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Back from the Bye


Hurricane Ike may have shifted the Ravens' schedule around after damaging much of Texas' Gulf Coast last weekend, but once the team heard their Week 10 break would occur this week, players definitely switched into full-bye mode.

The routine is an easy transition for most players.

The bye is for resting weary bones that have gone through at least several contests of a 16-game season to prepare for the stretch run.

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh gave his players three days off before bringing the team back Wednesday.

Now, with 15 consecutive weeks of football ahead of them, and perhaps even more should the team make the playoffs, many Ravens took full advantage of what little break they had.

"It's going to be a long stretch. Playing 15 games in a row is tough to do, so it's about getting your body rested so you can get through that," said fullback Lorenzo Neal, who is in his 16th season. "I think when you look at this untimely bye, you have to say, 'What can I get out of this? How can I grow?'

"What you have to do is watch other teams, watch them stumble, watch the guys that are favored. It's a time to watch football and watch your opponent."

That means for Neal, Sunday and Monday were spent off his feet, plopped in front of a TV to do some preliminary scouting, if not simply to enjoy watching his colleagues on the gridiron.

Neal and linebacker Ray Lewis actually got together to critique some of the action while making sure they got their veteran bodies right.

"You get through the gallons of water, making sure you get massages and making sure you're off you're feet," Lewis noted. "If you take care of yourself during the bye week, like I regularly do anyway, it's going to benefit you whether if it's sooner or later, bottom line.

"We got a lot of football in, saw it from the outside."

Something else they saw was the destruction Ike caused to Houston and southern Texas, which made Lewis think of the families affected by the storm.

"There were a lot of people that were truly affected by a natural disaster," Lewis said. "Just to see everything that came to Houston, your regards and your sympathy have to first and foremost think about them and the lives that were lost down there in the city."

Some players take a different approach to relaxation, however. Linebacker Bart Scott made sure he was at the Ravens' training facility Tuesday for a workout.

Rookies Ray Rice and Joe Flacco made appearances to sit down with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and their position coaches to put in overtime with the playbook.

Flacco also did some makeshift film study of his next two opponents by watching the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers battle Sunday night. The Steelers ended up winning the AFC North matchup, 10-6.

"I got a chance to watch a couple of games during the week, and that was definitely one of them [on] Sunday night," Flacco said. "It was a sloppy game, weather-wise, up in Cleveland. But, it's always good to watch the opponents."

The Ravens have never been in this unprecedented situation before. The earliest the bye has ever come in franchise history is Week 3 in 2002 and 2005.

Looking forward, the Ravens know they have some obstacles to overcome by their circumstances, like a run of five road games in six weeks.

But taking a page from head coach John Harbaugh, players are simply approaching the rest of their schedule on a week-to-week basis.

"We are a well-conditioned team," said wideout Derrick Mason. "Coach Harbaugh made sure that happened during the OTAs [Organized Team Activities] and two-a-day practices.

"We're a well-conditioned team, so whether we have to go 15 straight weeks – honestly, we're looking to go more than 15 straight weeks – whatever it may be that's the obstacle we've got ahead of us and it's an obstacle that I think we can overcome as a team."

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