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Ravens Veterans Reflect On Unfamiliar Losing Experience


Quarterback Joe Flacco wasn't always a winner.

He never had a winning season at Audubon High School. He didn't have a winning season until his senior year at the University of Delaware.

But since he's been in the NFL, Flacco has never experienced a losing season. The Ravens have gone to the playoffs six out of his first seven years. In the one in which they didn't, 2013, Baltimore went 8-8.

So the Ravens' 1-5 start is new territory for the Ravens' eighth-year quarterback and former Super Bowl MVP. Just when he thought he'd seen it all, he hadn't.

"It's a different experience at this level," Flacco said. "Back in high school, honestly, we didn't have that good of a football team. We were fighting each week to win football games.

"Around here, we have a different mindset. We're used to winning, we feel like we have a good team, we're in games that we feel like we could win. It feels a lot worse."

Flacco said this season has been personally difficult on him. He tries not to take the pain of losses home with him to his wife and three boys, but still finds himself sitting there thinking about it.

But when Flacco is at the Under Armour Performance Center, you wouldn't be able to tell whether the Ravens' record was 1-5 or 5-1. He's the same guy.

That's also the case with the other two Ravens who have been around as long as Flacco. Right guard Marshal Yanda and punter Sam Koch are the only other non-injured players (Terrell Suggs) who have been in Baltimore since the start of the John Harbaugh era in 2008.

Listening to them talk about the Ravens' difficult season, you can hear their leadership.

"Your attitude has to stay the same, win or loss," Yanda said. "I feel like all the leaders have done a good job of not putting our heads in the dirt and everybody sulking around here feeling sorry for ourselves. That only puts you in the ground.

"I feel like us as leaders, we have to go around here and attack every day, attack every practice and go attack teams on Sunday. That's the only way you can play. Otherwise, the league will just eat you up."

Unlike Flacco, Yanda and Koch have been a part of a losing season before in Baltimore.

During their rookie years in 2007, the Ravens jumped out to a 4-2 record. They lost their next 10 games, however, to finish 4-12. It was tied for the worst season in Ravens franchise history (1996), and Head Coach Brian Billick was fired at the end.

"That season was a lot different," Koch said. "In all honesty, our attitudes are the same now as when we were in the Super Bowl year. We feel confident we're going to win every game."

The players aren't the only ones leading. Harbaugh has done more than his fair share too.

On Monday, Harbaugh talked about how lifting the team up is "a big part of the job, and that's really important." He said he weighs his words carefully in the game and in the locker room. He thinks long and hard about what his message will be the morning after a loss.

Flacco shared a message that Harbaugh gave the team this week, one that stuck with the quarterback.

"He said, 'Listen, the smoke is going to clear eventually,'" Flacco said. "'When the smoke clears, what are we all going to be doing? Are we going to be sitting there cowering on the ground with our hands over our head and everybody looking at us? Or is the smoke going to clear and we're standing there fighting and everybody looking at us is like, 'Wow!'

"I thought it was a really good analogy and really good speech, and I think that's how we've got to look at it. You've got to stay confident and believe in what you're doing. Part of that is standing up tall with your shoulders back and your head held high."

The Ravens have a young team, but the expectation and example set by the head coach and veterans should help them get through these challenging times.

While just about everybody outside of the Ravens' locker room has written off a playoff trip, Harbaugh, Flacco, Yanda and Koch sound utterly convinced that Baltimore can pull off a big turnaround.

The Ravens* *veterans look at their 1-5 start as a roadblock, but not the end.

"We have to understand that we're in a hole," Yanda said. "We need to attack it and climb our way out. That starts every day with doing the little stuff right – practicing our tails off, lifting weights, paying attention in meetings. All those little things make the difference in the end."

"Every season has its ups and downs and difficulties to deal with," Flacco added. "We have a lot of opportunities ahead of us in this season. I think it can be a very rewarding season if we go out there and play the rest of the way the way we think we can."

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