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Ravens say they never considered replacing Cameron as offensive coordinator

FootballBaltimore RavensJohn HarbaughNew England PatriotsAFCJoe FlaccoSuper Bowl

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron will be back with the Ravens next season. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Friday, though, that Cameron was never going anywhere in the first place.

"I don't know that an announcement is necessary," Harbaugh said.

At the news conference introducing linebackers coach Dean Pees as the team's next defensive coordinator, other members of the coaching staff, there to support Pees, sat in the back of the auditorium. Cameron was one of them. When Harbaugh opened the conference to questions from the media, the first one asked was not about Pees, but Cameron's status for the 2012 season.

"Cam's been our offensive coordinator, will continue to be our offensive coordinator," Harbaugh said.

Cameron's four-year contract, signed before the 2008 season, was set to expire next month. On Monday morning, hours after Sunday's 23-20 season-ending loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game, Cameron told some co-workers that he didn't expect the Ravens to offer him a new contract, according to a league source.

But after the usual season-ending evaluation of the coaching staff, the team opted to keep Cameron for 2012. When Cameron got the news from Harbaugh, he called Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome to thank him.

"I called Ozzie and said, 'Hey, I'm just thrilled to be back.' Ozzie said, 'Cam, in our minds, you were never gone.' And that means the world," Cameron said. "Obviously, we've got a lot of unfinished business. Our focus will be the same: getting better."

Harbaugh and Cameron said Friday that the length of the deal had not been determined. Financial terms of the deal were also not disclosed, but Cameron was believed to be one of the highest-paid coordinators in the NFL during his previous contract.

The league source also said that one stipulation of Cameron's return was that the team hired a quarterbacks coach. Cameron served in both roles during the 2011 season. Harbaugh said that was the right move at the time and that the team hiring a quarterbacks coach is a possibility.

Cameron's offensive philosophy and play-calling were scrutinized — as was his relationship with fourth-year quarterback Joe Flacco — when the offense sputtered at times this past season. But the Ravens' offense was more balanced down the stretch as the team won six of its final seven regular-season games to win the AFC North and secure the AFC's No. 2 seed with a 12-4 record.

"The way it worked last year on offense, to me, was tremendously successful," Harbaugh said. "The quarterback and the offensive coordinator have to really be of one mind, both [relationally] and footballwise. Those guys being in the room together, to me, was a smashing success."

Sunday, the Ravens out-gained the Patriots 398 yards to 330 and Flacco played perhaps the best playoff game of his career. He completed 22 of 36 attempts for 306 yards and two touchdowns.

"We have a great relationship. Joe has grown so much in so many ways, not only as a player, as a man," Cameron said. "You see the greatness developing in this guy. There's greatness in him."

But the Ravens came up short of their goal of reaching the Super Bowl when wide receiver Lee Evans dropped what would have been a go-ahead touchdown pass with 22 seconds remaining and kicker Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field-goal attempt 11 seconds later that would have tied the game. According to the league source, team officials later criticized Cameron because the pass on that first critical play was thrown to Evans.

Cameron, a popular punching bag for many fans, is no stranger to criticism.

During the 2010 season, the heat on Cameron increased as the team finished 22nd in total offense, 20th in passing and 14th in rushing. Their 22.3 points per game ranked 16th. In a 31-24 playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens gained just 126 yards, a postseason low for the franchise.

After the season, Harbaugh endorsed Cameron as his offensive coordinator, a decision owner Steve Bisciotti supported. At the annual "State of the Ravens" news conference a week after the Pittsburgh loss, Bisciotti said, "We like Cam under fire as our offensive coordinator next year."

The Ravens in 2011 improved to 15th in total offense, 19th in passing and 10th in rushing, and their points per game increased to 23.6. They did it with a new run-blocking scheme, changes on the offensive line and a group of mostly inexperienced receivers and tight ends.

"The chemistry in the passing game, [it] will come," Cameron said. "If it was easy for all new guys just to light it up in the passing game, then everybody would do it every year."

He expects the team to upgrade his personnel this offseason. A new quarterbacks coach could arrive eventually. But the Ravens say they were never in the market for a new offensive coordinator.

"Like it was said, I was never gone," Cameron said.

matt.vensel@baltsun.com

twitter.com/mattvensel

Baltimore Sun reporter Mike Preston contributed to this article.

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FootballBaltimore RavensJohn HarbaughNew England PatriotsAFCJoe FlaccoSuper Bowl
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