Question of starting RB remains open
LG Lewis could have played; Harbaugh regrets decision to accept Raiders penalty
Terrance West seemed to cement his grip on the primary running back role for the Ravens with his career-high 113-yard, onetouchdown performance in Sunday’s 28-27 loss to the Oakland Raiders. But that wasn’t enough to secure coach John Harbaugh’s immediate vote of confidence.
During his weekly news conference Monday at the team’s training facility in Owings Mills, Harbaugh declined to declare West the starting running back, despite the Northwestern High and Towson University product registering the team’s first 100-yard rushing game since Oct. 11, 2015, when Justin Forsett went for121yards and a score against the Cleveland Browns.
“I’m not going to say that,” Harbaugh said. “I’m not going to get into all that. I just think that’s great to write about, but for us, it’s nothing for us to waste any energy on. We’re going to put the guys out there that are playing well. Our guys know this: If you’re playing hard, you’re playing smart, you’re playing fundamentally sound, and you’re productive, you’ve got a chance being out there again because everybody’s counting on everybody else to get the job done. If one of those things falls down, then you leave the door open for another guy to get their opportunity.”
With rookie Kenneth Dixon on the mend from a strained MCL in his left knee, suffered in the team’s third preseason game on Aug. 27, the offense could have four running backs in West, Forsett, Dixon, and Buck Allen.
Forsett’s struggles (98 yards on 31 carries) and the team’s decision to deactivate him before Sunday’s game hint that he could be the odd man out if the organization needs to make a roster move.
Asked if Forsett has a future spot on the roster, Harbaugh said “Of course” before offering an ambiguous explanation of Forsett’s role.
“Justin Forsett is a highly respected, highly valued guy in my eyes and the eyes of all of us,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a competitive world that we’re in. It’s a competitive league, a competitive sport, and he knows that as well as anybody. It doesn’t diminish him in any way. It enhances him in terms of how you handle it. We’ll just have to see. All of those personnel things are all to be determined. You can’t say anything about where anything is going to go.” Donna “Bunnie Epstein” Strobel, Melanie “June Cleavage” Copper and Sandy “Cookie Burger” Coho sip iced coffee at Purple Evening at M&T Bank Stadium. The three women, members of “Da RavHons” attended the event Monday. For more photos, go to baltimoresun. com/ravens Running back Terrance West had a careerhigh 113-yards and a touchdown Sunday. Lewis could have played “if needed”: Rookie left guard Alex Lewis was dressed in his uniform and standing on the sideline during Sunday’s loss, but he missed the first game of his fledgling career after being cleared from the concussion protocol to return to practice Friday.
Asked if he could have played against Oakland, the organization’s fourth-round pick in the 2016 NFL draft replied, “If needed. That’s why I dressed. But it’s not my call to make. It’s the guys above me, and our guys fought really hard and well together. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Lewis had started the first three games before suffering the concussion in the fourth quarter of a19-17 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sept. 25. Ryan Jensen, who madehis first start of the season for Lewis on Sunday, was flagged once for holding and once for a false start and was part of an offensive line that allowed quarterback Joe Flacco to get sacked twice and hit four other times.
Harbaugh said Lewis was part of the offensive line protecting kicker Justin Tucker on field goals and extra points Sunday.
“We had him in a backup role,” Harbaugh said. “We felt like without the practice time and coming off a concussion, reps, all those kinds of things for a rookie was a little tough to put him in the starting spot. We just felt like the guys who practiced would do a little better in that role. So he’s back.” Harbaugh would like a do-over: Harbaugh acknowledged that he would have done things differently regarding a penalty against the Raiders in the fourth quarter.
On third down-and-1 from the Ravens’ 20-yard line, the defense stopped running back Latavius Murray for a 5-yard loss. But Harbaugh chose to accept a 16-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on Oakland right guard Gabe Jackson. The Raiders converted a first down on third-and-17, and eventually got a 13-yard touchdown from quarterback Derek Carr to wide receiver Michael Crabtree to take a 21-12 advantage.
Harbaugh said after the game that the intent was to drive Oakland and kicker Sebastian Janikowski further back for a potential field-goal attempt. He said he considered declining the penalty.
“What you try to do, is you try to back them up and make it a tougher kick from an angle perspective,” Harbaugh said. “I wanted to keep it as a field-goal game. Looking back on it, it wasn’t the right decision. I didn’t really believe, I didn’t really have a sense that that many points were going to be scored down the stretch. It didn’t seem like it was going to be played that way. It seemed like it was going to come down to a field goal right there. I wanted to keep it in that range. Looking back on it, I would have done it differently, in hindsight.” End zone: In addition to Lewis, rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley missed his first start of his career because of a foot injury that has affected him for roughly two weeks. Harbaugh did not outline a timetable for the return of the sixth overall pick in the 2016 draft. “We’ve just got to keep working on his foot,” Harbaugh said. “I know Ronnie says he could have played, and he probably could have, and he could probably play this week. We just have to see how we decide to do it along with what the doctors say, and we’ll figure it out.” … Before Flacco’s final pass to wide receiver Kamar Aiken was batted away by Oakland free safety Reggie Nelson to seal the Ravens’ loss, Tucker could have lined up for what would have been a field-goal attempt of 67 or 68 yards on fourth-and-10 from the 50. But Harbaugh said that option was not seriously considered. “I felt like we needed to try to get the first down there,” he said. “I can see your point, but that would have been asking a lot on a grass field that was a little soft.” … Harbaugh said tight end Maxx Williams, who left Sunday’s game in the second quarter, is dealing with a cartilage problem in his knee. “It’s not something that can be fixed until it’s fixed,” Harbaugh said. “So it’s just something he’s got to play with and play through. The doctors have to tell us what’s the best course of action going forward. He can still play, but is it the best thing for him and all that? Wehave to figure all of that out.” … Tight end Darren Waller is eligible to return from his four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on substance abuse. The team would have to release a player if it added Waller to the active roster, but has until Monday before making a decision.