Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst agrees.
You can't make this stuff up. It was like he wrote the script for Sunday night (8:15 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 5) and the Wild Card Game. Hurst, the Ravens' 2018 first-round draft they traded away, going against Baltimore at Paycor Stadium in the biggest game the AFC North rivals have ever played.
"I just have to go out and do my job. I can't be too hyped up against my former team," Hurst said after Thursday's practice. "They're a good club. We saw what they're about last Sunday and they're going to try and come in here and bully us a little bit and we just have to be prepared.
"It's the division. It's fast physical and you have to be ready."
Nothing personal, mind you.
He still talks frequently with tight ends Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle and fullback Patrick Ricard. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh saw Hurst after his team won the game in Baltimore back on Oct. 9 and said he was proud of him and offered good luck. Quarterback Lamar Jackson has also come by postgame and wished him well.
"There's chippiness and stuff said in the media, but there's a mutual respect," Hurst said. "It's a first class organization."
"I mean, for me it just came down to opportunity. Mark was playing and he should have been. The guy's All Pro for a reason. I wasn't getting many chances downfield and I asked if they could send me somewhere I'd have a chance to play and they did. It was just business."
It looks like all Jackson is going to be able to do is say hello Sunday after he tweeted Thursday his knee is unstable. With Tyler Huntley (throwing shoulder, wrist) limited again Thursday, the only thing standing between No. 3 Anthony Brown again and the Bengals may be a Willis Reed moment from Huntley if he tries to do what the old Knicks captain did and inspired his team in a long-ago NBA finals Game 7 playing hurt.
The Bengals seem oblivious to Baltimore's quarterback quandary and are focused on what Paycor is going to sound like for the first ever postseason game between Paul Brown's two teams since Ravens are the old Cleveland Browns.
Hurst agrees with Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow that the Monday night game that was cancelled against the Bills ten days ago was the most electric football venue he'd ever seen before Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest. Hurst should know. He was in the middle of it. The stats no longer exist, but he came out with two catches on the handful of plays, even trying to hurdle a defender.
"I came out of the gates pretty hot. I was feeling it. I blacked out during intros. I was feeling good," Hurst said. "I flip a switch, Wednesday through Saturday I'm pretty happy-go-lucky. Sundays I channel my demons and I get after people. It's fun. It was deafening. The crowd was into it. We just have to go out there with the same mentality."
The crowd wasn't like that Sunday and neither were the Bengals.
"We weren't sure if it mattered, didn't matter, the seedings and all that crap," Hurst said. "Sunday night we'll be ready."
There's no question that the fiery Hurst's energy and ability to make big catches has made him a fan favorite. Despite missing what amounted to four games, his 52 catches are the most by a Bengals tight end since Tyler Eifert's Pro Bowl year in 2015.
"I just don't see myself that way, putting myself on that pedestal. But I love playing here," said Hurst, who hopes to stay longer than his one-year deal. "My girlfriend loves it here, my family loves it here. I think I'm a fit for the city and the M.O. of this place.
"It's the most fun I've had since college," said Hurst, pointing to quarterback Joe Burrow and head coach Zac Taylor, as well as offensive coordinator Brian Callahan, tight ends coach James Casey and quarterbacks coach Dan Pitcher. "Joe gives me the confidence that I can be the tight end I know I'm capable of being. Zac, James, Pitch, Cali, all these guys are giving me confidence. Talking to me. How I see coverages or how I see certain routes or how Joe sees the timing of it. They believe in me that I can go win. I've never really had that before."
He can't black out during intros Sunday night. They're announcing the offense, he says.
"We'll be ready," he said.
JOLTIN' JOE: What a difference a Super Bowl run makes. A Paycor playoff game no longer means crushing pressure, but unmitigated joy for the possibility of another big night under the lights, a 'la the win over the Raiders in last year's Wild Card.
"Everybody wanted it. We still want it. We want it even more than we did last year and right now the theme around here is finish,' said running back Joe Mixon Thursday. "Finish the job. One week at a time. One day at a time. Make every day count. Come to work. Get ready to go and come Sunday you have to lay it all out on the line. Everything is at stake. One day at a time and everything will take care of itself."
And Mixon is convinced the Bengals and their starters, who have won 11 straight in December and January, know the moment.
"When the lights get bigger, we shine brighter. I feel like come Sunday night, prime time, everybody is going to be watching," Mixon said. "It's going to be a prime example for us to go out there and handle what we have to do. We're not going to make the game bigger than it is. Everybody knows what's at stake. We know them. They know us and we're going to go out there and do whatever we can to get that Dub. That's what it is."
Mixon got some blowback in Buffalo two weeks go before the game when he said the Bengals were the "big dogs," in the AFC. On Thursday, he stood by it and damn the bulletin boards.
"Whether it was the Bills, the Ravens, it could be bulletin board material for anybody. The facts is the facts. And when it comes down to it, we know when we take the field, there's nobody can touch us if we're on our game. So, we just got to go out there and take care of business. No other way around it," said Mixon, who hasn't heard objections from his teammates. "Man, they know what's going on. Everybody knows what's going on. No other way around it. You watch football, right? Everybody watches (us) around the league. When we are on our game, we can't be beat."
BROTHERS HILL: For the first time since Bengals safety Dax Hill's freshman year and Ravens running back Justice Hill's senior year at Tulsa's Booker T. Washington High School, the brothers were on the same field last Sunday.
Now a week later they're going to play against each other in an NFL playoff game. Their parents won't be here, but they came to last Sunday's game and the kids talked about the moment on the field after the game. Justice had seven carries for 34 yards and returned two kicks for 51 yards while Dax had two tackles on his five snaps from scrimmage.
"It was a fun week last week," Dax said. "We kind of talked about it. We know where we came from and how long it took to get to this point. It was fun to see him on the opposite side of the ball."
But Dax's tackle of Justice has yet to happen and Dax is torn. As a safety covering kicks, the only way he would tackle him is if Justice got loose on a good return because he spilled outside.
"Facts, facts, facts," Dax said.