There's nothing quite like the locker room scene the day after an NFL team has been eliminated from the playoffs, a scene that's surreal and tinged with sadness, as the Ravensdemonstrated again Monday morning.
Still reeling from Sunday's heartbreaking 23-20 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game, they reported to The Castle for their season-ending position meetings and to clean out their lockers, some of them for the last time as Ravens.
Joe Flacco signed helmets for Lardarius Webb and Terrence Cody. Cody blasted tunes from in front of his locker until teammates requested that he turn the volumne down, because this wasn't a party. Terrell Suggs hugged players and filled trash bag after trash bag with his gear. Haloti Ngata spoke quietly with a few reporters in one corner.
Billy Cundiff showed up, too, and was quickly beseiged by the media. But the Ravens kicker, after what must have surely been a difficult night of little or no sleep, patiently and with great dignity answered every question posed to him about his missed 32-yard field with 15 seconds remaining that would have sent the game into overtime.
In the hot glare of the TV lights, with microphones literally poking him in the face, he talked about making breakfast for his two young kids this morning, and how they still loved him, which was the most important thing in the world.
He talked about the need to move on from the disastrous missed kick -- even if others define him by it forever -- because what was the alternative, crumple up into a ball and stop living?
Less than an hour later, the locker room was all but empty. The media were shooed out and the only people who remained were the equipment guys and the maintenance people, taking care of a few final tasks.
Another football season was over. The Ravens were going home.