Here's a roundup of what the national media are saying about the Ravens:
• ESPN.com's John Clayton says Jonathan Ogden's retirement represents the end of a great blocking era that started with Ogden's draft class in 1996:
What made the 6-foot-9, 345-pound tackle so great was that he was so much more dominating than those who went against him. He towered over his opponents but was able to lower his basketball-style body into blocking stances that prevented even the shortest defensive ends from getting past him. His ability to consistently nullify the opponent's right defensive end or best pass-rusher without blocking help from teammates opened up offenses to where they are today.
• BaltimoreRavens.com collected commentary from various players and coaches that battled against Ogden, including Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor:
"Jonathan Ogden was simply the best. He set the standard. The man was an absolute giant on the field, and I always looked forward to playing him because I knew he would bring the best out of me. He's a great guy as well ... just never mistake his meekness for weakness!"
Former Steelers coach Bill Cowher also weighed in on Ogden's legacy:
"Jonathan is, without a doubt, a Hall of Fame player who is one of the very best left tackles in NFL history. We couldn't beat him with speed rushers, and he would just engulf power rushers. Those long arms, the great feet, the strength -- he has it all. I also got to know him at some Pro Bowls. What a class act and a good person. It was such a pleasure to get to know him. He's everything the league wants in a Hall of Fame player, on and off the field."
• SI.com's Nina Mandell says Ogden's retirement marks the end of an era in Baltimore:
When Ogden, the 11-time Pro Bowler who had the thankless job of blocking for questionably talented quarterbacks, announced his retirement this week, it was just another sign that the era of that heroic team is over, headed to the annals of history just like the Orioles' success stories of the 80s. Ray Lewis spent the end of last season trying to play through a painful arm injury. The coaching staff was dismantled due to subpar performance, as the team finished 1-6 in the last seven games of the season. And Jamal Lewis, for the first time in his professional career, spent last season on a team other than the Ravens.The media is running with the storyline about how four potential Hall of Famers -- Brett Favre, Michael Strahan, Warren Sapp and Ogden -- retired in the same offseason. While accurate, it's more noteworthy to me that Ogden is retiring as a player absolutely beloved by Baltimore fans. He was an unselfish lineman who embodied the same blue-collar work ethic as the city he represented.
• USA Today's Larry Weisman remembers what made Ogden special both on and off the field:
Ogden's physical dimensions never obscured his other outsized attributes. A prodigious reader, Ogden rarely traveled without books, magazines or a laptop. He set up the Jonathan Ogden Foundation to aid high school youth in Baltimore and also added "The Ogden Club" at a number of those schools to encourage participation in academic and civic pur-suits. His annual charity golf tournament is today (Friday).Those aspects of Ogden moved Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome to thank him "for the way he carried himself off the field and all the contributions he has made to the city of Baltimore."Ogden lent considerably more to the franchise, when it abandoned its roots as the Cleveland Browns and moved to Baltimore to become the Ravens in 1996. Ogden was the first player drafted by the new team.
• Ross Tucker of SI.com says the NFL statute that kept Ravens rookie quarterback Joe Flacco out of team minicamps is an ineffective policy, but Flacco isn't neccessarily the greatest victim.
Though much of the focus will be placed on first-round picks such as Flacco and [Vernon] Gholston, the truth is late-round draft picks and undrafted college free agents are the players most likely to be adversely affected by the rule. While Flacco and Gholston don't have to worry about earning a roster spot, the majority of rookies do.
OTAs have become such an important component of the preparation for an NFL season that a seventh-round pick or college free agent can ill afford to miss any opportunity to show what he has to offer. These players are facing an uphill battle from the start. Falling behind mentally and losing out on precious repetitions could become fatal to their NFL dreams.
• Tucker also says quarterback Kyle Boller is the one Raven who must produce early in the 2008 season if he wants to keep his starting spot:
Kyle Boller, QB, Baltimore Ravens: This one is a little too obvious. Boller is likely just keeping the seat warm for Joe Flacco unless he produces in a Derek Anderson-like fashion to begin the season.
• The Buffalo News' Allen Wilson breaks down the AFC North and feels the Ravens' offseason moves are likely to pay dividends:
New coach John Harbaugh promises to run a tighter ship than laid-back Brian Billick did. Ravens hope the strong-armed Flacco end decade-long search for a franchise quarterback. It would help if [Steve] McNair was still around to mentor him. Underrated [Ray] Rice, [Oniel] Cousins and [Tavares] Gooden will get a chance to contribute early. [Fabian] Washington is a substantial upgrade at nickel back.
• Mike Florio of the Sporting News lists the Ravens as his No. 1 choice to "crash" the playoffs this season:
With an unsettled quarterback position and a young offensive line that will be without future Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden, it's easy to overlook the presumably rebuilding Ravens. But the team still has a defense built to play into January, and, after some uncertainty in January, defensive coordinator Rex Ryan opted to return. As the Steelers and Browns struggle through crippling schedules, the Ravens will be in position to sneak up on opponents expecting a breeze of a game.
• Tom Curran and Gregg Rosenthal of NBC Sports aren't sure John Harbaugh is the right coach to lead the Ravens:
New head coach John Harbaugh seems a tremendously nice man. Trouble is, at this juncture, the Ravens may need a jerk more than a decent, smart football guy. The team's rudder needs to carefully removed from the grip of Ray Lewis. It happens. But can Harbaugh affect that necessary change?
• Paul Kuharsky of The Tennessean writes that the Ravens have a good chance to go from "worst to first" in the AFC North this season:
Reasons for optimism: New coach John Harbaugh brings a different vibe than his predecessor and inherits a team with a lot of quality pieces on defense, even if some are aging. RBs Willis McGahee and rookie Ray Rice could provide a nice one-two punch for a team that will need an effective ground game as it tries to buy time to sort out its quarterback situation under new coordinator Cam Cameron.Reasons for doubt: While they could jump ahead of Cincinnati, both Pittsburgh and Cleveland will make it tough for Baltimore to move all the way up in the AFC North. Ray Lewis, Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle are getting old, though young corners were brought in, and Terrell Suggs may be disgruntled if a dispute over his franchise tag isn't resolved.
[Compiled by Kyle Goon and Dan Morrison]Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun