The city's football past huddles with its present today.
A sellout crowd at Ravens Stadium will remember the legendary John Unitas in a pregame ceremony and then rally around Chris Redman, Unitas' closest quarterback kin.
As the Ravens (0-1) take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1), another University of Louisville quarterback has a chance to deliver an improbable victory under the most difficult of circumstances. Only four days after the death of his idol, Redman makes his first start at home against a popular Super Bowl contender.
Though Unitas won't be there on the sideline to give his trusting wink, Redman will wear No. 19 on the back of his helmet and carry Unitas' inspirational words in the back of his mind.
"I'm going to go out there and lay it on the line," Redman said. "That's what he expected from me every week. I definitely will be thinking about him. I really wanted him to see my first start at home."
Although Redman and the rest of his teammates won't be on the field during the tribute, Unitas' presence will be close to them. The Ravens will unveil a blue-and-white No. 19 to the left of the team's bench, where Unitas always stood, and place his trademark black high-top cleats next to the number.
"I think it will be quite a motivation for Chris to live into the fruition of Johnny's hopes for him," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.
As the fans deal with the emotions of the day, the young Ravens will be desperately searching for confidence after losing to the lowly Carolina Panthers.
To rebound, the Ravens must remain composed beyond their years. While the team will go with 12 first-year starters, the Buccaneers will counter with 10 former Pro Bowl performers in their starting lineup.
"We need to not pay attention to the names," Ravens tight end Todd Heap said. "We need to pay attention where they line up. It's still football."
Silencing the Buccaneers won't be easy.
Tampa Bay thrives on the intimidating trash talk of defensive tackle Warren Sapp and receiver Keyshawn Johnson. How the Ravens' young players handle this atmosphere could be a factor early.
"They're going to get educated," Billick said. "It's like taking some college kid for the first time down Bourbon Street. They're going to be wide-eyed and not believe what these guys are saying to them."
In the midst of the on-field talk and tribute, the Ravens feel the game will be dictated in the trenches. The Ravens can control the game only if their offensive line can handle a Buccaneers front four that has three former first-round picks.
Ravens left tackle Jonathan Ogden has to shut down Simeon Rice. Center Mike Flynn has to hold his own against Anthony McFarland. And guards Casey Rabach and Bennie Anderson have to break even whenever Sapp lines up in front of them.
"I think I have a good enough offensive line up front that they'll be able to pick up things and be able to handle it," running back Jamal Lewis said. "I think we'll match up pretty well with them. I think we can take this game."
In the passing game, the Ravens' line has to create a more secure pocket for Redman, who got hit 10 times last week. Unlike the Panthers, Tampa Bay generates its pass rush from its front four and only blitzes 25 percent of the time.
That means the Buccaneers drop more players back into coverage, which will force Redman to throw into tighter spots. But Tampa Bay showed some holes last week against the New Orleans Saints, when its defense allowed touchdown passes of 41 and 32 yards.
"We got to take what the defense gives us," Redman said. "When a defense is backed up in a two-deep [zone], you can't throw it deep because they're staying back there waiting for you to throw it. When it's time to go downfield, we'll definitely do it because we have the guys to do it."
The Ravens' defense has to prove it will not give up anything on the ground. After sloppy tackling and poor execution in the season opener, the unit must be a match for the physical styles of bullish Tampa Bay backs Michael Pittman and Mike Alstott.
If the Buccaneers have to throw, they'll likely try to take advantage of receiver Keenan McCardell going against Ravens cornerback Gary Baxter, who is making his first start.
"Talk about accelerating the learning curve," Billick said.
On a day that will begin with the honoring of Unitas, Redman has thought of how he would like for it to end. Trailing late in the fourth quarter, Redman would beat the odds and the clock, just like his mentor.
"He meant the world to me," Redman said. "He was my role model. I don't know if I am going to pull these unbelievable throws out of nowhere. But you don't want to lose your focus. At the same time, it's going to be very emotional for me."
Opponent:Tampa Bay Buccaneers
TV/Radio:Ch. 45/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)
Line:Buccaneers by 3 1/2Inside
Ravens-Buccaneers scouting report, rosters, starting lineups and more. [Page 16d]
Week 2 previews and Ken Murray's column. [Page 15d]
A look at today's pre-game tribute to the late John Unitas at Ravens Stadium:
12:40 p.m.: Baltimore's Marching Ravens take the field and form the No. 19.
12:42 p.m.: Video tribute.
12:45 p.m.: Baltimore Colts Fight Song by Marching Ravens.
12:48 p.m.: Unveiling of a blue-and-white No. 19 on the spot where Unitas stood at Ravens games. Lenny Moore will uncover the number, and a pair of Unitas' high-top shoes will be placed next to it.
12:50 p.m.: Moment of silence.
12:51 p.m.: National anthem.