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Rested Ravens intend to start anew in playoffs

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Rested Ravens intend to start anew in playoffs

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) The Baltimore Ravens are healthy and rested.

They hope such qualities serve them better in the playoffs than the momentum they would have gotten from winning the regular-season finale.

Baltimore's 23-17 loss to Cincinnati on Sunday had the feel of a preseason contest. The Ravens (10-6) already had clinched their second straight AFC North title, so coach John Harbaugh rested several injured players for the entire game and removed most of his starters before the end of the first half.

The defeat dropped Baltimore's record in December to 1-4. Now it's time to find out whether the Ravens can suddenly get hot when it matters most, beginning with Sunday's home playoff game Chuck Pagano's Indianapolis Colts (11-5).

``It's a whole new season,'' Harbaugh said Monday. ``It all starts fresh. It's the playoffs. We're all 0-0 at this point.''

The Ravens are the only team in the NFL to reach the postseason in each of the past five years. They won at least one playoff game in the previous four trips, but on each occasion they were coming off a win to finish the regular season.

Not this time.

``Whatever team plays the best in the playoffs is going to win it,'' Harbaugh said. ``So if you want to call it getting hot, it's pretty important. Starting this week, whoever plays the best will be the champion.''

That would call for a complete turnaround from December, when the Ravens lost to Pittsburgh, Washington, Denver and Cincinnati. The lone victory during the month was a 33-14 beating of the New York Giants on Dec. 23 that provided Baltimore with its second straight division title.

``We are going to hit our stride going into the playoffs,'' said running back Ray Rice, who watched the final three quarters of the Cincinnati game from the sideline.

``It doesn't worry us because this is the playoffs and it's different,'' safety Ed Reed said.

With little to play for in Cincinnati except the remote possibility of gaining the No. 3 seed, Harbaugh placed injured veterans Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, Bernard Pollard and Marshal Yanda on the inactive list. He pulled most of his starters, including Rice, quarterback Joe Flacco and Reed, early in the first half.

All should be available against the Colts. The Ravens also hope to have middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who's been out since Oct. 14 with a torn right triceps. That, Harbaugh said, would be a ``game-time decision.''

Because the Ravens used so many backups against the Bengals, the defeat was far easier to swallow.

``Yeah, it's a loss, but this game is totally different than any of the other games,'' cornerback Corey Graham said. ``This is more of a get healthy, get ready for the playoffs thing. Some losses mean more than others, and this one here don't mean a lot.''

Harbaugh simply thought the health of his team was more important than charging into the postseason with a two-game winning streak.

``We took all that into consideration. We weighed it all out,'' he said. ``We felt like we could win the game with guys we had, and we almost pulled it off.''

The Ravens endured a hectic four months leading up to the postseason. Despite losing Lewis and cornerback Lardarius Webb (knee) in mid-October, Baltimore used a 9-2 start to take control of the division. That gave the Ravens enough of a cushion to limp to the finish as the No. 4 seed in the AFC.

``We battled adversity, we battled injury and we battled everything else you can imagine for a football team,'' Rice said. ``We are a battle-tested football team. I'm not really concerned about the four (December) losses. I'm more concerned about this team getting healthy.''

Harbaugh likes where the Ravens are as the playoffs begin.

``I'm very excited about our team right now. I like us a lot,'' he said. ``I like the fact that we've overcome a lot of adversity, both personal and team. I like the fact that our guys have stuck together through a lot of that. I think that's what makes a team what it is and I'm looking forward to seeing who we are for the next one game through however many games we're able to play. It's going to be a great challenge.''

The opening opponent is intriguing. No one in Baltimore has forgotten that the Colts left for Indianapolis in 1984, or that Pagano was the Ravens' defensive coordinator in 2011 and is returning from three rounds of chemotherapy.

The Ravens won't let the off-the-field stuff deflect their focus from revving up some postseason momentum.

``I think we're very ready,'' tight end Ed Dickson said. ``We had a chance to get guys healthy (Sunday). We're going to be firing on all cylinders. If we put it all together, the sky is the limit for this team. It's a one-game season right now.''

Meanwhile, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta says he won't pursue GM openings with other teams.

``I love being a part of the Ravens and plan to stay here and help them win championships,'' he said in a statement. ``I have no intentions of leaving this team.''

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Ravens place Marquise Brown, Jaylon Ferguson on reserve/NFI list

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Ravens place Marquise Brown, Jaylon Ferguson on reserve/NFI list

With training camp just six days away, here is the latest news surrounding the Baltimore Ravens.

1. Ian Rapoport reported that the Ravens have placed Marquise Brown, Jaylon Ferguson and two others on the reserve/NFI list. He later added that Brown is still recovering from Lisfranc surgery but is "progressing well" and Ferguson is dealing with a "minor hamstring" injury.

2. The entire Baltimore Ravens class is officially under contract after the signing of wide receiver Miles Boykin. Boykin was a third-round pick out of Notre Dame.

3. Michael Vick joined The Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan Friday morning and when asked which young quarterbacks in the NFL most emulate his style, he answered: "Lamar Jackson" along with Kyler Murray and Cam Newton.

Looking Ahead:

July 24: Ravens training camp begins. Rookies are set to report a week earlier on Wednesday, July 17. 

The 2019 NFL schedule is set! See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

Credit: Rotoworld and Baltimore Ravens for news points.

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A big Year 2 ahead, Lamar Jackson isn’t worried about Madden ratings

A big Year 2 ahead, Lamar Jackson isn’t worried about Madden ratings

The number eight is sports royalty in the city of Baltimore thanks to Cal Ripken Jr.

If Lamar Jackson has the career many are hoping for, he’ll be another reason for that one day down the road.

For now, he’s a young, athletic quarterback entering his second season in Charm City. But his successful rookie year hasn’t been reflected in Madden NFL 20’s newest ratings.

Jackson came in with an overall rating of 76, tied for 24th among all quarterbacks. Unsurprisingly, his athleticism is highly-regarded, as he leads all signal-callers in speed, acceleration, agility, and elusiveness.

Questions abound about his throwing abilities, leading to the low rating. But that’s not a concern for Jackson himself.

“I can’t feel no way,” the quarterback told media members prior to throwing out the first pitch at the Orioles-Nationals game Wednesday night. “You know, I don’t make Madden. That’s them. But I feel like our team, we’re going to show ‘em this season.”

Jackson continued to praise the Ravens roster. When asked about the high ratings for teammates like Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and Earl Thomas, Jackson put his thoughts quite succinctly: “We look stacked!”

Of course, with speed and acceleration ratings like Jackson has, it’s fun to imagine how he might fit in on a baseball diamond as well.

“Whew, somewhere in the middle, to make a play,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde decided when asked where the Ravens quarterback might play on his roster.

“I’m looking forward to meeting him. I’m a big football fan, so watched him play a lot. And if he wanted to play center field or up the middle, it’d be great,” Hyde continued.

The speedy quarterback agreed, though it came with a caveat.

“Probably,” Jackson quickly answered when asked about his best fit being center field. “But you know, I’m the Ravens QB right now, so I’m good.”

He doesn’t know what his walk-up song would be if he played baseball, but Jackson was definitive about one thing at least: his hot dog preferences.

“I don’t really eat mustard,” he emphasized. “So I just put ketchup, relish...I just go from there. Pretty standard.”

When he’s not eating hot dogs, Jackson is working hard to build chemistry with his new receiving corps, and he seemed optimistic about the results it will bring on the field.

“Looking pretty good,” he described. “You’ll have to see for yourself.”

Knowing how many dual Orioles and Ravens fans there are in Baltimore, Jackson was also happy to provide a little hope as the city’s attention starts to shift from baseball to football. He gave a message to O’s fans who have sat through months of losing baseball and are looking to the Ravens to bring winning back to the city.

“Look forward to us coming out and balling,” he said. “Can’t say too much right now, [the] season’s not here!”

The Ravens season will be here soon enough, and when it is, Jackson will be ready to go out and show both local and national fans what he can do, regardless of what his Madden rating says.

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