"It doesn't really feel like a successful season… (Baltimore Sun photo by Amy…)
A feeling of regret lingered in the Ravens' locker room, where players packed up their belongings after their final team meeting of the season Monday.
The Ravens finished 9-7 in the regular season and won a playoff game for the second straight season. Still, cornerback Domonique Foxworth refused to call the season successful.
"I think we played a team that we could have beaten last weekend but we didn't," said Foxworth, alluding to the 20-3 divisional-round playoff loss at Indianapolis. "I think each player is going back through the game in their mind and [there are] things they could have done differently to pull out the win. I think it's still a little fresh, a little rough. So it doesn't really feel like a successful season right now."
The tone of coach John Harbaugh's team meeting was "somber … but also optimistic about next year," according to cornerback Chris Carr.
"Everybody's hungry," Carr said. "I think we'll be even better than we were this year. If we do that, I think we can be another Super Bowl contender."
Flacco says it wasn't injuries
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco
reiterated that injuries didn't affect his performance late in the season.
In his first 14 games this season, he completed 64.8 percent of his passes and averaged 240.6 passing yards. He threw 19 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions.
In his last four games (including two in the postseason), he connected on 53.9 percent of his passes and averaged 122.7 passing yards. He threw two touchdown passes and four interceptions.
"I feel pretty good," said Flacco, who had been dealing with a hip injury. "I just need to get some relaxing, get away for a little bit and give your mind a break."
No one really knows what changes the Ravens will make to their defensive line in the offseason, least of all the players themselves.
"In a perfect world, I wish our defensive line would stay intact exactly the way it is," said Justin Bannan, an eight-year veteran who becomes an unrestricted free agent. "It's a group of guys I think are irreplaceable - how we play together, how we work together, the friendships we have.
"This is just a hardworking group. [But] who knows what's going to happen? I don't have a crystal ball."
Four-time Pro Bowl player Trevor Pryce is expected to return, but his $4.5 million salary for a player entering his 14th NFL season might give the team pause.
Dwan Edwards will be an unrestricted free agent while 10-year veteran Kelly Gregg and four-year veteran Haloti Ngata, who had 40 tackles and was named to his first Pro Bowl team, are both expected to return.
Finding ways to pressure the quarterback from the D-line figures to be an offseason priority for the Ravens.
The Ravens recorded 60 sacks in 2006, but the numbers dipped after that to 32 in 2007, 33 in 2008 and 32 this past season.
"It's always a priority," Edwards said. "On an NFL team, you're always going to find something that's wrong. Teams or the media are always going to say: 'OK, that's wrong, we gotta get that fixed, change this, change that.'
"But I thought we did pretty well. Looking at the tape the last few weeks, I thought we got after it, after the quarterbacks. But it'll be up to [the Ravens' front office] to see what kinds of changes they want to make."
McGahee's future Willis McGahee
isn't sure what's in store for him - as a featured back or as a Raven.
Less than three years removed from being acquired by the Ravens to be the offensive centerpiece, McGahee this season became Ray Rice's backup, a role McGahee accepted without complaint.
And even though McGahee led the offense in touchdowns with 15, he acknowledged uncertainty about his future with the team after Saturday night's 20-3 loss to the Colts. He makes $3.6 million.
"I don't know," McGahee, 28, said. "I don't know if it's here or somewhere else. Wherever it is, it's going to go up."
Perhaps this shouldn't come as a surprise, but a few Ravens players said Monday that they are pulling for the New York Jets to win the Super Bowl.
After all, the Jets have former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan as head coach, former linebackers coach Mike Pettine as defensive coordinator and former players in linebacker Bart Scott, safety Jim Leonhard and defensive tackle Marques Douglas.
"Obviously, you want to see those guys do well," safety Haruki Nakamura said. "It would have been awesome to see a Ravens-Jets matchup. It just would have been a classic. It would have been one of those hard-nosed football games in the cold weather in New Jersey. But you've got to cheer for those guys. When you see guys like Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard and guys that you played with last year, you really hope they do well."