The Baltimore Ravens are a professional football team in the National Football League (the NFL). The Baltimore Ravens play in the American Football Conference (AFC) North Division with three other teams: the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns. The Baltimore Ravens have won 1 Super Bowl Championship. M&T Bank Stadium, located in Baltimore, Maryland, hosts all Baltimore Ravens home games.
Following much heated negotiations and controversy, professional football returned to the city of Baltimore in 1996. In November 1995, Art Modell, the long-time owner of the Cleveland Browns, announced that he wanted to move the NFL football team from Cleveland, Ohio to Baltimore, Maryland. Mr. Modell had run up significant debt for the Cleveland Browns franchise and Mr. Modell also claimed that the city’s old Cleveland Stadium was not up to par for an NFL team. After much legal battling for 3 months, the Cleveland Browns and the NFL agreed on a settlement whereby the team would re-locate to Baltimore, Maryland. In return for allowing Art Modell to move the team to Baltimore, the NFL stipulated that the history of the Cleveland Browns franchise, its team colors and all past records and Hall of Fame Inductees would remain associated with the Cleveland Browns. A “re-activated” Cleveland Browns team would come into existence again in 1999.
Technically, the new Baltimore franchise was an “expansion” NFL team. The franchise used various methods – focus groups and fan contests – to select the team name. After several rounds of balloting, the team eventually settled on the team “Ravens” – in honor of Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem “The Raven” (Edgar Allen Poe lived in Baltimore, Maryland during the last years of his life and is buried there as well). The Baltimore Ravens recorded losing seasons in its first 3 years of existence. In 1999, the 2nd year in their new stadium, now known as M&T Bank Stadium, the Baltimore Ravens finished 8-8 and missed the NFL playoffs when they lost in the final game of the regular season. That successful campaign provided much hype and anticipation for the 2000 NFL season, and the hype proved to be true. During the 2000 NFL regular season, the Baltimore Ravens had one of the most dominating defenses in NFL history. The Baltimore Ravens set 2 impressive NFL records that season, by giving up the least amount of points during the regular season (165) and by giving up the least number of rushing yards during the regular season (970). Both NFL records had been held by the 1985 Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears. The Baltimore Ravens finished the season 12-4 and made the playoffs for the first time in their short history. During the playoff run to the Super Bowl, the Baltimore Ravens gave up a total of 16 points in 3 AFC playoff games. In the wild card round of the playoffs, the Baltimore Ravens dominated the Denver Broncos 21-3 to win their first playoff game in franchise history. The Baltimore Ravens had to travel to Tennessee to face the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round of the playoffs. After the teams played to a 7-7 halftime tie, the Baltimore Ravens blocked a Titans field goal attempt and returned the football 90 yards for a touchdown to give the Baltimore Ravens a 17-10 lead. Ray Lewis’ 50-yard interception return for a touchdown sealed the 24-10 victory late in the 4th quarter. In the AFC Championship Game, the Baltimore Ravens defeated the Oakland Raiders 16-3. Once again, the Baltimore Ravens defense dominated play by forcing 4 Oakland Raiders interceptions and holding the high-powered Oakland Raiders offense to less than 200 total yards of offense. In Super Bowl XXXV, the Baltimore Ravens defeated the New York Giants 34-7. The Baltimore Ravens defense forced 5 New York Giants turnovers and held the New York Giants to only 152 yards of total offense. The Baltimore Ravens defense didn’t even allow an offensive point, as the New York Giants sole score came on a 97-yard kickoff return by Ron Dixon. Defensive standout Ray Lewis was named the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XXXV. Since that Super Bowl victory, the Baltimore Ravens have made the NFL playoffs 2 more times, once in 2001 and once in 2003. Both playoffs runs ended in losses.
The most notable defensive player on the Baltimore Ravens is Ray Lewis. Ray Lewis won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2000 and 2003 – only the 6th player in NFL history to win the award more than once. Ray Lewis is a 7-time Pro Bowler and he led the NFL in tackles 4 times. Unfortunately, Ray Lewis is often remembered for his involvement in a double-homicide outside a night club in the Buckhead area of Atlanta, Georgia in January 2000. Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar were stabbed to death outside the night club, and Ray Lewis and his 2 friends were arrested for the crime. Ray Lewis agreed to a plea bargain agreement with the Atlanta District Attorney’s Office and agreed to testify against his 2 friends in return for having the murder charges against him dropped. His 2 friends hired well-known and expensive Atlanta-area defense attorneys and they were eventually acquitted of all charges related to the double-homicide. Although the double-homicide remains “unsolved”, Ray Lewis agreed to civil settlements with the family members of the 2 victims. As part of those settlements, the victims’ family members cannot bring any further civil suits against Ray Lewis.
The Baltimore Ravens did not qualify for the post-season in either 2004 or 2005. During the 2006-7 NFL season, the Baltimore Ravens finished with a 13-3 record which was good for 1st place in the AFC North and a 1st round playoff bye. However, despite having one of the best defenses in the NFL, the Baltimore Ravens had trouble scoring points, as was evident in their 15-6 divisional round playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts. While holding the high-powered Colts offense to only 5 field goals, the Ravens could only muster 6 points of their own in the disappointing loss. The disappointing loss served as an omen for bad things to come as the Baltimore Ravens only won 5 games during the 2007-8 NFL season. After the season, Brian Billick resigned as head coach of the Baltimore Ravens. And in January 2008, the Baltimore Ravens hired long-time NFL assistant coach John Harbaugh to be its new head coach.
Hall of Famers
While the Baltimore Ravens have not had any players inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, the Baltimore Ravens do have a “Ring of Honor” that circles the M&T Bank Stadium playing field. The Ring of Honor currently honors the following players: Running Back Ernest Byner, Baltimore Colts Quarterback Johnny Unitas, Original Owner Art Modell, and Defensive Lineman Michael McCrary. The numbers of the following Baltimore Colts are also honored: Lenny Moore, Art Donovan, Jim Parker, Raymond Berry, Ted Hendricks, John Mackey and Gino Marchetti.