Baltimore Ravens

Optimism fills Ravens headquarters as season nears

The Ravens got back into the regular season routine Wednesday morning and it was fairly obvious from the upbeat comments of several team leaders afterward that they're pretty stoked for Sunday's season-opener against the Buffalo Bills at M&T Bank Stadium.

And why not?


If you're Joe Flacco and you haven't played in a real game since November, you've got to be as excited as a kid at Christmas to get back out on the field with a full complement of playmakers, two healthy knees and a clean slate.

If you're Steve Smith Sr., you're essentially resurrecting a career that you expected to be over by now back before your farewell season was cut short in November by a torn Achilles tendon.


If you're Terrell Suggs, it's been a year since you've been able to be the real "T-Sizzle" and strike terror in the hearts of opposing quarterbacks.

If you're safety Eric Weddle, you're entering a new phase of your career after spending nine years in San Diego as one of the top safeties in the league. And the beard has grown back nicely.

"This is an amazing opportunity,'' Weddle said. "It's finally here. Get through the training camp and preseason as healthy as you can be and now it's upon us. We've got an unbelievable challenge ahead of us in [the Bills]. Their talent and toughness present a lot of challenges and matchups for us, but we can't be more excited for the challenge, excited for the season and ready to show overall about what the 2016 Ravens are going to be."

There's a lot that we don't know about this Ravens team, for some of the reasons listed above. There is a sense of great anticipation surrounding them as they prepare to take on old friends Rex Ryan and Tyrod Taylor in a game the oddsmakers say could go either way.

The same can probably be said of the Ravens' upcoming season, but there are plenty of reasons to believe that they will bounce back from last year's injury-plagued 5-11 performance.

Last year at this time, coach John Harbaugh and his staff were preparing for a strange first half that included four road games on the other side of the country. The Ravens attempted to ease the strain of their ridiculous travel schedule by staying out west between their opener against the Denver Broncos and Week 2 game against the Oakland Raiders. After losing both of those games, they scrapped a similar plan for their back-to-back trips to San Francisco and Arizona.

The good news this year is that they have only one road stop outside the Eastern time zone (Dallas), and they also get the benefit of the third-place matchups with the AFC West and South, though the Raiders are getting some respect this year and it's never been easy for the Ravens to win in Jacksonville.

The Ravens might be coming off a 5-11 record, but they have never stayed down very long and it was apparent from the leadership represented at the podium session with the media Wednesday at the Under Armour Performance Center that they'll have no shortage of leadership and passion as they climb back out of that hole.

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Suggs addressed some of the uncertainty that will follow his team into the new season.

"It's all football when it comes down to it and we've got a job to do,'' Suggs said. "And at the end of the day, there's getting the job done and there's not getting it done and we've got the men to do it. We trust in Coach [Harbaugh], we trust in Ozzie [Newsome], we've got the right 53 men up. Even if we've got some guys out, we're going to handle it accordingly."

Most eyes will be on Flacco, who showed up for his media session wearing the knee brace he likely will wear throughout the season. He looked healthy throughout training camp but was understandably absent from all but one appearance in the team's three preseason games.

"I'm really excited,'' he said. "It's been almost a year and it feels like it has been. It was definitely a tough process, watching all your teammates go out there and play. I'm really excited about getting back out there and feeling like part of the group and really getting after it."


Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at and follow him @Schmuckstop on Twitter.