Browns' rookies facing tough road test vs. Ravens
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Once he's handed the ball on Thursday night, Trent Richardson knows what's next.
Hall of Fame-level contact.
"Ray Lewis is going to come at me," the Browns rookie running back said, "and I'm going to come right back at him. That's football."
Richardson, quarterback Brandon Weeden and Cleveland's other rookies are about to face the toughest test of their budding careers when the winless Browns visit Baltimore, one of the league's most hostile stadiums where the Ravens have won 12 straight, 20 of 21 and where visitors are not welcomed.
Play at your own risk.
"You have to be on your 'A' game and be ready to rock and roll," Weeden said Wednesday.
Or, get rocked and rolled — on national TV.
It's tough to play on the road in a normal week, but the Browns have only had two days to prepare for the Ravens (2-1), who are coming off a last-second win over New England on Sunday night. Baltimore has won eight straight over Cleveland under coach John Harbaugh and some of the Ravens have posted some of their best stats at the expense of the Browns.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has never lost to Cleveland, going 8-0 the past four seasons. Safety Ed Reed has more interceptions (10), return yards (356) and touchdowns on picks (three) versus the Browns than any other opponent, and running back Ray Rice has averaged 118.5 yards per game against Cleveland.
And when they're at home, the Ravens are a predatory bird.
"It's one of the steeper tests in the NFL when you talk about playing in Baltimore," Browns Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas said. "And it's a night game and on national TV, so the crowd is going to be that much louder and more into it. It's going to be difficult to hear in the huddle and on the line. Throw in a great defense and the Hall of Fame guys that they have and it adds up to a tough task."
There's no doubt that the odds are stacked high against the Browns, who are 13-point underdogs. But Richardson believes they can hold their own against an AFC North power.
"It's another ballgame for us," he said. "People say that we don't have a chance, but I know we've got a chance. If everybody straps up their jersey, step up their pads, we've still got a chance against them. I don't care what they say. Lot of folks sleep on us. When people fall asleep on us, that's when we come with our A-game."
Cleveland is coming off a C-minus performance last week against Buffalo.
After falling behind 14-0, the Browns rallied but came up short and lost their ninth straight game dating to last season. As the final seconds ticked off, thousands of Bills fans celebrated like they were back home in Orchard Park. Fortunately for the Browns, the short week has allowed them to move on quickly from a stinging defeat.
"Physically, guys are a little sore," Weeden said. "Mentally, it's nice because you want to play as fast as you can after a loss. If you win, you'd rather have some time off. If you lose that game it's nice to get out and play as soon as possible. Guys are eager to get back out and compete again."