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Ravens prepare to head to Kansas City with last year’s gut-punch still in mind

Ravens prepare to head to Kansas City with last year’s gut-punch still in mind

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Lamar Jackson remembers last year’s trip to Kansas City. He doesn’t want to. 

In a 27-24 overtime defeat, Jackson suffered the only regular season loss of his career. The two teams never played again, as the Ravens lost in the Wild Card round to the Chargers. 

There’s been significant changes for both teams since then, but Jackson hasn’t forgotten the feeling he left Kansas City with. 

“It’s still with me right now,” Jackson explained. “It doesn’t go away until I get that opportunity again and perform very well.”

Last year, Jackson was in his fourth start in the NFL when the Ravens went into Arrowhead Stadium and nearly knocked off the AFC’s top seed. 

This year, the Ravens have no good feelings about how that game went, despite the development that aided a young roster. 

“That was a big-time game, kind of a nail-biter game,” Mark Andrews said. “A lot of guys kind of grew up in that game. I think Lamar [Jackson] being able to play a tight game like that was big for his growth. It’s one of those games that I don’t think a lot of people have forgotten to this day.”

As for changes that can be taken from the game, there’s not much benefit to that. 

The Chiefs have multiple new starters on their defense compared to last year and a new defensive coordinator. Tyreek Hill won’t be in this year’s iteration of the game due to a shoulder injury, but they’ve replaced him with other incredibly talented and speedy wideouts. 

And there’s reason to believe that, at least through two weeks, Patrick Mahomes might even be better than he was a year ago.

“Our guys have been in the stadium,” coach John Harbaugh said. “They’ve been in that tiny little locker room before. They’ve been on that field. They’ve stayed in that hotel. All of those things are pluses. We played a good game, but we didn’t win. That’s motivation also.”

Last season’s loss wasn’t just a typical loss, either. 

Baltimore entered at 7-5 and were in a chase for a playoff spot. And with just under five minutes left, its chances looked good. 

But Mahomes completed a long, incredible pass on fourth and nine from the his own territory to set the Chiefs up with first down. A few plays later, on another fourth down, the Chiefs converted to tie the game at 24. They later won in overtime 27-24.

Some Ravens won’t admit it, but there’s lessons to be learned in that loss. 

“I think when you’re a young player and you’re in that environment — that hostile, on the road environment — … Kansas City has a great home crowd and they’re extremely loud,” Marshal Yanda said. “So yes, I think that those loud games for young players are important. He should be able to build from that.”

Sunday’s matchup, between two of the league’s top teams, has the potential to be one of the season’s top games once again. The Ravens will undoubtedly take lessons from last year’s wild finish in Kansas City.

They just hope it ends better than last time. 

“They’re a really good team and we want to perform our best,” Matt Skura said. “We know they went far in the playoffs last year and this year they obviously want to make a run. We want to show people that our offense, and our offensive line, can handle the so-called powerhouse of the Kansas City Chiefs. This is a huge game for us and we want to showcase our best abilities.”

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Ravens coronavirus protocols made opt-outs an afterthought for Greg Roman and Don Martindale

Ravens coronavirus protocols made opt-outs an afterthought for Greg Roman and Don Martindale

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, NFL players and staff were tasked with a tough decision as training camp begun. They could either participate in the season and face the risks that come with it, or opt out if they felt unsafe.

For Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman and defensive coordinator Don 'Wink" Martindale, the choice was easy. Based on what they've seen from the team and league in terms of safety, they never considered not coaching in 2020.

"It never really entered my mind," Roman said during a Zoom call with media on Wednesday.

"Well, I think with the protocol that’s been established by the league it's obviously a safe environment its football and I never thought about opting out," Martindale said. "I don’t think they would have ever brought us back if they thought it was a high rate of danger with the pandemic. I felt safe coming back and taking all precautions and protocol, wear our masks and do all of the six feet apart and social distancing."

RELATED: RAVENS WON'T RULE OUT QUARANTINING LAMAR JACKSON

While Martindale applauds the league's efforts to control the virus, which now includes daily testing through September 5, the Ravens have specifically made an effort to prioritize the health and safety of everyone involved.

From Lamar Jackson opting to become a "Bubble Boy" to Mark Ingram stating that a positive mindset and cautious behavior will benefit the league, it's clear the team has bought into the idea that a season will only happen if everyone is committed to following the protocols to a tee.

Additionally, Roman says he's been blown away with the technology brought in and the extra precautions Baltimore has taken in order to lessen the risk of infection. That includes a device that alerts someone when they are within six feet of another individual.

The pre-planning prior to arrivals and constant improvements were the reasons the offensive coordinator never had doubts about the campaign.

"Resources and planning that this organization put into the facility procedures, it’s a thought that never crossed my mind," Roman said. "Frankly the unbelievable prep forethought, resources, space, that everybody was able to come up with some great solutions, it never entered my mind. If I came and saw something different you never know but impressive what our organization has done in this unique situation for all of us."

With training camp just beginning and contact practices set to get underway soon, there are still numerous obstacles the league will have to face. But through the initial phase, the Ravens have shown that health and safety are their biggest concerns, and that approach won't change. That mentality made opting in the only reasonable choice for Martindale, Roman and others.

"We’re all in this together. Taking care of each other and each other’s families. Show your discipline and mental toughness, wear your masks in meetings," Martindale said. "I've never thought about opting out."

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

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Ravens team doctor won't rule out quarantining Lamar Jackson

Ravens team doctor won't rule out quarantining Lamar Jackson

The Ravens don't have any plans to quarantine the unanimous NFL MVP -- yet.

Head team physician Dr. Andrew Tucker spoke with local reporters on a Zoom call Wednesday afternoon on a variety of topics, including NFL safety protocols, mitigating COVID-19 concerns, and more. He also addressed a popular suggestion among fans online: quarantining quarterbacks.

No team wants to lose any of their depth, but some players and positions are clearly more critical than others. At the top of the list is obviously the team's quarterbacks, and few signal-callers are more essential to their team's success than Lamar Jackson is to the Ravens.

With that in mind, Dr. Tucker was asked if Baltimore is considering any plans to isolate Jackson and the other quarterbacks from the rest of the team, to take extra precautions that the position group doesn't see a coronavirus outbreak during the season.

"Not that I know of. I can't speculate on if things change in the community or change in the team, there might be a different approach. I wouldn't rule it out," Tucker said.

It appears that, for now, the Ravens aren't planning to turn Jackson into a true Bubble Boy. As an organization, they have taken countless steps to keep every player as safe and healthy as possible amidst a global pandemic, and they are trusting their protocols to keep Jackson on the field. But it's notable that Dr. Tucker declined to rule out the possibility of things changing down the line.

Obviously, most teams are in a state of flux in regards to COVID-19, and they all have more information everyday. The impact of the virus spreading both within the organization and the greater Baltimore community could lead the Ravens to reverse course in order to protect their most valuable asset.

Jackson, in his own words, hasn't had "one tick" of coronavirus in him yet. The Ravens are going to do everything they possibly can to keep it that way.

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

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