BALTIMORE, Md. - For Mia Palacio, it doesn't matter that the Ravens are only playing a preseason game tonight when they host the Atlanta Falcons at M&T Bank Stadium.
She's just happy to get to see the defending Super Bowl champions play in person. Tonight's game represents the first game Palacio has ever attended; a milestone she appreciates even more given that she traveled from Alaska to see her favorite team play.
"This is just so exciting to see all of these players up close and personal, even if it is just the preseason," said Palacio, 18. "Football is football."
That was the mindset of many Ravens fans tailgating before the game. The contest marks the team's first home game since winning the Super Bowl in February. Many of those turned out said this day could not have come soon enough.
That was the case for Bill Hudson, Palacio's grandfather. The York, Pa. resident said in a game like this, he's not as concerned with the final score as he is seeing how individual players perform, ranging from the starters to the fringe players who are trying to make a positive impact and secure a spot on the final 53-man roster.
Fellow Ravens fans Dan Williams, Mike Cataneo and Paul Kuhn agree. The trio couldn't contain their excitement in offering their outlook on the season. All three were especially intrigued at watching the defense, which will be starting its first season in franchise history without linebacker Ray Lewis, who retired after last season.
"I've been waiting for this day since I left the Super Bowl," said Cataneo, of Reisterstown. "It's going to be a challenge, but I believe they can compete for the AFC North title again."
Members of Ravens Roost 8 share that optimism. While the Essex-based organization did voice their frustration over the NFL's new restrictive bag policy , that did not dim their hopes for the Ravens play on the field.
Longtime Ravens Roost member Barbara Rogers said anything is possible in the NFL.
"Who would have thought we would have won it all last year?" Rogers said. "I mean we had all of those injuries and then we lost four of our last five games and we still won the Super Bowl. I think this team is actually better than that team."