An uncertain offseason and future beckon several Ravens players.
Linebackers Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Bart Scott, center Jason Brown, strong safety Jim Leonhard, fullback Lorenzo Neal and kicker Matt Stover are the most prominent Ravens who can become unrestricted free agents in March.
While the team contemplated using the franchise tag on either Lewis or Suggs, the other players spoke yesterday of their desire to remain with the team.
"Everybody knows that I would love to come back here to Baltimore," said Brown, who anchored a young, talented offensive line. "The wonderful coaching staff, the wonderful administration upstairs, wonderful players. We've definitely grown this year into a football team, coming from last year and how things were around here and nobody knew exactly how far we would progress."
Added Leonhard, who was signed to a one-year deal: "I would love to be back here. We'll work this out here in the next couple months. I had a great time here. I think anyone in the media that's talked to me can understand the type of season that I've had and just how much I've enjoyed it. I would love to be back in Baltimore. We'll see how everything plays out."
According to his coaches, Scott put together a strong season, but he might be the odd man out with the team expected to focus on Lewis and Suggs, neither of whom talked to reporters yesterday. Scott said he hasn't given his future much thought.
"After I step out of this room, I won't think about football," he said. "I'll think about being with my family, playing with my kids, taking my son to school, and playing with my daughter."
Stover rebounded from a 4-for-7 start to finish with a 31-for-37 conversion rate. Stover said he and coach John Harbaugh discussed his returning but acknowledged that retirement is an option.
"Retirement's been an option for 10 years," Stover said. "My family needs to come first. If that needs to be done, it needs to be done. But right now, I'm going to take some time off and we'll see where we land in March and see what the ravens want to do and see what else is out there in the league, too."
Neal turned 38 last month but said he wants to return. "Oh yeah, I still love to play," he said. "I would still love to get another year or two in."
Safety Daren Stone chastised himself yesterday for tossing Steelers cornerback Anthony Madison out of bounds during a punt return in the fourth quarter and drawing an unnecessary-roughness penalty that moved the Ravens from their 39 to the 14.
"It was a critical point in the game when I was being too over-aggressive," said Stone, whose penalty eventually led to safety Troy Polamalu's 40-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Linebacker Edgar Jones seemed validated after watching replays that showed he did not barrel into Pittsburgh punter Mitch Berger. Referee Bill Carollo felt otherwise and assessed a 15-yard roughing-the-kicker penalty that, instead of giving the ball to the Ravens, returned possession to the Steelers late in the second quarter.
"When it happened, I knew I didn't hit him," Jones said.
General manager Ozzie Newsome traveled to Mobile, Ala., last night to attend the Senior Bowl. ... Antwan Barnes said he underwent surgery to repair his torn left pectoral muscle after the team's playoff win against the Miami Dolphins on Jan. 4. "I'll be back here in March when we start lifting and everything like that," he vowed. ... Tight end Daniel Wilcox said he contemplated retirement while rehabilitating his sprained left big toe. "Even now, I'm still in a lot of pain," he said. "But I know in my heart, I just really need some time to heal. ... I'm definitely coming back next year."
Sun reporter Ken Murray contributed to this article.