Baltimore Ravens, unfamiliar opponent for most Chicago Bears, represent homecoming for a few

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Most Chicago Bears players don’t have much first-hand knowledge about the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday’s opponent. But Baltimore is pretty close to the hearts of a few players.

Pernell McPhee was a Raven the first four years of his career. Safety Adrian Amos and cornerback Kyle Fuller both grew up in Baltimore. And running back Taquan Mizzell, who arrived to the Bears shortly before the start of the season, was in training camp with the Ravens.

For McPhee, he will return to his first NFL city — where he played 60 games with the Ravens from 2011 to 2014 — at a flashpoint in his career. Although McPhee has had a hard time staying healthy, he has been a bigger factor of late, with sacks in Weeks 3 and 4. McPhee also turned in a 45-snap performance (his first start of the season) in Week 5 against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday, but his performance was uneven.

As for whether there are any weird feelings about facing the Ravens, who did not first offer him a contract before he signed with the Bears in 2015, McPhee made an interesting relationship analogy.

“Would you feel some type of way if you got married and your wife leaves you?” McPhee asked rhetorically on Thursday. “I don’t know, it was just a relationship … just like you got a [new] girlfriend. They leave you sometimes, you know what I am saying? It is what it is.

“I’m just very thankful [Ravens GM] Ozzie Newsome and [head coach] John Harbaugh gave me a chance to become a Raven.”

Amos still considers Charm City his home. He and Kyle Fuller were high-school rivals, playing against each other in games and in 7-on-7 tournaments in the area. They were casual friends, Amos said, prior to becoming teammates in Chicago. Now, they’re very close, with their lockers next to each other.

Amos said he goes back to Baltimore “as soon as January hits” at the end of every season and expects to have “around 40” friends and family members in the stands when Ravens-Bears kicks off at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Amos admitted that a few of them might be rooting against the Bears — with a catch, however.

“Some of them are diehard Ravens fans,” he said, “but they’re going in Bears stuff … or they can’t go.”

Amos has played on the M&T Bank Stadium field multiple times in high school, usually on Thanksgiving Day, but this will be his first game there against the Ravens, the team he grew up watching. As for getting everyone tickets, Amos did his best to manage the slew of requests for this week.

“Well, we handled it,” he said with a smile. (H. Rick Bamman - hbamman@shawmedia.com)

The bigger issues for the Bears defensively are not handling ticket requests or planning trips to the local crabcake hot spots. It’s about solving an issue that’s going on two seasons now: forcing turnovers. The Bears have three takeaways in five games this season, which is dead last in the NFL. This is coming off a 2016 season in which the Bears forced a franchise-low 11 turnovers. (H. Rick Bamman - hbamman@shawmedia.com)

Amos had a great chance at an interception in his first start of the season Monday night. “We just haven’t caught the ball,” he said. “We just have to find more ways to make more plays and catch the ball when we have the opportunity.”

The Ravens’ offense has been hot and cold this season, but they’re coming off a big road victory over the Oakland Raiders and are returning to Baltimore, where they annually take care of business. The Ravens are 55-19 at home under Harbaugh and an impressive 24-4 against NFC teams. The Bears have never beaten the Ravens in Baltimore in the Ravens’ 21-year existence.

“It’s a tough place to play,” Amos said. “It’s a football town. They live [for] their football, live and breathe it. It’s fun going back, I love going there, but we know it’s going to be tough going in there for this game.”

Pro Football Weekly