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Harbaugh backs suspensions for helmet-to-helmet hits

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he would back the NFL in suspending players who deliver helmet-to-helmet hits.

Vice president of football operations Ray Anderson told The Associated Press Monday that the league is considering suspending players in an effort to prevent and discourage the kind of violent hits that popped up in several games Sunday. Harbaugh concurred.

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"I think we're all responsible to adhere to the rules, the letter of the law and the spirit of the law as much as we can – especially when it comes to injuries," Harbaugh said. "I'd be disappointed if one of our guys got suspended, and I would think that they'd do something in terms of – I doubt that would be a one-strike-and-you're-out kind of thing – but if you become a repeat offender trying to hurt guys – and I'm not saying he is, I'm just generally speaking – that's something that would need to be addressed probably with suspensions. I'd be for that."

The "he" Harbaugh was referring to was New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather, who launched himself into tight end Todd Heap and made helmet-to-helmet contact in the second quarter.

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Heap suffered what was described as a shoulder sprain and missed just five plays, but Harbaugh said the organization would seek clarification from the league about that collision.

"We'll send those things in," Harbaugh said. "We had a chance to talk to the league this morning about a number of things, and that was one of them. There were some issues there. The thing we try to coach our guys to do is basically hit in the strike zone and try to make an effort to do that and keep your head out of it. And it's not just safety for your opponent – which it is – it's safety for yourself. When you start throwing your head in there like that, you're putting yourself at risk, and also your opponent. And it's just not good football. So that's something that we try to do a good job of with our guys."

Other notes:

*While Ravens linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady exchanged verbal barbs both on and off the field, Harbaugh expressed his admiration for New England and coach Bill Belichick. "Well, I talked to Coach Belichick, and he said he wanted to see us again," Harbaugh said, which differed greatly from Lewis' and Suggs' contentions that the Patriots should avoid a rematch with the Ravens in the playoffs. "And we both laughed about it because there's a lot of respect for both teams, there's no question about it. I feel like they respect us, and I know we respect them. That's why that win up there was so meaningful to the Ravens last year, because of the respect we have for that football team. We'll probably get a chance to play them again. I know we will at some point in time, and we look forward to it."

*The Patriots adjusted their defensive coverage to a Cover-2 alignment in the second half in an effort to disrupt the Ravens' offensive rhythm. The change seemed to work, but Harbaugh defended offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's play-calling, which is being characterized as conservative in some circles. "If you understand the coverage that they were playing, we had good plays called," Harbaugh said. "We had downfield routes called against it. The checkdown is always really good against that if the downfield routes don't express themselves, and we had runs called against it, which you like against a three-man rush, especially some draws. So I don't think there was anything conservative about it. I don't think we executed it, I don't we did a great enough job as coaches to explain to our players exactly how to attack it. We look at this thing, and that's what we do all morning. We look at it and say, 'You know what, what can we do better as coaches and players to solve that issue?' Here's a team that had two weeks to prepare for us, and they had a couple pretty good ideas against us. They jammed our tight ends up pretty good. Those are all things that I think if we look at very carefully, we grow from."

*Harbaugh did not second-guess the call to have quarterback Joe Flacco attempt a sneak on third down-and-1 from the Ravens' 47-yard line. But Harbaugh did say that the offense should've been able to get the first down. "There's no reason that you can't get six inches on third-and-6-inches with all of us together figuring out how to do that, and that's something we have to do," he said. "We don't want to get stopped on third-and-6-inches anymore."

*After Flacco was stopped, the team elected to punt rather than go for it on fourth-and-1. "It was a decision, and I think it could've gone either way," Harbaugh said. "In hindsight, by virtue of the fact that they drove the ball down the length of the field, pretty easy to make that decision in hindsight. At the time, we had the lead, I liked the way our defense was playing. I think we stopped them three times after that, so it wasn't like we couldn't stop them. But if we had gone for it, there was a good chance we would've made it because it was fourth-and-6-inches."

*Le'Ron McClain's personal-foul penalty for shoving Patriots outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham in overtime contributed to the team's offensive woes in the extra period, but Harbaugh said he wasn't angry with the fullback for letting his emotions get the best of him. "I don't get frustrated," he said. "I think that it's something that you work with. It's not something that helped us. You can get mad about it, you can get disappointed about it. It's not helpful. That's 10 yards that we don't need to re-gain. And the thing that we talk to our guys – as a matter of fact, we showed a tape on Saturday about some things around the NFL – the retaliation always gets called, and that's what you have to understand. There's a whole lot of talking, there's a whole lot of grabbing going on in there, and you just can't retaliate. That's what emotional control is all about, and we have to be 100 percent passionate and 100 percent in control of our emotions at all times."

*Rookie Ed Dickson was called for holding on a kick return, and Cary Williams was flagged for an illegal-block-in-the-back penalty on a punt return in overtime. Harbaugh expressed disappointment in the frequency of penalties cropping up during kick and punt returns, and he vowed to make personnel changes with violators taking seats on the bench. "If you can't block without holding a guy on special teams, if you can't tell that that's his back and not his front, then you can't play for us," he said. "It's just that simple."

*Harbaugh said the decision to deactivate cornerback Josh Wilson was designed to preserve the hamstring that he strained in last week's 31-17 victory over the Denver Broncos. "It was a situation where when Josh felt like he opened up to his top speed, it was a possibility that it [the hamstring] would go," Harbaugh said. "So I don't think we had to risk him in that situation and lose him for a few weeks." Harbaugh did not get into specifics about injuries to players like free safety Tom Zbikowski (bruised heel) and linebacker Edgar Jones (shoulder). "There's nothing really definitive," Harbaugh said. "It doesn't look like there's anything real serious, but we've got a couple MRIs out there today. So we don't have anything defined right now."

*Speaking of Zbikowski, his role will likely be reduced when six-time Pro Bowl free safety Ed Reed returns for his first game this season. But Harbaugh said he hopes Zbikowski will continue to be an integral part on defense and special teams. "I'd like to say yeah, because he's played so well," Harbaugh said. "And Haruki's in that mix, and Ken Hamlin's in that mix. We've got some depth there, and we always do packages for guys where we'll be mixing guys in. So we'll just have to figure that out this week, and some of it will have to go with Tom's heel and how it plays out with that."

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