The story of how a lion spike ended up in the Ravens’ locker room Sunday night begins where most motivational material does not: with the Maasai people of East Africa and a story in the Books of Samuel.
As John Harbaugh came to understand, it is a tradition in Maasai tribes to hunt lions with the double-sided weapon. The practice has echoes in Scripture, too. The Ravens coach read a book by best-selling author and pastor Mark Batterson, “Chase the Lion: If Your Dream Doesn't Scare You, It's Too Small,” inspired by the tale of biblical figure Benaiah chasing a lion into a snowy pit and killing it.
Harbaugh procured his own lion spike before this season, and he spoke often to his team of “chasing the lion.” But, he said at his weekly news conference Monday, he was waiting for the right moment to present it. After the Ravens secured their 26-24 victory Sunday over the Cleveland Browns, clinching an AFC North title for the first time since 2012, team chaplain Johnny Shelton retrieved the spike from a bag in Harbaugh’s office. Harbaugh clutched it as he addressed his team in the locker room afterward.
“Somebody's going to chase that lion in the pit,” Harbaugh explained Monday. “We were all in the pit with the lion last night, believe me. I mean, we were down deep in a dark pit last night, right, trying to find our way out.”
Ozzie Newsome, in his final season as Ravens general manager, received the team’s game ball. But there was only one candidate for the lion spike.
"At the end, the guy that's going to get this is the guy that made the kill at the end,” Harbaugh told his team, and he handed the spike to the Pro Bowl linebacker who’d stopped the Browns’ last charge with an interception on fourth-down. “C.J. Mosley.”
Mosley took the spike, pumped his fist and smiled.
“That was something, I think, the guys rallied around a little bit,” Harbaugh said Monday. “It was a lot of fun. Very meaningful.”
WR Moore not out long
Wide receiver Chris Moore missed the last portion of the victory over the Browns because of a bruise but should be “good to go” against the Los Angeles Chargers in Sunday’s wild-card-round playoff game, Harbaugh said.
With Moore unavailable to return kickoffs in the fourth quarter, wide receiver Willie Snead IV ran one back for 13 yards, and running back Ty Montgomery fielded another for a touchback.
Moore actually played 33 offensive snaps, his most since the team’s Week 13 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. Since regaining the kick returner job in the sixth game of the season, he’s averaged 22.3 yards on 22 runbacks, down from his 26.6-yard average in 2017.
No argument from M. Williams
While many fans grumbled about penalties against the Ravens on Sunday, none raised their ire more than a holding call on tight end Maxx Williams that negated rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson’s 33-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
Harbaugh said the Ravens would ask the NFL to review the play this week.
Williams got in front of safety Damarious Randall and pushed him as Randall appeared to be sliding to the ground, opening a path for Jackson’s scamper. After the flag, the Ravens had to settle for a 44-yard field goal by kicker Justin Tucker.
Williams, for his part, did not debate the merit of the penalty.
“You can’t really wonder about it,” he said Sunday. “We’ll watch the film, and I’ll see what I did [Monday], but you can’t change it. I got called for it. Obviously, it’s a penalty because they threw the flag — even if I thought it wasn’t. There are things you’ve got to overcome in the game, and no one wants to have that on them, especially on a touchdown play. But we overcame it as a team, and everyone on the sideline had my back for me, and we finished strong.”
Free safety Eric Weddle has mysterious plans to use his $1 million bonus on something for his teammates. The 33-year-old earned the bonus, according to ESPN, because the Ravens made the playoffs and he earned his sixth Pro Bowl invitation. Weddle said after Sunday’s win: “As everyone knows, I get a little bonus for making the playoffs. I am excited to do something nice for my teammates, and my coaches. Without them, this would have never happened. I’ve got something brewing, but I am not going to tell. You’ll find out when I make it happen.” … Jackson will be the youngest quarterback to start a playoff game. He will turn 22 the day after the Ravens take on the Los Angeles Chargers. … The Chargers may have tight end Hunter Henry back on Sunday. He is expected to take practice snaps with the first-team offense this week, according to ESPN. Henry tore his ACL in the spring and returned to practice in December. Last season, Henry started 13 games, had 579 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
Baltimore Sun reporter Edward Lee contributed to this article.