Patriots’ Matt Judon, Carl Davis recall rivalry as ex-Ravens: ‘It was a lot of hate’

FOXBORO — In a team meeting before the Patriots’ last game against the Ravens, Bill Belichick ran down Baltimore’s roster describing its strengths and weaknesses, playing style and players of note.

Then, he stopped at Matt Judon.

“This guy is a problem,” Belichick declared.

Judon had to be blocked, he added. Every snap. That was step one for an undermanned Patriots offense preparing to bully the physical and favored Ravens in mid-November 2020.

Later that week, Judon escaped Patriots blockers often enough to tally three tackles, including two for a loss, and one sack. But the Pats escaped with something more: a 23-17 upset amid monsoon-like rains.

This week, Judon has been in the meeting room while Belichick presents on his old team. He insists, though, facing the Ravens means nothing more than any other Sunday.

“It’s just another game, honestly,” Judon said. “If we win or if we lose, we just get one win, we just get one loss. I want to win. I want to win every game. But it’s no bad blood. It was all business.”

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Patriots defensive tackle Carl Davis, who started his career in Baltimore from 2015-17, isn’t exactly in the same camp. Davis remembers the healthy hate that used to flow between the two franchises, how former Ravens pass rusher Terrell Suggs stoked that hate in him, even while Davis sat on injured reserve for a regular-season meeting in 2016.

“When I was down there, there was a lot of talk about, hey, this is New England. It was a lot of hate. … (Suggs) let you know what it was about,” Davis said. “You could feel that energy. So I know what it’s like there, I know what they’re saying down there.”

Davis explained that Suggs’ animosity, which needed no explanation in the heat of the rivalry from 2009-2015, stemmed from recent playoff losses. To Suggs, the Patriots were the single greatest obstacle in Baltimore’s way to forging its own dynasty. Instead, the Pats rebooted their own with what Davis described as a similar “championship mindset.”

“Both teams won Super Bowls before. It was, ‘we want to be the top dog,’” he said. “And for so long for them, it was (the Patriots) keeping them away from multiple Super Bowls. But there’s definitely mutual respect.”

Davis also remembers the moment Belichick shouted Judon out in the 2020 team meeting. He chuckled to himself. Davis and Judon go way back, even before they were teammates in Baltimore from 2016-17.  As a college freshman, Judon roomed with one of Davis’ best high school friends at Grand Valley State.

On Thursday, wearing a Grand Valley State sweatshirt at his scheduled press conference, Judon offered his own recollection of what it was like preparing to face the Patriots in the past.

“You knew who you were playing,” Judon said. “You knew the legacy, and you knew all the culture and the tradition that the Patriots have. And I think it’s kind of vice versa. You understand who the Ravens are.”

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Who the Ravens are is how Judon later explained his seamless transition into the Pats’ locker room. His time in Baltimore was not unlike what he experiences day to day in Foxboro: accepting teammates, a demanding style of football and, as he described it, a “winning culture.”

“I think the locker room and the guys that were in that locker room and just the characters that they had, that kind of translates in here,” Judon said. “It’s just the guys in the locker room that are willing to accept you.”

This week, Baltimore is again slated as a road favorite at Gillette. The Ravens are 1-1 behind a leveled-up Lamar Jackson, who leads the league averaging 14 yards per completion. His career numbers in two meetings with the Patriots are also impressive: a 72% completion percentage, 412 yards, three touchdowns, one interception, 116 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns.

The Patriots must pressure Jackson to beat Baltimore. Jackson, as much as Judon ever was, is the problem now. Solving him starts with Judon, who may not draw from the same healthy hate that Suggs, a mentor, once did, but certainly other aspects of his game.

Now, it’s time to apply those same lessons on the side.