BALTIMORE — The Redskins and Ravens have more important goals Saturday night than bragging rights in a tepid rivalry.
These teams don’t have a whole lot of familiarity with each other. Not much hatred, either. Especially in August.
“The main thing is, it’s our third preseason game and we’re really looking at ourselves,” Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. “You don’t concern yourself with your opponent so much in the preseason, in terms of game-planning or scheming.”
The Redskins and Ravens play at home 32 miles apart in Maryland. In spite of that proximity, the franchises are worlds apart.
One’s in the NFC, the other AFC. They operate within different Beltways. They run into each other during the regular season once every four years.
So this isn’t Pittsburgh-Baltimore or Philadelphia-Washington. Not even close.
“We’d love for all the Redskins fans to have their AFC team be the Ravens, to have that kind of a regional feeling about one another,” Harbaugh said. “That would be the best thing.”
It’s hard to imagine that ever happening. Should Washington and Baltimore meet in the Super Bowl one day, the sides would be clearly divided and the stakes would be high.
In this preseason encounter, the lone objective for each team is to simply play better than in its last outing.
“If we blow them out, it doesn’t mean we’re going to win the Super Bowl,” Redskins safety Ryan Clark said. “If they blow us out, it doesn’t mean we’ll go 0-16. But it’s a game to get guys on the grass and gives us an opportunity to get some good film.”
Harbaugh says his starters will likely play at least a half. Redskins first-year coach Jay Gruden appeared to have a similar plan.
“Most likely it’ll be halftime,” Gruden said. “My plan is hopefully get a good solid half out of them. Depends on how many plays. If the offense doesn’t have as many plays as the defense or vice versa, one group might come out for the third quarter.”
The Ravens (2-0) are looking for another strong showing by an offense that has thus far embraced the playbook of first-year coordinator Gary Kubiak. Baltimore is averaging 194 yards rushing per game and has scored 60 points in wins over San Francisco and Dallas.
The yards or points won’t come easily against Washington.
“Every game is a test. That’s what it is, to put it kind of formally,” Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said. “We want to go out there and play well and have the confidence to go into the regular season feeling like we’re ready to go.”
There’s still one preseason game left for each team after this one, but the starters will likely sit that one out. So this will serve as a final dress rehearsal.
Even though he’s 34, Clark knows the importance of this game.
“I definitely need it,” he said. “Every year you come out and you try to figure out, ‘Can you still play football?’ I always wonder every time we start an OTA practice, ‘Will I forget how to play?’ So this is definitely important for us.”
Gruden anticipates quarterback Robert Griffin III being effective and mobile while avoiding the temptation of straying from the pocket. If Griffin doesn’t emerge from this game healthy, the Redskins’ season could be a disaster.
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