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New Raven Calais Campbell’s biggest challenge is battling age – Baltimore Ravens Blog

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — As the major new addition to the Baltimore Ravens‘ defense, Calais Campbell needs to beat such offensive tackles as Jack Conklin and Alejandro Villanueva in the AFC North.

Campbell’s biggest battle, however, is against his age. At 33, Campbell is the second-oldest defensive lineman currently under contract. Only New York Jets nose tackle Steve McLendon is older at 34.

Whenever an NFL player reaches this point of his career, the concerns about performance increase along with the questions about retirement. Former Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs often called this time “the back nine” of his career.

Campbell wants to make sure he’s honest with himself and always goes back to study his film from the previous year. He believes he’s in his “ultimate prime,” and his numbers back it up.

Over the past two decades, Campbell is one of three players to total more than 200 tackles and 30 sacks with multiple touchdowns after the age of 30. The others were Julius Peppers and Jason Taylor.

“I can still do everything I want to do, and I can come away or do something in a game situation that nobody does,” Campbell said in a conference call with Baltimore media. “That’s when I’ll start worrying, when I can’t do what I want to do. But as of now, I did trim my body up to make sure that I can have control over my body and do what I want to do. I just felt like mentally though, I’m so much more advanced than I have been in the past, and I think your prime is when you have the athleticism to take over a game, and the mentality to take over a game and the understanding of how to do it both at a high level. So, for me, my mindset has never been better; my understanding of the game and my matchup and how to win is at an all-time high, and my body can still do it.”

Campbell feels he’s much better than his younger days. There have been improvements in his anticipation as well as his technique in terms of playing with a lower pad level. Sure, he was more athletic a decade ago, but he hasn’t lost his flexibility.

Critics will point to Campbell’s decline in sacks over the past three seasons, from 14.5 to 10.5 to 6.5. But Campbell had the NFL’s fourth-highest pass rush win rate last season among players double-teamed at least 200 times. Campbell’s 16.4% success rate ranked only behind Aaron Donald (23.5%), Grady Jarrett (21.3%) and Chris Jones (18.4%).

“I’m pretty confident that as long as I can take care of my body, I should be able to be dominant in the near future,” Campbell said. “… For me, I know the whole world tries to tell you that one day it’s going to stop, but I know there are guys who did it at a high level who were older than me, so it can be done.”

Campbell has already shown how much of an immediate impact he can make. In the year before signing Campbell from the Arizona Cardinals, the Jaguars ranked 19th with 33 sacks in 2016. In the first season with Campbell, Jacksonville produced the second-most sacks in the league with 55.

The Ravens, who traded a fifth-round pick for Campbell on March 15, are banking on Campbell elevating their pass-rush this season after managing 37 sacks in 2019.

“Calais is a player we have long admired, even going back to the draft when he came out of college,” Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said. “He’s a natural fit for our defense and a versatile player who plays like a Raven.”

The respect is mutual, and Campbell proved it financially. Before free agency began, Campbell was informed four to five teams were interested in him. If he wanted to go to Baltimore, he would have to sign an extension and do it at a discounted rate.

“At the end of the day, I was more confident going to Baltimore even if I have to take less than going to another place,” Campbell said. “There are not many teams better. Baltimore went 14-2 last year and is a very talented, young team [with] a core nucleus of guys. This team could be very special for a good while here.”

Campbell signed a two-year, $25 million deal with Baltimore, and not everyone was happy with the contract. His agent believed Campbell could have received more than $20 million guaranteed, which ranks 21st among defensive ends.

But Campbell has only been on a playoff team in six of his 12 NFL seasons. The past two years, he suffered through 21 losses in Jacksonville.

Given his age, Campbell believed he gained more in taking less.

“I told [my agent] at this point in time in my career the main goal for me is winning,” Campbell said. “… I’m going to be 34 when the season starts, and that motivation when you’re training, starting to put the work in to be the best you can be, it gets harder and harder each year. And when you believe you can win, when you believe you have a chance to win a Super Bowl, it makes it just a little bit easier.”

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NFL vice president Troy Vincent pans launch of pass-interference replay

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NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent, in an interview with NBC Sports, acknowledged that the league “failed miserably” in its implementation of pass-interference replay reviews last season and that such failure would serve as a cautionary tale for the NFL not to rush out rule changes in the future.

Vincent’s comments came during a broader discussion of the “sky judge” proposal — the addition of a booth umpire to each officiating crew — a modified version of which is set to be voted on during Thursday’s NFL owners videoconference meeting.

“We cannot fail this year,” Vincent told NBC Sports. “We saw, a year ago, when (the pass-interference rule) played out, starting with myself, what we put in place last year … Those outcomes were not good for professional football. Because we didn’t do the proper due diligence, it played out publicly. The last thing people should be talking about is the way the game is officiated. They (officials) should be faceless objects, managing and facilitating game flow.

“We failed. I’m first in line. I shared that (with league officials). I failed, as the leader of that department. I failed. We cannot allow that to happen again. What did we learn from that? We’ve got to do our due diligence. You can’t rush and just shove something in there without knowing all the consequences. And we found that out last year, live and in action, publicly.

“We didn’t do (our due diligence) last year, and we failed, and we failed miserably.”

The NFL last year made the groundbreaking decision to allow coaches to challenge pass interference flags and non-calls in response to the controversial missed PI call that cost the New Orleans Saints against the Los Angeles Rams in the 2018 NFC Championship Game. The execution of the rule proved inconsistent, however, with the NFL overturning only 13 of the 81 pass interference-related plays that coaches challenged during the 2019 regular season. (Booth reviews resulted in reversals on 11 of 20 instances.)

The rule was passed on a one-year experimental basis, and last month the NFL competition committee declined to endorse its renewal.

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Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin likes incentivized Rooney Rule changes

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Mike Tomlin likes the discussion around an incentivized minority hiring process in the NFL.

On “Coffee with Cal,” hosted by Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari, on Monday morning, the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach said he likes the idea of a change to the Rooney Rule that rewards teams for hiring minority candidates.

“We’ve always taken it from the approach of, punitive if you don’t interview minority candidates or things of that nature,” said Tomlin, who is one of four minority head coaches in the NFL. “I just like the different approach in terms of spinning it 180 and talking about maybe incentivizing those that develop the talent and those that hire the talent.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean Tomlin is in favor of all the incentives recently discussed. NFL.com and ESPN reported earlier this month that owners were considering a proposal that would have improved teams’ third-round draft picks by 6 or 10 spots if they hired a minority candidate for vacant GM or head-coaching openings, along with other compensation for hiring minority candidates for roles like quarterbacks coach.

Those resolutions, though, were tabled during the a conference call last week that replaced the league’s annual May owners meetings.

“We’re making some adjustments because we’re acknowledging right now that the system is broken, that minorities are not getting enough opportunity,” Tomlin said. “And we’re trying to just figure out how to stimulate that. … I agree it’s debatable about the value placed on the incentivized plan, but I just generally like the discussion.”

The league did approve some new measures in that call with the goal of improving diversity in coaching and front-office hiring. Teams are now required to interview at least two candidates from outside their organization for any vacant head-coaching job and at least one minority candidate from outside their organization for any vacant offensive, defensive or special-teams coordinator job.

In the past, the Rooney Rule stipulated only one minority candidate be interviewed for head coach and none for a coordinator position.

The Rooney Rule was also expanded to some executive positions, requiring teams and the league office to interview “minorities and/or female applicants” for positions like team president and “senior executives in communications, finance, Human Resources, legal, football operations, sales, marketing, sponsorship, information technology and security.” And, to help strengthen the pool of candidates for minority head-coaching positions, every team is also required to establish a minority coaching fellowship program to “provide NFL Legends, minority and female participants with hands-on training in NFL coaching.”

Tomlin told Calipari that he will be talking with NBA coaches Tuesday about minority hiring.

“We have a problem with minority hiring, specifically in football,” Tomlin said. “But I guess that it’s an issue of minority hiring across a lot of industries and lines. I’m on with the NBA coaches tomorrow, actually, talking about things that are going on in our game with the Rooney Rule.”

Information from ESPN’s Dan Graziano was used in this report.

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How to watch Monday Night Football classics: Le’Veon Bell’s walk-off TD beats Chargers – Pittsburgh Steelers Blog

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Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin didn’t want to go for the tie.

So he went for the win, and with running back Le’Veon Bell lined up in the Wildcat, he got it.

With Bell’s outstretched arms, the Steelers beat the San Diego Chargers 24-20 on the final play of the 2015 Monday Night Football game.

The memorable game will be shown as part of the ongoing series of Monday Night Football classics. It kicks off at 8 p.m. ET Monday on ESPN.

“It was time to go to the mattresses, if you will,” Tomlin said after the game. “We had to do what was required to win. Le’Veon gave us an opportunity to win, and we were trying to do everything we could to move the football.

“We have to run the football. We have Le’Veon Bell. We had an opportunity to win the game. We’re on the road in a hostile environment. We’ve got to play to win, and that’s what we did.”

With five seconds left, the Steelers lined up at the 1-inch line, thanks to a big play by quarterback Michael Vick and tight end Heath Miller and an unnecessary roughness penalty against the Chargers.

The Steelers had one timeout to set up for a tying field goal, but they went with a gutsy, winning playcall instead: Bell lined up 7 yards deep to take the direct snap.

He gathered the ball and sprinted to the goal line, muscling his way forward to fight for the final inch needed to score the touchdown. Diving, he broke the plane as his knee landed on a defender’s arm and time expired.

“I got to get it in,” Bell said in 2015. “We still had a timeout left. I was thinking we still have a timeout left, so I’m thinking, ‘OK, maybe if I get stopped, maybe run like 4 seconds off and get a timeout, and we could kick a field goal.’ I wanted to end the game right there.”

The touchdown gave the Steelers a win over the Chargers — and they did it with Ben Roethlisberger on the sideline.

While Roethlisberger worked through a left knee injury sustained in the third quarter of a Week 3 win against the Rams, Vick took over quarterback duties. His first three quarters were dismal, but a 24-yard scramble — his first rush of the night — on the final drive of the game helped set up Bell’s winning touchdown. Vick also had a 72-yard touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton with 7:42 left in the quarter to tie it at 17.

“It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish,” Vick said then. He completed just 13 of 26 attempts for 203 yards with one touchdown and one interception and was sacked three times.

The game also featured the return of Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, playing in his first game of the season following a four-week suspension for PEDs. He scored his 100th and 101st career touchdowns that night, with the second coming in the high-octane fourth quarter.

The Monday night game marked the Steelers’ first trip to San Diego since 2006 and their final game in Qualcomm Stadium before the Chargers’ relocation to Los Angeles.

With the win, the Steelers moved to 3-2 on the season, and the Chargers dropped to 2-3.

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