If the grass looks greener to fans at M&T Bank Stadium when the Ravens season opens Sunday, it's not just because the artificial turf has been replaced with more than 50,000 square feet of pristine, natural grass. Eight months after a losing season marked by injuries to key stars and conspicuously empty purple seats, the new playing field offers an apt metaphor for a fan base with a fresh outlook based partly on the team's history of rebounding from disappointment.
The Ravens will begin preparing for Sunday's season opener against the Buffalo Bills at M&T Bank Stadium with 53 players on the active roster sitting in meetings and working out on the field. Two players who are healthy, however, will be forced to watch from a distance.
The Ravens dominated the Detroit Lions at M&T Bank Stadium to improve to 3-0 on the preseason. But the uplifting and successful returns of Flacco and rush linebacker Terrell Suggs were marred by injuries to two offensive playmakers the Ravens added this summer.
Given Maryland¿s proximity between Baltimore and Washington, it¿s sometimes tough judge whether the Ravens or the Redskins are the ¿hometown team.¿ Maryland¿s campus is about 15 minutes from FedEx Field in Landover and a half-hour from M&T Bank Stadium ¿ without traffic, of course ¿ and plenty of Terps identify as fans of either team.
The Ravens' Week 16 game against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers was flexed out of prime time as part of a contingency plan laid out late Monday afternoon and executed because of Monday's 31-24 win by the New York Giants over the Miami Dolphins.
Barring a dramatic turnaround in Baltimore and total collapses elsewhere, the Ravens aren't likely to be a serious player in the AFC postseason picture over the final six weeks of this season. That might knock them out of two primetime games at M&T Bank Stadium.
Only now, a little over six weeks after the Rams traded him to the wide receiver-needy Ravens for a future seventh-round pick, does Chris Givens feel that he's found his comfort zone. As he prepares to face his former team Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, he's unburdened of the disappointment of diminished playing time in St. Louis and enjoying getting another chance.