Byrne Identity: Ravens Earned Right to Play in Big Games

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Do we have another big game Monday night? Is this another "must-win" situation?

How much more of this can we all take?

Hey, this is hard. Can't we just get a game that allows us to have a restful sleep the night before? Is that too much to ask?

How many more times are we going to say to each other: "WE HAVE to have this game this week?"

This is draining. And, God forbid, don't take me to another overtime game.

Ah, life in the NFL, and life as a fan of the 2009 Ravens. No doubt that it has been exciting. No doubt that it has been dramatic. No doubt that it has been tension-filled. No doubt there is much more to come.

When we fell to 5-5 after the 17-15 loss to the undefeated Colts, John Harbaugh addressed the Ravens' players and coaches 2 days later. He reminded the team that "We're good. We can make the playoffs, and we will. Sunday starts a 6-game season. And, who better to start it with but the Steelers at our place." He said more, but that was the heart of it: "We're good, and we can make the playoffs."

Coach Harbaugh is correct, and the start of our 6-game season was a good one with the overtime victory over the Steelers. His stress on the importance of what the Ravens do now – the 6-game season – is the truth. Take a look at 3 teams a year ago at this time – the Jets, Cowboys and Eagles. The Jets, under then-head coach Eric Mangini and QB Brett Favre, had just won 5 in a row and owned an 8-3 record. They didn't make the playoffs. The Cowboys, winners of 3 straight, climbed to an 8-4 mark, but they fell short of earning the postseason. Both of these teams finished 9-7.

There's a lot more history to be made by the 2009 Ravens. Tighten the seat belt, sit up straight and brace for the contests. Bring it on.

Hey, we're playing in a big game Monday night in Green Bay because we were good last season, and the NFL honchos thought we'd compete at a high level again this season. The game is also important because THE RAVENS ARE GOOD – that's why we're a serious playoff contender. And, the Packers are good, too, and in the hunt in the NFC. It's probably going to be a close game until the end – oh boy. We're all going to be stressed – before and during the game. Our moods will be altered. Our hearts will be tested.

Isn't it great being a Ravens' fan?

Hear It From Ray

So I asked Ray Lewis about playing "another big game" Monday in Green Bay.

"You mean at Lambeau in the cold? We don't care where we play. You can always get warm on the sidelines," Ray replied.

No, I explained, I wanted to know how he and the team felt about playing in all of these "must-win, have-to-win" games. "Kev, Kev, I've never played in a game that wasn't a big game, but I love what Coach did with the 6-game season," Ray started. "This game would be big no matter what our record is, and our team would be the same if the kid [Steve Hauschka] made the field goal at Minnesota…if Mark [Clayton] caught the ball in New England…if we didn't let the Bengals have that last drive with the 3 penalties at our stadium.

"We are who we are. Mark came back. The defense is back. We kept moving. We are moving. Six games. One down – a win, five to go. That's what our mindset is. Lambeau, the Packers, Monday night, we can't wait."

I then asked Jarret Johnson the same question about the pressure of another "big game." "It does seem like we've been fighting to stay above water this season, but we have stayed above it. We've fought to stay in contention against most of the best teams in the league. We hold our own destiny," Johnson explained. "We like it like that. We're playing important games in December, and there are a lot teams that aren't. We're doing good."

Ray and "J.J" are certainly ready for Green Bay.

Billy Cundiff, Good Kicker, Good Guy

How about Billy Cundiff coming in here and giving us a reliable kicker in this stretch run? Pretty cool. Coach Harbaugh gave Billy a game ball for the win over the Steelers after he kicked the tying field goal in the game's last 2 minutes and then the winner in overtime.

When a player wins a game ball, Ed Carroll, our equipment manager, takes a ball that was used in the game – in this case, the ball kicked for the winning field goal – and sends it to a local company that paints it and labels it with the pertinent information. When Ed gave Billy the completed ball yesterday [Thursday], Billy asked Ed if he could buy 2 more: one with Matt Katula's name on it and the other with Sam Koch's. Matt snapped the ball to Koch, our holder, on the important FGs against the Steelers.

"He asked me if I could get this done, and he told me he would pay for it," Carroll said. "He said he didn't do it alone. I've never had a player receive a game ball and ask if he could have others made for teammates."

Way to go, Billy!

My hope is that we don't have to trot out Billy for a game-winner on Monday night in Green Bay. I'd much rather have the game in hand and my heart rate low late in the 4th quarter. (But, that doesn't happen very often in the NFL.) We're ready for the battle on the tundra. Can't wait. Let's beat the Pack.

Talk with you next week.

Kevin

Kevin Byrne is in his 31st NFL season and is the Ravens' senior vice president of public and community relations. He has worked in the NFL since 1977, when he was the then-youngest public relations director in the league (for the then-St. Louis Cardinals), except for the two years he was the Director of Public Affairs for TWA (Trans World Airlines). He has been with the Ravens since they began, and before that was a vice president with the Cleveland Browns. He has won a Super Bowl ring with the 2000 Ravens and an NCAA basketball championship with Al McGuire's Marquette team in '77. He was on the losing end of historic games known for the "Drive" and the "Fumble." He has worked closely and is friends with some of the best in the game: Ozzie Newsome, Brian Billick, Ray Lewis , Bill Cowher, Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan, Marty Schottenheimer and Shannon Sharpe to name a few.

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