Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Ravens: Lesser knowns enjoying experience

NEW ORLEANS - The stories around the Baltimore Ravens' Super Bowl team aren't just about Ray Lewis, Joe Flacco and Ray Rice. They're also about the players you've never heard of or forgotten about.

Jah Reid stood on crutches on the sidelines of the Superdome for Tuesday's media day. He looked as if he wanted to be somewhere else. Reid started seven games at left tackle before injuring a toe in the last game of the regular season and has missed the postseason action.

"It's disappointing that I'm not going to play in the game. As long as the Ravens come away with a Super Bowl victory, that's all I care about. We're all brothers on the offensive line," Reid said.

While everyone's talking about Lewis' return, Jameel McClain's neck injury finished his season with three weeks to go in the regular season.

He walked around media day with a big smile on his face and spoke optimistically about returning for next season.

"Bittersweet-it's definitely the best way to describe it, but more sweet than bitter," McClain said.

There's the extra pay day McClain gets for the Super Bowl, but at least gets to go along for the ride.

"It was unfortunate that I got hurt, but it was fortunate that we got to see some players, the depth that we have," the linebacker said.

McClain said he hasn't missed a meeting since being hurt and tries to replicate normalcy.

"My week is like the normal week. The only thing I don't do is practice," he said.

Reid and McClain are the unlucky ones. Then there are the fortunate few. Billy Bajema was signed by the Ravens in August after seven seasons with San Francisco and St. Louis.

The backup tight end plays mostly on special teams, but gets an occasional snap on offense.

"It's just an awesome experience. It's a bigger stage than any of us have ever been on," Bajema said. "One of the first things I told my wife is 'We could go to the Super Bowl with this team.' Six months later, here we are. The best platform in sports,."

In Gino Gradkowski's first year in the NFL, he gets to the Super Bowl. His older brother Bruce is a quarterback for Cincinnati, and he's not here, but the younger brother, a fourth round pick who backs up Matt Birk at center, is.

"I feel like I'm living a dream right now. We've got one more game to win before we start celebrating," Gradkowski said.

Each player is given two tickets for the Super Bowl and has to buy additional ones.

"I took care of my immediate family and everyone else is on their own," Gradkowski said.

Linebacker Josh Bynes, who started the season on the practice squad before replacing Lewis on the active roster is paying not only for his parents' trip, but others, too.

"It's been an amazing year. I don't have a word for it. It's that overwhelming, crazy," Bynes said. "I need a raise after this."

Bynes' former comrades on the practice squad are here, too. On Wednesday and Thursday they sat in groups at the tables set up for interviews. They had plenty of time to play with their phones or listen to music on their headphones because interview requests are few and far between.

"It's no vacation. We're going to work every day," rookie lineman Jack Cornell said. "We still got a job to do on Sunday, but it definitely gives you an opportunity to enjoy your hard work and how it's paid off to get to this point."

Perhaps the luckiest of all is Alex Silvestro. A year ago, he was a last minute addition to the New England Patriots Super Bowl active roster as a defensive end. He didn't play, but for the second time in two years, he gets to experience a Super Bowl even if he's back on the practice squad.

Silvestro, now a tight end, has played in just one NFL game in his two-year career, but will be there on Sunday for his second Super Bowl.

"This week's crazy. You just come in and there's so much media. You come to a nice place. You get to hang out," Silvestro said. "I was fortunate enough to be in this experience last year, so I got to do this twice."

Silvestro, who was signed in early November, has a simple philosophy.

"Enjoy playing football when a lot of people aren't," he said.