No Tears for Texas Stadium

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Over his 13 NFL seasons, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis has never played in historic Texas Stadium. Neither has six-year veteran Terrell Suggs.

But even though the two Pro Bowlers can respect the building that housed five Super Bowl champions, a slew of current and future Hall of Famers and even more larger-than-life personalities, don't expect any tears coming from the Ravens.

Baltimore has the coveted opportunity to punch their playoff ticket by winning their next two games, something that takes precidence over anything in its path – even if that path is obstructed by Saturday's prominent occasion.

"Of course, the tradition and history behind it speaks for itself," said Lewis. "More importantly, just going in and getting a win is bigger than that. Playing down there is one thing. I'd just call it another arena, but it is a great place of tradition. I look forward to it."

The Cowboys are expected to have many alumni on hand for a ceremony celebrating the closing of their current home, which was built in 1971. As Dallas puts the finishing touches on its unprecedented state-of-the-art new stadium for the 2009 campaign, however, the Ravens will be thinking about more immediate matters.

"I think it'll be exciting for us," head coach John Harbaugh said. "It's not going to affect the way we play, our emotions. We've got what we've got at stake for our football team. We're not too concerned about their history or their tradition or any of that stuff. We respect it, and it's neat for them, but I think it'll affect their team more than it will affect us."

The Ravens have played Dallas twice, both resulting in Baltimore wins coming at M&T Bank Stadium.

Still, there are a few connections that offer some familiarity with the Cowboys from a Ravens perspective, starting with Harbaugh.

The coach spent 10 years in the same division as Dallas when he was an assistant with the Philadelphia Eagles.

"Having played down there many times as a coach and being in that stadium and knowing our way around there pretty well, it's a great old stadium," Harbaugh explained. "A lot of tradition, and you feel it when you walk in there. Tremendous crowd, very energetic place, and when you see the hole in the roof, you feel like, 'Wow, this is the NFL.'"

But even he has designs on ruining the party.

"We'll be looking forward to going in there and ushering it out the right way," he continued.

The Cowboys are in a similar boat as Baltimore, though. At 9-5, both teams have the same record, and while the Ravens control their own destiny, Dallas can also help their postseason chances the most by winning out.

"They're in the same situation we're in," wideout Derrick Mason said. "Regardless of if it's the last game at Texas Stadium or not, they understand that they have to win their last two games, and we understand that we have to win our last two games."

During the regular season, the Cowboys have gone 207-97 at home, including 6-1 in 2008. But the Ravens, who have seen their share of road woes in the past, have played consistently well away from Charm City, posting a 4-3 record.

In their last five road contests, the Ravens have averaged 29.8 points and 334.7 yards per game, going 4-1 over that span.

Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, whose 91.1 road passer rating is the NFL's fourth-best mark, attributes Baltimore's success to a strong team mindset when facing a hostile environment and similar schedules whether home or away.

"At home you've got to stay in a hotel, and on the road you stay in a hotel, too," Flacco stated. "You've got to take a little plane trip in between, but it's all the same."

There may be some differences with Saturday night's game, but the Ravens are not worried about the flag-waving, fireworks and perhaps cheers from those in attendance to pay respects to the Irving, Texas, landmark.

Players in Baltimore know they have work to do before closing out the season against the Jacksonville Jaguars at M&T Bank Stadium Dec. 28.

"We're not waiting on [anybody] to lose," Lewis said. "People are behind us now, and the thing that I've been telling guys, we're not getting caught up in all of this thing that Dallas wants to do because they're closing the stadium. That [doesn't] have anything to do with us. We're the Ravens, they're the Cowboys. Let them take care of that.

"Our job is to go win a 60-minute ball game and set up the game against Jacksonville, come home and try to get in the dance."

And for one final game this year – perhaps forever in the minds of Cowboys fans – the Ravens' job will also be that of home-wrecker.

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