As the New England Patriots prepared this week to play the Baltimore Ravens in a rematch of last year’s AFC title game, Patriots’ linebacker Jerod Mayo spoke as if he wanted to avoid providing the Ravens with any motivational material.
“We have a ton of respect for the Ravens,” Mayo said Wednesday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.. “We feel like they are in our division, it seems like we play them every year once or twice. And it’s been that way the last couple of years. We love playing against these guys. We know it’s going to be a battle. It always seems like it comes down to the last couple series in the game, which is exciting for you guys, but not so much for us.”Quarterback Tom Brady has led the Patriots to three championships, but come up short in two other Super Bowl appearances. He is likewise cognizant, at least when he speaks to the press, that getting the opportunity to compete again in the season’s last game by beating the Ravens won’t be easy.
“They have great personnel,” Brady said. “They have a lot of playmakers at each level of the defense. It’s not like you beat this team 50-0. It’s always a tight game. There’s tight coverage. There won’t be an easy throw this weekend.”
Among the Ravens trying to make sure that’s true is linebacker Ray Lewis. Twice named the NFL’s defensive player of the year, Lewis has played in 13 Pro Bowls and was named Super Bowl MVP when the Ravens toppled the Giants in 2001. Though he has been injured much of the season, Lewis, notorious for his boisterous motivational rants and for dancing in celebration after making tackles, has remained the leader of the team. He has announced he will retire at the end of this postseason, and when he spoke this week about his goals, he stuck to the basics.
“You only play for a ring,” Lewis said. “And I’ve been there before. I’ve been there before. That’s why, you know, as the week [progresses] I hope my team’s mind go [into] that state. Because that’s the team we’re going to play. [The Patriots] have been champions many times. For us to understand that, we’ve got to understand what it’s going to take to win in New England.”