Tonight’s final preseason test for the Baltimore Ravens against the Atlanta Falcons may be more of a challenge for those on the outside looking in when it comes to the 53-man roster, but several members of the Ravens linebacking corps are looking at tonight for different motivations.
In most instances, starters-both on offense and defense-play little to not at all in the fourth and final preseason game-so guys like Jarret Johnson-who joined Glenn Clark on “The Reality Check”-are circling September 11th versus Pittsburgh on their calender.
“We haven’t played in the last preseason game the last three years, so I assume it will be the same this week,” Johnson said. “We’ll get a good four days leading up to the game, and start gearing up for the Steelers.”
But at the same time, Johnson said he knows how much a game like this means to the younger players and for the entire team when it comes to confidence and their competitive edge.
“Any time you know you’re on the field when you’re a professional, you’re a competitive guy,” Johnson said. “The atmosphere doesn’t matter…and when you get on the field, you’re going to want to compete and you’re going to want to win. Even when you lose preseason games-even if you play well-and it may still be a preseason game, it still hurts. You still don’t want to lose.”
Fellow linebacker Tavares Gooden-who may be playing for a roster spot after struggling early in preseason (he played in significant time in the 34-31 victory against the Redskins and didn’t record a tackle)-joined Thyrl Nelson as well to talk about his reasoning for tonight’s contest.
In a sense, his fellow teammates may be his friends and comrades in action, but he still needs to perform well in his own right if he wants to remain a Baltimore Raven.
“You can only be told what you’ve been told,” Gooden said. “If there’s guys that you’re competing against that arent’ taking their job seriously, that’s always a plus for you as a player who has been taking it seriously. The strength level, the dominance level, it’s going to be on different services and I think I took advantage of my training this off-season and get ready for this season so that I could have a dominant season.”
But he knows that pressure to keep a roster spot and have every member of the team playing at the highest level possible is the best thing for a team wanting to reach the ultimate goal of a Super Bowl.
“We all love to compete,” Gooden told Nelson, “so we’re going to try our hardest to lead this team and to help out in any role we have to try and get the ultimate goal, and that’s to bring another championship back to Baltimore.”
Johnson said that after Saturday when the roster is trimmed down to 53 guys, he and the other Raven veterans will know what their team will look like both on the football field and in the locker room morale-wise.
“As far as starters with me and Ray, and then with some of the younger guys coming on, there was no new additions. We do have some young competition right now. We have a real stacked group, and our room is full of great players. There is a lot of competition right now, but as far as being used to each other and stuff like that, it’s business as usual.”
To sum it all up, tonight is a good use of time for the starters to rest themselves for the long run that is the regular season with the ultimate goal of getting first and second Super Bowls for a Ravens team not getting any younger.
“There’s always pressure on you to win, and to produce-especially with the talent that we have,” Johnson said. ” The expectations are always high. With everyone having some years under them now, and you know teams can’t stay together forever, you do want to get a Super Bowl together.”
“You want Ray to get that second championship and all those great defensive players that came through here, we all want to get our first. We want to do it as a group.”
Be sure to jump into the Purple Haze chat tonight at WNST.net as we talk Raven football! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!