It hasn't been hard to figure out how the Ravens (8-2) have risen to the top of many national power rankings. Quarterback Lamar Jackson has played at a Most Valuable Player level, with highlight-reel runs and precision throws. The Ravens' running game is on a historic pace, averaging more than 200 yards a game behind a dominant offensive line. An evolving, improving defense has stifled opposing offenses and cashed in on scoring chances as well, with a league-best five defensive touchdowns.
Yet beyond the statistics, there are more intangible factors as well. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey says a winning culture has pervaded the Ravens' locker room, with an example set by head coach John Harbaugh and the charismatic Jackson that rubs off on others.
"I think the biggest thing is probably unity in the locker room," Humphrey said, noting that it's not uncommon for players this year to sit around and talk for an hour after the work day is over.
Winning will surely help any locker room culture, and the Ravens have won six straight to take command of the AFC North with an impressive run of wins against the Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots and Houston Texans. They visit the Los Angeles Rams (6-4) in another stiff test on Monday night.
But Humphrey noted how Jackson, the team's undisputed leader at age 22 and in his first full season as a starter, has set the tone.
Humphrey recalled how on a recent Tuesday, Jackson bounded through the team's training room, not to receive treatment but simply to shake hands with players receiving treatment as well as the training staff.
It wasn't a grand gesture in front of the cameras and fans, but rather, as Humphrey explained, one of those "little things" that spoke of Jackson's infectious enthusiasm.
"You look at it like, 'Dang, our starting quarterback, everyone's talking about him, he's just coming in here ... just to say hey to everybody," Humphrey said before practice Nov. 21, standing at his locker with a media throng that has been growing weekly during the Ravens midseason run.
"He's always been like that since he's been here," added Humphrey, himself a former first-round pick, a potential Pro Bowl selection this year and homegrown star of the Ravens' defense. "That's the biggest thing that I've said about him. He's one of the most humble guys that I've ever been [around], and as he's been having more and more success, it seems like he's just gotten more and more humble. So it's always good when those two things are both in line."
It's also good when the team's leader has command of every corner of the locker room. Whether it's grizzled veteran Marshal Yanda, whose locker is adjacent to Jackson's, or newcomers to the practice squad, Jackson has been able to connect with an energy that has been contagious.
Humphrey related how cornerback Marcus Peters, who came to the Ravens in a midseason trade, treated all the other defensive backs to dinner a couple of weeks after he arrived. That has segued into regular dinners together.
"I've always felt like the biggest thing you can do with the team is have that family approach, because it shows on the field," Humphrey said.
Not that there aren't occasional family squabbles; safety Earl Thomas and defensive lineman Brandon Williams got into a heated argument after the Ravens' 40-25 loss to the Browns in Week 4 -- their last loss. Williams was inactive because a knee injury flared up the day before the game, and Thomas admits he was frustrated after the loss. The players spoke and cleared things up a couple of days later.
Overall, Humphrey said, "There were a lot of egos in the past, and ... I've seen a lot of different confrontations. ... I haven't really seen much of that this year.
"There hasn't been a lot of conflict," he added. "It's always, 'Hey, man, let's do this. It's never no bad blood, no feelings or egos in between. It's all just, 'I want to do whatever you can to win."
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