Ravens Not Running on Fumes

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As yet another week goes by for the Ravens, it is starting to feel like the movie "Groundhog Day" in Baltimore.

In the feature, actor Bill Murray encounters the same day – namely, Groundhog Day – over and over again.

The Ravens can sympathize with Murray's character, TV weatherman Phil Connors. They've endured nearly the same routine for months. Hurricane Ike ensured as much when it devastated the City of Houston and damaged part of Reliant Stadium, causing the NFL to reschedule Baltimore's Sept. 14 matchup with the Texans to Nov. 9.

When their bye was moved from Week 10 to Week 2, Baltimore knew it would have a long road through 2008. But after finishing 11-5 and earning a playoff berth, that road has extended to the AFC Championship and a showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Tired? Perhaps.

The Ravens just refuse to use 17 consecutive weeks of football without a break as an excuse to whine.

"Our circumstances are our circumstances," said linebacker Bart Scott. "People adjust. If football was a game where we didn't have a bye week, nobody would complain. You would adjust and move on. We didn't have a bye week this year, we adjusted and moved on. No need to make a big deal about it."

Historically, it is a big deal.

Since the league instituted the bye in 1990, no team has played a stretch of 18 straight contests, a mark the Ravens will hit Sunday at Heinz Field.

Throughout Baltimore's successful campaign, starters have missed 64 games due to injury, 14 more than any other 2008 playoff squad, according to Rick Gosselin of The Dallas Morning News.

Their 19 players on Injured Reserve – which include starters Kelly Gregg, Chris McAlister, Dawan Landry and Marshal Yanda – are second in the league and the most in franchise history.

Of those players that remain, it would be a challenge to find one player that is not suffering from a bump, bruise, strain or sprain.

"At this time of the year, everybody is playing through something," explained tight end Todd Heap, who was limited in Wednesday's practice with a back injury. "There's not a player on the field that doesn't have some knick, bump, bruise. So you can't really let those things bother you. You can't really worry about what you're going through.

"They guy next to you is going through something, the guy across from you is going through something. It really just matters how you perform on game day."

Head coach John Harbaugh quickly looked ahead at how he would have to adjust his plans as the season wore on.

To combat fatigue, some practices and meetings were shortened, and Harbaugh toned down padded sessions and contact drills.

In addition, he has regularly given the team Mondays and Tuesdays off – except for treatment and brief meetings – in December and January.

"Right after it happened, we talked a little bit about it," Harbaugh said. "The idea was that we were going to need to do something when the time came. We felt good about the fact that we had an opportunity to prepare for a week and practice for a week to improve our football team because we had a good week of practice that week. But, we knew we were going to have to do something later.

"When the time came, we just decided how we wanted to set it up."

Harbaugh did not want to go into specifics regarding his alterations, but however it was retooled seems to have worked.

The Ravens have maintained their smash-mouth brand of football. Baltimore won 11 of their last 13 games and has taken its first two playoff contests on the road.

Last week, the Ravens had one of their most physical battles of the season in a 13-10 victory over the Tennessee Titans, where several players were hurt in the game and did not return.

Now heading into the conference title tilt, the Ravens are simply hoping to keep their foot on the pedal and forget whatever ails them.

Dealing with a few aches and pains would be worth a trip to Tampa, Fla., and the Super Bowl.

"The team has never run out of gas," wideout Derrick Mason said. "Did you see that team? Did you see the way we played? We had to play that hard against a very good Tennessee team. If we hadn't had any gas, that team probably would have beaten us because of the way that they play football.

"This team's still has got a lot of gas in them – a whole bunch. The tank is not going to be run empty after February 1. It's going to still be about half full. But, this team is never going to run out of gas, because even if it seems like we're running out of gas, we're going to will ourselves to continue to play."

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