The Ravens are set to play their season finale Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars at M&T Bank Stadium. As the Jags prepare an attempt to spoil Baltimore's playoff plans, two members of the enemy team answered a few questions about their squad.
BR.com gives you head coach Jack Del Rio and quarterback David Garrard.
Head Coach Jack Del Rio
There were expectations this season that the Jaguars might be a Super Bowl contender after last year's success. How have you dealt with that?
Jack Del Rio:"It's been a tough year. We've got one more opportunity left, and I expect us to compete with the kind of energy that we brought the last few times out. The guys have been hungry for a win. We got one in Green Bay, we were close against Indy [and] didn't quite get it, and we want to finish strong. So, we're looking forward to getting up to Baltimore and having a good showing."
What would it mean to you personally to come to Baltimore and get a win against your former team?
JD:"[I have] a lot of friends in the area up there. Obviously, it's always good to win, period. But it's definitely good to win against friends. I'm looking forward to the competition."
What do you think about what the Ravens have accomplished this season with their rookie head coach and rookie quarterback?
JD:"I'm really happy for the organization. [They have] some good people there, starting with [Steve] Bisciotti and his family and Ozzie [Newsome]. There's a group of people that have been there that are very good. I enjoyed my time up there, so I'm happy to see [the Ravens' success]. I know Harbaugh, and I think he's doing a great job with them up there. When you look at the tape you see a physical team that's running the ball well, that's got a quarterback that can make some plays, and then their defense is awesome. I think my good buddy, Rex Ryan, is really doing a heck of a job. I'm sure he'll have his own head job before long."
Are your players motivated by being in the spoiler's role?
JD:"I think we've embraced that the last couple of weeks. Right now I think they're just excited to get one more opportunity to play. We work so hard, players and coaches in this league, getting ready for these opportunities to play these games, and I think we're excited to get one last opportunity for 2008."
What do you feel Ray Lewis has meant to the Ravens' franchise?
JD:"He's all about excellence. He's passionate in everything he does – a tremendous, tremendous competitor. He's earned excellence over a decade. I think he's a sure thing Hall of Famer, arguably the greatest linebacker to play the game, and I know those are things that are goals of his. I have a great deal of admiration and respect for Ray."
Quarterback David Garrard
How has this season been for you?
David Garrard:"Yeah, it's been a tough season for us. It's definitely been a disappointment. Everybody had higher expectations, of course, but that happens. That's how the league goes some times, and we've just got to be able to try to finish up strong here and then rebound in the offseason and try to get things right."
Is there anything you can put your finger on as to why the team has not done as well compared to last year?
DG:"Not really. We did have a number of injuries this year. We had a number of injuries early, and that definitely slowed us quite a bit. But we've got to be able to battle through that. We've got to be able to have guys step up and fill those guys' places. It has just really been a number of things. We haven't had a whole lot go our way this year, but those are all just excuses; we just didn't play up to our ability."
What was the reaction in the locker room after Fred Taylor's radio interview where he said that this was the worst team he'd ever played on?
DG:"Well, there really wasn't much of a reaction to that. Fred was just speaking his mind and speaking what he felt in his heart. It is tough because we have a great collection of guys here, and for us to not be able to put enough wins together this year to get us into the postseason, you really could feel where he was coming from. It doesn't make you feel any better that he did say that statement, but I think we all kind of understand what he's talking about. We need to do a better job of playing more together as a team, and hopefully, that can get us in the right frame of mind and then make us get back on track to where we should be."
Do you feel like your team has been snake-bitten with all of the injuries and off-the-field troubles this year?
DG:"Yeah, honestly. It really just feels like we didn't have much go our way this year. It's just been tough. You can say snake-bitten or just bad luck or whatever it is. Maybe that's just the cards we were dealt. So, it is what it is, but we should have been better at overcoming all the obstacles and we just weren't."
Jack Del Rio may be on the coaching hot seat. Does that surprise or bother you?
DG:"Yes, it does, because I really believe that Jack has done all that he could do this year, and I really don't think that's a good place for him to be. I think that the players have to go out on the field and execute the game plan. [We have] the same coaches that we had last year, so not much has changed in that respect. It's a shame when you have one bad [season] and one tough year that people have got to start getting fired over it. It can't just be the circumstances that happened during the season. So, I think people just really need to take a hard look at that. I can't really say very much. I don't have any control over that kind of stuff. All I can do is just do my job. But I really think he should not be on the hot seat. I think you've got to give people a chance. Even though there were a lot of expectations this year, enough things can happen where the season can't go right sometimes."