Ravens looking to move past lackluster 2013 season

Will have to start without Rice

By Andrew Koch

A disappointing 2013 season that saw the Baltimore Ravens finish 8-8 with a struggling running game and offensive line was followed by an offseason dominated by news of offseason arrests. The highest-profile off-the-field incident will cost the Ravens one of their most important players for two games.

After being arrested for assaulting his now-wife inside an elevator in the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the NFL suspended running back Ray Rice for the first two games of the season. The suspension will go into effect on Aug. 30, and will continue through Sept. 12. That means Rice will miss the Ravens’ opener on Sept. 7 against Cincinnati, along with the Sept. 11 Thursday night game against Pittsburgh. The suspension that was handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has created a firestorm of controversy, raising questions about how seriously the league office takes the issue of domestic violence perpetrated by its players.

Rice wasn’t the only Ravens player to have a run-in with the law. He was one of five players who were arrested between February and July. Less than a week after Rice was arrested, receiver Deonte Thompson was arrested for marijuana possession in Gainesville, Florida. The case was later dismissed. Offensive tackle Jah Reid was arrested and charged with two misdemeanor counts of battery after a fight in a bar in Key West. Like Rice, Reid has been accepted into a pretrial diversion program. Over Memorial Day weekend, rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and being drunk in public after being accused of breaking a window in a cab. That case has been dismissed. On July 12, cornerback Jimmy Smith was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct when Baltimore County Police say he was helping an intoxicated woman inside a bar bathroom in Towson, he refused to comply with officers’ orders and after medics and officers arrived.

The Ravens offense is quickly adapting to the new system that’s being installed by new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. Offseason acquisitions running back Justin Forsett and tight end Owen Daniels are helping the offense learn Kubiak’s system, having played under him when they were in Houston with Kubiak as the head coach. The offensive line under coach Luis Castillo has performed well in preseason play, and the running game featuring Rice, Forsett and Bernard Pierce has also looked good.

While the Ravens’ first teams on offense and defense have looked good in the preseason, the games have come with a physical cost. Smith and Rice were both taken out of the game at Dallas with injuries. Rice suffered an injury to his shoulder on Baltimore’s second possession. On the Cowboys’ first possession of the game, Smith went up to make a play on a pass intended for wide receiver Dez Bryant and landed on his chest. He then coughed up blood on the field and in the locker room. After undergoing an MRI, Smith was diagnosed with a bruised chest. His injury is challenging the depth of the Ravens secondary. Cornerbacks Asa Jackson and Lardarius Webb haven’t been practicing because of ankle and back injuries, respectively.

The Ravens will open the season with three straight games against their division rivals (Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and at Cleveland on Sept. 21). Baltimore will wrap up Sept. by facing Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers at home on Sept. 28.

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