Ravens' brash reputation precedes them

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens have always reveled in their traditional swagger, building a brash, bold reputation that has defined an aggressive football team. Even with the firing of Brian Billick and hiring new coach John Harbaugh after finishing last in the AFC North a year ago, that outspoken, confrontational personality remains relatively unchanged across the locker room.

According to outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, how the NFL views the Ravens' behavior affects the way their games are officiated.

Conspiracy theories have been popular in the aftermath of the Ravens' 13-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium that was headlined by a controversial roughing-the-passer penalty assessed on Suggs when he allegedly struck quarterback Kerry Collins in the helmet. The critical penalty sparked a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter.

"We are the bad boys of football, they are always going to look at us like that," Suggs said. "They are always going to have a close eye on us."

Against the Titans, the Ravens (2-2) were penalized 11 times for 91 yards. It was one week removed from linebacker Jarret Johnson being hit with a personal foul for shoving Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward out of bounds during a 23-20 overtime loss, another momentum-changing, game-impacting incident.

"Clearly, a guy [Ward] hit another guy [Johnson] out of bounds, and all he did was push back," Suggs said. "Fifteen yards on us."

Over the past two games, two consecutive losses by a total of six points, the Ravens have been flagged 19 times for 163 yards.

That negative trend could be the difference between being undefeated and the .500 mark the Ravens are currently relegated to heading into Sunday's road game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Whether it was the Ravens' meltdown against the New England Patriots a year ago or the 21-penalty debacle against the Detroit Lions a few seasons back where referee Mike Carey famously ejected Suggs because he had "malice in his heart," Baltimore is still in the crosshairs of the officials under a new coaching regime.

"That's history, and I wouldn't even know how to comment on that," Harbaugh said. "I know the type of guys we have playing for us now, and I'm proud to be coaching these guys. We've got competitive guys, men of integrity, character guys.

"That's what our football team is all about. We're going to be a rough, tough, hard-hitting, hard-playing football team. And we're going to do it with class, within the rules and with great self-discipline. That's where we're going as a football team."

The Ravens are submitting several plays from the Tennessee game to NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira to be reviewed, including Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth tossing rookie quarterback Joe Flacco to the ground in the second half without drawing a flag.

Criticizing officials can trigger fines, and Harbaugh was careful in his response when asked about the officiating.

"Not commenting on it has nothing to do with being fined or not being fined," Harbaugh said. "I don't care about fines. I want to get to the bottom of it and find out what's right and find out how to coach our players as we go forward. And the NFL does a nice job of giving you an avenue to do that. We send the plays in to Mike Pereira, and he's great about getting back to us and saying, ‘This is how the officiating sees it.'

"A lot of times, he'll tell you that the officiating was wrong, that they should have called it differently. Other times, he'll say, ‘This is why we call it that way by rule,' or ‘This is why we call it that way by interpretation.'. We haven't heard back on that one yet, but we'll send it in. Absolutely."

The league office didn't elaborate beyond referee Bill Carollo's comments to a pool reporter Sunday.

When asked if it was evident on the game film that the officials tried to halt the play after flagging Titans offensive tackle Michael Roos for a false start prior to Suggs' penalty, Harbaugh replied: "You can't see any such effort on the tape. You can't see anything on the tape."

Officials were supposed to stop the play after Roos' false start. However, because play continued and the personal foul was called, it overrode the five-yard false start in an interpretation of the league's 5-15 rule.

Against the Titans, Suggs, running back Willis McGahee and wide receiver Derrick Mason were all flagged for personal fouls.

It was a chippy game where the Titans were penalized 10 times for 91 yards. There were several skirmishes between the two former AFC Central rivals.

"There was a lot of dirty stuff that we let go," Suggs said. "Nobody likes to lose. It's almost disgusting. It's like blasphemy."

Mason and Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan had several run-ins, and Finnegan was hit with an unnecessary roughness penalty for flinging McGahee out of bounds. After that heated exchange, Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck admonished Finnegan and shoved him hard in the chest. Finnegan had to be held back to not go after his teammate.

The Ravens never turned on each other and Harbaugh said he was pleased with his players for not retaliating, but they definitely aren't befriending the officials. Plus. some of the exchanges with Tennessee were initiated by Baltimore.

Nonetheless, Harbaugh said he isn't concerned about his team's composure and approach.

"I'm encouraged in the sense that we have a tough, hard-nosed, clean, disciplined football team," he said. "Guys that play football the right way, the Raven Way, we're building on that. It's a compilation of all the guys you have and the influences on the team right now."

The Ravens are 0-2 against the Steelers and the Titans, teams with a combined record of 9-1. They are 2-0 against the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, who have a combined mark of 1-8.

Now, the Ravens will be tested severely as they play five of their next six games on the road.

"We are .500, and this isn't going to break us," Suggs said. "We are a very strong team, and we are just going to continue to play football. We've got a whole season ahead of us." Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.


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