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Black ex-coaches say NFL's Rooney Rule is broken

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Black ex-coaches say NFL's Rooney Rule is broken

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Three black former NFL head coaches say the league needs to rethink its Rooney Rule for promoting minority hiring after 15 top vacancies - eight head coaching jobs and seven general manager positions - were all filled by white candidates since the regular season ended a month ago.

``I know the concept is good and something we need to do,'' said Tony Dungy, who was with the Indianapolis Colts during the 2006 season when he became the first black coach to win a Super Bowl. ``Obviously, it's not working the way it should.''

The Rooney Rule, implemented in 2003, was named for Pittsburgh Steelers chairman Dan Rooney, who steadfastly pushed the league to require every team to interview at least one minority candidate every time there is a coaching or general manager opening.

Before the rule went into effect, the NFL had had only six minority head coaches in more than 80 years. Since it has been in place, 12 have been hired.

But none were hired this year to replace the two black coaches who were fired - Romeo Crennel in Kansas City and Lovie Smith in Chicago - and the one fired black GM, Rod Graves in Arizona.

Herm Edwards, former coach of the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs and now an ESPN analyst, has called for not only revising the rule but perhaps even changing its name.

``When you use the Rooney Rule and not correctly, you put a little bit of a bad mark on Mr. Rooney's name, and that is not good,'' Edwards said Wednesday. ``If it keeps going this way, we might need to take his name off the rule. It is not being used in the right manner that Mr. Rooney meant it to be.''

Robert Gulliver, the NFL's executive vice president of human resources, said that the hiring results were ``disappointing'' and that he expects to make revisions in the rule.

The Fritz Pollard Alliance, a group of minority coaches and front-office, scouting and game-day NFL officials, wants the Rooney Rule expanded to apply to coordinators, assistant head coaches and club president positions.

Unlike Dungy and Edwards, Jim Caldwell is still coaching, albeit as an assistant. Not only that, his team, the Baltimore Ravens, will play the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday's Super Bowl. But he wasn't even invited to interview for one of the eight vacant coaching jobs, though having a team in the playoffs can be a hindrance to such opportunities.

Fired as the Colts' coach following the 2011 season, Caldwell joined the Ravens as quarterbacks coach. When head coach John Harbaugh fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron in December, Caldwell was promoted. With his guidance, Baltimore's offense responded.

Caldwell is no stranger to the Super Bowl, having led the Colts there three years ago after replacing the retired Dungy. It was only after Peyton Manning was sidelined for the 2011 season that Caldwell was fired.

``It has been a great rule and it has worked in the past,'' he said. ``Just like anything else, you have to, after a certain period of time, revisit it and take a look and see if it needs a little tweaking. I think it does in this particular case.''

Caldwell added: ``That's one of the reasons that the Rooney Rule was put in place, because you're trying to avoid those situations, if possible. We're at that stage where guys like Lovie Smith, who didn't get an opportunity, who had won and been very successful previously ... obviously, there's some concern there, and that's why I think the rule is going to be revisited.''

Dungy said he believes the entire system is broken. He cited 21 head coaching jobs changing in a three-year span, which he said indicates owners are making the wrong hires regardless of race.

Edwards said he wonders whether minority candidates get interviewed only to satisfy the rule, even though they have no chance of getting the job. He and Dungy noted that the last black head coach hiring - other than coaches promoted from within, like Leslie Frazier, Raheem Morris, Mike Singletary, Hue Jackson and Crennel - was Mike Tomlin by Pittsburgh, in 2007.

There are currently four minority head coaches: Tomlin, Frazier in Minnesota, Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati and Ron Rivera in Carolina. Minority general managers include Baltimore's Ozzie Newsome, Detroit's Martin Mayhew, Houston's Rick Smith, the New York Giants' Jerry Reese and Oakland's Reggie McKenzie.

``I am not saying you have to hire a minority candidate. No one is saying that,'' Edwards said. ``I am saying you can't be blinded. It can't be, `Who is the guy to interview to get this out of the way?'''

``The problem I have is you don't really abide by the Rooney Rule the correct way,'' he said.

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Playing Flacco in preseason makes sense, but still a risk

Playing Flacco in preseason makes sense, but still a risk

The Ravens feel good about their decision to play Joe Flacco on Saturday night. However, watching Tony Romo of the Cowboys grimacing in pain Thursday night was another reminder why teams have become more cautious about playing franchise quarterbacks during the preseason.

The Cowboys got a scare Thursday night against the Seahawks, when Romo went down holding his back after taking a hit just three plays into the game. Romo did not return, but he never left the sidelines and said he was fine after the game.

The hit on Romo was a reminder that Saturday’s preseason game against the Lions (7 p.m.) will have some angst for the Ravens, with Flacco playing his first game since a serious knee injury last November. Should the Ravens have elected to keep Flacco out the entire preseason? They could have, but coach John Harbaugh decided against it.

RELATED: HOW BIG IS RAVENS ROSTER BUBBLE?

“There’s really no doubt that he’s ready to play,” Harbaugh said Thursday. “But football is risky for everybody. That’s just the way it works. You have to weigh the benefits with the risks and put them out there. Joe is a quarterback. He’s not going to break. He’s going to play. We’re planning on him playing well, just like he has in practice. It will be his first game action in a long time. I’m sure that’s going to be a factor, but I’d rather have it be in this game than in two weeks from now against the Bills.”

Flacco said he could have been ready for Week 1 without playing in the preseason. But he wanted to get some live action before the real season began. Saturday night’s third preseason game, playing with most of the starters, represents the best time to do it.

Flacco is anything but a fragile quarterback. Until last year, he had gone more than seven seasons without missing a start.

Sooner or later, Flacco has to play. But that doesn’t mean Ravens fans won’t hold their breath Saturday night if Flacco gets hit.

MORE RAVENS: WILL LEWIS WIN STARTING LEFT GUARD SPOT OVER URSCHEL?

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How big is the Ravens' roster bubble?

How big is the Ravens' roster bubble?

With two preseason games left and a little more than a week until the 53-man roster has to be set -- the first cut from 90 to 75 players must be done by Tuesday, with the final cut to 53 by Saturday, Sept. 3 -- the bubble is about to burst for many Ravens.

There has been speculation all camp about players landing on the right side or the wrong side of the roster bubble, but how big, exactly, is that bubble?

The hard truth is it's not very big at all. This isn't the case of 90 people competing for 53 jobs. By our count, 47 spots on the team can be considered locks, which leaves just six open spots. And one of those is at quarterback.

Here's how my colleague Clifton Brown and I view the Ravens roster bubble with two games left, although an injury could send one of these locks to IR and make the bubble just a bit larger.

RELATED: WILL LEWIS WIN STARTING LEFT GUARD SPOT OVER URSCHEL?

QUARTERBACK:

Locks (1): Joe Flacco

Bubble: Ryan Mallett, Josh Johnson

The Ravens will keep just two quarterbacks, but Johnson has done enough to warrant consideration for the job and put Ryan Mallett on the bubble.

RUNNING BACK:

Lock (5): Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon, Terrance West, Kyle Juszczyk

Bubble: Lorenzo Taliaferro

With an outstanding camp West moves to the 'lock' category, and Taliaferro could begin the year on the PUP list, which will buy him some time to get healthy. But that doesn't guarantee Taliaferro will play for the Ravens again.

TIGHT END:

Lock (4): Dennis Pitta, Ben Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams

Bubble: Daniel Brown

Pitta is still out with a broken finger but he will be on the active roster, something few expected four months ago. Maxx Williams has also missed time recently, so this group at the moment isn't nearly as deep as once thought. Darren Waller (four games) and Nick Boyle (10 games) will begin the season on the suspended list but could be heard from later in the year.

WIDE RECEIVER:

Lock (6): Steve Smith Sr., Kamar Aiken, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Michael Campanaro, Chris Moore.

Bubble: Jeremy Butler, Chris Matthews, Keenan Reynolds

This group is deep but also loaded with injury concerns. If healthy, the top six will all make the 53-man roster. Given the injury questions surrounding Perriman, Campanaro, Moore and Smith, it makes sense to keep a seventh receiver, and Butler is well ahead of the other two.

OFFENSIVE LINE:

Locks (7): Rick Wagner, Marshal Yanda, Jeremy Zuttah, John Urschel, Ronnie Stanley, Alex Lewis, Ryan Jensen.

Bubble: Vladimir Ducasse, James Hurst, De'Ondre Wesley

Lewis could be the starter at left guard if Urschel remains sidelined, giving the Ravens an all-rookie look on Joe Flacco's blind side. Jensen had a rough night at Indianapolis but can play anywhere on the line. They love that versatility. The Ravens will likely keep an eighth lineman, and they usually stash a couple of others on the practice squad.

DEFENSIVE LINE:

Locks (5): Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, Lawrence Guy, Carl Davis, Brent Urban

Bubble: Willie Henry, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Michael Pierce

Henry earned coach John Harbaugh's ire with a penalty that gave the Colts a chance to attempt a potential game-winning field goal last week, but the Ravens rarely cut draft picks, let alone fourth-rounders. He is pretty close to a lock. The season-ending injury to Bronson Kaufusi opens the door for someone.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER:

Locks (5): Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Za'Darius Smith, Albert McClellan, Matt Judon

Bubble: Chris Carter, Victor Ochi

With Kamalei Correa also playing outside, the Ravens probably keep only the top five.

INSIDE LINEBACKER:

Locks (4): C.J. Mosley, Zach Orr, Kamalei Correa, Anthony Levine

Bubble: Arthur Brown, Patrick Onwuasor

Levine remains one of the Ravens top special teamers and can play safety in a pinch. His move to linebacker spells trouble for Brown.

CORNERBACK:

Locks (4): Jimmy Smith, Shareece Wright, Jerraud Powers, Tavon Young

Bubble: Sheldon Price, Will Davis, Kyle Arrington, Maurice Canady

Rookie sixth-rounder Canady has missed time with an injury but returned to practice this week. Arrington remains out and his spot on the 53-man roster is looking more tenuous by the day. Ozzie Newsome likes to say that "you can never have too many corners," but it remains to be seen how many the Ravens will keep.

SAFETY:

Locks (3): Eric Weddle, Lardarius Webb, Kendrick Lewis

Bubble: Terrence Brooks, Matt Elam

Elam is sidelined by arthroscopic knee surgery, which could open the door for Brooks. Levine's ability to play safety could factor here. Don't rule out the Ravens signing a veteran safety once other teams make cuts; that's when they landed James Ihedigbo a few years ago.

SPECIALISTS:

Locks (3): Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox

Bubble: None

All have been to the Pro Bowl and all are back. No questions here.

MORE RAVENS: ZA'DARIUS SMITH AMONG THOSE NOT PLAYING SATURDAY

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Will Lewis win starting left guard spot over Urschel?

Will Lewis win starting left guard spot over Urschel?

OWINGS MILLS – Will the Ravens go into the regular season with two rookies protecting quarterback Joe Flacco’s blindside?

“If we go into the regular season that way, it will be because I’m confident in those two guys over there,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh.

Those two guys are rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who already has the starting job locked down, and rookie left guard Alex Lewis. Lewis heads into Saturday night’s preseason game against the Lions making a push to be a Week 1 starter as well. Third-year left guard John Urschel hasn’t played since the preseason opener and he didn’t practice this week. Lewis has taken advantage of the extra reps.

RELATED: ZA'DARIUS SMITH AMONG THOSE NOT PLAYING SATURDAY

Ravens coach John Harbaugh has said that Urschel has a “contusion”, and was expected to be back soon. But the longer Urschel is out, the more time Lewis has to convince the coaches he should start.

That’s why Saturday night’s preseason game is huge for Lewis. He’s making a rapid adjustment from being a fourth-round pick out of Nebraska, to a possible starter in the NFL.

 “You’ve really got to focus on your technique, your fundamentals, because everyone at this level is good,” Lewis said. “You don’t have those one or two guys you game plan for. In the NFL, all 11 guys on the other side are those dogs you’re trying to get ready for.”

With Flacco starting at quarterback Saturday night, the pressure will be on Stanley and Lewis to play well as a tandem. The Ravens knew they would need a new starting left guard, after Kelechi Osemele signed with the Raiders during free agency. Urschel could still be that guy. But if Lewis plays well Saturday night, it could sway the coaching staff in his direction.

MORE RAVENS: FLACCO LOOKS FORWARD TO PLAYING, BUT NOT GETTING HIT