Bears arrive in Baltimore

M&T Bank Stadium will be ready for 4:15 p.m. kickoff Sunday

December 20, 2009|By Jamison Hensley | jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

After two days of travel difficulties for the Chicago Bears, the Ravens are still scheduled to kick off against the late-arriving NFC North team at 4:15 p.m. today at M&T Bank Stadium, an NFL official said.

A record snowstorm for this area and airplane troubles forced the Bears to rearrange their schedule Friday and Saturday. Their flight arrived at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport at about 10:50 p.m. last night, only 17 hours before kickoff in what is a critical game for the Ravens' playoff hopes.

About 700 workers, who stayed at M&T Bank Stadium's club suites Friday night and Saturday night, pushed the massive amount of snow from the top of the stadium down to the field, where it was hauled and dumped into a nearby waterway. . The field and stadium will be ready for kickoff for the team's final regular-season home game, Ravens vice president of operations Bob Eller confirmed.

The Bears (5-8) tried to avoid the weather and fly out a day early, but the team's flight Friday night was canceled because of a mechanical problem, a source told the Chicago Tribune. An attempt to change planes was called off when the window to arrive safely in Baltimore had closed. According to the Tribune, the Bears didn't arrive back at their facility until 1:15 a.m. Saturday.

Chicago's attempts to fly into Baltimore on Saturday were hampered by the heavy snowfall. The winter storm closed BWI in the afternoon, which delayed the Bears' departure to around 9 p.m. Eastern.

While the snow caused havoc with the Bears' schedule, it didn't alter the Ravens' normal Saturday routine.

Players attended a 7:30 a.m. meeting at team headquarters and conducted a 30-minute walkthrough, Ravens spokesman Kevin Byrne said. All players and coaches made it to the Owings Mills complex, according to Byrne. Several players drove to the downtown hotel after the walkthrough. The Ravens always stay at a nearby hotel as a team the night before a home game.

Ravens officials said the NFL never approached the team to move the game to Monday.

On Friday afternoon, it was announced that the game time was pushed back from 1 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. Officials from Baltimore City recommended the time change to the team and the NFL because of safety reasons, the Ravens said. On Saturday, the NFL decided to switch the kickoff for the San Francisco 49ers- Philadelphia Eagles game from 1 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. because of the weather.

M&T Bank Stadium parking lots will open at 11 a.m. today, and stadium gates will open at 2:45 p.m.

This is an important game for the Ravens to reach the postseason for the second straight season. The Ravens (7-6) are currently the sixth and final seed in the AFC playoffs with three regular-season games remaining.

Two other AFC teams (the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets) are also 7-6. The Dolphins play at the Tennessee Titans today, and the Jets play against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Ravens, who are looking to win back-to-back games for the first time since September, believe they are in a must-win situation.

"We have to hit a streak here," linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "If we don't hit a streak, we go home. We have no other choice but to get hot."

Note: The Ravens placed backup defensive tackle Brandon McKinney (back) on injured reserve and signed defensive back Marcus Paschal from the practice squad. Paschal is a 6-foot, 201-pound second-year player who joined the practice squad Nov. 18.

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