Season could start at home

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Source: Ravens asked NFL to not play prime-time game in Pittsburgh

March 21, 2009|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

The Ravens aren't expected to kick off the 2009 season at the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, but they could be in line for a season opener at M&T Bank Stadium.

There were rumors the NFL would begin this season with Ravens-Steelers, a rematch of the AFC championship game, for its Thursday night game. But the Ravens asked not to be considered for a prime-time game at Heinz Field this season when they submitted their scheduling requests to the league, a team official told The Baltimore Sun.

The Ravens have played a nationally televised game at Pittsburgh three of the past four seasons, including the past two years. In comparison, the last time the Steelers had to play a night game in Baltimore was 2003.

There is a possibility the Ravens could start the season at home. Because the Orioles are away Sept. 13, the Ravens would be able to host a Week 1 game (the Orioles are home Sept. 14, which likely rules out a home Monday night game).

The Ravens, who opened the 2008 season at M&T Bank Stadium, have not kicked off consecutive seasons at home since they moved to their downtown stadium in 1998.

Based on the Orioles' schedule, the Ravens could play home Sunday games in Week 1 and Week 3 and would have to play road Sunday games in Week 2 and Week 4.

The first games of the 2009 season - the prime-time games for Thursday, Sunday and Monday nights - are expected to be announced next week at the NFL owners meetings. The rest of the regular-season schedule is usually announced in April.

Not quick on Pace

It is believed that the Ravens remain the front-runners for Orlando Pace, but no deal is expected to be struck soon with the free-agent offensive tackle.

At this point, the Ravens have made the strongest push for Pace, a league source said. Pace, 33, who was released by the St. Louis Rams last week, met with team officials Thursday.

If Pace signed with the Ravens, he would start at right tackle. The team would likely release Willie Anderson, which would create $2.9 million in salary cap room.

Smith deal official

The Ravens signed tight end L.J. Smith to a one-year, $1.5 million contract yesterday after he passed his physical.

Smith, 28, became the first player coach John Harbaugh signed from the Philadelphia Eagles, with whom he was a longtime assistant.

"We are very pleased to add such a talented and experienced tight end," said Harbaugh, who became the Ravens' coach in 2008. "Obviously I had the opportunity to be around L.J. for a number of years in Philadelphia, and there is a comfort level that we have with each other. I know that he is a good fit as a Raven and will be a great addition to our team."

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