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Ravens practice in heavy winds on baseball field

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Ravens practice in heavy winds on baseball field

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Baltimore Ravens starters Dannell Ellerbe and Dennis Pitta practiced Wednesday in heavy winds at Tulane University, looking sharp despite nagging injuries.

Inside linebacker Ellerbe has been bothered by an ankle injury, while tight end Pitta has a thigh problem. Both moved freely in Baltimore's first practice in New Orleans.

Ellerbe said earlier this week ``I'm definitely playing in this game,'' and Pitta echoed those sentiments.

The Ravens practiced for nearly 2 hours on a makeshift 80-yard field stretching across the outfield at Tulane's Greer Field baseball stadium. Unlike the San Francisco 49ers, who worked out at the Saints' indoor facility, Baltimore dealt with wind gusts up to 24 mph.

Baltimore had the option of working at the Saints' indoor facility late in the afternoon or early Wednesday evening, after the 49ers finished. But coach John Harbaugh said he and the players preferred to practice on schedule in mid-afternoon.

``We had a great practice,'' Harbaugh said as his players left the field. ``We didn't like the wind, but we got all of our work done. Spirits are high. They looked great.

``Our players are upbeat and happy. They don't complain about anything.''

In past Super Bowls here, teams have practiced on Tulane's football field. But that field is under construction because the school is building a new on-campus stadium.

In addition to the field Baltimore practiced on Wednesday, Tulane has another 50-yard field that kickers and punters are using.

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Three reasons why it made sense for Ravens to add LT Long

Three reasons why it made sense for Ravens to add LT Long

Jake Long was once a premier left tackle in the NFL, but he is projected to be Ronnie Stanley’s backup after agreeing to a one-year deal with the Ravens.

Here are three reasons why the Ravens felt they needed to sign Long, who will join the team for Thursday’s first full-team practice pending the outcome of his physical:

1. The Ravens needed insurance in case Stanley is injured or struggles.

Early reviews on Stanley have been good. But we’ll learn more about Stanley as he faces veterans on a consistent basis during training camp and the preseason.

The Ravens relied on James Hurst as their backup left tackle the past two seasons, but they wanted more security. Even after recent knee injuries, Long is simply more talented than Hurst.

2. Long can be a veteran mentor for Stanley.

As the first overall pick in the 2008 draft, Long knows the pressure and expectations Stanley is dealing with. When Stanley has questions, Long will be a go-to guy.

3. With quarterback Joe Flacco returning from a serious knee injury, the Ravens can’t take chances protecting his blindside.

If Flacco suffers another season-ending injury, all the talent upgrades they made this offseason won’t matter.

There’s a chance Flacco’s mobility may be hindered, especially early in the season. Adding Long makes the Ravens feel more confident about keeping Flacco healthy.

RELATED: FIVE QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE TRAINING CAMP STARTS

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Five questions to ask as Ravens open training camp

Five questions to ask as Ravens open training camp

Veterans report to Ravens training camp Wednesday, with the first full-squad practice Thursday morning. Here are five questions to ask as the Ravens try to bounce back from a 5-11 season.

1. Does the influx of new talent make the Ravens playoff contenders again?

The Ravens were more aggressive early in free agency than usual, signing safety Eric Weddle, wide receiver Mike Wallace, and tight end Ben Watson. Then they loaded up on young talent with 11 draft picks, including left tackle Ronnie Stanley who is expected to start, linebacker Kamalei Correa who should see significant playing time, and running back Kenneth Dixon who has intriguing potential. The Ravens are a better football team, but I still question if they’re good enough to make the playoffs.  In order to make the postseason, the Ravens simply must get significant contributions from a host of new players.  

2. Is quarterback Joe Flacco ready to have a stellar season coming off knee surgery?

It’s a great sign that Flacco is ready for camp. His reps may be monitored early in camp and his preseason playing time figures to be limited. But when the regular season begins, the Ravens will need Flacco to have a solid season, maybe his best for the Ravens to make the playoffs. If Flacco has any lingering doubt about how his knee will hold up, those doubts need to be erased between now and Week 1.

3. How will key players on PUP perform once they return?

Four players currently on the PUP list are expected to play crucial roles – wide receivers Steve Smith Sr. and Breshad Perriman, and linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. Smith is 37 years old, Suggs is 33, Dumervil is 32, and Perriman has yet to play an NFL down due to knee injuries. The Ravens’ playoff prospects are better if they can squeeze another quality year out of their injured vets, and if Perriman finally plays.

4. Who starts at inside linebacker next to C. J. Mosley?

That could be the biggest question mark in the starting lineup. The Ravens are deep at running back and tight end, so who starts doesn’t matter as much. But the release of veteran Daryl Smith, now with the Buccaneers, leaves a void at inside linebacker. Zach Orr has the inside track to start, Arthur Brown is getting one more chance, and Correa could be moved inside. But if none of those players rise up, general manager Ozzie Newsome could be forced to sign a veteran.

5. How will the new-look left side of the offensive line gel?

Stanley is a rookie left tackle. They’ll be a new starter at left guard, as John Urschel, Ryan Jensen, and perhaps rookie Alex Lewis battle to replace Kelechi Osemele, who was lost to the Raiders in free agency. It’s not surprising the Ravens felt they needed to sign veteran left tackle Jake Long as insurance.  To protect Flacco and run the ball effectively, the new-look left side of the offensive line must play well.

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Report: Boldin to sign with Lions

Report: Boldin to sign with Lions

Former Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin is back for a 14th season.

Boldin, who turns 36 in October, will sign a one-year deal with the Detroit Lions, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. In Detroit, Boldin will be reunited with Lions coach Jim Caldwell, who became the Ravens offensive coordinator during their run to the Super Bowl in the 2012 season.

The Lions had a major void at wide receiver with All-Pro Calvin Johnson's retirement.

RELATED: RAVENS AGREE TO ONE-YEAR DEAL WITH OL JAKE LONG

A former second-round draft pick, Boldin spent seven seasons with the Cardinals before the Ravens traded for him in 2010. In three seasons with the Ravens, Boldin averaged 62 catches and 882 yards. He came up huge in the 2012 playoff run, with a team-best 22 catches for 380 yards and four touchdowns. He had six catches for 104 yards and a touchdown in the Super Bowl win over the 49ers.

After that Super Bowl run, though, Boldin was traded to the 49ers for a sixth-round draft pick. Boldin led the 49ers in catches and receiving yards in each of the past three years. He had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons with the 49ers in 2013 and 2014, leading many to question the Ravens decision to trade him. Last season, Boldin led the 49ers with 69 catches for 789 yards.

Boldin enters this season ranked 17th in NFL history with 13,195 receiving yards. One of the few players ahead of him is current Ravens receiver Steve Smith Sr., who ranks 11th (13,392). Boldin last season became the 13th player in NFL history with 1,000 career receptions and now has 1,009. Smith, incidentally, needs 39 catches this season join Boldin in the 1,000-catch club.

MORE RAVENS: RETURNING PUNTS KEY FOR 3 RAVENS WR'S ON BUBBLE