"God's fingerprints are all over this (season) in many, many ways and many many levels," said Ravens head coach John Harbaugh about this season's 14-2 record.
It could happen at any time, doctors had warned Jordan Richards, so on the night the Ravens special teams contributor and defensive back scored the first touchdown of his NFL career, his wife was at home, watching and waiting.
He hadn’t wanted to risk anything by having her at the game. Mary Richards was pregnant for the first time. With twins. She’d cheered Jordan on two weeks earlier, in a Week 15 home win over the New York Jets, but he couldn’t bear the thought of playing another game with her — with them — in the M&T Bank Stadium stands. It was as if he could hear the clock ticking louder and louder.
Then he scored that touchdown, falling on a botched Pittsburgh Steelers punt in the end zone. Then a teammate screamed, “There you go, baby!” Then, about 14 hours later, there were his baby boys, Emmanuel and younger brother David. The “only bummer” of the craziest weekend of his life, he said Friday, was that he’d asked Mary not to come to that regular-season finale. But they were together when they most needed to be. He became a father at her bedside.
“It's something that you can't — everybody will tell you how awesome it is, but until you experience it for yourself, it's ...” Jordan said, trailing off, his smile 100 yards wide. “I don't really have the words quite yet.”
He was ready for some rest. Last week was the Ravens’ first without a game in over two months, and there might not have been a group more appreciative of their first-round bye in the AFC playoffs than the team’s four new fathers (and mothers, too). As Lamarmania spreads across the nation, Owings Mills has gone baby crazy.
On Oct. 11, safety Chuck Clark and his wife, Aysha, welcomed a girl, Charleé. On Dec. 13, tight end Nick Boyle’s wife, Christina, gave birth to a boy, Broc. On Dec. 26, defensive end Chris Wormley’s wife, Alexis, had a girl, Spade. Four days later, the Richardses’ twins arrived. The babies don’t know a world in which the Ravens have lost. Not that it would make much sense anyway. This Baltimore baby boom is hard to explain.
“I don’t know what their workout regimen is in the offseason,” defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale joked about the team’s first-time parents last Tuesday. “I don’t want to go down that street, but I think it’s great.”
Chuck Clark didn’t have to miss much of anything. The night before a Thursday practice three months ago, Aysha started breathing heavily. When he took her to the hospital early Thursday morning, doctors told the couple that it was still too early. Aysha told Chuck to go to practice.
On Friday, when Chuck was back at work, Aysha reached out: Her mother had taken her to the hospital again. She was 3 centimeters dilated. Chuck finished the early-afternoon practice and headed to the delivery room. Charleé was born at 10:51 p.m. Chuck made his first of 11 straight starts two days later in a Week 6 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Two months later, Christina Boyle was scheduled for a labor induction the morning after the Ravens’ mid-December game against the Jets. If there were any concerns about the vagaries of pregnancies, Nick let Christina do most of the worrying. “I’m not really a planner,” he said Thursday. “I just go with the flow of everything.”
After the Ravens’ 41-21 win on “Thursday Night Football,” Nick came home, played video games, packed the car with their newborn necessities and let Christina rest. But when they arrived at the hospital waiting room, they found a three-and-a-half-hour wait. Christina fell back asleep; Nick could not. Broc was born at 3:11 p.m. Nick’s first rest in almost two days came five hours after he saw his firstborn.
A couple of weeks later, after Spade Wormley was delivered at 10:34 p.m. Dec. 26, a Thursday night, Nick asked Chris Wormley about how he’d slept. He knew that hospital benches were not made for 6-foot-5, 300-pound linemen. “You don’t sleep on the bed,” the 6-4, 270-pound Boyle explained. Welcome to fatherhood.
“You kind of relate with all those little things you go through, and share your experiences that are really based on the same as theirs,” Boyle said. “So, you know, it’s neat to catch up with them, see how their baby’s sleeping or see if they’re feeding well — all the little things.”
“It’s mostly been not as much [about] how much sleep we are getting or aren’t getting,” said Richards, whose twins were born just minutes apart, at 9:33 a.m. and 9:35 a.m. Dec. 30. “It’s just like the getting-to-be a dad, that joy that, you know, you don’t ever have [before]. But once you’re a dad, you’re always going to be a dad.”
And if you’re going to be a dad, it doesn’t hurt to have a day job in professional football. The hours are long, the work is hard, the free weekends are sparse, but the Ravens’ new fathers said there is value in the sport’s persistent tests of adaptation. “You're not exactly sure what to expect,” Clark said, “but sometimes that's what comes with the game, you know?”
They are all managing in different ways. At the suggestion of Ravens chaplain Johnny Shelton, Richards has committed to freeing himself of time-killers, from idle moments on his phone to bouts of laziness. There are only so many free hours in the day to split between his family and film study. “As long as I get rid of the other stuff,” he said, “I’ll be good to go.”
Boyle, to his wife’s chagrin, has brought his credo of self-improvement to child care. “Tina says I compete with her when I change diapers. Like, I try to clean him better than her, you know what I mean? If I critique her, I’m always critiquing her on little things that she does more than me. She hates it.”
Clark had Charleé in attendance for the regular-season finale. The Ravens are 11-0 since “Chunks,” as she’s affectionately known, was born, but Clark had never before shared a sideline moment with her. “Man, it's amazing,” he said. “Just building memories, honestly.”
The Ravens hope there’s at least another month of them this season. For one football-free weekend in Baltimore, though, there was a taste of full-time fatherhood.