Goodell will address NFL drunk driving problem

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Goodell will address NFL drunk driving problem

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Drinking and driving by NFL players is a problem Commissioner Roger Goodell wants to address.

He said Friday at the Super Bowl he met with Mothers Against Drunk Driving last week to work on the issue.

``The reality is we have to do a better job of educating people in the NFL that this is a priority: `This is for your safety, for the safety of the people in your car, and for innocent people that are out there.' There are services designed to help them make better decisions before they leave their homes,'' Goodell said during his pre-Super Bowl state of the league news conference. ``We have to make sure that they understand those services, and most importantly, take advantage of them.''

Dallas Cowboys nose tackle Josh Brent faces an intoxication manslaughter charge for a Dec. 8 crash that killed his friend and practice-squad member Jerry Brown. Last month, another Cowboys player, lineman Jay Ratliff, was arrested after sideswiping a semitrailer truck. Ratliff was charged with driving while intoxicated.

Blood-alcohol tests released by police say both Brent and Ratliff were well above the legal limit.

49ers defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs, who went on injured reserve in December, was arrested Nov. 30 for suspicion of driving under the influence and possession of marijuana. Dobbs was involved in a single-car accident in which he hit a chain-link fence and a bush but didn't sustain any injuries.

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TAKING AFTER MOM: Jack Harbaugh's influence on his sons is well known. The football world learned Friday that Jackie Harbaugh played just as big a role when John and Jim were growing up.

Perhaps even bigger.

``She was with us every day. Dad worked a lot,'' John Harbaugh said Friday during a unique joint news conference with the opposing Super Bowl coach, his brother Jim. ``When he was around we would hang out with dad, but mom took us to practices and all that. Mom was with us all the time.''

The Harbaugh brothers are notoriously fierce competitors - just watch them on the sidelines Sunday - and Jim said that comes from their mother.

``There's nobody in our family that has more competitive fire than my mother. She competes like a maniac,'' Jim Harbaugh said.

But it was their mother's fierce loyalty that has left the biggest impact.

The Harbaughs moved often as Jack Harbaugh climbed the college coaching ranks, and Jackie Harbaugh made sure her children knew there was always one constant in their lives.

``No one would fight harder for us than our mom, no matter what the situation was, or teach us how to have each other's back and be there for one another,'' John Harbaugh said. ``Whether it was a little scrape in the neighborhood or something like that, she basically made it very clear that we were to have each other's back no matter what.''

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CONCUSSION LEGISLATION: As Super Bowl weekend arrived in New Orleans, lawmakers in the nation's capital hailed the NFL's decision to endorse legislation aimed at regulating youth sports equipment.

The federal Youth Sports Concussion Act aims to ensure youth sports equipment is manufactured according to safety standards derived from the latest scientific research.

``We can absolutely make it safer for athletes of all ages to enjoy the sports they love to play,'' said Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who is sponsoring the bill along with Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.). ``I'm glad the NFL is supporting our efforts to protect young athletes on the field.''

The bill also would increase penalties for equipment companies making false injury prevention claims.

``Manipulating the good intentions of parents trying to protect their young athletes is unacceptable and our bill will end that practice,'' Rockefeller said.

The bill would instruct the Consumer Product Safety Commission to review the National Academies of Science's findings on concussions in youth sports and then make recommendations to manufacturers.

It would also allow the Federal Trade Commission to impose fines for using false claims to sell protective sports gear.

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CHANGING SUPER BOWL GAME PLAN: Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice reiterated how he and his teammates were caught off guard when Oakland Raiders coach Bill Callahan changed the game plan less than two days before Oakland's 48-21 loss in the 2003 Super Bowl.

They planned on a running attack, then it switched to a heavy passing game.

Callahan vehemently denied the allegations last week by Tim Brown and Rice that the coach had ``sabotaged'' the Raiders because of his close friendship with Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden by altering the game plan less than two days before

``I have played under Bill Walsh, many, many years,'' Rice said. ``When you prepare for a game a certain way, you don't change anything on that given Friday. Maybe the word is not sabotaged, but you look at it and you can put whatever words you want to it, but you do not change the game plan on a Friday, two days before the Super Bowl.''

Rice provided a quick rundown of the runners they had: Tyrone Wheatley, Charlie Garner and fullback Zack Crockett.

``We were averaging over 300 something yards a game,'' Rice said. ``We had planned to run the football. All of a sudden, Friday, now you decide we're going to throw the ball 60 or more times. That, to me, leaves the players a little hesitant. Because now all of a sudden we don't know we're going to attack that football team. Maybe sabotaged is not the word, but this is something Tim and I, we talk about. We both agreed that it was just very unusual for that to happen. Under Bill Walsh, that wouldn't have happened.''

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Will Matt Elam make Ravens in 2016 after fifth-year option declined?

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Will Matt Elam make Ravens in 2016 after fifth-year option declined?

It was no surprise the Ravens did not pick up the fifth-year option on safety Matt Elam by Monday’s deadline. The bigger question is whether Elam even makes the team next season.

The 32nd pick in the 2013 draft, Elam has been one of the biggest first-round busts in team history. Some of the standout players who went after Elam in that draft include Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short (44th), Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell (48th), and Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins (52nd).

Elam missed all of last season with a torn biceps, after underperforming in 2013 and 2014. Elam was a big hitter in college at Florida, but has struggled with missed tackles as a Raven, and has been even worse in pass coverage. With the Ravens acquiring safety Eric Weddle in free agency, and Lardarius Webb switching from cornerback to safety, Elam is expected to be a backup at best. He will compete with Terrence Brooks, Kendrick Lewis, and others for a backup role.

Elam is scheduled to make $1.327 million next season, before becoming a free agent in 2017.  However, Elam’s first priority is to secure his place with the Ravens in 2016.  

AFC North: Steelers LB James Harrison will return for 2016

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AFC North: Steelers LB James Harrison will return for 2016

The Ravens can expect to see Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison as an opponent again in 2016. Harrison confirmed on his Instagram account Monday that he would return for another season.

Harrison will turn 38 years old Wednesday (May 4), but he was still effective in 2015 with five sacks and 40 tackles playing in the Steelers’ linebacker rotation. With his announcement that he was returning, Harrison wrote “I’m feeling just like a fine wine. Getting better with age.”

Despite Harrison’s age, the Steelers believe they got younger and better on defense through the draft. Five of the Steelers’ seven picks were on defense – cornerback Artie Burns (first round), safety Sean Davis (second), defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (third round), outside linebacker Travis Feeney (sixth round), and inside linebacker Tyler Matakevich (seventh round).  

Clearly, there will be plenty of new names in the Ravens-Steelers rivalry, with both teams looking to get younger and faster. However, Harrison plans to be part of the mix for at least another season. The Ravens host the Steelers in Week 9, and visit the Steelers on Christmas afternoon.

MORE RAVENS: BISCIOTTI GETS HIS WISH WITH BOLSTERED PASS RUSH

Bisciotti gets his wish with draft class full of pass rushers

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Bisciotti gets his wish with draft class full of pass rushers

At the team's "State of the Ravens" end-of-season news conference, owner Steve Bisciotti made no bones about where he thought the Ravens needed to improve in 2016: rushing the passer.

So although Bisciotti didn't speak to the media after the draft, he had to be pleased with the results.

With two of their first three picks, the Ravens selected players who figure to pressure the quarterback -- Boise State linebacker Kamalei Correa and Brigham Young defensive end Bronson Kaufusi.

"They both have pass rush ability," coach John Harbaugh said. "They both get sacks, they are both high-motor players and high-energy pass rushers. These two guys are going to run to the ball. These two guys are going to run to the ball 100 miles an hour every single play. That’s really important on defense.”

The next day, the Ravens added Grand Valley State defensive end Matt Judon -- who had 20 sacks last year -- in the fifth round. Just for good measure, they also reportedly agreed to sign undrafted rookie linebacker Victor Ochi of Stony Brook, who led the Football Championship Subdivision with 13 sacks.

Harbaugh said after the draft that "I don't think it was a secret" that Bisciotti wanted the Ravens to upgrade the pass rush, "and we were able to fill (that need). I’m really fired up about that. I’m really excited about these guys getting to the quarterback.”

Bisciotti said in January that losing Terrell Suggs to a season-ending injury in Week 1 had a "domino effect" that greatly disrupted the defense. Elvis Dumervil was forced into more of a three-down role, and Courtney Upshaw never came close to replacing Suggs' sack numbers. Dumervil dropped from 17 sacks to six, and overall the Ravens dropped from 49 sacks in 2014 to 37 last season.

When the pass rush failed to pressure the quarterback, coverage linebackers or defensive backs were frequently exposed.

"I think I have a true appreciation of what pressure means, and so that’s what I think we need to do," Bisciotti had said in January. "I think we need to focus on our free agency and our draft, and I think we have to have multiple pass rushers in order to let everybody else be effective.”

Suggs turns 34 in October and is coming off his second major Achilles injury. Dumervil is 32. So the need to develop good young pass rushers is obvious. The Ravens hope they took a big step in that direction over the weekend.

MORE RAVENS: EVALUATING ALL FIVE 4TH-ROUND SELECTIONS