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Hartwell has eyes on Jacksonville

Ravens linebacker sees trip to Super Bowl in Ravens' immediate future

Ravens linebacker sees trip to Super Bowl in Ravens' immediate future

July 22, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

The Baltimore Ravens consider themselves the travel agents of the National Football League.

"If you want to get to the Super Bowl, you have to go through Baltimore and Ravens' Stadium," Ravens linebacker Ed Hartwell said.

The Ravens are planning to set many travel itineraries for the AFC playoffs in the 2004 season. After all, many rate Baltimore one of the teams to beat and world championship contenders as NFL training camps open next week.

In fact, there is only one set of travel plans that interest Hartwell.

"I think we will be in the Super Bowl ... that's my personal opinion," Hartwell said Wednesday while speaking to the 22 members of the Police Athletic League summer football camp at Fairgrounds Park.

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Of course, the Ravens' fourth-round pick in the 2001 draft is a little biased that Baltimore will be playing for the NFL championship on Feb. 6, 2005 in Jacksonville, Fla. But in his defense, he is part of what is considered the top defense going.

Hartwell is matched with Ray Lewis and Peter Boulware, two of the NFL's top stars, to give the Ravens the top linebacking corps in the league. It can be argued, but the results are compelling evidence.

The Ravens used defense to shape their path to victory in Super Bowl XXXV. Baltimore overcame its offensive problems mostly by preventing its opponents from scoring.

"We are a team, but defense wins championships," Hartwell said. "No matter how you look at it, when you put the No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense, nine out of 10 times, the defensive team will win. Look at (Super Bowl XXXVII) when Oakland was the top offensive team in the league and Tampa Bay was the top defensive team and look what happened.

"Defense takes the game. Defense is always in attack mode while offense is in runaway mode."

But offense does have its place on the Ravens. Baltimore has had some holes offensively over the years, mostly because of injuries. The Ravens got a record-setting year from running back Jamal Lewis in 2003, but injuries to rookie quarterback Kyle Boller and an ineffective passing game made it difficult for Baltimore to advance deep into the playoffs.

Boller is back and Baltimore added former Pittsburgh Steelers starter Kordell Stewart as a backup to add diversity.

The Ravens lost a major piece in creating a balanced attack when their trade with San Francisco for Terrell Owens was overturned, allowing the receiver to sign with Philadelphia.

Hartwell said he knew the Owens deal was all part of the business of football, but it will add some extra motivation this season when the Ravens face the Eagles.

Even without Owens on the roster, the Ravens will have a strong team on the field when training camp begins July 29 at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md.

"That's the great thing about having (general manager) Ozzie (Newsome) up there and having Coach (Brian) Billick to work with," Hartwell said. "They give us a lot of weapons to work with every year."

Those weapons give Hartwell the feeling that he might have some travel plans come the first week of February. Destination: Jacksonville.

"Our offense will be better because it has had a chance to play together for a year," Hartwell said. "But our defense is the best there is year in and year out. We play to be a dominating defense ... the Ravens' ultimate defense. That is just what we breed."

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