For the past decade, the defending Super Bowl champions kick off the season at home in a midweek prime-time game. That tradition will come to an end because of a scheduling conflict with Major League Baseball.
The Baltimore Ravens announced they will open the season on the road on Thursday, Sept. 5, because they couldn't get the Orioles to reschedule a game against the White Sox for that same night.
The Ravens become the first defending Super Bowl champions to open on the road since 2003, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers started the season at Philadelphia on "Monday Night Football."
"After thorough discussions among the Orioles, the NFL and the Ravens, it became clear that holding both an Orioles' game and the Ravens' regular season opener on the same day would create logistical situations that would cause serious issues for the city of Baltimore, and fans for both teams," Ravens president Dick Cass said in a statement. "The Ravens greatly appreciate the willingness of the Orioles to adjust the start of their game in an effort to make this sports spectacular happen. But, in the end, anticipated problems with parking, rush-hour traffic, plus crowd and car congestion around Oriole Park and M&T Bank Stadium, will keep the doubleheader from taking place."
This is just the latest disappointment for the Ravens this offseason. Just 47 days after hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy, the Ravens have said goodbye to seven starters from that Super Bowl championship team, including surefire Hall of Fame players Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.
Based on the Orioles' schedule, the only way the Ravens could've opened the season at home was to play Sunday night. But coach John Harbaugh said he preferred to play on the road Thursday night because of the extra rest it provides going into Week 2.
"From a football standpoint, that’s a plus, and you feel like you’ve earned that," Harbaugh said this week at the NFL owners meetings. "That’s something that is an opportunity to gain a little more rest time for your guys. You know, last year, we played four games in 18 days because we opened up on Monday night and then the fourth game was on Thursday. That was tough. I’m not sure that, physically, we ever completely recovered from that throughout the course of the season. It is a benefit playing on Thursday."
The Ravens' road opponents for 2013 are: Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Buffalo, Miami, Chicago, Detroit and Denver.
The Ravens would likely object to playing at a division rival such as the Steelers to open the season. The most likely season-opening opponent is the Broncos, which would be a rematch of last season's epic playoff game.
Below is a statement from NFL senior vice president of communications Greg Aiello regarding the attempts to allow the Ravens to open their season at home on Sept. 5:
“While we are disappointed for the fans in Baltimore, we appreciate the efforts of the Ravens, Orioles and Major League Baseball and understand the logistical problems in trying to schedule the teams on the same day. The Ravens will open the season on the road on Thursday night, September 5, in our annual NFL Kickoff Game on NBC. We are exploring potential fan activities in Baltimore around the Kickoff Game, including a pre-game concert.”