Ravens recall Hurricane Katrina
By Aaron Wilson
OWINGS MILLS -- One year ago, Baltimore Ravens return specialist B.J. Sams' sizable family was completely displaced by the destructive path of Hurricane Katrina.
His mother, father, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins scattered to safe ground across the Southeast.
Long after the hurricane ravaged the Gulf Coast, including Sams’ hometown of Mandeville, La., his family is still feeling the effects of the storm. Although his parents eventually returned to Mandeville, several relatives chose to remain in cities such as Atlanta and Houston where they settled after the devastation to their native Louisiana.
“Everybody is doing better, even the ones whose houses were destroyed,” Sams said Tuesday in the Ravens’ locker room. “Louisiana is rebuilding. Even though it will probably never be the same as it was before I’m very proud of my state because it has a lot of heart."
Sams is one of five Louisiana natives on the roster, including safeties Ed Reed of St. Rose and Dawan Landry of Boutte along with cornerbacks David Pittman from Gramercy and Ronnie Prude from Shreveport.
The Ravens played the last football game in the Superdome, defeating the New Orleans Saints in a preseason game last year only days prior to the hurricane's merciless approach.
“My community wasn’t affected too badly, especially compared to the heart of New Orleans, but, personally, it was kind of emotional,” said Pittman, who attended Northwestern State. “At my university, we had a relief center and there were a lot of kids. It was just really sad.
“A lot of guys from our football team talked to the families about things and we had fun and played games. It was a relief from the heartache and the pain.”
Prude, who attended LSU, had a similar experience.
The school’s Baton Rouge campus is located roughly 50 miles down the road from New Orleans, and it housed hundreds of people in the gymnasium and dormitories.
“My memory of what happened is how several of my teammates from New Orleans didn't know where their family members were and if they were safe,” Prude said. “The university did a lot to help people who lost everything. I met a lot of people that were affected by it, and it was heartfelt.
"You couldn’t know how they felt about it because you’re not in their shoes. I feel like Louisiana isn’t even close to being back to where it should be, but we’re going to get there one day.”
INJURED RESERVE: The Ravens got down to the NFL-mandated roster limit of 75 players Tuesday by placing safety B.J. Ward and wide receiver Matt Cherry on injured reserve, ending their seasons.
Ward had been sidelined with a severe case of migraines since midway through training camp, undergoing a series of neurological tests that ruled out his headaches as being concussion related. He had complained of dizziness, a lack of balance and had to wear sunglasses outdoors because of a sensitivity to sunlight.
“It’s very strange because I was almost back and I was basically just waiting for the doctor to give me the OK,” said Ward, who drew the ire of coaches and teammates for a series of questionable hits during training camp that were regarded by many as cheap shots. “This is interesting because I didn’t expect it. I want to be here, and I hope that next year will be different.”
Cherry dislocated his shoulder in practice.
"Anytime a player misses a substantial amount of training camp, it's tough," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "That's when the numbers catch up."
Ward's misfortune boosts the chances of safety Jamaine Winborne making the team.
The Ravens have until Sept. 2 to trim their roster to 53 players, leaving the team to cut 22 more players. Under league guidelines, NFL teams are allowed to form an eight-man practice squad the following day.
PUNTING GAME: Rookie punter Sam Koch averaged 51 yards on five punts with a long of 61 yards against the Minnesota Vikings last week, likely strengthening his grip on the job ahead of veteran Leo Araguz.
“Sam had plenty of opportunities and we’ve got to build on that this Thursday,” Billick said.
TRAINING ROOM: Safety Gerome Sapp (illness) and offensive guard Brian Rimpf (hamstring) didn't practice.
Running back Jamal Lewis (hip flexor) practiced for the second consecutive without incident. Although Billick said no decision has been made, the former Pro Bowl runner is unlikely to play against the Washington Redskins on Thursday.
“They felt it would be good for him to push himself a little bit,” Billick said. “That’s a good sign.”
QUICK HITS: Billick expressed a desire to make the team’s preseason game against the Redskins an annual meeting.
“I don’t understand why we wouldn’t make that permanent and finish the preseason with one another every year,” he said. “It just makes too much sense. Therefore, it probably won’t happen.”