Ravens LB Ayanbadejo approves of gay marriage vote

Ravens LB Ayanbadejo approves of gay marriage vote

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo was delighted to learn that the majority of Maryland voters shared his opinion on same sex marriage.

``I'm so stoked. It's like I woke up and it's Christmas,'' Ayanbadejo said Wednesday, one day after gay marriage in the state was approved at the ballot box by a narrow margin.

Baltimore's locker room reflects society, so not all of Ayanbadejo's teammates shared his enthusiasm about the historic decision.

``When it's all said and done, there are a lot of guys on this team that stand firmly behind what the Bible says - that a man marries a woman and a woman marries a man,'' safety Bernard Pollard said.

The strong, opposite viewpoints have not divided the Ravens' locker room. While players on both sides are passionate about their stances, they haven't let their differences get in the way of the team's unified quest for a playoff berth.

The Ravens (6-2) host Oakland (3-5) on Sunday.

Before Tuesday, gays and lesbians had been granted the right to marry by courts and state legislatures, but proponents of gay marriage had been defeated in voting by more than 30 states.

The Ravens have continued their business-like approach to football during the political discourse, but their convictions about the issue run deep within the testosterone-filled environment.

Ayanbadejo spoke out in favor of same-sex marriage on several occasions prior to Maryland's vote on Question 6.

``It's something I've been passionate about a long time,'' he said. ``Even though it doesn't affect me directly, it affects a lot of my friends. It affects my family. It affects Ravens fans. It affects Marylanders. I've worked very hard on it; I'm especially proud of the Marylanders who went out and voted and made a difference.''

Whether his teammates like it or not.

``The majority of the people got it right,'' Ayanbadejo said. ``Who cares what they think in the locker room? Who cares what they think anywhere? The people decided. People have to take heed and listen to what people are crying for and what they are wanting. The majority of people voted it in.

``It's a done deal and we did the right thing. It took too long. It shouldn't have been up to other people to decide other people's fate as far as who they can marry. But we're progressing, so I'm happy about that.''

As Ayanbadejo spoke in front of his cubicle, several players made noise behind him to show their displeasure.

Pollard was not one of them. Nor was Ravens center Matt Birk, who wrote an editorial last month in The (Baltimore) Sun voicing his opposition to same-sex marriage.

Birk was not available for comment Wednesday, but Pollard was happy to give his own take on the issue.

``It shows you that people in high power are changing what was set for a very long time,'' he said. ``These are the principles, man, this is what life is about. But when it's all said and done, they came in and changed it.''

Pollard was not bitter. Just disappointed.

``I'm not going to treat anybody any different. I think anybody who knows me knows that,'' he said. ``I'm going to love you just like I did. Whatever lifestyle you want to live, you're entitled to that. I think you are. It's just that, for us, we've got to continue to live life and continue to pray.''

Ozzie Newsome, Ronnie Stanley deny Laremy Tunsil was Ravens' choice before video

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Ozzie Newsome, Ronnie Stanley deny Laremy Tunsil was Ravens' choice before video

OWINGS MILLS -- Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome denied the Ravens were going to pick left tackle Laremy Tunsil over Ronnie Stanley, until the gas mask video of Tunsil appeared on social media prior to the draft.

“No,” Newsome said Saturday night, when asked point blank if Tunsil would have been the Ravens’ choice, absent the video. “There’s a lot of speculation.”

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the Ravens were going to pick Tunsil at No. 6, but picked Stanley instead after the video became public. Tunsil plummeted to No. 13 where the Dolphins took him, costing Tunsil millions of dollars.

Stanley took exception to Schefter’s report, refuting it on Twitter Saturday.

Believe who you want. But the careers of Stanley and Tunsil will now be compared even more, with both the Ravens and Dolphins hoping their rookie left tackle has the better NFL career.

After finishing 5-11 in 2015, and having already dealt with the domestic violence elevator video of former running back Ray Rice in 2014, can you blame the Ravens for passing on Tunsil? The controversy would have hovered over the Ravens and Tunsil -- baggage the Ravens don’t need, and can’t afford.

The Ravens did not shun Tunsil to reach for somebody who had no business being drafted No. 6. Some scouts had Stanley rated over Tunsil even before the video.

“He (Stanley) was right at the top row, with the top row of players,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh.

Newsome has admitted the Ravens tried to trade up to No. 4 to get defensive back Jalen Ramsey. But the Cowboys stayed put at No. 4 and took running back Ezekiel Elliott. After Ramsey went No. 5 to the Jaguars, the Ravens took Stanley at No. 6.

The fact Newsome was willing to disclose how badly he wanted Ramsey was revealing. Newsome is not worried about protecting Stanley’s feelings. There is already pressure on Stanley, and if he can’t handle that, he is going to struggle anyway.

Remember, Tunsil wasn’t the only top player the Ravens passed on at No. 6. Any of the next five players drafted would have addressed one of the Ravens’ primary needs - defensive end DeForest Buckner (No. 7, left tackle Jack Conklin (No. 8), outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (No. 9), and cornerbacks Eli Apple (No. 10) and Vernon Hargreaves (No. 11).

Stanley’s job is to prove Newsome made the right choice. But Tunsil’s video? That was one video too many for the Ravens.

Ravens draft grade: Solid, not sensational

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Ravens draft grade: Solid, not sensational

After a draft that featured a whopping 11 players, the Ravens should be better, and they are. We’re all guessing at this point, but I’d give them a B grade for this draft. Here are five takeaways Ravens’ which should explain why I like their draft, but can’t love it at this point:

1. The Ravens attacked their need for pass rushers

Unless the Ravens missed in the second-round (OLB Kamalei Correa), the third-round (DE Bronson Kaufusi), and the fifth-round (DE Matt Judon), their pass rush will improve. With those three, along with Elvis Dumervil and Za’Darius Smith, the Ravens can get after quarterbacks even if Terrell Suggs is not the same after his second Achilles injury.

2. Not taking a cornerback sooner could haunt the Ravens

They need corner help, but did not get any until drafting Tavon Young of Temple (fourth-round) and Maurice Canady (sixth round). If those two are slow to develop, the Ravens could find themselves scrambling to find cornerback help in August, especially if there is an injury or two at that position.

3. More playmakers should make the Ravens more explosive

The pass rushers on defense should create more turnovers.  And keep an eye on running back Kenneth Dixon (fourth round) and wide receiver Chris Moore (fourth round). Dixon is shifty, and he has good hands. Moore is a deep threat with superb ball skills. Both have the potential to be Sunday playmakers, not only in 2016, but beyond.

4. Taking either pass rusher Noah Spence or inside linebacker Miles Jack would have given this draft more star potential

After Laremy Tunsil’s gas mask video surfaced, I agreed with the Ravens’ decision to take left tackle Ronnie Stanley at No. 6. But the Ravens may regret passing on both Spence and Jack in the second round. After wide receiver Breshad Perriman missed all of last season with a knee injury, it’s hard to blame the Ravens steering clear of Jack due to his knee issues. But without Jack, the Ravens still need help at inside linebacker next to C. J. Mosley. As for Spence, maybe the Ravens’ background check told them it was too risky to take him, after he left Ohio St. for Eastern Kentucky due to drug issues (ecstasy). But Spence went No. 39 to the Buccaneers, and if he becomes a double-digit sack artist immediately, that will be tough for Ravens fans to watch.

5. Keenan Reynolds could be much more than just a popular sixth-round pick

Ravens’ officials had tears in their eyes talking about the reaction of former Navy star Reynolds, after he received the Ravens’ phone call. It’s a feel-good story, but it could be much more. Reynolds has all the traits to be a dynamic punt returner – toughness, vision, open-field quickness, and sound judgment. Reynolds usually makes the most of an opportunity. Don’t be surprised if he does it again.

Ravens take chance on Navy QB Reynolds after position change

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Ravens take chance on Navy QB Reynolds after position change

After his memorable career at Navy, Keenan Reynolds fulfilled another dream Saturday when the Ravens drafted him in the sixth round (No. 182 overall).

Reynolds has been told by Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome that he will compete for a roster spot as a wide receiver – punt returner, after playing quarterback at Navy. When he received the phone call from Newsome, Reynolds described it has one of the most emotional moments of his life. 

“Relief, excitement,” Reynolds said during a conference call. “I was upset (watching the draft). I know I can play with these guys. To see my name, to see my phone ring…It’s a dream come true. All I ever wanted to do was play on Sundays.”

It remains to be seen if Reynolds’ Navy obligations will interfere with his dream of an NFL career. Reynolds said he had already talked with some Navy officials, and hoped a resolution could be reached.

“I think being in the DMV area is going to help my cause, but again that’s a call that’s up to the Navy,” Reynolds said. “It’s up to the secretary of the Navy and the Navy. But right now I’m just trying to bask in what the now is, and I’m just blessed to be picked up, and I’m ready to get started.”

Asked when he would get an answer from the Navy, Reynolds said, “It will be soon. It will probably happen within the next few days. 

Reynolds believes he can make a quick transition to wide receiver. 

“I’ve been running routes like crazy, trying to get quicker in and out of my routes, I’ve been catching punts – everything that they want me to do. To get to work with Steve Smith Sr. and learn from him, try to get better from him? It’s going to be an awesome ride.”

CSN analyst Brian Mitchell, a former returner with the Redskins, has been working with Reynolds on his punt return technique. 

“He kind of gave me some extra drills,” Reynolds said. “He brings an innovative style, also perspective from somebody who has returned punts. I’m just extremely excited.”