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Hard-hitting Pollard provides swagger to Ravens' D

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Hard-hitting Pollard provides swagger to Ravens' D

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) Bernard Pollard likes to talk and loves to hit.

The Baltimore Ravens strong safety is one of the chattiest players in the locker room, eager to discuss anything from NFL policy to gay marriage.

On the field, Pollard is arguably the fiercest tackler on a rugged defense with a reputation for nastiness. His affection for collision is one big reason why the Ravens beat New England 28-13 last Sunday to earn a berth in the Super Bowl.

Pollard's legal helmet-to-helmet hit on Patriots running back Stevan Ridley forced a fourth-quarter fumble that proved to be pivotal play in Baltimore's upset victory. New England trailed by eight points with just under 13 minutes left when Pollard leveled Ridley, forcing him from the game by technical knockout.

``That was the turning point of the football game there on the 40-yard-line,'' Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. ``It was just a tremendous hit. It was football at its finest. It was Bernard Pollard making a great physical tackle, just as good a tackle as you're ever going to see in football right there.''

It's not as if Pollard hadn't done it before.

When he was the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008, Pollard inadvertently hit Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the knee, but the play ended his year in the first game of the season. One year later, New England wide receiver Wes Welker tore his ACL on a tackle by Pollard. Then, in last year's AFC title game, Pollard sprained the ankle of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Pollard, 6-foot-1, 225 pounds, has paid thousands of dollars in fines for his hard-hitting ways, including a $10,000 fee for an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit in a game against Jacksonville last season. But he makes no apologies for his aggressive play against Ridley, which did not draw a flag because Ridley was not considered a defenseless player.

``This is a violent sport. We run fast, we hit hard,'' Pollard said. ``For me, I love to play this game. I love to tackle. That's what I do. When you have two guys running full speed at each other, and you have helmets and shoulder pads on, somebody is going to go down. It's not something that I'm proud of. I hope he's all right.''

After helping level the Patriots, Pollard engaged in his other favorite activity - talking. He suggested Brady should be fined for his leg-up slide that clipped Baltimore free safety Ed Reed.

For sure, Pollard won't be hiding behind a newspaper during media day in New Orleans. But his main focus over the next several days will be getting prepared to play in the Super Bowl for the first time.

``If we want to play our best football, our preparation the rest of this week and next week has to be outstanding,'' he said.

The 28-year-old Pollard began his NFL career with the Chiefs in 2006, was released in 2009 and immediately signed by the Houston Texans. He signed with the Ravens as an unrestricted free agent in August 2011 because he thought that was his best chance to earn a championship ring.

``I want to suit up, and I want to help this team win. I really do,'' Pollard said at the time. ``The organization is tremendous. We're blessed to have talent. I'm excited, because I know the history here.''

It didn't take Pollard to fit in with the renowned Baltimore defense, and now he's a special part of the team's lore.

``He is a Raven,'' general manager Ozzie Newsome said. ``He's smart, tough and brings passion to our games, our practices and in the weight room. His physical presence on the back end is very important to the way we play defense.''

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Ravens vs. Texans: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

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USA TODAY Sports

Ravens vs. Texans: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

The Ravens are hosting Monday Night Football for the first time since 2012, when they welcome the Houston Texans to town.

The Ravens are coming off a much needed win against the Green Bay Packers, where the defense forced five turnovers and lifted the Ravens into the sixth and final wild card spot in the AFC. 

Not only did they regain playoff positioning, the defense got their third shutout of the season.

It even earned linebacker Matthew Judon AFC Defensive Player of the Week.

The 4-6 Texans have been struggling since losing rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson. However, they did just end a three game losing streak with a 31-21 win over the Arizona Cardinals. 

The Ravens defense will be busy keeping an eye on wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins has 879 yards on the season for 9 touchdowns. The Texans are also ranked sixth in the league in rushing yards. Will they be able to keep that momentum going?

The Ravens and Texans have met nine times with the Ravens leading the series, 7-2. 

Week 12 Ravens vs. Texans Game Info:

Who: Baltimore Ravens vs. Houston Texans

What: Week 12 NFL regular season 

When: 8:30 p.m. ET, Monday, Nov. 27, 2017

Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD

TV Channel: ESPN

Live Stream: fuboTV

Radio: WBAL New Radio 1090 

Point Spread: Baltimore, -7

Over/Under: 38

Weather: 41 degrees, clear skies

BALTIMORE RAVENS 2017 REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE:

Week 1 (Sun, Sept. 10): 20-0  at Cincinnati Bengals (W)

Week 2 (Sun, Sept. 17): 24-10 vs. Cleveland Browns (W)

Week 3 (Sun, Sept. 24): 44-7 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (in London) (L)

Week 4 (Sun, Oct. 1): vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 1:00 p.m. (L)

Week 5 (Sun, Oct. 8): at Oakland Raiders, 4:05 p.m. (W)

Week 6 (Sun, Oct. 15): vs Chicago Bears, 1:00 p.m. (L)

Week 7 (Sun, Oct. 22): at Minnesota Vikings, 1:00 p.m. (L)

Week 8 (Thur, Oct. 26): vs. Miami Dolphins, 8:25 p.m. (W)

Week 9 (Sun, Nov. 5): at Tennessee Titans, 1:00 p.m. (L)

Week 10 (Sun, Nov. 12): BYE week

Week 11 (Sun, Nov. 19): at Green Bay Packers, 1:00 p.m. (W)

Week 12 (Mon, Nov. 27): vs. Houston Texans, 8:30 p.m.

Week 13 (Sun, Dec. 3): vs. Detroit Lions, 1:00 p.m.

Week 14: (Sun, Dec. 10): at Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:30 p.m.

Week 15: (Sun, Dec. 17): at Cleveland Browns, 1:00 p.m.

Week 16: (Sat, Dec. 23): vs Indianapolis Colts, 4:30 p.m.

Week 17: (Sun, Dec. 31): vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 1:00 p.m

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Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis named semifinalist for Pro Football Hall of Fame 2018 class

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USA TODAY Sports

Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis named semifinalist for Pro Football Hall of Fame 2018 class

Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis has been named a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame 2018 class. 

Lewis, who is in his first year of eligibility, made the first set of cuts from 108 candidates to 27. 

First-year eligible players included on the semifinals list with Lewis are defensive back Ronde Barber, guard Steve Hutchinson, linebacker Brian Urlacher, wide receiver Randy Moss and defensive lineman Richard Seymour.

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12 offensive players, 13 defensive players and two coaches made the cut. However, there are no quarterbacks on the list.

All ties for the 25th spot also advance. 

In January, members of the Hall of Fame committee will then narrow the modern-era list down to 15. Nominees must receive 80 percent "yes" votes to make the cut.

The selection committee will then meet for a final time on February 3, the day before Super Bowl LII, to select the 2018 class. 

RELATED: LEWIS CLAIMS RAVENS DIDN'T SIGN KAEPERNICK AFTER GIRLFRIEND'S TWEET

Lewis and Moss are considered shoo-ins.

Lewis played his entire 17-year career with the team after the Ravens drafted him 26th in the 1996 draft. During his 17 years, he won two Super Bowls, won Super Bowl XXXV MVP, was named to 13 Pro Bowls, a seven-time First-Team All-Pro, was a two-time Defensive Player of the year winner, won eight Defensive Player of the Week awards, played in 228 career games, made 1,336 tackles, had 41.5 sacks and 31 interceptions.

Players must be retired from the league for five years to be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.