It Still Hurts
Please watch this 41-second video of Steve Young talking about football before you read the blog.
"Football is a great metaphor for life. People say, 'That guy, he dropped the ball.' No, we really dropped the ball."
Yes, the Ravens dropped the ball. We lost the game. The Patriots won, and it still hurts. For me, that hurt will carry through Feb. 5 and will be magnified that night when we watch the confetti fall on other champions as they hold the silver football trophy high.
We all know that could have been us. The Ravens were good enough. But, as Steve Young said, "We really dropped the ball."
The Patriots made the plays to win. We didn't.
It hurts just to write that.
Sat Up In The NightI've been embarrassed to admit that some losses by my teams resemble near death experiences. It gives similar pain. That's a little sick, certainly immature, but it's truthful.
Once the ball sailed left, the mantra became: "Do your job." That's how I coped. Get to John Harbaugh and prepare for the post-game interviews. … Make sure Joe Flacco, Lee Evans and Billy Cundiff are ready for the onslaught. … What else? What else? ... 'Sizzle,' he's good. … Ray Lewis will be fine – they'll ask about retirement and on and on.
It's like a wake. You just get through it. You're polite, somber. You appreciate any kind words, but you're also in a kind of fog.
My "post-wake-it-happened" moment came at 1:33 a.m. Wednesday. I sat up in bed, put my feet over the side and said to myself: "We lost." The wake was over. It really hit me that my team lost the AFC championship.
That opportunity was gone. So sad, really sad. Did it really happen? Yes, it was Wednesday, and we lost in Foxborough on Sunday.
I slumped. It sapped me.
Time To Move OnWhen I arrived at the office later that morning, I looked at my notes from Sunday's post-game and found inspiration from what Coach Harbaugh said to the team after the game.
"Let's get close. Let's come together, get real tight. Bodies close," Harbs said as the team formed a huddle around him. Coach Harbaugh was wearing a jacket with the logo "53 MIGHTY MEN OF BALTIMORE."
"Four years ago," John started, "we talked about 53 mighty men making up this team. That's why I wore this jacket today. We win as a team of 53 mighty men, and we lose as a team of 53 mighty men, along with the rest of us in this circle. We didn't win. It was a courageous effort. You are the same men now as you were five minutes ago, 30 minutes ago, five months ago.
"We will be back. We will move on to our greatness," Harbs told the silent crew.
No mention of plays, misses or blame … We win and lose as a team.
With that, Coach asked a shirtless Ray Lewis to break the team huddle. The tight circle became smaller, as all reached to Ray's raised left arm.
"We've got to come back and go to work, to make sure we finish it next time," Lewis preached. "This right here makes us stronger. Let's understand who we are as a team. Let's understand who we are as men. … We've got the opportunity to keep going. Let's be stronger as a team, man. Let's be who we are.
"Ravens on three: one, two, three…" and all shouted, "Ravens!"
Two men. Two leaders. John Harbaugh said we will be back. Ray Lewis proclaimed that we will be stronger.
Nothing For GrantedOne of the strengths, I believe, of the Ravens is that we don't take things for granted. We don't assume that since we made the AFC championship in 2011, we can do it again in 2012. No, next season is brand new, and we will be a different team. We will lose players in free agency. We already lost our defensive coordinator. We will add veterans, and we will draft rookies.
We will be different. But, we will be the Ravens led by a group of outstanding leaders like Steve Bisciotti, Ozzie Newsome, Dick Cass and John Harbaugh. We will have players with great talent and determination – Ray Lewis, Ray Rice, Joe Flacco, "Sizzle," Haloti, Ed and Anquan and on and on. All "Mighty Men."
Our resolve to win championships drives us every day. We will do that. We will, as Harbs said, "find our greatness."
A Smile To End The Season
In the production meeting with CBS-TV prior to our divisional-round win over the Texans, Ray Lewis and Ray Rice came in together. Eventually, Dan Dierdorf asked "Little Ray" for examples on and off the field of how "Big Ray" has helped him.
Rice showed a huge smile and said it started his rookie season. Rice told the story – most of you have heard it – about his first run against the first Ravens' defense and how he had run 17 yards for a one-yard gain. "After Ray had tackled me, he whispered in my ear, 'In this league, you have to go north and south,'" Rice said.
"Off the field, I was in the cafeteria walking to the line for food. My pants might have been a little low," the Rutgers product said.
"Way low," interrupted Lewis.
"All of a sudden, and I had not officially met Ray yet, I feel this presence over my shoulder and this voice: 'Ray Rice, this is Ray Lewis. I love the way you play. But, you should pull your pants up.'"
Then Rice smiled and said: "I haven't worn them low since."
Like Steve Young suggests in the video, we're going to have a lot of huddles this offseason. In the end, we plan to produce a team that can win the championship. That's what we do. That's who we are.
We'll be back.
Talk to you down the road,
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.