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John Harbaugh admits Ravens victory over Steelers is "a big deal"

John Harbaugh admits Ravens victory over Steelers is "a big deal"

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Some early season NFL victories are more meaningful than others, especially one within your own division, on the road against your biggest rival.

So, after Ravens coach John Harbaugh insisted Monday that Baltimore had already turned its focus toward its next game, he acknowledged that beating Pittsburgh on Sunday night was pretty darn special.

"It's a big deal," Harbaugh declared. "It's a big deal because the road runs through Pittsburgh the last couple of years to win the division. You start with that."

Yes, there's more than one reason why the 26-14 victory was so satisfying to the Ravens (3-1), who moved into a tie with Cincinnati atop the AFC North.

"You have to win division games to win the division. That's the next thing," Harbaugh said. "And it's the Steelers. We hadn't beaten them three games in a row and three years in a row there. So to go up there and win means a lot to us."

Pittsburgh has captured the last two AFC North titles and three of the last four, earning a wild-card berth with its second-place finish in 2015.

The Ravens, on the other hand, have gone three straight years without a playoff berth. Perhaps this victory could serve as a step in that direction.

"What a freaking win. Wow," said safety Eric Weddle, now in his third year with Baltimore. "We talk about all the time: You can't become a true Raven until you win in Pittsburgh, so I've officially become a Raven. What a great team win, from the offense controlling the clock, to making big plays (and) our defense shutting them out in the second half."

Not to mention solid play by the special teams. Justin Tucker accounted for all the game's points in the second half after the Steelers rallied from a 14-0 deficit to pull even at halftime.

It all added up to a feel-good victory that made Monday in Baltimore a bit easier to tolerate.

"I've heard that the fans are having a great day today," Harbaugh said. "My wife said she's out and about, everybody's talking about the game and everybody's fired up and happy. Even the people who went to bed at halftime. Look what you missed."

For those who slept through it, the recap is simple: Baltimore held the ball for 21 minutes, limited the Steelers to three first downs and did not allow Pittsburgh to get past midfield.

With one-quarter of the season over with, it's hard to determine the Ravens' identity. At times, they've been an offensive powerhouse, at other times a defensive steamroller.

Joe Flacco threw for 363 yards and two touchdowns against the Steelers and now has eight TD passes compared to a pair of interceptions. The defense, meanwhile, hasn't given up a touchdown in the second half.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith returned to the team Monday and will practice this week after serving a four-game suspension from the NFL for using performance enhancers.

"Rumor has it he got here at 8 o'clock," Harbaugh said. "He did not beat me in, for the record, but he was here and he's been working out. We're expecting him to practice Wednesday."

The Ravens expect Smith will be ready for Sunday's road game against Cleveland (1-2-1).

"If he's in shape and if he practices well and looks like he can go," Harbaugh said.

Baltimore also hopes to have tight end Hayden Hurst (foot) and defensive tackle Willie Henry (abdomen).

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Ravens reopen training facility in Owings Mills without players and coaches

Ravens reopen training facility in Owings Mills without players and coaches

The Ravens reopened their training facility in Owings Mills, Maryland, on Tuesday under Phase I of the NFL’s process to reopen. This means that while the facility is open, players and coaches still cannot return.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan gave the green light last week that the Ravens could open their training facility and M&T Bank Stadium. 

According to the Ravens’ release, individuals returning to team facilities are mainly from the equipment crew, football video group, and the personnel department. The team is limited to a maximum of 75 people in the building at one time. Employees must wear masks and have their temperature checked before entering the building.

Phase II of the reopening process is to allow coaches, but still not players, into the facility — as long as the state allows for it. There has not been a date set for the beginning of Phase II.

For players and coaches to be in the facility at the same time, the Ravens indicated the target for the entire team to be together is for training camp, currently slated for the end of July. 

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Ravens wide receiver Miles Boykin heading to Florida to work out with Lamar

Ravens wide receiver Miles Boykin heading to Florida to work out with Lamar

The importance of Miles Boykin’s second season as a Raven cannot be overstated. 

After a strong offseason last year, one that included a standout training camp, Boykin went under the radar in his 2019 campaign. He posted just 13 catches for 198 yards in 16 games and caught three touchdown passes. He was targeted only 22 times all season. 

He was the team’s eighth leading receiver, in terms of catches and yards, and was fourth in targets at the receiver position.

Now, with two more rookies in the wide receiver room, the urgency Boykin is facing is palpable. 

“I just feel like I’m getting better as an all-around player,” Boykin said Tuesday on a conference call with reporters. “I’m capable of a lot more, I’ll be able to play faster this year and have more chemistry with Lamar and just be able to go out there and play the game the way I want to play.”

He’ll travel to Florida next week to throw with Lamar Jackson, wide receiver Marquise Brown and a host of other Ravens, in place of offseason workouts that have been canceled. In the meantime, he’s trained with fellow second-year player in quarterback Trace McSorley, who is closer to home for Boykin -- meaning workouts are less of an ordeal to make happen. 

Chemistry for Boykin will be important, as the Ravens shipped tight end Hayden Hurst to the Falcons in the offseason and have said they could look to become more of a passing team in the future. 

But the Ravens also drafted wideouts Devin Duvernay and James Proche in April’s draft, which muddies the water as to where the increased targets can come from. 

That’s where Boykin thinks he can step in with his experience in the wide receiver group.

“When you’re younger, you worry about, ‘What do I have to do?’” Boykin said. “When you’re older, you know, ‘Why am I doing this?’ Like, 'this makes sense.' Everything starts to roll off of it. Now I’m worried about how to do things right, I’m not worried about what I need to do right. That’s part of film study that you don’t have time for during the season.”

Boykin added he won’t be shy about helping those rookie wide receivers, though, as now he’ll be one of the veterans in the room just a year removed from his rooke season.

“I would say film is going to be huge, especially during July,” Boykin said. “Even though I wasn’t participating in OTAs, I was still involved in meetings, I was doing everything else. I just couldn’t practice because I was injured. Even then, for rookies, it gets hard and stressful because you’re trying to pick up a whole new playbook. In July, you have a chance to relax a little bit, and I don’t think it’s going to be like that this year, especially for rookies.”

Despite everything, from Boykin’s confidence to knowledge of the offense, the threat of coronavirus has dampened expectations for everyone across the league in terms of what can be expected. 

That’s not Boykin’s concern, however. Whenever the 2020 season comes, if it does, he knows he’ll be ready. 

“At the end of the day, I’m still playing football -- if we have a season, obviously,” Boykin said. “It doesn’t matter where I’m playing it, who I’m playing it against, football is football. There’s going to be 11 people on each side of the ball and I just have to go out there and do my job. It doesn’t affect me as much.”

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