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Steve Smith released by Panthers; Ravens ‘favorite’ to sign him

Steve SmithAs expected, the Carolina Panthers released Steve Smith on Thursday. He is expected to draw interest from a number of teams, with Adam Schefter reporting that the Baltimore Ravens are the favorite to sign the 35-year-old veteran.

There is no doubt that Smith has lost a step. He appeared to revive his career when Cam Newton became the starting quarterback in Carolina, but he caught just 64 passes for 745 yards and four touchdowns last season. Smith is no longer a downfield threat or a No. 1 receiving option, but he can still be a possession receiver who plays with a physical attitude and isn’t afraid of contact.

Baltimore has been lacking a possession receiver since Anquan Boldin left. Many expected Torrey Smith to emerge as a legitimate No. 1 receiver last season, and you could argue that he did by eclipsing the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the first time in his career. However, Torrey is still more of a burner. Steve could help the Ravens in the middle part of the field and open up the deep ball.

Other teams who will likely kick the tires on Smith include the New York Giants, Denver Broncos, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New England Patriots. At this point, it may come down to which team believes Smith’s performance on the field will outweigh his outspoken attitude, which wore out its welcome in Carolina. No team should expect fireworks on the field.

Jacoby Jones reportedly hit with bottle by stripper during Ravens party bus brawl

Jacoby-JonesBaltimore Ravens offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie turned34 on Monday. He and his teammates reportedly went out partying in Washington, D.C. on Sunday to celebrate McKinnie’s birthday after their victory over the Houston Texans. Toward the end of the night, things are said to have gotten out of hand when a brawl broke out.

According to TMZ, some of the Ravens players were involved in a fight on a party bus at about 3 a.m. People allegedly began fighting on the bus after leaving the Opera Ultra Lounge. Sources told TMZ that at least one stripper, named Sweet Pea, was on board the bus. Yes, that information is relevant, as she supposedly clocked Jacoby Jones with a bottle.

One eyewitness tells us he saw a bottle being swung at Jacoby Jones — it connected with his head and hurt him.  We’re told an ambulance was called ‘for a bleeding male’ but he was not taken to the hospital.

Our sources say a stripper named Sweet Pea is the one who hit Jacoby with a gigantic Ace of Spades bottle and this may have triggered the brawl.  We’re told the bottle smashed over his head and he was ‘bleeding everywhere.’”

The story goes on to claim that Jones’ friends tried to retaliate against the stripper and that McKinnie stepped in and stopped them. McKinnie then reportedly got into a fight with one of Jacoby’s friends. Police were called to the scene and no arrests were made.

What a mess. The Ravens will likely have to address the situation at some point, especially since it sounds like several members of the team were involved. Jones is already dealing with a knee injury because of this embarrassing punt return mishap, so the team can only hope he didn’t suffer serious injuries when Sweet Pea allegedly clocked him. It sounds like the Ravens are fortunate no arrests were made.

Cameras capture officials patting down Baltimore Ravens before game

Ravens-players-pat-down

There are a lot of things that go on behind the scenes of an NFL game that we never get to see. On Thursday night before the NFL season opener between the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos, we saw an interesting example of that when cameras captured the referees patting down Ravens players.

In a video that can be seen over at Deadspin, an official is shown counting the players who walk by and checking every X player. While this seemed bizarre to us because it is a moment that is rarely — if ever — captured on camera, it is apparently common practice.

“Officials are checking random uniforms for any illegal substances,” FOX Sports rule analyst Mike Pereira wrote on Twitter. “They check random players on both teams before the game and at halftime. Foreign substances can be grease or silicone. Players used to do it to make themselves harder to grab and/or make it easier to catch the football with stickem. This has been standard practice for years in the NFL.”

Pereira added that punishment would include confiscation of the uniform by NFL security and discipline from the league if a player was found to have an illegal substance on his body.

Who knew? Again, this is something the players are used to and has been going on for a while. But it was still interesting to see that they’re subject to the same type of pat downs before taking the field that we’re subject to before entering the stadium. God bless technology for sharing this useless piece of information with us.

Ravens billboards put up around Denver to promote NFL season opener

Joe-Flacco-Top-Five-QuarterbackThe Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens are set to kick off the 2013 NFL season next Thursday in a game that will be nationally televised on NBC. As a way of promoting both teams and hyping up the first official game of the year, the NFL has put up signs and billboards around Sports Authority Field and downtown Denver that feature Ravens players in addition to Broncos players.

Makes sense, right? The only issue is that Broncos fans still have a heartbreaking loss to the Ravens in the 2012 playoffs fresh on their minds. Baltimore stunned Denver with an amazing comeback that included a 70-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones with 31 seconds remaining in regulation. Now, Broncos fans have to look at Flacco’s face while they’re walking around town:

Since the promotions are a mandate from the league, there is nothing the Broncos can do about it. However, Mike Klis of The Denver Post pointed out that the team did try to explain itself via its official Twitter account:

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Bernard Pollard keeps Baltimore Ravens termination notice taped to his locker

Bernard Pollard RavensBernard Pollard spent two quality seasons with the Baltimore Ravens in 2011 and 2012, but what’s that phrase we hear 13 times a day after the NFL season ends? Oh yeah, “football is a business.”

The Ravens cut Pollard in March in order to clear cap space so they could afford players like Joe Flacco. Baltimore fans were surprised to see their team release him after Pollard laid a massive hit on New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley that sealed the AFC Championship. Pollard is using the move as motivation now that he has begun a new chapter with the Tennessee Titans.

As Shutdown Corner pointed out, the notice informed Pollard he had been cut due to “skill or performance” reasons. The 28-year-old shouldn’t be offended given the way the Ravens cleaned house after winning the Super Bowl, but there’s nothing wrong with using it as motivation. If it helps him play with more energy, I’m sure his Titans teammates will embrace it.

Baltimore Ravens take shot at Miami Heat for their modest victory parade

LeBron-James-Larry-O'Brien-trophyThe Miami Heat held their second victory parade in two years on Monday, and let’s just say it wasn’t exactly the 2004 Boston Red Sox World Series parade. The Heat are known for having some of the worst bandwagon fans in the country, so it would be shocking to see millions of them lining the streets to applaud their team for doing something it just did a year ago.

They NFL and NBA may have nothing to do with each other, but the Baltimore Ravens decided to take a shot at the Heat with a photo on the team’s official Twitter account Tuesday afternoon.

I think context is important here. The image they showed from the Heat parade looks like it’s on a main drag, and the camera is zoomed out further. The Ravens also showed a shot of their stadium, which is obviously going to be packed during a victory celebration.

Nevertheless, Heat fans deserve the criticism. Many of them walked out on their team during Game 6 and missed an epic comeback because of it, which is something they will never live down. But having a more loyal fan base than the Heat is kind of like being the fastest kid at fat camp. It’s not really something you should be bragging about.

Ravens owner wants Joe Flacco to be leader with Ray Lewis gone

Joe FlaccoThe Baltimore Ravens have lost several of their leaders to free agency, trade and retirement this offseason. Ray Lewis has been the clear-cut leader of the team for over a decade, and Baltimore’s locker room is sure to be much quieter with guys like him and Ed Reed no longer  around. That’s why Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti is looking for Joe Flacco to step up and fill the void.

“You are the leader now, like it or not,” Bisciotti told Flacco on Friday night, via the team’s official website.

While Flacco has never been seen as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, his resume speaks louder than his statistics. He is the only quarterback to ever reach the postseason in his first five seasons and win at least one game every time. He has also played in three AFC championships and won a Super Bowl, all before the age of 29.

“Not many guys do what you did in five years,” Bisciotti said. “Not many did it your way. Not many like the way you do it. But I said at the end-of-the-year press conference after last year’s [AFC championship] defeat, that I think the fans of Baltimore will be rewarded by your low-key presence, and it will stand the test of time. Indeed it did, and we all hope it continues to do that.”

Flacco will have a tough time changing his personality, and the team shouldn’t want him to. His own father basically called him a dud earlier this year, but that’s one of the characteristics that helps him perform well under pressure. A $120 million contract says Flacco should be a leader, but don’t expect him to do it by screaming at his teammates before games. That’s just not his style.

H/T Pro Football Talk