Michael Pierce gets it, Ravens fans. Four years later, he’s still scarred by the 2019 season and the words “first-round bye.”

The Ravens were the NFL’s best team through the regular season. They won 12 straight games, earning a first-round bye. And then they welcomed the Tennessee Titans to M&T Bank Stadium and completely and utterly flopped in a 28-12 loss.

That’s not to mention that the Ravens fans who also root for the Orioles watched a magical, historic season come to a disappointing end when the team came out of a first-round bye and got swept by the Texas Rangers.

After the Ravens claimed the AFC’s top seed, secured home-field advantage and earned a first-round bye with their 56-19 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, Pierce acknowledged that earning the bye — before the last week of the season, allowing some players to sit out that game, too — has worked out poorly for this team in the past.

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But, for this specific squad, it’s so, so necessary.

Twelve Ravens spent time on the injury report in the week leading up to Week 17′s game against the Dolphins. Ahead of the game, three key players were declared inactive.

Then, during the game, the Ravens ...

Coach John Harbaugh did not offer injury updates after the game, but it’s clear Baltimore has many players dealing with lingering pains.

“Everybody’s banged up,” Queen said. “Just being able to get that bye is huge, really, to fully rest up.”

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The injuries aren’t a recent narrative for the Ravens. They started in Week 1 when they lost starting running back J.K. Dobbins (Achilles tendon) for the season — and then, when they finally found an answer in Keaton Mitchell (knee), they lost him, too. Veteran tight end Mark Andrews (ankle) is out for the regular season with a slim chance of returning in the postseason (he was also dealing with an ankle injury ahead of the game against the Titans in 2019). Those are some of the biggest injuries, but the list goes on.

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (3) catches a pass as Miami Dolphins cornerback Kader Kohou (4) tries to block during the second quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023.
Ravens wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. catches a pass against Miami Dolphins cornerback Kader Kohou during the second quarter. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

“All year, we’ve just been battling adversity of key players getting hurt for long periods of time,” fullback Patrick Ricard said. “And so many guys have stepped up and filled those roles and we’ve been not missing a beat. It’s how the season’s been going. It’s definitely helpful we got the first-round bye.”

There’s a lot to be said for maintaining momentum and staying sharp. But not a single player interviewed by The Banner said he’d prefer to play rather than rest.

The Ravens don’t need to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 18. They’ve already secured a playoff spot and the conference title. Harbaugh said they have not made decisions about who will play in that game. But it’s another chance to rest starters.

The memory of 2019 will stay with left tackle Ronnie Stanley “forever,” he said. But Stanley, who has been dealing with injuries through the majority of the season, said there were lessons from that disappointing end to a wonderful season. Ravens players are going to rest, of course, but they’re also going to keep working on their fundamentals and keep up with their mental preparation, he said.

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Pierce said he’s sure Harbaugh has something different planned for the layoff. Pierce also spoke to the team ahead of the Ravens’ trip to London about the disaster their previous overseas trip became. He said the organization learned from its mistakes and made changes to the structure of the week. The result, this year, was a 24-16 win over — guess who — the Tennessee Titans.

“We’re very aware of 2019,” Pierce said. “Different team, different year, obviously. But we are very aware, and nobody would like to repeat that. We’ll be working.”

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