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Rested Ravens intend to start anew in playoffs


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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Lamar Jackson works out with free agent wide receiver Antonio Brown

Lamar Jackson works out with free agent wide receiver Antonio Brown

Lamar Jackson created a buzz throughout the entire 2019 season with his play on the field. 

Recently, he’s created a buzz off the field, too. 

Jackson took pictures with, and was filmed throwing to, free agent wide receiver Antonio Brown earlier Wednesday. The videos and pictures floated across social media and initiated a bit of a stir.

Ravens wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, who is cousins with Antonio Brown, was also attending the workouts. 

Antonio, who is 31, was cut by the Patriots after Week 2 last season. He is being investigated by the NFL for allegations of sexual assault against his trainer, Britney Taylor, who alleged that Antonio sexually assaulted her in 2017 and 2018. She also claims that in 2018, she was raped by Antonio. 

Antonio has denied all allegations against him and has countersued Taylor for defamation.

The link to the Ravens and Antonio Brown, a seven-time Pro Bowler, is a clear one, as the Ravens are widely expected to make at least one upgrade in their receiving corps in the NFL Draft later this month. 

While the workouts happened on Wednesday, they might not continue for much longer. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a stay-at-home order, effective Thursday at midnight.

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Mark Andrews both excited, and sad, about Hayden Hurst’s trade to Atlanta

Mark Andrews both excited, and sad, about Hayden Hurst’s trade to Atlanta

Mark Andrews is in a unique situation with his friend Hayden Hurst. 

He’s happy that Hurst will finally get his chance to be a No. 1 tight end in Atlanta and earn the targets he wasn’t able to receive in Baltimore.

There also won’t be the same relationship between Andrews and Hurst, and fellow tight end Nick Boyle, anymore. 

The three-headed monster was inseparable in the locker room, incredibly productive on the field and one of the brightest spots for the NFL’s best regular season team in 2019. Now, one-third of the group is gone. 

“I think, first of all, it was kind of a shock for me,” Andrews said Tuesday during a conference call. “And selfishly, Hayden being one of my best friends and being someone that I talk to every day and I'm super close with, I'm sad. I'm sad that I won't be able to have him next year, I won't be able to talk to him next year as much, but I'm also excited for him. I'm excited for him to get more of an opportunity with Atlanta.”

Hurst was shipped to Atlanta in mid-March to give the Ravens some much-needed draft capital. It also gave Hurst, a first-round pick in 2018, a chance to be a true No. 1 tight end threat.

The trade gave the Ravens the 55th overall pick in the NFL Draft later this month, as well as a fifth-round pick in exchange for Hurst and a fourth-round pick.

Last season, Hurst posted 349 yards receiving on 30 receptions with two touchdowns. Those numbers ranked fifth on the team in receptions and third in yards.

With Hurst out of the fold, Andrews, Marquise Brown and perhaps a few new offensive additions in the draft will have to pick up the load Hurst left behind.

“He's a great player,” Andrews said. “I love him to death, but it's exciting for him as well. But, firstly, I'm sad. I know Nick is sad. The three-headed monster kind of got broken up a little bit, but again, we're going to be just fine. Nick and I, we'll do our jobs, and then, obviously, we're going to find someone else to help us out.” 

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