The atmosphere was clearly different at the Under Armour Performance Center on Wednesday as normal podium sessions with key players moved into the team’s auditorium to accommodate the fact that many national media members were on hand. That’s what happens when you’re playing in the AFC Championship Game.
Apart from quarterback Joe Flacco, most of the players aren’t too camera shy, but you can tell something was different with the players, and it wasn’t because there was more people watching them.
Focus. Focus. Focus.
With an invitation to the Super Bowl on the line, players are focused on making appropriate sacrifices to help live out a dream. Ray Rice, for instance, is utilizing his personal time to reach one of the goals he’s strived for so hard in his life.
“This time of year is about what you’re willing to sacrifice for your guys,” Rice said when asked if there was any different level of focus this week. “For me, a lot of things are the same. It’s about turning on that extra hour of film, maybe it’s an extra hour in the training room.”
While Rice is putting in extra time in the office, many of his peers are doing anything but working. Rice seems fine with that.
“There’s four teams left,” he said. “Some of my NFL buddies are already on vacation, and we’re not. We have a job at hand. Just put all the marbles on the table, whether it’s extra time in the training room, watching your iPad or doing different things.”
Luckily for the Ravens, they’ll have an extra day to prepare for their opponents. After having to play on a short week against the Denver Broncos, the Ravens will go eight days between games. Earlier in the week, coach John Harbaugh gave the team an additional day off, but Rice knows it’s time to get back to work.
“We’re not going to rush this week, we know we’ve got the extra day,” he said. “It’s our job to get ourselves emotionally and physically ready for this game. In the meeting room and everything else, we’re just appreciating another week of getting at it.”
In a time where most of his peers are enjoying a vacation after battering and brusing their bodies since July, Rice is doing everything possible to not only delay his vacation as long as possible, but to cancel another one to Honolulu, HI as he would be held out of the Pro Bowl with a victory on Sunday.
It’s rare in a workplace to find people who would turn down a trip to Hawaii, but inside the Ravens locker room, that’s the last place that’s on their mind.
New Orleans is a much more desirable destination.