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How the Ravens Handle Christmas on the Road

K Justin Tucker
K Justin Tucker

There's no doubt that when the Ravens' 2023 schedule dropped, there was a collective groan in Baltimore.

Playing on Christmas Day is one thing. Doing so across the country in San Francisco is like getting coal in the stocking.

The Ravens are one of three teams on the road for Christmas this year. They will be the only ones who won't get back home until Dec. 26. So how are they adapting?

Here's a look inside the Ravens' Christmas week:

'Connect Before the Holidays'

Head Coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens have long been very inclusive of players' families. For example, they hosted a teatime in London for players' significant others.

This week, the Ravens took it to another level.

It started with the schedule. For a "Monday Night Football" game, Harbaugh would usually move their typical schedule back a day. This week, he kept it the same to give more time off on Saturday.

Harbaugh also gave the players a treat this week, having a Godzilla pinball machine delivered to the locker room for players to enjoy.

The Ravens had their traditional "victory food trucks" at the Under Armour Performance Center on Tuesday after beating the Jaguars last week. They brought the trucks back out Thursday for players and their families to enjoy.

On Friday, the team is hosting a family movie night at the team facility for players, families, and staff members (particularly those making the trip). It's a Dr. Seuss Grinch-themed party with face painting, balloon animals, pizza, candy, hot cocoa and more before the movie starts.

"It's really just a chance for all of the families to come in and connect before the Holidays," said Director of Player Engagement Jameel McClain. "It's been a tough schedule this year for coaches, players, staff – everybody. This is just a chance before everyone gets on the road to spend more time together."

On Saturday, Harbaugh gave the team the morning off (they would traditionally have a walk-through practice) and they moved their flight departure time back a couple hours to give families a little more time to be together.

'She Doesn't Know What's Going On'

For Justice Hill's family, today is Christmas Eve. Christmas morning will be Saturday – the whole festivities, Chris Brown and all. Hill has a 2-year-old daughter.

"She doesn't know what's going on," Hill said with a laugh. "She just wants to open boxes. She doesn't even care what's inside the boxes."

Other players with younger kids, or infants, have a similar plan. Whether it's Saturday or Tuesday, Christmas is happening some day other than Monday.

Guard John Simpson has a newborn, and family (his brother and wife's family) is coming in Tuesday. The plan is to try to sleep on the team plane back (it's set to land at around 7 a.m. in Baltimore) and then do Christmas that day.

"Try to get as much sleep as possible," Simpson said. "[My son] doesn't know what's going on. He's clueless."

'Santa Claus Still Has to Make the Rounds'

Parents of older children don't have as much flexibility. Justin Tucker's son, Easton, is 7 years old. So there's no fooling him that Christmas is another day.

"We're traveling on the 23rd, but that doesn't stop anything that the big man in the North Pole has going on," Tucker said. "Santa Claus still has to make the rounds the night of Christmas Eve so that the toys that the elves work their tails off to make can get delivered on Christmas morning. We know that's happening."

Thus, the Tucker family will celebrate a little before the trip and a little after. Tucker plans to set an alarm for 2:30 or 3 a.m. (PST), so he can FaceTime with the family on Christmas morning.

"I've got to see what Santa dropped off for Easton, so I'm just as curious and excited as he is," Tucker said.

"When you play in the NFL or any major sports league that operates in the winter, and you play long enough, eventually you're going to have a game on a holiday. There's something really special about it. It's tough when you want to have time with your family on the actual day, but you adapt a little bit and celebrate Christmas in our own special way."

'It's Work'

Right tackle Morgan Moses is in the same boat. His kids are 5, 8, 9, and 13. So his Christmas plans?

"My ass is going to be blocking Nick Bosa," he said with a laugh.

And what will the family be doing?

"Watching me block Nick Bosa," he said.

Moses and Ronnie Stanley joked that they're going to hang out some on Christmas Day. Maybe buy a mini tree.

"We're going to reenact 'Home Alone,'" Moses said.

The reality is once gameday arrives, it's all business. Some players have spouses that are making their own accommodations to fly to San Francisco so they can be together. But on Monday, it's all football.

"When you sign up for something, that's what you sign up for. It's work," linebacker Roquan Smith said. "That's all it is at the end of the day and that's how I'm looking at it."

Harbaugh has framed the Monday night stage as a unique opportunity – one that players will look back on for the rest of their lives. They're going against a great opponent that also sits atop their conference, on a national stage, on Christmas. Outside the playoffs, it doesn't get better than that.

"It's different. This is my first time [playing on Christmas]," quarterback Lamar Jackson said. "I'm usually sitting at home watching basketball or something on Christmas. But it's different, so it's going to be entertaining, [and] it's going to be fun."

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