Backup quarterback Marc Bulger refuted an ESPN broadcast crew's characterization of his emotional and mental state before the Ravens' 17-12 victory over the Carolina Panthers in the preseason opener for both teams on Thursday night.
According to Pro Football Talk, play-by-play guy Mike Tirico of the ESPN Monday Night Football broadcast team called Bulger a "defeated guy" after enduring a 5-30 record as a starter with the St. Louis Rams. Color analyst and former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski described a meeting with Bulger.
"We walked into that meeting, and it was like, 'I'm not sure I want to play; I'm not sure I'll be here next year,'" Jaworski recalled. "I just didn't see the passion, the enthusiasm you have to play at this level, to work at it week in, week out. Maybe he'll get it back."
Bulger denied feeling "defeated" in an interview after Saturday's practice at McDaniel College in Westminster.
"If that's the way they feel, that's really not the way I was intending," Bulger said. "They asked me a lot about my time with the Rams, and the last three years were difficult. So I was just being honest with them, and I just said that it's not a lot of fun winning five games in three years, and it's not fun going to work, and football wasn't fun. But it had nothing to do with passion. I asked for my release this year to go and win somewhere, and they asked me if this was a steppingstone to go somewhere else. I just said, 'I don't know what I'm going to do after this year.' I'm just being honest. I was trying to make the point that this year, I came here to have fun, win football games, and I'm not using Baltimore to go somewhere else. I'm just focused on this year and the Ravens and the next five to six months. That's pretty much what I said, and I don't take back anything I said."
Bulger, who was signed to a one-year, $3.8 million deal by the Ravens, completed 5-of-12 passes for 67 yards, was sacked once, lost a fumble, and finished with a 60.1 passer rating against Carolina. Even so, coach John Harbaugh said he has yet to meet the Bulger described by ESPN.
"I see nothing but an energetic, competitve guy who loves football," Harbaugh said. "This guy has come out here every single day, and he's gotten after it. He's competitive, he's into everything we do, he competes every single day, he competed in the game, he was excited about the good throws in the game, he was disappointed with the bad plays. He's done a great job."
After Harbaugh's statement, senior vice president of public and community relations Kevin Byrne said Jaworski's comments were based on a meeting the former quarterback had with Bulger when Bulger was still playing for the Rams. Byrne emphasized that the meeting was not the same one prior to Thursday night's contest.
Bulger did not seem bothered by ESPN's account.
"As long as my coaches and my teammates know that I come out and practice hard every day and that I study hard and I'm having fun, I really don't worry about what other people say," he said. "But as long as my teammates and coaches know it, that's really the guys you've got to convince because you're going to battle with them, and I think they see how I work and they see how I'm having fun and how proud I am to be a Raven. I said that after the first week and even moreso now."
Gaither to sit out
Offensive tackle Jared Gaither has been diagnosed with a tear in his back and will likely miss the next two to three weeks.
Harbaugh said Gaither flew to California earlier in the week to see another back specialist, who found what Harbaugh called "a very small tear" during his examination of Gaither who has not practiced since Aug. 5.
"I don't know the medical term for it," Harbaugh said. "It's not a serious thing, but it's going to keep him out for a couple weeks until it settles down because it's what's causing the spasms apparently. He's going to have to work as hard as he can, and we'll have to try to work it out. I wouldn't hold my breath for about two weeks, three weeks through camp here and then we'll see where we're at at that point."
Oniel Cousins, who started at right tackle Thursday night, will likely remain the starter there for the remainder of the preseason.
New long snapper
Morgan Cox is the Ravens' new primary long snapper, and the coaching staff is confident that the rookie from the University of Tennessee can replace Matt Katula, who was waived Saturday to make room for rookie cornerback Brad Jones.
Katula, who was about to enter the third year of a five-year extension that he had signed with the team in 2008, had battled tendinitis in his right forearm and elbow last season. He was the only player not to play against Carolina, but Harbaugh said Katula's health was not a concern.
"Matt's a very good snapper," Harbaugh said. "There's no question that he can do it in this league. There's a couple things that I think he's still working on and that he's cleaning up a little bit from last year. We have a younger guy that looked good, and that's kind of sometimes the nature of the business. But talking to Matt this morning, he understood, and I'm very confident he'll be snapping with somebody this year."
Surprising day off
Harbaugh shocked the team with his decision to cancel Sunday's slate of morning and afternoon practices.
Harbaugh said the players were so surprised that their response was sort of muted.
"They didn't say much, they didn't really respond. I think they were looking for the catch," Harbaugh said. But the truth is, I don't think it's a reward. I think it's where we're at right now. It's a reward in the sense that they've earned it. We have worked really hard throughout training camp — coaches and players — and I think the best thing for us is a little recovery time. We pack a lot of work into every single practice, and I like where we are as a football team. Really, the best thing for us is to give them a chance to get a jump-start on their legs."