Thur., Jan. 11: Colts' Return Overplayed; Ravens Ready
By Joe Platania
Thursday, January 11 -- It's been talked about and repeated and talked about again.
The "Colts-coming-back-to-Baltimore" angle has been exhausted beyond comprehension in advance of Saturday's AFC Divisional Playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium between Indianapolis and the Ravens (4:30 p.m., WJZ-TV, WIYY-FM).
However, it seems so pointless on a couple of levels.
After all, the Colts and Ravens have already met six times in regular-season play since the Ravens were born in 1996; the Colts have won four of those games.
Their first meeting was that same year, on a Sunday-night TNT telecast in the RCA Dome. Despite a Ravens touchdown reception by Dunbar grad Calvin Williams, the Colts won, 26-21.
Two years later, the Colts returned to their ancestral home for the first time and jumped out to a 24-7 lead before the Ravens rallied for one of the fans' most satisfying victories, 38-31, despite over 300 yards of total offense by then-Indianapolis back Marshall Faulk.
That first visit was the one that stirred this city's emotions more than any meeting between the two teams that has taken place since.
So, even though Saturday's game is the first-ever postseason meeting between the Ravens and Colts, it's an underwhelming angle that's been overplayed.
Not only that, but common sense and a few simple calculations would dictate that most of the players on both teams are too young to remember the Colts' move in 1984 and comprehend its impact.
"It's always been a little uncomfortable for me," Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said. "I never got to see Johnny Unitas play, but I kind of knew how good of a player he was and how special he was."
Ravens running back Jamal Lewis agreed.
"I don't get caught up in it," he said. "It's still a football game and it's a playoff game, so that will make it a rivalry enough."
So, has the time come when players and coaches on both sides are ready to rid themselves of the historical baggage and just play the darn game?
"We're at that point," Ravens head coach Brian Billick said. "That's the thing about the bye week, is that you're ready to go right now.
"They're ready to play this thing."
Not only are the Ravens ready, they're healthy as well.
Safety Gerome Sapp, who began his career as a Ravens sixth-round draft pick in 2003 and later left for Indianapolis as a free agent before returning here, was upgraded to probable on the injury report and practiced fully on Wednesday.
Sapp has had occasional back trouble recently.
That dropped the number of Ravens listed as questionable to three: left tackle Jonathan Ogden (toe), tight end Quinn Sypniewski (wrist) and guard Keydrick Vincent (groin), all of whom missed a portion of the session.
Also, linebacker Adalius Thomas (ankle) was added to the report and classified as probable.
All five of those players were dressed and on the field for Thursday morning's shorts-only practice, which was attended by former Baltimore mayor and Maryland Governor-elect Martin O'Malley.
Just as he did during the 2000 playoff run, O'Malley made a field goal in practice and will donate $1000 to Billick's favorite charity, the Living Classrooms Foundation.
O'Malley also issued a proclamation and addressed the team in a pep-talk-like mode.
The incoming governor had the whole active roster in front of him, as the Ravens are putting on a remarkable show of stamina at a time of year when most teams are banged up beyond repair.
But even a clean bill of health is no guarantee of success.
Ask the Dallas Cowboys, who put nobody on their injury report before taking on the Seattle Seahawks on Wild Card Weekend. Tony Romo's dropped field-goal snap doomed the Cowboys to a first-round loss.
"Well, with the option being to have a bunch (of injured players) or none, I choose none," said Billick, a former Cowboys free agent tight end himself.
For the Colts, they list the same nine players as questionable on Tuesday and Wednesday, but the big difference is that seven of them took part in the entire practice on Wednesday.
The only ones still missing a portion of practie were running back Joseph Addai (chest) and wideout Ricky Proehl (hamstring).
Proehl is the only man in Super Bowl history to have two game-tying touchdown catches in the big game, having done so for St. Louis against New England in Super Bowl XXXVI and again two years later for Carolina, also against the Patriots.
The other seven who have fully returned to practice are:
Linebacker Gary Brackett (ankle), guard Ryan Diem (shoulder), tackle Dan Federkiel (hip), safety Nick Harper (ankle), guard Ryan Lilja (knee), defensive end Robert Mathis (hip) and safety Bob Sanders (knee).
Brackett and Sanders are the only two of that group that haven't missed any practice time all week.
JOEY P'S TRIVIA TIME: This week, we're testing your Super Bowl knowledge.
We're not giving away any prizes, so if you get the daily question right, give yourself a big pat on the back (just make sure you don't tear your rotator cuff).
The answer appears at the end of the column, just after the two Quotes of the Day.
There are 41 players in Super Bowl history who have won championships with two different teams. Only one of those players never got on the field for either Super Bowl his teams won. Who is he?
MODELL REJECTED AGAIN: The Pro Football Hall of Fame's list of 17 finalists came out this week. Surprisingly, former Ravens owner Art Modell did not make the cut.
Modell has only been a finalist once, in 2002, but was not part of that year's induction class.
Notables in this year's list of finalists include former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and former Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans offensive lineman Bruce Matthews.
We'll predict right now that when the voting takes place the day before the Super Bowl, Tagliabue, Matthews, former Washington wideout Art Monk, Oakland punter Ray Guy and Kansas City linebacker Derrick Thomas (posthumous) will make up the induction class.
And we'll be stubborn and pick Modell to make it next year.
Why he wasn't honored at least 15 or 20 years ago for his work in expanding the league's television presence and getting on board with revenue sharing is something that will remain a mystery to us.
Modell turns 82 this June and is largely confined to a wheelchair these days.
However, his passion for the game and its players has never dimmed, as he is a practice-field fixture. He still has an office in the Ravens' two-year-old complex and an impressive portrait of him hangs in the lobby.
"My record speaks for itself," he often says.
One has to wonder if anyone is listening.
SHAW, HARBAUGH AT STANFORD: We've pointed out several times that the Ravens wide receivers have had more coaches than just about any other position unit on the team (six).
It was David Shaw's unfortunate luck to handle that job from 2002-2005, while the Ravens were going through their great offensive malaise. Who can forget journeyman Kevin Johnson leading the team with only 35 catches in 2004?
Through those tough times, Shaw nevertheless proved to be a thoughtful eloquent spokesman for his guys, eager to dissect what was going wrong and praise what went right.
In the wake of his dismissal by the Ravens, Shaw has landed on his feet quite nicely, as he has been named the offensive coordinator at Stanford as part of head coach Jim Harbaugh's new staff.
Shaw had worked under Harbaugh before