Ravens Make Pro Bowl a Habit

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Their photos adorn a wall at the Owings Mills training facility. Vinny Testaverde and Eric Turner were the first two. Photos of Peter Boulware and Michael McCrary are scattered, and Jonathan Ogden is on practically every plaque. They are a reminder of the legacy the Baltimore Ravens are creating: Ravens who have been selected to the Pro Bowl.

This year's Pro Bowl will be played at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii on Sunday. It will be the last in Hawaii before it moves to the Super Bowl host city the week before the championship game. There are likely many Ravens players sad to see the Pro Bowl leave Hawaii, as Baltimore has had and continues to have a presence in the annual All-Star game.

The Ravens have had at least one Pro Bowler every season since their inception in 1996. This year linebacker Ray Lewis, safety Ed Reed, linebacker Terrell Suggs, fullback Le'Ron McClain and linebacker Brendan Ayanbadejo will represent the team and the AFC. It will be McClain's first trip to Hawaii for the game, and Ayanbadejo's third, but first as a Raven. Reed will be playing in his fifth, Suggs in his third, and Lewis in his tenth.

McClain, Lewis and Reed were all selected as starters. Ayanbadejo was voted as the special teams contributor.

This year's Pro Bowl will have an even stronger Ravens presence than ever before. Head coach John Harbaugh and his staff will be coaching the AFC side, an honor they earned by reaching the AFC Championship game this past season.

"It's a great opportunity to spend time [with] the greatest players in the game," said Harbaugh. "I think it really helps you in terms of knowing the league, knowing what guys are all about and being around the special people in this league."

Harbaugh has coached in the Pro Bowl before, three times as an assistant under Andy Reid while in Philadelphia. Fittingly enough, Reid will be coaching the NFC team.

Among the great players Harbaugh and company will coach on Sunday are Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning, Houston defensive end Mario Williams, Tennessee defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu.

The Ravens have left their mark on the Pro Bowl before. During the 2002 Pro Bowl, then-Patriots cornerback Ty Law intercepted a pass and lateraled it to Ray Lewis, who returned it for the game-clinching score.

The 2004 Pro Bowl was one of the wildest of recent memory. Ed Reed had one of his trademark blocked punts, which he then picked up and ran into the end zone to give the AFC a 14-0 lead. The NFC ultimately came back to win that game, 55-52.

In 2007, then-Ravens linebacker Adalius Thomas returned a Marc Bulger fumble 70 yards for a touchdown. Reed tied the Pro Bowl record for interceptions with two in a game that went down to the wire, the AFC coming out on top 31-28.

"This is all just a fun game," Reed said afterward.

The Ravens' 2008 roster is full of Pro Bowl talent, both former and upcoming. Tackle Willie Anderson, wide receiver Derrick Mason, running back Willis McGahee, full back Lorenzo Neal, defensive tackle Trevor Pryce, cornerback Samari Rolle, lineback Bart Scott and kicker Matt Stover have all played in the All-Star game before.

Center Jason Brown, punter Sam Koch and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata are all widely considered to be Pro Bowlers in waiting. Ngata and Mason were both voted as alternates for this year's game.

The high number of Pro Bowlers has become the norm for the Ravens over the years. Among all Ravens players who have been selected since 1996, 11 were drafted by the team. Among those 11, eight were taken in the first round.

For those involved with bringing these elite players to Baltimore, it comes down to a very simple concept: the team.

"Our roster is self-motivated, and the players challenge themselves to success individually and as a team," said director of player personnel Eric DeCosta, who has spent the last five years overseeing college scouting. "The best part about the type of players we bring to Baltimore is that they put the team first. When the team does well, individual accolades like the Pro Bowl follow."

"It all goes back to those core traits like toughness and character that our scouts look for," he continued. "If a player has those, the sky is the limit. It's been a lot of fun adding great football players who are also great men."

So even if this is the last time the big game is played in Hawaii, the tradition of the Ravens and the Pro Bowl will likely continue for seasons to come.

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