Ravens don't care about prime-time status

OWINGS MILLS -- Bart Scott's words were as blunt, colorful and loud as the trash talk he uses to taunt fallen opponents after a punishing hit. The Baltimore Ravens' outspoken inside linebacker would be perfectly content if the national spotlight that's beckoning his football team would just go away.

As far as he's concerned, the NFL shifting the Ravens' game against the Washington Redskins to Sunday night under the league's flexible scheduling system is just a classic case of bandwagon jumping.

"I don't give a crap," Scott said Sunday during an amusing rant following the Raven s' 34-3 obliteration of the pathetic Cincinnati Bengals. "Just leave us alone. Let us play our season. We don't want it. Just let us play at 1 o'clock and leave us alone. You don't have to [expletive] publicize it. We'll play Saturday evening after USC plays. The TV people are the ultimate [expletive] frontrunners.

"Don't come up to us now and try to get ratings. Stick with the regularly scheduled [expletive] programming. I don't want to be on TV, period. Man, we don't care about TV. We're playing for each other."

Like it or not, though, the Ravens (8-4) are no longer a secret in NFL circles.

Having won six of their past seven games and ranking one game behind the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North title race, the Ravens are currently in position to earn a wild-card berth along with the Indianapolis Colts. If the season ended today, the Ravens would open the postseason against the New York Jets.

With a 6-0 record against losing teams, the Ravens are in the thick of the playoff hunt.

Behind a rookie coach and a rookie quarterback, the Ravens have endured a multitude of injuries to key starters to rebound strongly from last year's 5-11 disaster.

"We think we're a good football team," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Our guys have earned the right to play meaningful football games in December."

It's about to get extremely meaningful, and serious for the Ravens as they conclude the final month of the regular season with three of the next four games at M&T Bank Stadium.

With upcoming games against the Redskins (7-5), Steelers (9-3) and Dallas Cowboys (8-4), the Ravens will get an opportunity to prove whether they're truly worthy of inclusion in the NFL elite.

The Ravens have defeated two teams with winning records: the Miami Dolphins (7-5) and the Philadelphia Eagles (6-5-1). Yet, they lost in lopsided fashion to the Colts, 31-3, and 30-10 to the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants while absorbing narrow losses to the Steelers and Tennessee Titans.

Heading into Monday night's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Houston Texans, the collective record of the Ravens' beaten opponents is 25-44-2.

Now, the Ravens' combination of an emerging offense led by quarterback Joe Flacco, a hard-nosed running game spearheaded by fullback Le'Ron McClain and a stingy defense that hasn't allowed a touchdown in the past two games while scoring two will be on display to the entire nation.

Not that the Ravens are happy about the situation.

"We don't care about playing on prime time," Harbaugh said. "We don't care if the country knows about us or not. We're not interested in any of that. We're not trying to impress anybody.

"We're trying to win a football game. Our guys understand how to win a football game when it counts. They've proven that, and we're looking forward to the c hance to be in that situation on Sunday and for the rest of December."

Perhaps some of the disdain stems from the Ravens having lost their past seven prime-time games.

Although the Ravens played well in a 23-20 Monday night overtime loss at Pittsburgh earlier this season, they haven't won a nationally-televised game since 2005.

The biggest adjustment for a football team is having to endure waiting an entire day to play a game, altering the schedule significantly. It definitely tests the patience of a team accustomed to 1 p.m. kickoffs.

"It really is just waiting," Harbaugh said. "If you play at 1 o'clock, you can get up, get your breakfast and you go play the football game. Now, we've got to work through some other games and not play the game before 8:15.

"The game is not going to be played until prime time, and we've got to make sure we play it then and not before. The main thing is that we need to know what time the game starts so we can be there. You laugh about it, but they told us it's going to be at 8:15 and we'll be there right on time ready to go."

Regardless of the reasoning behind the Ravens' recent struggles in prime-time games, there's a strong sentiment of not worrying about building a national reputation. The Ravens aren8 0t interested in the league's agenda of trying to boost its television ratings by arranging more competitive late-season games.

"Honestly, I don't care about anybody outside the state of Maryland," wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "I really don't. We have nothing to prove to nobody. The teams that we play understand how we play and we don't have anything to prove to nobody else.

"If you want to put us on prime time, so be it. We can play at 12 o'clock, 1 o'clock. We're not looking to be in the spotlight. We're looking to go out there and work hard and play physical football and let our play speak for itself."

The Ravens have scored 70 points over the past two games, and Flacco has thrown 11 touchdown passes with just two interceptions over the past seven games. He passed for 280 yards against the lowly Bengals.

The Ravens look set up to make a run.

"We are right where we want to be," Flacco said. "We put ourselves in the hunt. We have four games left and we need to continue to do what we've been doing. That starts with Washington."


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