Try though he may, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs just can’t escape Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer, when you think it might be Palmer the one trying to get away from Suggs.
They played against each other their entire college careers, Palmer and USC and Suggs at Arizona State. Palmer went No. 1 overall in the 2003 NFL draft to the Cincinnati Bengals. The Ravens selected Suggs with the 10th pick.
Palmer faced Suggs and the Ravens 13 times from 2004-10 — Palmer didn’t play his rookie season — with Palmer beating the Ravens nine times.
“This guy has kind of tortured me through all my college and professional career,” Suggs said in a conference call with Bay Area media Wednesday. “I’m very aware of the talent. I know he can make every throw. If you ask me, he’s very highly underrated. He’s definitely one of the premier quarterbacks in the league.”
Suggs said he doesn’t fear any quarterback, yet “I’m always worried when I play Carson Palmer.”
With good reason, too. Palmer won those nine games against Suggs and the Ravens while having only three passes intercepted. The Ravens intercepted Palmer eight times in the four games they beat Palmer.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh also is quite impressed with the Palmer that he coached against the past five seasons.
“First of all, he’s real smart,” Harbaugh said. “He’s done a great job of reading coverages and knowing where to go with the ball; that’s No. 1. Number two, he’s got this incredible arm. He can make every throw. He’s kind of a fearless competitor. Stands in there tough and he puts it in there, and that’s pretty much the criteria for a great quarterback.”
Suggs is one of the guys Palmer always takes into account whenever he plays the Ravens. That Suggs is playing this season comes as somewhat of a surprise, given he ruptured his Achilles during the offseason.
“It’s amazing he is playing,” Palmer said. “I remember when it happened, I remember thinking, ‘Alright, great, that sucks for Terrell, but he’ll be out by the time we get out in Baltimore.’ Sure enough, he was playing 2 or 3 weeks ago against Houston.
“That’s the type of guy he is. He’s an extremely hard worker. He’s going to come back early, and just when you doubt him, he proves people wrong. I played against him for 15 years now, a phenomenal football player, phenomenal against the pass and phenomenal against the pass–there aren’t a lot of guys who are good at both, like he is. I don’t know if there is another one, as good as he is, at playing them both.”
— The Raiders last played the Ravens in 2008, when JaMarcus Russell was the quarterback, Justin Fargas the primary running back, Javon Walker a starting receiver and so on.
Much has changed in the past three seasons. Yet, one thing remains constant, in Suggs’ opinion.
“Talent,” Suggs said. “Al (Davis) has always done a tremendous job of bringing in the biggest and the scariest guys. They always had tremendous talent, but what (they) have done over there is just stack the talent a little bit more. (They) definitely got weapons that Carson can work with.”
Of the 53 players on Oakland’s roster that day, Oct. 26, 2008, only eight remain on today’s roster, including two that started that game: guard Cooper Carlisle and defensive tackle Tommy Kelly.
The six other players still wearing a Raiders uniform now are: punter Shane Lechler, kicker Sebastian Janikowski, long-snapper Jon Condo, running back Darren McFadden, free safety Michael Huff and strong safety Tyvon Branch.
— The Ravens last lost a regular-season home game late in the 2010 season. Their streak has reached an NFL-best 14 straight regular-season home victories, including a 4-0 mark this season.
To that end, Harbaugh said, the Ravens take the field with an air about them, knowing that good things happen when they play in front of their own fans.
“There is probably a confidence level with that, because we’ve had some positive experiences,” Harbaugh said. “There’s been a lot of big games and tough games in that, that just kind of set that tone a little bit. But every game stands on its own two feet.”
That last sentence is what the Raiders are counting upon, that the previous 14 wins by the Ravens at their place don’t count for much when the Raiders play there Sunday.
— Allen reiterated that he isn’t prepared to make a determination on the status of injured players McFadden, running back Mike Goodson and defensive tackle Richard Seymour until after practice Friday.
None of those three practiced today. Allen said McFadden and Goodson are wearing protective boots as a result of their high-ankle sprains.
Coincidentally, rookie Jeremy Stewart said he is preparing this week as if he is going to be signed from the practice squad and activated for Sunday’s game.
“Yeah, they said it’s a possibility,” Stewart said. “They basically told me to be ready, and we’ll see what happens.”
Stewart said he has taken a similar approach since he signed with the Raiders.
“You have to approach every day like you’re going to be the guy starting. So, since I’ve gotten here I’ve been preparing for my opportunity. So, if it presents itself this weekend, I’ll be ready.”
He rushed for 257 yards on only 55 carries his final season at Stanford. He also scored 10 touchdowns on 62 touches that season.
“I feel like I’m a good finisher,” Stewart said. “I can find the end zone.”
Taiwan Jones and Marcel Reece are splitting the reps in practice this week. Like Palmer, offensive coordinator Greg Knapp said he is eager to see what Jones can do in a game.
“Pure speed, it’s one of the fastest I’ve been around,” Knapp said of Jones, “because he has that ability to burst and separate right away. That trait is not coachable, so he does have that ability to separate real fast which is a unique quality to have.”
Knapp said injuries suffered by Jones this season cost him some valuable practice time, which set him back in terms of getting down his assignments on each play. Ball-security issues also are a concern.
— Right offensive tackle Khalif Barnes said he feels pretty good in his return from a groin injury. Yet, he doesn’t sound overly optimistic about playing Sunday.
“Obviously I’ve got some kinks to get out, but you’ll get those out the more you’re on the field,” Barnes said. “Each day that goes by, the more familiar I get with stuff, the muscle memory starts coming back, and that’s how I’m approaching it.”
Barnes said he feels as if he needs more time to get back up to speed. That’s understandable considering he didn’t practice for more than seven weeks after suffering a groin injury that required surgery.
Allen said Barnes, Willie Smith and Tony Bergstrom are taking reps at right offensive tackle in practice this week. It’s possible that Allen will announce the starter for the Ravens game as soon as Friday.
— Michael Huff is going to remain at cornerback for the Ravens game, Allen said.
Ron Bartell is expected to be activated Saturday and play Sunday for the first time since he suffered a shoulder injury in the regular-season opener.
Allen said the plan is to play Bartell as much as Bartell can handle. With Bartell and Huff at cornerback, that likely means less playing time for Pat Lee and Phillip Adams.
— Allen said Seymour was in no shape to practice Thursday, that Seymour “couldn’t practice today if he had to.”
That means Desmond Bryant, Lamaar Houston and Christo Bilukidi might be in for more playing time inside if Seymour isn’t healthy enough to play Sunday. Dave Tollefson is another player that can move inside for a few downs here and there, if needed.
— The Raiders burned one of their 14 allotted practices in pads Wednesday, Allen said. They did so as a means of working on tackling on the heels of a lackluster performance against the Buccaneers.