NEW ORLEANS -- One of the moments that changed everything for the Baltimore Ravens came in the middle of the season, when the players mutinied. And that is the word -- mutiny. Now, months later, linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo recalls that event in great detail.
John Harbaugh had called for a physical practice in pads. Ravens players balked and basically said: hell, no. In football, this is a big deal. In football, players don't say "no" to the coach. The Ravens did.
This led to an intense meeting between Harbaugh and the team. This moment, Ayanbadejo said, changed the season.
“The meeting was very emotional,” he said. “People said things. Feelings were hurt. People got angry. There was some shouting and going back and forth. It didn't stop there.”
Harbaugh relented. No pads. Then the team went out to practice.
“We laid an egg at practice,” Ayanbadejo said. “We embarrassed ourselves. We had a shitty practice.
“So after practice, we huddle together, and more words are exchanged. We got it all out. We didn't want to say how there should be no practice in pads and then go have a bad practice.”
Safety Ed Reed screamed at the team. The message took.
“The next practice, we had a great practice,” Ayanbadejo explained.
From that point, the Ravens felt like they were a closer unit. Ray Lewis announcing his retirement drew them even closer. So by the time they got to the Super Bowl, they were as unified as any team in the sport.
Ayanbadejo used the word “love” when describing how the players feel about one another. It's a loaded word, especially when it's used by football players -- but it might be appropriate. The Ravens use their closeness both as a motivator and a weapon, particularly the latter.
As in: Try to break us apart, we will punch you in the mouth.
“We're the closest team in football,” Ayanbadejo said.