Ravens hire Rosburg as special-teams coach

OWINGS MILLS -- In a move of distinct importance to new head coach John Harbaugh, the Baltimore Ravens hired Jerry Rosburg as special-teams coordinator Wednesday. Harbaugh has a nine-year background as an NFL special-teams coach, and he gave his stamp of approval to his longtime friend.

Rosburg, 52, spent last year coaching the Atlanta Falcons' special teams after a previous six-year stint overseeing the Cleveland Browns' kicking game. He replaces Frank Gansz, who was fired Dec. 31 along with coach Brian Billick and the entire staff.

"We think the same way on special teams and as coaches," Harbaugh said. "Jerry's a football coach, and he's proven a lot in this league."

Meanwhile, the Ravens retained three more coaches from last year's staff.

Harbaugh promoted Mark Carrier to coach the entire secondary as a replacement for former defensive backs coach Dennis Thurman, also keeping tight ends coach Wade Harman and Vic Fangio as a special assistant to the head coach.

Including defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, defensive line coach Clarence Brooks and outside linebackers coach Mike Pettine, Harbaugh has hired six holdovers from Billick's staff.

"Mark brings a real toughness to the secondary, a real credibility with those guys and they really respect him," Harbaugh said.

Harman has coached the Ravens' tight ends for the past nine seasons, working with Todd Heap and Shannon Sharpe during that period.

Plus, a few other assistants from the old staff are under consideration for jobs.

"This was a very good football staff," Harbaugh said. "We are still up in the air with a couple of the guys."

Rosburg, who worked at the University of Cincinnati with Harbaugh where they split special-teams duties, had a lot of success with the Browns where he coached highly-regarded return specialists Joshua Cribbs and Dennis Northcutt and kicker Phil Dawson.

In 2006, the Browns ranked among the top 15 in punt return average, kickoff return average and net punting average. During the previous season, the Browns led the NFL in special-teams scoring.

"There's a lot of things special teams can do to help a team win: change field position, score, all those things," Rosburg said. "But one of those things that I think is a prime function of special teams is also to create and change momentum.

"We want to be a hard-hitting, fast, exciting, active special teams. By doing so, I think that it also spreads to the rest of the team. I think the special teams has an extremely important role in the personality and character of the team."

Last year under Rosburg, the Falcons ranked second in kickoffs, sixth in kickoff returns and sixth in net punting average.

The Ravens ranked ninth in punt return average and 10th in kickoff return average last season as return specialist Yamon Figurs was one of five players to return a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown. The special teams features veteran kicker Matt Stover.

"There are a lot of real good athletes that play the game the way it was intended to be played -- very physically and with a lot of emotion, a lot of excitement," Rosburg said. "That's something that I'd like to carry on here. We all know that this roster has players on it, and I look forward to working with a lot of them."

Rosburg said he wasn't concerned about Harbaugh looking over his shoulder since he's coaching a unit that's the head coach's primary area of expertise.

"I don't think it's pressure, frankly," Rosburg said. "To bounce things off of John is really a bonus. I'm fortunate to have John as my boss, but, not only that, as my confidant. I think having John in the office down the hall is going to be a great resource."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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