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Beyonce just 1 of many stars at Super Bowl

Beyonce just 1 of many stars at Super Bowl

NEW ORLEANS (AP) The entertainment leading up to the Super Bowl is so A-list, Beyonce may not even have the most anticipated performance surrounding the big game.

Justin Timberlake is due to give his first major musical performance in four years. Stevie Wonder is performing for the masses at an outdoor concert. CeeLo Green is reuniting with his old hip-hop clique, Goodie Mob, and Rascal Flatts is teaming up with Journey for a concert. Those represent only a fraction of the all-star events to celebrate the Super Bowl.

``The Super Bowl has become such a big event in itself. So many people come from everywhere, looking to not only be a part of the Super Bowl but also the festivities leading up to the game,'' said CeeLo, who is performing at ESPN's Next event. ``There's so much to do, from parties, concerts and events.''

Indeed, until the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers meet at the Superdome on Sunday, much of the emphasis in the days leading up to the event has very little to do with the game.

Lil Wayne is throwing a major bash in his hometown, Jay-Z is holding court at another event the evening before his wife, Beyonce, performs at halftime, and Jamie Foxx is due to give a private concert - and that's just the lineup for Saturday.

Director Michael Bay is holding court at a private estate for a celebrity dinner for charity. Santigold, Solange and producer/DJ Diplo will perform at Audi's two parties during the weekend, and both Playboy and Maxim are planning blowout parties with their trademark models.

``I've never seen anything like this,'' said Gary Solomon Jr., co-founder of Solomon Group, the local company hired to help set up the stages and lighting for the outdoor concerts and broadcasting areas in the French Quarter and near the Superdome.

``When you look at the master calendar of all the events, it's pretty daunting,'' he said. ``This Super Bowl is like having 30 events in the same weekend.''

Perhaps the most hotly anticipated event features Timberlake. He will perform during ``DIRECTV Super Saturday Night,'' an invitation-only concert that will also feature Ahmir ``Questlove'' Thompson of The Roots as DJ. Questlove is a friend of Timberlake's who served as DJ at the pop star's wedding to Jessica Biel in October.

Questlove said he's honored that he was asked to DJ Timberlake's return to the stage on Super Bowl weekend. Timberlake is expected to perform his new single, ``Suit & Tie,'' which features Jay-Z, and other tracks from his upcoming album, ``The 20/20 Experience.''

``The album is incredible,'' Questlove said. ``I'm a huge supporter, and I'm there to make sure the audience has a good time.''

Jay-Z and Beyonce have been spotted in New Orleans, and many are wondering whether Jay-Z - who is hosting a party elsewhere that night - will be taking the stage with Timberlake.

``Mum's the word,'' Questlove said. ``All that is under wraps.''

Stevie Wonder is also performing Saturday night. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame legend, whose classic hit ``Superstition'' will be featured in two of this year's Bud Light Super Bowl commercials, is headlining an outdoor concert. Rising guitarist Gary Clark Jr. is also scheduled to perform.

Besides the Timberlake concert, Questlove is performing with The Roots at three Super Bowl parties, including the 49ers after-game party - ``or funeral, depending on the outcome of the game,'' he said with a laugh.

OneRepublic and Matchbox Twenty will perform as part of the Super Bowl pregame show. As will ``American Idol'' alum Jennifer Hudson, who will join the chorus from Sandy Hook Elementary School to sing ``America the Beautiful'' before the 49ers and Ravens take the field, the NFL said.

The chorus features 26 children from Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., where 20 first-graders and six adults were killed in a Dec. 14 shooting rampage.

The performance will be part of CBS's pre-game show and will be broadcast live. Alicia Keys will sing the national anthem.

Much of the entertainment kicks off Friday. VH1 is hosting a concert headlined by rock band Train while Grammy-winning R&B singer Fantasia leads a pack of Christian and gospel singers for the NFL's Super Bowl Gospel Celebration. Baltimore Ravens star Ray Lewis is being honored with a ``Lifetime of Inspiration'' award during the event, which will be hosted by Sherri Shepherd of ABC's ``The View'' and Grammy-winning gospel musician Kirk Franklin.

The gospel celebration will also include a performance by the NFL Players Choir of dozens of current and former professional football players and a performance by Lecrae, the Christian rapper NFL players have named this year's ``Player's Choice'' artist.

``It's a definite honor, really to even be considered but on top of that to be requested by the players. It's really humbling,'' said Lecrae.

Miami rapper Pitbull has two scheduled appearances this weekend: Friday night he's performing at an invitation-only party by Rolling Stone with rapper Flo Rida and Nick Cannon. On Saturday, he performs for the general public during DIRECTV's ``Celebrity Beach Bowl,'' a star-studded flag football match that will include Snoop Dogg, Neil Patrick Harris, Chace Crawford, Josh Hutcherson and former NFL players Deion Sanders and Warren Moon.

Also Saturday, CMT is hosting a ``Crossroads'' concert with headliners Journey and Rascal Flatts.

Though many of the star-studded concerts will have limited access or are by invitation only, dozens of local artists will be performing throughout the weekend on stages set up along the Mississippi River and in the NFL Experience at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Many downtown streets are being closed to traffic to allow more pedestrian access in the main entertainment areas - the French Quarter, riverfront and near the Superdome.

``It's great that it's back here. There's a rich tradition here in New Orleans of just having a great time,'' CeeLo said. ``The atmosphere in New Orleans is always upbeat.''

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AP Writer Jonathan Landrum Jr. contributed to this report from Atlanta.

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5 Ravens under the radar when camp opens

5 Ravens under the radar when camp opens

The Ravens officially open training camp next Wednesday and will hold their first practice on Thursday. Over the ensuing five weeks, the annual process of culling a 90-man roster down to 53 will take place. Here, in alphabetical order, are five players who will be under the radar when camp opens but could have an impact on the Ravens this season:

WR Jeremy Butler

The receivers group is going to generate a lot of buzz this camp. Steve Smith Sr. is back from his Achilles injury after all at age 37, Mike Wallace is an intriguing addition and Breshad Perriman might finally get on the field after his latest injury. Then of course a lot of local eyes will be on former Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds and River Hill product Michael Campanaro. But don't sleep on Butler, who has always produced some of his best work on the Owings Mills practice fields, which is how he ultimately earned a promotion to the active roster last year and produced 31 catches for 363 yards.

CB Will Davis

Davis played just two games for the Ravens last season before suffering a season-ending knee injury. But the four-year veteran showed promise in his brief time with the Ravens, who traded a seventh-round draft pick to the Dolphins last September to acquire Davis. With Jimmy Smith likely to be slowed early in camp after offseason foot surgery, Davis should have a lot of opportunity to state his case.

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G Vladimir Ducasse

John Urschel appears to be the front-runner to replace Kelechi Osemele at left guard for the Ravens, and Ryan Jensen and rookie Alex Lewis also could get a look. Ducasse, 28, though, has more experience than all of them; he is a former second-round draft pick who has made 22 career starts, including 11 for the Bears last season.

S Anthony Levine

Levine has been a versatile player in four seasons with the Ravens. He's seen time at cornerback and at safety and has been one of the top special teams players the past few years. During OTAs, Levine even spent some time working with the inside linebacker group. The Ravens will probably continue using him as a jack-of-all-trades utility player.

OLB Victor Ochi

Might Ochi be the next undrafted rookie to make the Ravens? Ochi set a Stony Brook record with 32 1/2 sacks and ranked second in FCS (formerly Division I-AA) football with 13 sacks last season. With Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil both coming off injuries, Ochi should get plenty of reps in camp. He also is out to prove the doubters wrong after going undrafted; draft expert Mel Kiper predicted he could go as early as the third round.

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Former Ravens defensive lineman suspended for PED violation

Former Ravens defensive lineman suspended for PED violation

Former Ravens defensive lineman Arthur Jones has been suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2016 for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances, his new team, the Indianapolis Colts, announced in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Jones, who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Ravens, played three seasons in Baltimore. He played his first season in Indianapolis in 2014. His 2015 ended before it began after he suffered an ankle injury in a preseason game against the Rams. 

In three years in Baltimore, Jones appeared in 44 games and registered 8.5 sacks and 120 combined tackles. In his most recent healthy season, 2014 with the Colts, he played in nine games and registered 23 combined tackles and 1.5 sacks.

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Ravens under the microscope: Best case, worst case for Jimmy Smith in 2016

Ravens under the microscope: Best case, worst case for Jimmy Smith in 2016

As we countdown to training camp, Clifton Brown and Bo Smolka will take turns putting 25 key Ravens under the microscope. They’ll speculate on a best-case, worst-case scenario for at least one player every day.

They’ll begin with players looking to carve out a role or roster spot, then wrap up with the most important players, concluding with quarterback Joe Flacco on July 25.

UNDER THE MICROSCOPE - Jimmy Smith, sixth-year cornerback

Best-case scenario:

Smith is not only the Ravens’ best corner, but one of the top 10 corners in the NFL.

Why it could happen:

Before his Lisfranc injury in 2014, Smith was playing the best football of his career and winning matchups against premier wide receivers like Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall.  Smith has the tools to be a top corner - the length to deal with bigger receivers, and the confidence to be left alone on an island. After having screws removed from his foot this offseason, the lingering effects of his injury should finally be over. Even last season, when he was clearly not 100 percent, Smith led the Ravens with three picks. He turns 28 years old later this month (July 26) – still young enough to play at a high level, with experience to accompany his talent.

Worst-case scenario:

Smith’s game doesn’t distinguish himself as a shutdown corner, and the Ravens’ secondary gives up too many big plays.

Why it could happen:

Smith will see a slew of top receivers in 2016, including Antonio Brown (twice), A. J. Green (twice), Dez Bryant, Odell Beckham Jr., and Amari Cooper, who beat Smith for a 68-yard touchdown last season. We’ll find out if Smith is back to where he was in 2014, because he’s going to be tested.

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