As the Ravens broke training camp in Westminster on Friday in preparation for
their preseason game tonight against the Eagles at M&T Bank Stadium, they
discovered that they won't get a chance to strike back at Owens because of his
nagging groin injury.
The Ravens have a lot of unpleasant history with Owens.
Owens' trade to Baltimore was nullified in March of 2004 as he got his wish of playing for Eagles, although that relationship has since degenerated because of his vocal unhappiness over his contract situation.
Last year, the combustible wideout accused Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome of making a racially-charged remark regarding him in his autobiography, caught an 81-yard touchdown in a preseason win over Baltimore last summer and caught the game-winning touchdown in a 15-10 win over the Ravens last October. He punctuated that score by performing an accurate, mocking rendition of middle linebacker Ray Lewis' trademark dance.
"Now, Ray won't get a chance to beat up on him," offensive tackle Orlando Brown said with a hearty laugh after hearing that Owens won't even be in Baltimore tonight after Eagles coach Andy Reid ruled him out as a precautionary measure.
For the Ravens, Owens' absence takes a bit of the spice out of what is developing into a feisty rivalry.
"You always want to play against the best, and he's one of the best," defensive tackle Kelly Gregg said.
So, the Ravens will have to settle for competing with a Super Bowl runnerup that features mobile, strong-armed quarterback Donovan McNabb and versatile running back Brian Westbrook.
"We want to see them at full strength, so it's disappointing that T.O. isn't going to be here," defensive end Tony Weaver said. "They beat us twice last season and even though it's preseason, we'd want to go up against him and see what happens.
"I feel a rivalry building between us. Maybe it's because of the whole T.O. thing."
The Ravens no longer express regrets about Owens not wanting to play for them. He's someone else's issue and Ravens coach Brian Billick declined to elaborate on Owens again Friday.
"Not my concern," Billick said.
Especially not the circus atmosphere that has enveloped the Eagles because of Owens' criticism of McNabb and nasty arguments with Reid and offensive coordinator Brad Childress that contributed to him getting tossed out of camp for a week.
"I just wish the best for him, that he can somehow get it together and understand life," nickel back Deion Sanders said. "He's a good guy."
At least one Raven isn't disgusted by Owens' histrionics.
"I won't take shots at anybody," defensive end Terrell Suggs said. "Regardless of what anybody says about T.O., he's a great football player and a great entertainer. He keeps it fun."
Meanwhile, the Ravens' offense is looking to increase its enjoyment of the preseason after a rough start for the NFL's 31st-ranked passing game from last year.
Third-year quarterback Kyle Boller is hungry for improvement after throwing an interception on his first pass of the preseason in last week's 16-3 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
Although Boller finished 5-of-9 for 57 yards while being plagued by dropped passes, the interception and 35.2 quarterback rating alarmed Ravens Nation. Boller stared down his primary read, a slant to Derrick Mason, and threw the football right to former Ravens linebacker Ed Hartwell.
"We want to get it rolling fast and look sharp," Boller said. "Were going to play a whole half, and that's more time to get something going. They've got a strong defense, so it should be a great challenge for us. It would be really nice if we could get some points on the board on the first drive."
The offense's challenge will include playing against several Pro Bowl defenders that dot the defending NFC champions, including safety Brian Dawkins, strong safety Michael Lewis, linebacker Jeremiah Trotter and cornerback Lito Sheppard along with former Pro Bowl defensive end Jevon Kearse.
"Let's see what their talent is compared to ours," offensive guard Edwin Mulitalo said. "They were in the Super Bowl last year, so this is a good measuring stick."
NOTES: Contrary to Ravens coach Brian Billick predicting that he'll play six to 10 snaps tonight, running back Jamal Lewis said Friday: "I'm not going to play. I'll play next week against New Orleans." Lewis is being eased into contact work after reporting to training camp last week following a two-month stint in an Atlanta halfway house as part of his federal drug conspiracy sentence. … Chester Taylor will start again at running back. ...Ovie Mughelli will start at fullback, replacing Alan Ricard (calf). ... Defensive end Jarret Johnson will start at strongside linebacker for Adalius Thomas (knee). Thomas said he's not going to play one week after hyperextending his knee. … Tight end Todd Heap (ankle, shoulder) won't play along with running back Musa Smith (leg), nickel back Dale Carter (leg), linebacker Tyson Smith (leg) and linebacker Dan Cody (knee). … Despite an abbreviated camp that didn't include a lot of hitting, the team feels it accomplished a lot. "We still have a long ways to go," Billick said. "By the same token, I think we got done in three weeks what we intended to get done."
In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.
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