Ravens Happy They Don't Have to Face Their Friend, Haloti Ngata


One of the bigger storylines in this Sunday's game in Baltimore would have been the homecoming of former Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.

That is, had Ngata not been injured.

Ngata has spent the past three seasons with the Detroit Lions, but was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 11 with an elbow injury, ending his season after five games.

On Wednesday, Ravens players were asked whether they wished Ngata were playing.

"I don't know about that," Flacco said with a chuckle. "I saw him play here for many years, and I remember my first minicamp here and what he was doing, so I don't necessarily know if I wish for that."

Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs still considers Ngata to be one of his closest friends. The two had lockers next to each other for many years in Baltimore. Their personalities were the perfect yin and yang. But even Suggs is happy his buddy isn't suiting up.

"I'm kind of glad he is not playing. I don't want him to be hurt or anything like that," Suggs said. "But everyone knows the force that '92' is. … Hopefully, he makes the trip and I get to see him."

The Lions' run defense has been hurt by the loss of the five-time Pro Bowler, who had seven tackles and two sacks before suffering his elbow injury. Detroit ranks 24th in the NFL in run defense (116.2 yards per game) and 26th in total defense (359.4 yards).

As Suggs pointed out, the Lions still have talent, evidenced by five defensive touchdowns. Cornerback Darius Slay is one of the best in the game, and free safety Glover Quin and defensive end Ezekiel Ansah can also wreak havoc.

But none come with Ngata's unique blend of talent, experience and size, which still make him a consideration for the Ravens' Mount Rushmore. After the Ravens traded Ngata when they weren't able to reach a contract extension in 2015, Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta said he had a "sickening feeling."

"We had Haloti here for all those years [2006-2014]," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "He was awesome here – great leader, physical player."

There are other former Ravens who will be on the sideline and wearing blue Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

Detroit's head coach is Jim Caldwell, who came to Baltimore as the team's quarterbacks coach in 2012 before being promoted midseason to offensive coordinator. He helped get Flacco and the offense rolling en route to the team's Super Bowl XLVII victory.

Caldwell spent one more year in Baltimore as the offensive coordinator before leaving following the 2013 season to take the head job in Detroit.

"You are taking me back a little while. Those things are really over and done with," Caldwell said when asked about his Super Bowl run in Baltimore and Flacco's performance.

"I will just tell you that those were great times for us, but Joe is always a winner. Joe just knows how to win games. Obviously, he has a lot of physical tools to go along with it, so he is a smart guy. He does not make many mistakes."

In his second year in Detroit, Caldwell hired former Ravens Secondary Coach Teryl Austin to be the Lions* *defensive coordinator. Then last offseason, Caldwell snatched Ravens free-agent right tackle Rick Wagner.

The Ravens gave Wagner a competitive offer* *before he hit the market, but the Lions gave Wagner the richest contract ever for a right tackle at a reported five years for $47.5 million with a $14.5 million signing bonus.

Pro Football Focus graded Wagner as the league's seventh-best right tackle last season. He's the website's fifth-best graded right tackle this year, though he's given up five sacks.

Ravens center Ryan Jensen was drafted the same year as Wagner, one round later. The two lived together for about three years and are still friends. Jensen said Wagner was the neater roommate.

"He had everything that he owned in a duffle bag," Jensen said with a laugh. "That's just the way Rick was; he didn't have a lot of stuff. We always joked around that if he ever had to move somewhere, all he had to do was pack a duffle bag and he had all his stuff."

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