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Steelers again turn to ageless Batch

Steelers again turn to ageless Batch

PITTSBURGH (AP) Mike Wallace is in his fourth season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, so the wide receiver is familiar with all this talk about Charlie Batch.

Asked if it was at all concerning that the man throwing the ball to him on Sunday will soon be 38 years old, Wallace shrugged.

``He's been old,'' he said of Batch. ``It's not like he just got old. Chuck's been old since I got here, so it's nothing new.''

Neither is Batch making a fill-in start for his hometown Steelers (6-4), who are at Cleveland (2-8) this weekend. For the eighth time since he signed with Pittsburgh 11 years ago, Batch will be under center to begin a game for the Steelers.

No Steeler is older than Batch, whose birthday is Dec. 5. He spent the first four years of his career with Detroit, but only nose tackle Casey Hampton was with Pittsburgh before Batch arrived.

``They say Charlie built the building,'' guard Willie Colon deadpanned. ``That's what I heard.''

Teammates might enjoy yukking it up when it comes to Batch's age, but they're happy they have him and more content than could be reasonably expected for an NFL team down to its third-string quarterback.

``I feel comfortable with Charlie,'' Wallace said. ``I feel like he can lead us to victory any game he plays in. Just two years ago when we played with him the first four games we were 3-1 so I'm excited about having Chuck out there.''

Batch started two of those early season games while Ben Roethlisberger served a four-game suspension and Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon sat out with injuries.

This season, Roethlisberger and Leftwich both have rib injuries. Leftwich relieved Roethlisberger two weeks ago in a win over Kansas City and started this past Sunday's loss to Baltimore.

With most other teams, dropping down to the third-string QB - if they even have one - more often than not means an inexperienced rookie. With the Steelers, it means one of the most tenured quarterbacks in the NFL.

``Charlie's a well-rounded quarterback who's ... comfortable running the majority of our offense,'' offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. ``He's a veteran savvy guy who's an accurate thrower, short and long.''

In his most recent game, Batch completed 15 of 22 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown in a 27-0 win over St. Louis last Christmas Eve. He is 5-2 as a starter with the Steelers, and one of his losses was a meaningless outing in the 2007 season finale when Pittsburgh's playoff seeding was wrapped up.

In recent years, Batch seemingly enters every training camp as - at best - No. 3 on the depth chart, and there are whispers his roster spot is tenuous.

Then usually every year, he starts at least one game and excels.

``These opportunities don't come often anymore,'' Batch said. ``And here I am, getting up there in years. When you have this opportunity you cherish it.''

Batch, who said he had one of his better training camps, joked he's ``doing it for all the 38-year-olds.''

Some of the best quarterbacks in the game (Peyton Manning, 36, and Tom Brady, 35) are close to Batch's age. The 37-year-old Matt Hasselbeck passed for 290 yards in beating the Steelers last month. Brett Favre was 41 when he played his final game - 40 when he had an MVP-caliber season with the Minnesota Vikings.

``Charlie is Charlie,'' receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. ``He's very smart, and he takes pride in the minor details of his job.''

Wallace said Batch regularly asks more questions than anyone in the offensive meeting room, and several players refer to the quarterback as the proverbial ``coach on the field.''

That prompted Haley to say, half-jokingly, ``We've got to teach him the art of not over-coaching.''

The only other healthy quarterback on Pittsburgh's roster is Brian Hoyer, signed Tuesday. While Haley and teammates have marveled at Hoyer's intelligence and ability to pick up the offense quickly, the Steelers need Batch to stay healthy.

``Right now,'' Batch said, ``I'm that guy and there's no telling how long I'll have this position. It could be one week, it could be two or three. I don't know. But either way, you just go week to week and not worry about what's going to happen after the fact.''

With 53 career starts, 78 games and 1,534 pass attempts, Batch thinks he's prepared for Sunday.

The only adjustment Batch said he wants to make is the timing of the play clock and interpreting Haley's play call while in the huddle to get it out to the rest of the offense.

More than 14 years after his first NFL start, Batch this week has had the butterflies associated with being eager for game day.

``I still get excited about it because these opportunities don't come much,'' he said. ``Right now, I know I have at least one other one.''

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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.