After one rookie minicamp, Baltimore Ravens first-round draft pick Matt Elam is off to a fast start with the Super Bowl champions. Elam intercepted several passes and confidently delivered the defensive signals to his teammates. During the camp, that ended Sunday, he lined up at free safety, playing with an obvious confidence. "It went well," Elam said. "I got better every day. I'm improving. I'm very comfortable and very smooth out there. It felt great. I'm very excited to be with the best and start working with the vets. " A consensus All-American selection from the University of Florida, the 5-foot-10, 210-pound Elam was the final pick of the first round after recording 176 tackles, 24 for losses, five sacks, six interceptions and two forced fumbles in three seasons for the Gators. What impressed Ravens coach John Harbaugh about Elam was how he took charge in the secondary and is quickly becoming knowledgeable about the defensive scheme.
"Matt really picked things up quickly, same for (second-round inside linebacker) Arthur (Brown)," Harbaugh said. "He really did a nice job of communicating in the back end which isn't usual for a rookie. Most rookie defensive backs all defensive players have a tough time with the communication part because they're not confident enough to make the calls.
"He's smart. He picked it up quickly. He jumped back there quickly and made the calls with force. He was very forceful back there and played fast. He looked good."
The medical outlook remains positive for Ravens starting inside linebacker Jameel McClain. McClain continues to make progress in his recuperation from a spinal cord contusion sustained last December. McClain is still awaiting full medical clearance to resume playing football again, but expects that to happen before next season. He's been running and lifting weights and working out at the Ravens' training complex with no restrictions. "I'm doing good, I'm doing great," McClain said. "I'm running around full speed, working out, lifting weights with no problems, nothing on my end. I can do everything. Everything is positive on my end." When asked if he's confident that he'll be able to resume his career after getting hurt last season against the Washington Redskins, McClain replied: "If you don't believe in yourself, who else will? Fortunately, this is a good situation for me. Everything is going the way it should." Although the injury didn't require surgery, it has prevented McClain from being cleared medically yet with rest and strengthening expected to eventually get him back on the field. The severity and location of the injury initially created doubt about his future. Ravens coach John Harbaugh is cautiously optimistic about McClain's prospects of regaining his health and getting back on the field, where the defending Super Bowl champions need him at inside linebacker following Ray Lewis' retirement and Dannell Ellerbe signing with the Miami Dolphins during free agency.
"That will be important for him," Harbaugh said recently. "But it's just the healing process. There's a certain type of a bruise that happens that caused his issue, but it's going away, on schedule. We don't know for sure, but I'm approaching it as if Jameel is going to be out there."
The Rolando McClain era didn't last very long in Baltimore. Signed to a one-year, $700,000 contract with no guaranteed money, the trouble-prone former Oakland Raiders middle linebacker never played a down for the defending Super Bowl champions. He was placed on the reserve-retired list Wednesday today and didn't receive any money from the Ravens.
"Rolando let me know that he plans to retire from the NFL," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "We have placed him on the reserved/retired list."
Thursday, McClain issued a statement of explanation that said, "Clearly, my decision to retire has raised some questions. Quite simply, I love football, but I have decided at this time it is in my best interest to focus on getting my personal life together. Beyond that, I'm not sure what the future holds for me, including football. This was entirely my decision and the Ravens have been very supportive during this process. I am very grateful for the opportunity they gave me and wish them the best of luck in the future. God willing, maybe I'll play for them one day."
Drafted eighth overall in 2010 by the Raiders, McClain's career has been derailed by multiple legal problems. He has been arrested three times in the past 16 months and was cut by the Raiders this offseason.
The 23 year old was recently arrested after signing with the Ravens on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest in his hometown of Decatur, Ala., a site of frequent trouble for McClain. He has other pending cases in Alabama.
For now, McClain retires with 274 career tackles, 6.5 sacks, one interception and a forced fumble in 41 games, all with the Raiders.
The Ravens were hoping to give McClain a second chance, but he squandered it. In the second round last month, they traded up to select Kansas State inside linebacker Arthur Brown. They could go with Brown and Josh Bynes or Jameel McClain inside, but the Ravens are thin at inside linebacker following Ray Lewis' retirement and Dannell Ellerbe signing with the Miami Dolphins as a free agent.
Kicker Justin Tucker, who missed just three of 75 kicks last season, says he doesn't intend to miss any this season. As a rookie, Tucker was perfect on 42 extra points and only missed three of his 33 field-goal attempts. The misses were from 41, 45 and 47 yards, and Tucker made all four of his attempts from 50 yards or more (two from 51, 54 and 56).
In Baltimore's four playoff games, he made all 16 of his extra-point attempts and was 4-for-4 on field goals.
He told baltimoreravens.com, "It's not unrealistic to say that I can have a perfect regular season kicking field goals and extra points. It's just a matter of, no pun intended, putting in the leg work right now.
"Every single day is the same. When I got here a calendar year ago, I was thinking the exact same thing I'm thinking now: how can I get better and contribute to the success of this team?"
The Ravens acquired center A.Q. Shipley from the Indianapolis Colts Thursday, as they seek to fill the void left by veteran Matt Birk's retirement. The Colts received a conditional 2014 draft pick for the former Penn State All-American. The deal is pending a physical.
At 6-foot-1 and 309-pounds, Shipley is entering his second NFL season after appearing in 14 games with the Colts last season, with five starts. The Colts have Samson Satele in their starting lineup and drafted Khaled Holmes in the fourth round of last month's draft, allowing them to move Shipley, who was originally taken by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft.
In Baltimore, the Ravens said through its Twitter feed that Shipley will compete with 2012 fourth-round pick Gino Gradkowski and Ryan Jensen for the starting job.
Veteran offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie never really wanted to leave the Ravens. Even as he was taking visits and garnering offers from the San Diego Chargers and the Miami Dolphins, McKinnie said he was holding out hope that the Ravens would make him an offer.
And they did Thursday, reaching agreement with McKinnie on a two-year contract with a maximum value of $7 million, according to a source. The Ravens' contract was the best financial offer.
"I'm excited to be back," McKinnie told The Baltimore Sun. "I didn't really want to leave anyway. I like being in Baltimore."
McKinnie, 33, had been an unrestricted free agent who started every game in the playoffs after being replaced at left tackle during the regular season by Michael Oher.
The 6-8, 354-pound New Jersey native has been working out regularly in South Florida. McKinnie has battled conditioning and weight issues in the past.
McKinnie was contacted by the Chicago Bears when free agency started, but they quickly reached a deal with former New Orleans Saints tackle Jermon Bushrod as their new left tackle.
During the playoffs, McKinnie excelled and drew praise from Ravens coach John Harbaugh for stonewalling several top pass rushers during victories over the Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots and the San Francisco 49ers to win the Vince Lombardi trophy.
Tight end Dennis Pitta signed his $2.023 million second-round restricted free-agent tender with the Ravens Monday. Pitta had interest from the Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers, according to the Baltimore Sun, but neither team presented Pitta with an offer sheet.
The Ravens would still like to sign Pitta to a long-term deal because he would become an unrestricted free agent in 2014.
Last season, Pitta had a career-high 61 receptions for 699 yards and seven touchdowns. He added 14 catches for 163 yards and three scores in the Ravens four playoff victories.
Ravens 2013 Draft Picks
Round 1/32 - Matt Elam, S, 5-10, 210, Florida
The All-American defensive back and younger brother of NFL safety Abram Elam should provide toughness and range to a secondary that lost Ed Reed to the Houston Texans and cut Bernard Pollard. He's expected to immediately compete for a starting job at strong safety, but will also cross-train at free safety.
Round 2/56 - Arthur Brown, LB, 6-0, 241, Kansas State
Brown has drawn comparisons to a young Ray Lewis because of his lack of ideal size, speed and emotional, relentless style of play. The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year figures to immediately start at one of the inside linebacker spots in the Ravens' 3-4 scheme.
Round 3/94 - Brandon Williams, DT, 6-1, 335, Missouri Southern
Anchor style nose tackle and Division II All-American who bench-pressed 225 pounds 38 times at the NFL scouting combine. Athletic for his size and can do a handstand and walk, performed well at Senior Bowl and will challenge Terrence Cody for playing time.
Round 4/129 - John Simon, OLB, 6-1, 257, Ohio State
Gritty, hard-nosed Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year had career-high nine sacks last season. Should compete for a situational pass rusher role at rush linebacker behind former Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.
Round 4/130 - Kyle Juszczyk, FB, 6-1, 248, Harvard
Excelled at Senior Bowl and took a dozen visits after starring in Ivy League as pass-catching fullback. Ravens figure to utilize him at fullback, tight end and H-back and expected to eventually replace Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach.
Round 5/168 - Ricky Wagner, T, 6-6, 308, Wisconsin
All-Big Ten Conference tackle has played left tackle for past two seasons after playing right tackle. Former prep basketball player isn't an elite athlete, but could also get a look at guard.
Round 6/200 - Kapron Lewis-Moore, DE, 6-4, 298, Notre Dame
Accomplished player tore his right ACL in national championship game loss to Alabama. Figures to be a medical redshirt as a rookie, essentially, since he just had surgery three months ago.
Round 6/203 - Ryan Jensen, C, 6-3, 317, Colorado State-Pueblo
Plays with a nasty streak and is quick (5.28 40-yard dash) and strong (bench-pressed 225 pounds 30 times). Drew interest from multiple NFL teams, including the Patriots, and is slated to back up Gino Gradkowski at center after primarily playing tackle in college.
Round 7/238 - Aaron Mellette, WR, 6-2, 217, Elon
Imposing small-school standout could provide red-zone threat immediately. Mellette caught 11 passes with one touchdown against Vanderbilt and played in the Senior Bowl.
Round 7/247 - Marc Anthony, CB, 5-11, 196, California
Productive and tough, but faces uphill climb to make the 53-man roster and will need to beat out Asa Jackson and Chris Johnson to do so. Could be a quick special-teams contributor if he makes the cut.