Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Jeff Zre­biec

De­spite in­juries to key play­ers and a third straight de­feat Sun­day, Ravens coach John Har­baugh says he is op­ti­mistic about the team’s chances for the 2016 sea­son.

Rea­sons for the Ravens to be con­cerned about the fu­ture of their 2016 sea­son seemed to multiply in Sun­day’s 27-23 loss to the New York Giants.

A de­fense that has been the team’s big­gest strength was scorched, mainly by Eli Man­ning and Odell Beck­ham Jr., for 435 yards and two long sec­ond-half touch­down passes. Even with a new of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, the Ravens couldn’t avoid the penal­ties that cost them ev­ery week, and couldn’t score on four plays inside the Giants’ 3-yard line. An al­ready de­pleted ros­ter lost its top cor­ner­back (Jimmy Smith) and top pass rusher (Ter­rell Suggs) to in­juries.

Coach John Har­baugh ac­knowl­edged that two of his most ac­com­plished and tough­est play­ers — Suggs, who tore his left bi­cep, and right guard Mar­shal

Yanda, who is deal­ing with a shoul­der in­jury that forced him to miss the game against the Giants — are un­likely to play Sun­day at the New York Jets.

Yet, as he spoke to re­porters roughly 24 hours af­ter his team’s third straight loss, Har­baugh struck an op­ti­mistic tone, and he wasn’t apol­o­giz­ing for it.

“I don’t think I have to stand up­here and jus­tify my rea­sons for be­ing op­ti­mistic,” he said. “Any­body that wants to write the doom and gloom ar­ti­cle, that’s fine. Write it. But look around the league. This is the Na­tional Foot­ball League. This is a tough league. I’m not wring­ing my hands, be­cause I know what kind of play­ers we­have. I know what kinds of coaches we have. I know what kind of league this is. You un­der­stand that this is a long sea­son. There are 10 games left to play, 10 op­por­tu­ni­ties for us to get rolling. The thing that I’m most ex­cited about is the fact that the things that are our prob­lems are eas­ily cor­rectable.”

Har­baugh’s big­gest laments af­ter the Giants game were the num­ber of big plays the Ravens al­lowed, and their con­tin­ued pen­chant for com­mit­ting penal­ties on of­fense and special teams. The de­fense, which had sur­ren­dered the fewest pass plays of 25-plus yards in the NFL head­ing into the game, al­lowed Beck­ham three re­cep­tions of over 40 yards in the sec­ond half. Two of them went for touch­downs, in­clud­ing a 66-yard score that gave the Giants a four-point lead with 1:24 to play.

The Ravens could have pulled away had they not com­mit­ted 15 penal­ties for 111 yards. They lead the league with 52 penal­ties.

“I’m ex­cited about where the sea­son is go­ing to go, with­out ques­tion,” Har­baugh said. “I know ex­actly what needs to be done and what needs to be cor­rected, but we’ve got to get it cor­rected. It’s not a mys­tery, it’s not new, it’s not news. It’s the same thing it’s been. We will keep just pound­ing away at the things we have to do bet­ter and the things we have to elim­i­nate to play win­ning foot­ball. No matter how long it takes us in prac­tice or no matter who it takes us to do it with, we’re go­ing to con­tinue to do that. We’re go­ing to get that down. That’s where we’re at.”

The Ravens (3-3) can take com­fort in the knowl­edge that, even with their re­cent slide, they are still in sec­ond place in the AFC North, a game be­hind the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers (4-2). Pitts­burgh, which hosts the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots on Sun­day, just had its star quar­ter­back, Ben Roeth­lis­berger, un­dergo knee surgery. The dis­ap­point­ing Cincin­nati Ben­gals (2-4) are in third place.

How­ever, the Ravens’ task of re­bound­ing, even against the strug­gling Jets, is made more dif­fi­cult by their myr­iad in­juries. Wide re­ceiver Steve Smith Sr. (an­kle), left tackle Ron­nie Stan­ley (foot), Yanda, out­side line­backer Elvis Dumervil (foot), inside line­backer C.J. Mosley (ham­string) and re­turn spe­cial­ist Devin Hester Sr. (thigh) missed Sun­day’s game against the Giants. A few of those play­ers, in­clud­ing Yanda and Dumervil, are not ex­pected back by Sun­day ei­ther.

The Ravens’ in­jury list grew against the Giants when they lost Suggs, Jimmy Smith (con­cus­sion) and slot cor­ner­back Jer­raud Pow­ers (groin).

“He’s played with that in­jury be­fore, so he has a chance to come back soon,” Har­baugh said of Suggs, who played through a right bi­cep tear dur­ing the 2012 Su­per Bowl sea­son. “How­soon re­mains to be de­ter­mined. I’m not go­ing to say any­thing for this week yet. I think this week will be tough for him, but I don’t put any­thing on Ter­rell Suggs as im­pos­si­ble [with] his abil­ity to over­come. So we’ll see how that goes.”

Suggs has told team­mates and coaches that he’ll play through the in­jury, and he said Sun­day, “What­ever it is, you know who I am and you know what I rep­re­sent.” How­ever, the in­jury could ob­vi­ously af­fect Suggs’ abil­ity to set the edge and shrug off of­fen­sive line­men.

“If it’s a par­tial tear, other than the pain, the only risk is that he can com­pletely tear it,” said Dr. Luga Podesta, a di­rec­tor of sports medicine at St. Charles Ortho­pe­dics in New York and a former train­ing camp med­i­cal con­sul­tant for the Dal­las Cow­boys and New Or­leans Saints. “There’s not much to do. He can play with it rel­a­tively quickly if it’s up high. [John] El­way played pretty much his whole ca­reer with a par­tial tear of his bi­ceps un­til it ac­tu­ally tore in his throw­ing arm. [Suggs] is more of a strength-type player. He’ll lose some of that strength.”

Har­baugh said he hasn’t been told that Suggs needs surgery. If the team’s long­est-tenured mem­ber misses any ex­tended time, it will be a sig­nif­i­cant blow to the Ravens, who have strug­gled all year to mount a pass rush. The Ravens only have 11 sacks, and Suggs has five of them. The Ravens don’t have an­other line­backer with a sack.

“It’s the challenge of the sport, es­pe­cially in the Na­tional Foot­ball League,” Har­baugh said. “It’s just the way it is. Ev­ery­body’s deal­ing with it. From one week to the next, different teams have different chal­lenges. This was our tough­est week, no ques­tion. But yet, still to my eye, we should have won the foot­ball game with the guys we were play­ing. We don’t put any­body on the field that we don’t be­lieve is ca­pa­ble of win­ning. If they prove us wrong, then we’re go­ing to put some­body else on. But the guys that go out there and play are guys we put out there be­cause we be­lieve they can win the game for us.”


Ravens coach John Har­baugh, hands on knees, as­sis­tants and play­ers look on late in the 27-23 loss to the New York Giants on Sun­day.

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