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Brady understands the urgency as Pats enjoy bye

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Brady understands the urgency as Pats enjoy bye

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Tom Brady was 24 years old in his first season as a starter. It ended with a Super Bowl triumph.

Now he's 35 and without a championship in seven years.

Yet as the time he has left to win another title decreases, the 13-year veteran doesn't consider each new playoff chance more meaningful. For Brady, they're all very important.

``From the day we're born, I think we're always one day closer to dying, since we're a little kid,'' the New England Patriots quarterback said Thursday. ``(But) I don't quite look at it like'' this chance means more.

``I know it's meaningful for our whole team, what we're attempting to accomplish,'' he said. ``You don't take these things for granted. It's a privilege to be in this position that we're in and certainly one of four teams to have played well enough over the course of the year to deserve the first-round bye.''

The Patriots (12-4) find out this weekend who they'll host in the divisional round on Jan. 13. The Houston Texans will be the opponent if they beat the Cincinnati Bengals in Saturday's AFC wild-card game. If the Texans lose, the Patriots will face the winner of Sunday's game between the Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts.

They've played all three this season, beating the Colts 59-24 and Texans 42-14. They lost to the Ravens 31-30.

Regardless of the opponent, preparations already have begun. Brady, in fact, brought a stack of papers into his weekly news conference on Thursday and set them on the podium.

``We've been working hard to figure out a bunch of things,'' he said. ``There's a packet full of things we need to do better and things that we're really trying to work hard to improve on.''

Brady will soon throw his first postseason pass since the final play of last season's Super Bowl, a desperation heave that fell incomplete in the end zone, clinching the New York Giants' 21-17 victory.

``I think every guy in the locker room wishes they could have done a little more,'' Brady said after the game.

The Patriots have a lot of work to do to get back to that spot, in New Orleans on Feb. 3. And bye weeks haven't always been a successful steppingstone.

They had a bye in the 2010 season, then lost in the divisional round to the New York Jets, 28-21. The previous season, without a bye, they were beaten by the Baltimore Ravens 33-14 in the wild-card round. Both games were in Foxborough.

Clearly - week off or no week off, and even with home-field advantage - there are no guarantees in this league.

The Patriots were 6-2 at home this season, finishing with a 28-0 win over the Miami Dolphins in which Brady threw two touchdown passes and the defense posted its first shutout in three years.

``We've worked pretty hard to get to this point. I don't think you want to go in there and change everything,'' Brady said. ``There is always pressure in this game. There's pressure in practice. There's pressure to make the team. There's pressure to keep your job. Certainly there's pressure to win games and that's what we're going to try to do.''

Brady was the Super Bowl MVP in wins over the St. Louis Rams in the 2002 season and the Carolina Panthers two years later. The following season, wide receiver Deion Branch earned the honor against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Before that game, Branch sat with former NFL stars Dan Marino and Cris Carter for a television show. Marino and Carter had just one Super Bowl appearance between them in tremendous careers.

``They were just looking at me like, `You're playing in your second Super Bowl in your third year?' It was like they'd give up anything, all those records that these guys have, just to play in another Super Bowl,'' he said. ``You should take full advantage of every opportunity because you never know if you get the opportunity again.''

At 33, this may be Branch's last. He was released and re-signed twice by the Patriots this season.

``Regardless if this is your first, second, third year or if it's your 10th or 11th,'' he said. ``You never know if you'll make it back.''

Brady has said he'd like to play into his 40s and shows no sign of faltering. He threw for 34 touchdowns and just eight interceptions this season and was the second highest-rated quarterback in the AFC, behind Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos.

None of that matters now. It's the second season. And another week of practice for what Brady hopes will be a long playoff run begins on Monday, with a true opponent to prepare for.

``When we figure out who we'll play,'' he said, ``we'll jump right into that and get going.''

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Baltimore Ravens re-sign Robert Griffin III to 2-year deal

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Baltimore Ravens re-sign Robert Griffin III to 2-year deal

The Baltimore Ravens have found their backup to Lamar Jackson. The team announced Thursday they are planning on re-signing Robert Griffin III to a two-year contract pending a physical. 

Griffin III made his return to the NFL in 2018 when Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens surprisingly signed the QB to a one-year, $1 million deal.

Behind Joe Flacco and Jackson, the Ravens chose to keep three QBs on their 53-man roster in case something were to happen to Flacco and Jackson hadn't fully developed to their liking. One of those fears did come true and Griffin III provided the Ravens with a valuable insurance policy.

The 29-year-old appeared in three games for the Ravens, completing 2-of-6 passes for 21 yards. 

With Flacco now the starting QB for the Broncos and the Ravens viewing Jackson as their long-term signal caller, re-signing Griffin III as their No. 2 makes a ton of sense for both the QB and the Ravens. 

"I feel like I have a good grasp of what this team is trying to do," Griffin III said back in January. "I would love to help Lamar [Jackson] continue to develop and also be available and ready to play."

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2019 NFL Mock Draft Ravens Roundup: Post-NFL Combine and free agency edition

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2019 NFL Mock Draft Ravens Roundup: Post-NFL Combine and free agency edition

The NFL Combine has come and gone and free agency frenzy has taken place.

The Ravens saw defensive veterans exit in free agency while welcoming Mark Ingram, Earl Thomas and Justin Bethel to Baltimore.

How has the combine and free agency affected the Ravens' draft board?

NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig: OL Dalton Risner, Kansas State

Standing at 6-foot-5, 312 pounds, Risner's draft profile notes that he "has the necessary tools to get guys blocked on the NFL level."

Risner could serve as a good rookie backup on the Ravens' O-line. 

Bleacher Report: LB Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech

The Ravens are in desperate need on defense after losing Terrell Suggs and Za'Darius Smith in free agency.

Ferguson, who holds the NCAA all-time record for career sacks with 45, has been compared to Khalil Mack. 

"The question, as it was with Mack, is whether Ferguson's skills will translate to the pros," Bleacher Report's Kristopher Knox says. "This means there is some risk involved, but the allure of adding a potential premier pass-rusher this late in Round 1 could be too tough to pass up."

Mel Kiper: RB Josh Jacobs, Alabama 

The addition of Mark Ingram may change Kiper's mind on the Ravens taking a back in the first-round. 

Jacobs' draft profile overview states, "Jacobs runs with good bend, vision and burst, and he proved to be an effective pass-catcher out of the backfield or from the slot. He will probe and burst, but he could become more elusive with better tempo as a runner. Jacobs is a decisive runner with outstanding one-cut talent to become a bellcow lead back." 

Maybe the Ravens see Jacobs as their long-term running back? 

SB Nation: WR D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss

The Ravens cut Michael Crabtree after just one year with the team and John Brown signed with the Bills in free agency. Now they're left with several holes to fill at receiver, a position the Ravens have lacked depth at for several seasons.

After posting a 4.33 40-yard dash, Metcalf's combine profile has him projected as an instant starter.

NFL.com's Charles Davis and Daniel Jeremiah: WR Parris Campbell, Ohio State

Here's a new addition to the roundup. 

Davis describes Campbell as, "extremely fast and elusive. A perfect match for the run-first Ravens, who now have a true deep threat to throw it to over the heads of safeties creeping to the LOS to help slow down RB Mark Ingram and QB Lamar Jackson."

Jeremiah agrees saying, "Campbell had an outstanding workout at the combine, displaying mature route-running skills."

CBS Sports.com: WR N’Keal Harry, Arizona State

      Another wide receiver in the mix, pundits questioned whether or not he was athletic enough to be a first-round pick prior to the combine. 

      Harry posted a 4.53 40-yard dash, 27 reps on the bench press, a 38.5 inch vertical and 122 inches on the broad jump.  Analyst describe the receiver as a "back-shoulder boss who thrives with contested catch opportunities outside the numbers but lacks explosive traits."

      Sporting News: WR Marquise Brown, Oklahoma

      We've got a trend going here.

      Brown, who stands at 5-foot-9 and 166 pounds, has an "elite vertical speed and great quickness coming in and out of routes," according to Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer. Brown missed the Sooners' Pro Day and the combine after undergoing Lisfranc surgery. However, he is expected to be ready to go come offseason programs.

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