With a season opening game against the Denver Broncos on Thursday, September 5th at Mile High Stadium, the Baltimore Ravens must treat the road like their new home as they did in their preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a 44 – 16 win. They also have some players who have something to prove after finding their way back to the team after being drafted by the Ravens, playing for the arch-nemesis Indianapolis Colts, or being hometown favorites living their dream. Today’s preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons will be a shot at proving there is no place like home.
Brandon Stokley, a veteran wide receiver, has signed a one-year deal to help the Ravens as a slot receiver to fill part of the gap for the season-ending injured Dennis Pitta and injured tight end Ed Dickson and wide receiver Deonte Thompson. Stokley was a fourth-round Ravens draft pick in 1999 who played for the Colts, Broncos, Seattle Seahawks, and New York Giants. He recorded his best season ever with the Baltimore-unfriendly team, Colts, in 2004 with 68 passes for 1077 years and 10 touchdowns. With 384 career receptions for 5,224 yards and 39 touchdowns under his belt, he had one of his best seasons in his second Broncos stint with famed quarterback Peyton Manning last year with 45 of those receptions and nine of those touchdowns. Best known in Ravens country for catching the first touchdown pass of the game in the 2000 Super Bowl Championship, Stokley undoubtedly is at home with this team.
Another former Colt, Dallas Clark, was also officially signed to a one-year deal on Tuesday, after the Ravens cut unsigned rookie safety Gary Walker. Clark played for the Buccaneers last season posting 47 passes for 435 yards and five touchdowns. A former Super Bowl XLI champion with the Colts, he caught a career-high 100 passes for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns. Clark has been brought in with Stokley as veterans to help fill the offensive injury gap, which should be an easy acclimation since he worked hard as a polished route runner in his career working with his former coach and offensive coordinator in Indianapolis, Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell.
Brandon Copeland, the undrafted rookie from The University of Pennsylvania, is a hometown favorite from Baltimore’s Gilman High School and Sykesville, MD native. Although facing an uphill battle to compete for an inside linebacker position after having played as a defensive lineman in college, Copeland put on an impressive show in his first NFL preseason game against Tampa Bay. He was featured on NFL.com with his one-handed fourth quarter juggling interception picked off Buccaneer third-string quarterback Adam Weber. The former three-time first-team All-Ivy Penn defensive end looks to compete even further with his hometown rallying for him.
The Ravens’ front office personnel has made some swift moves to rebuild their team and fill in the gaps where plausible. These three players appear to have been good choices and time will tell as they are welcomed home. Home is where the heart is and these three players will play tonight with lots of it – to stay and to win.