Former Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta and linebacker Jarrett Johnson are moving upstairs to the radio booth on a more permanent basis in 2018.
As noted by former Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints director of new media Chris Pika, the 2018 edition of the Ravens media guide – available on the team’s website – lists Pitta and Johnson as the color analysts under play-by-play man Gerry Sandusky. Pitta and Johnson will call games on a rotational basis for the Ravens this season.
Pitta and Johnson two of four different former Ravens to work broadcasts last season. Running back Justin Forsett and tight end Todd Heap rotated games last season with Sandusky and full-time color analyst Stan White.
However, it appears as though Pitta and Johnson have replaced White on the broadcasts. White is not listed among the broadcast crews for either the radio or preseason television broadcasts for the team.
White has served as a color analyst for the Ravens broadcasts since 2006.
The television broadcasts remain unchanged as Sandusky, former Ravens head coach Brian Billick and sideline reporter Evan Washburn will call the preseason games.
The Baltimore Ravens became the first team to report to training camp and held their first practice on Thursday ahead of their matchup with the Chicago Bears in the Hall of Fame Game in two weeks.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh is taking it easy on some of his veteran players in hopes of easing into the grind of camp with an extra exhibition game to play before the start of the regular season. According to Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com, quarterback Joe Flacco, linebacker Terrell Suggs and safety Eric Weddle are among the group of veterans that won’t participate in a full practice until after the first weekend of camp.
Harbaugh wants the NFL to institute of a week prior to the start of practices that would allow for players to acclimate more seamlessly into the rigors of training camp.
“Acclimation is very important,” Harbaugh said. “If we could get a week instead of two days — not to push it back so we have a shorter time to get our guys ready for football — to put in front of training camp where we can get our guys ramped up for the collisions and hard movements, maybe we would avoid some of those first two- to three-day injuries that we get during training camp. That’s our goal this year.”
Veterans are being limited to individual drills and conditioning in the first week in hopes of avoiding serious injuries, such as the knee injuries sustained by tight end Crockett Gillmore and cornerback Maurice Canady on the second day of camp last year.
Training camps typically begin with veterans reporting for camp one day and practices beginning the next. A mandated acclimation period could potentially yield fewer injuries. However, coaches aren’t going to voluntarily give up practice time while their competitors are able to practice. It’s also no guarantee that injuries would be reduced.
But with the Ravens getting an extra week of practice due to their presence in the Hall of Fame game, it gives Harbaugh a chance to ease into a full workload more easily than in most seasons.
Deshaun Watson doesn’t expect to be limited when the Texans begin practice next week.
“I feel great,” Watson told the NFL Network on Thursday night, via Adam Wexler of KPRC. “I’m getting ready for next week when we report to The Greenbrier; I’m going to be full-go.”
Watson shed his knee brace during the Texans’ three-day minicamp last month, feeling good about his rehab progress from an anterior cruciate tear in a November 2 practice.
The 2017 first-round draft pick threw 19 touchdown passes, an NFL record for a quarterback in his first seven games, and the Texans averaged 40.5 points per game in his six starts last season.
Tension? What tension?
James Harrison, who spent a month in New England last season, said he believes the stories about a rift between Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are fake news.
“All these stories that come out of all this friction and stuff, I honestly believe that it is made up,” Harrison said on FS1’s Undisputed, via WEEI. “I came in there looking, I was like, ‘I am going to see what is going on. They have trouble too, just like everyone else, right?’ I get in there and I see nothing. They were interacting. They were talking. I don’t see any friction. I believe they just make up these stories to pull the team tighter and closer together and that is really all it does.”
The former pass rusher hated Brady when he played in Pittsburgh. He loved him as a teammate.
“To be honest with you, I wanted to hate this dude,” Harrison said. “The whole time I am playing in Pittsburgh, I am like, ‘I hate Brady.’ Everyone is like, ‘He’s such a nice guy; he’s such a nice guy.’ We had LeGarrette [Blount], he came over and I was like, ‘What’s up with Tom Brady?’ He was like, ‘He’s such a great guy’ and I was like, ‘Stop lying to me.’ As soon as I get there, who is the first person I see happy with a smile on his face? I was like, ‘He’s just doing this because he has to do this, right? He’s just faking.’
“You watch how he acts in the locker room, how he communicates with different guys, guys who have been there forever, guys who are just getting there, and dude, he’s a great guy.”
Josh Norman and Trent Williams had their base salaries slightly adjusted downward after failing to participate in 90 percent of Washington’s offseason workouts, Field Yates of ESPN reports.
The players might not notice.
Norman’s base salary falls from $13.5 million to $13.3 million for 2018, and Williams saw his drop from $10 million to $9.85 million, per Yates.
Norman, 30, signed a five-year, $75 million with Washington in 2016.
Williams, 30, enters the third year of a five-year, $66 million contract.
On the same team with Pro Bowl corners Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye last season, Aaron Colvin played as a slot corner. He did the job very well, but Colvin left for Houston and a chance to prove he can do the same outside.
“It’s kind of past talking for me right now,” Colvin said, via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. “It’s something burning inside me. I can’t really explain, but I’ll wake everybody up this year.”
The Texans signed Colvin to a four-year, $34 million contract after he didn’t allow a touchdown last season. Pro Football Focus ranked him third among slot corners as he allowed 0.75 yards per catch.
He will play an even bigger role in Houston.
“Truthfully, I did want to play some outside,” Colvin said. “It’s about winning my one-on-ones. It gives myself the best chance to make a play.”
A report earlier this week indicated that Brent Musburger will take over for Greg Papa as the play-by-play voice for Raiders radio broadcasts this season.
The Raiders have yet to confirm that Musburger is coming onboard, but they have confirmed that Papa is leaving the job he’s held since 1993. Team owner Mark Davis released an oddly punctuated statement on Thursday thanking Papa for his efforts.
“The Raiders organization would like to thank Greg Papa for his two decades of service to the Silver and Black.. He wasn’t just given the job.. He earned it.. With intense preparation Greg was always ready for the call.. Just as my generation remembers Bill King and “Holy Toledo”.. The Raider Nation will remember Greg Papa and “Touchdown Raiders”.. We wish Greg and his family the best in whatever the future brings..”
Former Raiders coach Tom Flores announced that he will also be leaving the broadcast booth after 20 years as Papa’s partner. No replacement for Flores has been announced or reported at this point.
Browns defensive end Myles Garrett still is hunting Ben Roethlisberger, whom he didn’t face his rookie season after saying he couldn’t wait to meet the Steelers quarterback and “chop him down.”
Garrett is trolling Roethlisberger again in a hilarious video produced by the Browns. The video, which was posted on social media Thursday by the team, has nearly a million views on Twitter.
Garrett, Tyrod Taylor, Jarvis Landry, Duke Johnson, Christian Kirksey and six other players make cameos in a parody of the intro to the classic NBC sitcom The Office. Garrett, dressed as the Dwight Schrute character from the show, shreds a picture of Roethlisberger in the minute-long video.
Shortly after the Browns selected Garrett with the No. 1 overall pick in 2017, he began talking tough about wanting to sack Roethlisberger. The quarterback played along last offseason, but the two have yet to meet on the field.
Garrett missed the first four games last season with a high ankle sprain, which included the season opener against the Steelers, and Roethlisberger sat out the regular-season finale as a precaution for the playoffs.
The teams open the regular season September 9 at FirstEnergy Stadium.
“Oh, thank God,” Garrett said in May during the team’s golf outing, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. The defensive end added he “absolutely” plans to take down Roethlisberger.
Vikings rookies are set to report to training camp on Tuesday and it looks like they’ll all be under contract by then.
Tom Pelissero of NFL Media reports that first-round pick Mike Hughes has agreed to a deal with the team. The cornerback was the only member of Minnesota’s draft class without a contract.
In addition to competing for a spot in the Vikings secondary alongside fellow first-round picks Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes, Hughes will also likely be in the mix for work as a returner. He averaged 31.8 yards per kickoff return and 16.6 yards per punt return at UCF last season while returning three kicks for touchdowns.
Once Hughes’ deal is official, there will be 12 unsigned picks from this year’s draft.
UPDATE 4:31 p.m. ET: The Vikings announced that Hughes has signed his contract.
Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith participated in team drills for the first time since his Achilles injury in December, Jamison Hensley of ESPN reports.
It already was a good sign that Smith didn’t have to begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list. But he took another step Thursday after being limited to individual drills during the team’s minicamp last month.
That bodes well for his availability for the start of the regular season.
Smith, who turns 30 next week, made three interceptions and nine pass breakups in 12 games last season.
A first-round pick in 2011, Smith has played all 16 games in a season only twice.
When the Ravens put guard Marshal Yanda on the physically unable to perform list to open training camp, the assumption was that his fractured ankle from last season was the reason.
On Thursday, we learned otherwise. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said that Yanda’s ankle is totally healed, but the team decided to put him on the PUP list because he had shoulder surgery this offseason.
While they’ve opted for the cautious approach with Yanda to start camp, Harbaugh added that he thought the veteran would be able to play in a game if the Ravens were set to play one right now. That suggests he’ll be ready to go come September unless there are any other ailments that need tending.
Yanda missed the rest of the season after injuring his ankle in Week Two and saw his run of Pro Bowl appearances end at six in a row as a result.
Not long ago, it was a fairly big deal when the Rams would beat the Seahawks. Rams running back Todd Gurley apparently thinks the pendulum has swung, in light of the rise of the Rams and the apparent decline of the Seahawks.
“Hey, you know we’re happy about it,” Gurley recently said, via USA Today, regarding the changes in Seattle. “We have to take advantage of the situation while we can. Those guys have been beating up on us for a while now. . . . It’s definitely time for us to come in and try to take over this division and try to be back-to-back champs. It’s not going to be easy. Everyone in your division knows you as well as you do, so we have to just come and try to take over that division.”
It definitely won’t be easy, because the 49ers are improving, the Cardinals are being overlooked, and the Seahawks could still be pretty good, because they still have Russell Wilson.
The two teams split their twice-per-year series in 2017. In 2016, they also split. The Rams actually swept Seattle in 2015, the season after the Seahawks had gone to the Super Bowl for a second straight year. Before that, the Seahawks had beaten the Rams four out of five times and seven out of nine.
The Bears might not have their first-round pick under contract as they begin camp, but they should have their high-profile free agent acquisition on the field.
Via Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, Bears coach Matt Nagy said he didn’t think any of his players would need to start camp on the physically unable to perform list.
That means that wide receiver Allen Robinson should be ready to go, which is good news for a revamped offense.
Robinson suffered a torn ACL last September, and though he did some work during OTAs, it was reasonable to wonder how much he was going to be able to do a little over 10 months later.
The Bears signed Robinson to a three-year, $42 million deal, which included $25 million in guarantees. They’re obviously hoping he returns to his 2015 form, when he caught 80 passes for 1,400 yards for the Jaguars.
The Bengals expect Joe Mixon to be their “bell cow” in the backfield in his second season and Mixon’s preparation for that role included cutting some of the weight he carried as a rookie.
Mixon played at 230 pounds last year, but is down to 218 pounds with training camp getting underway next week.
“I was working in that heat,” Mixon said, via the team’s website. “I feel like that’s where I play my best. I was trying to get low last year but I wasn’t able to make it. I feel real good. My body feels real good. I feel like I’m in really good shape.”
Mixon ran 178 times for 626 yards and four touchdowns in 14 games during his rookie season. He closed the year with 18 carries for 96 yards in a victory over the Ravens and that’s likely the kind of performance the Bengals hope to see on a regular basis this season.
Regardless of what it says when Mixon steps on the scale, improved offensive line play will be crucial to making that happen. First-round center Billy Price and left tackle Cordy Glenn were brought in to help make that happen and the coming weeks should start to provide some answers about how that attempt will play out.
Wide receiver Breshad Perriman has underwhelmed since being selected in the first round of the 2015 draft, but the Ravens are reportedly set to pick up his roster bonus this weekend.
Jamison Hensley of ESPN reports that the team will pay Perriman $649,485 on Saturday. The team opted not to exercise their option on his contract for the 2019 season earlier this offseason.
Per Hensley, the move to pay the roster bonus doesn’t guarantee Perriman, who stands to make over $972,000 in addition to the bonus, a spot on the team’s 53-man roster. They added Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead as free agents this offseason and also drafted a pair of wide receivers in April.
Perriman has missed 21-of-48 games due to injuries since being drafted and has 43 catches for 576 yards and three touchdowns in the 27 games he has played. General Manager Ozzie Newsome called this a make or break year for the wideout in March.