If Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith was offended by Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden's blunt assessment of the defending Super Bowl champions, he did a nice job of hiding any hurt feelings.
Reacting to Haden telling Cleveland reporters that, “The Ravens aren't the Ravens of old,” Smith said his friend was speaking the truth.
“I mean, I think it's safe to say,” Smith said. “It's not the same team. It's not like I'm going to take anything to him. We're still built the same, but it's not the same guys. That's just fact to it.
“It's not like we're going to take it like, 'He said this, they're not the same team,' because anybody can go out there and get beat any week. We play the way we're capable of playing, we're still the Ravens and we'll get to that point and other teams will know it.”
Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher, however, left little doubt that the Ravens are aware of and motivated by Haden's words. Oher said players were alerted to the comments via email.
“Everybody got the email, everybody saw it,” Oher said. “I trust in the guys upstairs. We've got great guys upstairs. If you're in this organization as a player, you're a great player and we're here for a reason. I'm looking for great things in the future for this team the next nine weeks.”
A few other players said they weren't aware of a group email, but have taken notice of the remarks through social media and the Internet.
Heading into Sunday's game against the Browns, the Ravens (3-4) have lost two straight games and three of their last four.
Haden, who said he was confident the Browns would break their 11-game losing streak against the Ravens, pointed out that the defending Super Bowl champions changed significantly during an offseason in which middle linebacker Ray Lewis retired, free safety Ed Reed signed with the Houston Texans and other key contributors moved on.
“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how people view you,” Smith said. “It’s on us to go out there and play and prove it. Last year we won the Super Bowl and no one picked us to win, going from Week 10 on. It doesn’t matter what people say, whether it’s your opponent, or the media, or whatever. We got to go out there and play ball. Obviously, you don’t want to prove them right.”
The Ravens defeated the Browns, 14-6, in the second game of the season. The last time the Browns beat the Ravens was on Nov. 18, 2007, a 33-30 overtime loss.
“Because as the years go by, the teams change,'' Haden told Cleveland reporters. “The Ravens aren't the Ravens of old. They're still really good, a real talented team, a division opponent, but our team is a whole different team. We still haven't gotten over the hump, but there's no reason why we can't.''
Two games back
Alone in second place in the AFC North, the Ravens have a prime opportunity to make up ground on the division-leading Cincinnati Bengals.
The Bengals lost 22-20 to the Miami Dolphins on Thursday night when quarterback Andy Dalton was tackled for a safety by Cameron Wake.
The Ravens are two games behind the Bengals, and can get to within 1.5 games with a victory Sunday.
“I didn’t watch, but I did the see the score and I can’t say that I was disappointed with it,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “But we have to win our games. If we win our games and take care of our business, we’ll be where we want to be when it counts.”
Stokley still hurt
Ravens wide receiver Brandon Stokley is questionable on the injury report with a lingering groin injury. He was limited in practice.
Backup running back Bernard Pierce (hamstring), Oher (sprained ankle), center Ryan Jensen (foot surgery), nose tackle Terrence Cody (sprained left knee) and inside linebacker Josh Bynes (finger surgery) are all probable.
Browns linebacker Quentin Groves (ankle) and defensive lineman Billy Winn (quadriceps) are questionable. Former Ravens running back Willis McGahee (knee) is probable
Cut by the Ravens on Wednesday, free safety Michael Huff and defensive lineman Marcus Spears went unclaimed off waivers. They’re now unrestricted free agents. … The Ravens are $1.797 million under the NFL salary cap limit of $123 million following the roster moves.