 8, 2011

Don't try to protect Paterno in Penn State sex abuse scandal by primarily blaming others

 

There are a lot of people scrambling to protect Joe Paterno today, to shift the blame away from him as much as possible in this awful situation at Penn State, where former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky stands accused of molesting at least eight boys. For the most part, they're fans, their perspective clouded by the legend and a myth they helped create, that Paterno was more saint than flesh and blood. And in emotional situations, some fans act irrationally in ways they'll one day regret.

But the people who are attempting to defend Paterno by focusing ALL the blame on Mike McQueary, the graduate assistant who allegedly witnessed Sandusky sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy the locker room shower, could not have a more warped sense of priorities. I hope one day they'll realize how sad it is to try and parse blame here to protect Paterno. Of course McQueary erred in not contacting the police. Or by physically intervening. And yes, he'll have to live with that shame for the rest of his life. But pretending that somehow exonerates Paterno in this situation is ludicrous.

As the leader of an institution, a person with superiors in name only, a tremendous amount of leadership and integrity were needed from Paterno. And he failed. He failed in a catastrophic manner.

It matters little to what degree McQueary went into detail about the incident in the shower. Paterno himself testified to the grand jury that he was told the incident was "sexual in nature." That alone should have been enough to take action, and to follow up when nothing came of it. Paterno instead chose to protect the brand and forget about it, either out of arrogance, ignorance or fear.

We ask a lot of men like Joe Paterno. We expect courage and honor from them, and for years, he made it clear that his program would be held to a higher standard. The highest of standards. I have no doubt he is, deep down, a virtuous man who has been responsible for a ton of good during his lifetime. But when presented with the ultimate test of character, he made me believe those principals he espoused were little more than a marketing slogan.

McQueary certainly deserves blame here. He was a grown man at the time of the incident who, even if he felt powerless going up against the Penn State institution, didn't do enough. But no one -- not for a second -- should use McQueary's lack of courage to somehow deflect the way that Joe Paterno also failed those kids and his community. We don't ask a lot of graduate assistants, or even athletic directors. We do ask a lot of our legends.

Paterno had no one to fear by doing the right thing. No one. And he still didn't do it, beyond what he was "required" to do. Legally, it seems he is in the clear. But when the school needed him to be the man, and the leader, he always claimed to be, he did not do nearly enough.

And that is no one's fault but his own.

Posted by Kevin Van Valkenburg at 5:18 PM | | Comments (19)
        

November 7, 2011

Ravens 23, Steelers 20: far from just another game

In the NFL, the big lie is that a win is a win is a win.

But how big was the Ravens' 23-20 victory over the Steelers in the boiling cauldron of noise that was Heinz Field on Sunday night? 

Let's put it this way: According to those who were there, the post-game celebration behind closed doors in the Ravens locker room was loud enough to be heard in Wyoming.

And I've never seen John Harbaugh so amped after a game. Same goes for Joe Flacco, who, after most wins, tends to have the demeanor of the BGE guy who's just arrived at your house to check the meter.

Let's take Harbaugh first.

 How about that delirious combination bearhug and tackle the Ravens coach laid on Ozzie Newsome right after the game? The one that landed him on the floor and apparently opened a cut on his chin? The one that had players like Marshall Yanda grinning madly from ear-to-ear? (If you haven't seen it, you can check it out here.)

And how about the giddy remarks to the media in which a beaming Harbaugh channeled Teddy Roosevelt with that business about: "It's the man who's in the arena, whose face is covered with blood, sweat and guts, etc."?

That was beautiful. Even more beautiful was Harbaugh's dedicating the win to Ravens fans who, he correctly surmised, "jumped off their couch" when Joe Flacco found Torrey Smith in the end zone with the game-wining touchdown.

It was great to see him so emotional. You don't often see NFL coaches so honestly jubilant after a win.

It was great to see Flacco so animated in his post-game remarks, too.

Flacco hates introspection. He hates being asked about his feelings -- on the football field or off it. But he must have sensed that he had just passed a significant trial by fire with a win over Ben Roethlisberger and the tough Steelers on their home field and in front of their hostile fans. I've never heard that kind of excitement in his voice.

 

Good for Harbaugh and Flacco. And good for the rest of the Ravens, too, especially Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis, who made it a point to defend Flacco against all the criticism he had taken from the fans and media in recent weeks. 

It was one of the most touching post-game scenes Ravens fans have seen in years.

No matter how the rest of the season goes, that scene was fun to watch.

US Presswire photo

Posted by Kevin Cowherd at 1:36 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Ravens
        

Edsall's comparing Maryland to UConn is way off base

Ever since Randy Edsall questioned the way Ralph Friedgen ran his program by intimating that there was no accountability for the Maryland players under their former coach, I have closely followed the statements the first-year coach has made to excuse his disastrous first season in College Park.


Most were predictable. How the Terps have lost seven defensive starters to injury, including a season-ending injury to All-ACC safety turned linebacker Kenny Tate. How Maryland is using a lot of freshmen. To his credit, Edsall finally began to take some of the blame after the loss at home to Boston College.


But nothing Edsall has said could be further from the truth than what he mentioned during Sunday's teleconference with reporters after another debacle, Saturday's 31-13 meltdown against Virginia at Byrd Stadium. Edsall said that what the Terps are going through reminds of him of what Connecticut experienced moving from Division I-AA to I-A under him.


Ah, the good old days.


About the only similarities are that Connecticut finished 10-3 the year before he arrived and as he did in replacing Friedgen, he took over for a popular coach in Skip Holtz. Sadly, the other similarity is Maryland's lousy record. After that, it would be like an NFL coach comparing his team to the first high school team he coached.

Continue reading "Edsall's comparing Maryland to UConn is way off base" »

Posted by Don Markus at 12:52 PM | | Comments (13)
        

November 5, 2011

Lindsey Vonn makes 16-year-old's life

It's good to be Parker McDonald.

Don't know Parker McDonald? He's a 16-year-old student at the Vail Ski and Snowboarding Academy in Colorado who had the guts to ask Lindsey Vonn to the school's homecoming dance, according to the Vail Daily.

The kid saw her walk by his lunch table while she was visiting the school and he just up and asked her. Guess what? She said yes.

Yep, one of the world's top -- and hottest -- skiers made some 16-year-old geeky kid's life. She wrote on her Facebook page Friday why she said yes.

“All through school growing up I never got the chance to go to a school dance so I'm excited for tonight!” Vonn wrote.

They were to attend the dance Friday night. It's good to be Parker McDonald.

 

Posted by Ron Fritz at 9:32 AM | | Comments (0)
        

November 3, 2011

Catching up with ... Jamie Sharper

The 2001 Sports Illustrated cover tells all. “Baltimore Bullies,” the headline shouts, as Ravens linebacker Jamie Sharper hurtles toward his target, right hand clawing at the face mask of New York Giants’ quarterback Kerry Collins in Super Bowl XXXV.

Following the Ravens’ 34-7 victory, Sharper received a blow-up of the photo that made him, for a moment, the face of the team’s stellar defense. Not that the poster defines Sharper, 36, now retired from football. He keeps it tucked inside a closet, along with other NFL keepsakes, in his home in Bellaire, Texas.

 

“If you’ve got to show off,” he said, “you’re not confident in who you are.”

That mind set made Sharper a perfect fit for the Ravens who, a decade ago, won it all with a talented handful of big shots and braggarts, backed by a lineup of yeoman-like, yet equally-polished pros.

Sharper was one of the latter. The “other” linebacker on Baltimore’s storied defense, he toiled in the shadows of Ray Lewis, who made more tackles, and Peter Boulware, who had more sacks. They both played in Pro Bowls. Sharper was odd man out, though teammates knew otherwise.

Continue reading "Catching up with ... Jamie Sharper" »

Posted by Mike Klingaman at 7:45 PM | | Comments (1)
        

November 1, 2011

Which Ravens team shows up in Pittsburgh Sunday?

I was asked the million-dollar question this morning on 105.7 The Fan's "Norris and Davis Show": which Ravens team is more indicative of what we have here in Baltimore right now.

Is it the team that stumbled on offense in the first half of Sunday's 30-27 win over Arizona, the team with a porous offensive line that couldn't protect Joe Flacco, turned the ball over, picked up stupid penalties and generally looked lost for 30 minutes?

Or is it the team that looked rejuvenated in the second half, the team that finally blocked for Flacco, the team that got its up-tempo offense going and moved the ball downfield with short passes, relying on a great individual performance by Anquan Boldin and tough running by Ray Rice?

I'm going with door No. 2. And that's the team that better show up Sunday night at Heinz Field if the Ravens want to avoid a humiliating loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers that could seriously affect their hopes of winning the AFC North.

The Ravens will be working all week on ways to avoid getting off to another sluggish start. On the surface, you'd think there would be no need for this.

After all, it's Ravens-Steelers, probably the best rivalry in the NFL, a game that brings its own sense of urgency with two teams that basically can't stand each other.

Then again, look what happened to the Steelers in the 35-7 beat-down they suffered at M&T Bank Stadium in the first game of the season.

Sure, the Ravens obviously played well and delivered the proverbial "punch to the mouth" early. But it was just as obvious that the Steelers came out flat and listless -- in all phases of the game.

How do you do that? How do you come out that uninspired for the season-opening game against your fierce division rivals?

 Who knows? The stunned Steelers were asked that very same question in the funereal atmosphere of their locker room after the game. And none of them had any real answers.

 Still, I don't expect the Ravens to come out flat for the third game in a row, dating back to that 12-7 debacle in Jacksonville. Again, they'll be working all week on ways to avoid such a start. And one way to do that is to go up-tempo on offense from the beginning, something that Ravens coaches have hinted might be in this week's playbook.

It'll be tough enough for the Ravens to win in the snarling, hostile atmosphere of Heinz Field, even with a good start. With a bad start, it'll be all but impossible.

The Steelers are on a roll. They've won four straight games. And they're coming off a terrific win over the New England Patriots, a win in which Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 365 yards and two touchdowns and the Pats were held to just 213 yards of total offense.

The rap against the Steelers was that they were too old and too slow. And they looked that way when the Ravens smacked them around in the first game.

But they don't look that way any more.

The Ravens better be ready from the get-go Sunday night. Or else they'll be in for a long, painful night. 

Baltimore Sun photo of Joe Flacco by Christopher T. Assaf / Sept. 11, 2011

Posted by Kevin Cowherd at 9:13 AM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Ravens
        

October 31, 2011

Ravens hear boo-birds -- how could they not?

 Ray Rice sported fashionable hip-hop shades, diamond earrings and a wide smile as he left the Ravens locker room Sunday after their narrow 30-27 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

But a few moments earlier, when asked about the boos that rained down on the Ravens during their dismal first half, the tough, little running back wore a pained expression.

"The boos?" said Rice, who had another strong all-around performance with 18 carries for 63 yards and three touchdowns, in addition to catching seven passes for 36 yards. "Those are our fans. I mean, it's tough. I'll be honest. It's tough when you hear boos. But at the same time, those are the people that want us to do well. So I'm not gonna hold it against them for booing. We weren't executing.

"You know, we haven't had a drive in a while," he continued. "(The fans) had to get over Monday (and the Ravens awful 12-7 loss to Jacksonville.) So when you see the boos, you know where it's coming from. It's not like they don't want us to do well.

 "So, yeah, it was tough. But at the same time, we held our head high, and the boos turned into some cheers in the second half."

 Ray Lewis, the great Ravens linebacker, is more inured to booing, this being his 16th season in the NFL. But he took an equally philosophical  stance on Ravens' fans expressing their displeasure over the team's early poor play, which included turnovers and poor execution on offense in the first half.

"They are the same fans that are going to switch around and start cheering as soon as put some points on the board," Lewis said. "And it happened.

 "You have to truly respect them for saying 'This ain't what we're used to' and it's not. For us to come out and give the ball away and let a team get up on us, that's just not us. For them to show their displeasure, that's OK.

 "We're man enough to come back and say: 'We know how to come back and get you back in the game.' That's to drive and create spots and put points on the board, and we did that."

 

Posted by Kevin Cowherd at 10:35 AM | | Comments (0)
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