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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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Report: NFL to cut preseason in half, taking away Ravens first and fourth preseason games against the Bills and Redskins

Report: NFL to cut preseason in half, taking away Ravens first and fourth preseason games against the Bills and Redskins

According to a report from ProFootballTalk, the NFL has scrapped its first and fourth preseason games this season and cut the preseason in half. 

The Ravens were scheduled to play the Bills at home on Aug. 14 to open the season, then end the preseason on Sept. 3 against the Redskins. 

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Now, the Ravens’ tentative preseason schedule will have one road game, at the Cowboys on Aug. 22, and home against the Panthers on Aug. 30. 

According to the report, the move was spurred on by two factors: Firstly, that road teams would have trouble moving that many bodies and risk spreading COVID-19. Secondly, that no team has had on-field workouts this summer. Now, with training camps scheduled to start on July 28, teams will have more time to prepare for the season. 

The move came with coronavirus cases continually rising in the United States a day after Dr. Anthony Fauci said new cases could reach 100,000 per day if more preventative measures were not taken. On June 30, the U.S. had 46,042 new cases, the second-highest total since the pandemic began.

Baltimore is still set to report to camp at the end of the month, as is the rest of the NFL. With the new preseason schedule, they’ll have about three weeks to prepare for the first on-field game action of the season. 

The Ravens haven’t lost in the preseason since Sept. 3, 2015, when they lost 20-19 to the Falcons. 

Stay connected to the Ravens with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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What if Ravens beat the Patriots in the 2012 AFC Championship Game?

What if Ravens beat the Patriots in the 2012 AFC Championship Game?

It’s not a stretch to say the 2012 AFC Championship Game was one of the most painful losses in Baltimore sports history.

The Ravens went to New England off a 20-13 win in the divisional round and were a game away from the Super Bowl for the first time since 2008. 

And one of their biggest rivals stood in the way of the Ravens and their second Super Bowl appearance in history. 

Baltimore and New England went back and forth for the entire game, before a one-yard Tom Brady plunge on 4th and goal gave the Patriots a 23-20 lead early in the fourth quarter. 

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Despite a Joe Flacco interception midway through the fourth quarter, the Ravens held the Patriots out of the end zone and gave the ball back to their offense with under two minutes to play. 

Then, the Ravens marched into Patriots territory and found themselves at the 14-yard line with 27 seconds left. 

On second down, Flacco fired a pass to wide receiver Lee Evans in the right corner of the end zone. Evans had it in his hands — then he dropped it. A Patriots defender came in late to knock the ball out of his hands, a catch that would’ve assuredly lifted the Ravens to the Super Bowl. 

Evans never played a regular season game again. 

"It was an opportunity to go to the Super Bowl," he said after the game. "And I let it go."

Two plays after Evans’ drop, kicker Billy Cundiff trotted onto the field to attempt a game-tying 32-yard field goal. The kick hooked badly to the left, and the Ravens lost 23-20 just a few plays short of the Super Bowl.

Cundiff, who had made the Pro Bowl with the Ravens in 2010 and signed a five-year contract extension in January of 2011, suffered the lowest moment of his professional career 364 days after he put pen to paper. He was released in August.

But if the Ravens had won that game, whether through Evans’ touchdown or another play in overtime, it’s reasonable to assume things wouldn’t have turned out as well long-term for the team. 

The Patriots lost the Super Bowl two weeks later to the Giants, 21-17, as the Ravens regrouped and made additions. 

One of those additions was Justin Tucker, who signed as an undrafted free agent and beat Cundiff out for the job in training camp. Tucker is currently the most accurate kicker in NFL history. 

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The next season, the Ravens finished the regular season 10-6 and though they had to play in the Wild Card round, found themselves in Foxboro once again for the AFC Championship Game. They dominated the Patriots 28-13 and went on to win the Super Bowl two weeks later. 

So while Evans’ drop, and Cundiff’s miss, might’ve been painful in the moment, that game led to a Super Bowl victory a year later, as well as one of the best special teams players the league has ever seen.

Stay connected to the Ravens with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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