The Browns and Ravens have an intertwined history with running backs in recent years.
After spending six seasons in Baltimore, Jamal Lewis signed with the Browns in 2007. Former Ravens running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery came to Cleveland as part of Mike Pettine's coaching staff over the offseason. Then, the Browns traded up in the third round of the NFL Draft to select Terrance West, a Maryland native the Ravens hoped to draft.
Initially, West seemed disgruntled that the Ravens couldn't bring him home in the draft. But West quickly warmed to the idea of being a Brown.
West will have his chance to play against the Ravens on Sunday, as the former Towson Tiger will continue to be the feature back during Ben Tate's absence.
In a conference call with reporters this week, West said that he is past the point of thinking about playing near his old stomping grounds. It's simply business as usual for the rookie.
For the Ravens, it's anything but. The team, along with the NFL, has endured a hailstorm of criticism for its handling of the Ray Rice controversy. The Ravens subsequently released Rice, the second leading rusher in franchise history.
The move leaves a big gap in the Ravens backfield. Bernard Pierce and Justin Forsett, who will split the carries, and make a serviceable duo. But the Ravens could certainly use West right about now, as Ravens head coach John Harbaugh hinted at.
"Terrance [West] is a guy we really liked, as you know. We had designs on him in the draft, certainly, and Cleveland jumped up there and got him and he has not disappointed," Harbaugh said. "He has really played downhill. [He is a] hard runner make-you-miss type back [who] understands the scheme they're running really well."
The Browns also have rookie Isaiah Crowell as a change of pace back, giving the team a very good ground game.
"They have two rookie running backs who are playing extremely well," Harbaugh said. "[Isaiah] Crowell is doing a great job, too. [He is] another guy we liked on tape. So, they have some young, strong backs in there. They're doing a nice job."
The Browns' success on the ground can be attributed in part to two other men with Ravens connections, Wilbert Montgomery and Andy Moeller.
Just as they did in Baltimore, Montgomery is the Browns' running backs coach, while Moeller is the team's offensive line coach. Both coaches have helped the Cleveland offense become a force to be reckoned with.
"I was fortunate enough to have worked with not just Wilbert, but with Andy for a year," Pettine said. "It was on John [Harbaugh]'s staff. His first year, Wilbert was the running backs coach and Andy was the offensive line coach. I got to know those guys really well.
"I was a little bit star struck when I first met Wilbert," Pettine continued. "I grew up an Eagles fan. I had a big poster of him. I had a Wilbert poster and a Farrah Fawcett [poster] in my room. I mean, my hands were shaking when I met him. He's Wilbert Montgomery. Being an Eagles fan, that was special. I learned very quickly just what a good football coach he is. He's passionate. He's tough. I think you need at least one guy like that. Fortunately for us, Andy brings a lot of that mentality, too. It was really a no-brainer to hire both of them."
Hopefully for the Browns, the team's Baltimore connection helps win Sunday's game against a familiar foe in the Ravens.