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Weather is blustery but focused Broncos aren't

Weather is blustery but focused Broncos aren't

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Try as they might, the Baltimore Ravens just couldn't get under the skin or into the heads of the Denver Broncos, who were more concerned about talking up their opponents than trash-talking them.

Most of the Ravens were exceedingly complimentary of the Broncos this week, but some spent time excusing their 34-17 home loss to Denver last month with dismissals ranging from the soon-to-retire Ray Lewis and several others being out of the lineup to the Broncos' receivers pushing off too much.

Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin said after Baltimore's emotional wild-card win that the Ravens were glad to get another shot at Denver.

Asked how it will be any different than last time, he declared, ``We'll make it different.''

``I wanted Denver, because they beat us,'' said Boldin, who was shut out in the first meeting, a game in which the Broncos breezed to a 31-3 lead and cruised to the finish.

The Broncos, not big on bravado all season, shrugged it all off.

``We beat them, so of course they want to play us again,'' cornerback Chris Harris said. ``We're up for the challenge.''

Those were about the brashest statements that came out of the Broncos locker room all week.

Not exactly a Pacquiao-Marquez pre-fight smack down.

``It's going to be a tough game,'' running back Knowshon Moreno said. ``It's not going to be easy.''

Fans aren't buying it, and oddsmakers have installed the top-seeded Broncos (13-3) as more than a touchdown favorite. They haven't lost in three months, are coming off a bye and playing at altitude against a team playing on a short week.

Although quarterback Joe Flacco has four road playoff wins on his resume, the Ravens were a mediocre 4-4 this season on the road, where he threw just seven of his 24 touchdown passes.

Then, there's Peyton Manning. Although he's 0-3 lifetime in cold weather in the playoffs - Saturday's high will hover around 20 degrees with some snow expected - he's beaten the Ravens (11-6) nine straight times, including twice in the playoffs.

He's been stellar with that glove on his right hand the last two weeks in preparation for the wintry weather and as a concession to the altered feel of his grip following four neck surgeries. With the glove, his completion percentage has been almost 6 points better and his passer rating almost 20 points higher than without it.

The Broncos aren't taking anything for granted, though. They pointed out all week that the last time they played, the Ravens were without Lewis, safety Bernard Pollard, guard Marshal Yanda, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and tight end Ed Dickson, all of whom will be available Saturday.

``So, this will be a completely different game, a completely different test,'' Broncos coach John Fox said.

Manning said he didn't have any reaction to the Ravens saying they were eager for a chance to atone for that lopsided loss.

``I know they have some guys back that did not play in the first game,'' Manning said, noting this is certainly the time of year you want to be healthy. ``... Those guys make a difference for their team. They made a difference for their team on Sunday holding their opponent to zero touchdowns. It's an excellent defense, really no matter who's in there, in my opinion, but certainly when they have all their other guys back, they're extremely tough.''

Joining the praise parade, Broncos safety Rahim Moore gushed this week about swapping jerseys with his hero, Baltimore Pro Bowler Ed Reed, after last month's game, and Champ Bailey pumped up Lewis, saying, ``I know he's going to miss the game, but I think the game will miss him more because there's nobody like him.''

Following a 12-week layoff with a torn right biceps, Lewis led the Ravens with 13 tackles to spark an emotional win over Indianapolis in the final home game of his spectacular 17-year career last week. The 37-year-old middle linebacker intends to retire after Baltimore completes its playoff run.

A marquee at a Denver hotel not far from Sports Authority Field reads: ``Join us for Ray Lewis' retirement party at 2 p.m. Saturday.''

The Broncos would cringe at such braggadocio.

The weather may be blustery but they certainly aren't, pointing out repeatedly that the Ravens are the only NFL team to reach the playoffs in each of the past five seasons, and they've won at least one game in each of those trips. They've also had a month to get used to Jim Caldwell calling offensive plays after his discombobulated debut against Denver on Dec. 16.

Of course, not all the Ravens were boastful or bombastic this week; several had high praise for the Broncos - and the Broncos brushed off those compliments, too, lest they lose their focus.

``I don't really buy into all that mental warfare and all that stuff,'' linebacker Von Miller said. ``I just like to get between the lines and just play football. I think that's where you can settle the score, on the football field.''

Notes: Fox said RB Willis McGahee didn't have any setbacks this week. If the Broncos beat Baltimore and he continues to progress next week, he'll be eligible to return for the AFC championship, two months after tearing the medial collateral ligament in his right knee. ... RG Zane Beadles said a big reason for his breakout season was his work with a sports psychologist last spring.

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Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton on Twitter:http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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Ravens cancel Saturday's open practice at M&T Bank Stadium

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USA Today Sports

Ravens cancel Saturday's open practice at M&T Bank Stadium

The Baltimore Ravens cancelled Saturday night's free open practice at M&T Bank Stadium due to a forecast that calls for heavy rain and inclement weather.

There is no official word from the team on whether this practice will be resheduled, but it seems like Sunday may be an option, even though there's rain in the forecast then too.

Ravens fans who were looking to see first-round draft pick and potential future starting quarterback Lamar Jackson will have to wait for another day. His presence at training camp, an inevitable competition with the incumbent, Joe Flacco, and potential two-quarterback packages involving both of them are set to be some of the biggest storylines of Ravens camp this summer.

As a Heisman Trophy winner, Jackson was one of the most dynamic players in college football during his time at Louisville. If he can replicate that kind of performance in the NFL, he will be at plenty more training camp sessions for Ravens fans to watch.

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After breakout 2017 season, Ravens running back Alex Collins isn't getting too comfortable

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After breakout 2017 season, Ravens running back Alex Collins isn't getting too comfortable

This time last year, running back Alex Collins wasn't a part of the Baltimore Ravens.

After being released by the Seattle Seahawks at the end of the 2017 preseason, the Ravens placed the 23-year-old on their practice squad, and by Week 2, Collins was already making plays.

As the season progressed, Collins found himself as the Ravens' top running back. He finished 2017 as the team's leading rusher with 973 yards while Javorius "Buck" Allen followed behind him with 591 yards.

If the 2018 NFL season began today, Collins would likely be the Ravens' starter, which is quite ironic considering the fate of his 2017 preseason.

"I always go back to where I started and where I am now, and I use that as my motivation," Collins said after Thursday's training camp practice.

"No matter the day, no matter how tired I am, I think to myself, at this time last year, I didn’t know my position, where I was, where I’d end up. So just having that security behind it is definitely my motivation to keep it this way and keep pushing forward and keep trying to get better instead of being complacent.”

Over the course of 15 games, Collins proved he had the strength and speed to make an impact on the team after Danny Woodhead suffered a hamstring injury on the first drive of the Ravens' Week 1 game and Kenneth Dixon sat out the entire season with a torn meniscus. 

While job security is something we all strive for, Collins isn't getting too comfortable with the hierarchy. 

“I don’t want to say necessarily ‘comfortable,’ because when I use that word, it makes me feel like I’m too relaxed and lackadaisical," Collins said.

"I’m more focused. I don’t want to get comfortable. I don’t want the team or our group to get comfortable, because we just want to get better every day. So, in the position I am, it’s a great feeling, but I’m always pushing myself to be better.”

While Collins has set personal goals for himself – like a 1,000-yard season – he is equally as focused on making the Ravens backfield one of the best groups in the National Football League. 

“I expect that," Collins said on being the Ravens' starter.

"I would hope that all the other running backs expect [to be the starter] as well, and that’s what kind of drives our group – when we all know that we have that capability to be the No. 1 guy, and we’re out competing and push each other and try to be the best. No matter who’s out there during the game, you’ll see a productive play out of that person. So, I have that mindset. I want to be the guy. I have that fire in me, and I hope [that is] as well as the other running backs, as I encouraged them as well.”

Collins noted that he's coming into training camp a bit heavier. He added five pounds to his 200-pound frame "just to see how that feels," but is still maintaining the stamina and strength he's always had. 

Collins – who was one of several veterans released from practice early as the team begins to adjust their way into the extended preseason – finished his media availability with a friendly warning to fantasy football owners: "Draft me now before it’s too late, guys."

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