JETS GAME WORTH A RE-VISIT
Hey, I know we have to get ready for the game in Cincinnati on Sunday.
(And, thanks a lot NFL schedule makers for putting us on the road in a Monday night opener against a team that went to the AFC Championship last season playing in the grand opening of its new stadium… And then following that up with a road game in the "short" week against the team that not only won the AFC North a year ago, it swept the division. Just had to get that off my chest.)
But, it was so good to beat the Jets in the opener. We survived early turnovers, bad field position and a fired up Jets team and crowd in that game.
Ray Lewis' Speech
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Let's go back to a week ago yesterday. We brought Ray Lewis to meet with the media. If you've forgotten, watch the video to the right to see and hear what Ray said about the Jets.
The preface to Ray's meeting with the media was a statement to me: "You might not want me up there today," Lewis said. "I'm a little ticked off." I have such trust in Ray, his intelligence and judgment, so I said, "You'll be fine."
And he was, until he got a question about something Rex Ryan said about "Ed Reed and Ray Lewis tapping out" when it came to play calling on HBO's "Hard Knocks With the New York Jets." That's when Ray said: "I have to be careful here." And then he went off.
Now what Ray said was not bad. He basically called out Rex, telling him to coach his team and not talk about the Ravens. Lewis added, as you saw on the video, that the game was not going to be about talking ("not played through tongues"), but about playing the game on the field.
Almost instantly, Ray's words were everywhere: on ESPN, the NFL Network, every national radio show and newspaper – and certainly every outlet that regularly covers the Ravens and Jets in our respective areas. As soon as Ray finished, I went to John Harbaugh's office and alerted him. (All head coaches worry about their players saying things that get another team more fired up for a game, and I wanted John to know in case a reporter asked him about what Ray said.)
When I explained what Ray had said to our media, adding my opinion that I thought what he said was passionate and not over the top, John nodded and said: "Good for him. I heard that something was said about Ray and Ed on 'Hard Knocks.'"
By last Friday morning, unless you are not a sports' fan at all, you knew about what Ray had said to our media. Most of our players and coaches knew about it, too. For the team, that day started with the regular team meeting where Coach Harbaugh gave a message of the day, reviewed the schedule and then said: "Before we break for the individual (position) meetings, I have one more thing to say: 'Ray, we have your back.'"
It was the perfect thing to say. The players got it. Ray appreciated it.
After a couple of coaches and players mentioned to me how "Harbs" had closed the meeting, I went to John and said: "Heard you hit a chord with the team this morning." He thanked me and added: "I watched Ray's press conference. I thought what he said was solid, humble in some way, right, maybe even righteous."
Now jump to last Monday – about three hours before the scheduled start to the Ravens/Jets game. Just before our buses were scheduled to leave our hotel, Michele Tafoya (on ESPN) reported from the field at the New Meadowlands Stadium about a conversation she had with Rex Ryan. Tafoya, a respected reporter, said that Ryan told her that the Ravens' defense lacked some of the technique and discipline it once had.
I noticed two things soon after: 1) The coaches and the players were talking about the report on the bus (they typically watch ESPN the day of a night game); and 2) What Michele said really irritated a number of our players and coaches.
Just before the Ravens left the locker room to be introduced to the Jets' crowd prior to kickoff, Coach Harbaugh asked Ray, who had seen the report, if he wanted to say anything to the team. I wasn't there, but I heard Ray's brief speech was thrilling. From what I was told, he told the players and coaches that he was tired of the disrespect that had been showed to the Ravens last week. He asked players and coaches to look at the people next to them and let them know how much you respect each other, and now let's go show the Jets and the world that we deserve everyone's respect. In other words, it was clear that the players and the coaches had each other's backs.
All makes me very proud to be part of the Ravens.
AN EPILOGUE TO THE VICTORY
In the locker room after the game, there were about 40 to 50 reporters interviewing Ray Lewis. Ray Rice was leaving the area at the same time. Little Ray shouted out to Big Ray: "Ray, if you ever hit me in practice like you hit that guy at the end of the game, we will not be friends. You hear me, we will not be friends." You couldn't see Lewis through the throng, but you could hear him laugh and pronounce: "I'll never do that to little brother."
ONE MORE THING
Sorry for going a little long here…One of Coach Harbaugh's themes last week was that the Jets' defense was going to make us look bad at times. John told the team – more than once – "They'll make plays against us. That's what they do. What we have to avoid is them making runs after a play. When we have a bad play, get over it. Dust yourself off and get ready for the next. We are not going to panic."
And, we didn't panic when Joe Flacco was sacked and fumbled inside our five on the first series, nor with our bad field position for a lot of the game – and certainly not at the end of the game when we stopped New York's final drive.
And, I don't believe we'll panic in Cincinnati. We owe them. They swept us last year. They won the AFC North. Let's go beat the Bengals.
Talk with you next week.
Kevin Byrne , a Ravens senior vice president, has worked in the NFL for 32 years. Byrne has been with the Ravens since the start of the franchise in 1996. Earlier in his career, Byrne was the sports information director at Marquette University, his alma mater, when they won the 1977 NCAA basketball championship under coach Al McGuire.