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Part Two: Ravens General Manager Conference Call
NEWSOME ON 'BAMA RUMORS, MODELL'S HALL CHANCES
By Joe Platania
During the second part of his extensive conference call with Ravens fans last week, general manager Ozzie Newsome touched on the same wide range of topics as he did during the first part, the transcript of which appeared here late last week.
Two interesting backstories that were touched upon were the oft-discussed rumors that Newsome would return to his native Alabama to finish his administrative career, as well as the chances that former majority owner Art Modell, who turns 86 years old next month, would get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Other media outlets have commented on this extraordinary event in bits and pieces, but Ravens Report is the only place you have been able to read the unvarnished, unedited transcript.
Do you think the ultimate replacements for S Ed Reed and LB Ray Lewis reside on the current roster?
"Those were the weakest positions in the draft. [UCLA's] Rahim Moore was the first safety to go off [the board] in the mid-second round, and I think maybe it was third or fourth round before another safety came off the board; I think it was the kid from Temple. And the inside linebacker position wasn't [strong]. So, first of all, those positions were very weak. But I can say, at both of those positions, we've drafted and signed undrafted free agents over the last three or four years.
"At linebacker, we've got Tavares Gooden, Jason Phillips, [Dannell] Ellerbe and [Jameel] McClain, so we have some people already there that have already played a lot of football. And, at the safety spot, we've got the boxer, Tommy Zbikowski and Haruki [Nakamura], the [judo] black belt. So, we have some depth there already, but those were the weakest positions [in the draft]. If Rahim Moore would've been there, and Torrey would've gotten picked, then we would've taken Rahim Moore with our second-round pick."
How does CB Jimmy Smith compare to the other CBs we took in the first round in Duane Starks and Chris McAlister?
"That whole defense [in late 1990s], especially the secondary, we were facing [Jacksonville's Mark] Brunell, we were facing [Cincinnati's] Jeff Blake, we were facing [Tennessee's] Steve McNair, we were facing all quarterbacks that not only could throw the football, but they also could get out of the pocket. So, not only did we have to have corners that could cover, but they also had to be corners that could come out and tackle and tackle in space. So if you want to compare Jimmy to any of the corners that we've had before, Chris would be the one guy that you would compare him to. [They are] very similar in stature -- Chris is a little bit thicker. I think Jimmy is a little bit faster."
Marketing and public-relations vice-president Kevin Byrne states result of the fan poll:
"We asked you which of the top four draft choices would have the most impact on the team, and you guys agreed with Ozzie Newsome. Jimmy Smith received 61 percent of your vote, and Torrey Smith was second with 27 percent."
How do you feel about the three-day NFL Draft format?
"It's good for TV, and it's good for fans. The viewership is up again this year, I think. From that standpoint, it's the reason why we do it. From my standpoint, it's very long. It's three long days. When we used to do it in two days, it seemed like you could get yourself ramped up, and then it would be over. The toughest part of it is when you only have the first round on Thursday, you've got all day the following day to prepare yourself, and if you're picking at the bottom of the round, like we want to be doing for the remainder of my time here, and hopefully even after I leave, then it provides for a long time. And if you're not picking at the top of the second or at the top of the fourth, then your phone doesn't ring. You're not getting any action, but it does allow us to go back and dot our 'I's and cross our 'T's and reshuffle our board a little bit. It allows us to be a little bit better prepared."
Do you believe what the Ravens did in this draft will help us find ways to beat the Steelers?
"I'm going to say it another way: Pittsburgh's got to continue to find ways to beat us, too. I think what we've done … I think we can get the quick strike. When you're playing against Pittsburgh, you know at some point they have the ability to get you with a turnover. But if you can augment that or trump that by getting an easy score, like we almost did with the punt return [in last year's Divisional playoff game with Lardarius Webb], then that kind of balances your books. I think getting Torrey into the mix will allow us to get that quick strike.
"On the other hand, Ben [Roethlisberger] likes to run around and take his time. Hopefully, he can be running around, and Jimmy can get an interception and take that to the house. We have to find an equalizer, because they find ways to get the easy touchdown against us. We have to find ways to get the easy touchdown against them in order to continue to compete with them and to beat them so that we can be the defending AFC North champions."
With the great things I hear you saying about offense, the one thing the Ravens were beat up on last season was the play-calling and the work of our offensive coordinator. Will Cam Cameron be up in the booth more? Normally, you see coordinators who are doing excellent work in the booth upstairs.
"No, I think Cam is going to continue to be down on the field. He likes to be down there with the action. Some people like to call it from up in the box, but he likes to be down there. He gets a chance to look the players in the eyes when they come off the field. The reason why I say we're going to be better from an offensive standpoint is that I've seen all the work they've done this offseason refining the offense. One of the things we have in our head coach is he came here with the ability to be… He grew up in the game, coaching special teams and coaching on the defensive side. And you can see over the course of the three years he's been here, the progress that both of those elements of our game has gotten better. Now that he has that the way he wants it, now he can come over to the offensive side.
"What happens when you give a guy that understands defense coming over as a head coach to the offensive coaches, he can sit there and he can talk with them and say, 'No, no, no. If I'm the defensive coordinator, I can defeat this.' So now they get another set of eyes. The other aspect of it, I think Joe's going take ownership of this offense. This is going to be Joe's offense. Cam may call the plays. I think Joe is going to have more of an opportunity to change some things, but this has to be Joe's offense."
Every once in a while you hear rumors that you might be going back to Alabama soon. You've been doing this for a while now, you're great at it, we love you for it, you've made this city proud again, and we'd hate to lose you. How long do you think you're going to continue do this?
"I don't know. I'm enjoying it. I've got a young quarterback, I've got a young back, I've got a stud, big ol' defensive tackle, I've got [Terrell] Suggs who's been here for seven years and is only 27 years old, so I'm still enjoying this. I got a great working relationship with the owner, great working relationship with the head coach, with the president. This is a great building to come to work in every day. And now I've got Nick Saban down at Alabama. They really don't need me. Nick's running everything, and with things he's not running he calls me up and I can help them out. So, now that Nick's down there, he takes care of this [and] it allows me to be able to stay here and enjoy this."
I'm a little concerned about the safety position. Do you have any plans to move some of our talented cornerbacks to safety, like we did with Rod Woodson when he came here back in our Super Bowl year?
"Right now, no. With the number of corners we have … we were fortunate enough to get Chris Carr. Chris Carr was our emergency safety last year. He could play multiple positions, and one of them was safety. Right now, we've picked up a young guy [Marcus Paschal] that was up in Philadelphia. He's had some experience with John, so he'll be fighting for a spot. That's an area we'll be looking for once free agency opens up. But we not only want that guy to be a good safety, but he has to be a very good special teamer for us."
What do you think of the depth chart for defensive tackle, and what do you think benefits more, the pass rush from the cornerbacks or the cornerbacks from the pass rush?
"First, the defensive tackle: We've got Kelly Talavou, we got [Terrence] Cody, we got Brandon McKinney. I think, [Arthur] Jones, the big kid that we got from Syracuse, can kick down and play there. We've got Lamar Divens, so we've got some depth on the interior of our defensive line. I would tell you that a corner appreciates some heat on the quarterback because he knows the ball has to come out quick and knows that he only has to cover for a very short time. So the corners I've been around, they've always appreciated having someone put pressure on the quarterback."
What made you choose T Jah Reid over the other offensive lineman in the draft, and do you think he can handle some of those really great pass rushers from the other teams?
"We traded up to get Jah. If you looked at the board, there was no one else that we were really excited about getting as far as a tackle is concerned, so we wanted to make sure we got him. The two things Jah brings are his size and his arm length; that's very important for a tackle. But he's also a very good knee-bender, which means that should allow him to be a good run blocker. So those are the three things that Jah will bring to us, and he's a guy that we hope will come in and start competing right away to be a starting right tackle for us."
Who, among the younger players, do you think will be the breakout player for the Ravens this year?
"I'm going to take the Alabama guy; I'm going to go with Cody. Cody is going to have a great year this year. He got a taste of it. He understands his role within the defense. So if someone is going to step up -- he also appreciates playing next to Haloti Ngata -- so I would say Terrence Cody."
(BYRNE) "Ozzie, that Kansas City running back is still having nightmares about Terrence Cody. Terrence almost suffocated him on that one play.
"Our next caller is Stephanie. Stephanie, before I let you talk to Ozzie I want to say two things: One, we've had over 6,500 season ticket holders on the call tonight… 6,500, which, Ozzie, now puts you ahead of John Harbaugh, because he was just over 6,100, and Stephanie, you're going to win the football that Ozzie Newsome is now signing."
For players from the local schools like the University of Maryland, do you have a special place in your heart to help try and bring more community ties to the team?
"Yes, we scout Maryland. We scout Towson, Morgan State and all colleges in the local area. If there are players there, they get No. 1 treatment from us. We have local days that we can bring guys in -- we didn't have it this year -- where guys that participate in football at the local colleges within our metropolitan area, we can bring those guys in. We didn't do it this year. But yes, it's good for us to be able to get a Torrey Smith that understands Baltimore and understands the Baltimore Ravens. It makes the transition a lot easier for him and for us."
You're not only a gift to the Baltimore Ravens, but you're a gift to our Baltimore community and we are so much better because you are here. In my opinion, some of the game management by coach Harbaugh has been questionable. … Can you comment on that?
"As far John and his game management, first and foremost, there's nothing that prepares you for being a head coach in the National Football League up until you get in the position. As far as him managing the game, I can only think of a very few instances where you could second-guess what he did or what he didn't do. When I look at the big picture, I try not to look at the one or two mistakes anyone makes. From my vantage point, I think he does a very good job of managing the game. If you look at what we did in the first year, being able to control the football with a young quarterback, that all came down from John. I know he's not perfect and I know he's continuing to work to get better in every facet of being a head coach, but I will say this: There's no school that you can go to that says this will teach you to be a head coach and [where you] can learn to manage all the things you have to manage."
How do we get Mr. Art Modell into the Hall of Fame?
"I don't know what we can do. My biggest fear is that once he passes away, at that point, he will get the opportunity to go in, and I just don't think that's fair. He definitely deserves to be in, and he deserved to go in before I did."
I wonder if the writer in Cleveland understands what the TV contracts Mr. Modell negotiated meant to the NFL?
"I know Tony [Grossi, of the Cleveland Plain Dealer]. I know him personally. He's just trying to carry the banner for something that happened 15 years ago, and I say this to Tony all the time: 'Get over it. The man deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.'"
(BYRNE) "Michael, I'm glad you brought it up; we'd all agree."
I do want to thank you for all the work you've done. We love the Ravens. I'm a member of Ravens Roost No. 50. I think you have a very classy organization. I write letters to John Harbaugh and all the defensive coaches when we've gotten new changes, and everybody has sent me a note thanking me, so I think that's a classy organization and it starts at the top.
(BYRNE) "Ozzie, we appreciate your time tonight. We know you're doing something else here this evening at our complex in Owings Mills. I think I can speak for the season-ticket holders, like Robin who we just talked to, when I say thanks for the insight. You gave us a lot of information tonight and we can all be excited as we move forward this year.
"By the way, if any of you fans want to leave a comment about our Ravens Town Hall Meeting tonight, you can do so in a few minutes. When Ozzie answers this last question, you can just stay on and you'll have the ability to leave a message to us. Again, we appreciate the numbers, the huge numbers we had tonight.
"And I'll end it with this, Ozzie, because I know your history well and I've known you a long time. In college you played in front of some of the loudest crowds in the history of sports, particularly at Alabama and playing in that Southeast Conference. In Cleveland, we had it going in Cleveland, you had it going in Cleveland, and literally, that stadium rocked on game day, that old stadium that should have been torn down a long time before it was. Now I see you smiling when you watch the Ravens fans react at M&T Bank Stadium. I'd like you to talk a little about what you see from those Ravens fans and what that home field advantage is all about."
(NEWSOME) "First, Kevin, I'd like to begin by just thanking all of the fans, the way they've embraced this organization from 1996 on. We moved here, we brought a football team here that wasn't very good. They embraced us, they stood behind us through some tough times, 4-12, 4-12, 6-10, whatever those records were … so I don't know if I can ever show my appreciation to this fan base.
"As far as coming to M&T Bank Stadium on a Sunday… Having had the opportunity to go to Baton Rouge and play at LSU, having had the opportunity to go to Three Rivers and play against the Steelers -- I think our fans give us a home-field advantage that is second to none. I think the teams that come in here -- they're intimidated by the fans. They're intimidated by the intelligence of our fans. I have nothing but kudos to that group. And kudos goes because you all have been there from the very, very beginning. You people are the reason why we can be a successful organization, because we know that we've got thousands upon thousands of fans that support us. I'd just like to say thank you."
(BYRNE) "Yes, everybody thanks for doing this tonight. Ozzie, thanks again. We're going to do it again. Hopefully the next time we do it, it will be with the owner Steve Bisciotti, and it will be after we have a new collective bargaining agreement. Hopefully, Steve can inspire that group to get that done in a hurry. Thanks everybody. We'll talk to you again. Bye, bye."
Posted May 10, 2011
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