Notebook: Ravens displeased with finish

OWINGS MILLS – Following an abrupt exit from the postseason Saturday night with a 20-3 AFC divisional playoff loss to the top-seeded Indianapolis Colts , the Baltimore Ravens cleaned out their lockers Monday morning. They didn't anticipate this somber situation unfolding where they were packing their belongings in huge trash bags and saying their goodbyes.

"I feel like such a loser coming in here," cornerback Chris Carr said. "When I was in Oakland, you would be out of it in Week 10 and it was kind of like a countdown. Everyone on this team was very optimistic and positive thinking. We thought that we could be in the Super Bowl. "So you lose the game, you kind of go home and wake up saying, ‘Man this is it.' It really kind of hits you when you come in here."

The Ravens made it to the AFC championship game last season, coming within one game of making it to the Super Bowl and thought they would do at least as well this year.

"We weren't expecting to be here answering these types of questions," cornerback Domonique Foxworth said. "It is what it is."

The Ravens conducted a final team meeting with coach John Harbaugh before being dismissed for the offseason.

"He was proud of everybody," Carr said. "He knows everybody played their hearts out the whole entire year. It was kind of like a somber tone, but also optimistic about next year, too. It was a good goodbye."

The Ravens finished 10-8 overall. They hold the 25th overall selection of the first round due to the New York Jets' upset win over the San Diego Chargers.

Despite a 33-14 AFC wild-card win over the New England Patriots, the Ravens largely consider this to be a season of unfulfilled expectations.

"Ultimately, I see it as we fell short of the goal we wanted to accomplish as a team and an organization," wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "If you don't win the Super Bowl, everything else is kind of meaningless in this sport."

The Ravens opened the season with three consecutive wins before losing six of their next nine games.

"I don't think we overachieved or underachieved," Carr said. "I think we're a good football team. There were just a couple of little things that would make us better to get over the hump. I don't' think there needs to be drastic change. "I just think if you improve on a couple of little things, it would make you a much better football team. Everybody's hungry. I think we'll be even better than we were this year. I think we can be another Super Bowl contender."

The Ravens lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers before qualifying for the playoffs as the sixth seed on the final day of the regular season with a win over the Oakland Raiders.

Against the Colts, four turnovers, seven penalties and Peyton Manning triggered a predictable result.

"I definitely wouldn't classify it as a successful season," Foxworth said. "It's very disappointing. I think we played a team we could have beat last weekend, but we didn't. It's still a little fresh, a little raw, so it doesn't feel like a successful season right now."

GREGG, JOHNSON TO HAVE SURGERY: Veteran nose guard Kelly Gregg will undergo shoulder surgery this week with Dr. James Andrews conducting the procedure.

The surgery is planned to repair a partially torn labrum suffered during the preseason. Gregg is expected to recover in plenty of time for next season.

After missing the entire 2008 season due to microfracture knee surgery, Gregg had a strong season.

He finished fourth on the team with 64 tackles to go with a career-high three sacks.

Gregg recorded 40 solo tackles, starting 14 games for the NFL's third-ranked defense.

Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson is also scheduled to undergo surgery, but will be back in advance of next season.

CHANGE AFOOT: The Ravens' wide receiver corps is expected to undergo major changes. All four of their top receivers are free agents. Mason is an unrestricted free agent who's contemplating retirement.

Kelley Washington is an unrestricted free agent. And Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams are unrestricted free agents.

"It's going to be tough bringing everybody back, but that's just part of football," Washington said. "Every team goes through that every year. Especially with our receivers being free agents, I don't expect everybody to be back.

"There are always going to be changes, and everybody has to put themselves in the best situations. That's the thing about free agency. You get a chance to evaluate your situation professionally."

Washington said he plans to explore free agency after reviving his career with 34 catches for 431 yards and two touchdowns while also excelling on special teams after being signed following a minicamp tryout.

"I'm definitely going to look around and put myself in the best situation where I'm going to be on the field and not just on third down," Washington said. "I feel that I've proved myself that I can play receiver in this league and not just special teams. Now, I'm going to look out for myself and put myself in the best situation. "I've worked hard to show everybody that I can play consistent football in this league. I'm excited about free agency and going somewhere I can really contribute on the field as a receiver. I'm truly thankful for the chance the Ravens gave me, and I'm blessed to be part of a great organization starting from the top all the way down."

Drafted in the first round in 2005, Clayton was limited to 34 receptions for 480 yards and two touchdowns.

He expects to return as a restricted free agent, but he also anticipates the Ravens to attempt to upgrade the position.

"Wide receiver is a very important part of this team, as it is with every team," Clayton said. "I know that it needs to be strong. And the position that we're in, we're probably going to have to go find a guy that can come in and be a straight playmaker."

Williams was used sparingly, catching only eight passes for 142 yards and one touchdown.

It's considered unlikely that he'll be back. "I don't know," Williams said. "I'm just trying to go somewhere where they want me. If they want me here, then that's where I plan to be. "I had some ups and downs. I can't say it's been all great. I can't say it's been all bad."

FINGERS CROSSED: In the wake of free safety Ed Reed announcing that he's considering retirement, the Ravens are hoping the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year decides to return.

"I'm definitely going to call him and try to convince him to stay," Carr said.

Reed has been dealing with a nerve impingement injury for the past two seasons.

This year, the six-time Pro Bowl selection was also hampered by hip, groin and foot injuries. "He's got to do what's best for him and what's best for his body and what he feels most comfortable with," Foxworth said. "Obviously, it would be a great loss for this team, but it's not something that we're not prepared to cope with. "We played fairly well with him down to injury, which I think was good preparation for this team for possibly losing a Hall of Famer like that. We'll take it one step at a time."

Does Foxworth expect Reed to retire?

"No, it hadn't crossed my mind," he said. "He hasn't said or done anything to make me think otherwise. I fully expect him to be back."

FLACCO WEIGHS IN: Quarterback Joe Flacco repeated what he's been saying for the past month, emphasizing that injuries didn't cause a slide in his play.

Flacco threw two touchdowns and four interceptions during his final four games, including two playoff games.

"I feel pretty darn good right now," he said. "I just need to get some relaxing, get away for a little bit and give your mind a break. I was not affected in any way."

During the Ravens' loss Saturday night, it looked like Flacco had some fiery verbal exchanges with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

"It's a divisional playoff game, and you want to go out there and win," Flacco said after the game. "When you're not putting first downs together, it's a little bit frustrating. It's a fire that we all have."

KICKING GAME UP IN THE AIR: Long snapper Matt Katula doesn't think he'll require surgery to deal with the tendinitis in his right elbow. After a rough season marked by errant snaps, he does expect to have to compete to hold onto his job in training camp next season.

"This year has been a struggle," Katula said. "I'm just glad I made it through the season and happy they gave me that vote of confidence. It will probably be a different offseason.

"They'll probably bring someone else in here. It will be a competition. I need to get better. Hopefully, I learn from what happened this year and move forward."

Katula refused to blame the elbow problems for his snapping issues.

"No, I think it snowballed," he said. "It was a perfect storm. Whether it was the elbow or not the elbow, everybody deals with injuries. It's definitely not an excuse. I need to get better. That's the bottom line."

Meanwhile, kicker Billy Cundiff is hoping to return after replacing Steve Hauschka midway through the season.

With Baltimore, he converted 12 of 17 field goals and all 19 of his extra points with some of the misses caused by bad snaps.

For the season, he made 18 of 23 field goals as he hit all six of his tries during an emergency stint with the Cleveland Browns.

Cundiff is an unrestricted free agent. The Ravens are expected to bring in someone to compete with him, possibly even drafting a kicker.

"I would love to be back," Cundiff said. "I really enjoy being here. It's a matter of being sure if they would like to have me back. I think you're always competing with somebody."

SUCCESSFUL SURGERY: Rookie cornerback Lardarius Webb recently underwent surgery to repair his torn anterior cruciate ligament, and he declared the procedure by Dr. James Andrew a success.

"It was a great surgery," he said. "It came out pretty well other than it hurt a lot."

It's unclear, though, if Webb will be able to return in time for next season. He might begin next season on the physically unable to perform list or be sidelined for the entire season depending on how fast he heals.

The timing of the injury being in December could hurt his chances.

"I don't want to rush it," Webb said. "I want to make sure when I come back I could be in full health. I'm going to take my time."

Webb had a good season, filling in capably as a starter at cornerback when Fabian Washington tore his ACL and returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown.

"This year was just the beginning," he said. "I have a long way to go. I hope I'll be here a long time."

Webb is Reed's protégé, and he's hoping to play alongside him again.

"I would love to play with him a couple more years, not just one," Webb said. "If he does decide to retire, maybe one day I can take that throne."

COMEBACK SEASON: After undergoing neck surgery during the offseason, strong safety Dawan Landry started every game.

He finished second on the team with 82 tackles and intercepted four passes.

"Last year, I had time to reflect on my situation," Landry said. "Being away from the game for a year makes me want to come back stronger."

He'll be a restricted free agent if the divide between the union and the owners isn't resolved. "I have to talk to the coaches," Landry said. "Hopefully, everything works out."

MCGAHEE'S STATUS: Running back Willis McGahee scored 14 touchdowns in a relief role behind Pro Bowl runner Ray Rice this past season. Whether that role continues next season when McGahee is due a $3.6 million salary remains to be seen.

"Man, I ain't even worried about it right now, to tell you the truth," McGahee said. "If I do, I do. If I don't, I don't. It is w hat it is.

"No doubt about it, I still got a lot left in my tank. Right now, I'll let them handle it when the time comes. Who knows what the future holds for me? Sky's the limit."

QUICK HITS: After reflecting on the Ravens' playoff loss, Washington said it's clear what happened. "We got outplayed, we got outcoached," he said. "On that day, we were not the better team. They outplayed us in all areas. Physically, we were fine. The coaches really had a good plan and we prepared well. We just got outplayed, outcoached. We didn't put on our best performance out there. Consequently, we lost." … Rookie defensive end-outside linebacker Paul Kruger, the team's second-round draft pick, was deactivated for each of the Ravens' two playoff games. Kruger said he plans to talk with coach John Harbaugh about what he needs to do to increase his playing time next season. "I want to get a little bit faster and improve my pass rush," Kruger said. "I need to perfect everything. Speed more than strength, and get a little bit stronger." … After another injury-plagued season where he dealt with groin and knee problems and was replaced in the starting lineup by undrafted rookie Dannell Ellerbe, inside linebacker Tavares Gooden is planning to consult with a biomechanics expert. "I'll be in Miami looking for the best guy to work with me on my groin so I don't have these issues," he said. "I don't have weight or strength problems. Flexibility is going to be a key this offseason. I'm taking everything to heart. I need help mentally and physically. I'm going to take it personal and find ways to get better." He expects to compete with Ellerbe and Brendon Ayanbadejo for playing time next season. "You can call me Shakespeare because I make plays," he said. "You know my style of game. The coaches will tell you exactly what I need to improve on." … Backup quarterback Troy Smith downplayed his agent, Ralph Cindrich, writing on his Twitter account that he has requested a trade. "I love the situation here," Smith said. "I love the people here. That's my agent talking and speaking. That's not me. It's not coming from me. If he's going to put our situation out there, I got to ride with it. I hired him as an agent. I trust his judgment. You want to play and be on the field. I think every guy in the locker room wants his chance." … Rookie offensive tackle Michael Oher said he prefers to remain at right tackle despite many reports suggesting that he would be a better left tackle than Jared Gaither. "We have a left tackle," he said. "He's a better player than I am and a better athlete. It would be better if I'm the right tackle and he's the left tackle. I think we're a better offensive line like that." Gaither added that he's looking forward to playing with Oher for a long time. "I hope me and Michael can be the Ravens' offensive tackles for the rest of my career, whether that's left or right, he said. … Tight end L.J. Smith is an unrestricted free agent again after signing a one-year, $1.5 million contract last year. He didn't play much in relief of Todd Heap, who started every game. Smith caught just two passes for 31 yards. "It's very frustrating," he said. "I know I had some injuries, a hamstring and an ankle. We'll see what happens. It's a league where people kind of forget about you. Hopefully, I'll be in a position where somebody will say, ‘We can use him.'" … The Ravens signed seven players to reserve/future contracts, including: tight end Davon Drew, wide receivers Eron Riley and Maurice Price, defensive end-linebacker Will VanDeSteeg, defensive end Bryan Mattison and offensive linemen Stefan Rodgers and Joe Reitz. … Gaither said he won't require any offseason surgeries. He expects to be back. "I'm not worried about the situation," he said. "I'm pretty sure I'll be here." … Besides Mason, Cundiff, Washington and L.J. Smith, the Ravens' other unrestricted free agents are special-teams ace David Tyree and defensive tackle Justin Bannan.


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