Earl Thomas III doesn't get to face Tom Brady very often. When it happens, Thomas admits it feels special.
Thomas lost to Brady and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX, when Thomas played for the Seattle Seahawks. On Sunday night, Thomas will face Brady again, and the six-time Pro Bowl safety relishes the opportunity to match wits against the quarterback with six Super Bowl rings.
"It's a great challenge; you always want to go against a champion," said Thomas, who won a Super Bowl with the Seahawks the year before losing to Brady. "It's champion on champion. I'm excited to go against him.
"I'm going to be able to tell my son, 'Yo, this is what your Pops did.' I can't wait to open up a cup of Crown and talk to my son about it. This is a part of the story, part of the legacy."
Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick has often spoken about his admiration for former Ravens Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed. During Reed's career, Brady would wear a wristband on his arm when facing the Ravens that said, "Find 20 (Reed) on every play."
Belichick holds also holds Thomas in high regard as a free safety who warrants special attention. Belichick said Thomas is as good a free safety as there is in the game.
"He's a very tough guy to play against because of his instinctiveness and awareness. You have to really be careful with a guy like him," Belichick said. "Obviously, Ed Reed was the best of all time, in my opinion, at that. [Eric] Weddle had an element of that, but Thomas is a special player back there."
Joining the Ravens after being signed during free agency has been a major adjustment for Thomas after spending nine years with the Seahawks. But he has grown accustomed to the defense, and the entire defensive unit has performed well during Baltimore's current three-game winning streak.
Beating his former team two weeks in Seattle was special for Thomas. Now Thomas wants the Ravens to create another memorable moment on Sunday. Thomas hasn't had an interception since the first defensive drive of the season in Miami, and would love to end that run.
"The black-on-black jerseys are going to be fire," Thomas said. "The fans are going to be fired up. It's going to be at night. I'm very excited about it. Everybody in this locker room is excited about it. I feel like every week is a measuring-stick game, but this is a game where we can go out there and make another statement just like we did last week."
Onwuasor Relishes Return to Weakside Linebacker
After missing the last two games (ankle), Patrick Onwuasor is itching to get back onto the field at his best position, weakside linebacker.
Onwuasor started four games at middle linebacker as the replacement for C.J. Mosley, who departed to the New York Jets during free agency. However, weakside linebacker is where Onwuasor feels most comfortable. Having him back on the field gives Baltimore another playmaker on defense.
Onwuasor still leads the Ravens in tackles (30) despite missing two games, and his return to weakside linebacker can help Baltimore's pass rush. Last season, Onwuasor had a career-high 5 ½ sacks.
"I'm looking forward to flying around, doing what I do best," Onwuasor said. "Being out for two weeks, I'm looking forward to this game. I like being at the Will spot. It comes to me naturally. I think (Defensive Coordinator) Wink (Martindale) felt I was more comfortable there. We talked about it. From that spot, I'm able to play way faster. I'm looking forward to Sunday. It's going to be intense."
Contract Extension Gratifying for Snead
Willie Snead IV is excited about the one-year contract extension he signed this week, but it's not just about the money and security. The veteran wide receiver Snead loves Baltimore's offense and wants to play a key role in helping the unit become even more explosive, centered around the unique talents of quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Snead has 15 catches for 223 yards and two touchdowns this season, but his contributions go far beyond stats. He's an excellent blocker, which is important in Baltimore's attack, helping to create running lanes for Jackson and Baltimore's stable of running backs. Snead said the chemistry between himself and Jackson continues to grow.
"I wanted to be here in Baltimore," Snead said. "Knowing I'll be here another year for sure is a great feeling. It just allows me to focus on football now and really finish the year strong.
"In this offense, they ask me to do a lot, but when I'm in there I can do a whole lot of things. Just being that versatile player they need me to be, that's why I fit in so well here. He (Lamar) is just continuing to grow and every week we get better with that (chemistry). We're always spending more time after practice. That's definitely important for him and for us."
Richards Prepares to Face Former Team
Veteran safety Jordan Richards signed with the Ravens last week after being released by the Patriots. Letting Richards go created roster room for the Patriots to sign Ravens former special teams standout Justin Bethel, who will make his Patriots debut against the Ravens.
How does Richards feel about facing the Patriots in his first game after leaving New England?
"Honestly, I don't want to read into that too much," Richards said. "It plays into your emotions. I'm focusing on playing ball and helping this team win."
Like Bethel, Richards is an experienced special teams player who is expected to help the Ravens in that role.
"He's been around this league for awhile," Ravens Special Teams Coach Chris Horton said. "His role and what he does is going to be different than what Justin did. But he'll be a good player for us."