BEREA, Ohio (AP) — When the Ravens and Browns last met, the spit hit the big man.
Phil Taylor, Cleveland's massive defensive tackle, accused Baltimore running back Ray Rice of spitting in his face during the opening minutes of the Ravens' 14-6 win over the Browns on Sept. 15. The "incident" set the tone in another physical game between the AFC North rivals, who haven't exchanged Christmas cards for years.
Rice explained this week that he was only "jawing" at Taylor and didn't intend to send anything other than some choice words in his direction. He even complimented Taylor on being "a great, young player."
Browns safety T.J. Ward thought that was a good idea.
"I don't see any reason why you'd want to give Phil Taylor any extra motivation," Ward said. "I'm sure he's going to be on his 'A' game this week."
All of Cleveland's players need to be at their best Sunday if the Browns (3-5) intend to snap an 11-game losing streak against the Ravens.
Baltimore, coming off a bye week, has owned Cleveland for the past five seasons and first-year coach Rob Chudzinski said it's time for his team to push back against one of the rugged division's bad boys — the defending Super Bowl champions.
"We've been the kid brother for a while, and we need to stand up in this division and do the things that we need to do."
As for the "exchange" between Rice and Taylor earlier this season, both players spent as little time as possible reviewing what happened on the second play from scrimmage in Week 2.
After he was thrown for a three-yard loss, Rice jumped to his feet and immediately began yelling in the direction of Taylor, who returned the verbal fire. As words flew, some did some fluid and Taylor responded by slapping Rice on the side of the helmet and drawing a 15-yard personal foul.
Rice's version is that it was an accident.
"We were two guys jawing at each other, and I had my mouthpiece in, so when I went to say something back to him, it looked as if I projected towards him," Rice said. "But I had my mouthpiece in, I was saying something, he was saying something, and then, obviously, that's what happened. We'll leave that at that."
Taylor didn't want to reminisce about the altercation.
"It is what it is," said the 6-foot-3, 335-pounder. "So we're both moving on from it and getting ready for this game."
Browns running back Willis McGahee, who spent four seasons with the Ravens, was unaware of the Rice-Taylor situation because he hadn't signed with Cleveland yet.
McGahee always expects some trash talking, minus other projectiles from the mouth.
"I didn't know anything about that," McGahee said. "Well, that's a different story when you're exchanging body fluids. Yeah, that's tough."
Taylor, who is having a solid third season for Cleveland, expects the Ravens to try and rattle him again. This time, he knows he can't take the bait.
"Yeah, I mean they are going to try stuff, try to get under my skin but that's what every team does," he said. "They try and draw the penalty or whatever, so just go out there and play my game and we will come out victorious."
One of Cleveland's most fiery players, it's not beyond to Taylor pick a fight. But he knows he's has to be careful not to take things too far or risk getting a potentially costly penalty. He won't back down, but he's not going into the game looking to instigate anything either.
"I mean I am not saying spit on me or anything like that," he said. "I play with a lot of intensity and passion and so does everybody else. So, we are just going to go out there and play hard. Just got to keep your cool in certain situations. I apologized to my team for getting a penalty. I play with a lot of passion and a lot of people can respect that."
Cleveland's defense is hoping to build off a strong second half in Kansas City last week, when the Browns held the Chiefs to 50 yards and three points.
Cornerback Joe Haden said the Browns aren't going to let anyone push them around.
"We come up there and we do the talking," Haden said. "It's not about anybody else coming in and trying to punk you. Our defensive mind frame is, 'No, we're going to be the bullies,' and you can't talk trash to a bully."
NOTES: Chudzinski said WR Davone Bess and newly signed WR Armanti Edwards are both options to return punts Sunday. Bess fumbled a punt in the fourth quarter last week that was recovered by the Chiefs, costing the Browns a chance to possibly tie the game or take the lead. ... Haden said Cleveland's coaches ripped into the Browns defense at halftime last week. "Really it was a matter of telling guys to step up, and we needed them to do their job," Chudzinski said. "That's really the gist of the message from last week at halftime. It was a time that we needed that."
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