Denver • John Elway has been down this lonely road before, trudging through the tunnel in deafening silence after a stunning loss at home as the AFC's prohibitive Super Bowl favorite following a 13-3 regular season.
It happened to Elway the quarterback after the 1996 season when Denver lost to Jacksonville 30-27. It occurred again for Elway the executive in January when the Broncos were beaten 38-35 by Baltimore in the divisional round.
Elway rebounded the first time to win back-to-back Super Bowls. He said the pain of that pratfall against the Jaguars was the impetus to make them into champions.
"It was a great incentive for us to come back and have an even better year the following year," Elway said.
After engineering a $125 million offseason spending spree and acquiring wide receiver Wes Welker and massive right guard Louis Vasquez to help new center Manny Ramirez fend off the likes of Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata Elway is aiming for history to repeat itself after this latest heartbreak.
A few things to watch for as the Broncos kick off the season Thursday night against the champion Ravens:
• Safety Rahim Moore is out to make amends for the most memorable mistake in Denver's playoff loss, when he mistimed his jump on Joe Flacco's heave to Jacoby Jones.
"I haven't seen it from him one snap or one second where he's dwelled on that," Broncos secondary coach Cory Undlin said. "If anything, he's used it as motivation."
Veteran cornerback Champ Bailey appreciates Moore's accountability but noted there were plenty of goats in that game.
"He wasn't the guy that put us in that situation," Bailey said. "So, we've all got to own that one."
• For the first time in the Ravens' 18-year existence, Ray Lewis isn't manning middle linebacker. Daryl Smith, who signed a free agent deal in June, is the veteran replacement. He's a sure tackler entering his 10th season and could help provide some of the veteran presence the Ravens lost.
Smith was part of a Ravens defensive revamp as they also said goodbye to starters Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard, Paul Kruger and Cary Williams, and hello to Elvis Dumervil, Chris Canty, Marcus Spears and Michael Huff.
Around the league
Lions • Detroit acknowledged that rookie defensive lineman Ziggy Ansah is recovering from a concussion. Ansah, the No. 5 pick in this year's draft from BYU, did not travel for the team's preseason finale at Buffalo last week. He was believed to have hurt his head after colliding with a teammate in practice Aug. 24. Coach Jim Schwartz wouldn't give any details on Ansah's status Wednesday, but he was listed with a concussion on the team's official injury report later in the day.
Jets • Rookie quarterback Geno Smith will start for New York in the opener at home Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The team finally confirmed what had been expected since Mark Sanchez injured his right shoulder in a preseason game against the Giants on Aug. 24.
Patriots • Rob Gronkowski is making steady progress from his forearm and back operations. Now he just has to get back into football condition. The star tight end isn't saying if he expects to play in New England's opener Sunday at Buffalo, but he's noticeably skinnier after cutting back on his usual workouts while recovering.
Week 1 schedule
Baltimore at Denver, 6:30 p.m., Ch. 5
Atlanta at New Orleans, 11 a.m.
Cincinnati at Chicago, 11 a.m., Ch. 2
New England at Buffalo, 11 a.m.
Tennessee at Pittsburgh, 11 a.m.
Tampa Bay at N.Y. Jets, 11 a.m.
Kansas City at Jacksonville, 11 a.m.
Seattle at Carolina, 11 a.m., Ch. 13
Miami at Cleveland, 11 a.m.
Minnesota at Detroit, 11 a.m.
Oakland at Indianapolis, 11 a.m.
Green Bay at San Francisco, 2:25 p.m., Ch. 13
Arizona at St. Louis, 2:25 p.m.
N.Y. Giants at Dallas, 6:30 p.m., Ch. 5
Philadelphia at Washington, 5:10 p.m., ESPN
Houston at San Diego, 8:20 p.m., ESPN