Players pleased with coaches' bye week decisions

The Ravens have been given 2/1 odds of winning the AFC and 15/2 odds of winning the Super Bowl by Bovada.net.

Just for comparison's sake, the Patriots' odds of coming out on top of the AFC are 11/10 and they've been given 4/1 odds of taking home the Lombardi Trophy.

Thoughts?

One portion of yesterday's session at Ravens headquarters stood out to me when I got home last night, and I mean that in a positive way.

A couple veteran players who have been with the organization for handful of years made mention of the fact that they appreciate the way the coaching staff has decided to attack the team's first-round postseason bye.

The last time the Ravens were in such a situation was 2006, and then-coach Brian Billick chose to let his players enjoy the bye by giving them the full week off. We all know what happened after that; the Ravens lost at home to the Colts despite not allowing a touchdown to the prolific Peyton Manning-led offense.

John_Harbaugh-Joe_Flacco-hugging-tall.jpgJohn Harbaugh decided to go about things a little different than his predecessor. He scheduled practices for Wednesday and Thursday, and while the sessions were low-key and a handful of banged-up veterans were not required to participate, players say the practices were important and effective.

"I feel more confident about the way we are preparing this week," linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "(In 2006), we were 13-3, we had a record-setting - statistically-wise - defense, and we took like seven days off. We went home. We didn't see each other for a long time. Was that the reason we lost? I don't know. Probably not, but I like what we're doing out here. We had two really good days of working out, got two good lifts, and just being able to be around each other and then get a break, get these next three days off (is important). You never lose your routine, and you don't get out of whack."

With the practices complete, the players will now get three full days off, and then they'll be back at work Monday preparing for their divisional round opponent.

Harbaugh said that prior to structuring the bye week schedule, he talked with his brother Jim (whose 49ers have a bye, as well) and other coaches around the league to see how different organizations have handled the time off in previous years.

He also consulted his veteran players, who Harbaugh says had input in the plan that was put together.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs was in his fourth year in the league in 2006, but he'll readily admit that he wasn't the most mature guy in the world back then. (Not that he is now, either, but you get what I'm saying.) Suggs says he appreciates the bye week schedule put in by the current coaches, because it protects guys - possibly guys like himself - from getting too relaxed during the time off.

"I like the routine," Suggs said. "I like that we all stayed around. We're not taking the noose off; they say never take the noose off a mule, because it's not going back on there. I like that we still all stayed in football and kind of stayed grounded in football. We get a chance to refocus and actually see what it is we're playing for, and that's awesome.

"Five years ago, I was a young man. What was I, 25, 24? I definitely shot out to the West Coast. Took a five-hour flight, probably went to Vegas. I don't remember. Whereas now, I'm more mature, I'm kind of a vet, sort of. We know what's at stake, we know what we're playing for, and we're just taking it all in."

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