Ravens intend to 'compete to the end' of unfortunate season
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) With a 2-7 record and the playoffs well out of sight, the Baltimore Ravens can either stumble toward the finish or regroup and put a positive ending on a brutal season.
They're planning on the latter.
''We're going to compete, I guarantee it,'' linebacker Elvis Dumervil said Wednesday. ''Week in, week out, we're going to compete to the end. That's all we know.''
Before this season, all the Ravens knew was winning. In John Harbaugh's first seven years as coach, Baltimore reached the playoffs six times and never finished worse than 8-8.
Baltimore is the first team in NFL history to have its first nine games all decided by eight points or fewer. Unfortunately for the Ravens, the vast majority ended in defeat - including a 22-20 setback against Jacksonville on Sunday influenced by an officiating error.
If this happened elsewhere, the players might throw their arms in the air, curse their luck and quit.
''I've been on other teams when we've been in this situation,'' Ravens running back Justin Forsett said. ''It's easy to point fingers and guys kind of separate, but we've stayed together.''
Those who are healthy, anyway. The Ravens lost another starter Wednesday when center Jeremy Zuttah was put on injured reserve with a partially torn pectoral muscle. He becomes the 17th player placed on IR by Baltimore, including standouts Terrell Suggs, Steve Smith and Dennis Pitta.
''It's definitely a big blow, not because of who we have coming in - John's going to do great - but the biggest thing is (Zuttah) is a big team player,'' quarterback Joe Flacco said. ''Jeremy is there for us. He wants to go out there and battle no matter what. He's a tough guy, he knows what he's doing, he leads that group. It definitely stinks to see somebody like that not be able to go out there for us.''
Just add that to the list of hurdles the Ravens have been forced to clear this season.
''No matter what situations might rise up, we're not going to let those things get the best of us,'' Harbaugh said. ''No way.''
Asked where the Ravens go from here, defensive end Chris Canty said, ''The individuals in this locker room have to come together and make the decision that we want to win football games. That's focusing on detail and continuing to improve each and every day.''
There is no scenario where Flacco can envision the Ravens quitting on the season.
''I don't see that happening at all,'' he insisted. ''I don't know what our record is going to be at the end of the day, but we're going to keep fighting and we're going to give our best every single week. We're going to come out of this thing on the other side together. That's the only way we know, and that's what we're going to do.''
Before coming to Baltimore last year, Forsett played on mediocre teams in Seattle and Jacksonville. This squad, he insists, is different.
''We've got a lot of leaders on this team, guys that are really respected around the league, like Dumervil, like Joe, Chris Canty,'' Forsett said. ''It's a pretty strong group here. The mindset stays the same - our expectations are still high.''
To fill Zuttah's spot on the roster, the Ravens promoted running back Terrance West from the practice squad. West, who played in college at nearby Towson, was drafted by Cleveland last year, traded to Tennessee and cut two weeks ago before being picked up by Baltimore.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter feed: www.twitter.com/AP-NFL