The Baltimore Ravens ended the season with a disappointing 24-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Their 10-7 record showed a two-win improvement from last season. It allowed the Ravens to advance to the postseason after missing last year’s playoffs.
Various players reflected on the season as they cleaned out their lockers earlier this week.
“Just continuing to fight,” tight end Mark Andrews said. “Things didn’t always go our way; there were a lot of things that went wrong – when a lot of times they don’t go wrong – that went wrong. So, just continuing to fight, and grow. We’ll be back, and we’ll be stronger.”
Andrews led the Ravens with 73 receptions for 843 yards and five touchdowns last season. It was a down year for him but he never gave up.
An example of Andrews’ fighting spirit showed in the playoff game when he hustled 90+ yards to try and tackle Bengals defensive lineman Sam Hubbard after he recovered a Tyler Huntley fumble at the goal line.
Andrews came up short but his hustle spoke to the grit the Ravens have inside of them.
Defensive lineman Calais Campbell entered this season hoping to secure a championship after spending 15 seasons in the NFL. Of course he was disappointed that the Ravens fell short.
“Only one team gets to go home happy,” Campbell said. “That’s just the nature of the business, and we don’t get to be that team this year.”
Next year will be his 16th season in the NFL. Campbell said there’s a good chance he’s back next season. Campbell once again has high hopes in the organization.
“I think there’s some encouragement for the core of the team that gets to come back next year. The core of the team is in a really good spot to do some really great things going forward,” Campbell said.
“I want to be a part of a great team. It’s going to be hard to walk away, that’s for sure. So, we’ll see. I’ll talk to the front office and talk to the coaches and I’ll think. There’s a chance I could be back here again next year; I just have to go through that process.”
The fact that Campbell is one sack short of joining the 100-sack club could have an influence as well. Campbell said it’s something that he really wants.
Then you have the rookie Kyle Hamilton. He was an early draft pick last spring that was expected to yield quick benefits.
Hamilton didn’t get any interceptions but he had five passes defensed to go along with a forced fumble, four tackles for a loss, five quarterback hits and 62 tackles.
“It’s a long year. It’s a long rookie year. You come in the draft process and don’t really know who you’re going to be with, but I think I came into the perfect situation. Staff, players, personnel – everybody has just been amazing to me this year, and I’m really thankful for the whole organization,” Hamilton said.
As the season wore on, Hamilton was entrusted to line up in the slot at times. It was a sign of his ability to learn the defense and the trust the coaching staff had in him.
Veteran outside linebacker Justin Houston sees big things in store for Hamilton.
“It’s amazing how fast [Kyle Hamilton] bounced back. I know the beginning of the season was hard on him,” Houston said. “I know he gave up a couple of big plays, and it cost us. But, at the end of the season, you see the man, and it helped him grow as a person and as a player. He took that challenge head on, and he accepted that challenge and grew and became a great player. And he’s still growing. I can’t wait to see what his future is going to be like. He’s going to be amazing.”
The overall feeling was one of disappointment about the season ending. But the players are excited about their chances next season with a healthy Lamar Jackson as their quarterback.
Jackson missed the postseason game and hasn’t played since December 4 due to a knee injury. At 26 years old, the former MVP has played out his rookie contract including the fifth-year option.
Jackson is set to hit free agency. But the Ravens can prevent that by signing him to a long-term deal or placing the franchise tag on him. The Ravens players clearly want him back.
“I hope that he’s going to be back. That’s my guy. I have nothing but love and respect for ‘No. 8’ [Lamar Jackson] as a person, as a player and as a friend,” Andrews said.
“You can’t let a guy like him go,” Campbell added. “You know Lamar Jackson is an incredible player. I think it’s in the best interest of the Ravens organization to give him a long-term contract and make him our guy. Lamar Jackson is a star; he deserves to be paid like it and deserves the opportunity to lead his teams to hopefully multiple championships. As long as he’s on the field, you know your team has a chance.”