Bye or No Bye, Ravens Roll On

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As the Ravens prepare to make history playing for their 17th consecutive week, an AFC Divisional tilt with the Tennessee Titans, it would be reasonable for some players to complain about the aches and pains that come from a grueling NFL season.

After all, several key players are nursing nagging injuries, like wideout Derrick Mason, whose shoulder and neck pain has caused him to be extremely limited in practice the past few weeks, or running back Ray Rice, who missed the past four contests because of a painful shin bruise.

In addition, Baltimore is heading to Nashville on a short week of preparation, considering the game is scheduled for Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

Still, there are no boo-hoos in the Ravens' locker room. No why me's. Players and coaches alike refuse to feel sorry for themselves for something over which they had no control.

While Hurricane Ike ravaged south Texas and caused the NFL to move Baltimore's Week 9 bye so it could play in Houston Nov. 9 was an inconvenience, once the decision was made, the Ravens simply put their heads down and gritted out the bulk of their dates in one continuous and grueling series.

"It's tough, it's difficult, especially coming off such a physical football game and such a stretch of physical games," said head coach John Harbaugh. "But our guys, they don't flinch, and they're looking forward to getting back to work."

The Ravens' next opponent is on the opposite side of the rest spectrum.

With the conference's top seed, Tennessee is coming off a first-round bye. The Titans were able to watch as Baltimore defeated the Miami Dolphins 27-9 in the Wild Card sectionals last week.

Could it affect how things develop at LP Field?

The Ravens felt negative effects the last time they held a playoff bye. After a 13-3 campaign in 2006, Baltimore sat home for the opening round before the Indianapolis Colts came to M&T Bank Stadium and clipped the Ravens, 15-6.

Some say the bye is coveted because it allows teams extra time to get healthy. Others think It can kill any momentum generated by closing out the season strong.

To right tackle Willie Anderson, the venerable 13-year veteran, there is no right or wrong situation.

"There are several different ways to look at it," Anderson said. "The team with the bye always says it can help them, and the team without the bye always says, 'Oh, we don't need that.' It's really whatever works. Some teams don't play well coming off the bye, but we've seen some Wild Card teams run the table.

"It still comes down to the old, boring saying – you have to execute on gameday. Everybody is bruised up, so a week is a little bit overrated. It's nice to have a bye, but it's not like you're going to heal after a few days. Those same aches and pains come back every week because you're going through a four-hour car crash."

The Ravens believe they can build on the energy gained from going 10-2 over their last 12 games, including the victory in Miami. That run also included a 41-13 shellacking of the Texans on Baltimore's original weekend break.

"It shows that we can do well without a bye," defensive tackle Haloti Ngata stated. "Right now, we're rolling with some momentum. A playoff win did a lot for having momentum on our side."

In more immediate terms, the Ravens are also mired in an abbreviated week, which canceled their regular off day on Tuesday.

Baltimore has faced that scenario in the past. A Monday night game on Sept. 29 with the Pittsburgh Steelers stole a day earlier in the year, and the Ravens recently lost another day before a Saturday-night matchup with the Dallas Cowboys.

Harbaugh takes care to tailor practices so that the Ravens can get the maximum amount of work accomplished while offering the maximum amount of rest.

"Coach Harbaugh has been saying that you have to hydrate, sleep and get your rest," Anderson explained. "It sounds cliché, but the young guys that are here don't know how to handle their body. This season is a grind.

"Honestly, my hands and fingers, wrist and neck probably won't start feeling better until March. While your friends are back home planning cookouts and taking vacation, we're still working. But, that's where we want to be."

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