Ques­tion of start­ing RB re­mains open

LG Lewis could have played; Har­baugh re­grets de­ci­sion to ac­cept Raiders penalty

Baltimore Sun - - RAVENS & NFL - By Ed­ward Lee ed­ward.lee@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/Ed­wardLeeSun

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.

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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