As the Ravens prepare to tangle with the New England Patriots in today's AFC wild-card game, there's a prevailing thought that Trevor Pryce might be spending his last days with the organization.
If that's the case, the defensive end - who is 34 and has one year remaining on his contract with the Ravens - isn't giving it much thought.
"I've never thought about that," Pryce said recently. "I didn't think about my future when I was with the Broncos in '03 because the future is not now. I don't have six more years in me. If I do, I probably won't play for six more years. But I have another year on my contract, and I'll play that out and see what happens after that."
Pryce, who is in his 13th season, has been the pass rusher the Ravens had hoped he would be when they signed him as a free agent before the 2006 season. In less than 3 1/2 years (he played in only five games in 2007 because of a broken wrist and torn pectoral), he has recorded 26 sacks, leading the defense in that category in 2006 and this season.
Yet Pryce doesn't get much attention for his work, which suits him just fine.
"To be a guy that people know about, you have to talk about yourself, and I just refuse to do that," he said. "I can't go in front of people and say, 'Look, this is who I am.' I don't have that in me, and I'll never be one of those personalities. As good as I played in '06 - and some people said I should have been the Defensive Player of the Year - you never heard that from me."
Pryce's playing time has been shortened this season as he has rotated with Dwan Edwards at the right defensive end spot. Rather than take offense at having to split time, Pryce said he has embraced the rotation.
"The thing about sharing time is that as defensive linemen, none of us are in all the packages," he said. "Haloti [Ngata] is not in all of them, Dwan's not in all of them, I'm not in all of them, Kelly [Gregg] is not in all of them. So it really has worked out in a way where [defensive line coach Clarence Brooks] can look out there and say: 'Instead of four guys that can play real well, I have seven. So let everybody play.' ... And it works out well. We come through the game fresher, and we're playing well right now. So I don't mind it one bit."
Speaking of Gregg, the defensive tackle has achieved something he never had: record a sack in three consecutive games.
Gregg has taken down the Chicago Bears' Jay Cutler, the Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger and the Oakland Raiders' JaMarcus Russell. When informed of his accomplishment, Gregg broke out into a mischievous grin.
"I'm going to catch [Michael] Strahan," Gregg said, referring to the former New York Giant who holds the single-season record for sacks with 22 1/2 in 2001. "No, even a blind dog finds a bone every once in a while. For a little bit there, I thought I was going to get shut out, but luckily I came through a little bit."
Tough battle ahead
Despite having played in just two career meetings with New England, Ravens center Matt Birk
has already developed a certain level of appreciation for Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork
Wilfork, 6 feet 2 and 325 pounds, can take up two blockers and stop the run, but he's also swift enough to collapse the pocket. Wilfork, who is expected to play today after missing the past three games with a foot injury, will be a challenging matchup, Birk said.
"He plays the run extremely well, but he's also a pass rusher," Birk said. "A lot of guys like him that are such great run stoppers, they only play first and second down and then they leave on third down. But with Vince, he's on the field the whole game. The first time I played him [Oct. 30, 2006], I told him, 'You did a great job, and you're a great player.' If you run a 3-4 defense, he's the kind of nose tackle you want to have."
The Patriots are among the league leaders in going for it on fourth down - tied for sixth in attempts (21) and tied for eighth in conversions (10) - which did not escape the attention of Ravens coach John Harbaugh
. "We'll be watching very closely to see whether the field-goal team, the punt team or the offense stays out there in that situation," he said. "So if the offense stays out there, we'll keep our defense out there and play defense. It's not complicated." ... Right guard Marshal Yanda
, an Iowa alum, declined to say whether he had a bet with strong safety Dawan Landry
on the Hawkeyes' 24-14 win over Landry's Georgia Tech team in the Orange Bowl last week. "There may have been a gentleman's bet," Yanda said.