Rest? It's overrated to resilient Ravens

Ravens vs Cardinals 9-23-07
OWINGS MILLS, Md.  Reaching the AFC championship game as a sixth seed is impressive. Doing it after going 5-11 last season is stunning.

And winning 13 games with a rookie coach and a first-year quarterback is unprecedented.

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If that isnt enough, throw in the fact the Baltimore Ravens have played 17 straight weeks without blinking, and their accomplishments this season are downright amazing.

Maybe even Super.

Coach John Harbaugh knew unexpected problems would pop up in his effort to turn the Ravens into a contender. Yet he never could have anticipated having a bye week wiped out by hurricane, leaving Baltimore the prospect of playing the final 15 weeks of the regular season consecutively.

As a wild-card team, the Ravens (13-5) didnt get the luxury of a week off before beginning the playoffs. So their game against Pittsburgh on Sunday will be their 18th in a row without a break  a stretch that hasnt been undertaken since the bye week was instituted in 1990.

I think we like it this way. After we lost the bye week, we understood where we were going to be, wide receiver Derrick Mason said. We understood what we had to do. We understood the obstacles that were going to be in front of us.

After their Sept. 14 game against the Houston Texans was postponed by Hurricane Ike, that became the Ravens bye  even though they practiced the entire week leading up to it. Baltimores scheduled bye was Nov. 9, but that became the makeup day for the game in Houston.

Right after it happened, we talked a little bit about it. The idea was that we were going to need to do something when the time came,Harbaugh said. We felt good about the fact that we had an opportunity to prepare for a week and practice for a week to improve our football team, because we had a good week of practice.

But we knew we were going to have to do something later. So when the time came, we just decided how we wanted to set it up.

Harbaugh periodically gave the Ravens a day off when the opportunity arose, and sometimes he cut short practice to keep the players fresh. There were also times when he conducted a walkthrough instead of having the players suit up in pads.

It was nothing dramatic, Harbaugh said.

But it worked. There was a stretch in which the Ravens were forced to play five road games over a six-week span, including that makeup game in Houston. Baltimore went 4-2, and has drawn upon that experience as a wild-card team.

Weve still got a few games left, and were on the road again, Mason said. We havent got a bye week. Guys are nicked up, and people on Pittsburghs side are as well. So, were going to keep fighting and keep fighting.
Thats been the credo since the middle of September.

I mean, our circumstances are our circumstances. People adjust, linebacker Bart Scott said. If football was a game where we didnt have a bye week, nobody would complain. You would adjust and move on. We didnt have a bye week this year, we adjusted and moved on. No need to make a big deal about it.

One way or another, the Ravens will finally get a week off after the AFC championship. Either theyll have a break before playing in the Super Bowl on Feb. 1, or theyll be done for the year.

It wont help to lament the fact the Steelers had a bye on Oct. 12 and during the first week of the playoffs. Rather, the Ravens hope to ride the momentum created by an 11-2 run.

I look at it as I have an opportunity, one opportunity, to get somewhere that I always dreamed about when I was a kid, Scott said. And thas playing in the Super Bowl.