Honorable? Yes. Truthful? Not really.
But, it says a lot about those two valuable veterans that they want to shoulder that responsibility. It says something about the leadership on the team we are building. And, it reflects the message John Harbaugh has given to his players since last Spring: "We know where we're going, and we'll get there as a team, pushing each other to higher levels and by being accountable for what we do."
Ray and Derrick wore microphones for NFL Films last Sunday. If you've seen Showtime's Inside the NFL this week, you've seen snippets of what the players said before and during the game.
(By the way, each NFL team has to provide 2 players to wear "mikes" during a game each season. After discussion with coach Harbaugh, we decided to do both of ours in the same game.)
Less than a handful of NFL Films executives get to see and hear the raw video shot by them. That's done to protect the players involved and to make sure none of the video leaks out to places like YouTube. When teams agreed to let Films "mike" these players, it was done with the understanding that a team would see what was being considered before any of the video was placed in NFL-related shows.
I'm the one at the Ravens who gets to view the raw footage that NFL Films is considering. It's fantastic viewing and gives insights into the game that even those of us on the inside find fascinating – and very entertaining.
Ray was in constant motion from the moment he took the field, and he was encouraging and uplifting with every teammate. "Today, today. That's all that matters. We're ready to hunt. Are you hunting with me? They don't know what we're about to give them. Hey, we're ready. We're ready. One heartbeat." Ray's chatter went on and on as he bumped chests with fellow linebackers and at least 25 other teammates.
Watching Ray in the pre-game, hearing his intensity, it did make me wonder about how much energy he would have left for the game. But, I've seen every Ravens game Ray has played, and I know better. He never stops, never gives up, and his motion is constant.
Ray's most compelling statements in the pre-game came when he grabbed Mason and said: "You're a warrior. I'm proud to be your teammate." Ray was referring to Derrick playing the game with a dislocated shoulder.
Mason was less animated than Ray in the pre-game, nearly prancing around in glee, repeating: "Here we go! Here we go!"
With Giants running backs Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward both breaking to the outside for big runs in the first 18 minutes of the game, Lewis rallied the defense on the sideline: "What did we say all week? We can't let them bounce. We have to keep them inside. That's where the help is. If you hit him, tackle him. Don't let 'em bounce. We can do this," Lewis implored.
With each catch he made and hit he absorbed, you could hear Mason grunt with pain. Derrick did have a chuckle in the 2nd quarter when he could have leveled a Giants' defensive back who did not see Mason coming. "Hey, I had you man. That's not my style. No need for that with the play over there. But, I was here," Mason said pleasantly. You could hear a faint, "Thanks, 8 – 5."
After not playing well and trailing 20-3 at halftime, the Ravens started the second half looking more like the team that had just won 4 games in a row, including 3 of those on the road. Ray and the defense forced a Giants' punt on the 1st possession of the 3rd quarter. Baltimore then marched 79 yards for a touchdown when a scrambling Joe Flacco threw a 10-yard TD toss to FB Le'Ron McClain.
Now trailing 20-10, Ray stood on the sideline, raised his arms and exclaimed: "We're back in it. Let's go do what we do. We're going to win this. It's going to be a great comeback. Look in my eyes. Believe what I say. We're going to win this. Let's go! Let's go!"
The defense then did what they do and forced another Giants punt. Joe and the offense went back on the attack, making a 1st down on an 11-yard pass to Ray Rice. Facing 2nd-and-5 near midfield, Flacco threw a bullet to Mason on the left side. The ball raced through Derrick's outstretched hands, hit his helmet and bounced into New York cornerback Aaron Ross' hands. Ross, as we all know, sprinted 50 yards for a touchdown.
There are a number of excuses Mason could offer for the play – the most obvious being that with his one shoulder strapped down, he could barely get his one arm over his shoulder. Mason did not. "That's on me. That's my bad," Mason kept saying to anyone near him in the bench area. "I've made that catch a million times. I let us down. Put that on me."
There was a great scene late in the 4th quarter when Mason approached his position coach, Jim Hostler. Derrick repeated what he had said after the play: "This is on me, Coach. I didn't make the play," Mason said. Coach Hostler then got in Derrick's face and said: "Don't say that. You're a warrior for being out here. I don't want to hear you say that again. It's not on you. You make plenty of plays."
How about that for stepping up? D-Mase, you are the man.
If it didn't hurt so much, there was some humor from Ray Lewis when the Giants' Ahmad Bradshaw exploded for a 77-yard run to the Ravens' 2-yard line in the 4th quarter. Recognizing where the play was going, Lewis broke to his right to stop Bradshaw. Ray got there so quickly that he ran past Bradshaw, and his attempt to lunge backwards to stop the back with his left arm failed.
As Ray was flying to his right, you could hear him say: "Lew, no…no, ahhhhh!" With that, he turned up field to chase Bradshaw, all the while yelling at himself. "Lew, Lew, you know better. Inside out. Inside out. What were you doing? C'mon Lew, you're too good to do that."
Coach Harbaugh wants accountability. He's getting it from 2 Pro Bowl players who set the standard in our locker room for leadership and professionalism.
THE RAVENS' NOSTRADAMUS
Watching this footage from NFL Films gives a real perspective on Ray Lewis' knowledge of the game. His game-preparation is legendary – he spends many hours each week studying opponents' tendencies. It is absolutely amazing to see him call out play after play.
"It's a run. It's run. They're coming left. Watch the pull (the pulling linemen)." Ray shouted. "Haloti, Haloti, hold right there. They're coming at you." He called runs and where they were going. He predicted passes. He was right every time. Fun to watch, really educational. His knowledge of the game, along with his study habits, will allow him to play in the NFL longer than most.
BEWARE OF THE EAGLES
We're all excited to be coming home to M&T Bank Stadium to play the Eagles this Sunday after playing 5 of our last 6 games on the road. We do play well in front of our home crowd – we have the 3rd best home record in the NFL since 2000. See below:
Of course, that isn't making me sleep any better. (I've blogged before about how every opponent scares me and how I lose sleep worrying every week during the season.)
Trying to ease my troubled mind, I went to the person who knows the Eagles the best – John Harbaugh, who was a Philly assistant the past 10 seasons. "Can you help me sleep better, Coach?" John didn't help: "You look at their history. When Andy Reid's back is against the wall; when the fans and media are really on Donovan (McNabb), that's when they are at their best. We will get the best the Eagles have."
Thanks Coach. I'll be the one on Sunday morning with bags under my eyes.
Close to 20 of our players will be out in the community this Tuesday helping feed those in need. Our players are not only giving their time, but most are making donations to make sure as many people in the area can have a Thanksgiving dinner at home. (Annually, there are 235,000 people in Maryland who rely on various feeding programs for their food.)
We're proud of our players and what they do off the field. They don't have to do these types of projects. When I start thinking of other people I know who make commitments to make our community better, the list is short compared to the percentage of players – and Ravens staff members – who give of their time to do some good. Way to go guys!
We're back home this Sunday. And, we're excited to be here. Let's start off the Thanksgiving week with a win over the Eagles. Wouldn't that make all of us a little happier? Well, to be honest, a lot happier for some of us.
Happy Thanksgiving. Talk to 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.