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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — There will be a familiar face on the other side of the field when guard/tackle Marshal Yanda of Anamosa begins his 10th NFL season on Sunday with the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens will begin the season at home against the Buffalo Bills and quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who was drafted by the Ravens in 2011 and was in Baltimore for four years as a backup to starter Joe Flacco.
“Everyone in this building is happy for Tyrod,” said Yanda, standing in a hallway at the Under Armour Performance Center after an early afternoon practice Thursday. “When he was here with the Ravens he did things the right way. He knew he was entrenched as a backup. He was a great guy. We respect the hell out of him.”
Taylor, a former Virginia Tech standout, became an All-Pro quarterback with the Bills.
“My emotions are high for this game,” Taylor told reporters Wednesday. “I’m excited, just as everyone else is on our team, for Week 1. As a rookie, a guy coming out of college, getting a chance to play there (in Baltimore), I’m definitely thankful for the opportunity.”
Yanda, a Pro Bowler from 2011-15, and the Ravens have their own concerns on offense. Flacco, who led the team to a Super Bowl win in 2012, missed several games last year with a knee injury and the Ravens ended up 5-11.
It was just the second time in eight years under head coach John Harbaugh that Baltimore did not make the playoffs. Having a healthy Flacco could help the Ravens contend in the AFC North with the Pittsburgh Steelers, their bitter rivals.
“It was tough to get a gauge the first two preseason games,” Yanda said. “I don’t think (Flacco) missed a snap in practice. He had a good camp; the first two games he was not out there. Joe has played a lot of football. It doesn’t take as long when the players are more experienced” to get ready for the season.
So what does the Ravens offense need to do to help the team get back to the playoffs?
“I just feel as an offense we have to care of the football,” Yanda said. “Ball security is number one; we can’t turn over the football. We have to make plays. Last year we did not make enough plays. We have been working hard in training camp. We are excited about putting our best foot forward on Sunday.”
Flacco will return to action nearly one year after he last played in a regular-season game.
“I’m really excited. It’s been a long (time). It’s been almost a year,” Flacco said. “It feels like it has been. It was definitely a tough process to watch all of your teammates go out there and play. I’m really excited about getting back out there, feeling a part of the group and really getting after it.”
Yanda, who turns 32 on Sept. 15, knows the Bills defense will be aggressive under head coach Rex Ryan, the former defensive coordinator for the Ravens.
“They are going to try and blitz you,” Yanda said. “Sometimes they bring more than we can block. They get after the quarterback on third down. That is typical of Rex.”
Yanda worked out again this summer at the University of Iowa, his alma mater, with several other NFL players who played for the Hawkeyes, including Matt Tobin.
Yanda hopes to play in the NFL as long as he can.
“In this business you take it day to day. Things can happen so fast with performance and injuries,” he said. “You just take it day-to-day. The years roll by. I still love the game. I want to play at a high level. If I can’t be out here at a high level I don’t want to play.”
l David Driver is a freelance writer in Maryland who can be reached at www.davidsdriver.com