Ravens' Chris Canty hard at work in Baltimore
It is a few minutes after another arduous practice in searing heat and humidity, and sweat pours down from Chris Canty's face as he walks toward the Ravens' locker room. He is happy the workday has finally concluded. Exhausted, but happy.
"This is one of the hardest- working football teams I've ever been around," said the 6-7 defensive end, who has joined the defending Super Bowl champions after a four-year run with the Giants. "This rivals those Bill Parcells training camp practices when I was in Dallas, when we'd have eight straight two-a-days. It feels like we've had two-a-days here, and we've only had one practice every day."
At age 30 and in search of another Super Bowl ring to go with the one he earned with the Giants after the 2011 season, Canty knows this is all part of the process. He is a willing participant in coach John Harbaugh's demanding practice regimen. Even if there are days -- like this one -- that are tougher than others.
"It hurts now," Canty said, "but it's so you can hurt people on game day. It's a schedule that's designed to make us feel uncomfortable. Coach wants us to have battle-hardened guys. He wants to have a tough football team. This kind of rigorous work produces that kind of football team. I think it will bode well for us in the long run."
Canty joins the Ravens at a challenging time, especially for the defense. With linebacker Ray Lewis retired and safety Ed Reed and linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger gone as free agents, Canty is part of an evolving roster that faces a tough task in attempting a rare Super Bowl repeat. But from what he has seen, Canty is optimistic.
"Every year, you have to build your team anew, and we have a lot of new faces around here, a lot of young guys, a lot of young talent, but we've also got some veteran guys who have been around the block," said Canty, who will play defensive end in a 3-4 alignment after playing tackle in the Giants' 4-3. "Everybody recognizes that this is a tremendous opportunity, and we want to take advantage of it. That's why this football team has committed itself to working hard for one another and working toward the ultimate goal."
That, of course, would be an appearance Feb. 2 in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium. Does Canty, who grew up in the Bronx and continues to call New York home, dare dream of a showdown against his old team in his old stadium?
You better believe he does.
"I would love for that to be the case. Love it," Canty said, breaking into a huge grin. "I'd relish it. My hometown. Are you kidding me? I mean, there's a lot of work to be done between now and then, so I don't even want to start talking about that. But it would be an awesome opportunity."
Both teams harbor legitimate championship dreams, especially the Ravens, who come off a stirring postseason run in Lewis' final NFL season. They got that far partly on Lewis' raw energy, but mostly on Joe Flacco's passing, as he matured into an elite quarterback and showed any remaining skeptics they were wrong. Canty was not one of those, however. He now holds Flacco in even higher regard than Eli Manning.
Canty took some heat a few weeks back when he made that comparison, but he explained in greater detail why he made the comments.
"Everybody criticized me for saying that, but when you look at Joe, you have to look beyond the numbers," Canty said, his voice beginning to rise. "
Joe gives you an opportunity to win each and every year. He's made it to [at least] the divisional playoffs each year he's been in the league. I mean, as a veteran player, all you want is a shot.
"This will be my ninth year, and I've been in the playoffs three times," he said. "Joe has been in the playoffs every year since he's been a pro. He gives you a chance to win, and you gotta love that."
Come to think of it, Canty sees a little bit of Eli in Flacco."It reminds me of that time when Eli began to come into his own [in 2007], before he took that step to becoming an elite quarterback, before he had all the fourth-quarter comebacks.
"Eli stumbled through a little bit when he was younger, but then he started getting the hang of it. Then he won a championship and then you started to see the evolution of him as a quarterback and as a leader. I see some similarities in those steps in that process for Joe. He's at that stage where he's taken his game to the next level and it's enjoyable to just watch."
Now Canty gets to watch Flacco every day in practice, and he marvels at his talent.
"When you see greatness, when you see a quarterback on the doorstep of greatness, it's unbelievable," Canty said. "It's one of the best things in pro sports."It's one of the main reasons Canty is here, pouring his sweat into a team he believes will give him a chance at another ring. And maybe, just maybe, a chance to win it against his old team in his hometown.