Ravens need to maintain their composure

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens might have to account for much more than the Oakland Raiders' blocking, tackling and pure speed during Sunday's pivotal regular-season finale. According to the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens will have to be wary of the Raiders' tendency to deliver head-butts, punch and twist fingers before and after the whistle.

The Raiders were penalized 13 times during a loss to the Browns last week with two players ejected with $40,000 subsequently assessed in fines by the league office.

Oakland was hit with two unnecessary roughness flags, two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and another one for taunting.

"We've heard it gets a little chippy," Ravens outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "You've got to keep your composure. You know what you're playing for, so you've got to keep your cool.

"You don't know what kind of team will show up. I'm sure they'll try to ruin our season before they hit the road."

For the Ravens, maintaining their poise after being flagged 11 times in a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers is absolutely critical.

The Ravens are 1-4 in games this season where they're penalized at least nine times. And they have to win this game to make the playoffs.

"It's been a huge priority, and we're all very concerned about it," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of the penalty issue. "We're not happy about it. It's something that I think we all acknowledge has got to be corrected. Our players are determined to do it.

"They're accountable. We are going to be a certain kind of team. There's no doubt that the players who are here and who are going to remain here are going to play that kind of football."

After the Browns beat Oakland last week in Cleveland, they made several accusations against the Raiders.

That included running back Jerome Harrison saying the Raiders punched him while he was on the ground and Raiders defensive tackle Gerard Warren twisting rookie center Alex Mack's hands and fingers.

"They were beating on Jerome when he was on the ground and our guys aren't going to let that happen," former Ravens quarterback Derek Anderson said. "There were some unnecessary things going on."

Added safety Mike Adams: "I felt like they were baiting us into some things. I felt like that was their mentality."

Raiders veteran defensive end Richard Seymour responded by saying his team was unfairly judged based on their rowdy reputation.

"It seems that everything was directed toward us," he said. "That's the Raiders' mystique."

The Raiders' roughhouse tactics haven't gone unnoticed by the Ravens.

"Yeah, you see a little bit of that," safety Tom Zbikowski said. "With what's going on with us, we've got to try to force them to get the calls and not us."

Pro Bowl fullback Le'Ron McClain smiled when the topic of the Raiders' borderline approach was broached.

"I'm not worried about that," he said. "I'm a physical player myself. I'm looking forward to it. That little stuff, I'm not thinking about that. I'm not thinking about anything but winning the game and going to the playoffs."

Besides cheap shots, the Ravens have to contend with the Raiders' Black Hole that's inhabited by some strange individuals wearing shoulder pads with spikes.

Watch out for flying batteries.

"It's a great atmosphere," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said with a smile. "You see the Black Hole and you got the old ladies cussing at you, I love it and I love being the enemy there. I think it's a great place to play football."


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