A hot July afternoon in Maryland seems a world away from a cold January evening in Massachusetts, but according to Ray Rice, the memory of the AFC championship game will be present when the Ravens hit the practice field for training camp Thursday.
Its always a thought. The mood of training camp will be that last game, Rice said Wednesday.
The Ravens lost that day to the New England Patriots, 23-20, after Lee Evans dropped a possible touchdown pass in the final seconds and then Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal that would have pushed the game into overtime blunders destined to live in Baltimore football infamy.
There were some very good things that we did in that last game. But the mood of the training camp will only be to overcome that last game. Lets get that out of the way. That will be the movement going forward, Rice said.
The Ravens will have to settle for hitting each other until they open their exhibition season against the Atlanta Falcons on Aug 9. They open the regular season against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 10.
The best thing, whether its preseason or not, the best feeling is going to be lining up against another opponent, Rice said, because that gets the last game out. You know what? All right, the last game is over. Its always a thought. Its always a feeling. Youre a pro, you always think about what you could have done better, how you felt, and quite frankly, that (New England loss) was not the best feeling.
Actually, the Ravens were in a similar position a year ago, coming off a frustrating playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in which they blew a two- touchdown halftime lead. Knowing they would open the 2011 regular season at home against the Steelers, they built themselves up to an emotional high during training camp and the preseason, and crushed the Steelers in the opener.
It was almost as if that game was all about unleashing the frustrations that had simmered inside them since the playoff defeat.
Could the same thing happen again?
Well go out to dinner some nights when coach has us off. Were going to do things to gel again as a team, because one thing we were last year was a great team, Rice said. No one can take that away from us. We just fell short. We have to try to get that feeling back.