Jim Harbaugh and Floyd Turner know a thing or two about overcoming long odds.
Along with two other current Ravens -- Tony Siragusa and Roosevelt Potts -- they were on the Indianapolis Colts team three years ago that overcame a 5-5 start and came within a Hail Mary pass of the Super Bowl.
Harbaugh and Turner, who'll start together for the first time this season tomorrow when the Ravens go to Nashville to play the Tennessee Oilers, find themselves facing even longer odds this time.
The Ravens are 5-7 and must sweep their final four games to have a winning season.
Since they're six-point underdogs against the Oilers and will be even bigger underdogs at home next week against the Minnesota Vikings, that's a tall order. Maybe an impossible one.
But the stakes couldn't be higher for veterans like Harbaugh and Turner as they try to pull off another miracle finish.
L One more loss means coach Ted Marchibroda might not survive.
Harbaugh and Turner know the consequences.
As Harbaugh pointed out, "I've been around for quite a while, and if you say we're changing coaches, we're talking about eliminating 20 to 30 guys on a team. My point is that it's not just Ted's situation, it's all of ours."
Turner said: "I've been through it and Jim's been through it. When there's pressure, you have to turn it up a notch. You have to play a little harder, play a lot faster, play a lot smarter."
This season hasn't worked out the way either Harbaugh or Turner figured it would.
After being traded by the Colts to clear the decks for Peyton Manning, Harbaugh thought he'd have a fresh start under a coach (Marchibroda) he had enjoyed success with at Indianapolis.
Instead, he was hampered by finger and elbow injuries and was ineffective the first seven games. He didn't even play in the first Oilers game that the Ravens lost, 12-8, when they failed to score a touchdown.
He came back just in time for the 45-19 meltdown against Jacksonville that left the Ravens at 2-6 for the first half of the season. Harbaugh has since led them to a 3-1 mark and feels the team is getting better.
"I feel a sense the guys are becoming closer knit. You can feel it in the locker room. That's the biggest step this team has to make, just playing together as a team," he said.
The problem is the Ravens have no margin for error. Harbaugh keeps calling these games playoff games. One loss and it's over.
He tries not to think about what may happen in the future if they suffer that one more loss.
Since Harbaugh will be 35 on Dec. 23 and Turner is 32, they know a new coach may start rebuilding with a youth movement that doesn't include them.
Harbaugh said: "You're not promised tomorrow, let alone next year. Ever since I started playing in this league, and it's my 12th year, I thought my first year would be my last. I thought my second would be my last. I take the same approach now in my 12th. This is my last year."
Harbaugh also tries to ignore the fact that both starting wide receivers, Jermaine Lewis (ankle) and Michael Jackson (foot), will miss the game with sprains. They were placed on the inactive list yesterday for the Oilers game.
Harbaugh expects Turner and James Roe, who'll start for Lewis and Jackson, to make plays after they combined for seven catches last week.
"I think we have good depth on this team. I think those guys will step up and do a good job like they did last week. It's not like we're going in there with guys who can't play. I have total confidence in them," Harbaugh said.
They're likely to miss the deep threat that Lewis provides. After he was injured in the third quarter last Sunday, Harbaugh completed four of six passes for only 38 yards, although one of them was a 22-yard touchdown strike to Turner, who also caught two-point conversion.
Harbaugh does have a rapport with Turner from their Indianapolis days.
"I've played with Jim," Turner said. "He knows once the route is called, I'll come out of the break and I'm going to run the route unless the defense totally changes. He doesn't have any problems getting the ball out to me."
Turner had trouble getting onto the field this year after spending a year out of football last year.
"They just told me [last year] they didn't have any money to bring me back," he said.
He was brought back this year for the minimum veteran salary ($325,000), but found it frustrating to be at the end of the depth chart.
He didn't catch a pass in the first Oilers game while rookie Patrick Johnson, now a third-down receiver, and Ryan Yarborough, who has since been cut, each caught two.
"It was tough to swallow," he said, but he bit his tongue and didn't make any waves.
"You don't want to disrupt anything in the organization," he said.
Turner knows what's on the line for him and the team.
"This is kind of like the playoffs," he said. "It's almost like a do or die [situation]. We need each and every one."
NOTES: Besides Jackson and Lewis, the Ravens placed running back Jay Graham and linebacker Jeff Kopp on the inactive list yesterday for the Oilers game. Each team must deactivate four players on its 53-man roster each Friday. Graham will miss his eighth straight game with a knee injury and has rushed for only 109 yards this season after being a starter in the exhibition season and in the third regular-season game against Jacksonville. Kopp underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Thursday after suffering a knee injury at practice Wednesday and will likely miss two weeks. The Ravens will check his condition next week before deciding whether to bring Brad Jackson up from the practice squad. The Ravens have to deactivate three more players tomorrow and then can put 45 players plus third-string quarterback Wally Richardson in uniform for the Oiler game. One of the confrontations in tomorrow's game will involve Ravens long and short snapper Brian Kinchen and Oilers nose guard Gary Walker. In the first meeting between the two teams on Oct. 11, Kinchen drew a $7,500 fine for kicking Walker in the head following a Ravens field goal. Kinchen said dTC Walker was taunting him excessively. Kinchen, who has appealed the fine, is still waiting for the league's verdict. "I told [the league] to look out for that guy. [Walker] hurt me a lot more than I hurt him," Kinchen said. "How badly can you hurt somebody by kicking them in the face mask? Of all the parts on the body, I could've picked something better if I wanted to hurt him."
Next for Ravens
Opponent: Tennessee Oilers
Site: Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.
When: Tomorrow, 4: 15 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)
Line: Oilers by 6
Pub Date: 12/05/98