Bruises are Ravens' badges of honor

January 13, 2009|By DAVID GINSBURG


Associated Press

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Think about all the collisions, bruises and trash talk that occurred during the Baltimore Ravens' rugged playoff game against the Tennessee Titans.

Now double it.

That's an indication of what to expect when the Ravens face their hated rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, in the AFC championship game on Sunday.

"It's two football teams that play a certain brand of football. It's physical football, it's fundamental, it's a very disciplined style of football," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday. "It's going to be a physical match, just like we had last week. That's the beauty of the NFL."


Baltimore's 13-10 win over the Titans last Saturday was hardly a work of art. Rarely a series went by without an injured player being helped off the field, and almost every tackle was punctuated by an extra shove or a verbal assault.

Expect more of the same, and then some, when two AFC North foes square off for the third time this season.

"If you want to go to the Super Bowl, who else would you rather it be but the Pittsburgh Steelers?" Ravens linebacker Bart Scott said. "It's an opportunity for one organization to build up the level of hatred for the other organization. Somebody is going to be happy, somebody is going to be hurt. What other team would you rather do it to?"

Let the rhetoric begin.

The Steelers won both of the previous games, 23-20 in overtime and 13-9. Revenge is part of Baltimore's motivation, but mostly it's about keeping alive an improbable playoff run in which the wild-card Ravens victimized the third-seeded Miami Dolphins and top-seeded Titans.

"What's on the line? It's just the Super Bowl," Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "They're going to get our best and we're going to get their best. It's been that way both times we played them. They know what type of ballgame it might be."

The Ravens were battered and tired after defeating Tennessee. Cornerback Samari Rolle left with a groin injury and linebacker Terrell Suggs missed a portion of the second half with a strained right shoulder. Both received medical treatment Monday, and their status for Sunday's game was uncertain.

"Samari has a chance to get back there. We'll see what happens as the week goes on," Harbaugh said.

Suggs had an MRI on his shoulder Monday. He guaranteed he would be available for the Steelers, but Harbaugh cautioned, "It's going to be close."

Even those who got out of the Tennessee game without injury were feeling the effects on Sunday.

"I was recovering from my game, so I was in and out of consciousness a lot during the day," Scott said, explaining why he didn't see much of Pittsburgh's 35-24 win over San Diego.

Most of the Ravens who watched the game were pulling for the Steelers.

"You have to appreciate the way they play. I love the way they play," Scott said. "You want to play the best, and I think they are the best right now. You want the opportunity to prove yourself against the best. You want to test yourself. We look forward to it. We didn't want to go to San Diego."

If Baltimore's game against Tennessee was a preliminary bout, then this is the main event between two heavyweights.

"You have two teams that try to impose their will on each other," Scott said. "When you have two teams that are evenly matched, both sides want to make you pay the price on the body. Nobody's running or ducking."

Safety Jim Leonhard played three years in Buffalo before joining the Ravens this season. It didn't take long for him to realize that Pittsburgh versus Baltimore is about as intense as it gets.

"It's a very physical rivalry. It's obvious that the teams don't like each other," he said. "Being here, it's the same thing. You know the people a little more and the history that's behind it. These games are what they're expected to be. There's a lot of talking, a lot of things going on. You know that you have to play 60 minutes that day or you're going to get it handed to you."

When the Ravens and Steelers played in September, 60 minutes wasn't enough to determine a winner. Baltimore-Pittsburgh III could be very similar.

"In games like this when the stakes are high, it's all about who's going to make that play to push your team over the top," Scott said. "We both have capable playmakers on both sides of the ball. It's going to be a tough one."

The Herald-Mail Articles