For the Baltimore Ravens, a bye week meant time to rest up. For fans, it meant more time to get purpled up. It also meant an extra week of anticipation for those who want to see the Ravens continue their journey to Super Bowl XLVI.
"I almost didn't want to wait a week," Judy Cascio said.
Cascio and her husband, Paul, and Tom and Susan Thompson, all of Ellicott City, are among those waiting –— not-so-patiently — for the Ravens' playoff run to begin.
The Cascios and the Thompsons have been watching games together for about year, they said. All are members of Ravens Roost #4, headquartered at Jilly's Bar and Grill in Ellicott City, and have season tickets.
Although the Ravens had a bye week, the two couples were stationed at Jilly's Sunday, Jan. 8, surrounded by television screens and a Baltimore Colts blanket hanging from the wall next to their table as they kept a close watch on the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos — a game Denver won, 29-23, in overtime.
"This is excellent," Tom Thompson, 59, said. "One of our biggest nemeses is out of the way."
Baltimore's opponent for Sunday's 1 p.m. AFC divisional playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium will be Houston, which beat Cincinnati.
That aside, the Denver-Pittsburgh game was important for Ravens fans since the Steelers are such an intense rival.
"This is big for us," Judy Cascio said at the beginning of the game.
The Cascios and the Thompsons are just a small faction of Ravens Roost #4; the club has 121 members, and tailgate together during home games. When Baltimore traveled to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars in October, 70 members of the Roost went, too.
Judy Cascio took the opportunity to add a streak of purple to her short, blond hair, and has kept it since then. At the child-care center she runs out of her home, the kids are just as excited for the Ravens as she is.
"They'll start chanting — they get into it," she said.
The fans at Jilly's and members of Ravens Roost #4 weren't the only ones prepping for the Ravens playoff run. Even buildings in Howard County have caught Purple Fever.
The Rouse Company Foundation Student Services Hall at Howard Community College is topped with purple lights and, starting Monday, Jan. 9, both the Howard County Government's George Howard Building in Ellicott City and Gateway Building in Ellicott City will be illuminated in purple lights, which will stay lit for as long as the Ravens keep winning.
"We hope this time-honored Howard County tradition of lighting the county purple gives our Ravens that extra boost as they go into their post-season," County Executive Ken Ulman said in a statement. Ulman also officially designated all Fridays for the duration of the playoff run as "Purple Fridays."
A sense of team spirit — and goofiness — accompany the playoffs in the county. Ulman, for his part, has encouraged county employees and residents to put a Ravens spin on nearly everything: Wardrobes can include "Ed Reed tweed," or "(S)Uggs boots," in honor of outside linebacker Terrell Suggs. In the government cafeteria, the food served Friday, Jan. 13 will include a variety of Ravens-inspired food: (Joe) Flacco Tacos, with a side of (Ray) Rice, Torrey Smith's Catch of the Day and John Harb(oiled) egg salad sandwiches on Dennis Pit(t)a bread.
Some local establishments aren't waiting till Friday to display their purple. At The Dugout Zone in Ellicott City, a memorabilia store, Ravens tight end Ed Dickson and cornerback Cary Williams are scheduled to sign autographs — for a charge — on Tuesday, Jan. 10. Such signings usually draw a sizable crowd, said Dugout owner Rick Hubata, and this week is likely to be the same.
"It's thrilling for fans, and for young kids, to meet some of the local heroes and football stars," Hubata said. "It's a big thing, particularly this year — it's been such a good season."
Hubata predicated a Ravens victory against the Texans, and fans like the Thompsons and the Cascios have high hopes for the game as well.
"They're well-rested, well-healed — they could come back at full strength," Tom Thompson said. "They just have to play their own game."
His wife, Susan, was adamant about the game's outcome.
"We will win," Susan Thompson said. "Not maybe. Will."