Ravens’ John Harbaugh defends Colin Kaepernick’s right to protest anthem

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday that he respects Colin Kaepernick’s right to protest the national anthem and cited a French Enlightenment philosopher in doing so.

The rules are simple: Stay under the $155,270,000 cap, and no rookies. Otherwise, it’s my job to put together a well-balanced, versatile team, with depth at each position and players who complement each other. All while navigating prohibitive contract extensions to players I’d otherwise like to include — such as Tyrod Taylor, Darius Slay and Tyrann Mathieu, all of whom signed big deals this offseason.

There are, of course, hundreds of great players in the NFL and thousands of ways to craft this team. But I am certain that even the 1972 Miami Dolphins would agree that this year’s team, with everyone from Tom Brady to DeAndre Hopkins to J.J. Watt, would challenge their undefeated season.

Caldwell has repeatedly deflected questions about Ebron’s status.

Ebron, though, has missed a chunk of preseason time. He said that when he suffered the injury during the Lions’ mock game at Ford Field, he thought, “My life sucks,” because he didn’t know what to expect. He said he wasn’t sure of the severity of the injury and admitted he thought his season might have ended before it started.

“Did I have that in mind? I was afraid,” Ebron said. “I was afraid for the worst and just hoped for the best. I mean, easily, by far, that’s what I did. Whatever happened, happened, and I’m just taking it as slowly as I possibly can to make sure that I’m back to what we were seeing that day, because if I don’t get back there, then it’s not going to be a good season for myself.”

When Ebron does return, he will be the team’s top tight end after he caught 47 passes for 537 yards and five touchdowns last season. He’s at the top of the depth chart of a thin tight end group. Brandon Pettigrew is still on the physically unable to perform list recovering from an ACL injury. Timothy Wright is on injured reserve with an ACL injury. The Lions cut veteran Matthew Mulligan on Monday, and that leaves Orson Charles, Adam Fuehne, Cole Wick and Andrew Quarless — who will miss the first two games of the season due to suspension — as Detroit’s tight ends.

When Ebron got hurt, he leaned on his mother, Gina Jackson, for guidance. She helped him through it and actually reached out to him before he could get in touch with her. He said his phone wasn’t going crazy initially, but as more people heard what happened, they started to reach out.

Rex upset at Tyrod’s camp flip: ‘Are you kidding me?’

Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) August 8, 2016
Ryan, of course, is still smarting from the loss of second-round linebacker Reggie Ragland, who the Bills were planning to plug in as a Week 1 starter. The rookie suffered a knee injury last week and continues to go through testing to decipher how long he’ll be lost.

The Bills on Monday also saw left tackle Cordy Glenn exit with an ankle injury, while guard Richie Incognito left early with sore ribs. On the plus side, three key players — wideout Sammy Watkins and defensive linemen Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams — all passed their physicals.

Watching the injury bug descend, Ryan’s frustration is understandable. There’s little reason for Taylor to put his body at risk in practice. Conversely, old-school football-heads can point to yesteryear — when players in practice beat the snot out of each other daily — but that world no longer exists.

You’d be hard-pressed to find an NFL draftnik who doesn’t project Malik McDowell to be a first-round draft pick if he takes the early leap next year, with most slotting the Michigan State defensive tackle inside the Top 15 in their way-too-early mock drafts. That, though, is not good enough for McDowell — at least publicly and in the here and now.

At MSU’s media day Monday, McDowell was asked about his plans post-2016. According to the lineman, it doesn’t involve leaving East Lansing unless he’s expected to be one of the first three players selected.

“Top 10 ain’t good enough for me,” McDowell said. “I ain’t leaving if I’m (only) Top 10. If I’m not top three, I don’t leave. Really. I’m just trying to live day by day. It’s one through three, that’s the only way I’m going. I’m happy, I like it here, I ain’t really in a rush to leave.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens won’t say whether quarterback Joe Flacco will play in the preseason opener, and it would be a surprise if he did. But that’s not a reflection of Flacco’s progress in coming back from season-ending knee surgery. Flacco is having a strong training camp, and he hasn’t missed any reps with the starting offense. Like Flacco said late last month, his goal is to be ready for the start of the regular season, not the preseason. — Jamison Hensley

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Cincinnati Bengals

Health remains a concern for the Bengals, as they continue waiting on tight ends Tyler Eifert and Tyler Kroft and cornerback Darqueze Dennard to return from respective serious injuries. There is a belief that Kroft (knee) and Dennard (ankle) could be back before the regular season begins. The hope is that Eifert (ankle), too, will return by the season opener at the New York Jets, but it’s possible he misses a game or more. If he does, Kroft’s injury status becomes all the more important. Those injury issues are a concern, but the Bengals are otherwise getting healthier. Five players who missed time before Sunday’s off day practiced Monday. Could more players come off the sidelines Tuesday, when the Bengals hold their final practice before the Vikings join them in Cincinnati for joint practices? Stay tuned. — Coley Harvey

DeMarco Murray raves about Marcus Mariota’s talent

Beyond the streamlined passing mechanics, Mariota has impressed with his pinpoint accuracy on short and intermediate passes, nimble footwork reminiscent of Joe Montana and Jake Plummer, natural football instincts and preternatural poise.

Murray added that the Titans’ second-year star is the hardest-working quarterback he has been around, echoing Pro Bowl defensive end Jurrell Casey’s offseason assessment that Mariota is the “definition of a true leader.”

Spend a few days in Titans camp and you will hear players and coaches casually reference Mariota’s greatness. If he can stay healthy, his rare talent and requisite intangibles will be the rising tide that lifts all boats in Nashville.

Baltimore Ravens

1-10 percent: Joe Flacco put together one of the most incredible postseason runs ever in leading Baltimore to a Super Bowl victory, but he has been stagnant as a passer since. Now, if he did that again … Elvis Dumervil’s career includes two 17-sack seasons, but with 96 sacks by the age of 32, it’s hard to see him getting into the 130-or-so range, at which point his candidacy would be a lot stronger. … Marshal Yanda might be the best guard in football and has made five straight Pro Bowls and two first-team All-Pro appearances, but Alan Faneca had nine Pro Bowls and six first-team All-Pro appearances and just missed out on Canton. Even if Faneca eventually gets in, you can see how high the bar is for guards. … Eric Weddle suffers from playing in a conference with Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu for most of his career (he only has three Pro Bowl nods through age 30).

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Terrell Suggs is an interesting case. He started his career as one of the youngest players in his rookie class, so even though Suggs has been around since 2003, he’s only 33. He doesn’t have the sort of steady double-digit sack totals you might look for from a star edge rusher, but Suggs’ best year (2011) came while J.J. Watt had just emerged from his alien womb and earned Suggs a Defensive Player of the Year nod, which looks great on a Hall of Fame résumé. Being part of a historically famous defense helps. Suggs has 106.5 sacks, which is 24th all time, but he probably needs to get to the 130 range to guarantee his enshrinement. That will be tough on two torn Achilles. 30 percent

Steve Smith Sr. is one of the more fascinating Hall of Fame arguments out there. He gets bonuses for being a skill-position player and a force of nature as a personality; that stuff does matter in Hall of Fame voting. He has five Pro Bowl appearances and two first-team All-Pro nods, one of which was for his return work in 2001. That itself isn’t a Hall of Fame résumé. What works in Smith’s favor is that he has been around forever and accrued numbers despite playing with Jake Delhomme at quarterback for most of his career. Smith’s 11th in career receiving yards (13,932) and 15th in career receptions (961). Terrell Owens and Isaac Bruce had more catches and haven’t yet been elected to Canton, but once Smith gets to 1K, his chances of eventually making it in should be favorable. 60 percent

The next time someone chants John Kuhn’s name likely will be in the Superdome.

The former Green Bay Packers fullback, a long-time fan favorite who was often met with cheers of “Kuuuuuuhn” when he took the field, will sign a one-year deal with the New Orleans Saints.

His agent, Kevin Gold, said Kuhn flew to Saints camp in West Virginia to work out for the team on Friday. The deal will be for the veteran’s minimum and officially closes the door on a nine-year run with the Packers.

“He loved his time there, but he wanted to play,” Gold said. “This was an opportunity, and coach [Sean] Payton was excited to know he was available and wanted to play. It’s bittersweet, but it’s also a great opportunity.”