Will Hill's release, suspension disappointing after Ravens had provided support for him

Ravens safety Will Hill, right, tackles Melvin Gordon of the San Diego Chargers in the fourth quarter on Nov. 1, 2015, at M&T Bank Stadium.
Ravens safety Will Hill, right, tackles Melvin Gordon of the San Diego Chargers in the fourth quarter on Nov. 1, 2015, at M&T Bank Stadium. (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)

When the Ravens released safety Will Hill last week right before his league suspension for substance abuse, it was a major disappointment because of the time invested by the organization.

In the 20 years that the Ravens have been in Baltimore, few players have been provided with more support from the organization than Hill.


The suspension was his fourth since he came into the league in 2012. Hill, 26, was released by the team Wednesday even though he had signed a two-year, $7 million contract extension with the Ravens in August.

"You have to look at each case on an individual basis," said Lew Lyon, vice president at MedStar Sports Medicine, who added that he had never met Hill. "You have to look at the resources, if the family and friends are feeding off of him or helping him. What you see on the field is not real life."


Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome is known for giving players second chances and he, along with head coach John Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Dean Pees, seemed to have established strong relationships with Hill.

In fact, Hill's family was allowed to attend training camp practices and they sometimes ate regularly with the team in the summer. Only one player in the team's history was ever given those privileges and that was former offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, the first player drafted by the Ravens. His father regularly attended practices in his rookie year and even stood on the field behind the huddle.

Hill had lost some playing time at the end of last season, but he still started 14 games and finished with 64 tackles. He did have several of the team's top hits in 2015, but he apparently could never overcome off-the-field problems that plagued him throughout his NFL and college careers.


"He probably got the same treatment in high school and college, and when they got to the pros he thought they would fix it," said Lyon. "With pro athletes, they have that sense of immortality and they have that tendency to push the envelope."

Aging Ravens

The free-agent acquisitions the Ravens have made so far during the off-season have been solid, but hopefully they don't end up like Indianapolis last season after the Colts signed several from the 30-something crowd.

The Ravens have added tight end Ben Watson, 35; safety Eric Weddle, 31; and speedy receiver Mike Wallace, 29. Combined with outside linebackers Elvis Dumervil, 32; Terrell Suggs, 33; and receiver Steve Smith, 36, the Ravens have to be one of the oldest teams in the NFL.

But of a bigger concern is that the Ravens still haven't filled three of their biggest needs at cornerback, left offensive tackle and finding a pass rusher.

There are rumors the Ravens might be involved in a trade for Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas, 31. Thomas can still play at a high level, but his best years are behind him.

No extra challenges

As team owners meet in Boca Raton, Fla., this week, I hope they don't allow any more plays to be reviewed or extra challenges in a game.

Enough is enough.

Right now, a team is allowed two challenges a game and if they win both, they are awarded a third. But these challenges and replays slow down a game that has already become boring.

It is hard watching a lot of these games now with the watered-down talent and overall average play. The owners don't need to add to the misery.

Ban cut blocking

The NFL, though, should ban cut blocking.

A lot of teams still use it, especially those like Denver with its zone blocking run game. When Gary Kubiak was the Ravens offensive coordinator in 2014, the Ravens were good at chopping down opponents from the backside, which limits the amount of pursuit.

I have always thought cut blocking put defensive players at risk, and this is a league that likes to say it is concerned with player safety first. Well, let's see if the owners mean it.

Plus, if offensive linemen became better technically, they don't need to cut block. Ogden didn't cut block. Thomas doesn't cut block.

Griffin would fit in with Browns

Robert Griffin III would be a good fit in Cleveland with new head coach Hue Jackson.

The problem with Griffin is that he can't read the entire defensive field. He played in a spread offense in college at Baylor, and former Washington head coach Mike Shanahan designed a similar offense when they drafted Griffin with the No. 2 overall pick in 2012.

But once Shanahan was replaced by Jay Gruden in 2014, the Redskins went back to a pro style offense. In college, Griffin only had to read half of a field. With Gruden, he had to look over the entire defense, and that was a problem.

Jackson has worked well with quarterbacks and he had a good relationship with Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco when he was his quarterback coach in 2008. And if Jackson made Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton a success, he can help Griffin.


Recommended on Baltimore Sun