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Redskins-Ravens Bragging Rights? No, It's Just Football

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The New York Jets always billed any game--preseason or regular season--with the New York Giants as "the battle for braggin' rights."

Weeb Ewbank, the Jets coach when they won their one and only Super Bowl in 1969, loved the thrill of the AFL upstarts unseating the venerated NFL team.

The old Houston Oilers and the Dallas Cowboys worked out a deal after a lawsuit that involved a player they both drafted--guard Ralph Neely. The Cowboys got the player but the Oilers got three preseason games starting in 1967 that gave birth to the Governor's Cup.

That competition continues today between the Cowboys and the Houston Texans, the expansion team that replaced the Oilers, who moved and became the Tennessee Titans.

Consider the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers. That's "The Battle of the Bay" whenever it falls on the schedule.

Then there's the Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens. Hmmm. Same NFC-AFC theme. Same type of geographic layout to create an "us versus them" mindset. The only thing missing is the passion, the heat, the bubbling ferment of dislike where familiarity breeds not only contempt but a rivalry.

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Andre Carter on the Redskins-Ravens:
"Not a blood rivalry. It's just not."
(Ned Dishman Photo)

The teams meet Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, playing in the preseason for the fifth time since 2003.

They also met during the 2008 season, with the Ravens winning 24-10. That victory served as a piece of their December playoff drive and part of the late slump that dropped the Redskins to 8-8 and last place in the NFC East.

With all of that said, understand that Thursday night's get-together is simply a preseason game. It should generate more light than heat.

No one at Redskins Park is foaming at the mouth about beating the bleeping Ravens and there's no sense of the same coming from Ravens' camp at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md.

"It's weird," says defensive end Andre Carter, a nine-year veteran in his fourth season with Washington. "You'd think there were would be a rivalry based on the distance between the two cities. In California, when I was with the 49ers, if we played Oakland it was a big deal, whether it was in the preseason or in the regular season. That was The Battle of the Bay. I don't even know what you would call this."

The Battle of the Beltways? For the bragging rights of I-95? Not much there.

Baltimore never took to the Redskins during those lean years after the Colts' 1984 clandestine exit for Indianapolis. Colts fans showed nothing but disdain for local coverage of the Redskins and hated having to watch Colts games televised from Indianapolis.

Attempts at landing an expansion team failed and for a while a CFL team, the Stallions, played in Baltimore and became the only United States-based team ever to win the Grey Cup in 1985.

Then the Browns bailed on Cleveland in 1996 for Baltimore and the promise of a new stadium and football enjoyed a rebirth in a city of so many legendary greats, John Unitas, John Mackey, Lenny Moore and Raymond Berry among them. That forced the Stallions to move to, ironically enough, Montreal, where they assumed the name of a previous historic franchise, the Alouettes.

Yet the only feud seemed to be between Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos and Washington baseball fans, who had come to accept the Orioles as a home-town team in the absence since 1971 of one they could call their own. With Angelos opposed to baseball in Washington because he had concerns about his fan base, Washingtonians expressed their ire. The Orioles' precipitous decline as a contender (10 years out of the playoffs and counting) only made it worse.


Angelos eventually relented and the Montreal Expos moved to Washington and became the Nationals. Neither the Orioles nor Nationals achieves much on the field or at the gate now and, as they play in different leagues, have little in the way of a rivalry.

"I've had a little taste of Baltimore but not enough to describe it," says Carter. "Washington is political, conservative. Baltimore seems more liberal and laid-back."

That's just not enough to stoke the fires.

The teams, competing as they do in different conferences and divisions with a different geographic bent, can't gin up much to hate about each other.

The Redskins' rivalry with the Dallas Cowboys highlights their schedule but every division game is meaningful and easily accessible by highway.

Baltimore has a tooth-and-nail relationship with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Cleveland, of course, hates the Ravens because they were once the Browns. The Ravens and Tennessee Titans, whom they knocked from the playoffs last January in their latest playoff punchout, cannot stand the sight of each other.

The Ravens and Redskins?

"Not a blood rivalry. It's just not," Carter says.

Let's take from Thursday night what we can then. We will watch Jason Campbell try to establish himself at quarterback behind a shaky offensive line facing a blitz-minded, quarterback-sacking defense. We will measure his poise, his confidence. We will watch some young receivers try to run their routes and help Campbell. We will watch kickers fighting for a job and a couple of budding young pass rushers in rookies Brian Orakpo and Jeremy Jarmon.

No braggin' rights at stake here. No deep-seated antipathy rooted in history. Just football.

Think of it as the Battle of the Beige.


Larry Weisman covered professional football for USA TODAY for 25 years and now joins the Redskins Broadcast Network and Redskins.com to bring his unique viewpoint and experience to Redskins fans. Go to Redskins.com for the Redskins Blitz column and NFL Blitz on Friday. Larry also appears on Redskins Nation, airing nightly on Comcast SportsNet, and on ESPN 980 AM radio.

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