Fans spur Ravens to beat Colts Emotion surrounding game sparks players

November 24, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

The Ravens' 20-13 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday wasn't 24 hours old, and already the buzz around the team's locker room was about this week's opponents, the Indianapolis Colts. Forget celebrations. This is the Ravens' Super Bowl as far as Baltimore fans are concerned.

The Colts (2-9) will make their return to Baltimore for the first time since sneaking out of the city 14 years ago for Indianapolis during the midnight hours. The Ravens will play host to the Colts in their new $223 million stadium that might have been the Colts' new home if

Only if

"There's a couple of guys on the Ravens that used to play for the Colts," said Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa, who spent seven years with the Colts. "It's going to be a pretty special game because of the horseshoe and all the controversy surrounding the team leaving. There are guys like [fullback Roosevelt] Potts, Ted [Marchibroda, coach] and [quarterback Jim] Harbaugh who have been with that organization. This is going to be sort of like our first playoff game. I'm fired up. I could play right now."

Marchibroda said: "This really is a big game. Once the schedule was announced, the one thing I kept hearing over and over again is that this is the one game you have to win. Well, it's here. We have to win for the team's sake, but at the same token for the fans, because the fans have been great to us."

Most of the current Ravens were young when the Colts left Baltimore for Indianapolis, but they have memories, too. Cornerback Rod Woodson, 33, watched the events unfold on television from his home in Fort Wayne, Ind.

"We were about 45 minutes away, but I remember that night and the excitement of them moving to Indianapolis," Woodson said. "I know there are special feelings here with the fans about that team. There may be some players who don't understand, but when those fans come out screaming, 'You got to kill these guys,' it will rub off."

There are different reasons for a lot of players that make this game special. Ravens defensive tackle Larry Webster is a native of Elkton. He was 15 when they moved. He has gotten orders from his godmother to "kick the Colts' butts" Sunday.

"We'll try to win it for the fans," Webster said. "It will bring them closer. We do have die-hard fans, but maybe we'll get the still kind of skeptical ones out of the closet.

"They escaped through the back door," said Webster, recalling the night of the move. "I was like, 'Wow, can they do that? They packed up at night. Couldn't they have done that in the daytime?' "

The Ravens have four players, the other being wide receiver Floyd Turner, who have ties with the Indianapolis Colts, and all of them played under Marchibroda, who coached Indianapolis from through 1995. All four were with the team when the Colts made the great playoff run in Marchibroda's final year and came within a Hail Mary pass of going to the Super Bowl before losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 20-16, in the AFC championship game.

Marchibroda was fired after that season. The club was dismantled soon afterward.

"Nothing ever surprised me," Siragusa said of his days in Indianapolis. "We're one play away from getting to the Super Bowl, and they fired the coach. It was the biggest joke in the league, and they're still getting laughed at now."

Siragusa was reluctant to talk about the late Robert Irsay, who owned the Colts when they moved from Baltimore until his death. But he had to tell at least one story.

"I don't talk about people who are passed," Siragusa said. "When Bob ran the team, you never saw him. Not like Art [Modell, Ravens owner]. Art is at every practice and is around all the time. I didn't even know who Bob Irsay was for my first four years there, until one day he says, 'How you doing, Ron Solt?' I said, 'I'm not Ron Solt.' "

Harbaugh was traded to the Ravens from the Colts on Feb. 14 after four seasons with Indianapolis. Turner, who did not play in the league last season, was signed by the Ravens as an Indianapolis free agent in 1996. He almost became the property of the Colts again after the Ravens failed to turn in the required paperwork before the league-imposed deadline.

The Colts are now coached by Jim Mora, who drafted Turner as a rookie when Mora coached the New Orleans Saints.

"I remember Indianapolis trying to pull that last-minute thing," Turner said. "The deal here almost didn't materialize and I remember sitting in a Baltimore hotel room for a couple of days wondering which team I was going to play for. Sunday's game will be interesting. There have been a lot of changes there because they've had guys going in and out, but there are a couple of guys I know."

"It's the first time I'll get to play against those guys," Siragusa said. "I've got a lot of great memories and a lot of friendships there, but it's always great to play against guys you were teammates with. But there is a time for friends and a time for business."

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