The rule change the Ravens proposed, prohibiting defensive players on punts from pushing teammates into the offensive formation at the line of scrimmage, got the necessary votes for approval Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings.
However, there has been no resolution on the proposed rule change that is being closely linked to the Ravens. The NFL competition committee has proposed to "make it illegal for an offensive player with an eligible number to report as ineligible, and line up outside the core of the formation."
The New England Patriots used the tactic in their 35-31 victory in the AFC divisional playoff round, leaving the Ravens struggling to adjust. If the proposal gets 75 percent of the vote from NFL owners Wednesday, the tactic would be prohibited going forward, and that would be just fine with Ravens head coach John Harbaugh.
"[Former NFL coach] John Madden proposed it and the coaches pretty much all supported it," Harbaugh said at the NFL owners meetings at the Arizona Biltmore resort. "We have jersey numbers for a reason. Let's use it, like they do in college. That was John Madden's proposal and I like that proposal.
"Certain jersey numbers are eligible numbers and certain jersey numbers are ineligible numbers. If you're eligible, you put on an eligible number. If you're ineligible, you put on an ineligible number. They do it in college and they did it in the NFL up until, I don't know, I'm going to guess the 60s. … Now, we go through kind of a circus act where we have to identify who is ineligible and who is not with signals. That's what got the referees in trouble in the playoffs."
The passing of the Ravens' proposal was one of five changes made that were designed to improve player safety. Meanwhile, many of the proposals involving alterations to instant replay were defeated.
"We thought it should be in there to begin with, just because, if you're going to do it with the field goals, why not do it with the punts?," Harbaugh said of the proposal. "It's more of a clean-up type of a proposal. It's not the end of the world if it doesn't pass. We just thought it made sense."
Confident in Jernigan
Harbaugh spent the first couple minutes of his talk with reporters fielding questions about the loss of defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and the impact he expected his former player to make with his new team, the Detroit Lions.
Ultimately, Harbaugh got an opportunity to pledge confidence in second-year defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, the player who is expected to get the first chance to replace Ngata. The Ravens, needing salary cap flexibility, traded Ngata to the Lions this month for draft picks.
While the Ravens hated to lose their longtime standout, Jernigan's performance last season during Ngata's suspension cushioned some of the blow.
"I think Timmy Jernigan is a good young player," Harbaugh said. "Obviously, he has a lot of work to do and he acknowledges that, which is what I love about him. I have no doubts that he's going to give it his best shot and he's going to do well. The same thing with [nose tackle] Brandon Williams — he's proven himself. Then, we've got to create depth behind those guys, which we've done a good job of, signing the guys that we've signed in the offseason that we know and that we've been with us. There's no reason that we can't be a great defense and a great defensive front next year."
Elam in the crosshairs
Several weeks after general manager Ozzie Newsome said safety Matt Elam needs to play better, Harbaugh extended a similar challenge to the 2013 first-round pick, who was benched last year and has struggled to make a positive impact.
"Matt's very important because he's our first-round pick," Harbaugh said. "He's a talented football player and he wants to be a good player. He's got to become a good player. That's his burden to bare, along with us as coaches to do everything we can to help him get there. We're going to do our best to make that happen."
The Ravens felt like they got a lot out of their joint training camp practices with the San Francisco 49ers last year and Harbaugh has had discussions with different coaches about a similar arrangement this summer. However, nothing has materialized to this point. … Harbaugh provided no definitive updates on the status of the primary Ravens coming off injuries, aside from saying that right tackle Rick Wagner, who had foot surgery in December, is trying to return for training camp. As for tight end Dennis Pitta (hip), Harbaugh said, "In the end, really, it's going to be up to Dennis." … Harbaugh said it's far too early to make a decision on who will replace Jacoby Jones as the team's primary return man, but he indicated that Michael Campanaro will be in the mix. … Much to the enjoyment of several Detroit-area reporters, Harbaugh predicted his brother, Jim, now the head coach at the University of Michigan, will have the Wolverines "contending for the national championship shortly." … Harbaugh largely avoided questions about former running back Ray Rice not getting another chance in the NFL, saying only that he wishes Rice and his family well.