Canton, Ohio — The goals were to let the backups play and learn, and to be inspired.
The Ravens and Bears honored their great linebackers Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher with some defense to make them proud in the Hall of Fame game that opened the NFL’s preseason Thursday night. Baltimore held on, 17-16.
“Ray is the greatest linebacker of our time,” said 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, who quarterbacked the second half for the Ravens. “That was a big thrill and exciting stuff.”
Oh, there was a little spark of offense, some provided by Baltimore’s first-round draft pick. Jackson’s 7-yard touchdown pass to fellow first-rounder Hayden Hurst came after the Ravens’ defense recovered a fumble.
Chicago put together its best drive in the final minutes and journeyman Tyler Bray connected with Tanner Gentry for a 10-yard score to cap a 92-yard march. But the 2-point conversion pass fell incomplete.
Otherwise, D was the letter of the day: there were six turnovers in all, and 12 sacks, eight by the Bears.
“To represent Ray in this game to our guys meant even more,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.
“It was a special moment for our organization,” noted new Bears coach Matt Nagy.
The teams exchanged tipped interceptions on the first two possessions of the preseason.
Chicago moved swiftly downfield only to have Chase Daniel’s pass to Josh Bellamy deflected to safety Chuck Clark at the Baltimore 6. He returned it 15 yards, then the Ravens replicated the turnover.
Robert Griffin III, attempting a comeback after sitting out 2017, had his pinpoint throw go off the hands of receiver Breshad Perriman, then off rookie cornerback Michael Joseph. DeAndre Houston-Carson dived to make the pick at the Ravens 34.
The Bears soon converted when Michael Burton caught a 4-yard scoring pass from Daniel.
Baltimore tied it, sparked by two big gainers by undrafted rookie running back Gus Edwards. Griffin found Maxx Williams for a 4-yard score.
“It felt great,” Griffin said. “I can’t tell you how grateful I am to play the game again.”
Then Lewis’ old unit gave him a thrill. On the next play from scrimmage, linebacker Kamalei Correa sped 19 yards with an interception to the Chicago 9. But Urlacher’s former defense made him smile, sacking Griffin on third down to hold Baltimore to a 31-yard field goal by Kaare Vedvik.
Generally, it was a sloppy affair among backups marred by a slew of dropped passes, poor protection for the quarterbacks, and misthrows by those QBs.
But something Lewis and Urlacher would approve, the defenses hit hard and tackled well.
Elliott sued for 2017 crash
A suburban Dallas man is suing Ezekiel Elliott for at least $1 million in damages, alleging the Dallas Cowboys running back caused him “serious, life-altering injuries” when Elliott’s truck rammed the man’s car.
The lawsuit by Ronnie Barnard Hill of Frisco was filed in a state district court in Collin County, just north of Dallas. Hill’s attorney, Quentin Brogdon, said his client sued Elliott reluctantly after failing to reach a private settlement.
A Frisco police report on the Jan. 11, 2017 crash said Elliott “accidentally ran a red light” and struck Hill’s luxury sedan on the driver’s side panel, totaling the car.
Drivers aren’t allowed in Texas to sue another driver’s insurer, only the driver. Elliott’s attorney, Frank Salzano, says Elliott expects his insurer to “handle the matter appropriately.”
Jackson focuses on family
Coach Hue Jackson is leaning on his Browns family while mourning the deaths of his mother and brother.
Jackson’s mother Betty Lee Jackson and brother John Jr., recently died within a two-week span. Jackson’s 83-year-old mother passed away on Sunday in Los Angeles following a lengthy illness.
Jackson has been coping with the losses during training camp and intends to stay with the team through the Aug. 9 exhibition opener against the New York Giants. Jackson, who is in this third season with Cleveland, plans to leave for California following the game for his mother’s funeral.
He will rejoin the Browns for practice on Aug. 12. The team had pre-planned off days on Aug. 10-11. In the meantime, Jackson said he has received support from players, fellow coaches and owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam.
“It’s been a difficult period of time for me, but everyone has to go through this in life,” Jackson said. “It’s not easy, but I always try to focus on the fond memories I’ve shared with the people I’ve lost and that helps get you through it.
“Dee, Jimmy, our players, coaches and really the entire organization have been so supportive and that helps. We’re a close-knit group, this is a family and I’m so appreciative of everyone’s support.”
Holdout safety Earl Thomas reiterated Thursday he wants to be traded if the Seahawks aren’t willing to offer him a contract extension.
Thomas, a three-time first-team All Pro and the anchor for the Seattle defense that appeared in consecutive Super Bowls, said his holdout is entirely based around securing his long-term future with his current contract set to expire at the conclusion of the 2018 season.
... Tennessee safety Johnathan Cyprien will miss the season with a torn left ACL, and coach Mike Vrabel said veteran Eric Reid is among the safeties the Titans want to look at as a potential replacement.
... The Los Angeles Chargers placed cornerback Jason Verrett on injured reserve with a torn Achilles tendon.
... Cleveland Browns starting right guard Kevin Zeitler will miss several weeks of training camp because of a calf injury.