Inside the Ravens with Aaron Wilson

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ravens, Harbaugh play, battle in the snow

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens got a sneak preview of the Green Bay Packers' infamous frozen tundra on Saturday as a snowfall blanketed their practice field and needed to be cleared off with a plow.

Temperatures weren't nearly as frigid as what the Ravens will experience Monday night at Lambeau Field with various weather forecasts predicting it will get down into the teens with a wind-chill factor in single-digits.

Nonetheless, the Ravens seemed to enjoy the snow with several offensive linemen taking pride in wearing short sleeves, including Matt Birk, Marshal Yanda and David Hale.

And the entire team jovially peppered coach John Harbaugh with snowballs at the end of practice.

"I had a good snowball fight," Harbaugh said. "I got nailed at the end of practice. I was a little disappointed. It was like a barrage just came raining down.

"They were excited. They were like little kids. They were having a good time out there. It was very spirited."

The Ravens are hoping that their exposure to the cold will help prepare them for the icy conditions that await them in Wisconsin.

"You learn how to deal with the footing, you learn how to deal with the elements," Harbaugh said. "I think that's part of it. We had decided we were going to go out no matter what. We just wanted to be out in the elements a little bit, throw and catch it."

Of course, the effects of Old Man Winter does make it hard to communicate.

"It's hard to speak," Harbaugh said. "Your lips freeze."

Not everyone enjoyed the weather, especially players from South Florida like linebacker Tavares Gooden or Louisiana native safety Ed Reed.

Reed seemed particularly averse to the snow.

"Nah, I didn't like it," Gooden said. "I'm from Florida, man. I can deal with it, but it's not what I like. I like to play in regular weather.

“Last year, I didn't know what to expect driving in the snow. Now, I got something that can ride in the snow. I got me a car from here, for here."

Lambeau Field has an underground heating system with heated coils to prevent players from having to run around on a frozen field.

Birk related that the coils work well enough that you can warm up your hands in the grass.

There will also be numerous heaters on the sidelines as well as a heated bench.

The Ravens are expecting a soggy field.

"It will be soggy from what I've been told," Harbaugh said.

The Ravens aren't concerned about quarterback Joe Flacco's footwork despite a sprained ankle.

"He looked good with the footing," Harbaugh said. "He threw well. One thing about Joe, he's got that kind of an arm. He's got big hands, so he can handle the conditions pretty well."

Kicker Billy Cundiff has kicked in bad weather conditions before, including Green Bay.

"He handled it well," Harbaugh said. "He's been there before. You've got to take your time, but the rush is a little bit slower. So, you get your footing, you plant and you kick it straight.

"You don't want to be going in there too fast and sliding, so you get your plant foot down and you swing through it. You take your time a little bit more: snap, catch, hold, kick."

Although the Packers are obviously much more accustomed to the cold than the Ravens, Harbaugh is confident that his football team is prepared for the elements.

"It makes the game different, but both teams are in the conditions," Harbaugh said." Everybody manages to stay pretty warm. You go out there and you play and guys are next to the heaters.

"I think we are going to have a rule, though. The heaters are for the players on the sideline during the game. There are usually doctors and PR guys who tend to get around those heaters pretty consistently."

A native of Ann Arbor, Mich., Harbaugh said it's safe to say that he won't be wearing a ski mask on the sidelines.

"I've never had to do that before," he said. "I've had a stocking cap before, so that might be there. Beyond that, there will be no facial attire, ski mask.

"I would be shamed, I would be shamed, there's no doubt. So, there will be none of that."

One myth was debunked Saturday.

According to team spokesman Kevin Byrne, it wasn't former Packers coach Vince Lombardi who first popularized the phrase, frozen tundra.

It was ESPN broadcaster Chris Berman.

NFL Films president Steve Sabol told Byrne last year that Lombardi instructed him and his father to not refer to Lambeau Field as having a frozen or icy field because he didn't want the Packers’ board of directors mad at him for griping about a heated field system that didn't work.

"Frozen tundra was never said by Vince Lombardi," Byrne said. "It was a legend created by Chris Berman."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!