Are the Cleveland Browns just what the doctor ordered?
I mean the Ravens really need a win after losing 4 of our last 5 games – all played against 1st-place teams, by the way.
We're 4-4 and Cleveland is 1-7. Everyone is saying the Ravens will win. And, a victory is just the right medicine to get us going for the 2nd half of the season.
Perfect time to play the Browns, right?
Plus, we know we can beat them. We smashed them, 34-3, at M&T Bank Stadium on the last Sunday in September.
So, how come I'm so nervous about the game? Well, losing these 4 of 5 – no matter how close those losses were – shakes your confidence. And, as I've written before, you and I don't have much impact on how we play. It's about the players and coaches on game day. Not being in control bothers some of us. Plus, I've been around long enough to know that each week in the NFL some team that wasn't "supposed" to win does. It happens all the time in our league.
You and I can give Eric Mangini's motivational message this week:
"Look guys, the world thinks we stink. They don't know us. They don't know that all of you have great talent and have worked hard to get here. They look at our record and write us off. We know better. Well, that whole world will be watching us Monday night. This is our one opportunity this season on national television to show everyone that we're not bums. None of you is a loser. You know that.
"You know what we'll give the Ravens? We'll give them the best of each of you. If we do that, we'll be the ones looking at the cameras after the game saying, 'We are good. We are great competitors. We do have pride. We just showed you.'"
What did the Browns, who won just 4 games last season and then fired their head coach, do after their bye last season? They blasted the defending Super Bowl champion Giants, 35-14, at Cleveland Browns Stadium. (What's with us having to play teams coming off byes each week? Monday's game against the Browns will be the 3rd consecutive game against a team coming off a bye.)
Eric Mangini's teams after byes? Here's what he did in his 3 seasons as the head coach of the Jets: beat Cincinnati (26-14) last season, stopped the Steelers (19-16 in OT) in 2007 and dropped the Patriots (17-14) in 2006.
Because I like to torture myself, I examined the Browns' roster. You know what they have? They have a lot of players we liked when they were coming out of college and when they were available in veteran free agency. It's Ozzie Newsome's and Eric DeCosta's fault. I've been in the draft room when many of these Browns' players were selected. I've heard Oz and Eric say, "That guy is going to be a good pro. Wish he would have fallen to us."
I know, I know. Some of you are saying, "Just shut up and go beat up the Browns. Do what you're supposed to do." I hear you. But, this business has made me jaded. I've been on the wrong side of games like this. I've seen teams rise above their levels, including my teams.
You guys who think I'm nuts or whining, go ahead and rest peacefully before Monday. I'll try to do the same as I look at what we have – Coach Harbaugh, the talent Ozzie and staff have acquired, the 2 Rays (Lewis and Rice), Flacco, Mason, Oher and Gaither…the 6-time Pro Bowl center (Matt Birk) and Heap…Suggs and "JJ" (Jarret Johnson), Reed and Haloti, Gregg and Pryce.
Okay, I'm settling down. We're going to win, aren't we guys?
HOW ABOUT HITTING ON ANOTHER LATE FIRST-ROUND PICK?
Ozzie's late 1st-round selections have been spectacular: Ray Lewis at 26, Todd Heap at 31; Ed Reed was the 24th player selected in the 2002 Draft, and Ben Grubbs, recently named to the midseason All-Pro team by Pro Football Weekly, was taken 29th in '07.
Well, Oz and Co. have done it again with Michael Oher, who was the 23rd player drafted last Spring. Oher, who has started at both right and left tackle in our first 8 games, is the real deal. He was just named to Sports Illustrated's midseason All-Pro team by Peter King. King, who also works for NBC-TV, might be the most "connected" reporter covering the NFL. He talks to everyone around the league. He talked with many when he assembled his All-Pro team. It means that coaches, scouts and players have noticed how well Oher is playing.
How about that? Many in the know are saying that Oher already is the best right tackle in the game. Pretty cool.
While Oher is working hard to prepare for and then play each week, he is also dealing with a horde of media wanting him to talk about the movie about his life. The Blind Side comes out next week. It's the story of how Michael grew up on the streets of Memphis and then lived with Leigh Anne and Sean Touhy and their family. In fact, Michael calls the Touhys "Mom" and "Dad," and their two children "my brother and sister."
It's a super story…a great reality that states so much about Michael and the Touhy family.
Because Michael is so focused on being the best Ravens' player he can be, he does not want to be interviewed about the movie or repeat the story of his life for every reporter who asks. That puts him in a tough situation. But, he handles it well. He's polite, friendly and available to reporters and repeats his love for the Touhys. He's just not letting the movie, which is getting huge promotion and much national buzz, keep him from the task at hand: being the best player he can be.
Michael hasn't seen the movie yet and was not involved in the making of the movie. But, he does plan to watch it "some day."
FRIDAY IS THURSDAY...MONDAY IS SUNDAY
I have mentioned that we're a little nuts in this business. It's just not being consumed with the next opponent on the schedule. It carries over to simple things, like days of the week.
You might think today is Friday. It's not. It's Thursday for the Ravens, because today, we are on our regular Thursday schedule. When we play in Cleveland on Monday night, it will be Sunday for the team. Why? You got it…because we'll be on our Sunday schedule.
Thursday is Wednesday, Friday (today) is Thursday, tomorrow is Friday, not Saturday. That's how we roll in the NFL. For example, talked with Coach Harbaugh this morning, and he said, "Today's the coordinators – Thursday, right?" Yes, Coach, today is Thursday, the day the coordinators meet with the media. "You don't have a press conference today. You'll have one tomorrow, Friday."
So, what happens next week, when we play, in the real world, on Monday? What happens to our football-schedule Monday? We lose it. We only have 6 days next week. We jump from Sunday to Tuesday. Got it?
So, let's go beat those Browns this Sunday…er, Monday. You know what I mean. We'll be there. We get on the charter Saturday afternoon, which will be Sunday for many of you.
Talk to you next Friday – the real Friday.
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.