Surrounded by singing players in the team cafeteria to celebrate his 44th birthday, Ravens senior advisor of player development O.J. Brigance was saluted Friday afternoon after practice.
"This is our spirit and inspiration," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said after rookie defensive tackle Brandon Williams' spirited solo rendition of Happy Birthday.
Brigance was diagnosed six years ago with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the cells and brain and spinal cord. There is no known cure.
"O.J. is an inspiration to this team and organization," fullback Vonta Leach said. "No matter what we're going through, we can look at O.J. and say, 'We could always have it worse.'''
Running back Ray Rice told the players that his grandmother died of ALS.
"When I found out about O.J.'s story, it touched right home with me," Rice said. "O.J., what you've meant to me and everybody around here, you gave us light and no reason to complain or give any excuses. O.J. has been a blessing to me. Who are we to complain? What he's going through, it kind of brings a sigh of gratefulness."