Brigance remains inspiration to Ravens

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Brigance remains inspiration to Ravens

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) O.J. Brigance is going back to the Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens, a model of toughness and perseverance.

On Sunday, confined to a wheelchair as he battles Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, the former Baltimore linebacker presented the Lamar Hunt trophy to the team after it beat the New England Patriots 28-13 for the AFC championship on Sunday.

Using a communication device that translates his thoughts, Brigance, now a senior advisor to player development for the Ravens, had this to say:

``Congratulations to the Baltimore Ravens. Your resiliency has outlasted your adversity. You are the AFC Champions. You are my mighty men. With God, all things are possible.''

In 2007, Brigance was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. In his current position, he helps the athletes in all phases of their careers.

He was part of the Ravens team that won the Super Bowl in the 2000 season, starring on special teams.

Now he inspires them.

``Every day I came out and told O.J. that you're my greatest motivation,'' said linebacker Ray Lewis, the only active Raven who played on that championship team.

Brigance, 43, also was on the field for the coin toss Sunday.

``What can't you say about O.J.,'' safety Ed Reed said. ``O'J.'s been our strength. O.J. took me under his wing when I first got here and everything he's been through and is going through, to still be the same O.J. and being a light to you and be a light for our team ... He's been like an uncle to me and like a brother. I love Juice.''

AFC North: Griffin's mannequin pose gets thumbs up at Cleveland high school

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AFC North: Griffin's mannequin pose gets thumbs up at Cleveland high school

New Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III found a new way to use his body control Tuesday. He posed as a mannequin while pranking a high school classroom in Ohio. It was part of a good deed by the Browns, who donated $25,000 to North Ridgeville High School to be used for helmets.

While Browns teammate Cameron Erving spoke to the class, Griffin stood behind a curtain. After the curtain was raised, Griffin remained perfectly still, looking like a mannequin wearing a Ridgeville uniform and helmet.

“I had to tap into my inner mime,” Griffin told the Browns’ website.

When two students approached Griffin to remove the helmet, he startled them with a roar. Then Griffin removed his helmet to reveal his identity. The classroom erupted in applause.

The Browns’ website posted a video of Griffin’s performance here.

Things have been trending in a positive way for Griffin since coming to Cleveland from the Redskins. Not only did the Browns draft four wide receivers, they did not draft a quarterback until the third round when they took Cody Kessler of USC.  Griffin, Josh McCown, Austin Davis, Connor Shaw, and Pat Devlin are the other quarterbacks on the roster.

Griffin clearly has a chance to win the starting job. But with Tuesday’s mannequin act, Griffin won over some high school kids in Ohio.

  

Ravens like their draft class, and so did Vegas sports books

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Ravens like their draft class, and so did Vegas sports books

The Ravens liked their draft, and so did Las Vegas.

In mid-March prior to the draft, the Ravens had 40-1 odds to win Super Bowl 51, according to Bovada. After their 11-player haul in the draft, the Ravens’ Super Bowl odds have improved to 33-1, according to Bovada.

Here are the six teams whose Super Bowl odds improved most dramatically after the draft, according to Bovada:

Browns – 150-1 to 100-1

Redskins – 50-1 to 40-1

Jets – 50-1 to 40-1

Giants - 33-1 to 25-1

Raiders – 33-1 to 25-1

Ravens – 40-1 to 33-1

Despite quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension being upheld, the Patriots remained the favorites for Super Bowl 51 (7-1), followed by the Seahawks (8-1), Packers (10-1), Steelers (10-1), and Panthers (11-1).

As for the AFC North, the Ravens still have their work cut out according to Vegas. The Steelers and Bengals (18-1) still have better Super Bowl odds than the Ravens.

So if you believe the Ravens are a better team after the draft, Vegas would agree. However, it remains to be seen if the Ravens will be improved enough to get back into the playoffs.

Ravens draft research includes digging into players' social media history

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Ravens draft research includes digging into players' social media history

Ten years ago, Ozzie Newsome didn’t have to worry about checking the Twitter posts of players he was thinking about drafting. Now, checking social media has become part of a general manager’s job, and part of a prospective draft prospect’s resume.

What better example than last week, when the infamous gas mask picture of Dolphins left tackle Laremy Tunsil appeared on social media less than an hour before the draft. The Ravens passed on Tunsil and took left tackle Ronnie Stanley with the sixth pick. Tunsil, who once looked like a sure top-five pick, plummeted to No. 13 where the Dolphins took him.

On the Ravens’ website, Ravens senior vice president Kevin Byrne wrote that he stopped by Newsome’s offense last Wednesday, one day before the draft, and saw him with a stack of papers in front of him.

When Byrne asked Newsome what he was reading, he responded, “Tweets from the college players. Some of these guys aren’t very smart. Part of our research.”

Researching social media will continue to be part of Newsome’s pre-draft process. Newsome isn’t active on social media, but he definitely reads it, now more than ever.