Tepid talk between Jets, Ravens worrisome

September 27, 2011|Peter Schmuck

Don't know about you, but I've been looking forward to this week as much as any other in the NFL regular season because of the potential for some real verbal fireworks between the Ravens and the New York Jets.

Now, I'm starting to wonder if the whole thing is going to be a bust.

Not Sunday night's game, of course. It should be another terrific nationally televised matchup between two of last year's AFC playoff teams, and it's always an interesting duel between John Harbaugh and former Ravens assistant head coach Rex Ryan. That's just a given.

What I'm worried about is the quality of the trash talk after the Ravens bounced back with strong performance against the St. Louis Rams and the Jets stumbled against the Raiders out on the West Coast.

Maybe it was just jet lag, but the normally effusive Ryan played it very low key when he was asked the millionth question about his time in Baltimore during his Monday news conference in New York.

"I love the people in Baltimore,'' he said. "They treated me great. They treated my family great, but quite honestly right now, I'm not concerned with them at all. I'm just worried about our football team."

Really? That was the first shot across the bow in a week of buildup to one of the biggest AFC matchups of the regular season? Please, tell me it was the time zone change or some bad tuna on the return flight from Oakland.

Ryan has some issues right now, like a starting quarterback with a broken nose and a team that just had its aura of invincibility punctured like the Ravens did last week against the Tennessee Titans. He's got some banged up players and some bruised egos, but that never stopped him before.

We'll just have to wait until today's mid-week conference calls to see if the Jets really have lost any of their swagger, which — if so — would be very bad timing since the Ravens clearly have regained all of theirs.

Harbaugh, meanwhile, seemed to be looking forward to the usual exchange of opinions from the dynamic personalities on both teams during the days leading up to another highly-anticipated Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. But the Ravens generally let Rex and the Jets throw down the verbal gauntlet, which could lead to a big trash talk letdown if the Jets decide not to engage.

"We always tell our guys really to be themselves,'' Harbaugh said during his Monday news briefing. "We don't tell them not to say anything. We encourage them to be their best selves. I think our guys are pretty good guys, and our guys are classy guys. I'm sure our guys will have fun with it."

They had better, because we're not just talking about some run-of-the-mill rivalry game. We're talking Football Night in America on NBC, so both teams need to meet their responsibility to make everything — the mid-week build-up, the pre-game show, anything that bubbles out of Bart Scott's deliciously twisted mind — wildly entertaining for the entire nation.

If the Jets don't step up and start mouthing off in the next couple of days, I'm very concerned that the Ravens will not able to provide enough smack talk to fill the void. T-Sizzle, a football nation turns it's lonely eyes to you.

"I don't think you will hear too much malicious [words] coming out of our guys,'' Harbaugh said. "Our guys like those guys, so to speak. It will be good laughs listening to what comes out of New York, and we will be looking forward to it because it is always funny. It's always entertaining. It makes it more fun."

Then Harbaugh went about the old-school business of saying a bunch of nice things about the Jets.

"They are a very good football team — very aggressive, very tough, very determined,'' he said. "They have a lot of playmakers — that's the biggest thing. [They have] playmakers all over the field. I think when you see them win, they can win it in a lot of different ways. They can win by dominating the opponent. They can win by pulling it out at the end. That's the mark of a good team — a winning team. That will be our challenge."

Just what I was afraid of.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Listen to Peter Schmuck when he hosts "The Week in Review" Fridays on WBAL (1090 AM) and wbal.com.

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