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Eisenberg: Ravens Holding Their Breath for a Promising 2020

Head Coach John Harbaugh
Head Coach John Harbaugh

No one is breathing as training camps prepare to open at the Under Armour Performance Center and across the NFL this week.

That's an exaggeration, of course, but it does seem everyone, and I do mean everyone, is holding his or her breath as the specter of another season starts to come into focus.

The players are holding their breath in hopes that the league and their union come up with a satisfactory set of safety protocols, easing their minds about putting on shoulder pads and playing.

Teams are holding their breath about their chances of staging a relatively normal season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which is certain to produce a drastically altered new normal.

Fans are holding their breath about the likelihood of getting to watch NFL football at all this fall, injecting a welcomed sliver of routine familiarity into these unsettled times.

Here's the situational math, if you will: Uncertainty plus anticipation equals an absence of breathing throughout the pro football world as the countdown to the 2020 season begins.

And that breath-holding probably is worse in Baltimore than just about anywhere.

In quite a few other places, they want to see football but they're wondering whether their team is earmarked for a winning season or at least one that makes for interesting viewing. But few analysts are asking such questions about the Ravens because there's little doubt.

They engineered the best record in the league last year, ending the regular season on a 12-game winning streak, and most of their key performers are back. Lamar Jackson, their electrical force of a quarterback and the reigning league MVP, touches the ball on every offensive snap.

And to their already-potent 2019 mix they've added a handful of players who could make them even better, including Calais Campbell, one of the league's most formidable defensive linemen. A set of young offensive weapons also is new to the scene.

Quite simply, the Ravens are loaded.

When Pro Football Focus ranked the rosters of all 32 NFL teams last month, Baltimore came in at the top. Not near the top. The Ravens were first.

Analytics and oddsmakers have them favored to win all 16 of their games, including a Week 3 matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs, the reigning Super Bowl champs and the Ravens' only true competitor in the race to be the NFL's most interesting and exciting team.

One never knows how a season will unfold, but the Ravens are widely regarded as top-tier Super Bowl contenders.

If something were to happen to the season due to the coronavirus, there'd be profound disappointment in Baltimore, as Campbell noted during his recent conversation with my colleagues Ryan Mink and Garrett Downing on "The Lounge" podcast.

"I feel like it would be bad fortune if we don't get to finish the season because of Covid," Campbell said. "If we can follow the rules and lock in and have a full, complete season, I feel that the team the Baltimore Ravens have built has every opportunity to be Super Bowl champions and win it all. It'd be a shame if that opportunity is wasted."

Weirdly, the Ravens' chances of reaching their goal rests almost as much on their opponents as themselves, as it'll take buy-in on the health protocols from all 32 locker rooms to pull off a normal season.

"There are about 2,000 players (combined) on all teams throughout a season," Campbell said, "and you have to count on those guys to follow the rules and separate from people and try to keep the locker room safe. That's the scary part because it's really going to be the honor system."

All the Ravens can do is hold up their end off the field, giving them a chance to do their thing on the field.

"We're going to do what we have to do. We're going to try," Campbell said, "and hopefully we can get through a whole season, and when it's all said and done, we can kiss that Lombardi Trophy. Man, that's the goal."

It's a big goal but realistic so … yup … hold your breath.

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