Injuries, Turnover Make Ravens 'Hunter' Again

Gone are Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Anquan Boldin. And that's just the big names. They've also lost their tight end and running back Ray Rice isn't up to full speed. Coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco explain the state of the Ravens ahead of Sunday's showdown.

Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh sounded a lot like his Green Bay Packers counterpart, Mike McCarthy, when asked how his team is handling being the hunted rather than the hunter as defending Super Bowl champions.

"Well, that'd be your definition," Harbaugh said in a conference call on Wednesday ahead of Sunday's showdown at Baltimore. "I'd like to speak of us more as continuing to be the hunter. That's how we'd probably look at it."

Every year is different, and these Ravens are different.

Along with linebacker Ray Lewis (retired) and receiver Anquan Boldin (trade), the Ravens lost center Matt Birk, inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, nose tackle Maake Kemoeatu, outside linebacker Paul Kruger, cornerback Bernard Pollard and safety Ed Reed. All of those players, with the exception of Kruger, who led the team in sacks, started in the Super Bowl.

That's an incredible amount of turnover. That's nipped in the bud any chance for complacency and led to the Ravens' belief that they're still the hunters.

"If you look at what we did in the offseason, it would be hard for us to have that issue … just because we're really in many ways not the same team," Harbaugh said. "We've changed a lot – especially the big names have changed over in some ways. We still have a lot of guys – Terrell Suggs and Haloti (Ngata) and Joe (Flacco) and Ray (Rice) and those guys – but there's a lot of new guys here, both young guys and veteran guys coming from different teams that are very motivated and very determined to make their own mark."

Other than "answering the questions every week," Flacco said the team has turned the page on last season.

Besides, the Ravens have had enough challenges on a weekly basis that there hasn't been time to reminisce too much. Baltimore is 3-2 but it's not like it's picked up from where it left off last season, when it won a championship despite being outscored during the regular season. The Ravens got trounced at Denver in the opener, beat Cleveland 14-6 and Houston 30-9, then split road games at Buffalo (23-20 loss) and Miami (26-23 win last week).

The offense is trying to figure things out on the fly. Not only is Boldin gone, but so is standout tight end Dennis Pitta. Pitta, who caught 75 passes and scored 10 touchdowns (postseason included) last season, is on the short-term injured reserve list with a dislocated hip. Torrie Smith is off to a big start, with 27 receptions for 556 yards (20.6 average), but the Ravens are ranked 31st in yards per carry (2.8) and 21st in yards per passing attempt (6.29). Flacco's thrown five touchdowns but been picked off eight times.

"I just know that those are two really good players that were really huge for us last year in the passing game," Harbaugh said. "We're trying to find our own way now without those two guys. That's something that we're working really hard to do."

Moreover, star running back Ray Rice, who missed time with an injured hip, is averaging just 2.8 yards per carry and merely 4.2 on his 17 receptions. Last season, he averaged 4.4 per rush, 7.8 per reception and topped 1,600 total yards.

"Well, it's one that we're working on," Flacco said of the start to the season. "We've played some tough games and we've lost a lot of guys. Even this last week against Miami, we don't have (receiver Brandon) Stokely on the team. Our left guard (Kelechi Osemele) can't play before the game so he can't go. We haven't had our backs healthy. We haven't had a lot of our guys healthy and we're kind of just grinding through it and trying to win some football games. It hasn't been perfect. It hasn't been pretty, but we found some ways to win three games. We wish we would've won one more, but we're grinding and we're finding ways to win football games. It hasn't been perfect. I think we're getting better and better each week. We just have to continue to do that."

While Flacco is the new face of the franchise with Lewis working for ESPN, it remains very much a defense-oriented team. Suggs is off to a big start with seven sacks. Elvis Dumervil, who landed in Baltimore after Denver botched its salary cap, has three more sacks. Two more editions, veteran end Chris Canty and rookie linebacker Arthur Brown, have two sacks apiece. Baltimore is third in sack percentage (10.98), tied for third in the red zone (33.3 percent touchdowns), fourth on third down (30.3 percent conversion rate) and fifth in run defense (3.4 per carry).

"I mean, it's pretty much the same," Flacco said of life without Lewis. "We go out for practice, we work hard and we go out and play football games. Ray was a big guy on Sunday in terms of his speeches and some of the things he said and, obviously, the way he played. But the biggest thing was the way he played. I think everybody paid too much attention to all of the other stuff. The way he played was the biggest thing for us. The guy that replaced him and the guys we replaced him with are very good football players. And that's really all that we're concerned about as players."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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