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Ex-Ravens WR Evans still feels part of team

Ex-Ravens WR Evans still feels part of team

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) While Lee Evans awaits another chance in the NFL, he'll be rooting for the Baltimore Ravens in Sunday's AFC championship rematch with New England.

The wide receiver who couldn't hold onto a pass in the end zone a year ago - which likely would have sent the Ravens into the Super Bowl - has no regrets. Except, maybe, that he's not part of the Ravens this time around.

Evans says in an email that he ``wishes he made the touchdown catch, but is thankful for the overall journey. You play the game to win and celebrate the joy with your teammates.''

With 27 seconds to go, Joe Flacco connected with Evans in the deep right corner of the end zone, but defensive back Sterling Moore knocked the ball to the ground.

Soon after, Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal that would have forced overtime.

Evans says he has not gotten depressed over the play - Moore did make a strong strip after Evans got two hands on the ball.

``Give him credit for the play he made,'' Evans said.

Unfortunately for Evans, he's remembered as much for that incompletion as he is for two 1,000-yard receiving seasons in seven years with the Bills, and 43 touchdown catches.

``My goal is to play in the NFL again,'' said Evans, who was cut in the preseason last summer by Jacksonville, a team not exactly overloaded with receivers. ``And if I am afforded that opportunity, I will be fully prepared and absolutely capable of competing at the highest level.''

Cundiff hooked up with Washington and then San Francisco this season, but was cut by the 49ers on Friday without kicking for them as they stuck with veteran David Akers, who had been struggling.

Evans said he will be in front of his TV on Sunday watching the title games. He likes what he's seen from Baltimore (12-6) and knows the Ravens' recent postseason history; they've won a playoff game in each of the last five seasons and will be in their third AFC championship match in those five years.

But he also knows how tough the Patriots (13-4) are at home, particularly in January.

``It is a chess match between a defense that goes hard after the quarterback and gets after you on every play,'' Evans said, ``and an offense that seeks to exploit their match-ups while always trying to capitalize on a defense's mistakes.''

Evans' only season with the Ravens was marred by injury and he made only four receptions. He did help mentor Torrey Smith, Baltimore's top draft pick in 2011 who came into the league with the same kind of speed and game-breaking ability that made Evans the 13th overall pick in the 2004 draft out of Wisconsin.

He's seen Smith develop into a dangerous weapon for Flacco, and veteran Anquan Boldin has been superb in the playoffs. Kick returner Jacoby Jones got free on the 70-yard TD pass in the final minute of regulation that tied Denver in last weekend's divisional-round win.

``I saw growth in him this year as both a man and a player,'' Evans said of Smith. ``He is a great guy who gets the most out of his abilities. His play really highlighted the improvements he made toward being a more fluid route runner and a sure-handed pass catcher.''

Evans is particularly impressed by Flacco, the only quarterback to win a playoff game in his first five pro seasons.

``Joe's record speaks for itself,'' Evans said. ``He does not get the credit he deserves for how important he is to making the Ravens' offense go.''

A part of Evans will share in the Ravens' excitement if they win Sunday ``after fully understanding what it feels like to be on the losing side.''

``Life brings you highs and lows,'' he said, ``and you have to keep that in perspective.''

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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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