Bill Belichick – for reasons other than ineligible receivers – is far from a stranger to the Baltimore Ravens.
And had he been retained as Cleveland Browns head coach after a 5-11 season in 1995, when owner Art Modell made the move to Baltimore, it’s conceivable to think that the next two decades of the NFL could have gone quite differently.
But the Ravens moved forward without the Annapolis native who grew up a Baltimore Colts fan, winning a pair of Super Bowls with members of Belichick’s old Cleveland cabinet, including Ozzie Newsome, who was first hired by Belichick as a special assignment scout in 1991 and ultimately worked his way up to Ravens general manager.
The Ravens, as it turned out, would become a familiar foe for Belichick’s eventual New England Patriots in the years to come. With four playoff encounters since January of 2010 – and two coming in the AFC Championship Game – it’s safe to say the organization still is.
Though as the two sides meet again for an 8:30 p.m. ET kickoff Monday night in Foxborough, it won’t be only Belichick and Newsome revisiting one another. And Baltimore defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who served as the Patriots’ linebackers coach during the 2004 and 2005 seasons before moving up to defensive coordinator from 2006 through 2009, is not the only other personnel connection.
Five ex-Patriots players once coached by Belichick also now reside with the Ravens, with two on the 53-man roster, one on the practice squad, and two on injured reserve.
No ex-Raven currently stands on the Patriots’ roster.
Ryan Mallett, quarterback – The strong-armed Michigan transfer arrived in Foxborough as a third-round pick out of Arkansas in 2011. Thenceforth, Mallett went on to spend three seasons with the Patriots, appearing in four games as Tom Brady’s backup to go 1-of-4 passing for 17 yards and an interception. In the months that followed the selection of Jimmy Garoppolo in 2014, however, Mallett’s tenure in New England came to an end. Late that August, the Patriots sent the 6-foot-6, 250-pound quarterback to the Houston Texans in exchange for a conditional draft pick, which ultimately became a seventh-rounder. Mallett started six of his nine games with Houston before being released in October of 2015. He signed with the Ravens two months later, and has appeared in four games for the organization since then, starting two and going 59-of-98 through the air for 575 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Kamar Aiken, wide receiver – After making stops with the Buffalo Bills and Chicago Bears, Aiken joined the Patriots’ practice squad in November of 2012. The former undrafted free agent out of Central Florida proceeded to have two stints on New England’s active roster that season, entering for one contest. But by August of 2013, Aiken’s time with the Patriots had run out. He’s found a home in Baltimore over the last four campaigns, however. Dating back to the start of 2014, he’s accumulated 123 receptions for 1,488 yards and eight touchdowns over 44 games.
Stephen Houston, running back – Houston, who re-signed to the Ravens’ practice squad on Wednesday, signed his first NFL contract with the Patriots as an undrafted rookie in 2014. The 6-foot, 225-pound Indiana product made his debut in the team’s preseason opener versus the Washington Redskins that August, yet was waived three days after rushing for seven yards and a fumble on three carries. Houston had a brief stay with Pittsburgh Steelers following his Patriots exit, but went on to spend time working as an assistant strength coach for Indiana men’s basketball team before returning to the NFL with Baltimore this summer.
Ben Watson, tight end – The Patriots called the names of two players in the first round of the 2004 draft. One was Miami defensive tackle Vince Wilfork; the other was Watson. The Georgia Bulldog went on to log six seasons with New England, snaring 165 passes for 2,086 yards over his final five after collecting a Super Bowl ring during his first. But Watson’s most iconic moment in a Patriots uniform did not end in a victory. The photo his tackle-halting touchdown on then-Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey’s 100-yard interception return in the 2005 divisional round earned a place on the wall inside Gillette Stadium. Watson, who left New England in 2010, caught a career-high 74 passes for 825 yards to go with six touchdowns last season with the New Orleans Saints. The 35-year-old now stands on Baltimore’s injured reserve after suffering a torn Achilles in August.
Kyle Arrington, cornerback – Entering the league as an undrafted free agent out of a now-defunct Hofstra program, Arrington bounced between the Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers before landing on the Patriots’ practice squad in 2009. He wasn’t long for that jurisdiction, though. After initially cutting his teeth on special teams, Arrington leaped into a starting cornerback gig in 2010. And by 2011, in a secondary of journeymen, the 5-foot-10, 186-pound defensive back finished tied for the NFL lead with seven interceptions. Arrington would go on to spend a total of six seasons with the Patriots, working between nickel and outside corner while accumulating nine picks, 48 passes defended, five forced fumbles, three sacks and a Super Bowl ring. He was released in May of 2014 and started four of his 15 games for the Ravens last season, but was placed on injured reserve due to a concussion before this season got underway.