Ravens report card shows the lack of strength – in numbers

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Luke Jones and Nestor discuss the lousy NFLPA grades given to the Baltimore Ravens training room by their own players and the sketchy legacy of Steve Saunders as the offseason coaching changes on the staff of John Harbaugh come together.


players, ravens, saunders, strength coaches, john harbaugh, luke, report card, talking, steve, clear, point, marks, injury, league, facilities, individuals, question, spoke, grades, team


Luke Jones, Nestor Aparicio

Nestor Aparicio  00:00

Looking back at W N, st Towson, Baltimore and Baltimore positive we are positively in March we’re gonna have madness. We’re gonna have crabcake tours gonna cancellation for families. Well, we’re gonna make that good on Wednesday, move it to a little bit later in the monster if you’re not following Maryland crabcake Tour presented by our friends at the Maryland lottery in conjunction with our friends to win donation, all of that is up and move this week, March Madness, St. Patrick’s Day, all of that going on, I’m back on the beat. And doing it in real time here on the back end of the Combine on the front end of what will be a big 10 tournament where the Terps sort of stumbled in a little bit. But really the big story with Lamar Jackson, as I bring in Luke Jones, of course, Baltimore, Luke, and you can follow his work and reach him Luke at wn St. dotnet old school, you know, our old school branding and all that good stuff, Luke, this Firestorm sent off by the National Football League in the middle of the combine that was meant to bang pots and pans at the bottom of the league for whatever your transgression might be, whether it’s your training room, or team morale, or whether there’s cockroaches in the facility, or you know, whatever the deal is right around the league. This, this is a new thing. And this is a thing that was really, really illuminating in the castle. And you know, I’ve often said one of the reasons they don’t hand the report card out to the media and say, How are we doing is they don’t really want to know. And especially with my report card, they didn’t like mine at all, but mine was mine was my report card. So if they asked all the players, how were things out there, I certainly have gotten all sorts of reports back in the day when the Trevor prices were coming here in the rod Woodson’s and we’ve talked about all of that that built championships, been 10 years since a championship. And this isn’t Nestor and Chad steel or what how Luke likes John hardball, or this is like an on the record across the board thing done by the Players Association, that’s meant to spur improvement across the game. Right. And, and the Ravens didn’t do so well, in some departments.

Luke Jones  02:15

Yeah, and not exactly shocking from the standpoint of it was just a couple of weeks ago, when the Ravens in many people’s minds finally, and I emphasize the word finally moved on from strength and conditioning coach, Steve Saunders. And with last Wednesday, the NFLPA putting out their team report card. I didn’t know you could get an F minus, right. I mean, it’s kind of funny to think in terms of f plus or F minus,

Nestor Aparicio  02:43

let me give a little shout out to drug city where they still sell these pens that I love so much, but I want to do the Dean Werner, you know, wormer and blue Tarski of 0.0. You know, I mean, like an F minus one. What is that? That’s it. It’s a new grading system.

Luke Jones  03:04

Well, and what’s so illuminating about it? And what’s so alarming about it? When you’re looking at grading systems, you always have to look at the entire picture, right? You need context? I mean, what does a C mean? What does a D mean? What does an F

Nestor Aparicio  03:17


can I just to interject that you were a school teacher? So I really want people to know that when it comes from you a comes from authority, when you’re talking about how to give a grade, because you gave a lot of grades, man.

Luke Jones  03:27

I mean, I may have known what knew what I was talking about. That’s debatable. But I think when you look at this, though, is you look at the report in its totality. And look, let’s be very clear, you look at the Kansas City Chiefs, their cumulative grade. That wasn’t very good. Get they’ve been Yeah, they’ve won a couple of Super Bowls, they’ve been to another. So you always have to keep all this context in mind. Some facilities are just older, some teams are in transition. But when you look at the ravens, and specifically looking at the strength coaches, which is where that F minus grade originated, weight room and training room was the bottom half of the 32 teams. So to me that was worth emphasizing. But I think what was so striking about this was when you look at the grades for the rest of the League for the strength coaches, specifically, they were, for the most part, very, very positive. It was really the Ravens. And the Atlanta Falcons were the only teams that really got banged big time for their strength coaches or lack of quality for their strength coaches. So you look at it through that lens. And you see all these other teams and the grades for their strength coaches were a minus b plus b. I mean, it was

Nestor Aparicio  04:43

an amazing thing when a young man comes in and can say, you’re making me better. You’re right and, and I for as many people that came out and said You wrecked my career. That’s a I mean, that was a damn main thing that was the thing I think that really took me up to make me look at the report card more is seeing the Quincy attaboy Joe. I don’t know how to pronounce his name Adam missing. Like I remember the good by the way. Attaboy Joe right? Yeah, right. So why had I got on day Joe? I you know, I had the Mooli Tolo I’ve learned a lot in my my football, pronunciation and travels, but but in all sincerity, um you know I speak from the heart when I know what can be done with power and being there. And when you’re in there and you’re trying to move up the depth chart and you’re trying to get a job, not get paid. You’re just trying to make it you’re trying to be noticed, and you get injured. And when it’s all over with. There’s a roomful of people that say, I don’t think they really did, right by me. That’s, that’s awful. I mean, that that’s where I got like, and this is the first we’ve talked about it, right? And I’m just reading and there’s, like, I have disgruntled employees, you know, I mean, who were your co workers at one point, like, I get all of that, but to say You wrecked my career. Hmm, you know that. I that that made me cough a little bit. And it worries me for all of them. It really does.

Luke Jones  06:18

Yeah, and this is where I struggle with this to a point now I think what’s become crystal clear, is it is absolutely perplexing, mystifying, whatever adjective adverb, you want to use it then thinking about this, knowing what we knew about Steve Saunders, as far as the violation of the COVID protocol in 2020, that coincided with the team wide outbreak, the fact that he was sent suspended for a month. And we we knew this right, this was not new information that was brought to light two and a half years later. And then to see the mark. So on the NFLPA report card, and as you pointed out the number of former ravens players to come to come forward in some varying capacities. And look, this ranges from Matt Jude on even going back a year plus, you know, his first year in New England, I believe it was tweeting some support towards the Shawn Elliott, when he suffered his season ending injury, there was a hashtag fire Steve, in the midst of a tweet. So you look at any one of these individuals in isolation. I want to be very clear here, Nestor, I think we do have to look at this objectively and say, okay, no matter the quality of your strength and quality, you know, your strength and conditioning coach, your training staff, your facilities, all of your resources, injuries are inevitable, right? They’re an unfortunate, inevitable part of the game. And unfortunately, but again, inevitably, they impact careers. And they impact careers quite frequently, whether you’re talking about someone like a Dennis pitta, who had his career cut short, basically, because of a devastating hip injury, or you’re talking about rookie free agents, fringe guys on the roster who get hurt, and whether whether it’s any there’s any wrongdoing or negligence or not, guys that are never going to get a fair shake, because they get hurt. And they were kind of on the fringe anyway.


Nestor Aparicio  08:09

I mean, so we do Kindle lets me know what I mean. Right, literally.

Luke Jones  08:12

So what I want to be clear about here before we talk about this, and what it means for the organization moving forward, is it is difficult to separate perception from reality. And I guarantee that you can find individuals from all 32 teams who were injured at some point in time over the last five or six years, and have and harbor some, I don’t want to say bitterness, because who am I to say that I mean, that’s you’re talking about someone who had a dream and it wasn’t fulfilled, and their health or lack thereof was a reason why, but I guarantee you could find individuals who weren’t happy with a member of the coaching staff or a member of the training staff, whatever. So it does make it difficult to separate that perception that may not at all be based in reality. However, when you look at this situation, and you look at the amount of smoke, that’s I mean, billowing right, in the wake of this, and there had been some some of that before I mentioned that chewed on. Derrick wolf had spoken about this and look, I don’t want to go individual by individual because, again, there’s a perception versus reality thing that’s always going to go on with these injuries and wondering who dropped the ball or you know, who didn’t do this? What

Nestor Aparicio  09:29

what Monroe came on with me, you know, talking about his business and said that, that he didn’t feel like it that it was it was all honest.

Luke Jones  09:38

Yeah. And look, you’re gonna find some of that and like I said, you’ll find some of that with every team. I have no doubt and

Nestor Aparicio  09:46

every employer let me say that no question. That’s just the way it is.

Luke Jones  09:50

No question. No question. However, when you look at this, the high volume of players speaking out and for me, it’s not even so much about the Quincy attaboy Joe’s or Bam Bradley’s going on Twitter, you know, guys that were former rookie free agents get hurt and they never, they never make it they don’t stick right there. They’re out of the league now, for me more so than even those into individuals and I’m not dismissing that. But that coupled with the private number of players who spoke out in this NFLPA report card, where you’re talking about your strength coaches getting an F minus, when you’re talking about your training staff and your weight room, getting below average marks compared to the rest of the National Football League. It is illuminating, it is eye opening in terms of what that means. And for me, I think what makes this even more fascinating is okay, from a best case scenario, you’re the ravens, and you say, all right, whether we were a year or two or three years late and doing this, we have moved on from Steve Saunders and, and that’s what they would tell you, right, that would be their public response to this. However, I think what’s fascinating about this for me, and what’s gonna be very interesting, is understanding just how unpopular he was. It does really baffle you in terms of, or, you know, I think I said, unpopular, right, I’m gonna make sure I didn’t say popular, how unpopular he was, that they employed him for two additional seasons, after what happened in 2020. With the violation of the COVID protocol and the suspension and the team wide outbreak. I think that just makes it one of those situations where you look at that and say like, what’s going on here, and that’s where you ask John Harbaugh are an Eric d’acosta or

Nestor Aparicio  11:34

Eagles guy, right. Can I say that? I mean, guy.


Luke Jones  11:37

I mean, let’s face it. I mean John Harbaugh. When they let go of Steve Saunders, they put out the release that was the same day they announced the hiring of Willie Taggart as their running backs coach same day they announced that the T Martin was moving over to quarterbacks coach so you know, they announced the the reshuffling of their staff, they announced that Steve Saunders was no longer with the team hardball put out a statement that was very complimentary of him at that point. And even when he spoke at the Combine last week, just a few hours before that NFLPA report card came out. He he talked with local reporters in Indian and was complimentary of Steve Saunders at that point. So yeah, I mean, for lack of a better term. Yes, yes, exactly. But when you look at this kind of a toxic reaction to your strength coach, and knowing that there had been, you know, the proverbial smoking gun, that was full justification to get rid of them three, you know, two and a half years ago, that he stayed that he stuck that long, and was that unpopular? That’s when you start to question beyond just the quality or lack thereof of your strength program, have a disconnect? And are you really in touch with how your players are feeling? And did had players come forward? And we don’t know that right. We don’t know. We know the Ravens have a leadership council of veteran players. That’s something that they’ve had for a long time. That’s nothing new,

Nestor Aparicio  12:54

as coach pillock would say, unfiltered information. Sure, the truth.

Luke Jones  12:58

So the question from that is, how many players had spoken behind the scenes about this, you know, was this something that veterans on the team had brought for, you know, had brought forward to John Harbaugh, and was brushed off or it went up the chain, and it was brushed off. But regardless, he stuck around for a couple more years. And I think what’s interesting about this, and now this is what’s really fascinating, in terms of the practicality of this, now, Steve Saunders has gone right, he’s no longer with the organization. So it’s really easy to just say, Okay, well, they got dinged big time for with further marks here. But he’s no longer the strength coach. But what’s interesting, and this is, what’s fascinating, is, they promoted Scott Elliot, who’s entering his fifth season with the organization to the title of strengthen conditioning coordinator, and they promoted three others to the title of strengthen conditioning coaches. The point is, this wasn’t a case of when you hear something like this, even if it was all Steve Saunders. And look, I don’t know Nestor, I’m not gonna sit here and try to act like I have this

Nestor Aparicio  13:59


great intimate knowledge may also be the person and not the not the program. Oh, and like, well, that’s

Luke Jones  14:05

but that’s the big question here. When you have such terrible remarks, or marks grades compared to the rest of the league, there’s probably an argument to be made that maybe you should have just cleaned house entirely, and you hire some outsiders to come in and start a new one. At least as of now, that’s not what they’re doing. So that’s where the question is. All right. Was it truly all Steve Saunders and I don’t know that, of course. Was it all him? Or was this a little more systemic, you know, for lack of a better descriptor? If that’s the case, that’s where you do wonder if keeping and promoting from within to replace Saunders and just everyone else moves up in the pecking order? Is that going to be what’s best? How are players going to respond to that again? I don’t know. I’ve never talked to Scott Elliot. So I’m not gonna I don’t want to be disparaging of someone I don’t even know or someone that I don’t. I’m not familiar with his work. In that way, but it is it bears monitoring now, how the how players are going to respond to this? What is the attendance for the spring offseason voluntary workouts? What’s that going to look like? I mean, you’re talking about, like we said an F minus. And you look at the fact that I think that the percentage was a league low 36% of ravens players believe that they had an individualized plan for their strength and conditioning. It’s not good, right? I mean, anyone for not

Nestor Aparicio  15:35

with these report cards right across the league. Some of this to me is you know, if this is your first team and your only team and all you knew was Michigan, maybe going someplace where there isn’t a great facility or it’s not like that they are Oklahoma you know, one of these football power Alabama, whatever, right? It could very well be stepped down. I’ve heard ravens players telling me that before they turn the Ravens locker room into the you know, the the waiting lounge at O’Hare Airport, right like that, all that purple vibe and lighting and all that that they’ve done now. But I would say this, the Ravens have guys that have been places you don’t I mean, the Ravens routinely bring in some veteran players, they add some of their own. But when you bring players in from other places, the RO Quan Smiths come in and the class Campbell’s come in, and the Marcus Peters come in and say I’ve been there, I’ve been here, I’ve been here. This is good. That’s bad. This coaches that this is I mean, they, they would all start to have favorites. And that should be worrisome to the Ravens that they got these low marks from guys that had seen it done differently in other places.

Luke Jones  16:43

Yeah, and that’s where again, any individual situation I’m taking with a grain of salt, because again, there’s a perception versus reality here. Any player who’s suffered a season ending injury, a career ending injury, or career altering injury is probably the best way to put it, there’s probably going to be some stigma, and there’s going to be some harboring of frustration and wondering if everything was done correctly, everything was done to the fullest extent of strength coaches and trainers efforts and all that. So, again, if it was one or two players, if this were a case where the Ravens had a C, or a C minus where you’d still say, hey, that’s an area, you should be better. There’s no salary cap when it comes to your strength coaches and your facilities and your equipment and your sports science department. And, you know, the Kinesis vests that they were in, look, the Ravens have so much of that. And the ravens, even at different points over the last 10 years, I would say we’re cutting edge in certain areas pertaining to that. But when you have such poor marks, when it is abundantly clear that your strength, your head strength and conditioning coach was not just unpopular, but wildly unpopular. That’s where you just look at it and say there’s way too much smoke here to not recognize that there was an issue, or there was a problem. And that’s where you come back to and say, Okay, this guy would made headlines for all the wrong reasons in 2020, with the COVID protocols, and what part that played in the team wide outbreak again, I don’t know with 100% certainty, but it coincided with it. So there you go. Again, there’s a lot of smoke. So you keep looking at this. And then you say, okay, he hung around for a couple more years, and even going back to 2021 a historically awful season from an injury standpoint, and he still made it another year. That’s where you look at this and say, what exactly is going on? Why was this guy perceived to be such Teflon, right? I mean, it’s just that’s where you wander. And that’s where you ask the question, is there a disconnect here? Is this a reflection of a culture? That’s maybe not what it once was? The questions have to be asked again, we’re not talking about just a c minus right. This was a case where 30 of the 32 teams in the NFL had very high marks for their strength coaches. And that’s not even to say that all of them were are all outstanding, perfect strength coaches, but it just speaks to what had to be some very toxic feeling from so many players. And let’s be clear, if this were a case where a select group of individuals had that much of an agenda, there would have been some, at least a few players maybe going to social media and Santa you know, that’s that wasn’t my experience, as far as I’m concerned. And look, I I can’t say that I’ve tracked every single player social media in the days after this, but I can’t find an example of anyone going out of their way to defend Steve Saunders. And even a few players just kind of said I was staying out of that when I saw Titus Bowser and and Marlon Humphrey for example. So it the most you’re getting is players abstaining from public comment. That’s that probably speaks volumes to just how undesirable that situation was from from the player’s perspective. And again, that’s where he Come back to where was the Ravens brass here? Now what why was this lingering as long as it did? And again, that’s where you ask, if that’s an issue, then what else could be a potential disconnect or potential culture issue? And let’s be clear, in fairness, a number of players also said that and including a couple of the players who spoke out, Quincy attaboy Joe being one of them, they still were complimentary of John Harbaugh. So, that was an you know, that makes you interpret that as Yeah, maybe he was a John Harbaugh guy and ultimately, coaching staff John Harbaugh was responsible for that, you know, whether we’re talking about the offensive coordinator, or you are talking about the strength coach or individuals of that nature, but you just look at it and say, Wow, it’s really doesn’t add up that this guy stuck around as long as he did, considering you had the COVID thing going back to 2020. And you had the 2021 injury plague season. So, again, how much of it is perception versus reality? It’s so it’s impossible to really know that but it’s clear, there was a significant amount of reality here in terms of players not being happy players not seeing you know, what they felt was a standard in the organization that was high enough and they’ve moved on now. Okay, but it’s going to be fascinating to see how players respond to Scott Elliot and these other strength coaches who are remaining, I’ll be it in different job titles and responsibilities. Now. Luke Jones


Nestor Aparicio  21:31

is on it. He’s always on it. And we are all waiting for the purple eight in the Infinity logo to appear over in a plume of smoke over one winning Dr. Luke will be monitoring all that out on the WSD tech service alive and well. Stone 10,000 He out there again, that thing that Luke throws it out, it’s all brought to you by our friends at Coons, Baltimore forward and Dennis will be here on Thursday from three to five driving you home and again on Sunday morning, as we await get brackets we got basketball, we got green beer, we got spring training, baseball, and at some point we’ll have some activity on Lamar Jackson and signing franchise tags and signing trades and whatever’s going to happen. We’re on it. He’s Luke on Nestor. We are wn St. Am 1570 Tulsa Baltimore and we never stop talking Baltimore positive

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