Ravens A Thanksgiving Tradition?


Turkey and football. What's not to like?

Now how about turkey, football and the Ravens?

That's even better in the eyes of Head Coach John Harbaugh, who said he would be in favor of playing on Thanksgiving every year.

"If at any point in time the NFL and [Commissioner] Roger [Goodell] wants to make this a tradition, wouldn't we all be for that in Baltimore?" Harbaugh said. "I think that would be pretty amazing. We love it and I know our fans do too."

The Ravens didn't host a Thanksgiving game in the franchise's first 15 years of existence, but they've become a popular pick recently. Thursday will mark the second time in three years the Ravens have mixed pigskin with turkey. The Ravens beat the 49ers in a Harbaugh family battle in 2011.

The tradition, as it stands now, features the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys hosting the first two games on Thanksgiving every year. The Lions' tradition dates back to 1934, and the Cowboys' to 1966.

In 2006, the league has added a third game to the schedule, which works in more AFC teams and looks to capitalize on premier matchups.

This time, the national television draw is the always intense Ravens-Steelers rivalry, and it will yet again have huge implications as each team is 5-6 and battling for a playoff spot.

"It's an honor to play on Thanksgiving," Harbaugh said. "To get a chance to play on Thanksgiving night in front of the whole country in a rivalry such as this in Baltimore I think is something that you work hard for and being a part of what we do. So, we're looking forward to it."

The mystique of playing in front of the country in a huge game isn't lost on the players.

"I love playing on Turkey Day," defensive end Chris Canty said. "I remember when I was a little kid, I used to round up all the kids in the neighborhood and get a football and just go out and play sandlot ball on Thanksgiving and then go in and eat some turkey. That doesn't leave."

"I was a big Cowboys fan growing up, so I always watched the Cowboys and Lions," tackle Michael Oher added. "Just to play on Thanksgiving is great because I grew up eating and watching football all day."

Playing on Thursday does come with its challenges, however.

First is the physical turnaround of getting healthy. Coming off a gritty game against the New York Jets, the Ravens pushed practice late on Monday to give players extra time to rest. The Steelers didn't practice at all.

Baltimore listed just two players on its injury report, however. Special teams player Brynden Trawick (ankle) did not practice and Canty (shoulder) was limited.

The other challenge is the mental preparation on short time, but that is made easier by the rivals' familiarity with each other. The two teams will study each other as usual, but much of the legwork is already done.

"We'll be running stuff that we know and understand against a team that we pretty much understand," Harbaugh said. "I'm sure there will be a wrinkle or two that they'll throw at us that we'll have to be ready for and just go play football."

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