OWINGS MILLS — Referee Tony Corrente might never have discovered that he was suffering from throat and tongue cancer currently being treated by chemotherapy if not for his collision with Ravens center Matt Birk and offensive tackle Michael Oher.
Corrente got knocked down while attempting to break up a fight as Birk and Oher squared off with a few Pittsburgh Steelers during a September game at M&T Bank Stadium.
Corrente told Sports Illustrated that he was wracked with pain and coughing up blood the next day before eventually seeking help from a doctor who diagnosed him with cancer.
Corrente approached Harbaugh before the Ravens’ recent win over the Cincinnati Bengals to talk with Oher and Birk and relate his story.
Harbaugh didn’t recognize him at first because Corrente’s appearance, including loss of hair, has changed due to the effects of the chemotherapy.
"He got between Matt Birk and Michael Oher and two Pittsburgh guys and got knocked to the ground," Harbaugh said. "He had to go to the doctor because he was coughing up blood, and that’s how he discovered he had throat cancer. He said probably, if not for that circumstance, they would have never discovered it.
"So, he got a little emotional and felt like the Lord works in mysterious ways. It was just a stunning story. So, he wanted to talk to those two guys. We grabbed them and brought them over, and they had a great conversation."
Birk was stunned to hear Corrente tell what has happened through their chance encounter.
"Mind-blowing is a good word," Birk said. "The guy says half-jokingly, but half-serious, that we saved his life. You never know how God is going to use you. And here Mike and I just thought we were probably just being tough guys, getting in a little scuffle after a play, but everything happens for a reason. And the one thing that I know I’ll take with me for the rest of my life, when Tony told that story and just how it relates to him, he said, ‘You know, your whole life, you’re always trying to see your glass as half full.’ And once this whole thing happened, he said he realized that his glass was all-the-way full.
"And I just thought that was awesome, and certainly talking to him, it was a very humbling experience. I don’t know him that personally, but he sure seems like a heck of a guy, and I went home that night and woke up my wife and told her, and it didn’t really sink in until the next day after she woke up again. She thought it was pretty cool, and my family and I have prayed for him and his recovery, and I’m just glad I could be a part of it. I didn’t do anything; I’m just glad I was a part of it."
RICH REWARD: Running back Ray Rice had promised that he would take care of his offensive line and fullback Vonta Leach.
“Man, that bill is going to be expensive for what I have to get my offensive line,” Rice said recently. “I have to get those guys something nice. They’ve set it up nice for me this year.”
And Rice rewarded his blockers with fancy Breitling watches. The watch retails anywhere from $4,000 to $7,000 depending on the model.
“Nice gift for me and offensive lineman,” Leach wrote on his Twitter account along with a photograph of the watch.
Rice rushed for a career-high 1,364 yards and scored 15 touchdowns to set a franchise record, leading the NFL with 2,068 yards from scrimmage.
Birk joked that Rice bought him a Casio.
“It’s like no watch I’ve ever had before, it actually had hands on it,” Birk said. “We should probably be buying him something. He probably makes us look better than we are, but it’s certainly appreciated. I really have never owned a watch before. Maybe I’ll wear it.”
AILING PLAYERS WILL PLAY? The Baltimore Ravens emerged from their bye week a much healthier football team. So much so that coach John Harbaugh predicted every injured player will be able to play in Sunday’s AFC divisional round playoff game against the Houston Texans.
The Ravens still have a fairly lengthy list of ailments, including: inside linebackers Jameel McClain (sprained medial collateral ligament) and Brendon Ayanbadejo (sprained quadriceps), offensive guard Marshal Yanda (bruised ribs, loose cartilage, thigh contusion), wide receiver Anquan Boldin (torn meniscus), cornerback Jimmy Smith, safety Tom Zbikowski and inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (concussions).
“From an injury perspective, we look good,” Harbaugh said Monday. “We anticipate everybody playing in the game.”
Meanwhile, Harbaugh indicated that middle linebacker Ray Lewis has fully recovered from a right turf toe injury that forced him to miss four games.
“He looks great,” Harbaugh said. “He’s 100 percent. Any report to the contrary is absolutely untrue. His toe is 100 percent, has been for a couple weeks.”
Harbaugh said none of the players with concussions have been medically cleared yet, but that could happen as soon as today.
Boldin returned to practice last week after undergoing minor knee surgery on Dec. 22 and was able to participate again Monday.
“He looks fine, and he’s been running on it,” Harbaugh said. “So, he should be 100 percent.”
McClain and Ayanbadejo didn’t practice last week, but are expected to return this week.
“Jameel and Brendon are working through their issues,” Harbaugh said. “They should be good. We’ll see how they practice.”
Right guard Marshal Yanda played through rib and thigh contusions against the Bengals, and he is expected to be ready to play Sunday against the Texans.
“The concussion guys haven’t been cleared yet, but we anticipate them being cleared tomorrow,” Harbaugh said.
Defensive end Cory Redding had been dealing with a right ankle injury that sidelined him against the Cleveland Browns.
With a week off to recuperate, Redding is feeling much better.
The Ravens earned a first-round bye after winning the AFC North title with a 24-16 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in their regular-season finale.
“Awesome,” Redding said. “I was just talking to some of our coaches and talking about how good I feel. We did what we had to do to get that bye. Guys are fighting on the field with big gashes down their legs and bruised ribs, messed up knees and toes and ankles and hands.
“Everybody got in that Cincinnati game and just played because we knew we were fighting for a week off, and that was the biggest thing. We got that accomplished. Now, it’s time to rest, recover and get ready for the second season and win game one.”
ADVANCE SCOUTING: Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron scouted the Texans personally, sitting in the stands during their 31-10 win over the Bengals.
“That’s something Cam has done, he’s done that quite a few times over the years when we’ve had bye weeks,” Harbaugh said. “That’s something he likes to do. It gives him a feel, watching the game live, scouting the game live. It’s not so much X’s and O’s as it is a feel for the tempo and things like that. That’s something he likes to do, and he’s done that over the years.”
JOHNSON BACK: The Ravens didn’t have to square off with Texans star wide receiver Andre Johnson during the first meeting earlier this season in Baltimore, a 29-14 victory.
Johnson was sidelined with a hamstring injury.
Now, he’s back and coming off a strong performance where he caught five passes for 90 yards and a touchdown.
QUICK HITS: Quarterback Joe Flacco was nominated for the GMC Never Say Never Moment of the Year by the NFL. Flacco’s dramatic 26-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 6 at Heinz Field was the chosen play. … Rice is a finalist for FedEx Ground Player of the Year. He’s competing against Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew (1,606 rushing yards) and Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy (1,309 yards, 17 touchdowns). … Harbaugh took in the Denver Broncos’ exciting overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers that was decided by a touchdown pass from quarterback Tim Tebow to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. “You know, you have one eye on the TV screen and another eye on the computer screen, so you’re trying to do two things at once,” Harbaugh said. “But you certainly get your attention drawn to that game and what’s going on live during the course of the game.” When asked for his reaction to the ending engineered by Tebow, Harbaugh replied: “Wow! Just like everybody else, just trying to figure out what coverage they wanted to be in. Hey man, that’s football. That’s what makes the NFL great, games like that. So, congratulations to the Broncos.”