Ravens make long-distance connection to Afghanistan

Wide receiver Torrey Smith, kicker Justin Tucker and punter Sam Koch were three of several Ravens players summoned to coach John Harbaugh's office Wednesday morning, but they weren't in trouble.

Eight players and Harbaugh convened in the coach's office to wish a happy Thanksgiving via Skype to an Army National Guard unit currently serving in Afghanistan.


Harbaugh, Smith, Tucker, Koch, linebackers Josh Bynes and Nigel Carr, long snapper Morgan Cox, safety Omar Brown and guard Antoine McClain spoke to the unit, which is based in Laurel, for about nine minutes on Harbaugh's iPad and listened to the soldiers recount their experiences in Afghanistan.

One soldier said their relationships with the Afghan people were still developing, taking a few steps forward before sometimes taking a few steps back. But another soldier said he was heartened when a young man said he wished U.S. troops could stay longer in his country.

Several members of the unit have local roots. One, an independent contractor who lives in Williamsport, said he is old enough to remember when the Colts were Baltimore's football team. He admitted switching allegiances to the Washington Redskins after the Colts left.

"But now I'm back," he said.

"Alright," Harbaugh said. "We were holding our breath."

Another member, who was born and raised in Essex, said he was ecstatic about the Ravens' 13-10 win against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday night.

"One, because you guys won," he said. "Two, my son – for whatever reason – is being rebellious and is a Steelers fan."

Before signing off, the unit taught Harbaugh and the players how to say thank you in Dari, one of two official languages of Afghanistan. The unit won't return to the United States until next summer – just in time for the 2013 season.

"Send us some tickets," one soldier asked.

"You got it," Harbaugh replied.

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