Ravens subdued celebration speaks volumes about their focus

December 27, 2010|Mike Preston

The Ravens had just beaten the Cleveland Browns Sunday to clinch a playoff berth, and there wasn't much rah-rah in the locker room.

You know how emotional victory celebrations can get.

After the head coach gets the Gatorade shower in the final minutes of the game, players start piling on each other near midfield. There are a lot of high-fives, congratulatory slaps on the butts and much screaming and yelling.

And then the trash-talking begins.

But there wasn't much of that by the Ravens Sunday afternoon. Oh, no. They were almost as businesslike in their postgame celebration as they were in beating the Browns, 20-10.

There was laughter and joy, but everything was calm.

"To be in the playoffs, I wouldn't say I was satisfied because I expected it," said Ravens receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. "Now, it's a matter of doing something when you get there. I don't think anybody I know is satisfied with making the playoffs. You want to make the playoffs and then do damage when you get there. The worst-case scenario was we were going to be in the playoffs, now let's see what we can do."

I like the attitude because is speaks volumes about the Ravens. If the Ravens were jumping around acting like this was a big deal, then there would be concern. If they were popping champagne bottles and printing T-shirts, they probably wouldn't last long in the playoffs.

But the goal of this team is clearly obvious. After two straight postseason appearances, it's still Super Bowl or bust for the Ravens, the fifth-oldest team in the NFL.

"It feels good, it feels really good," said Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs of earning the playoff berth. "There are a couple of years where we didn't get to go and had the displeasure of watching everybody play.

"There's nothing like playoff football, the atmosphere, and there is only 12 teams that get a chance to play for the Super Bowl. Hopefully, we'll learn from our mistakes these past two years and get ourselves a legitimate run at this thing."

The Ravens know there is room for improvement. A blowout win over the Browns would have been another sign that this team is improving heading into the playoffs.

But the self-imposed pressure is still there. When Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti signed receivers such as Anquan Boldin, Houshmandzadeh and Donte Stallworth during the offseason, they were supposed to be part of the final piece that propelled the Ravens into the Super Bowl.

All three were looking for Super Bowl rings, as were other veterans such as Derrick Mason, Ed Reed, Matt Birk and Todd Heap. Inside linebacker Ray Lewis, in the twi-light of a 15-year career, is looking for a second.

He wasn't giggling or doing cartwheels in the locker room Sunday after the game. He is leading the mission.

"Win the division? Honestly, it don't matter," said Lewis. "The only thing you can ask for in this business is to get in the dance. We're in the dance. That's it. We have to take care of our business next week against Cincinnati, a team that beat us earlier in the year, a team in our division. So, we understand that we're in, but we still have some business to take care of trying to get to 12 wins."

And Lewis doesn't care if the Ravens have to possibly play three playoff games on the road.

"Let's understand what's going on," said Lewis. "This is our time now. We're built for this kind of season. Now, it's time for us to take the next step."

The next step involves playing the Bengals at home Sunday. If the Ravens win and the Steelers lose in Cleveland, the Ravens win the AFC North and get a first-round bye. If not, they're on the road for the opening week of the playoffs.

But the Ravens aren't about to look too far ahead. It's one game at a time, and hopefully to the Super Bowl in the grand new stadium in Dallas.

"I waited a long, long, long time for this," said Ravens veteran defensive end Cory Redding, who is in his eighth season. "You know what, man, I'm just beside myself, man. I'm enjoying every second of this. It's a blessing to stay long enough in this league to experience truly what winning is all about."

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said: "We're in. It's just the beginning is what I told them. There is where it starts because we have an opportunity now to accomplish what we dreamed of and what we've worked for."

mike.preston@baltsun.com

Listen to Mike Preston on "The Bruce Cunningham Sho" from noon to 2 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays on 105.7 FM.

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