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John Elway has been through this before

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John Elway has been through this before

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) John Elway has been down this lonely road before.

The quarterback-turned-front office executive has now been a part of two playoff runs that ended not in the confetti-filled celebration expected of the AFC's No. 1 seed but with a painful introspection about what all went wrong in a stunningly early exit from the postseason party.

Elway experienced it as a player in 1996, when the Denver Broncos were upset at home by the Jacksonville Jaguars, 30-27, then bounced back to win the next two Super Bowls.

``I know it didn't take long,'' to get over that loss, Elway said Monday, ``because I knew we felt like we had a good football team coming back - as we do now.''

Elway once again finds himself picking up the pieces, along with coach John Fox, after one of the most disheartening losses in the franchise's history, their 38-35 defeat in double-overtime to the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday night.

Elway pledged to dissect the defeat to extract every possible lesson, after which he'll have to decide where to upgrade a roster that jelled so well during a 13-3 regular season but whose 11-game winning streak and home-field advantage were wasted when a heavy underdog outplayed and outcoached them.

Elway said the key was to not get defensive and ``hopefully we're back in this situation again and we'll have looked at it the right way and learned from the situation.''

The playoff pratfall won't necessarily weigh heavier than the regular season in Elway's evaluations, but he did say playoff pressure reveals a lot: ``As I've said, you make your money during the regular season. You make your legacy in the postseason.''

First things first.

Elway said he'll sign off next month on the next two years and $40 million in Peyton Manning's contract after he passes his physical. Manning showed no ill effects of the nerve problem in his neck that led to four operations and his departure from Indianapolis, putting up the second-best numbers of his 14 healthy seasons in the NFL.

Another high priority is locking up his blind-side protector, All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady, who rejected a five-year proposal that included $28 million in guarantees last summer. If they can't reach an agreement this time, Denver will put the franchise tag on the three-time Pro Bowler, roughly tripling his salary to about $10 million next season.

Elway also must decide whether free agents Brandon Stokley, Justin Bannan, Kevin Vickerson, Keith Brooking, Jimmy Leonhard and Dan Koppen will have roles in this rebound after serving as key contributors this season.

Then, there's the matter of getting over this last loss itself, one in which Manning had three costly turnovers, fellow All-Pro Champ Bailey got burned for two long touchdown passes and Fox made a series of debatable decisions that he was grilled about Monday in his season-ending news conference.

``As a coach and, I know John as a competitor, you relive it, you redo it, you second-guess, you I don't know how to explain it, but it stings,'' Fox said. ``They call them scars. You remember it because it doesn't go away, like most scars. And you learn from it. You say, `I made a mistake ... I'm going to fix it and then not let it happen again.'''

That's precisely what second-year safety Rahim Moore said after he misjudged Joe Flacco's 70-yard prayer to Jacoby Jones with no timeouts and 31 seconds left to tie the game at 35.

After the game, a choked-up Moore put the loss squarely on his shoulders and vowed to atone for his big blunder.

``That's definitely going to motivate me,'' Moore said. ``I'm going to keep my head high and next time the opportunity comes, I'm just going to make it for my team. I'll just make the play. I'm just sorry the way the season ended because it ended all on me, which I never would expect. I apologize to all the fans and people who love the Broncos because this wasn't what they deserved. And I'll get it right.''

Fox said he stood by his decision to play for overtime after Jacoby's touchdown staggered the Broncos - and Elway concurred. Given the ball at his 20 with 31 seconds, two timeouts and one of the best quarterbacks in the game, the Broncos coach decided to run out the clock and head to overtime, so Manning took a knee.

``I thought it was the right thing at that time,'' said Elway, sounding nothing like the go-for-broke quarterback he once was. ``I think with where the team was mentally and the situation we were in, I thought that it was a good move.''

Even 48 hours after the game, that single decision remained the most hotly debated of the many Fox, Manning and the Broncos made in their gaffe-filled loss to the Ravens. The second-guessing only got more intense Sunday after Atlanta moved the ball 41 yards in 12 seconds to set up the game-winning field goal in its 30-28 victory over Seattle.

But, Fox said, Denver's situation was nowhere near what the Falcons faced. The Falcons were losing and had no other choice. They were playing in a dome. The Broncos had just given up a game-tying 70-yard heave and were standing on the sideline in disbelief. The temperature was below 10 degrees. Manning had thrown just two long passes all night.

Fox said the Broncos were like a prizefighter who was staggered just seconds from the bell, so the smart thing to do wasn't to go for a haymaker themselves but regroup for the next round.

Fox also stood by his other important strategic decision. A few minutes before kneeling on the ball, Denver was up by seven and trying to grind out the clock. Despite being down to their third-string running back, 188-pound Ronnie Hillman, the Broncos called three straight running plays, including a run off right guard on third-and-7 that went for no gain. That ran the clock down to 1:15 and made Baltimore burn all its timeouts.

But three plays after a punt, Flacco threw that improbable 70-yard touchdown pass over Moore.

Fox said he played the percentages on all the calls, noting there was a 99.9 percent chance of winning when the Ravens had the ball on the 30 with 41 seconds left.

In the end, all the analytics didn't matter. They simply didn't make the plays they had to keep a terrific season going.

``This is something that the players will remember for a long time,'' Elway said. ``They'll never forget what happened on Saturday. They'll never forget that and I think that we'll use that as we did in `96. It was a great incentive for us to come back and have an even better year the following year like we did in `97. Like I said, it's how we approach it, how we use it, how we learn from it. And it gives us an opportunity to be that much better next year.''

Notes: Fox dismissed any notion of Bailey moving from cornerback to safety next season. ... Elway said the Broncos view rookie Omar Bolden as a potential starting CB.

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Ravens tight end suspended a year or more for violating substance abuse policy

Ravens tight end suspended a year or more for violating substance abuse policy

The NFL announced today that tight end Darren Waller of the Baltimore Ravens would be suspended for a year or longer for his second violation of the substance abuse policy.

Waller was a 2015 sixth-round pick out of Georgia Tech who served a four-game suspension to start the 2016 season for a substance abuse violation. After returning from his suspension last year, he posted 10 catches for 85 yards and two touchdowns in a limited role.

After his 2016 violation, he was quoted as saying [via Ravens.com]:

“There were other personal issues, and [marijuana] was the one thing I always turned to,” Waller said. “It was just about finding more positive outlets for me to do, like talking to people about it and things like that. I’m definitely at a better place with that now.”

Unfortunately for the Ravens, he will miss the 2017 season and potentially longer after the latest violation. It leaves the Ravens down two tight ends from last year after Dennis Pitta was released earlier this month after re-injuring his hip.

MORE RAVENS: Zach Orr considering coming out of retirement

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Former Raven Zach Orr considering NFL comeback after postive health prognosis

Former Raven Zach Orr considering NFL comeback after postive health prognosis

In January of 2017, former Ravens linebacker Zach Orr took the podium at the team's training facility alongside head coach John Harbaugh, GM Ozzie Newsome and defensive coordinator Dean Pees, to announce he would be retiring from football at the age of 24.

Why? Orr suffered a shoulder injury during their week 16 game against longtime rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, which shed light into a condition he's had since birth.

He had a routine MRI, but the Ravens training staff suggested a full body CAT scan as well. The CAT scan reveled Orr had a congenital back/spine condition where one of the upper vertebra isn't totally formed causing there to be an opening. Less than 1 percent of people are born with such a condition and he wasn't aware of it until he suffered this injury.

Doctors told Orr he was at risk of paralysis or even death if he played with such a condition. He also would have never been able to pass an NFL physical, ultimately forcing him to retire.

During his press conference, Orr said this,

"If there's some miracle way where I can play the game, I promise I'd be the first one to grab my cleats again, start back training and try to find a way to get back out there," Orr said.

Well, fast forward to today and it seems that miracle may have happened.

NFL Network reporter Mike Garafolo told Good Morning Football that after getting a second opinion from doctors, and receiving positive news, Orr is considering a return to the NFL.

"I had my mind made up. I was like man, the doctors told me I was done. This is a serious issue. So I'm going to leave it alone. But I just kept hearing that from multiple people and some were telling me to just go check out and seek out some more opinions and things like that and come to find out my condition, it is rare – .01 percent of the people have what I have – but there's no actual evidence or facts that I'm at a higher risk than any other player. And it's actually been documented that a college player who had the exact same thing that I have that returned to play with no problems."

The doctors' real concerns would be if someone with Orr's spinal condition played with a herniated disk. He did suffer from herniated disks last season, but that injury has since diminished. 

MORE RAVENS: 2017 PRESEASON SCHEDULE

If Orr does decide to get back into the NFL, getting signed could be pretty easy. 

When he announced his retirement, he never filed for retirement papers and the Ravens never placed him on their reserve/retired list because they never thought he would play again.

Because of this, Orr is considered an unrestricted free agent and can sign with a team right away. 

Orr had his best season in 2016, where he lead the Ravens in tackles with 133. It's been reported that eight teams have reached out to the linebacker since his announcement and that he will be meeting with the Lions on Thursday.