The high-profile return of former Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano to Baltimore as the Indianapolis Colts' head coach promises to trigger strong emotions on both sidelines due to his brave battle with leukemia and his connections with the AFC North champions.
Pagano isn't alone as a member of the Colts with past ties to the Ravens.
Former Ravens strong safety Tom Zbikowski, the team's 2008 third-round draft pick from Notre Dame, signed a three-year, $5.4 million contract with the Colts after hitting free agency last year to join Pagano in Indianapolis.
And former Ravens starting defensive end Cory Redding signed a three-year, $10.5 million contract with the Colts last year as well. Ex-Ravens nose guard Brandon McKinney is on injured reserve.
"We are going to have a lot of familiar faces in here, all guys that were really a big part of what we have done here for the last four or five years." said Ravens coach John Harbaugh, also mentioning former Baltimore assistants Marwan Maalouf (Colts special teams coordinator) and Roy Anderson (safeties coach). "It's going to be very emotional in that sense. There are a lot of lines of emotion that will be intertwined here in this game."
Redding, 32, has started 14 games for the Colts, recording 36 tackles and two sacks. He's listed as probable on the injury report with a quadriceps injury.
Redding told Indianapolis reporters he feels prepared to square off with his old team having done that before against the Detroit Lions, the team that drafted him out of the University of Texas.
“I got a good experience going back to Detroit and playing there for my first six years, going back to Ford Field was special, it felt good," Redding said. "Just to get back in that atmosphere of playing my old team I believe prepared me for this week. I’m going to just take that same approach and I’m thankful that I had that opportunity to experience that in Detroit just to prepare me for this opportunity. Now, I didn’t know we were going to play the Ravens in the first round so here we are and I’m prepared.”
Redding expressed surprise that Ravens star inside linebacker Ray Lewis announced his retirement after this season.
“All of us were kind of shocked," Redding said. "The man, in my mind, is a robot. I thought he wouldn’t ever retire. That guy can’t get hurt, he never got tired, he always plays to the end. I was looking forward to showing my grandkids he was still playing. I just never thought he would leave the game. He brings that much to the table and he means that much to the game.
"Truly a warrior, I mean a great man that I can call a friend of mine. I’ve experienced a lot of great things with him over there for the last two years. To hear it, you know what, there’s no better time, Ray knows when it’s time to hang it up. If he listens to his body and does what he feels, I’m pretty sure he’s making the best decision.”
Redding anticipates a noisy crowd at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday.
“It’s louder than they say it is," Redding said. "It’s loud. The place gets crazy. They try to, Chuck said earlier, incite a riot. If it’s not crazy in that stadium, it’s not up to par, it’s not up to its standard. It’s going to be crazy, it’s going to be loud, fans are going to be saying everything. That’s football, that’s what you want.”
Zbikowski has registered 38 tackles and one interception in 11 starts for the Colts this season.
“It will be fun," Zbikowski said. "I don’t plan on doing anything out of the ordinary other than dressing in the other locker room. It’s nothing big to me. It’ll be fun to see those guys that you played with for a while, a place where I played four years at. It’s a playoff game and coming in, that’s the most important thing.”
Questionable with a knee injury, Zbikowski said he expects to be able to compete on Sunday.
“I feel good," Zbikowski said. "I had a good week this week and today was probably the first time in a long time that I’ve been able to really run at top speed and cover people while feeling good playing football."