Every team faces adversity throughout an NFL season.
But, man, it sure seems like the Ravens have been through it all this year.
It began with the Ray Rice ordeal, which continued into the season.
Then began an uncanny string of injuries, specifically on the defensive line and cornerback.
Cornerback Aaron Ross was lost for the season in training camp, as were defensive ends Kapron Lewis-Moore and rookie Brent Urban. Lardarius Webb missed all of training camp and essentially four regular-season games.
Tight end Dennis Pitta re-fractured and dislocated his hip in Week 3, sending him to the shelf for the rest of the year. Then breakout cornerback Jimmy Smith suffered a foot injury in Week 8 that became a season-ender once he had surgery.
And don't forget that cornerback Asa Jackson missed seven games with a toe injury, and that Baltimore totally re-shuffled its cornerback corps midway through the year when it parted ways with Chykie Brown and Dominique Franks on the same day.
Those changes came after crushing losses. There was the A.J. Green 77-yard bobbling touchdown catch in Week 1. There was the offensive pass interference on Steve Smith Sr. in Cincinnati in Week 8. The secondary gave up six touchdowns to the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger the next week.
Perhaps the most gut-wrenching was the 34-33 loss at home against San Diego two weeks ago, in which the Ravens led for all but 38 seconds. A win there would have put Baltimore in strong playoff position. A loss put them back in the AFC royal rumble.
Four days later, defensive leader Haloti Ngata was suspended for the remainder of the regular season – a kick to the gut when the Ravens were down. Last week, another cornerback, Danny Gorrer, suffered a season-ending surgery.
But none of those shots have knocked the Ravens out. The question is:* *Why not?
Here's how several key Ravens answered that question:
Head Coach John Harbaugh
"We have a resilient bunch. They're mentally tough, they don't get caught up in the noise, they don't get easily distracted. We say, 'Turn neither to the left nor to the right – eyes straight ahead.' We have a bunch of very mature men and some young guys that are heading in the right direction because of the mature guys around them that are leading them and showing them the way."
QB Joe Flacco
"I think it starts with John [Harbaugh] and his attitude that he brings into the team meeting room after a loss, or that he brings every day in there. It definitely starts with him and filters throughout the rest of us. So, we are able to keep that levelheadedness and keep the same mentality no matter what's happened the previous week and move on and still go out there the next week and play well. We've lost more games than we would have liked to at this point, but at the same time, we fought through a lot and continue to come back and come back, and we're right there in the thick of things. Obviously, that's a credit to the kind of guys we have here, but like I said, I definitely think it starts with the attitude that John has toward the adversity that we've been facing. "
"You can get a sense for how we should handle things based on how [Harbaugh] comes in there in our team meeting on Tuesday or Wednesday, and what his attitude is towards it. It's guidance to maybe how we should be handling things. I think the longer John has been here and the longer [I've been here] – obviously, I been here all [seasons] with him – I think he's so comfortable and so confident in what he is doing that he can portray that to all of us and we can follow his lead. Everybody feels adversity. Let's just say adversity is losing a game. We all don't feel good coming in here on Tuesday after a loss. But when you see your head coach get up there and, while he is fiery, he is still confident about getting back to work and going out there the next week … I think he's been doing a really good job with that, and that's with everything."
OLB Terrell Suggs
"I think it's just the guys we have in our locker room. We're a very tight group. That has a lot to do with it – the guys you have in the locker room, and the veterans. And we know that we are who we are, and we accept it, and we're going to continue to be that way around here. We understand it's not going to be perfect. So, we expect to [handle adversity well]."
"I'm not going to hold my tongue. I'm always going to speak my mind, but I'm not looking for inspirational quotes. We don't [mess] with each other around here – we call it how it is. If there's something that needs to be addressed, we'll address it, and we pretty much keep our locker room. Our locker room is ours."
OLB Elvis Dumervil
"I think a lot of guys in the locker room have faith. Whatever you choose to believe in – me, I believe in God – and outside of that, it's really just mental toughness. I think we get challenged day-in and day-out from training camp, from Coach Harbaugh. He does a good job of challenging guys day-in and day-out, either with quotes and wise words from or amongst teammates, and keeping everybody accountable. When everybody cares about each other, they care about what we're trying to get accomplished."
WR Steve Smith
"I think, obviously, it's a great coaching staff keeping us on task, allowing us to vent. I just think the organization as well – having a team chaplain [Johnny Shelton] here, player personnel, [Ravens Director of Player Development] Harry Swayne – just having all those people in there to give us an opportunity to have closed-door conversations, discuss some of the issues if we chose to with some of the coaches and just staying on task and really just understanding it is real what's going on, but not pushing it aside. But also, it's understanding we have to compartmentalize to some magnitude."