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McKinnie's 'strange journey' ends in Super Bowl

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McKinnie's 'strange journey' ends in Super Bowl

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Bryant McKinnie stood in the middle of the Superdome and marveled at the spectacle that surrounded him.

Behind the Baltimore Ravens giant left tackle, several of the team's most notable stars were seated individually at raised tables. Each space featured huge name plates and was surrounded by a blockade designed to keep the throng of interviewers at a reasonable distance. It was, after all, media day at the Super Bowl.

McKinnie looked over his shoulder in amusement. His assignment Tuesday was to simply to stand among the masses and field questions from people who crowded in with microphones held high to catch a few words from the 6-foot-8, 354-pounder.

Those who kept their arms raised long enough to hear McKinnie tell the story of his season were rewarded with quite a tale, one that began with a pay cut and ended with a starting role in his first NFL championship game.

``It's been a long, strange journey, but I like the way it's ending so far,'' McKinnie said. ``One step farther, I can complete it with a ring.''

Before starting his 11th training camp in the NFL, McKinnie was asked to accept less money because the Ravens needed to clear some salary-cap space. After a good bit of grumbling, he was OK with an incentive-laden contract.

But McKinnie's run of 60 straight starts ended in the opener, when coach John Harbaugh opted to start Michael Oher at left tackle and use McKinnie solely as a backup.

In his unaccustomed role off the bench, McKinnie hurt his hip in a game against Dallas on Oct. 14. When right tackle Kelechi Osemele got hurt the following week in Houston, McKinnie got the chance to steal away a starting spot. But he aggravated his hip injury and ended up back on the bench. One week after another went by without the opportunity to start.

Finally, before the season finale against Cincinnati, McKinnie was told by Harbaugh to prove he was healthy.

``The coach was like, `Show me that you're healed. Show me that you can move,''' McKinnie recalled. ``In the Cincinnati game, he said, `I'm going to let you play, show me you're back healthy.'''

McKinnie came off the bench and played well. In that game, left guard Jah Reid hurt his toe and was subsequently placed on injured reserve. So, in the playoff opener against Indianapolis, the Ravens put McKinnie back at his old left tackle spot, moved Oher to right tackle and plugged Osemele into Reid's spot.

It proved to be a winning combination. Now 3-0 with McKinnie as a starter, the Ravens look to complete their run Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.

``This is a great reward,'' McKinnie said. ``I waited for my time and was able to step in there and help the team go to where it wants to be.''

Funny how things work in the NFL.

``What's Bryant been through can't be overstated,'' Ravens center Matt Birk said. ``All year, to sit and wait and wait. To his credit, he kept himself ready, kept himself in shape. He kept himself mentally ready to go. He didn't play all year, and here's (Indianapolis end) Dwight Freeney. The next week, here's (Denver's) Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller. The man's done a great job. It's a tribute to his attitude and work ethic.''

Maybe it's because of Reid's toe, or perhaps it was just McKinnie's time. Whatever the reason, Baltimore's offensive front is better than it's been all season.

``McKinnie has played well for them, and it had a domino effect,'' San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. ``They put Oher at right tackle, who's playing right tackle better than the guy they had in there. They moved (Osemele) to left guard and he's playing that position better than the guy they had in there.''

The 33-year-old McKinnie, meanwhile, is feeling the benefit of limited playing time from September through December.

``I'm fresher than anybody else,'' he said.

His task in the Super Bowl will be to help neutralize 49ers right tackle Justin Smith, a 12-year veteran playing with a partially torn left triceps.

``McKinnie has been a good player in this league for a long time,'' Smith said. ``I think the run they've been on, he's out there playing real good football. The mix of their offensive line right now is really working for them. They're playing the best football when they need it.''

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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. 

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Ravens 2017 Preseason Schedule: Opponents, Dates, Times, TV Channel, How to Watch

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USA Today Sports

Ravens 2017 Preseason Schedule: Opponents, Dates, Times, TV Channel, How to Watch

The 2017 NFL preseason will be here in no time. Once the preseason gets here, it is just a matter of time (a month) before the regular season is set to begin. 

Back in April the NFL announced the preseason schedule for all 32 teams.

The Baltimore Ravens four preseason games will span across four weeks starting on August 10, running to August 31. 

Opening up the exhibition schedule, the Ravens will host their beltway rivals, the Washington Redskins on August 10 at 7:30 p.m. ET. The game can be seen on WBAL-TV, as well as the other three preseason games. 

RAVENS 2017 PRESEASON SCHEDULE

Week 1 Ravens vs. Redskins:

Opponent: Washington Redskins
Location: M&T Bank Stadium
When: Thursday, August 10, 7:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: WBAL-TV

Week 2: Ravens at Dolphins

Opponent: Miami Dolphins
Location: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Florida
When: Thursday, August 17, 7:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: WBAL-TV

Week 3: Ravens vs. Bills

Opponent: Buffalo Bills
Location: M&T Bank Stadium
When: Sunday, August 26, 7:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: WBAL-TV

Week 4: Ravens at Saints

When: Thursday, August 31, 8:00 p.m. ET
Opponent: New Orleans Saints
Location: Mercedes-Benz Superdome
TV Channel: WBAL-TV