Harbaugh ready for “special” return to Philly

For the first time in five regular seasons as Ravens head coach, John Harbaugh gets to lead his team to the city where he spent his first 10 years in the NFL - Philadelphia.

Just 5 1/2 days after opening their season with a Monday night dismantling of the Cincinnati Bengals, the Ravens hit the road to face their nearest neighbors to the north. Harbaugh started his NFL career there, serving nine years as the Eagles’ special teams coordinator and one as their defensive backs coach before being hired by Baltimore.

The Ravens faced, and crushed, Philadelphia in 2008, Harbaugh’s first season as head coach. But that was in Baltimore. This Sunday will mark Harbaugh’s first trip to Philly with the Ravens.

Harbaugh admitted this one will be a little different.

“It is like every other game because it’s an important game. It’s a tough opponent. It’s a tough venue. But it is special,” he told reporters Tuesday. “Anytime you get back and you drive up to the same parking lot you drove into for a number of years as a coach, or a player, and see a lot of familiar faces - whether it’s on the other sideline or whether it’s in the tunnel coming out onto the field (seeing) the security people and people that work there that are so familiar with you - it means a lot.

“And it really doesn’t hit you until you get there. Then, all of a sudden, your emotions flood up on you. That happened in the preseason last year when we played there. I assume this year will be the same, or even more intense. But that’s just a minor side story. The football game will be the story. Two really good football teams going at it. It’s a big challenge for us.”

Harbaugh also gets to lead his team against coaches he worked with during his years as an assistant there. He called longtime Eagles head coach Andy Reid a “huge influence” on his football career.

“He’s been an influence on a lot of guys. A number of guys off his staff have gone on to be head coaches in this league. That’s a great testament in and of itself to how he does things,” Harbaugh told reporters. “I’ve got a lot of respect for Andy; I’ve got a lot of love for his family.

“We’ve been pretty close over the years. Haven’t talked very much recently, I’m not sure why. Actually, I think I do know why,” he added, drawing laughs. “The schedule makers laid this thing out, and that’s just how it works. I just have immense respect for what he’s done, how he does it and, sure, it’s impacted some of the things we’ve done here.”