The Ravens haven’t released their advertising campaign for 2014, but I’ve got a suggestion: “We’ve all got something to prove.”
I do mean ALL of them.
That struck me when I heard a radio conversation about one Raven in particular having a lot to prove in 2014, and then read an online debate about another Raven who would be “on a mission” to make a point.
Once you start down that road, you can come up with an underlying personal motivation for every guy on the team. It turns out that’s a universal mindset heading into the 2014 season.
Some are obvious. Wide receiver Steve Smith wants to prove he has something left in the tank after 13 seasons in the NFL, and really wants to prove the Carolina Panthers wrong for cutting him. Just as obviously, running back Ray Rice wants to prove himself on and off the field after his calamitous offseason.
There’s an entire class of rookies and undrafted free agents who want to prove they deserve a place in pro football, as well as a group of second-year guys such as linebacker Arthur Brown, defensive lineman Brandon Williams and fullback Kyle Juszczyk who want to prove they deserve larger roles than they filled as rookies.
But it’s not just the young guys who are on that “mission.”
Joe Flacco wants to prove he’s the clutch, big-play quarterback who won a Super Bowl in 2012 and warranted a record contract, not the mistake-prone quarterback who, by his own admission, didn’t take care of the ball well enough in 2013.
Offensive tackle Eugene Monroe wants to prove the Ravens right for identifying him and not someone else as their “Blind Side” guy. Tight end Dennis Pitta wants to prove he deserved the nice contract he signed in March, less than a year after a brutal hip injury.
Jeremy Zuttah, the new starting center, wants to prove the front office was right to trade for him and give him a long-term deal. Wide receiver Jacoby Jones wants to justify GM Ozzie Newsome’s continuing faith in him as a playmaker.
Haloti Ngata wants to prove he deserves to be one of the NFL’s highest-paid defensive players. Terrell Suggs wants to prove he’s still “Sizzle” after signing a contract extension at age 31. Elvis Dumervil wants to prove he’s still a Pro Bowl-caliber pass rusher, not the one who struggled for sacks down the stretch in 2013. Inside linebacker Daryl Smith wants to prove the front office was right to reward his solid 2013 by signing him to a four-year deal at age 32.
Guard Marshal Yanda wants to prove his so-so 2013 was an aberration. Kelechi Osemele wants to prove he’s healthy and ready to rumble again after undergoing back surgery. Rick Wagner wants to prove he’s a starting tackle. About a hundred other guys want to prove they’re part of the offensive line solution.
Wide receiver Torrey Smith and cornerback Jimmy Smith want to prove they deserve long-term contracts. Wide receiver Marlon Brown wants to prove his breakout rookie season wasn’t a fluke. Cornerback Lardarius Webb wants to prove his knees are 100 percent and he can become a “lockdown” corner again. Chykie Brown wants to prove he’s a No. 3 cornerback.
Running back Bernard Pierce wants to prove he can stay healthy and play like he did as a rookie. Defensive lineman Terrence Cody also wants to prove he can stay healthy and contribute. Running back Justin Forsett wants to prove he’s a piece of the puzzle. Defensive lineman Chris Canty wants to prove he can fend off those young guys always looking to take your snaps.
And hey, it’s not just players wanting to prove a point. The Ravens’ new offensive coordinator, Gary Kubiak, certainly wants to show he’s still got his mojo after getting fired by the Houston Texans last year.
It’s all partly a commentary on how fiercely competitive the NFL is, how you can never relax because jobs are hard to come by and even harder to keep. But it’s also a commentary on coming off an 8-8, non-playoff season, as opposed to a year that ends with you holding up the Vince Lombardi Trophy. When more goes wrong, there’s more to prove.
Needless to say, the team as a whole wants to prove its disappointing 2013 was a fluke.
Ladies and gentleman, your 2014 Baltimore Ravens: A team on a mission, for all sorts of reasons.