During training camp, the Ravens have what they call “plus-30” days, in which veterans who are at least 30 years of age get the day off to rest up and let their old bones heal.
I’m not sure the Ravens’ opponent this Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, have to worry about implementing similar rules.
The Bucs are the NFL’s youngest team. They start a second-year quarterback, a rookie running back and a rookie wide receiver.
But that’s not where the run of youth ends.
Two weeks ago, in a win over the Panthers, the Bucs started an NFL-record seven rookies. Five more first-year players came off the bench.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh says Tampa Bay’s youth is evident when he watches the Bucs on film.
“They play like a bunch of kids,” Harbaugh said. “They run around and get after it and are enthusiastic and all that. And, I’m sure it’s got its plusses and its minuses. We’ll try to negate the pluses that the youth brings to the table, and we’ll try to take full advantage of what those minuses are.”
By contrast, the Ravens don’t start a single rookie, only have one second-year player in their starting lineup, and have one of the older rosters in the NFL.
Their top-four wide receivers are all over 30-years old, and only one member of the starting defense has less than four years of NFL experience.
But, despite the disparities in age and experience, both teams are 7-3 and battling for a playoff spot.
The Bucs have surprised a lot of people with their play this season, despite the youth factor. They’ve won four games this year by three or fewer points, and Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay’s 22-year old quarterback, has perfected the art of the come-from-behind win, leading a number of fourth quarter comebacks.
Tampa Bay plays fast, with a physical edge, and surprisingly smart for a young team.
Thus, the team littered with “plus-30” guys knows that they’ll have to bring their A-game for Sunday’s matchup against the Baby Buccaneers.
“They’ve got a lot of young players, which is a positive for them,” linebacker Jarret Johnson said. “Obviously, they’re going to be good for a while. Anytime you’ve got young players like that, you don’t want to let their momentum get rolling, because once they build their momentum, they start getting excited and they’re just going to keep it on you. So, you’ve just got to get on them early.”