After two hours of sleep and an equally long flight delay this morning, I'm finally back in the Baltimore area.
Apparently BWI had to shut down its runways and wasn't able to accept any arriving flights for a handful of hours, not even for a sports reporter desperate to get back to make it for the Ravens' locker room clean-out day.
Every year, it amazes me how quickly players and coaches have to turn the page once their season ends in the postseason.
Twenty-four hours ago, Ravens players were blasting pump-up music through their earphones and applying eye black, preparing themselves for a game that could send them to the Super Bowl. Today, those same guys are packing up their lockers at the Ravens' Owings Mills complex and saying their goodbyes to teammates that they might not even play alongside again.
"It's kind of like a bad dream," linebacker Terrell Suggs told reporters today. "Especially the last two (offensive) plays, because I sure thought we had it, and I'm going to be honest with you, 22 seconds wasn't enough time for (the Patriots to come back). But the ball rolled the way it did. But hey, hell of a season. You've got to tip your hat off to this team."
"The disappointing thing is, not only did we lose a game but there's still has to be a Super Bowl to be played," said quarterback Joe Flacco. "I wish it could just end and nobody could win a Super Bowl."
Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that. There will be a game played in two weeks, although a number of Ravens won't be tuning in.
"Truth being told I am not sure I'm going to watch the unSuper Bowl since the two best teams are sitting at home #ravens #49ers," linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo tweeted earlier today.
Days like this are bizarre. Players walk around the locker room with helmets and jerseys, asking their teammates for autographs and getting guys' phone numbers that they didn't already have. They give out big man hugs, pile their belongings into giant trash bags and sling them over their shoulders on the way out, some never to return to The Castle.
It's a depressing scene, especially when this team was oh-so-close to a Super Bowl appearance.
Now, the focus quickly gets turned to next season, and I when I say quickly, I mean quickly. After holding a team meeting this morning, head coach John Harbaugh and members of the Ravens' coaching and personnel staffs departed for the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., ready to get the pre-draft process kicked into high gear.
Before you know it, the mock drafts will be flying around and we'll have a whole new batch of youngsters to discuss.
One quick injury note to pass along: linebacker Dannell Ellerbe was seen in the locker room in a walking boot and on crutches. He says he will get an MRI on his foot today.
Also, guard Ben Grubbs has been added to the AFC's Pro Bowl roster. New England's Logan Mankins will not be attending, as he'll be in Indianapolis for the Super Bowl.
More to come here in a few.