As someone who has played for three organizations, Ravens right tackle Austin Howard is well-versed in navigating the feelings that inevitably arise when facing a former employer.
But as he prepares to face the Oakland Raiders on Sunday for the first time since they released him July 28 after undergoing offseason surgery in January to repair a torn rotator cuff and torn labrum in his left shoulder, Howard, 30, acknowledged that he is feeling somewhat conflicted about the upcoming meeting.
"You try not to let emotions get the best of you," he said after Thursday's practice. "The fact is, the Oakland Raiders are an organization that brought me in and allowed me to be their starting right tackle for three years. But at the end of the day, they are also the team that released me. Pretty much that tells me, 'Hey, you're not good enough.' So obviously there's that mentality that you think about, and you want to go out there and prove them wrong. But do you focus on that energy? Or do you focus on what you know? Fortunately, I've been in this league for a while, and I've been released before. So I know that I don't have to go out there and play beyond myself."
Oakland coach Jack Del Rio said during a conference call Wednesday that he and general manager Reggie McKenzie make decisions in their team's best interest. But Del Rio complimented Howard for his play during his tenure there.
"Austin did a nice job for us while he was here," Del Rio said. "He was our starting right tackle for a large portion of the time we were together and did a solid job for us."
Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley said Howard's teammates understand how important this Sunday's game is to him.
"He's playing his former team," Stanley said. "So obviously, he's got a little extra chip on his shoulder going into this game. So we definitely get the intensity that this game is going to bring and the physicalness that's going to come."
Howard did his best to downplay any notion of revenge.
"Obviously there's more emotion to it," he said. "My boys are on that team still, who I've played with the last three years. They have a great group of guys. But the thing is, this is the NFL. It's a week-to-week league. This is a unique experience, obviously. Absolutely. But it's just one of those things where you have to do your best to stay consistent and have a balanced game."
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Baltimore Sun reporter Childs Walker contributed to this article.