Take a look around the NFL landscape and you will see imploding locker rooms left and right. The star-studded Cowboys collapsed on Wade Phillips two weeks ago. The Brett Favre experiment blew up in the face of Brad Childress on Monday. Marvin Lewis could be crawling out of the rubble in Cincinnati at season's end.
Despite rumblings of a dust-up between receiver Derrick Mason and quarterback Joe Flacco, the Ravens' room remains intact.
Isn't it funny how winning keeps the walls from caving in?
The latest threat to the combustible chemistry of the first-place Ravens came in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 37-13 win at Carolina. As the Ravens responded to a surprising surge from an awful, one-win Panthers team, the outspoken Mason got all up in Flacco's grill on the sidelines. The players had to be pried apart by teammates. Moments after the heated exchange, the 7-3 Ravens reasserted their dominance with a pair of touchdowns on defense.
Coach John Harbaugh said Monday that he was "not too concerned" about Mason going all Channing Crowder on Flacco, adding that "it's been addressed."
(By the way, good for Flacco for standing up to Mason. The Ravens have always said the third-year QB internalizes his passion. It can only be seen as a positive sign that he showed it outwardly for once.)
But this was not the first threat to the stability of the Ravens' locker room that Harbaugh, the mighty micro-manager of Baltimore, has had to address this season.
Heck, it's not even the first involving Mason, who has contributed more notable blowups (four) than touchdown catches (three). He has staged a media embargo, been flagged for throwing a football to show his frustration after an incomplete pass, questioned his role in the offense — post-embargo, of course.
And then this.
Does that make Mason a diva? Sure. But it doesn't mean he is a bad teammate.
When you mix a bunch of Pro Bowl-caliber egos together and sprinkle in the pressure of having to win a Lombardi Trophy now or maybe never, you can only expect that sparks will fly.
The Ravens quieted a fullback who launched a Twitter campaign for carries. They made it a non-story when Ed Reed complained about his contract. And they have kept T.J. Houshmandzadeh from going postal even though he is so greedy for grabs, he probably whined to Flacco about being wide open on the play in which he made his 56-yard touchdown catch Sunday.
Had their foundation been shaken by a few early losses, the Ravens could be buried in the rubble, too, digging for daylight after the Castle collapsed on all those hard heads.
That's why Harbaugh deserves credit for keeping Baltimore's title hopes from crumbling like those of other hyped-up preseason darlings in Dallas, Minnesota and Cincinnati. Whatever you think of him, his sterling 27-14 career record has given him credibility and his locker room stability.
Isn't it funny how winning has kept the walls from caving in — at least for now?