Ravens players react to the suspension of teammate Haloti Ngata. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
Can't someone just hit the fast forward button on the 2014 Ravens season?
Next year has to be better. It can't get worse.
The suspension of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata for four games Thursday for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy was just another in a series of negative incidents that have followed this franchise since last year.
Fans need a break. They were just enduring another wave of Ray Rice news this week, and now this with Ngata.
There have been other developments that have caused heartaches, headaches and disappointments to Ravens fans through the years, but not strung together in such a short period of time.
Fans survived three straight losing seasons after the Browns moved to Baltimore in 1995. There was the double-murder trial in 2000 involving Ray Lewis in Atlanta and Jamal Lewis' drug trial in the same city five years later.
But we're now in the theater of the absurd, because the 2014 Ravens can't get out of this funk of bad news. Right now, the only thing worse in the NFL than being the Ravens is being the Oakland Raiders, an inept franchise with one win this season.
It's never shocking when an NFL player gets caught using a banned substance, even Adderall. Football is a violent and physical game in which someone is always looking for an edge.
Ngata's suspension wouldn't be so hard to take if he wasn't such a good guy. He is always hosting charitable events and appearing with kids.
He has an easy-going manner — he's the guy who dances and brings Royal Farms chicken into our living rooms. He wants us to use ATMs without a fee. I must confess. I like the big rascal, and I adore his family.
But that is what is so disturbing about this situation.
And, yes, it's been that type of season where everything seems to go wrong. Receiver Steve Smith can't get a pass interference call to go his way in the last minute in Cincinnati. The Ravens can't make a play on defense in the last six minutes before losing a heartbreaker to San Diego on Sunday.
Star cornerback Jimmy Smith will miss the final eight games of the season with a foot injury, and fellow starting cornerbacks Asa Jackson and Lardarius Webb have missed 10 combined games with injuries.
Despite those problems, the Ravens are still in playoff contention going into Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins, but the loss of Ngata will have significant impact. Their chances of pulling an upset have decreased dramatically because it's impossible to replace a player with his talent and leadership abilities.
You're now sitting and wondering what else can go wrong for the Ravens. Since the end of last season, they have had five players arrested, including Rice, the former running back who knocked his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer, unconscious in a New Jersey casino elevator in February.
The fallout from that has been brutal to the team's image. Those videos of the Rices in the elevator have been broadcasted into millions of homes. "Saturday Night Live" did a recent skit mocking the Ravens and their arrest records.
This week, Ray and Janay Rice were on NBC's "Today" show talking about the events leading up to their altercation in the elevator and claiming that the Ravens "suggested" she apologize for the encounter at a press conference on May 23.
The Ravens have issued a statement later defending their role and maintaining they did not suggest that Rice's wife apologize.
Now, there will be questions as to whether the Ravens need to do some things differently, maybe be harsher in judging the character of players. Maybe they took too many gambles with players who had troubled pasts.
Ngata and Ricewere both considered "clean" players coming out of college, though. The only knocks were that Rice was too small and that Ngata took plays off.
Teams have gone through these kinds of periods before where they are snake bitten. The Dallas Cowboys had a lot of issues in the 1990s, as did the Cincinnati Bengals in the early 2000s.
Now, it's the Ravens' turn. Back in 2000 when Ray Lewis was on trial, those was the darkest days of the franchise. But once the Ravens started a winning streak late that season, all the negativity stopped and they went on to win the Super Bowl.
It appeared the negativity might stop when the Ravens began this season with a 5-2 record. But no relief seems to be coming soon. Even if the Ravens get to the playoffs, they don't seem to have the talent to go all the way.
It appears they are stuck in the mud for the rest of 2014. Maybe that's why 2015 seems so promising.