"At one point in the first half, [linebacker] Ray Lewis came over to me and told me: 'You need to protect yourself. Go down when you're going to get hit,' " Russell recalled.
It's difficult to tell whether the Ravens' sentiments were sincere, but Russell's account illustrated the success the defense enjoyed in applying pressure in the team's 29-10 win over the Raiders at M&T; Bank Stadium yesterday.
The Ravens sacked Russell four times, hit him eight more times and forced him to misfire on 18 of 33 passes. Rookie linebacker Jameel McClain sacked Russell in the end zone to give the defense its first safety since Oct. 2, 2006.
"It's always critical to get pressure on the quarterback, especially a big guy like that," said linebacker Jarret Johnson, who recorded a sack and batted down a pass by Russell in the fourth quarter. "He's got a strong arm, able to throw the ball down the field. So you've got to get him moving so that he doesn't have as many things to look at."
Several Ravens said they thought the pressure unnerved Russell, who either short-armed passes into the turf or unloaded the football before his receivers could make their breaks on their routes.
"We were just hoping to get him off of his game, and it definitely worked in the first half," said defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who recorded his first sack. "He came back a little bit in the third quarter, and in the fourth quarter we got back into him and into his head and disrupted some stuff for him."
Oakland interim coach Tom Cable said Russell performed admirably considering the conditions he faced.
"He was under duress pretty much in the first half, and I thought he handled himself pretty well," Cable said. "When it got into a come-from-behind game, they brought a lot of stuff at him. From there, you have to try to get rid of the ball and do what you have to. But I think he grew today."
All rookies should enjoy professional debuts like McClain, who took down Russell for a sack and safety in his first defensive play in the NFL.
McClain, who compiled a 6-1 record competing in Golden Gloves boxing tournaments around his hometown of Philadelphia, said he was pleased to return a little of the team's faith in him as an undrafted rookie.
"The coaches had a plan to get me an opportunity to play. So I thank them for giving me the opportunity," he said. "It was just a good opportunity for me to rush in there, and the defensive end got a lot of pressure and I just came off of the edge basically free."
Coach John Harbaugh did not have to answer questions about Chris McAlister's playing time yesterday because the cornerback was deactivated before the game.
McAlister had been limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday and did not practice Friday because of a sore right knee.
McAlister's absence - paired with the unavailability of cornerback Samari Rolle (neck surgery) and strong safety Dawan Landry (spinal cord concussion) - left the defense to play without three-fourths of its starting secondary. Only free safety Ed Reed played, and he dealt with a balky hamstring that limited his participation in practice Thursday and Friday.
The Ravens also deactivated wide receivers Yamon Figurs (left knee bruise) and Marcus Smith, offensive tackle Adam Terry (arthroscopic knee surgery) and defensive tackle Lamar Divens. Todd Bouman was the third quarterback.
The team's lone injury concern in the game was linebacker and special teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo, who sprained his ankle in the third quarter.
Recently retired offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden was the first player to make his way out of the Ravens' tunnel during pre-game introductions, and he was inducted into the team's Ring of Honor at halftime. Ogden, who joked that he almost pulled a hamstring while running out of the tunnel, acknowledged that he nearly lost it during the halftime ceremony.
"I almost broke down, but I didn't," the 11-time Pro Bowl selection said. "I held it together. But it's just really nice that all the hard work over all the years, people appreciate it. That's what that meant to me."
Washington could flash only a rueful smile and make a promise after dropping what likely would have been an interception and a 95-yard return for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter against his former team. "I can't drop those," he said. "I've got to be more of a playmaker and take that to the house." ... Filling in for Figurs, Leonhard averaged 15.8 yards on four punt returns. His 46-yard return set up Willis McGahee's 1-yard touchdown run, and a 22-yarder led to a 38-yard field goal by Matt Stover. ... The Ravens celebrated yesterday's victory by showering defensive coordinator Rex Ryan with Gatorade. Ryan's twin brother, Rob, is the defensive coordinator of the Raiders. "Rex is not going to make a big deal about the family aspect of the game, and Rob is a great coach," Harbaugh said. " ... So a little sibling rivalry. Both defenses played pretty well. It means more to him that he probably wants to admit."