Ravens Players Tough on Each Other
On road trips, our chartered planes from Delta come equipped with TV screens on the back of every seat, and these TVs pick up a number of TV networks, including ESPN. After our convincing 27-9 Wild Card victory over the Dolphins last Sunday, it was clear most of the players were watching ESPN on the small screens.
When our highlights came up, the first play ESPN showed was the Ed Reed 64-yard interception return for a touchdown. As the play developed, you could hear a few players yell: "Here it comes!"
That was followed by howls as the players shouted in delight about Haloti Ngata's block on Miami WR Ted Ginn Jr. (Ginn did get up immediately and chased the play, which produced this proclamation from Troy Smith: "That's my Buckeye. He can take the hit and keep going." Ginn and Troy are best of friends, and they played together both in high school and at Ohio State.)
Before Reed's 2nd interception of Chad Pennington, you could hear Ray Lewis yell: "Don't throw it. Don't throw it!" And when Pennington did and Ed grabbed it, you could hear Ray say, "We told him not to throw it."
To show what a tough crowd it is, teammates started insulting Ed for getting tackled after his 2nd theft. "C'mon Ed, you could do better than that. Get another touchdown or get rid of the ball."
Willis McGahee took the most grief when his 4th-quarter, 48-yard run came short of the goal line. Don't know which player said it, but I did hear: "He – could – go – all – the – way. No, no. Get that piano off my back. Ah, Willis. C'mon man." The laughs seemed to shake the plane.
All in all, it was a joyous flight home.
Looks Like We Need to Win More to Get Recognition
On Sunday night, I told John Harbaugh that he's going to have to win at least one more playoff game before people recognize him and call him by name.
There was a group of Ravens fans near the front of our team buses after the game at Dolphin Stadium. They were separated from the buses by bicycle racks. When they recognized a Raven, they would shout and cheer, asking for the person to come near them and sign autographs.
It was fun to watch and nice to see that a number of our players responded. When coach Harbaugh appeared, the crowd started yelling, "Coach, Coach, great job. Come over here, PLEASE! PLEASE!" One of the loudest fans blurted: "Coach, Jim, Jim, right here, right here."
Jim Harbaugh, of course, is John's younger brother who played 14 NFL seasons and is the head coach at Stanford.
When we arrived back in Baltimore, there was a group of fans waiting for us. I was walking with coach Harbaugh when a woman stopped him for an autograph. Also there was an older gentleman who said he was so excited with the way the Ravens were playing and how much he enjoyed watching the game earlier that day. With that, the man extended his hand to John and said, "What's your name, and what do you do with the Ravens?"
You gotta love it.
As we walked away, John said: "You're just the guy I didn't want to see that." Like I told him, looks like we have to win some more.
We All Live in a Yellow Submarine
Coach Harbaugh had a great line a week ago when he was asked whether he could feel the excitement about the Ravens from the community. "I'm aware of it through you guys (the media) and hearing some things from staff, but no, the coaches can't really feel it.
"We're like in a submarine," Harbaugh continued. "It's a beautiful submarine, and the food is good, but, as coaches, we come in here Monday morning and basically stay in the building until Friday afternoon. Then the submarine emerges, and we get to leave."
To be honest, that's not much of an exaggeration. Coaches work incredibly long hours. In fact, many of the coaches went straight to their offices after we got back from Miami. Most of the coaches – in fact, maybe all of them – slept here Monday night to try and make up for the lack of one day of preparation missed with this Saturday's game.
Flacco to the Rescue
Not only is Joe Flacco helping the Ravens win, he's helping teammates off the field. On Monday, Joe agreed to join Todd Heap at a fundraiser for Franklin Square Hospital. (Heap has vowed to raise $1 million for Franklin Square.) Mark Clayton was also joining Heap.
Unfortunately, Clayton had a flat tire on his way downtown to the event. He called Heap to let him know the situation. Todd quickly called Joe to see where he was. Joe had already passed the area where Clayton was delayed, but said he would go back and help Mark – which he did. They both arrived in time for the formal presentation at the event.
Post-Game After the Dolphins
Clearly, there was a "business-as-usual" quality in the post-game locker room after the victory over the Dolphins. There was a sense that the team had taken care of business by winning over the Dolphins, but now is not the time to celebrate. An attitude of, "We have more work to do" was clearly evident.
Coach Harbaugh talked about the schedule for this week and initiated the refrain fans have now come to know: "What's our name?" "Ravens!" And, that was repeated 3 times. After that, Harbs asked Nick Greisen to lead the team huddle and break. Nick said: "Team on 3. 1, 2, 3," and all shouted: "Team."
You've probably heard that Nick had an unusual 24 hours last Saturday and Sunday. When we landed in Miami, Nick had a message from his wife Caroline that she was 5 centimeters dilated and her pregnancy was moving quickly.
Greisen immediately flew back to Baltimore and arrived at the hospital at 10 p.m. Caroline delivered their first child, daughter Claire Maguire, an hour later. Nick then slept for 4 hours and headed back to Miami, arriving at the team hotel just in time to catch the team buses to the game.
Memories: It's Not Redford and Streisand
Some of us have been asked this week about our memories of the 2000 playoff victory (24-10) over then-No.1-seeded Titans. (The game was actually played on Jan. 7, 2001.) Here are a couple of mine:
A huge 1st-half collision between Ray Lewis and Eddie George, 2 great football warriors meeting head-to-head in the middle of the field. The force of the hit was startling and brought "oohs" from the media in the press box. Ray bounced up and, after hesitating on all fours, George got up and walked to the bench.
We all remember Ray stealing the interception from George and racing to the end zone for the game-clinching touchdown in the 4th quarter. The score was 17-10 at the time, and I was so concerned that Steve McNair, who had beaten us before with 4th-quarter heroics, was about to do it again.
After the victory, George, dressed in a silver/blue suit and tie, came to our locker room and asked if he could see Ray, who was still in most of his game uniform conducting an interview with reporters. When Lewis and George met, they embraced and then stood forehead-to-forehead and quietly exchanged some words. They were 2 great competitors showing respect for each other. I thought it was very classy of George to do that.
Funniest thing I remember was watching Shannon Sharpe standing behind our bench with under 2 minutes left in the game. He was having some fun with the Titans' fans, who are among the loudest and best behaved in the NFL. Shannon was shouting: "Get out! You've been evicted. We own the house now. This is our 2nd home…our summer home. You don't live here anymore. We do. I'm serious, get out!" (I said funniest, not the classiest. Shannon was doing it with humor.)
After the game was the 1st time that season I thought we could go to the Super Bowl. Tennessee was the best team in the playoffs, I had thought. And, we just beat them by 2 touchdowns at their place.
When I took Brian Billick to the post-game interview, he was fired up. He knew the importance of the victory, and he was still angry about what the Titans had put on their big video board just before kickoff. (Tennessee showed coach Billick's post-game locker room speech from our victory at the Titans earlier that season. It was the post-game talk to the team when Brian held up the Sports Illustrated cover from that week that stated the Titans were the NFL's best team. Brian said to the Ravens: "They may well be the best team in the NFL…but not today!" They also ran a 2nd clip that had Brian saying the Ravens were good enough to go to and win in Tennessee. The crowd went wild, booing lustily.) As we entered the interview room, Brian turned to me and said: "Did you see what they did on the boards in the pre-game? Watch this." Coach Billick then delivered one of the most entertaining starts to a post-game press conference I have ever heard. You know the one:
"When you go into the lion's den, you don't tippy toe in – you carry a spear, you go in screaming like a banshee. You kick whatever doors in, and say, 'Where's the son of a b__?' If you go in any other way, you lose."
Big, Big Numbers
Just got this from the NFL office: the 11 highest-rated TV shows in Baltimore this year were Ravens games. Thanks for watching.
Our highest-rated game for the season was last Sunday's Wild Card contest against the Dolphins. It scored a 39.7 rating – basically meaning that 4 out of every 10 TVs (those on and those off) in the greater Baltimore area had the game on. Better yet, the game tallied a 63 share, which means that 63% of the TVs turned on in the area had the Ravens/Dolphins' broadcast. We know you are out there.
And, we know some of you have found ways to get tickets and go to tomorrow's game at Tennessee. We also know that more than a million of you will be listening to the WBAL/98 Rock game broadcast or watching the CBS-TV telecast.
We hope we can make this a great weekend for all of us.
Let's go get some revenge from the regular season loss and beat those Titans.
Talk with you next week.
Kevin Byrne is the Ravens' Senior Vice President – Public and Community Relations. He has worked in the NFL since 1977, when he was the then-youngest public relations director in the league (for the then-St. Louis Cardinals), except for the two years he was the Director of Public Affairs for TWA (Trans World Airlines). He has been with the Ravens since they began, and before that was a vice president with the Cleveland Browns. He has won a Super Bowl ring with the 2000 Ravens and an NCAA basketball championship with Al McGuire's Marquette team in '77. He was on the losing end of historic games known for the "Drive" and the "Fumble." He has worked closely and is friends with some of the best in the game: Ozzie Newsome, Brian Billick, Ray Lewis, Bill Cowher, Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan, Marty Schottenheimer and Shannon Sharpe to name a few.