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Rivalries add fun to football at any level

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Rivalries add fun to football at any level

When people first looked at the Ravens' 2012 schedule, it's probably a fair guess that the first games they circled were those with Pittsburgh. Every team in football has their big rival, and there's no question Pittsburgh wins that title with the Ravens.

Whenever the Ravens play the Steelers, the intensity gets ratcheted up a notch or two on the field and off. The fans pay more attention. The media does the same. Others throughout the league are watching just because it's the Ravens-Steelers. 

Why is this such a big rivalry? A big reason is both teams have been so good for so long. And they've played some real big games. That adds to the excitement and intensity.

But football has more of that than any other sports. In baseball, the Yankees-Red Sox series often brings plenty of intensity, even if Boston's struggling like it did this year. 

In pro basketball, you'll see the same thing from a Lakers-Celtics match-up. Two big teams usually have a big game, and that means something.

In football, though, it's different. Maybe because it's a different kind of sport, and one game can mean so much to a team. There are a number of good NFL rivalries that have developed over the years. The Patriots and Colts have a nice rivalry; the question is if it can keep going with Peyton Manning not in Indianapolis any more. 

Plus, there's a week between games and so much attention gets paid to a big contest. It adds to build-up and intensity. 

The Ravens and Steelers are on national TV Sunday night in a game that basically means first place in the AFC North. There's been so much talk and analysis in the last seven days. The teams were even talking about it after last week's games. 

Now it's time to play. 

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Ravens agree to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst

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USA TODAY Sports

Ravens agree to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst

The Ravens have their entire 2018 draft class locked up.

The team agreed to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Hurst's rookie contract - like all first-round picks - is a four-year deal with a team option of a fifth year. According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the 25th overall pick is due $11.1 million. 

The 24-year old, who was a walk on at South Carolina at 21-years old after being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012, finished his three-year career with 100 receptions, 1,281 yards and three touchdowns.

Standing at 6-foot-3, Hurst will be a nice addition to the TE corps with Nick Boyle and third-round draft pick Mark Andrews. 

Fellow first-round pick Lamar Jackson signed his rookie contract on June 5th.

Training camp kicks off for the Ravens July 19th. 

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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

Since drafting Lamar Jackson, the Ravens have made it clear that Joe Flacco is their starter. That doesn't mean they're not experimenting with having them both on the field at the same time, however. 

During this week's minicamp, the team has been lining Jackson up at multiple positions. 

"Gosh, I sure like him out there helping us," coach John Harbaugh said of Jackson during Tuesday's minicamp, via ESPN.com.

"If you put two quarterbacks on the field at once, what options does it create for our offense? That's what we're trying to figure out."

While at Louisville, Jackson rushed for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns in three seasons. That's more rushing yards than No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley. That unique skill set could be the creative options the Ravens are looking for. 

While at the NFL Combine, however, Jackson refused to workout at any other position than QB. 

"I have a lot of fun seeing what they come up with and what they're going to come up with next," Jackson said. "We'll see where it goes. You have to use your good players."

The Ravens are already viewing Jackson as one of those 'good players.' 

"Once he gets out of the pocket, it's like watching a young Michael Vick," LB C.J. Mosley said after minicamp practice. "It's amazing to watch. When you're defending him, you just have to act like you're tagging off -- you don't want to be on the highlight reel."

Harbaugh has alluded to the fact that the rookie will be active on game days, just exactly how they get the most out of him is what's in play.

"There's a lot of considerations that go into that," Harbaugh said of using two QBs at the once. "Everybody has an opinion. I've read a few. You want to find a way to get the most out of all your guys."

While Flacco isn't the fasted QB in the league, he has shown glimpses of running ability in the past. Figuring out how to utilize Flacco when Jackson is under center is where things will get interesting.

Interesting - as long as it works - is what Ravens fans have been searching for over the last several seasons. 

"Joe has to be able to do other things if [Jackson is] throwing the ball," Harbaugh said. "It gets the creative juices flowing for our offensive coaches, and they've worked hard on that."

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