It’s been an interesting 18 months or so for the Baltimore Ravens. They won a Super Bowl, they missed the playoffs and Ray Rice was suspended two games for one of the most high-profile assault incidences you’ll ever see.
At this point, it’s safe to say the Ravens just want to play football.
“Everybody’s ready to go,” Baltimore defensive end Chris Canty said on The MoJo Show. “Everybody’s excited about the 2014 campaign. A lot of hard work is going into building this football team and making it what it is now. We’re just excited to continue to go through preparation mode and get ready for Sunday.”
Canty, who won a Super Bowl with the Giants, joined the Ravens in 2013. He doesn’t think Baltimore was as focused as it needed to be heading into last season.
“I think that last year there was an air of complacency that kind of set in with our football team for whatever reason,” he said. “Obviously coming off the Super Bowl, it’s tough to continue to motivate yourself and you got a shorter offseason. I’m not trying to make excuses, but human nature is human nature. Last season humbled a lot of the guys on this football team, and so this year we’ve had an opportunity to work together throughout the offseason process. We’re really excited about the strides our team has made as a whole. We’re just looking forward to getting to play real football games.”
The Ravens get to do just that this Sunday against the reigning AFC North champions, the Cincinnati Bengals, who possess lethal talent at most skill positions, including receiver A.J. Green and running back Giovani Bernard.
“They’re not an easy team to prepare for at all,” Canty said. “They have a lot of young, talented players, and they have a formula of success that they try to stick to.”
That formula involves running the football, getting quarterback Andy Dalton in rhythm with short passes and then chucking deep balls to Green, Marvin Jones and Jermaine Gresham.
Baltimore, on the other hand, wasn’t very good on offense last year – 18th in passing, 30th in rushing – but is hoping new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak can help put points on the board.
Rice averaged just 3.1 yards per carry last season – which was actually better than Bernard Pierce’s 2.9 – but the Ravens need Joe Flacco to live up to the monster contract he signed after winning the Super Bowl. Flacco threw for 3,912 yards, 19 touchdowns and 22 interceptions last season.
The Ravens will be without Rice for the first two games of the season, but they’ll need to figure things out in a hurry with their first three games against division rivals and their next three against the Panthers, Colts and Buccaneers – all of whom expect to contend for the playoffs.
“We don’t make the schedule, but we’re excited about what’s in front of us, the opportunity that is in front of us,” Canty said. “We’re ready to get rolling.”
Then again, maybe the early season schedule isn’t as hard as it seems. As fill-in MoJo co-host Bart Scott pointed out, Week 3 at Cleveland is more or less a bye.
“You said that,” Canty said, laughing. “Not me.”