During the month of July, the Last Word On Sports NFL department will determine which three players deserve to be considered the faces of each franchise. For this series, we will only consider active players. In this edition, the Baltimore Ravens are the focus.
Faces of the Baltimore Ravens
Following his rookie camp in 2008, circumstances presented themselves which allowed Flacco to inherit the starting reigns immediately. Over the next seven seasons, he has responded by not missing a single start, making it to the postseason six times, and eventually leading the Ravens to the Super Bowl title in 2012. Statistically, he has improved almost every season and has been on the cusp of 4,000 yards each of the last two. All of his successes have occurred with a revolving door at offensive coordinator, having gone through four in each of the last four seasons. Flacco has remained steady behind center and has proven to be both reliable and sturdy. The team looks vastly different now than it did during the Super Bowl run, with veterans like Ed Reed and Ray Lewis retiring, Ray Rice having a career implosion, team leaders like Anquan Boldin and most recently Haloti Ngata being traded, and a host of other great support players moving on for one reason or another. Baltimore enters a new era where Flacco is the seasoned veteran, the go-to guy who coaches lean on to captain the ship, and the most recognizable guy on the field.
After Ray Lewis and Ed Reed retired, Terrell Suggs became the outspoken leader and the face of the Baltimore defense. Since then, he hasn’t looked back nor slowed down. Suggs has always been a “team” guy, a locker room leader, and the player that Ravens fans across the country recognize as the heartbeat of the franchise. Since breaking into the league in 2003, his list of accomplishments is nothing short of staggering. He has compiled a resume featuring 508 tackles, seven interceptions, and 106.5 sacks. Suggs has been to the Pro Bowl six times, was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2003, NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2011, and Super Bowl champion in 2012. His knockout style of play and his renowned penchant for world-class smack talking, including getting into it with guys like Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady on a weekly basis, has made him the darling of the Ravens fan base.
This may not be a glamorous pick for my third face of the team, but Ravens purists are well aware that things in Baltimore would be vastly different without offensive lineman Marshall Yanda. Whether his assignment is to expose holes in opposing lines or to protect his quarterback, big #73 has been quietly doing his job at a very high level for a number of seasons. His name is constantly in the mix when the discussion is about the league’s elite guards. Drafted by Baltimore in 2007, Yanda has been to the Pro Bowl four times, was a first team All-Pro, and a Super Bowl champion. Yanda is one of only a handful of players from the championship run in 2012 who are still with the team, making him a recognizable veteran and a fan favorite.
There are a number of new Ravens that I could have included on this list. Players like C.J. Mosley, Courtney Upshaw, Elvis Dumervil, Matt Elam, and on and on. But those guys, however great many of them are now or will be in the very near future, haven’t been around Baltimore long enough to be truly considered a face of the team.