Thur., Oct. 16: Cameron Takes Blame But Keeps Focus
By Joe Platania
Thursday, October 16, 2008
OWINGS MILLS -- In a quarter-century of coaching highlights, Malcolm 'Cam' Cameron's only season of head-coaching experience was nothing short of an unmitigated disaster.
Last year, Cameron -- now the Ravens' offensive coordinator -- oversaw a Miami Dolphins team that began the 2007 season with 13 straight losses and finished 1-15.
The Dolphins, a proud franchise with the league's only undefeated season in its 89-year history and the NFL's best win percentage since the merger, finished 28th in total offense and 23rd in total defense.
Miami, the Ravens' opponents this Sunday, lost six times last year by three points, once by seven and twice by ten. However, that also means they were on the short end of a half-dozen blowout defeats.
Many times in sports, coaches are pigeonholed into certain roles.
For example, there are times when an unsuccessful baseball manager is seen as being a better pitching coach (Ray Miller, et al).
Yet, as Cameron -- one of the league's most respected offensive minds -- and the rest of the Ravens prepare to face the Dolphins this Sunday, he was asked if he would do it all again.
Cameron paused for several seconds before answering.
He finally did so in a wistful way that spoke volumes about where he's been and where he is.
"I've always approached that (question) with a sole focus on what I'm being asked to do," Cameron said Thursday morning. "I'm going to do the best job I can as a Baltimore Raven and help the Baltimore Ravens win a championship, if not more.
"This being said, I understand now more than ever why guys have left here and gone on to be head coaches. It's because the experience they are afforded here with the owner, the general manager and the people in this organization prepares guys to be head coaches like no place I've been."
For Cameron, the longing to succeed in a top job is still apparent, yet whenever anyone works in the Ravens' organization, they are trained to maintain a single-minded focus on the game ahead.
That focus -- and Cameron's not-too-distant past -- came into focus this week a lot more sharply than some would like.
Head coach John Harbaugh defended Cameron's work with the Dolphins in a way that appeared to denigrate the players Cameron had on his roster at the time (see "Dolphin Doings", below).
Asked to respond to the Dolphins' pointed criticism, Cameron tackled it head-on as he answered the media's questions on that and other subjects for what is believed to be a record 20 minutes, much longer than any press conference any player or coach has ever held in Ravens history.
"What I have to say to that is pretty simple: I take full responsibility for what took place down there," Cameron said. "I've never put it anywhere else, I put it on my shoulders. With that being said, I think things happen for a reason and I'm thrilled to be here in Baltimore.
"It's a tough business. If you're in this business long enough, you're going to be on more than one team, either as a coach or a player... If you can be responsible for your actions and what you do, you can go on and still do great things."
JOEY P'S TRIVIA TIME: While there may be no prizes in it for you, Trivia Time is just another way we at PressBox are whetting your appetite (and ours) for the game to come.
The answer will come towards the end of the column.
"Monday Night Football" is still the longest continuously-running prime-time entertainment series in television history. It will air its 600th game this coming Monday when New England takes on Denver.
The closest any Baltimore team has come to playing in any MNF milestone game was when the 1970 Colts lost a home game to the Kansas City Chiefs in the second-ever Monday night showcase.
In fact, the Baltimore Colts and Ravens haven't appeared all that often on MNF through the years.
How many MNF appearances have those teams made and what are their records?
INJURY, PRACTICE REPORT: The week's first two padded practices have been about getting the "next men up" ready to play.
That means Ed Reed and Mark Clayton have been fielding punts with Yamon Figurs (left knee bruise) questionable, and Chris Chester is likely slated to be the right guard in the absence of Marshal Yanda (knee ligament tears), who is out for the season.
Former Cincinnati Bengals right tackle Willie Anderson, signed just before the regular season began, has played in four of five games with one start at his old position.
Anderson will be the right-side mainstay again with Adam Terry sidelined with a knee sprain. Terry had his knee wrapped in the locker room before Thursday's practice.
In fact, Terry and Figurs missed a second consecutive practice and were joined on the sidelines by safety Ed Reed (hamstring).
The Anderson/Chester moves indicate that center Jason Brown will not be moved to one of the guard spots.
Brown, a three-year starter at center while at North Carolina, played plenty at left guard behind Edwin Mulitalo, then took over the starting job when Mulitalo left for the Detroit Lions via unrestricted free agency.
There appears to be little concern about the offensive line's left side, particularly tackle Jared Gaither (shoulder, knee), who has seen limited practice time.
Wideout Demetrius Williams (ankle) appeared to be moving without much discomfort and practiced on a limited basis.
In the secondary, cornerback Fabian Washington and safety Tom Zbikowski, both battling shoulder injuries, are still undetermined for Sunday, but both at least were able to perform limited reps.
ALMOST A RAVEN?: Nine-year NFL cornerback Fakhir Brown, who picked off four passes for the St. Louis Rams last year, was released by former Rams coach Scott Linehan around the same time quarterback Marc Bulger was benched.
The Bulger news was the main reason Brown's release didn't get much notice. But Brown, who recently re-signed with the Rams and their new coach, Jim Haslett, revealed to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch this week what team had a good chance to sign him.
"Baltimore was probably the one closest to coming to a deal," Brown said. "It was so crazy. There was so much going on. I was thinking about so many different things."
Helping him through all that was his agent, Ted Marchibroda, Jr., son of the former Ravens and Baltimore Colts head coach.
A move to the Ravens would have made sense, considering the secondary injuries the team has suffered to safety Dawan Landry and cornerbacks Samari Rolle and Fabian Washington.
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Brown suffered a rotator cuff injury and shoulder tendon damage in training camp and was close to rounding back into form when the Linehan regime let him go.
Brown has 263 NFL tackles and ten interceptions in a career that saw him play for San Diego and New Orleans before landing in St. Louis.
DOLPHIN DOINGS: There's no doubt that the 25 Miami players that are left after last year's 1-15 debacle would be upset with what Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said to South Florida media in a Wednesday conference call before this weekend's game (Sunday, 1 p.m., WJZ-TV, WIYY-FM).
However, Dolphins defensive end Vonnie Holliday took increased umbrage with Harbaugh's assertion that former Miami head coach and current Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron did a good job "with what he had to work with."
Holliday termed the phrase as "bulletin-board material", and went on to say, "What did we hav