The Ravens took their share of lumps in last week's 33-24 win over the Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium.
Several starters were knocked out of the contest. Some came back, others didn't. And, running back Ray Rice!(/team/roster/ray-rice/9d941a20-0c76-412d-85fd-165a029d59e6/ "Ray Rice")* *didn't even take the field because of a deep shin bruise.
Still, head coach **John Harbaugh** is confident that he'll have a full stable of players Sunday.
Wideout **Derrick Mason** aggravated a shoulder that was dislocated seven weeks ago, right tackle **Willie Anderson** dealt with an ankle injury that required X-rays before he returned and cornerback **Samari Rolle** left with a foot injury and never returned.
Because of the Christmas holiday, the Ravens practiced Tuesday by following their Wednesday schedule and will move a regular Thursday to Wednesday. Then, Harbaugh will dismiss the team for Christmas before reconvening Friday to go back to the regular schedule.
"It's something that the team wanted to do, they agreed to do, and we're going to get our full complement of practices in this week," Harbaugh said. "I'm not so sure that that day off in there isn't going to help us, as far as getting some work in and getting a chance to get some bumps and bruises taken care of, and then come back and practice Friday."
Harbaugh discussed the change with several veterans - a group he calls the over-30 club.
"We just decided as a group that with the extra day of preparation the coaches would have two days to prepare the game plan, like they always do," Harbaugh explained. "We can give our families a chance to have us home for Christmas. We felt that was, in the end, an easy decision to make. So I think everybody's pretty excited about it."
It could benefit those players feeling slightly banged up. Tops on that list is Mason, who was pulled from the Dallas game on three separate occasions, but gritted out a six-catch, 66-yard performance and scored a touchdown.
Mason's shoulder did not come out of the socket again, but had issues with spasms around the previously dislocated area.
"I think it was about two weeks ago where the muscle really started to spasm up, and I really started to notice it was more so the muscle than the shoulder," Mason said. "I think the shoulder is as stable as it can be right now. I think what's happening now is my muscle's just trying to compensate for the shoulder not being as strong as it was.
"Now, that's causing a problem where my muscle spasms real bad, and it hurts actually worse than what the shoulder does."
Mason's toughness has even impressed his teammates.
"I don't know if I've ever seen a tougher football player in 25 years of coaching," noted Harbaugh. "It's a tribute to who he is as a competitor, and I'm sure he'll be out there Sunday doing whatever is necessary to help the Ravens win that football game."
Said quarterback Joe Flacco!(/team/roster/joe-flacco/3e20766f-6520-4ca1-9901-44389aaea8b8/ "Joe Flacco"): "I think we all see what he's doing, and we understand how great it is, and what he means to this team. We just go out there, and we obviously all want to play well anyway, and Derrick goes out there and continues to do his job just like anybody else."
Likewise, Anderson is fighting through an ankle injury that forced him to be carted off the field in the second quarter, only to return and finish the second half.
"He came back and did the same thing, really, that 'Mase' did," Harbaugh said. "You can put them in the same category. When [Willie] went running back out there, I know one thing, it raised my spirits, and our team felt the same way."
Both Rolle and Rice are both cautiously expected to play despite dealing with injuries themselves.
"We're optimistic that Ray might be able to get back for this game," said Harbaugh. "He's in treatment right now. We're optimistic about Samari, as well. But those guys are going to be guys that are going to have to take treatment throughout the week to get back."
Sizzle is Media Good Guy
In an annual event, Baltimore media awarded their Media Good Guy award Tuesday, and this year, it went to linebacker Terrell Suggs!(/team/roster/terrell-suggs/ad26be43-1380-45f1-b047-a91e850d9761/ "Terrell Suggs").
Suggs, a regular interview subject and local radio show host, was awarded a roll of Bounty paper towels, a playful take on his "bounty" comments regarding Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall earlier this year.
Throughout the 2008 campaign, Suggs repeatedly hinted at his desire to earn the honor and see his name on the plaque hanging at the Ravens' headquarters. Suggs was gracious - if not incredibly tongue-in-cheek - when making his acceptance speech.
"This is priceless," he said to laughter from the reporters at his interview. "I want to thank all of y'all who voted for me, and for all of y'all who didn't, I'm going to get you. But thank you. This is priceless. I've been working for this for six years. I saw the names on the wall over there, and I finally got it. I appreciate y'all.
"I'm going to cry. Y'all let me know if y'all need an interview."
New England Lock?
The Ravens only have to win their next game to stamp their playoff ticket, but they can also nab a game in January if the Buffalo Bills beat the New England Patriots.
And even though the Patriots play at 1:00 p.m. and Baltimore goes at 4:15 p.m., Harbaugh said he isn't worried about his players keeping an eye on the score before kickoff.
"There are no TVs in the locker room, so I'm sure they'll sneak into the equipment room or whatever and take a look," he stated. "And you know what? That's OK. Everybody gets ready in their own way. We're playing that football game to win it. It doesn't matter what happens."
But according to Harbaugh, a Patriots loss won't happen, which is why defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars this weekend is critical.
"New England is going to win a football game," Harbaugh said. "We know that. Everybody knows that. So we're going [out there] to win our football game. That's what we need to take care of, and we don't need anybody else to get us in the playoffs. That's our job to take care of that."
When asked if people could count on the coach's prediction, Harbaugh confirmed with a laugh.
"The lock of the week," he said. "Book it."
Ravens punter Sam Koch!(/team/roster/sam-koch/5db3abab-9670-4b0b-93b7-286dcac1e69c/ "Sam Koch") earned AFC Special Teams Player of the Week with a stellar performance in Dallas.
Koch not only punted five times for a 52.2-yard average and a 46.6 net average, he also converted a key fake field goal for a first down that led to a 13-yard touchdown pass to Mason.
"It was pretty sharp work by Sam Koch," Harbaugh said about Koch's 9-yard run. "And when they gave us the look we wanted, he ran it and got the first down. The only thing we were disappointed with was his running back run-to-daylight vision could use a little work, so we're thinking about a couple of drills for Sam on that."
Mason wanted to clear up a misconception that the off day for Christmas was a reward. Still, he is thankful for the chance to spend time with his family. "I heard somebody say it was a reward," Mason said. "It's not a reward. Coach decided this a long time ago, that we were going to have Christmas off, whether win, lose or draw. So it's not a reward, but it gives us an opportunity to be home with our family. And it gives the coaches, as well, the opportunity to be home with their family." … Not only is Suggs a leader with the media, he is a unique leader in the locker room, according to his coach. "It starts with his ability to play the game," said Harbaugh. "Sense of humor is a big part of it. You can't help but laugh. You know, he's back there making comments about things that happen on the field. It's always football related. It's usually taking a jab at somebody. You really… I try not to laugh. Sometimes, I'm really trying to stifle it, but it's impossible. It's energizing." … Flacco allowed himself a moment to consider how he will go down in history as the last quarterback to win in the venerable Texas Stadium. "I thought about it for a quick second after the game," the quarterback stated. "It's definitely pretty cool, having all the guys that had played for the Dallas Cowboys, and the Baltimore Ravens and myself were the last team to win there. It's… I've definitely thought about it, but not really that long. I'm sure later down the road I'll think about it a little bit more."